With the addition of a pair of major free agents this off-season, the Philadelphia Phillies have significantly upgraded themselves at the corner outfield positions.
Another thing that adding two new players to the everyday lineup does is push aside incumbent players. In left field, that issue is resolved with Rhys Hoskins moving back to first base following the trade of Carlos Santana.
But now with two new starting outfielders the pressure this spring will grow on the other incumbents. Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera and Roman Quinn will likely at some point find themselves battling for a job with the Phillies. At least one of those players could end up being traded away.
I say “at some point” because right now the conversation is a bit moot. Both Herrera and Quinn are injured and it is unknown how long either will be out. Also pushing for a job on the Phillies bench will be 24-year-old Dylan Cozens.
Were everyone healthy then the odd-man out would most likely be Williams. That is only because he may be the most talented of the group. The 25-year-old stroked 17 home runs a year ago in his second big-league campaign. There are likely a number of teams who would see him as a starting right fielder with upside potential.
Herrera and Quinn were set to battle for the starting job in center field. Should either get back to the Grapefruit League lineup before the other and produce, they would clearly take the lead. Should neither return by the start of the regular season one month from now, Altherr likely steps into the starting role temporarily.
Altherr may be the best fit of the bunch for a regular bench role. The 28-year-old has experience in parts of five big-league seasons with the Phillies. He demonstrated his power potential by blasting 19 homers during his best season back in 2017. He is also athletic enough that he can play all three outfield positions. Last year, Altherr appeared in 68 games in left field, 11 in center field, and another half-dozen in right field.
Cozens is just hoping to make the Opening Day roster after getting his first career 26-game cup of coffee with the Phillies a year ago. He has crushed 88 home runs and swiped 38 bags in the minor leagues over the past three seasons, but also struck out 504 times during those years. If he demonstrates more consistency this spring, injuries or a trade could open a real opportunity for him.
The Phillies could find someone like free agent Adam Jones a real possibility. The 33-year-old free agent has already made over $95-million in his career. Jones is not the player that he was in the first-half of this decade when he was a perennial All-Star caliber performer. But if he were willing to sign a reasonable two-year deal, that might work out for both the Phillies and the player.
Having McCutchen and Harper makes the Phillies a significantly better team. But the question of who will play regularly between them in center field is a very open one at the present time. The answer could prove to be one of the keys to just how strong and deep this team will be in 2019.
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- Roman Quinn: Injured yet again, he remains talented but unreliable
- Odubel Herrera sidelined indefinitely with injured hamstring