One of the things that goes unnoticed in so many great movies is the supporting cast. The stars get all the fanfare, but so often, one of the supporting actors finds a way to steal the show. These character actors can carve out quite a career while staying relatively unknown. One of the most prolific character actors of our time is Steve Buscemi, who has 157 credits to his name according to IMDB, and has almost never been the star. You might be wondering why I’m talking about Steve Buscemi on a baseball website, and I’m glad you are because this ridiculously slow offseason has created an idea I like to think of as the Baseball Buscemi.
The Baseball Buscemi is someone good enough to a big leaguer, and maybe even for a long time. He isn’t the Baseball Clooney, but he’s certainly ahead of the San Dimas High school football rules guy who can’t make it out of the minor leagues. And this offseason has been absolutely horrible for the Baseball Buscemi. The fanfare has been all about the top free agents who can’t find deals, but the supporting cast members are in an even more difficult situation. For example, while much was made of Austin Jackson taking a two year deal for $6 million with the Giants, he’s not a Buscemi. He’s more of a Ty Burrell. No, it’s the Buscemis who are really getting lost in the shuffle this winter.
Every good team has a Baseball Buscemi when you really think about it. The 2015 Royals Buscemi may have been Jarrod Dyson. Think back to the 2003 surprise team, and there you have Desi Relaford becoming a fan favorite because of what he provided to that team. They’re not the best players on the field, but it’s hard to think of those teams without them. Pat Sheridan, John Wathan and Buddy Biancalana were some of the Buscemis of the 1985 club. It’s really a wonder they won it all given how big of a role all of them had to play.
One Baseball Buscemi who has waited a long time is Daniel Robertson. Yes, I’m talking about the guy who hit .225/.287/.338 with a .211 TAv. Maybe it’s the fact that he had two of his three multi-hit games in 2017 against the Royals, but I have to wonder if he’s a guy who could make an impact on a team. Make no mistake. He isn’t a star, but that’s what makes him a Buscemi, right? In 10 years in the minors, he’s hit .299/.375/.404 while playing all three outfield positions well enough to work as a fourth or fifth outfielder. He’s also worked in some time at second and third base over the last few years, so he gives a team an opportunity to carry some very real depth. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d work out as a team’s emergency pitcher.
I know the Royals have much bigger fish to fry than signing a fifth outfielder, but it’s not like the center field situation is exactly brimming with impact talent. Why not try to find some depth with the guy who has a 9.4 percent walk rate in AAA in his career and only an 11 percent strikeout rate there? He’s had four seasons in the big leagues with just 386 plate appearances, but the only time he’s had any real extended action was in 2014 with the Rangers when he hit .271/.333/.333. There hasn’t been much power in the past, though Robertson has worked on retooling his swing, a la Chris Taylor. Even if that doesn’t end up translating in games, the guy can get on base, play some decent defense across the whole outfield and has his moments as a decent enough base runner.
Maybe Robertson isn’t necessarily the guy for Royals and maybe I just remember the great game he had against Danny Duffy. Rex Hudler had a lot of great things to say about him during that game when he had two hits and made a nice catch against Eric Hosmer in the outfield. He mentioned guys like him who are playing for their lives and their families and the pressure they put on themselves at that level helps to increase focus. I don’t know how much of that I buy into, but it’s interesting insight from a one-time Basebal Buscemi like Hudler.
The point isn’t so much about Robertson himself, but rather about the guys who this offseason is impacting more than I feel like anyone is talking about. While we sit and wait to learn how many millions of dollars Clooneys like J.D. Martinez and Jake Arrieta are going to make or how many years Burrells like Mike Moustakas or Neil Walker are going to have to settle for, the Buscemis don’t even seem guaranteed to get a minor league deal. Guys like Andres Blanco, Adam Rosales, Rajai Davis, Daniel Nava, Alex Presley and Roberton aren’t going to win a title by themselves, but there’s a place for them on a roster even though it seems difficult to place them now. And that’s not going to get better. With so many players likely settling for one-year deals, there’ll be a logjam again next season when the free agent class is even better.
With so many teams seemingly playing for another year, I don’t see why these teams aren’t more interested in finding their Buscemi. If he’s terrible, the money isn’t enough to matter and he isn’t hurting anything. If he’s serviceable, maybe he can be dealt at the deadline to a team looking for a supporting cast member or maybe he can be an important piece of the next championship club. No, there isn’t a great deal of upside, but you never know. And for a team with no logical answer at any given position and no prospects of the postseason, it’s worth a shot. I think any team expecting to be bad should be turning over every rock to try to find something, anything, that can be of value to them in various ways, and the Baseball Buscemi could be just that.