Remember Josh Phelps? In 2002, he came up as a catcher-turned-first-baseman with the Blue Jays and absolutely smashed the ball (.396 wOBA) for 287 plate appearances. His 2003 was decent, if not mind-blowing. Phelps struggled badly in 2004 and got traded to Cleveland mid-season. He bounced around the majors and minors for a while, and though he never blew anyone away for any length of time again, he was mentioned as recently as last off-season as a minor-league deal or possible stopgap/platoon guy at 1B/DH. With glorious half-season in 2002 far off in the rear view mirror, the days of being the semi-darling of a few isolated bloggers are probably over for Phelps; he’ll be 32 next season and only saw action at the minor-league level for the Giants in 2009.
The point with Phelps was not that he was some super-duper mystery pickup that would put a team over the top. The reason he was brought up was because he was F.A.T. (Freely Acquirable Talent) that could make a contribution in the right situation. Unless a player is utterly horrible defensively (and I realize that one could have made such a claim about Phelps), if he’s an above-average hitter, he probably has a place somewhere, especially if he can be had on a minor-league deal.
Which brings us (finally) to the player at-hand: Jeff Bailey. He’ll be 31 next season (almost as old as Phelps). He’s accumulated 159 plate appearances in the majors from 2007-2009. He’s primarily played first base, but has seen a bit of duty in the outfield as well, although that’s a stretch. He’s basically a glorified career minor-leaguer who’s seen the majors when the Red Sox had injuries.
I’m hardly an expert on all things Bailey, but his CHONE projection caught my eye: .249/.348/.417, or 5 runs above average per 150 games. ZiPS concurs, projecting him at .258/.345/.415. The UZR data is in too small a sample to be relevant; Rally’s TotalZone projection for Bailey last season and the Fans Scouting Report this season suggest that Bailey is probably average-to-below-average defensively.
Bailey looks like about a 1 WAR player. He’s going to be 31 and has little (if any) upside. He’s not a player every team should be after for even the right price. It depends on the situation. For example, if there’s an NL team with a hole at first base, maybe a platoon of Bailey and, I dunno… Eric Hinske might be a good idea if the team lacks other options. If a team really has no AAA depth, Bailey’s definitely worth a look.
Like the latter-day Phelps, Bailey doesn’t have much to offer other than a non-horrible right-handed bat. He should be available on a minor-league deal, or, if a bidding war breaks out, at the major-league minimum. Perhaps this is obvious, but remember the New Josh Phelps when you read about a team trading actual talent for or giving millions to the New Mike Jacobs.
Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.