It Sounds Like Brent Lillibridge Has the Inside Track on a Bench Job

brent lillibridgeWith the Cubs carrying 12 pitchers this season, there will be five bench spots available on the 25-man roster. Assuming health, one goes to Scott Hairston, and another goes to Dioner Navarro. A third almost certainly will go to Luis Valbuena. So, essentially, the Cubs will probably have an additional outfield bench spot and an infield bench spot to distribute by the end of the Spring. Dave Sappelt is your fair outfield bet, leaving an infield spot.

And, from the sound of things, that spot is a heavy Brent Lillibridge lean.

“I’m not going to lie to you, [positional versatility] gives you a huge edge in the National League,” Sveum told reporters, in reference to the 29-year-old non-roster invitee. “He’s got some sock in his bat for a guy who looks like he’s 150 pounds soaking wet.”

In the last two years, Lillibridge has played every single position on the defensive spectrum, save catcher and pitcher. If he can contribute offensively off the bench or in a spot start, he’d be an ideal player on any big league bench. Of course, the offense has been the problem – other than a superior year in 2011, Lillibridge has been far below average offensively. Even his dominant split – he’s a right-handed batter, so I’m talking about his time facing lefties – yields a so-so .235/.284/.430 batting line. That 2011 season is the one in which he got the most playing time, though, so at least there’s that.

Regardless, right now, it looks like he’s going to be that 25th man. In fact, Lillibridge says Sveum was one of the guys who really sold him on signing with the Cubs.

“I like to get a feel for the manager, especially in a situation like this,” said Lillibridge, to reporters. “I wanted to just talk baseball. [Sveum] really sold me on so many different parts of it and was real honest with me. That’s what you want from the manager and the whole organization.”

Lillibridge is in camp on a minor league deal, so the Cubs will have the opportunity to keep him even if he doesn’t make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

89 responses to “It Sounds Like Brent Lillibridge Has the Inside Track on a Bench Job”

  1. dw8

    The best part of this article:

    “With the Cubs carrying 12 pitchers this season,”.

    I hate 13 men pitching staffs. Seems like that 13th position player will have to be RHB, though.

  2. CubsFanBob

    Anyone remember that White Sox fan father who posted on youtube his young son crying at the news Lillibridge had been traded to the Red Sox ? Wonder how that poor kid will feel now and if his dad will post the video of his son learning his favorite player is now on the Cubs…..

    1. Wilbur

      Good call, forgot about that one.

  3. Ben

    I wonder what that means for the 40 man roster. Assuming no injuries, if the Cubs have to pull a position player off the roster, it will most likely be someone with some talent.

    1. Noah

      Highest odds at this point probably go to Raley or Rusin.

      1. Ben

        Wouldn’t one of those guys lose their spot if another LHP makes the team?

    2. TonyP

      Seems like some one always hits the 60 day DL out of spring…

  4. clark addison

    If Lillibridge makes the team, we’re hurting.

  5. ETS

    “I’m not going to lie to you, [positional versatility] gives you a huge edge in the National League.”

    Sounds to me like an argument for NL baseball being more interesting than AL baseball…hmmm…

    1. DocPeterWimsey

      How so? The guys who can play multiple positions rarely are interesting players, after all.

      1. Leo L

        i guess that is why we are spending time talking about him

        1. Noah

          We’re spending time talking about him because Brett is very good at his work and, as such, finds, posts and puts his (well backed) spin on essentially everything Cub related that hits any form of modern, widely accessible media.

      2. hansman1982

        Mark DeRosa was NOT an interesting player????

        HOW DARE YOU!

    2. Edwin

      Plus, players who can play multiple positions can be even more important at times for AL teams. It allows more strategic planning for using a DH and setting up lineups.

      1. ETS

        Not according to the Dale Sveum quote.

        1. Edwin

          Then Dale Sveum is wrong. Or he’s lying. Or he’s just saying the types of things that managers always say about players. I’m sure if you ask any AL manager about position versatility, they’d have the exact same view as an NL manager.

          And it still has nothing to do with NL baseball being more/less exciting than AL baseball.

