At age 28, Nate Schierholtz is about as complete of a Major League player as he will likely become. Very few players in the post-PED era improve by much into their thirties and the skill sets that do improve are power and plate discipline. Schierholtz has average plate discipline (6.1% career walk rate v. 16.7% career strikeout rate) but his 6’1″, 205 lbs frame may provide as much power as it can for his swing at this point. Schierholtz, right now, is by no means a bad player but is not quite the throw-in Ben Francisco was in the Cliff Lee trade and may not even possess the level of potential Francisco had. Add to this that Dom Brown is left-handed, four years younger, and that Laynce Nix is a similar power with less plate discipline but significantly more power, and Schierholtz enters a team where he is the fifth outfield option.
If cost control or cost certainty is a factor, the Phillies won big in the Pence trade. In addition to the prospects they received, Schierholtz is only making $1.3 million this year according to Baseball Reference and has two years of arbitration eligibility. And comparing Schierholtz and Pence’s production for 2012 (0.7 WAR v. 1.1 WAR), it is surprisingly close, especially considering the $9.1 million difference. In this regard, it was a shrewd move. Yet, Schierholtz is not a player that projects or has been on a pattern of continual improvement that could address a corner outfield solution. His role likely will be that of a platoon outfielder, platooning with some combination of Michael Martinez and John Mayberry Jr., a role that was being filled admirably by Juan Pierre and could be filled by Nix. Because of this, I would have taken my chances on a prospect because the Phillies are not winning this year and Schierholtz, barring a major improvement for 2013, is not a starting Major League outfielder.
Is it fair we judge the Schierholtz addition against the existence of Nix and Pierre? Is a mistake of not trading Nix or Pierre, or an overpay in years for Nix perhaps, a fair reason to deny a shot for Schierholtz to develop any more that he may? At 28, Schierholtz seems to have at least three more years to grow to produce what Nix currently produces, but in a straight platoon, it is arguable that Nix would be able to out-produce Schierholtz. Schierholtz actually has a pretty even split in roughly 1/5 of the ABs as a lefty v. lefties (.285/.318/.398 as lefty v. lefties, .266/.320/.416 as lefty v. righties) and is under control for two more years, versus Nix’s horrible line against lefties (.183/.236/.277) and the fact that he is only on the team for one more year at roughly the same price. Schierholtz is by far the more valuable piece to have on the team, but did the Phillies make the right move including him in the trade when they already have a pair of capable lefty platoon outfielders in Nix and Pierre and a third lefty they want to have every day at bats?
At the time of the first Lee trade, Francisco already had a 15 HR, 1.7 WAR season under his belt and was insurance for an injured Raul Ibanez. Francisco was not projected to become a big star, but filled a role for three playoff teams. In a team currently full of lefty platoon bats, and with the playoffs nowhere in sight, the addition of Schierholtz is particularly confusing. Schierholtz has not had a season as productive as Francisco’s 2008, but has had two seasons as good as Francisco’s next best season 2009. I would have liked this trade a lot more if the Phillies had found a taker for Nix or Pierre, but because they did not, the Phillies now have four lefty outfielders, and none definitively a starter at either corner because of current ability. Schierholtz is a nice piece on a contending team’s bench, but I would have taken a risk on a prospect instead of including a redundancy.