Last season Joe Mather was signed to a minor league contract and then made the team. Joe Mather was not any good. Not before he signed with the Cubs and especially not with the Cubs. Despite this, he still had nearly 250 plate appearances.
In four seasons in the big leagues, Joe Mather has been a replacement level player or better only once according to both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference. That was in 2008.
While Brent Lillibridge won't make anyone mistake him for a good player, he's no Joe Mather. Then again, according to Baseball Reference, Brent Lillibridge has been below replacement in 2008, 2009, 2010 and at each stop (3 of them) in 2012.
However, in 2011 he was actually valuable. He wasn't just not bad. He was kind of good in 216 plate appearances with the White Sox. He hit .258/.340/.505 (.365 wOBA, 125 wRC+, 1.3 fWAR, 1.7 rWAR, 1.4 WARP).
He played 59 games in the outfield. Most of those (43) were in RF. He played 11 in CF and 9 in LF. He also played 22 games at 1st and 6 at 2nd base. Last season he played the most in the oufield and then at 1st and 3rd base. He can play anywhere.
Like Joe Mather.
Brent Lillibridge probably has better odds than not of making the team in what we'll now call the Joe Mather roster spot.
Give Cubs manager Dale Sveum an assist in convincing Brent Lillibridge to sign with the team.
"I like to get a feel for the manager, especially in a situation like this," said Lillibridge, a non-roster invitee. "I wanted to just talk baseball. [Sveum] really sold me on so many different parts of it and was real honest with me. That's what you want from the manager and the whole organization."
Now, his wife is already scouting for a place to rent in Chicago. They know the area. He played 3 1/2 seasons with the White Sox, then was traded twice last year — once to the Red Sox and again to the Indians.
He could be the utility player the Cubs need. Although Anthony Rizzo will be the main first baseman, he will need a day off now and then. Who will back him up? Sveum said catchers Welington Castillo and Dioner Navarro will get some playing time at first in Spring Training just in case, but Lillibridge could be the guy. It helps that he has played outfield and shortstop as well.
"I'm not going to lie to you, it gives you a huge edge in the National League," Sveum said of Lillibridge's versatility. "He's got some sock in his bat for a guy who looks like he's 150 pounds soaking wet."
"I still have my [first-base] glove up there just in case," he said. "Unless I stand on the base, I'm quite small over there at first base. I just want a bat in my hands. If I get a chance to swing, I'm excited. I want to help as much as possible."
There's not much reason to think that Lillibridge can hit as well as he did in 2011. His miinor league numbers don't indicate it and his numbers at the MLB level are far worse than he did then. He's not likely to be as bad as Joe Mather, but he's not likely to be on many fantasy teams unless you're playing in the new one GBTS wants to set up.