          1. MightyBear

            NL baseball is more exciting than AL baseball.

            1. Edwin


              1. hansman1982

                Just think of the suspense that comes when the pitcher steps up. Is THIS one of the 3 PA this week this spot will get on base!

                And the excitement you see on the face of the 12 year old when they run a coat out to the pitcher on an 85 degree day.

                1. Edwin

                  Right?!? I can’t tell you how many times my wife has been talking to me, and I’ve had to say “not now honey, the pitcher is about to bat. We need to watch this.”

                  I mean, so much could happen. The pitcher could bunt. He could try to get hit. Better, someone else might replace the pitcher and hit for him. The possibilites are endless!

            2. David

              Yea, watching terrible hitters take hacks 3-4 times a game makes the game more exciting.

              1. Tommy

                I think the point is the deficiency in hitting at the pitcher position is what makes the NL more appealing to some of us. The strategy required if it’s a close game and men are on base with the pitcher due to bat is not something you have to concern yourself with in the AL.

                Each to his own, it’s all a matter of opinion, but I prefer baseball with no DH.

                1. DocPeterWimsey

                  Pitchers have as much business batting as do basketball or football players. After all, they are fundamentally different types of athletes from position players and pitchers are in MLB for completely different tool sets than are position players. I do not want to watch basketball or football players bat: why should I want to see a pitcher bat?

                  It perplexes me that the complimentary idea – a position player pitching – is not anything that anybody really wants to see!

                  1. Leo L

                    I think the fact that there is so many people that cant agree on this proves there really isnt a right answer. It is more a preference. Too be honest, i find your comments kind of insulting. if we dont see it your way then we are wrong. I hope you dont mean to come across that way. I prefer no DH. It is my preference and jsut because you prefer something different shouldnt perplex you.

                    1. DarthHater

                      No, Leo. You just have to recognize that, around here, everybody’s opinion is a fact.

                    2. TWC

                      Just because people can’t agree on something IN NO WAY proves there’s no right answer. That’s total false equivalency crap.

                      See Galilei, Galileo.

                    3. Internet Random

                      What TWC said. Memorize it, because it’s true across the board, not just in this discussion.

                    4. DarthHater

                      “Just because people can’t agree on something IN NO WAY proves there’s no right answer. That’s total false equivalency crap.”

                      That is a woefully incomplete statement. It’s true only ff you are talking about a falsifiable assertion (e.g. the other planets revolve around the earth, not around the sun). If you are talking about a non-falsifiable statement of personal preference, then it is not true. This is why we are all familiar with Galileo’s views on physics and astronomy, but nobody gives a rat’s ass about his belief that spaghetti tastes better if you wind it around the fork counter-clockwise.

                    5. Internet Random

                      Read what TWC said more carefully, Darth.

                  2. Tommy

                    Like I said, Doc – it’s a matter of opinion and you’re entitled to yours.

                    It’s not about seeing the pitcher bat, it’s about the strategy involved because the pitcher does bat. And pitchers are still baseball players. It’s not like these guys haven’t been swinging at baseballs most of their lives up to this point. Also, some pitchers are relatively decent hitters and/or bunters.

                    But again, I respect your opinion, just respect that I don’t hold the same opinion. It’s about the strategy involved with having a weaker hitter in the lineup – not about seeing a bad hitter swing.

                  3. DarthHater

                    So, let’s see, then. Hmm. The people who invented baseball and all the people who played the game, watched the game, and made the rules for the game from the mid-19th century until 1973 didn’t know the first thing about baseball? Yea, that makes sense.

                  4. MightyBear

                    You are entitled to your opinion even though its wrong. Having the pitcher bat is what makes managers and second guessing them much more interesting. All you have to do in the AL if you’re a manager is fill out a lineup card.

                  5. Internet Random

                    Pitchers are baseball players. If you don’t believe me, try to have a game without one playing.

                  6. mudge

                    Always a highlight, when a position player comes out to throw in the 17th inning. A bit of magic, like when the pitcher gets a hit. I like the traditional form of baseball. By your logic, you could have offensive and defensive teams, and have more “interesting” hitters and fielders to watch. Maybe they should start a steroid/hgh league and have separate offensive and defensive teams, and 550 foot stadiums, and Tony Campana could run balls down in center, trailed by a guy with a “designated arm.”

