Not entirely unlike the Daniel Descalso signing, I get unreasonably geeked by relatively minor signings that provide depth and flexibility for a competitive roster. It might be the case that they never wind up being critical, but in the aggregate these are the moves that can make the difference between 95 and 96 wins in a given season (*eh hem*).
So, seeing this news today from Patrick Mooney made me happier than is probably rational:
Source: For additional infield depth, the Cubs have signed Phillip Evans to a minor-league deal. Evans, 26, played briefly for the Mets in 2017 and 2018 and posted an .820 OPS at their Triple-A affiliate this year.
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) December 19, 2018
I just wrote this morning about the Cubs needing additional AAA depth that can cover shortstop, and boom, just like that, the Cubs have it in Evans, who has also seen time at every other infield position and left field. He even caught an inning for the Mets’ AAA team last year.
Evans was with the Mets in August when an Adam Eaton slide broke his leg and ended his season. The Mets thereafter opted not to keep him on the 40-man roster, and he elected free agency rather than accept an outright assignment back to AAA. He has appeared in one game in the Dominican Winter League, having just been assigned there a couple days ago, which I’m guessing coincides with his signing with the Cubs. Now the Cubs will get a chance to see how his leg looks before Spring Training.
Offensively, Evans didn’t do much in very limited big league action with the Mets in 2017 and 2018, though he hit .256/.327/.493 at AAA last year, which was good for an adjusted 110 wRC+, when factoring in the league and his ballpark. Not bad for a guy who can play all over and was 25 at the time.
His power absolutely exploded at AAA last year (.237 ISO), which you’d normally just attribute to a very friendly home ballpark, but it was paired with a progression of power and fly balls over the preceding few years. In other words, he’s probably a Bote-like launch angle guy.
That said, I don’t want to sleep on those splits in Las Vegas: he had a home ISO of (LOL) .354. That is, uh, heh, probably not a representative sample of his actual power. At 5’10”, 223 pounds, Evans could certainly have some legit power – that’s a muscular dude – but he probably doesn’t have the long levers for big-time power. Yes, sometimes you see it in smaller guys, but it’s rare. The nice thing is that he doesn’t strike out too much (17.1% last year) and takes his walks (8.6%), so it’s a reasonably well-rounded bat.
Anyway, this is about as good as it gets with minor league depth signings: young-ish, offensive upside-ish, extremely defensively versatile. Add Evans to the David Bote, Trent Giambrone, Zack Short group of guys who fit that profile, and surely the Cubs will get at least one really nice bench guy out of the group over the next few years, right? If not more?