Phillies DFA Tommy Joseph, Hopefully Give Him an Opportunity Elsewhere
After signing Jake Arrieta the Phillies were forced to remove a player from the 40 man roster, and rather than looking at one of their marginal relievers, the Phillies decided they had reached the end of the road with first baseman Tommy Joseph. It is a bittersweet moment for the player and the organization. Joseph has been nothing but a hard worker for the Phillies, and he is coming off his second straight 20 home run season in the majors after seeing his career almost end. He is having a good spring training this year, while trying to learn third base and left field. The truth is that Joseph was a long shot to be a part of the 2018 Phillies, and an even longer shot to be a part of their future.
Joseph struggled in 2017, and while he hit 22 home runs, he also put up a 85 wRC+ thanks to an abysmal walk rate and a poor BABIP driven by a problem with hitting weak infield fly balls. At the same time, Rhys Hoskins emerged from the farm system on fire, and then didn’t stop hitting when he reached the majors. Then the Phillies added Carlos Santana this offseason, rendering Joseph the third first baseman on a National League team that already was playing one in left field. Even if the Phillies weren’t committed to an 8 man bullpen, it has become increasingly difficult in the modern version of roster construction to carry a designated pinch hitter, especially a right handed one.
Joseph’s journey in the Phillies system began in 2012 when he headlined the trade that sent Hunter Pence to San Francisco. At the time, Joseph was a catcher with big power, a big arm, and a lot of problems receiving. The problem wouldn’t be his defense. Joseph would suffer a string of concussions (as well as a wrist injury) in 2013 and 2014 that opened up questions not just about Joseph’s time behind the plate, but about his long term health. In the spring of 2015, he showed up in Spring Training in great shape, fully healthy, and with a brand new catcher’s mask designed to limit concussions. Not long into the regular season, Joseph suffered another concussion behind the plate, and his catching days were over. Once healthy, the Phillies worked to move him to the field, first base was a given, but they tried left and third with no success. Joseph returned to AAA as a first baseman, and was miserable at it. The Phillies would outright him off the 40 man roster that winter. Joseph did not earn an invite to major league camp in 2016 and looked like a clear release candidate.
Joseph mashed his way through minor league camp in 2016, earned himself the spot as the DH on the prospect team for the Futures Series games. Then in 27 games in AAA he hit .347/.370/.611 and earned a spot in the majors hitting alongside Ryan Howard. Joseph would outhit the Phillies legend on the season, and hit well enough in the second half to have the first base job heading into 2017. Joseph would have flashes of success, but ultimately was never able to recapture his rookie glory.
That leaves Joseph on the outside. The Phillies would love to keep him in the organization in AAA, he is after all a hard worker and great teammate. For Joseph’s sake, I hope he finds work elsewhere. He still might have some value to an American League team looking for a right handed 1B/DH with plus power. If not, Joseph has attracted plenty of interest overseas. Last year in Korea, Darin Ruf hit .315/.396/.569, and Joseph is a better hitter. He might attract interest in Japan, where he should have success. It is a pity, because there is a time when Joseph would absolutely have had a place in major league baseball. Hopefully he finds success wherever he goes next, because he has overcome a ton to get to this point, and he should experience some success.