Like most around this time of the year, the Phillies are doing a lot of last-minute shopping just before the holidays.
Yesterday, they found a bargain in outfielder So Taguchi, whom they signed to a 1-year contract estimated at $1 million. The deal also includes performance bonuses and a club option for 2009.
Taguchi, who hit .290 with 15 doubles and three homers in 130 games with the St. Louis Cardinals last season, can play all three outfield positions and could be most valuable at centerfield should Shane Victorino go down. Victorino had a calf injury that cost him nearly a month last season. Victorino was hurt on July 30 and returned Aug. 22.
"Taguchi gives our team more defensive versatility in the outfield and he has proven over his career that he can get key hits in big situations," Phillies assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said.
Taguchi, 38, spent the last six seasons with the Cardinals. He led the National League in pinch-hitting last season with a .406 average. He hit .323 with runners in scoring position.
The Japanese player, who started three of the five World Series games for the champion Cardinals in 2006 and hit .400 with two homers and four RBI in the playoffs that year, is the third player the Phillies have landed in the past 4 days. On Thursday, they added Geoff Jenkins to platoon in rightfield with Jayson Werth, and righthander Chad Durbin, who is expected to compete for a job in the rotation.
Taguchi's addition seemingly completes the Phillies' bench, along with Greg Dobbs, Chris Coste, Wes Helms and Eric Bruntlett, assuming they decide to stick with 12 pitchers.
General manager Pat Gillick said it was more "unlikely than likely" the Phillies would land a third baseman or a starting pitcher before spring training, although he said he was still in search of a lefthanded reliever. *