Thursday, April 17, 2014
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State of the Phillies: Center field

Yesterday, we kicked off our week-long State of the Phillies series by breaking down the past, present and future of the first base and second base positions. Our mission over these next few days is to identify where, exactly, the Phillies can improve this roster. The outfield is one such area, although the free agent market isn't exactly bursting with talent there either. In today's story in the Daily News, Ruben Amaro Jr. tells Ryan Lawrence that the trade market could offer some possibilities. Here, we break it down.

State of the Phillies: Center field

(Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)
(Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)

Yesterday, we kicked off our week-long State of the Phillies series by breaking down the past, present and future of the first base and second base positions. Our mission over these next few days is to identify where, exactly, the Phillies can improve this roster. The outfield is one such area, although the free agent market isn't exactly bursting with talent there either. In today's story in the Daily News, Ruben Amaro Jr. tells Ryan Lawrence that the trade market could offer some possibilities. Here, we break it down.

This is the position that offers the most options for the Phillies thanks to the relative abundance of center fielders who are scheduled to hit free agency. Like most of the other positions on the market, though, this one does not offer a ton of high-end options, meaning to land one a team will have to open up the checkbook.

I. 2012 production, Phillies center fielders (NL rank out of 16 teams in parentheses)

AVG: .268 (7)

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OBP: .332 (10)

SLG: .412 (8)

OPS: .745 (9)

HR: 16 (7)

RBI: 66 (6)

RS: 75 (13)

BREAKDOWN: Like most aspects of this Phillies team, center field was a tale of two halves. The first half featured Shane Victorino posting a below-average batting line of .261/.324/.401 with nine home runs. The second one featured John Mayberry Jr. posting a line of .258/.330/.399 with six home runs. The first three months saw the Phillies get poor bang for their buck (a $9.5 million salary for Victorino). The final two months saw the Phillies get about the bang they paid for in a $480,000 salary for Mayberry. All told, the Phillies were about league average, with below average marks in on base percentage and runs scored (funny how those two categories seem to be related).

II. Future Salary Commitments

2012: $9.5 million, 5.34 percent of luxury tax threshold (Shane Victorino, Opening Day)

2013: None

FLEXIBILITY: Plenty. End of story.

III. 2013 Organizational Depth Chart

 

  1. John Mayberry Jr., 29, pre-Arb (2.095 ST) under club control through 2016 
  2. Nate Schierholtz, 29, arb-eligible, $1.3 million in 2012 (4.078 ST) under club control through 2014
  3. Tyson Gillies, 24, AA

 

BREAKDOWN: Mayberry spent most of the half playing center field. He can handle the position defensively, and performs well enough against left-handed pitchers that he is in the conversation. But at this point he projects as a rotational guy at best. Schierholtz spent some time in center field but he doesn't appear to have the range to be a viable everyday or even platoon guy. I did not list Michael Martinez because he really shouldn't be in the conversation for anything more than organizational depth. Gillies posted an .809 OPS in 339 plate appearances at Double-A Reading. This is a make-or-break year for him. The Phillies saw some reason for hope last season, but he'll need to stay on the field and perform while he is there for the entire first half of 2013 before we start talking about him as a potential big leaguer.

IV. Potential for Personnel upgrades

FREE AGENT MARKET: Aside from the bullpen, this is the vacancy that has the greatest volatility for the Phillies moving forward. There are so many options available that there is plenty of potential to grab a guy at a reasonable cost will ends up having a big season and making a difference in the lineup. Identifying which guys will fall into that category is the tricky part. I don't think even the Phillies know what direction they will head at this point. The smart play is patience, since the only clear difference-maker available is Josh Hamilton, and that situation is so unique that I find it hard to believe that the Phillies would make a serious push. Patience could be difficult to exert, since the center field market has all the makings of one in which agents and players will spend the early part of the offseason waiting for the first domino to fall. Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton are likely the first two dominos, but both have the right combination of potential and red flags to lead to a stalemate with teams who target them. Which would likely leave players like Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera and Shane Victorino waiting around for the top of the market to get set. Those five are the clear everyday options who will be available. Cody Ross and Scott Hairston probably are not everyday options, although it would not surprise me to see one of those two land with the Phillies. At least right now it wouldn't. That could change as we look deeper at the position, which we'll do between now and the start of free agency. At this point, though, the Phillies' likely path is impossible to predict.

TRADE MARKET: Buster Olney reported earlier this week that Chris Young is very much available from the Diamondbacks. There are plenty of reasons why such a deal probably wouldn't make sense for the Phillies. For starters, Young is a career .224/.311/.409 hitter away from Chase Field, compared with a .254/.325/.465 hitter at home. Secondly, he is a career .228/.299/.419 hitter against righties. Since roughly 2/3rds of his plate appearances are going to come against righties, that can be a problem. Third, he is due to make $8.5 million in 2012, along with a $1.5 million buyout of an $11 million club option. If the Diamondbacks are not expecting anything in the way of prospects in return, $10 million for one season of Chris Young would not be the worst idea in the world. Still Gerardo Parra would make a lot more sense. But he'd also seem to make more sense for the Diamondbacks to keep. Which is why trading for players is not easy.

Denard Span has spent all season hearing his name in trade rumors. Again, this one falls into the category of not being worth the price it would likely cost to obtain him. Span hit .283/.342/.395 this season, but over the last three years that line is .271/.334/.367. He is affordable at $11.25 million over the next two seasons. But it still would appear to make more sense to go with a lower-cost free agent option instead of spending prospects on a player who really hasn't shown above-average hitting ability since his first couple of years in the league.

V. Center field: In conclusion 

Judging by the emails I have received, there is a contingent of fans who would like to see the Phillies bring back Shane Victorino instead of pursuing change for change's sake. My intuition tells me that this is unlikely to happen, mostly because Ruben Amaro Jr. and Charlie Manuel have both said publicly that they believe that change for change's sake can be a good thing. That being said, the market has a funny way of affecting these decisions, and it could very well shake out that Victorino is the most cost-effective option.



David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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