When the Phillies selected utility man Michael Martinez in the Rule V draft, there was little fanfare. He was seen as spring training competition for Wilson Valdez with no more than an outside shot of breaking camp with the club. Once Chase Utley hit the skids, a larger opportunity opened for Martinez and he made the 25-man roster.
Martinez has been used sparingly. He has appeared in 27 games, coming to the plate 51 times. In those plate appearances, he’s scraped together paltry rates of .184/.212/.204. He does have one useful talent: He can be used at all seven non-battery positions.
When Utley was still on the disabled list, Martinez’s utility was useful even if it wasn’t helping the club. With the club nearing full strength, the value of his utility is minimal.
The Phillies have every position covered with at least one back-up who is better than Martinez. They are thinnest in the infield, where Valdez represents the primary back-up.
However, the Phillies own a full hand of tastier bench options than Martinez. Pete Orr and Brian Bocock are on the 40-man roster and Ronnie Belliard, Josh Barfield and Delwyn Young all can play at least one infield position and outhit Martinez.
Theoretically, they could reach deeper for a toolsy prospect like slick fielding shortstop Freddy Galvis or speedy outfielder Jiwan James. Their speed and glove combinations offer more value to the roster than Martinez. In reality, the Phillies need to continue developing both players, but either option could be expected to hit as well as Martinez while playing better in the field and on the base paths.
The conclusion to this misuse of resources should come sometime in the next week, when Shane Victorino returns from the disabled list. The Phillies will have a couple of options to make room on the roster. They can offer Martinez back to the Nationals, option Jon Mayberry Jr., or option reliever Mike Zagurski.
The correct choice is to offer Martinez back to the Nationals. The Phillies have the minor league depth to cover any big league injuries with players who are better than Martinez. It’s risky carrying such a thin infield, especially with Utley on the roster, but the risk exposure is essentially one game if there is an injury. In a pinch, Placido Polanco can return to second base and Carlos Ruiz can slide to third base.