As the old proverb [sort of] says, “If you can’t beat him, sign him to a minor league deal” (thanks, Matt). The Mets did just that by signing outfielder/infielder Willie Harris today. Harris’ .159/.319/.212 career line against the Mets doesn’t seem too “dominant,” but don’t let that throw you off–Willie Harris owns the Mets. Whether it’s timely hits or an outstanding catch, Harris has prevented many Mets wins over the years.
Willie Harris was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 1999 amateur draft. After three seasons in the Orioles minor league system–where he stole as many as 54 bases–the birds dealt Harris to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for outfielder Chris Singleton. It took Harris a couple of years toiling in the minors before finally get a consistent cup of coffee in the majors. The 26 year-old became the White Sox starting second baseman in 2004, and posted a solid .262/.343/.323 line, 2 HR, 27 RBI, 68 R, and 19 SB in 471 PA’s. Despite the respectable campaign, the White Sox went out and signed Japanese infielder, Tadahito Iguchi, who promptly snatched Harris’ starting gig away in 2005.
Harris then bounced between the minors and the majors for the White Sox, and even did a tour with the Boston Red Sox, before finding a niche as a “super” utility player with the Atlanta Braves in 2007. His resurgence as a dependable bench option landed him a $800K contract with the Washington Nationals the following season, where he not only found an opportunity to play, but also somehow unearthed the ability to hit home runs. Despite never hitting more than 2 home runs in any season prior, Harris smacked a whopping 13 dongs in 2008. He followed-up a great 2008, with a less miraculous, but still respectable .235/.364/.393 line with 7 HR, 27 RBI, 47 R, and 11 SB. In 2010, however, Harris caught the injury bug, which kept him out of the lineup, and without the ability to prove his value. Nationals players like Mike Morse and Roger Bernadina thrived in Harris’ absense, making the “super” utility player expendable.
The Mets and Willie Harris could be a successful marriage in 2011. Over the past few seasons, the Mets have struggled stringing a bench together, but Harris could again be “that guy” who can pinch-hit, steal a base, or even make a great play in the infield or outfield.
Topics: Ben Berkon, Bench, Bench Player, Chris Singleton, Mets, Minor League Contract, Minor League Deal, New York, New York Mets, Super Utility, Super Utility Player, Tadahi Iguchi, Utility, Utility Player, Willie Harris, Willie Harris Mets, Willie Harris Trade