Why Phillies traded for Jose Pirela; why they could soon use a 5-man bench


It wasn't the big trade Phillies fans have been waiting for, but the Phillies on Saturday acquired utilityman Jose Pirela from the Padres in exchange for cash.

It's a depth move. Pirela is a 29-year-old with 290 games of big-league experience. The bulk of his playing time has come at second base and left field but the Phillies also feel comfortable playing him at both corner infield and corner outfield spots.

Pirela had been mashing at Triple A El Paso in the Padres' system. In 242 plate appearances, he hit .353/.401/.674 with 18 home runs. Those numbers should not be ignored but they also should not be overblown — most Pacific Coast League ballparks are launching pads, and that league is using the same baseballs as the majors that have been flying over fences at a record pace.

Pirela will report to Triple A Lehigh Valley but could find himself up with the Phillies soon.

"We believe we are going to be playing meaningful games in September, and we want those guys who come up and contribute to be experienced with big at-bats," manager Gabe Kapler said. "[Pirela] had them both with the Yankees and with the Padres and has had some success."
"We've learned this, that any acquisition we bring in we'd like to have some pretty good teammate behavior. There was some good work done on him. A native Spanish speaker and a guy that will get along with his teammates. Excited across the board on having Pirela with us."

Five-man bench?

The Phillies could be welcoming both Jay Bruce (oblique) and Brad Miller (hip) back soon. When that happens, Nick Williams will likely be optioned back to Triple A and Sean Rodriguez could be designated for assignment. 

Or, the Phillies could finally utilize a five-man bench. They have opted to carry an extra reliever over an extra bench bat for the entirety of Kapler's two-year run as manager, but on Saturday Kapler said they are giving the five-man bench legit consideration as a short-term option.

"I could see it being more of a bridge-the-gap (option)," Kapler said. "I don't personally think a five-man bench is best for us long term because of the way we will aggressively use our bullpen. And the more high-leverage weapons we have in our bullpen, the better. 

"Right now, one of the reasons it makes sense to consider a five-man bench is because it looks like we are carrying some lower-leverage bullpen arms. Generally and globally, it's very rare that we say, 'I wish that we had one more bench player. I wish we had one more guy to take down a big at-bat.' But it comes up more frequently, 'Man, I'd like to have one more bullpen arm to use, even if it is just a body to take down a couple of innings from time to time.' 

"But we have been pretty close to having a five-man bench for a shorter period of time and I can see that happening in the next 10 days to two weeks for a short period."

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