The Phillies currently have 12 players on their 40-man roster “in flux”. There are four outright free agents, six arbitration eligible players, and a pair of players with options. We will review each of the 12 players starting today, reviewing the case to either re-sign the player, the case to release the player, and the final verdict of what the Phillies should do for the 2015 season.
On December 18, 2013, Tony Gwynn Jr. signed a minor league deal after not playing Major League Baseball in 2013 with the Phillies to compete for the team’s fifth outfield spot. Gwynn made the Phillies out of Spring Training and was hitting .304/.407/.348 through April 19, prompting some fans to call for Gwynn to spend the rest of the season as the team’s starting center fielder throughout the rest of the 2014 season.
Gwynn’s performance quickly deteriorated and on June 16, Gwynn lost his father, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. Gwynn refused a minor league assignment on July 28 and elected to become a free agent before re-signing with the Phillies on August 3. Gwynn was a September call-up for the Phillies and finished the season with a .152/.264/.190 line. Gwynn elected free agency once again after refusing an assignment to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
The Case For
Let’s be honest: the case to bring Gwynn back revolves solely around the fact that the Phillies have very little depth in the outfield and few ready-to-play options in the minor leagues. Gwynn has five seasons with ten stolen bases or more and, as recently as 2011, Gwynn has provided positive value in part-time roles due in large part to his defense and base running.
The Case Against
Gwynn is a career .238/.309/.310 hitter and is coming off, by far, his worst MLB season at age 31. While the Phillies aren’t stacked in the outfield, the club does have Aaron Altherr, who could likely put up the same, if not better, defensive numbers for a third of the price. Additionally, Gwynn is likely to command between $900 K and $1.1 million by most projections despite being worth negative $5.7 million last season. For $1 million, many other bounce-back candidates or reclamation projects could be had.
This one is probably among the most cut and dry of these posts. Gwynn is an easy player to let walk. Altherr is ready right now to be a fifth outfielder and there are a number of higher-potential players each year available in Gwynn’s price range.