  6. mak

    I think the same argument an be made for Watkins, and you don’t need to clear a 40 man spot for him. Unless they think it will hurt his development, a strong spring could put him in the conversation.

  7. Derrek

    Well looks like Rizzo is not going to be the HR leader this year…

  8. Jim

    I think the most important position for that 5th man on the bench is 1st base. I think that Dioner has played there a couple of times, and if Clevenger made the team he probably has the most playing time there. If Lillibridge can play 1B then he has the edge over another middle infielder. So maybe the offense looks like this:

    Castillo, Rizzo, Barney, Castro, Stewart, Soriano, DeJesus, Schierholtz, Hairston, Valbuena, Navarro, Sappelt, and Clevenger?

  9. bearzs99

    Castillo, Rizzo, Barney, Castro, Stewart, Soriano, DeJesus, Schierholtz, Hairston, Valbuena, Navarro, Sappelt, and Clevenger?

    they wont carry two back up catchers, it will be lillibridge

  10. Ryan

    I am wildly going to predict Darnell McDonald takes 5th OF and Alberto Gonzales takes the last IF roster spot.

  11. DB Kyle

    He’s really awful and this was entirely predictable and disappointing. They learned nothing from the “Joe Mather -2.5 WAR” fiasco.

  12. BluBlud

    Ok. So Campana is not good enough to make the roster but this guy is, yeah right. This make Campana look all world. WTF is Theo, Jed, and sveum doing.

    1. TWC

      You just trolling here, Jay? This is about the open IF position. You realize that Campana can’t play the infield, right? He has a hard enough time in the outfield.

      1. BluBlud

        Absolutely not. Lillibridge has a career .213 average and a career .278 OBP, is coming off a season where hit .195 with a .250 OBP, has had considerably more time to prove himself then Campana and is 2 years older. Most people say Campana’s bat, which has career batting average of .260 something and an OBP .308, makes him a non major leaguer, regardless of what position he plays. So lets just say I agree with the logic that Campana is not major league material. Well, then that means Lillibridge bat is not even Minor league material. There is such a double standard on this site. Lillie flower is a joke. You can add him to my shit list.

        1. BluBlud

          In other words, why is Campana catching shit, but this guy being given a chance. How is one guy bat not worth it, but a guy with a clearly worse bat worth it. We could have took the money we poured down the drain on schierholtz and signed a better infielder. There has got to be several other available options in baseball then this guy.

          1. Cubbie Blues

            Could it be that one can play defense and the other can’t?

            1. BluBlud

              Show me a metric that says Lillibridge is a good defender and Campana is a bad one. Granted, Lillibridge can play more positions, but with his bat, why would you want to get him in the lineup more often? This guy make Barney look like a silver slugger. And I don’t care how good he is at defense, it won’t make up for that bat. At least when Pena couldn’t hit for average and played good defense, he still hit 20 something HR and walked a ton.

              1. Edwin

                Campana isn’t a bad player, but his skill set (range in outfield/speed) works better for a contending team that doesn’t need him to play OF as often.

                Also, I don’t think any team wants to play their bench IF’s much, if at all. The Cubs don’t want Lillibridge to have at bats, but they want a player who fill it very occationally at other positions, if only to maximise value from their other positions.

                1. DocPeterWimsey

                  Campana’s range also is undermined by the fact that he reads the ball very poorly off of the bat. He also has the worst arm I’ve ever seen on a guy who swings like a pitcher.

            2. hansman1982

              The difference is that Lillibridge can play multiple positions and that there aren’t any people vehemently defending him or stating that he should be batting leadoff or claiming he is an above-average fielder just because he has speed.

              Lillibridge on the roster is very meh for me. He is the definition of replacement level player, just so long as Sveum doesn’t start batting him 3rd.

        2. DarthHater

          “Most people say Campana’s bat . . . makes him a non major leaguer, regardless of what position he plays.”

