Update: Per Matt Gelb, the Phillies have signed Roger Bernadina.
The Washington Nationals recently released outfielder Roger Bernadina, the culmination of a very poor season in which he has hit .178/.247/.270. Now 29 years old, Bernadina will enter his second year of arbitration eligibility in the off-season after earning $1.21 million in 2013. CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reported that the Phillies have expressed interest.
Bernadina was somewhere between replacement level and league average last year, the best season of his career, accruing 1.7 Wins Above Replacement according to FanGraphs, and 1.0 according to Baseball Reference. A large majority of his success was due to an abnormally-high .359 BABIP and a walk rate three percentage points higher than his previous career-best, leading to a .341 weighted on-base average. In the previous two seasons, he posted a .295 and .305 wOBA, a bit below the league average.
If you trust small samples of defensive data, Bernadina grades out somewhere between slightly below average to slightly above average, spending nearly equivalent time in all three outfield corners. Because the Phillies already have Ben Revere and his bat would only play in center field, Bernadina would have use to the team as a fourth outfielder not unlike the role in which John Mayberry, Jr. served prior to 2013.
Bernadina doesn’t have drastic platoon splits and he has decent speed — he stole 48 bases from 2010-12 — a combination that plays well in the later innings. Should the Phillies continue using Darin Ruf in right field, Bernadina would come in as a defensive replacement, or as a pinch-runner, around the seventh or eighth inning.
One concern is that adding him, especially this late in the season, would siphon away some of the playing time from the younger players who will eventually be called up in September when rosters expand. The Phillies can play Bernadina as little or as much as they feel is warranted. He isn’t a long-time veteran with clout who would complain about getting one start a week, nor is he expensive enough that it would be tough to justify inconsistent playing time.
Factoring in that Bernadina would be relatively cheap and under control for two more years, the Phillies should take a shot with him. His lackluster performance at the plate this year is an aberration, so his numbers should climb back up going forward. He has the profile of a 0.5 to 1.5 WAR player, depending on playing time. As the fiascoes with Laynce Nix, Ty Wigginton, and others showed, it can be hard to find a quality role player, especially one who is young and relatively inexpensive. Bernadina, though unexciting, certainly fits the bill and would be a quick fix to one of the myriad areas the Phillies need to address in the off-season.