Phillies Sign Laynce Nix

After signing four consecutive minor-league contracts, outfielder Laynce Nix agreed to a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Nix can be a useful piece for an organization that is willing to acknowledge his faults and limit him to a part-time player. As a left-hander, he has always struggled against left-handed pitching, though he has always showed plus-power against right-handers. He owns a career .198 ISO and .317 wOBA against righties and only a .090 ISO and .227 wOBA when facing southpaws.

Philadelphia wrestled the 31-year-old away from the Nationals by offering a multi-year offer. Nix likely also saw an opportunity to match playing time with postseason aspirations. The early speculation is that he will be expected to platoon in left field with John Mayberry Jr., and he could even see some time at first base early in the year with Ryan Howard on the disabled list.

When fashioning a platoon, especially in the outfield at a premium offensive position, the key is to match two players together with a similar weakness — just at opposite sides of the plate. Nix and Mayberry do not fit that mold. Take a look at the 2011 lefty-righty splits:

The isolated power is just a touch lower for Mayberry against right-handers than it is for Nix, but the wOBA is higher for Mayberry by eight points. That stems from better plate discipline as a whole. In 2011, Mayberry had a 29.9% O-Swing and 10.0% SwStr compared to a 42.8% O-Swing and 12.0% SwStr for Nix.

So, Mayberry performed better against righties in 2011 than did Nix, and the 27-year-old Mayberry also displays better plate discipline across the board. We’re running out of reasons why this platoon would make sense. Perhaps the defense Nix provides is better than Mayberry’s, which would push the slightly worse numbers against righties over the top and justify significant playing time over Mayberry.

UZR did not like Nix in 2011 — rating him a below-average -3.6 UZR in left field — despite the fact that he has traditionally been a very good outfielder throughout his career. Mayberry, on the other hand, was rated an above-average +2.6 UZR in left field throughout the 2011 season. A one-year sample size for UZR should not necessarily be considered gospel when rating a player’s defensive abilities, but what the numbers do suggest, however, is that Nix is not a significantly better defender than Mayberry — which, yet again, does not improve the argument for a platoon in left field.

With the roster as currently constructed, Laynce Nix should be a useful bench bat and fourth outfielder, who can adequately handle all three outfield positions with the glove. Mayberry should be given the chance to win the everyday job in left field, and some combination of Ty Wigginton, Nix, and perhaps even Jim Thome can cover the void at first base during the absence of Ryan Howard.

The Laynce Nix signing does signify the end of the Raul Ibanez era in Philadelphia. It’s tough to believe the veteran will receive a big league offer this winter as anything other than a bench bat with power, as he was worth -1.3 WAR (-18.9 runs defensively) in 2011.

The monetary value of the two-year contract given to Nix is not yet available, but one has to imagine the guaranteed amount is somewhat negligible. Philadelphia should not need overpay for a fourth outfielder, nor should they consider platooning Nix in left field with John Mayberry Jr. The numbers that necessitate a platoon are simply not there.

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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).

23 Responses to “Phillies Sign Laynce Nix”

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  1. Phils_Goodman says:

    Agreed. Perhaps Mayberry will be getting more time at 1B than has been let on.

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  2. NEPP says:

    Its a good signing in the respect that he replaces Ben Francisco on the bench. With Ibanez gone, they dont need a RH OF bat on the bench but they do need a LH bat like Nix. Also, he’s a good defender so that is a step up from BenFran’s adventures in the outfield. He’ll get ABs at 1B and LF. The smart move would be to put Mayberry in LF where his excellent defense will be most useful and use a Wigginton/Nix platoon at 1B with Thome getting the occasional start there too…which apparently is the plan.

    The reason he got a 2nd year guaranteed is because the Nationals were also offering a 2 year deal and Rube wanted Nix…Rube gets the guy he wants period. He can also slide into Thome’s LH bench role in 2013.

    I dont like the 2nd year all that much but I can stomach it I guess.

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  3. Will says:

    There’s a big SSS caveat here, and I wouldn’t put too much weight into those statistics.

    Nix only had 31 PA against lefties last season. It would be more instructive to look at his career numbers (vs. LHP: .090 ISO; vs. RHP: .198 ISO)

    Mayberry- career vs LHP: .305 ISO, vs. RHP: .209 ISO

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  4. NEPP says:

    ***UZR did not like Nix in 2011 — rating him a below-average -3.6 UZR in left field — despite the fact that he has traditionally been a very good outfielder throughout his career. Mayberry, on the other hand, was rated an above-average +2.6 UZR in left field throughout the 2011 season. A one-year sample size for UZR should not necessarily be considered gospel when rating a player’s defensive abilities, but what the numbers do suggest, however, is that Nix is not a significantly better defender than Mayberry — which, yet again, does not improve the argument for a platoon in left field.***

    One year of UZR for an OF is pretty much meaningless. Wait, its not pretty much meaningless, its completely meaningless. As Will states, SSS applies big time there.

    Mayberry is a good defender and so is Nix. Its a bench strengthening move where Nix will get some starts thanks to Howard’s injury and in LF when Victorino inevitably takes his annual 15 day DL trip where Mayberry takes over CF for him and Nix starts in LF.

