Should the Phillies Add an Outfielder?
According to Jayson Stark, the Phillies are exploring options to bolster their outfield depth. While this is hardly a surprise considering the team was counting on a full season from Aaron Altherr only to see him sidelined by a wrist injury for four-to-six months. Do they truly need to make a move though? If so, should they be looking for a bench outfielder or someone who can play everyday?
To answer those questions, let’s first look at what the Phillies currently have.
The Guaranteed Starter – Odubel Herrera
Odubel Herrera is the only no doubt everyday outfielder currently on the Phillies roster. As discussed yesterday, the Phillies could reasonably play him in any outfield position, but center field makes the most sense.
If the season were to begin today, the safest bet on an outfield alignment would probably be Peter Bourjos in left, Herrera in center, and Tyler Goeddel in right. Bourjos has the most major league experience of any outfielder in Phillies camp and, as long as his elite center field defense translates to a corner, is a perfectly reasonable starting option for a team like the Phillies. Goeddel, on the other hand, is significantly more of an unknown. The Rule 5 pick has been praised for doing a bit of everything well — contact, power, speed, defense — without standing out in any one particular area. If the Phillies believe he is a) a part of their future and b) ready for the majors, then seeing what he does with a starting role makes sense. If, however, they’re not sure he’s ready yet for a major league starting role, then finding someone else to be the third starting outfielder makes sense not just for 2016 production, but also as a means to protect Goeddel’s growth and development.
Asche may not be ready for Opening Day, but as long as he doesn’t reaggravate his oblique injury by trying to come back too soon, chances are he’ll be an outfield option for the Phillies for the majority of the season. Given his prior experience as a member of the Phillies’ starting lineup, he’s also the most obvious in-house candidate to get a starting nod if Goeddel proves to not be ready for the challenge. Asche’s major league career to date has been a disappointment, but the fact that his swing looks as though it should be more effective than it’s been to date will give him a final chance in Philly this summer. Although he’s no longer an exciting option, he’s the type of player the Phillies can and should carry as depth this season.
The fifth outfielder spot, however, is much more of an open competition since Altherr’s injury. Sweeney is already on the roster and has major league experience, but he struggled when the Phillies called him up last season and hasn’t looked much better this spring. Lough has filled the role of major league bench outfielder for Kansas City and Baltimore over the past four seasons with moderate success (4.3 rWAR in 312 career games) thanks in part to strong defensive abilities. The 28-year-old Hunter has been moving between Double-A and Triple-A for the past seven seasons and, although he’s shown an ability to hit in Double-A (1,620 PA, .285/.344/.432, 32 HR), he’s struggled at the Triple-A level (1,639 PA, .269/.330/.387, 25 HR). Of course he did do this:
The Phillies have outfield prospects other than just these two including 2015 first round pick and a Top 100 prospect according to some, Cornelius Randolph. But the list of outfield prospects capable of contributing at the major league level in 2016 is largely limited to Williams and Quinn. Neither player is major league ready, but if everything goes according to plan (read: both players are healthy and productive this year), Williams could be up and ready for a spot in the starting lineup by midseason and Quinn could follow in September.
The Best Course Of Action
If the Phillies were intent on contending in 2016, breaking camp with an outfield of Herrera/Bourjos/Goeddel and two of Sweeney/Lough/Hunter (assuming Asche begins the season on the disabled list) would be disastrous, but (un?)fortunately, that’s not the position in which the Phillies find themselves. They are currently able to give Goeddel the same opportunity they gave Herrera last season and, if they believe in him as much as they appear to, there’s no reason to squash his playing time by bringing in a different full-time right fielder.
MLB Trade Rumors laid out a variety of options for the Phillies who could are available via free agency or trade and are only under contract for 2016. The list includes players with hefty price financial price tags such as Nick Swisher, Angel Pagan, Michael Bourn, Carlos Beltran, and Jay Bruce. Yes, maybe the Phillies would be able to turn around and swap them for a small return in July, but potential gain here is so minimal as to be barely even worth considering.
If the Phillies wish to pursue a more attractive bench option than Sweeney/Lough/Hunter, it would certainly be understandable but I wouldn’t classify it as a move that must be made. An important caveat, however, is that if they believe Asche is going to be unavailable for longer than expected, adding depth may be a simple necessity due to the constant looming threat of injury to the remaining healthy players.