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What Scott Cousins Is

three guys who ain't Marlins no more
three guys who ain't Marlins no more
Sarah Glenn

Property of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, now. Post over! Everybody go home!

Not long ago, the Mariners designated Scott Cousins for assignment. This might've passed you by, because the Mariners simultaneously designated Chone Figgins for assignment, and that was cause for celebration. Distracting, preoccupying celebration. Figgins cleared waivers and got released. Cousins didn't clear waivers, as the Angels just grabbed him. Okay, whatever, why is this relevant on a Friday afternoon?

It's not, to be honest, unless you're Scott Cousins or someone who loves him. But not long before the Mariners designated Cousins for assignment, they grabbed him off waivers from the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays had designated Cousins for assignment at the end of October. Not long before the Blue Jays designated Cousins for assignment, they grabbed him off waivers from the Marlins. The Marlins put Cousins on waivers after he spent the bulk of his season in triple-A. He made 53 appearances in the majors -- more than Felix! -- but he batted just 92 times. He made 14 starts. Most often he pinch-hit or took over in the outfield. Cousins is 27, and like most 27-year-olds, he's approaching 28.

To summarize, quickly, Cousins' employers:

Through October 16: Marlins
Through November 5: Blue Jays
Through November 29: Mariners
As of November 30: Angels

Cousins had been with the Marlins since being drafted in 2006, but he spent most of his time in the minors. He should be somewhat accustomed to moving around, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he found yet another new employer within the coming months.

The concept of a replacement-level player is one of them fundamental new-agey ones. Replacement-level players are often described as freely-available talent, guys who are hanging around in triple-A and not sucking there. They're the R in WAR -- the baseline they establish helps to tell us how good certain players really are, relatively. It's all kind of theoretical, but replacement-level players exist, and it can help to give them names. They are not available in infinite supply, but they are usually available on-demand. Scott Cousins is a replacement-level player.

Demonstrably so. It amuses me that, according to FanGraphs, Cousins' career WAR is 0.0, but that isn't my central point. Cousins right now has been existing on the very fringes of 40-man rosters. He's existed on four of them over the past month and a half, getting dumped and getting claimed, good enough to have, but not so good as to take up space that could go to someone younger or someone more talented.

Cousins is right there on the edge. He's been evaluated as almost a dead-on replacement-level player. He's appealing enough to claim. If he has to go, though, it's no big deal. There'll be other Scott Cousinses available. Some teams will have different evaluations of Cousins than others, but we've been given a pretty clear idea of his present market value.

So what does a replacement-level player look like? They don't have to be somewhat young, like Cousins is, but they can be. They're guys who can do a job in an emergency, guys who can be improved upon but guys who probably won't play like complete shit. They're not going to have replacement-level talent across the board; rather, they'll probably have one or two worthwhile skills, and then the rest of the package will be entirely unremarkable. Part of Cousins' particular appeal is that he can handle center field. He's not a bad runner, and he has the ability to drill the occasional extra-base hit. Cousins might even look a little valuable for a stretch if he were platooned. Replacement-level players are mediocre, and sometimes they can look okay.

It's an important baseline. It's a baseline that helps keep you from overvaluing, I don't know, Eric Thames. Thames, absolutely, can do some things well. How irreplaceable is he, really? Everybody who got even as far as triple-A got there on unusual talent. Everybody at the higher levels has at least something to offer. How much more does a Thames have to offer? How much more does a Mike Carp have to offer?

There have been plenty of real-life replacement-level players. Of course there have; that's the whole point. Scott Cousins is among them. If one takes anything out of Cousins' brief time with the Mariners, let it be this. Scott Cousins represents something bigger than himself. Scott Cousins represents a concept, as many others do too. There are players for whom there's always an argument to keep them on the 40-man roster. At the same time, there's always an argument to kick these players off. Those players on the fringes are interesting in how very uninteresting they are.