Phil Gosselin returned to the Atlanta Braves on a minor league deal last March. He was unable to secure a roster spot during the spring, but did make his way to the major league roster and served in a utility (read: mostly sitting on the bench) role for almost a month.
The Braves signed Phil Gosselin to a minor league contract that also included an invite to Spring Training in late March. Atlanta added Gosselin to the active roster on June 14 to replace Ozzie Albies. Gosselin’s stay on the major league roster would last nearly a month as he was designated for assignment on July 11 to open up a roster spot for Robinson Cano.
This was Gosselin’s third stint with the Braves. He was initially drafted by the Braves in 2010, and appeared in parts of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 seasons. In mid-2015, he was traded to Arizona as the “return” in the Touki Toussaint plus Bronson Arroyo deal. He had a great 76 PAs for the Diamondbacks after the trade (0.7 fWAR), and then bounced a bunch of Triple-A and minor league teams, including spending much of 2018 playing for Gwinnett after the Braves claimed him on waivers.
What were the expectations?
Gosselin was brought in to provide experienced infield depth either on the major league roster or at Gwinnett. His projections generally ranged from replacement level to considerably worse; coming into the 2022 season he had amassed 0.6 fWAR in 1,122 major league PAs, with below-average hitting and defense.
Gosselin signing with the Braves in March was a reunion of sorts. There was a moment during the spring where it looked like he might snag one of the final bench spots, but Atlanta reassigned him to minor league camp on April 2.
Gosselin reported to Gwinnett and hit .297/.358/.473 in 49 games. He was added to the major league roster on June 14 to replace Albies after the latter suffered a broken foot. With Orlando Arcia in the starting lineup, Gosselin moved into the utility infielder role and spent almost a month on the active roster, but appeared in just 12 games while going 6-for-23 at the plate.
The Braves designated Gosselin for assignment to clear a roster spot for Robinson Cano on July 11, and he was claimed by the Angels.
This was another reunion for Gosselin who spent the 2021 season in Los Angeles. However, he would struggle down the stretch going 5-for-51 at the plate in 22 games and was released on August 31.
In total, Gosselin put up 0.1 fWAR in 24 PAs as a Brave, and -0.8 fWAR in 53 PAs as an Angel in 2022. His combined -0.7 fWAR pushed him into negative fWAR territory for his career.
What went right? What went wrong?
More than right or wrong, things mostly went the way they do in the life of a journeyman utility player. Gosselin had a solid spring and a solid stretch at Gwinnett. After he was promoted June 14, he stuck in the majors until he was released by the Angels at the end of August. For a bench player without a guaranteed deal, that is about all you can ask for.
From a forward-looking perspective, Gosselin’s offense collapsed substantially in 2022 relative to past years, though it was a very small sample. He posted a respectable .321 xwOBA (that he severely underperformed) in 68 PAs in 2019, and a below-average-but-rosterable .295 mark (that he overperformed) in 102 PAs in 2020. It slid to .288 in 2021 over 373 PAs, but was just a paltry .207 in 77 PAs in 2022. He barely walked and struck out more than ever. On the plus side, he had a horrid defensive season in 2021, and though the sample was teeny, did better defensively in 2022.
Gosselin had just one positive WPA game with the Braves, and it came during a 7-6 win over the Giants in June. He went 2-for-4 with two singles; his first single, an infield hit of a sort, was part of a five-run rally that chased former Brave Alex Wood from the game.
On the flip side, Gosselin’s last game with a PA for the Braves was his worst. Not only did he make the second-to-last out in a one-run loss in extras, but he also made one of the Braves’ worst baserunning blunders of the season:
The move was particularly egregious given that Gosselin came in as a pinch-runner for Orlando Arcia, and then pinch-ran the Braves out of a decent chance to walk it off in the ninth with the top of the order coming up. (Plus, the substitution forced Gosselin to bat later in the game, with the win on the line.) Surprisingly, he made one more appearance in a Braves uniform before they jettisoned him off the roster.
Gosselin turned 34 in October. Considering his defensive versatility and experience, it wouldn’t be surprising if he was given another minor league deal and brought to spring training by someone. That said, he’s almost definitionally replacement level at this point, so there’s little upside to rostering him instead of pretty much anyone else that might contribute to a major league team. At least he’s still quite fast (87th percentile sprint speed) for a guy in his mid-30s? Maybe some team makes use of that with the new step off/pickoff rules in 2023? Who knows.