This week we’re looking at the Phillies’ biggest holes in anticipation of the offseason. How will they fill the holes? That’s what we’re after in the offseason preview.
Fixing the outfield
Let’s not mince words here: There are a lot of holes with the Phillies. Teams that challenge for the first pick of the next year’s draft have plenty of holes. But we’re all hoping the outfield isn’t one of them, because the outfield looks pretty solid going into 2018. The big caveat is that because the biggest hole is starting pitching, and the outfield is a young, contract-controlled area of strength, this might be the one place from which trade pieces could come. But for now, let’s focus on available free agents and assume the unit that finished the 2017 season will be the unit that starts the 2018 season. It’s a good thing. So when we’re talking about the 2018 outfield needs, let’s agree there are some needs, but also agree there are a few things the Phillies don’t want:
- A big contract.
- A long contract.
- A big, long contract.
What they likely want:
- Someone who can at least play both corner positions, and maybe center field, too.
- Someone who is content getting 250 at-bats or fewer.
- Someone who bats right-handed to offset both Odubel Herrera and Nick Williams on their off days.
- Someone who is willing to take an incentive-laden contract and who can see the writing on the wall that by mid-August, either by trade or DFA, he may not be on the team.
With those considerations in mind, let’s talk outfield.
Well, well, well, would you look at this. The 2017 Phillies have a unit that is generally not going to be touched going into 2018! I’m still of the mind that the Phillies shop Herrera in the offseason just to see what’s out there – especially if it can net them young, controllable, top of-the-rotation-type major-league-ready pitching. Herrera doesn’t bring that in by himself – it would have to be part of a package. Anyway.
Quinn wasn’t exactly running wild up in Allentown before his latest injury. But he’ll be 25 in May and it’s time to find out if he’s a piece of the future or not. That’s really tough to do when he only plays 50 games a year, but there has to be some kind of commitment one way or another.
Cozens is the most obvious trade chip the Phillies have. He’s young enough that other teams likely will still value his light-tower power tool and his pure athleticism. But that value is severely undermined by his penchant to strike out, so it might behoove the Phillies to see if they can work the kinks out in the offseason and start him back at Lehigh Valley to build up value. That strategy didn’t work in 2017 after his monster year in 2016. But then again … Aaron Judge.
Perkins didn’t impress in 2017, fortifying the “organizational fodder” classification that has dogged him throughout his career. But the Phillies seem to love him. Still not sure why.
Tocci looked very good in Reading, then just OK in Allentown. The Phillies signed him as a 16-year-old because of his projectable body and power potential, but seven years into his career, it doesn’t look like that will materialize. If another organization is convinced it will, send him there yesterday.
Pullin looked really good in Reading, then below average in Allentown. He’ll be back in triple-A to start 2017, or could look really good in a trade package.
Randolph did what he set out to do in Clearwater in 2017: He stayed healthy, and he got on base. Other than that at the plate … meh. He’s not exactly ripping up the Arizona Fall League, either. It will be interesting to see if the Phillies send the former first-round pick up to Reading or make him repeat Clearwater until he gets it right.
The Phillies are trying to play Moniak’s late-season struggles off as fatigue and season-long injuries he played through. I’ll buy it … for now. But this is now two years in a row the “fatigue” card has been played. Just sayin’.
Haseley got moved three levels this year after being the Phils’ first-round draft pick and acquitted himself well. He just didn’t set the world on fire like as hoped. A 2019 cup-of-coffee sounds reasonable depending on how 2018 goes.
Haseley’s Williamsport outfield-mate, Ortiz, may have been the team’s most talented big-league prospect. After three years in the organization, he’ll turn just 19 in a couple weeks, hit .302/.401/.560 in 159 at-bats and looks like he’s ready for his full-season debut in Lakewood this year. He’s the upside-heavy, wild card of all the Phillies’ positional prospects.
WHAT’S THE FIX?
The Phillies don’t really need one right now. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone going into 2018 saying, “You know what? They really need to shake up that outfield.” One of the best parts of this group is that not only are Williams and Altherr interchangeable on the corners, they also can both play center. This trio is pretty well set, and if there will be any major additions, it’s likely going to be through a trade. Did someone on the interwebs say the Phils are in the hunt for Giancarlo Stanton? Did anyone hear about that? Me neither.
But the Phillies probably will add at least one veteran bat to complement the young guys. It just won’t be a starter if this current outfield stays intact (all contract statuses via MLB Trade Rumors):
Stop laughing, these guys have feelings too!
8,5492,194. Cody Asche
39. Michael Saunders
38. Hyan Soo Kim
37. Peter Bourjos
36. Ben Revere
Everyone good? Thought so.
35. Jayson Werth
He still has a some fans in town, and he had a pretty good 2016. But between his age (39), his recent injury history, his probable desire to still want to start and his general attitude toward Philadelphia after he left, this just makes no sense. Ruben Amaro Jr. as manager makes more sense.
