Yuniesky Betancourt – who was released by the Phillies the final week of spring training – has seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 26 games with the Brewers. Those numbers would lead the Phillies, and his .551 slugging percentage would be tops by 46 points.
Betancourt raked all spring, but the Phillies already had two utility infielders on the roster in Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen and there just wasn’t enough playing time to commit to the nine-year vet.
Plus, Betancourt was coming off a rather terrible season in which he hit .228/.256/.400. Betancourt’s OPS hasn’t been within 12 percentage points of league-average since 2007. He had the lowest on-base percentage in baseball from 2009-12, and the last thing the Phillies needed was another guy who didn’t walk. I wrote back in March, based on those numbers, that keeping him would be a mistake (see story).
But Betancourt’s having success in Milwaukee, and the Phillies aren’t hitting against teams other than the Marlins and Mets, so moves like this are ones we look back at and think: "Yuniesky Betancourt?"
The Phillies had two other veterans in spring camp in recent years who were released and went on to thrive immediately thereafter.
Ryan Vogelsong spent 25 games in 2010 with the Iron Pigs, where he struck out 73 batters and walked 40 in 58 2/3 innings before being released. He latched on with the Giants, made an All-Star team in his first year and has recorded a 28-18 record with a 3.29 ERA in 400 innings since.
There’s also Jason Grilli, though his case is a bit more curious. He signed with the Phillies in January 2011, had a 1.93 ERA and 11.8 K/9 in 28 games for Lehigh Valley, then was released. A journyeman reliever to that point, Grilli signed with the Pirates and has a 2.53 ERA and 12.6 strikeouts per nine in 105 appearances. This season, he’s 11 for 11 in save opportunities with a 0.83 WHIP, a 0.75 ERA and 18 Ks in 12 innings.
Hindsight, pure and simple. But things could have been different in the starting staff, bullpen or bench had the Phillies chosen differently.