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.

The Likely Starters – Peter Bourjos, Tyler Goeddel

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.

The Bench Options – Cody Asche, Darnell Sweeney, David Lough, Cedric Hunter

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 Prospects – Nick Williams, Roman Quinn

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.

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25 comments

  1. Steve Kusheloff

    March 16, 2016 02:03 PM

    Filling the outfield spot from within is definitely preferable to paying someone like Pagan or Swisher, someone with no allegiance to the Phillies and certainly not part of their future. I’d like to see Asche given a shot. He’s got something to prove, and that could be just the motivation he needs. Ruf is also a possibility, but the Phillies are stressing the need for defense in the outfield, and Ruf is no Gold Glover out there.

    • Steve

      March 16, 2016 09:27 PM

      Why? We arent near the luxury tax threshold. Who cares what we pay a FA on a one year deal? Fowler, Desmond, or Jackson would look real nice right about now. A guy like Pagan could give Asche a chance to heal, Goedell a chance to ease into the big leagues, and Bourjous the occasional rest. Cost, allegience to Asche, and Ruf are three terrible reasons to not acquire an OF. I would like to see more Ruf at 1b though.

  2. Gil

    March 16, 2016 03:34 PM

    Thanks for writing such a thorough analysis.

    While none of the potential candidates I’ve seen mentioned seem to make sense, adding another outfielder is sensible if they can find the right person.

    Goeddel has looked good, but it seems prudent to add an established outfielder to either provide insurance for or reduce the pressure on Goeddel. Herrera’s successful transition from AA to the majors doesn’t mean that we should assume that Goeddel’s transition will be equally amazing.

    Bourjos has looked good, but there are still questions on how well he can handle a corner outfield position defensively, and more importantly, on whether he will hit enough to warrant an everyday role. It would be smart for the Phillies to sign an outfielder who has proven he can hit in addition to playing average or better corner outfield defense.

    Herrera has looked excellent this spring, but there’s a chance his offensive output will regress this season. What happens if Herrera regresses at the plate? Adding another corner outfielder – particularly for the season’s first half (in case Asche takes longer to recover or just plain doesn’t hit) – would position them to field a better team should the current plan not work out.

    While there seems good reason for the Phillies to bolster their outfield heading into the season, and while applauding Matt Klentak for seeking to make the Phillies better, hopefully they will only sign a decent corner outfield candidates become one become available.

    Whether seeking to add an everyday corner outfielder for the season’s first half, a bench player or depth in the event of injury, clearly, adding another outfielder is not necessary but it does seem sensible. It also further reduces the validity of those weakly argued, invalid claims that the Phillies are tanking. They would not even seek to add another outfielder if their plan is to tank.

  3. smittyboy

    March 16, 2016 06:04 PM

    If anything the team needs another outfielder in order to spell Goeddel from time to time. Having seen him, he is slight of frame and, while athletic, appears capable of wearing down over a season where “something:” is expected of him. Having also seen Bourjos it still remains a significant question whether he can hit well enough to remain a regular – no matter his position as a corner OF or CF ? I would venture that there may be several outfielders cut for opening day rosters that could supply a player that would benefit from more exposure and even possibly prove to have some value to the Phillies in a rebuild year. That player could be a veteran or perhaps a much “tried” younger player who is out of options. There are several teams who have a large surplus of OF – like Dodgers and San Diego and the Phils still have the no. 1 waiver claim rights.

  4. Calliewalk

    March 16, 2016 09:55 PM

    Leave the OF alone, see how Goeddel does, give Sweeney a shot no sense giving at bats to a washed up vet

  5. Bill

    March 16, 2016 10:39 PM

    The Phils should pry Scot Van Slyke from the Dodgers for either Adam Morgan or Oberholzer in my opinion.

    • Steve

      March 17, 2016 11:10 AM

      No no no, i like Van Slyke a lot but he is only a 4th OF on a good team. Oberholtzer is a 5 SP on a good team and Morgan could be a little better. Either of those two figure into the Phillies long term plans better than Van Slyke. Van Slyke could slide to 1b next yr, but id rather stick with Obie and Morgan.

  6. Bamburger

    March 17, 2016 01:23 AM

    Maybe the BJays release Dom MF’ing Brown & he comes back to hit 15 HR’s in one month before being run out of town again! But seriously would like to see Dom over all the other outside guys mentioned.

    • Steve

      March 17, 2016 03:52 PM

      Cant down vote that one enough. Sorry Bamburger. I think the break-up was best for both the Phils and Brown.

  7. BobSmith77

    March 17, 2016 01:44 AM

    None of the defensive stats show Bourjos has been anything close to elite the past 2 years in CF. If anything, they portray an average CF with a slightly below average arm.

    • Corinne Landrey

      March 17, 2016 08:17 AM

      As a result of his diminished playing time, the sample size is so small as to render those defensive metrics entirely meaningless.

      • JustBob

        March 17, 2016 12:09 PM

        How you can say more than 1000+ innings in CF the last 2 years is so small as to render it meaningless?