These guys … these guys aren’t good.
32. (tie) Carlos Moncrief
32. (tie) Tyler Moore
32. (tie) Jaff Decker
I had to look them all up to see who they were, then kicked myself for not remembering Moore, who used to be a Phillie-killer with the Nationals.
31. Craig Gentry
Not gonna lie … I thought Gentry played for Seattle in 2017, then realized I was thinking about Alvin Gentry. Then I realized I was mixing Alvin Gentry up with Alvin Davis. Isn’t it funny how the mind works?
30. Scott Van Slyke
Interesting name, but next year it will be four years since he broke through with a big year, and he’s never been even close to the same since. Credit the Dodgers for trying to stick with him, but the guy hit .122 this year.
29. Carlos Beltran
He said last year he’ll either retire or play one more year in 2017. He may have stuck around so he could play in the World Baseball Classic, but he was barely helpful to the best offense in baseball (.666 OPS) in Houston.
28. Franklin Gutierrez
Injured, rapidly declining and no longer an above-average defender is pretty much how you’d describe 90 percent of this outfield free agent class. But Gutierrez may be the leader of the pack in those categories. There are better ways to use your money.
27. Melvin Upton Jr.
Philadelphia has had enough of the Upton family, thanks very much. Especially ones that believe they’re still starters when they’re clearly not.
26. Matt Holliday
Still technically listed as an outfielder, but he didn’t play there at all this year.
25. Colby Rasmus
Rasmus looked like he might have turned a corner two years ago when he looked decent for a good team in Houston, but he’s been nothing more than a failed prospect before or since then.
24. Curtis Granderson
Don’t be fooled by the name brand, Granderson hasn’t been good for a while. It’s doubtful he’s mentally ready to be a part-time guy, though it wouldn’t hurt to ask. But I’d still rather the Phillies use their money elsewhere. Left off the World Series roster, for what that’s worth.
23. Cameron Maybin
It’s shocking how bad Maybin’s overall career has been, yet he keeps hanging around and always seems to be “a bat so-and-so team is considering signing in the offseason” on the rumor mill. Pass.
22. Rajai Davis
I’m not sure Davis and Maybin have ever been seen in the same place at the same time before. Hmmmmm …
THE STARTERS THE PHILLIES WANT NO PART OF
Unless the Phillies use one of their outfielders in a trade, they won’t need or want someone who is expecting to play 140 games. All of these guys will expect that, and to be paid like it.
21. Jon Jay
Finally healthy again, he looked a lot more like the really good outfielder from St. Louis more than the injured outfielder from San Diego. But he started for a playoff team and had a good year, he wouldn’t want to immediately go to the bench and back up Odubel.
20. Carlos Gomez
Whatever happened to Gomez for those horrific two-plus months in Houston in 2016, it appears to be over and he’s back to his solid self. A solid self that will be looking for a multiyear, $8 million-plus per year contract. Next.
19. Austin Jackson
It’s been a long time since Jackson was the toolsy uber-prospect that came up with the Tigers in 2010 and promptly led the American League in strikeouts. But almost a decade into his big-league career, did he finally figure it out (.318/.387/.482 with 33 walks and 64 strikeouts in 318 plate appearances in 2017)? That outlier statline in his history screams “contract year,” but he’s going to make a lot more this offseason than the one-year, $1.5 million contract he signed with the Indians for 2017. It just won’t be the Phillies giving it to him.
18. Carlos Gonzalez
It seems like CarGo has been rumored to be out of Colorado for about 50 years, but it looks like it might finally happen. He picked an awful time to have the worst year of his career other than his injury-plagued 2014, but someone is likely to give him a decent payday. Good chance it won’t be the Phils.
17. Jose Bautista
Last offseason’s buzzy name attached to the Phillies is a year older and is coming off, by far, his worst year since 2009. He’ll still be looking for a multiyear deal if he gets out of his $17 million mutual option with the Blue Jays, and will be looking for plenty of at-bats. He won’t get them with the Phillies.
16. Justin Upton
See Upton Jr., Melvin. But at least this one can hit. He’s got four years and $88 million left on his contract that he can opt out of. The only way he does that is if he looks at this barren OF free agent class and believes he can get more. If he does, it won’t be the Phillies giving it to him.
15. Jay Bruce
He would have looked lovely in the outfield last year when it was rumored the Phillies were in on 2016 trade talks for him. But at five years, $80 million? Thanks but no thanks.
14. Michael Brantley
An older, better version of Roman Quinn with his fast, exciting style of play and his inability to stay on the field. The Phillies already have one of those, and he’s a lot cheaper.
