While Andrew McCutchen was a popular player during his three seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, the club declined his $15 million option for the 2022 season, instead choosing to pay him a $3 million buyout.
This doesn’t necessarily preclude Dave Dombrowski and the Phillies from reaching a new deal with McCutchen, but the most likely scenario is that the five-time All-Star has played his final game in red pinstripes. He can still rake against left-handed pitching — he posted a 1.027 OPS against lefties in 2021 — but is more of a platoon player at this stage of his career, and probably someone best suited to receive a chunk of his at-bats as a DH.
At this juncture, the Phillies need an everyday left fielder, one that ideally would represent both an offensive and defensive upgrade over what McCutchen was a season ago.
We don’t yet know when the MLB lockout will conclude, but when it does, left field will arguably be priority No. 1 for the Phillies. Here’s a look at five potential free agents who could be fits:
Prior to the owners locking the players out on Dec. 1, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia had reported that the Phillies “remained in pursuit” of Schwarber.
That would make quite a bit of sense given that he revived his career in Washington — before being traded to Boston in advance of the trade deadline — this past season. Schwarber’s hitting coach in Washington was Kevin Long, who is now the hitting coach for the Phillies. Long hasn’t been shy in discussing just how good of a fit he believes Schwarber would be for the Phillies.
Barry Jackson and Craig Mish of The Miami Herald have reported that Schwarber, 28, is looking for a three-year deal “in the $60 million range.” That deal feels more than appropriate, especially when you consider that the Phillies wouldn’t have to surrender any draft compensation to sign Schwarber because he was traded during the regular season.
Certainly, the Red Sox are going to make an attempt to retain Schwarber, especially given that they traded away Hunter Renfroe after he homered 31 times and drove in 96 runs this past season. But if the Phillies were able to land Schwarber, he could be their starting left field, and either hit leadoff or provide lineup protection for reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper.
From an offensive standpoint, Castellanos would be a near perfect fit for the Phillies, as he’d provide more thump in the middle of a lineup that already includes the aforementioned Harper and Rhys Hoskins.
Castellanos is coming off a monster season with the Cincinnati Reds, as he slashed .309/.362/.576 with 34 home runs, 100 RBIs and a 4.2 fWAR. He would seemingly be a match made in heaven for Citizens Bank Park.
That’s not to say, however, that Castellanos would be a perfect fit for the Phillies.
The Phillies finished dead last in defensive runs saved this past season, and Castellanos had -7 defensive runs saved as a right fielder for the Reds in 2020. Perhaps his defense would improve a tad as a left fielder, but whatever defensive position Castellanos has played throughout the course of his career, he’s struggled.
Additionally, the Phillies would have to surrender a second-round pick and $500,000 of international bonus pool money to sign Castellanos, as he declined a qualifying offer from the Reds.
On top of that, while MLB.com‘s Jon Morosi reported that the Phillies had “recent contact with Castellanos” before the lockout, the former Dombrowski draft pick was said to be targeting “a seven or eight-year deal,” per MLB.com‘s Mark Feinsand.
We’ve made the case previously that Suzuki would be a tremendous fit for the Phillies, and will continue to do so even though they’ve yet to be be connected with the NPB star.
The 27-year-old had very good seasons for the Hiroshima Carp in 2019 and 2020, but exploded in 2021, slashing .317/.433/.639 with 38 home runs, 88 RBIs and a 1.073 OPS.
While the Phillies would likely be asking Suzuki to get the bulk of his starts in left field, he’s also flashed a cannon of an arm in right field for the Carp:
Alas, the Phillies have never signed a major star directly from Japan, and there’s no indication that Suzuki will become the first. First, they’ve yet to be reported as even interested in making a run at him. Secondly, many Japanese stars have gravitated towards joining West Coast teams, and Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe reported last week that the belief around the league is that the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants are best positioned to land Suzuki.
Even though Conforto is coming off of a down year, he declined a one-year/$18.4 million qualifying offer from the New York Mets before the lockout, a sign that he believes he’ll land a much more lucrative pact this offseason.
Conforto did hit just .232 with a .749 OPS in 2021, but had homered 42 times with 123 RBIs and an .875 OPS in 751 at-bats in the two prior seasons. Set to turn 29 in March, there’s no reason to believe that Conforto won’t return to the form that made him an All-Star back in 2017.
Though he hasn’t played left field regularly since the 2018 season, a shift from right field might make sense, given that Conforto had -4 defensive runs saved in 2021. His bat would slot into the Phillies lineup at No. 5 — behind Harper and Hoskins — perfectly.
Of the names on this list, Pham would probably be the only that the Phillies could land on a one-year deal, but there’s a reason for that.
Over the past two seasons with the San Diego Padres, Pham has posted just a .226 batting average. With that said, he’s still provided some value, as he posted a .340 on-base percentage with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs in 2021. Pham could lead off for Joe Girardi and the Phillies in 2022, and probably provide some decent production as their primary left fielder.
However — especially when you consider the improvements that the Mets have made to their roster this offseason — it would be hard for the Phillies to have a playoff-caliber lineup with Pham in left field. That is, unless signing Pham would go hand-in-hand with acquiring a star center fielder or shortstop.
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