With Aaron Altherr out for at least half of the 2016 season with a wrist injury, and Cody Asche likely out to start the season with an oblique strain, the Phillies have holes in their outfield configuration.
Meanwhile, with Odubel Herrera sidelined for the last week with a finger injury, the Phillies may have a third hole in their outfield configuration.
Chances are Herrera will return before the season begins April 4 in Cincinnati, but currently the Phils are likely staring at two openings in the outfield.
- Hunter – 43 PA, .308/.349/.615, 7 XBH, 3 BB, 7 K
- Lough – 33 PA, .308/.455/.462, 2 XBH, 7 BB, 4 K
- Sweeney – 29 PA, .200/.310/.240, 1 XBH, 3 BB, 11 K
Hunter, 28, is having a solid spring with good power and sufficient defense. Lough, 30, is more defensively inclined, and is also hitting well with less power but more discipline. And Sweeney, 25, is one of the few Phillies performing poorly this spring, showing very little at the plate, though he allows for position flexibility (he can play all outfield positions and middle infield).
Both Hunter and Lough are flexible in the outfield – Hunter is a centerfielder who can play all positions, and Lough seems to move around the grass at will.
That said, each of these three is a somewhat light-hitting player with very little major league experience (Lough has the most, accuring 741 plate appearances over four seasons). Plus Hunter and Lough are both lefties. There’s a lot of overlap here.
With that, there’s a possibility Matt Klentak wants to add some veteran heft to the outfield, which has been reported and denied, and reported again. But what exactly is out there?
Here are the veteran free agent options, with 2015 numbers:
- David DeJesus – 317 PA, .233/.297/.330, 16 XBH, 21 BB, 52 K
- Alex Rios – 411 PA, .255/.287/.353, 28 XBH, 15 BB, 67 K
- Grady Sizemore – 296 PA, .253/.307/.381, 23 XBH, 20 BB, 60 K
- Delmon Young – 180 PA, .270/.289/.339, 8 XBH, 4 BB, 29 K
Not exactly an inspiring group. Frankly, picking up one of these players is simply taking appearances away from Hunter, Lough and Sweeney; moreover, you’re likely not to get any return for any of these guys at the trade deadline. No need for this group.
Another option is the trade market. The Phils could make two kinds of trades here – a low-key move for a fourth-outfielder type to share playing time with Tyler Goeddel and Peter Bourjos, or a salary-dump move for a veteran who will start more games and potentially be flipped at the deadline.
Here are veterans the Phils could look to acquire in a trade, with 2015 numbers:
- Michael Bourn – 482 PA, .238/.310/.282, 17 XBH, 46 BB,107 K
- Jay Bruce – 649 PA, .226/.294/.434, 65 XBH, 58 BB, 145 K
- Coco Crisp – 139 PA, .175/.252/.222, 6 XBH, 13 BB, 25 K
- Nick Swisher – 260 PA, .196/.312/.320, 15 XBH, 35 BB, 54 K
Each of these players would command plate appearances, which isn’t the worst thing for 2016, but the Phils would be risking some asset (whether a prospect or two) and the injury history and performance of whomever they acquire.
As for performance, Bourn has no bat but a glove, Bruce has some glove and some bat (though mostly power), and Swisher … not much of either. So the Phils would be sacrificing something more than a tangible organizational talent with a move like this. It may be too risky, in fact.
The final option is the waiver wire. The Phils are lucky enough to have the first waiver priority in 2016, so they can claim any player in camp – with no options – who gets dropped. An acquisition can then be finalized.
Some of the outfielders with no options remaining, and thus are susceptible to waivers, include:
- Daniel Nava (LAA) – 166 PA, .194/.316/.245, 5 XBH, 20 BB, 36 K
- Ezequiel Carrera (TOR) – 192 PA, .273/.321/.372, 11 XBH, 11 BB, 45 K
- Kirk Nieuwenhuis (MIL) – 141 PA, .195/.270/.375, 15 XBH, 10 BB, 2 K
And then you have a huge list of outfielders invited to camps without contracts (like Hunter and Lough). They can be cut at any time. And this may actually be the most likely course the Phillies take.
Whatever the case, expect the Phillies to look for another outfielder before the season begins. The most likely scenario today involves an outfield bench of Lough and Sweeney, or Hunter and Sweeney, but it’s likely the Phils would rather allow Sweeney to further develop in triple-A.