When the July 31 trade deadline passed, Tommy Joseph was still a member of the Phillies. So, earlier this week, the Phillies announced that Lehigh Valley star Rhys Hoskins would get some starts in left field in order to fix the log jam that the organization has at first base.Moving Hoskins to the outfield could allow the pair to play simultaneously without taking playing time away from one another. But the problem is, this doesn’t fix the original dilemma. It just creates a new one.
Sure, the team would be able to keep both power bats in the lineup at the same time, maximizing the duos production, but at what cost? Moving Hoskins to the outfield destroys the issue of too many first basemen, but it creates the issue of too many outfielders.
If you move Hoskins to the outfield, where he’d presumably play left field, you’re now looking at an outfield that, over the next few seasons, could have as many as seven guys in it. The last time I checked, conventional baseball wisdom still factors in just three outfielders at any given time. Because of course you have the three outfielders currently on the Phillies 25-man roster worth anything to the organization in Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr. That, right there, is a good starting outfield. But then you have organizational depth, as well, with Mickey Moniak, Adam Haseley, and the newly added Hoskins. That’s where your seven organizational outfielders would come into play. That excludes the team going outside the franchise to bring another outfielder, say, one that may currently play for a rival NL East team that is set to make close to half a billion dollars in the free agent market soon?
So you have this issue, now, of too many players who could be Major League outfielders for a long time. Hererra is just 25-years-old and just signed a big contract this offseason. He also has been playing significantly better over the last three months since his horrid June. Nick Williams is 23 and has proven he is a competent and smart hitter at the Major League level over the five weeks he’s been a big leaguer. Aaron Altherr is a fan favorite and a player that can effectively hit anywhere in the lineup when healthy. While he is expected to be out another two to three weeks, he has been productive in his time as a Phillie. Then you move to the high draft picks Mickey Moniak and Adam Haseley. Moniak was promoted to Lakewood this season and will likely begin 2018 in Clearwater, putting him one step closer to the Major League. Haseley is an older player, spending time at UVA before being drafted this year. He’s already played his way into Williamsport and will almost certainly start 2018 in at least Lakewood. His time as a minor leaguer could be short lived just as Aaron Nola’s, also a college player, was.
What do you do with seven guys and three spots? Of course, all seven won’t be Major League ready next year or won’t be Phillies, with Moniak and Haseley still a bit away, and the free agent not on the market until 2018. But, you still have at least four outfielders for only three spots. Now, that sounds a whole lot better than seven, but it still puts the Phillies in a jam. Which of the four doesn’t start? Undoubtedly, the Phillies want all four of those guys to get everyday swings. While Hoskins could conceivably be the bench guy to start, as he would give the Phillies a corner outfielder and first baseman in one shot, the team won’t want him sitting too often and not hitting. So Pete Mackanin, or whomever is the manager in 2018, will be forced to almost play rotational baseball with five guys now, as you have to throw Joseph into the mix, as he’ll sit days to allow Hoskins to play first base.
The Phillies have some time still, but eventually, it could come down to who do the Phillies feel is indispensable. When the Phillies sign the aforementioned superstar outfielder in 2018, he isn’t going anywhere. So that really leaves the team with four spots for six guys. My best guess is that the team will continue to shop Joseph in hopes that an American League team is looking for a DH who is competent enough to play some games at first base as well. That’s plan A.
If that isn’t successful, and Joseph is, in fact, a Phillie next season, plan B may be to move Herrera. With his improved play over the last few months, a team may want to take the chance on his continued upward trajectory. He’s under a very team friendly contract until 2021, and the most money he’d be making in any one given season is $10 million in 2021. After that, he also has two years of club options in 2022 and 2023, and low buyouts rates that may entice teams to take the chance. I’d be interested to see if either the Phillies are willing to part with Herrera or a team is willing to pick him up with his history of falling batting average and absent-minded play at time.
Plan C is to cut ties with one of the four remaining outfielders. I don’t think the team is going to let a number one overall pick go, so Moniak is safe for now. I also would be hard pressed to see them let Nick Williams slip away after the performance he’s put on this season. So that leaves you with Altherr and Haseley. Despite being a favorite among fans, and a solid player, Altherr would likely be the odd man out there for two reasons. One, he has Major League experience and team may want a ready-right-now type player. Two, despite being under team control for one more season, Altherr will hit free agency well before Haseley does.
After that, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the team will do. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the Phillies sign this mystery free agent (who, if you haven’t figured out by now, is Bryce Harper). He may ask for too much or he may want to sign with an immediate contender. There’s also no promise that Moniak or Haseley are future stars. They’re both still young. But I’d bet on them both over Altherr and Herrera.
While moving Hoskins to the outfield seems like a good idea right now, it won’t help the team in the long run if it means changing the dynamic of the outfield instead of the infield. While it allows Joseph to stop looking over his shoulder, it doesn’t change the fact that the team will have a over-staffing problem within the next few seasons.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports