wee willie harris

one of my favorite scrap-heapers is off the heap: eric young has re-signed with san diego for a year at $700K. damn; i've always liked him.

also, mlb trade rumors has billy wagner going to the mets for four years, $40 mill -- holy hoyt wilhelm, that's a lotta moolah for 65 innings a year.

and you've all heard that seattle signed japanese catcher kenji johima for three years, $16.5 mill. busy day.

apropos the latter signing, dayn perry thinks seattle should bid farewell to unhappy outfielder ichiro and deal him for a prospect -- like, say, the cards' anthony reyes. not bloody likely . . . .

that cute high-school-prom couple pictured over at deadspin is in fact david eckstein and ashley drane, the latter apparently an actress of some sort. she's even shorter'n he is. and so too is a player mentioned at derrick goold's blog as a possible keystone partner for david: chisox reserve 2b willie harris. . . . hold it, on checking my facts i see that harris is listed at 5'9", a couplainches taller than david. whatever -- he's another lil' scrappy fellah, and surprisingly enough the only player in mlb history named willie harris. i didn't know a thing about this guy until goold dropped the name -- with the coy suggestion that jocketty is quietly pursuing a trade.

having looked him over, i'm intrigued. he's the type of player that smart organizations take advantage of -- viz., a player who does a limited number of things pretty well. in harris' case, those things seem to be a) getting on base, b) running the bases, and c) playing defense. what he can't do is a) hit left-handed pitchers or b) hit for power. but he'd be cheap, and he's still pretty young (28) -- both attractive features.

i linked to his baseball cube page because he's had nearly twice as many at-bats in the minor leagues (1337) than in the majors (854) -- and because his minor-league record suggests a potential that the mlb record doesn't. harris has had excellent walk rates at every level, hence pretty good obps. in three stops at triple-a totaling one season's worth of plate appearances (635), he walked 66 times and compiled a .370 obp, adding 51 sb in 70 att (73 pct). in about the same number of pa with the white sox the last couple of years (594), he drew 64 walks and posted a .342 obp, with 29 sb in 39 att (74 pct). alas, the kid has no power -- slugging avgs in the low .300s -- so even in a good year his ops doesn't crack .700. but the on-base potential intrigues.

if we parse out some data, he looks slightly better. first, harris' production has been hurt by the sox's ballpark -- away from home he's hit .286 with a .357 obp / .693 ops. he's also pretty good vs right-handers: .358 obp against them the last couple of year combined. one can imagine him in a left-right platoon at 2b with either luna or scrap-heap free-agent d'angelo jimenez.

he would appear to be a pretty good fielder: low error totals, and at or above the league in average in zone rating, range factor, and rate 2. in his lone season as a regular, 2004, he earned 4.1 defensive win shares, 11th in the league at the position -- but he started only 76 games at 2b that year and appeared there in only 92. mark grudzielanek also started 76 games at 2b in 2004, and he registered 3.6 defensive win shares. . . . for that matter, the cards' starting 2b in 2004, tony womack, got 4.5 defensive win shares that year -- in a full season.

harris's skill set appears to be very similar to womack's, except harris gets on base more often and plays better defense. other similar players include quilvio veras and mark mclemore, who parlayed on-base ability (.350 career obp), basepath speed, and versatility afield into a 19-year major-league career. indeed, harris' career trajectory is about where mclemore's was in 1993, when -- after knocking around for five seasons as a part-time, quadruple-a type player -- he finally got an everyday job with the orioles at age 28. mclemore responded by hitting .284 with a .353 obp. over the next 10 years he had an aggregate obp of .363 (thanks day by day database), among the top 5 at the position over that time span; he started for four division winners and a wild-card team.

harris made just above the minimum last year, and although he's now arbitration eligible he's not likely to get much of a raise -- not after splitting the year between triple-a and the end of the white sox's bench. dollar for dollar he's probably a better buy than grudzielanek -- 80-90 pct of the value for about 1/3 the price. it shouldn't take much to shake him loose; he apparently was unhappy about losing his job to iguchi last spring and got the dreaded "bad-attitude" label. the sox wanted scott eyre pretty badly; maybe they'd accept ray king as a substitute. or maybe it wouldn't even take that much; maybe carmen cali and some autographed baseballs would suffice.

given the increasing likelihood that grud'k will sign elsewhere for way too much money, the cards may have to get creative in filling the 2b vacancy. harris is just another option. . . .

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