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    • Blackie says:

      I can say that in his time in CIN, Nix was a surprisingly good defender. I didn’t see him with the Nats, and it’s possible that he had a down year, but he has been quite good within a recent time frame.

      That said, I don’t get the lack of confidence in Mayberry either. The step forward was clear both in performance and anecdotal terms. He simply showed drastic improvements in pitch recognition and plate discipline, and I saw both in PAs throughout the year. If I were a team who needed a CF, I’d be testing the waters and seeing what it would take to acquire him. He plays credibly up the middle.

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    • Robbie G. says:

      I think this is the correct analysis. For years, the Phillies have been a lefty-heavy lineup; just last year, the Phillies were so determined to balance the lineup with a strong middle-of-the-lineup right-handed outfield bat (to replace Jayson Werth) that they gave up quite a bit (arguably too much) for the solid but fairly overrated Hunter Pence. However, what may have gone unnoticed by many is that the Phillies suddenly lack enough left-handed hitters, especially while Ryan Howard is out. Nix helps to address this new problem.

      Also, as this poster and others have pointed out, Shane Victorino IS going to spend some time on the DL, he always does. Which means it would be awfully nice to move John Mayberry into CF and put a left-handed hitter into LF when Victorino is forced to miss time. However, since Nix only gets a lot of PT if/when Victorino is hurt and while Ryan Howard is recovering from his extremely unfortunate VERY-end-of-the-season injury, it makes zero sense to spend very much money on a solid left-handed fourth OF (and occasional 1B fill-in). Nix basically replaces Ben Francisco as the fourth OF and he is an upgrade over Francisco because a) that fourth OF now needs to be left-handed rather than right-handed and b) Nix is a better fielder than Francisco (and, for what it’s worth, Raul Ibanez).

      I have expected the Phillies to sign a solid but very affordable left-handed veteran OF for the last several weeks and Nix was one of the names on my very short list, so this move doesn’t surprise me and I think that it’s a very nice move. Also, it’s nice to see Ruben Amaro, Jr. not overpay for a free agent for a change. Nix is going to most likely earn his salary over the next two years and then some. Oh, and as others point out, this move allows the Phillies to keep Domonic Brown in the farm system in 2011. My guess is that the plan here is to let Victorino walk at the end of the 2012 season, move Mayberry over to CF starting in 2013, and handing the full-time LF job to Brown in the spring of 2013. In the meantime, and to Amaro’s credit, the Phillies seem to have a MUCH more versatile assortment of position players on its 2012 roster than on the last several rosters and this depth is being assembled very efficiently/inexpensively.

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  5. don says:

    Mayberry hit righties better in the majors last year than he did over several years in AAA. Perhaps the Phillies just don’t believe he’s as good as he looked last year.

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  6. jrogers says:

    Thome, Wigginton, and now Nix? Dream team!!!

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  7. jesse says:

    2.5 million is the number coming out now. They already have thome, wiggington, and mayberry.
    If he doesn’t get 300 pa’s thats a lot of dough.

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    • Nik says:

      It is? 1.25 Million per year is a lot?

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    • DD says:

      It’s 2.5 mil over 2 year, not per year. Considering Ben Francisco was going to get $1.5 mil in arb this year, they save money over 2012-13 with Nix over him.

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    • NEPP says:

      Yeah, that’s nearly 0.7% of their projected payroll next year.

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      • jesse says:

        Its small, but cash is cash. They could still have nontendered francisco. There were options out there that were just as adequate, and there is no reason to guarantee a second year. Next year there will also be options out there that are just as worthy.

        Not to mention expected limits on their lux tax space, particularly come trade deadline time. that 800,000 over the minimum is still a waste.

        I really think that for low war, bench players, near replacment that dollars per war should be based not on the rest of the free agent market but on the league average price, more akin to 2 million.

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      • NEPP says:

        He likely replaces Francisco on the roster so it will be a cost savings based on what BenFran would command in arbitration. As far as bench bats go, he’s a good option for a team that needed a LH outfielder. He’s also a solid defender. As far as the 2nd year, yeah I dont care for it either but apparently the Nationals also had a 2 year offer on the table adn at worst, he’ll replace Thome as the LH bench bat in 2013. For $1.25 million AAV, its not bad at all.

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  8. Colin says:

    He spent the second half of the season dealing with a sore achilles tendon. Probably hurt his fielding, and seems to have hurt his bat.

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  9. Brad Johnson says:

    Keep in mind, Mayberry was seen as a 6th outfielder going in to 2011. He suddenly improved his plate discipline seemingly out of nowhere. Nix is probably insurance in the event that Mayberry turns pumpkin.

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  10. Blake says:

    Not to mention that this signing adds to the heap that’s keeping Brown in AAA…

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    • Will says:

      Exactly. Maybe Brown really is gonna be stuck down there all year. Not good (have him in my keeper league).

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  11. Charlie Manuel says:

    Nix is older than Mayberry, so I’ll play him.

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  12. Dominic Brown says:

    Jesus not another one! Can you all help a brother out and get me on a team that will play me??

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