The Dodgers signed journeyman infielder Aaron Miles to a Minor League contract Monday with an invitation to Major League camp.
The eight-year veteran batted .281 in 79 games with St. Louis in 2010. He finished fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2004 with Colorado and was a member of the 2006 World Series champion Cardinals.
I am constantly trying to reassure people that minor league contracts are never as big of a deal as they seem, and the inherent lack of risk makes them almost a no-lose proposition.
In this case, I’m not so sure, because Miles is atrociously bad. No, really; among players who have had as many plate appearances as Miles had since he debuted in 2003, only three players in baseball have been less valuable. It’s a special kind of “not valuable”, though. If you’re simply awful, you don’t get to stick around for that long. Miles has really hit the sweet spot of being bad enough to hurt his teams for years, yet not so bad that he gets outright drummed out of the game. It must be his A+ levels of “grit” and “scrap”.
But what’s really important here is the last sentence of the dodgers.com story above. Miles is likely competing with Juan Castro and Ivan DeJesus for a second backup infield slot behind Jamey Carroll. Since I don’t believe that DeJesus would get stashed on the big league bench over playing every day in AAA, that means you’re rooting for either the 4th worst player of the last seven years in Miles, or the 4th worst batter in major league history in Castro.
What that means is that you need to root for Xavier Paul like you’ve never rooted before. The top five outfielders are basically set, with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Jay Gibbons, Marcus Thames, and Tony Gwynn. Thames and Gibbons can each spot at first base, if needed, so the question becomes whether the Dodgers are willing to live with only Carroll as the backup at second, short, and third. It’s not an ideal situation, I’ll grant, and could prove troublesome when Don Mattingly wants to get Casey Blake out against tough righties or double switch. But the versatility of Juan Uribe and Carroll, who can each play all three positions, helps immensely, and if an injury hits it’s generally not that hard to call someone up from AAA very quickly, if needed.
It basically comes down to this question: do you want to live with the 10% chance that you’re short of infielders for a few innings late in a game? Or the 100% chance that Castro or Miles would be a total waste of a roster spot while Paul has (likely) been shipped off?
Totally unrelated, but be sure to read Jon Weisman’s interview with GM Ned Colletti. Well worth the time.