The TA94 series, devoted to performing 2023-24 analysis to the transactions of the 1993-94 offseason, rolls into December. It was a relatively quiet time at the winter meetings here in the present, but for our past selves, it was a busy week, with role players and veterans alike flying off the shelves.
The Cincinnati Reds sign PH Lenny Harris to a three-year, $1.5 million contract.
It’s wonderful when the wire tosses some baseball nonsense at us right off the bat. Imagine a team in 2023-24 making a three-year commitment to a pinch-hitter. It’s ludicrous. Sure, Harris is the archetype; his 212 total pinch hits remains a record, and given that the active leaders are Enrique Hernández and Austin Slater at 73, he’s going to be able to autograph his baseball cards with that bit of history for a little longer.
Still, a thousand-day commitment to a bench guy: Harris started 103 out of 292 games played for the Reds between 1994-96, pinch hitting 163 times and serving as a defensive replacement the other 36, covering primarily the four corners. It’s perhaps unsurprising that DRC+ is dismissive of his work (79 for his career, even lower during this particular stint): Not only did he suffer under the well-known pinch-hitter penalty for most of his career, hitting 11 points better as a starter, it was also his job to hit singles rather than go all-or-nothing; his slugging percentage was 30 points lower as a sub. Harris wasn’t good, and his job was designed to make him look worse.
Still, the Reds were an excellent team, so maybe he was just a glue guy, the sort of player good teams get themselves, as a treat. They finished in first place in both 1994 and 1995; in 1996, the final year of his contract, they slipped to third. It was also when he got the most playing time, coincidentally.