13. J.D. Martinez
Like a lot of others, I was lobbying for the Phillies to trade for Martinez before the year started and try to extend him on a buy-low principle as he was coming off injury and the Tigers were looking to sell off their assets. Then he went out and hit 45 home runs in less than 500 plate appearances for the Tigers and Diamondbacks. Now he’s no longer affordable or desirable to a team in the situation the Phillies are in.
12. Adam Lind
He’s got a $5 million mutual option with the Nationals, but his 2017 (.303/.362/.513) was very good in his limited role. If he opts out of that contract — and he probably should — he’ll be looking for a starting position and starting money. The Phillies have neither for a player like Lind.
11. Lorenzo Cain
Pssst … wanna hear a secret? Cain was good last year (.300/.363/.440, 26 steals, career highs in games and plate appearances). He was only a tick down from his 2015 numbers when he finished third in MVP voting. So someone is going to open up the bank vault for him on a four-year, $60 million deal. It won’t be the Phillies.
10. Eduardo Nunez
Swiss army knife kind of guy, though he’s more comfortable in the infield than the outfield. A really interesting name, but it’s unlikely the Phillies would be able to find him 500 at-bats. Borders on “find him the at-bats” territory if he wants to come to Philadelphia, but that could mean blowing up whatever plan they have right now, and he’s not that kind of talent.
9. Howie Kendrick
Why not? He seemed to enjoy his limited time in Philly, and it also seemed like he was starting to realize his time as a starter was over. But he needs to understand he’s a bench player only.
THE BENCH BATS (which is what the Phillies are looking for)
8. Chris B. Young
Doesn’t have a standout tool, and most of them are below average, but someone is going to sign him as a fourth outfielder. Here’s to hoping it’s not the Phillies, but he fits the bill if they wanted to.
7. John Jaso
It sounds good, but I know enough Pirate fans that blow up my Facebook feed three times a week with “WTF is Jaso doing out there?!?!?!” posts that I’m cool with staying away from him.
6. Andre Eithier
There is almost no way the Dodgers pick up his $17.5 million club option, and his bat and veteran experience would be a big boost to the Phillies. But he’s been hurt almost exclusively for two years now, and even when he’s playing, he’s not that good. He’ll probably still want to find somewhere to start, but the market for a 36-year-old, oft-injured, light-hitting starting right fielder will be limited. He seems destined to be one of those guys who would be in Jayson Stark’s annual “All-Star Team of Guys Who Still Don’t Have a Job” column he runs in March. If he’s willing to take a one-year, $4 million, incentive-laden deal, I’ll sign off on it.
5. Chris Heisey
Now here’s an interesting case. The Lancaster County (Donegal High School) native may be thrilled to play for the Phils. He’s only 33, has been in a bench/platoon role his entire career and would be cheap to get. But he’s cheap because he was released by the Nationals in the middle of the season after hitting .162 in just 79 plate appearances. He’s never been a high-average guy, but .162 is simply unplayable. He did slugg a completely acceptable .446 in 2016, so if the Phillies think an injury might have caused the precipitous drop-off, they may be inclined to offer a spring training invite with the possibility of becoming the fifth outfielder. There are worse options.
4. Melky Cabrera
He would be the outfield equivalent of picking up Clay Buchholz. “We know he’s been hurt, we know he hasn’t been himself, we know he’s old, but what if he has another year left in the tank?” If the Phillies find out if he’s healthy, then convince him to take a bench role, his switch-hitting, clubhouse leadership and experience could be very valuable. If he were available on the free agent market in 2017 and I was writing this for the 2017 Phillies, he’d be my No. 1 option.
3. Eric Young Jr.
Did his career path overlap with his father at all, because it seems like he’s been in the league for 30 years (answer: almost, they missed each other by three years). Anyway, after totaling less than 100 plate appearances in 2015 and 2016, Young was mildly useful in his limited role with the Angels in 2017 (.264/.336/.418). He won’t command a huge contract, something like one year, $1.3 million (if that), and he played every outfield position last year. But he started the season in the minors, then got demoted back to them in July through August. Fifth outfielder or nothing, but would be a low-cost veteran.
2. Seth Smith
A very interesting option. He’ll give you decent innings and won’t command playing time. Completely unexciting nonetheless. His plate appearances have gone down for the last four years, and it’s doubtful he’d get the 373 plate appearances with the Phils he got last year with the Orioles. Does he want to? He doesn’t play centerfield, but the Phillies don’t need him to. If they can somehow figure it out where he might get 300 plate appearances, he could be the perfect fit for this team.
1. Daniel Nava
I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. We already wrote about how the Phillies should be knocking on his door again. And in going through this free agent list and figuring out the guys the Phillies should target, I kept saying to myself, “He’s not going to be much different or better than Nava.” So then why not just get Nava back? He’s pretty much exactly what they’re looking for. And he switch hits! They could just go with Quinn and Cozens as the fourth and fifth outfielders and let the five of them all fight it out for playing time. But they shouldn’t. And Nava is exactly the kind of player they need.