According to ESPN baseball analyst Jim Bowden, Phillies President Andy MacPhail expressed interest in adding a left-handed bat to the fill out the roster. The Phillies are heading into 2017 with newly extended Odubel Herrera manning center, Howie Kendrick playing left, and a question mark in right field. A mishmosh of young talent appears to be on the fringe – whether that’d be Aaron Altherr, Roman Quinn and/or Nick Williams – but it seems MacPhail and General Manager Matt Klentak want a stable stopgap for depth. Let’s delve into some of the paths the Phils could take:
In his first seven years in the big leagues with Seattle and Toronto, Saunders mustered an average of just .230 and a measly 51 home runs. Last season with the Blue Jays, however, the left-hander upped his average to .253 and slammed almost half the amount of home runs for his entire career, hitting 24.
Saunders played his way into the All-Star Game hitting at a .298 clip with 16 homers and 42 RBIs at the break. The outfielder cooled off considerably after the break, however, hitting just .178 with eight homers and 15 RBI. Primarily a corner outfielder, Saunders could be an early infusion of power until some of the youngsters in Quinn and Williams most likely take over the reins. At age 30, Saunders is likely a two-to-three-year kind of deal commanding at least $10 million a year. With Howie Kendrick entering a contract year, the Phillies won’t be handcuffed by signing Saunders to a multi-year deal.
Former Phillie Brandon Moss is another one-dimensional power hitter among the left-handed hitting pool. Over the last five seasons, Moss has hit at least 19 home runs for three different teams, making an all-star appearance for Oakland back in 2014.
In 2016 with St. Louis, Moss hit .225/.300/.484 while smacking 28 homers and 67 RBI. Once again, strikeouts seem to be Moss’s kryptonite, with 140 in 128 games. Moss, who is 33, plays the corners and can also fill in at first base. The left-handed slugger is a one-year stopgap, between $7-$10 million.
Former Phillie Michael Bourn is still out there and is far different than the above names. Bourn’s game is built on speed, and after leaving the Phillies after the 2007 season, he pieced together a .280/.348/.378 slash line with 166 extra bases and 216 steals over four years in Houston and Atlanta. Those numbers landed the now 34-year-old in two all-star games.
That Michael Bourn ceases to exist, but the speed hasn’t totally left him, and he still can hit. Last season with Arizona and Baltimore the outfielder hit .264/.314/.371 with 13 steals in 113 games. Bourn can play all three outfield positions and is another lower risk, one-year option.
Johnson is a 34-year old journeyman who has played with eight teams over his 11 seasons in the bigs. He’s a career .251 hitter and has spent the last two seasons with the Mets and Braves in two separate stints. Now, more of a part-time player, the lefty doesn’t have the gap power he used to, but is a decent hitter who’ll give Mackanin versatility defensively, playing all positions but pitcher, catcher and center field. Johnson is now categorized as a utility man – the Phils already have one with the returning Andres Blanco.
Reports out of New York are circulating that the Mets are gauging interest for outfielders Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce. Not much has come of it yet, but they could be interesting options for the Phillies to explore in a trade. Both are free agents after the 2017, and during this rebuild, the Phils have been notorious for taking on larger contract-year players, a la Clay Buchholz and Kendrick.
Bruce, thrusted into the playoff fire, looked to crack under the bright New York lights since being dealt from Cincinnati. He hit just .219 with eight homers and 19 RBI in 50 games with New York. For the year, Bruce finished with 30 home runs and 99 RBI. In the friendly confines of CBP and a lower-pressured situation, Bruce could be the exact power-hitting left-hander the Phils are seeking.
Granderson, whose game is similar to Bruce’s, belted 160 home runs his last five full seasons. The main difference between the two is Granderson is 35 and Bruce is 29.
It would take the right deal for each squad to pull off because the Phillies obviously aren’t going to impede upon their rebuild for any of the two, and would the Mets trade them within the division? It’s a double-edged sword for both teams.