Opinion

Opinion: In Outfield, Don’t Make Same Mistake Twice

The news came in swift yesterday: Jenkins out. Sheffield in?

Right now no further moves have been made, but Geoff Jenkins is no longer a Phillie. Instead, the Phils will pay more than $7 million to Jenkins to take his services elsewhere. The Phils brought him in during the 2007-08 offseason as a potential starting outfielder, but he soon proved to be more of a bench bat, as Jayson Werth’s breakout season pushed the veteran lefty aside. Suddenly the $13 million paid to Jenkins seems like a bounty paid for a world title.

Jenkins brought more to the team than meets the eye. His leadership and veteran presence loosened the Phillies clubhouse. He was normally the first man greeting successful players after at bats, seemingly in cahoots with fellow castoff Pat Burrell. Now Jenkins and Burrell are both gone – the clubhouse has shifted from loosey-goosey to serious-fearious. Now it’s completely a Jimmy Rollins clubhouse, a Chase Utley clubhouse. These guys are looking at a bigger picture, a “D” word close within their reach.

The simple issue with Jenkins’ removal is that suddenly the Phils’ fourth outfielder is Matt Stairs, really a glorified punch bat who doesn’t play much defense. In a quick fix, the Phils could slide Eric Bruntlett into a starting role for a week. In a longer fix, it’s John Mayberry Jr.’s time to shine. But this isn’t completely adequate. The Phils are saying they’d like a right-handed-hitting outfield bat for the bench. Two names – Gary Sheffield and Andruw Jones – have been tossed around. Sheffield can’t play the field; Jones can’t play anymore. Neither is the right answer.

Instead, if the Phillies want a right-handed hitter who can step in everyday, Shannon Stewart is available. If they want a guy who can thump and is at least more durable, Wily Mo Pena is out there. Don’t fall for the Sheffield trap. He’s not worth the trouble.

And in retrospect, considering the money, neither was Jenkins.

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