Update 9:50 EST: The Phillies have traded Erik Kratz and a minor leaguer to the Toronto Blue Jays for relief-pitcher Brad Lincoln. *Read Details Here*
After tendering contracts to all of their arbitration eligible players yesterday (including re-signing Kevin Frandsen) , most people thought the Phillies, at least position player wise, were set. It appears that they still felt the need to make a small upgrade behind Carlos Ruiz.
Wil Nieves is headed to the phillies. solid backup catcher type.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 4, 2013
Nieves not only appears to be an upgrade at the plate (at least average wise) over Erik Kratz, but he is one of the better backup catchers in the league defensively. David Murphy says the defensive improvement is what made the choice to sign Nieves and likely move Kratz to Triple-A so easy.
Heyman reporting Phillies have signed Wil Nieves. If so, would relegate Erik Kratz to AAA depth. Nieves viewed as stronger defender
— David Murphy (@ByDavidMurphy) December 4, 2013
Nieves hit .297 with 1 homerun and 22 RBI’s in his 10th big league season last year, playing his only full season with the Diamondbacks.
I am aware that Nieves is 36, the the Phillies are signing him to backup 35 year-old Carlos Ruiz, but this signing doesn’t concern me for a few reasons. First off, even Ruben Amaro couldn’t find a way to give more than a one-year deal to Nieves (terms are yet to be disclosed). Secondly, Erik Kratz was good for hitting fastballs out of the park, and besides that, he was virtually useless. He couldn’t hit a breaking ball, and he wasn’t anything special behind the plate, so this seems to be a clear upgrade. Third, Kratz is 33, so what difference does it make to replace him with a 36 year-old who is an upgrade? Believe me, I’ve been on hard on Ruben Amaro for seemingly turning the Phillies into a place where you can come to get overpaid and finish your career, but the Phillies weren’t going to start their youth movement at the backup catcher position.
Make sure to grab your Phillies tickets for the 2014 season now to see Nieves and the rest of the team fight back for NL East supremacy.