          Funny, but I haven’t heard anybody say that. Personally, I’d be happy to keep Campana over Lillibridge as the bench infielder, if Campana could play all the infield positions the way Lillibridge can. But, he can’t. End of dicussion.

          Straw, meet man.

          1. BluBlud

            Personally I would be happy to see you on the roster, Darth, then Lillibridge. This is the guy you call up when your starting SS and 2B, and both Utility IF are on the DL and you are not quite ready to put that stud Prospect on the 40 man yet, so that he can be the Back up’s Back up’s Back up, not the guy you slate for a spot out of ST.

            1. DarthHater

              That’s very unfair to Lillibridge, for my play is supported by the immeasurable power of the dark side of the Force!

              1. hansman1982

                ahhh, the intangibles.

                1. DarthHater

                  Sith Lords are also the scrappiest beings in the cosmos.

                  1. Wilbur

                    I was surfing for the scrappy reference. Now that I’ve seen it I can call it an evening. It’s an evening!

        3. hansman1982

          It’s not Campana’s AVG or OBP that make him a borderline 5th OF, it’s his abject, neigh, abominable, lack of power.

          When your SLG is below .300, there is a problem (which, hilariously, Lillibridge also owned last year).

          I really hope the FO knows something we dont.

          1. davidalanu

            Actually I think it is almost exclusively his obp that holds Campana back. When a guy can steal bases the way he can I can live with the lack of power. But if he cant get on base enough to take advantage of that speed his speed is just a luxury that doesn’t warrant a roster spot.

        4. TWC

          Man, Jay, how about you look at this in context, huh?

          The Cubs have a glut of 5th outfielder types. The one they (most likely will) decide to keep (Sappelt) crushes Campana at the plate and in the field. Completely. Crushes. Him.

          Now, to fill out the 25-man, they need a 2nd backup infielder. They don’t have much to choose from on the roster (they could have done a better job finding someone this offseason, if you ask me) and so it looks like Lillibridge will end up being that guy.

          Lillibridge doesn’t take Campana’s place on the roster. Campana got bumped because the Cubs signed Hairston, and they decided that others on the roster were more valuable to keep.

          Your “they picked Lillibridge over Campana” is total crap on all levels. You should stop this, because it makes you look petulant and ignorant. The team should rightfully be criticized that they’re stuck w/ Lillibridge. He’s crap — I completely agree with that. But it’s not an “either Campana or Lillibridge” situation and to insist that it is speaks poorly of your understanding of the roster.

          1. BluBlud

            TWC, you’re the ignorant one if you thought I was comparing roster spots. Im comparing bats, and rather either is ML worthy on any team, how Campana gets ridiculed for his bat, but this is being given a chance, not a either or comparison. However, I will ask why would the FO spend money on Schierholtz, and I saying Schierholtz instead of Hairston because 1) Hairston was a good signing and 2) Schierholtz and Campana are both lefties, to replace Campana if you were going to turn around and add Lillibridge to the IF. IMO, that’s just dumb. We would have been better off Keeping Campana and sign Jeff Baker if he was willing to come back.

            1. Tommy

              ohh, starting a battle of words with TWC. This should be good.

            2. TWC

              February 14, 2013 at 2:52 pm
              “So Campana is not good enough to make the roster but this guy is, yeah right. This make Campana look all world. WTF is Theo, Jed, and sveum doing.”

              Right. You’re totally not talking about roster spots. Totally not.

              Man, I’m happy you’re keen on Tony. That’s great. But his DFA had *nothing* to do with Lillibridge’s (probable) rostering. Nothing.

              Have fun comparing Campana and Schierholtz, and complaining that Tony should have Nate’s spot. I think you’re wrong, and even the most cursory of glances at their stats would back me up, but whatevs. I don’t care. But it was *you* that got all damaged about Lillibridge’s (probable) rostering, and it was *you* that equated their production on the roster.

              1. BluBlud

                The fact that Lillibridge is being considered for a roster spot with his bat, regardless of what position he plays is asinine. The comparison is that people laugh at Campana’s bat and only criticize him and were outraged that he is even on the team last year, even when it was clear, good or bad, that he was our best option and yet I don’t see the outrage over the possiblility of Lillibridge being on the team. Thats the comparison. Not why are we choosing Lillibridge over Campana.

