Wilson Valdez, at the age of 33, will be eligible for salary arbitration this offseason for the first time in his career.
With the addition of Ty Wigginton, a righthanded power bat off the bench, the Phillies could probably save around $400,000 if they released Valdez and used Michael Martinez to fill the same role.
That would be a mistake for a couple of reasons.
The obvious one is defense. It could be argued that, with the exception of shortstop, the Phillies were a better defensive team the last two years whenever Valdez was in the lineup. That's not meant as a knock at either third baseman Placido Polanco or second baseman Chase Utley. It's more a reflection of just how good Valdez is with his glove, and he's quite proficient at shortstop, too.
The less obvious reason to keep Valdez over Martinez is because of what the versatile infielder can do at the plate.
In his two seasons with the Phillies, Valdez has hit .254 with a .300 on-base percentage, 30 doubles, seven triples, five home runs and 65 RBIs. Nothing overly impressive about that, and his biggest weakness is that he has a tendency to hit into double plays. He's grounded into 33 of them in the last two seasons.
But when you examine what Valdez has done with runners in scoring position, it separates him from most other bench players in baseball. In 2011, Valdez batted .370 (27 for 73) with six doubles, three triples and 28 RBIs.
That, of course, is a small sampling, but over the last two seasons, Valdez is hitting .329 (55 for 167) with 16 extra-base hits, 60 RBIs and a .390 on-base percentage in RISP situations. Sixty RBIs in 167 at-bats is an incredible number.
You could argue that because of those numbers, Valdez should have found his way onto one of manager Charlie Manuel's lineup cards in the postseason when a hobbled Polanco was obviously scuffling at the plate.
Martinez, who played as a 28-year-old rookie last season, had some sensational moments after making the 25-man roster as a Rule 5 draft pick from Washington. He also showed the ability to play the outfield, making perhaps the worst great-catch in Phillies history when he tracked down a laser off Chipper Jones' bat to prevent an Atlanta win on the final night of the season.
That ball falls in, and the Braves are headed to St. Louis for a one-game playoff, and maybe the Cardinals never make it to Philadelphia, let alone their 11th World Series title.
Anyway, Martinez batted .196 overall, but he performed well with runners in scoring position, posting a .279 batting average, a .353 on-base percentage and a .911 OPS. His 23 RBIs in 43 at-bats with runners in scoring position also represent a remarkable number.
He made some great plays as an infielder but had a tendency to mess up the routine ones on occasion. Still, he was a solid bench player in his first big-league season.
Choosing between Martinez and Valdez will not be an easy decision, and its importance should not be dismissed, especially when you consider how many games Utley, Polanco and Jimmy Rollins have missed in recent seasons.
Unlike last year, Martinez can be optioned to the minor leagues without being offered back to the Nationals. From an organizational standpoint, the Phillies would be wise to keep Valdez on the big-league roster and send Martinez to the minors for insurance that they are almost certain to need at some point during the season.