It’s interesting to compare the careers of Shane Victorino and Cole Hamels. Both started regular play for the Phillies in the 2006 season — Shane as pseudo-everyday right fielder, Cole as starting pitcher. Both posted good if unspectacular numbers in ’06, with each showing his raw potential. In 2007, both saw upticks in production, with Hamels raising his record to 15-5, and Victorino raising his home run total to 12. And in 2008, both put up career numbers, finishing with gusto in the postseason. Sure, Hamels was the team’s pitching MVP in the postseason, but Victorino probably was the offensive MVP.
But while we await a long-term deal for the 25-year-old Hamels, the 28-year-old Victorino isn’t as certain. But he does deserve to jump arbitration and secure a few years as a Phillie.
The reason is simple: Victorino is a rare commodity. Everyday center fielders with speed, strong hitting tendencies, power potential and great defense are not as easy to find these days. I can count a few out there:
- Matt Kemp: The Dodger hit .290 with 18 HR and 76 SB, while also playing sufficient defense.
- Carlos Beltran: The most complete center fielder in baseball regularly hits over 20 HR and steals over 20 bags.
- Grady Sizemore: Almost as complete as Beltran, he could hit 30 HR and steal 50.
- Torii Hunter: Though he’s aging quickly, he packs a lot of power and still plays spectacular defense.
- BJ Upton: This could be a huge year for the athletic center fielder.
- Nate McLouth: Had a very good year in 2008 with strong power and nice speed.
- Jacoby Ellsbury: Kind of the opposite — more speed than anything, but a good all-around player.
- Curtis Granderson: Despite injury, Granderson had good numbers in 2008 in all categories.
Victorino nestles nicely in that pack, with an OPS that matches up with Kemp. And at age 28, his prime is just about here, which means inking him for a three- to four-year deal should be close to a shoo-in. The only question is health, as Vic hasn’t played a full season yet; however, factor in his postseason output, and it’s easy to see Victorino’s upside outweighs the one question.
Start with a 3Y/$16.5M offer. Go from there.