        If you go back to 2013, the numbers simply don’t show anywhere close to an elite CF. At best, he is average/slightly above average. That is more than half of his MLB career in CF.

      • Steve

        March 17, 2016 03:58 PM

        1000 innings over 2 years is less than half of the games. Lets assume a regular CF plays 150 games at 9 innings per game you are over 1300 innings/year. He is less than half of that, thats a relatively small sample size. Im not sure exactly where defensive metrics start to normalize but i wouldn’t be confident extrapolating statistics from less than half a season.

      • Romus

        March 18, 2016 08:08 AM

        JustBob…….you really need to take into consideration that his hip issue was getting progressively worse in the latter part of ’14 and he had the surgery right after the season ended in October. That may have had a bearing on his overall production at the plate and in the field for ’14.

  8. BobSmith77

    March 17, 2016 01:49 AM

    They should acquire another OF but I’ll bet they scout the waiver wire first to see what shakes loose towards the end of the month.

    Can’t see them wanting to trade a decent starting pitching prospect or take on a big salary either.

  9. brooklyn boroughboy

    March 17, 2016 10:38 AM

    Darin Ruf is having a terrific spring. In one game he hit two homer runs off of right-handed pitchers. It is expected that he will platoon along with Ryan Howard at first base. He will play first base against left-handed pitching. I expect that Pete Mackanin will give Ruf some starts in the outfield when a righty is pitching.

    • Steve

      March 17, 2016 11:13 AM

      Meh, if he is hitting well to consider starts in the OF, id rather just him stick at 1b against some righties. I think his hitting will be better if hes not worried about fielding in the OF as well.

      • brooklyn boroughboy

        March 17, 2016 12:36 PM

        The only value that Ryan Howard has for the Phillies is to be traded before the trade deadline. In order to accomplish this he will need produce productive stats. Since he such a terrible batter against lefties the Phillies will need to give him as many AB’s vs. righties as possible

      • Steve

        March 17, 2016 04:09 PM

        That was true last year. It is not true this year, Ryan Howard holds zero value to this team no matter what his stats are.
        No team is going to give up more than a low A wild card prospect or AAA journeyman for Howard. Just to get that type of return the Phils would have to cover his entire salary, and his buy out.
        Quite honestly, having Howard as a left handed HR threat off the the bench this year may be worth more than anything we could get in a trade.
        The only value that comes from getting rid of Howard is the chance for Ruf to get every day AB’s. So why would you force Howard to play, hoping his stats are good enough to get traded for zero return, just so that you get Ruf more AB’s, when you could just give Ruf the AB’s is the first place.

  10. Steve

    March 17, 2016 11:33 AM

    What kind of package would be required to get Soler from the Cubs? I wouldn’t be suprised if he becomes unhahppy with his playing time there. The cubs may be interested in a solid back of the rotation arm, as well as prospects, but the SP would have to be better/healthier than Hammel or Hendricks. Im not sure if anyone outside of Nola qualifies. Tocci, Morgan, and a RP arm?

    • Romus

      March 17, 2016 03:51 PM

      Substitute Nick Williams for Tocci…then Epstein/Hoyer may listen.

      • Steve

        March 17, 2016 04:10 PM

        Ouch, dunno if im ready for that. Always liked Soler though.

      • Steve

        March 17, 2016 04:41 PM

        Their roster is pretty awesome considering their talent and youth. They could not develop a position player for the next 5-7 years and still be OK

  11. Tony

    March 17, 2016 01:05 PM

    I like the idea of Sweeney as an IF/OF who can provide depth at both positions but only take up one roster spot, but Lough/Hunter haven’t shown enough in the Spring to make me think they deserve to be on the opening day roster.

    None of those FA options excite me for this team, but it’s sounding like Jeff Francoeur is a long-shot to make the Braves, and since this is a rebuilding year, I like the idea of bringing him back if he’s available to be that cliched veteran presence in the clubhouse. We didn’t really have room for him when we let him go, but things change, and now we do. If Williams/Quinn show enough in the minors, you either bid Frenchie adieu or preferably try to get something for Asche.

    • shane

      May 23, 2016 12:56 AM

      I don’t think they should have let francoeur go but I don’t like darin ruf at any position or in a platoon with Howard at first I was happy when that sent ruf back to the minors and brought up Tommy Joseph and I think they should send Jared eickoff next and try bringing up mark appel or Zach eflin and give one them a shot at a spot in the rotation and I think Tyler goeddel is gonna be ok in the outfield but they need run production they’re not getting so I think we need to sign a good bat foe the outfield someone like jay Bruce he would be a good bat to sign especially hitting in the bank we need someone who is going to hit 25 or 30 home runs a year and is still fairly young as far as Cody acshe I think they need to leave him in the minors to because it looks like goeddel is alot better more speed more contact but his glove has to come around and I think it will so I do think the Phillies need some more pop from somewhere and its not in their farm system so yeah they need a bat and a pretty big one

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