The Philadelphia Phillies added some personality with their signing of Ronald Torreyes on Monday.
The Philadelphia Phillies have been implicitly and explicitly criticized for “standing pat” with their current roster for the past three weeks or so, and the signing of a borderline player who played a minimal number of games in MLB last season to a minor league contract isn’t going to make that criticism disappear.
After all, the back end of the rotation still looks iffy, and the bullpen may not have quite enough bulls in it yet. However, the signing of Ronald Torreyes, announced by the team Jan. 7, deserves perhaps a quick second look.
The middle infielder, who only appeared in seven games in 2019 for the Minnesota Twins, will possibly reunite with his former manager and a former teammate on the Phillies, assuming he can claw his way onto the big league roster. And if he does that, he could stand a very good chance of giving Philadelphia something a little like a personality.
In New York, Torreyes was a fan favorite, the little guy who ignited the crowd with comic high fives with towering Aaron Judge, and something that could be called, charitably, a bunch of nonsense known as the “Toe Night Show.” This involved pointing a shoebox at teammates celebrating in the Bombers dugout and pretending it was a video camera. The team and the Bronx crowd loved his act.
And in parts of three campaigns with New York (2016-18) he hit .281, driving in 55 runs, mostly playing shortstop and second base.
The Phillies, despite having Bryce Harper on their team, are a squad slightly deficient in players like Torreyes who fire up fan imaginations with an underdog status coupled to what used to be called pizzazz. Harper will wave his hands at the crowd here and there, but the crowd likely would prefer him to concentrate on the game. Beyond that hand waving, though, the Fightin’s 500s are a quiet bunch, starting with their very best players, J.T. Realmuto and Aaron Nola, who are both almost supernaturally reserved.
Two other players on the Phillies, Andrew McCutchen and Adam Haseley, seem to have some personality. McCutchen is, however, quietly witty, and while Haseley’s studied stoicism may well have a touch of the ironic to it, neither of those qualities actually gets a crowd going.
A best case scenario with Torreyes would be his making the team out of spring training and adding the sort of spark to the team Philadelphia Phillies fans appreciate, a re-do of those exciting little ripples that ran through the crowd at games played in by past Phillies utilitymen Tomas (“The Secret Weapon”) Perez and Wilson Valdez, who was once pressed into mound service and managed to plunk Philly persona non grata Scott Rolen with a pitch.