The 34-year-old utility man specializes in second and third and split 2008 between the White Sox and Dodgers. The signing suggests the Phillies doubt the April readiness of Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz.
Beerleaguer: Adding Marcus Giles is one thing, but Ozuna means they have a stockpile of cheap, experienced infielders. That’s the story behind the story here. They’re not taking any chances at second or third, but they don’t have the funds to set aside for a surefire upgrade and they're hesitant to see if Jason Donald can handle it. So it’s Eric Bruntlett, Giles and Ozuna, and they’re basically the same guy at this stage of their careers. They also announced the signing of journeyman infielder Jorge Velandia today, another guy with Major League experience who can play second and third, but can’t hit.
Ozuna was once in the Phillies organization; in 2004 he was Scranton’s second baseman and also played short. That turned out to be his last season in the minors. Since 2005, he’s been on the White Sox bench and – get this – earned a fat $1.25M contract extension w/2009 option last season. I don’t get that. How much could an older, no-hit utility man like Ozuna possibly add to an American League club? His previous season’s OPS+ was 47. He must have been the south side's version of Tomas Perez, just nice to have around I guess. Like Perez, Ozuna basically plays wherever he’s needed.
He’s brings some versatility and speed, but offers little to no offensive value. A fractured right fibula and a torn ligament in his ankle ruined his 2007 season, and in 2008, he became a roster casualty and was designated for assignment, picked up by the Dodgers, then dumped again. In seven seasons, he’s a .282/.318/.359 hitter (76 OPS+) with three homers and 29 stolen bases with the Marlins, Rockies, White Sox and Dodgers, his best seasons coming in '05 and '06. He's staying sharp in the Dominican League this winter.
Velandia, 34, split last season between Triple-A Syracuse and Triple-A Buffalo and also appeared in seven games with the Cleveland Indians. In parts of eight seasons, he has appeared in 174 major league games for the Padres (1997), A's (1998-2000), Mets (2000-01, 2003), Rays (2007) and Indians (2008), spending most of his time at second and short and hitting .189/.274/.270 with a 45 OPS+.
Obviously, the hope is that Utley is ready to go and that Ozuna, and others like Giles, won't be needed. But I think one of them breaks camp with the final spot off the bench, and just the fact that all these veteran infielders have agreed to audition here tells me there's a problem.