                1. DarthHater

                  I never saw all this anti-Campana outrage last year. I also suspect that, when conversing with you, people make more extreme anti-Campana statements than they would otherwise make, just to push your buttons. ;-)

                  1. BluBlud

                    Well, I take it. Next to Lebron, he’s my favorite active sports figure.

                    1. MichiganGoat

                      Seriously Dylan Thomas & Sylvia Plath poetry mixed with plenty of The Cure albums will fix your heartbreak.

                2. Norm

                  If Campana were a utility player that can play at every position, maybe he’d get the spot.

                3. MichiganGoat

                  BluBud LET IT GO! Stop being all emo over Campy or at least put on a Morrisey album and write some melodramatic poetry. But seriously LET IT GO there will be another scrappy player to fall in love with.

                  1. Spencer

                    Yeah BluBlud! How dare you be disappointed that one of your favorite athletes got cut from the team! How dare you express your feeling about that! For shame. scrappy scrappy love emo teenage girl scrappy scrap scrap.

            3. John (the other one)

              BluBlud– is it necessary for you to be so combative? If Campana could play the infield, he might stick. He can’t. No reason to be a dick to everyone pointing out the idiocy of your argument. Just take a breath, smile, and say “my bad.”

              1. BluBlud

                I dont even know who the f*ck you are so before call me something, have conversation first.

              2. BluBlud

                And I have never called anyone here a name so before you call me a dick next time about try to put your own in your mouth. Now watch I be the one who gets the potty mouth treatment.

  13. David

    Can Campana play the infield?

    The Cubs have OFers. Lots of them.

  14. Tommy

    I like Lillibridge. He’s scrappy.

    1. Edwin

      Do you bite your thumb at me, Sir?

    2. hansman1982

      Too bad he is already out of the running for The 2013 The Riot Award. Too much angst.

      1. Tommy

        No angst exists here, sir! I am offended!

  15. Kenster

    Brett, or anyone else who has an opinion, since Ian Stewart doesn’t have a guaranteed contract, it brings up a couple of questions..
    1 What will happen if he makes the team since he would cost another spot on the 40 man roster, who will get the bump?
    2 If he doesn’t make the roster who will handle third? I assume Valbuena, with Lillibridge probably making the team at that point, gets most of the starts with Lillibridge a few here and there. I believe Vitters will need an unbelievable spring to get consideration yet to start everyday. Anyone with thoughts?

    1. Noah

      Stewart is already on the 40 man. And, rightly or wrongly, I think Stewart would have to attack a small child to not be the starting 3B on Opening Day.

      1. Cubbie Blues

        Even then, it would have to be a very well liked child.

  16. Kenster

    Oh alright. But he’s not listed on the 40 man roster? I Know hes pretty much a lock for the team but barring an injury again or a horrible spring it will be interesting to see who gets put out at 3rd everyday if he gets cut

  17. Where's Gene Hiser?

    Brent Lillibridge: the Koiye Hill of infielders, but without the defense.

    1. Edwin

      And the Toe-Thumbs.

  18. Internet Random

    I’m not going to lie to you . . . .

    Whenever someone says this, what I hear is, “While I’m a big fan of lying and do so with pathological frequency, this time—and this time only—I’m actually going to tell you the truth… but I reserve the right to lie like a rug at all other times.”

  19. Alex S

    I don’t know, as far as poor offense/utility guys go I would have tried to nab Brandon Inge or maybe even brought back Baker over Lillibridge.

  20. John (the other one)

    Alex–neither Inge nor Baker can play short or second capably at this point in their careers.

  21. Tommy

    You will all be put in your place this year when Lillibridge hits 50 HR’s and wins the gold glove at 2nd base after the Cubs trade Darwin Barney for Felix Hernandez.

    1. davidalanu

      I think you’re selling him short. He could log enough time at other positions to win multiple gold gloves.

      1. Tommy

        You’re absolutely right, of course.