Phillies hope they can give Dobbs another chance

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is thrown out of last night's game by umpire Sam Holbrook.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is thrown out of last night's game by umpire Sam Holbrook.
Posted: June 23, 2010

Several times yesterday, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. seemed to express a belief that Greg Dobbs' tenure with the Phillies will end with the club trading the lefthanded hitting corner outfielder/infielder to another club.

But even though the team designated him for assignment yesterday, resulting in his removal from the active and 40-man rosters, Dobbs and his $1.35 million salary could end up at Triple A Lehigh Valley when all is said and done.

In fact, neither Amaro nor manager Charlie Manuel spoke like they had given up on their one-time go-to pinch-hitter.

"My druthers would be that he stays in our system, gets some at-bats at Lehigh Valley, gets himself to the point where he is swinging the bat well and able to contribute at a higher level than he has this year," Amaro said.

A lot will have to happen for such a scenario to come to fruition.

First, every other major league team will have to decide against adding the 31-year-old and his salary. This might not seem like a stretch given Dobbs' performance the past 2 years: In 242 plate appearances in 2009 and 2010, he hit just .218 with a .615 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) and six home runs, and while he has started 132 games at third base, 29 in the outfield and 19 at first base during his 7-year career, he isn't considered to be an asset at any one position.

But it isn't far-fetched to think that another front office, particularly one in the American League, will look at the numbers Dobbs posted in 2007 and 2008 while garnering semi-regular playing time (in 598 plate appearances, he hit .284 with a .798 OPS and 19 home runs), and think that he can return to that production with enough at-bats to keep sharp. In addition to the short-term upside, Dobbs is arbitration-eligible after the 2-year, $2.5 million contract that he signed after the 2008 season expires this year. That means any club that acquires him will have the option of keeping him in the fold, likely at a reasonable salary, for next season.

The Phillies have 10 days to move Dobbs, who was DFAed in order to free a spot for Jimmy Rollins' return from the disabled list while also hanging on to Juan Castro and Wilson Valdez.

The Phillies can trade Dobbs, but they have little leverage to demand anything more than a middling prospect. Even if they cannot work out a deal with an interested club, they must put Dobbs on waivers before they can assign him to the minors, meaning the interested club, or any other, could simply claim him and his salary off waivers while giving the Phillies nothing in return.

If Dobbs makes it through waivers, the Phillies can then assign him to the minors. He has the right to reject that assignment and elect free agency, but doing so would result in the forfeiture of the money the Phillies owe him for the remainder of his contract.

Dobbs left Citizens Bank Park before the clubhouse opened to reporters, and Dobbs' agent could not be reached for comment.

"A lot of it will depend on what happens over the next several days," Amaro said. "At some point we may have to put him on waivers, and selfishly if we do that, I hope he gets through, if in fact that becomes part of the process, because I think he can still be a very productive player for us."

So why did the Phillies risk losing him?

Because as his playing time dropped over the last couple of years, so too did his production. And with outfielders Ross Gload and Ben Francisco also on the bench, and Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard entrenched at Dobbs' other potential positions, the "playing time" part of the equation did not look like it was going to change.

The Phillies said part of their rationale in keeping both Castro and Valdez, two utility men known more for their gloves than bats, was uncertainty about Rollins' calf, which up until last night had sidelined him for all but 12 games thanks to two stints on the disabled list.

Although both have outperformed Dobbs offensively, they've also had more playing time, something that will change if Rollins remains healthy.

Still, Amaro said another addition to the bench was not guaranteed.

"Not necessarily," he said, "but I'd like to give Charlie a lefthanded bat. I think most guys in the back end of a bullpen are righthanded.

"But," he added, circling back to Dobbs, "hopefully it's an internal upgrade."

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