As this is my opening article as a member of the Phillies’ writing team here at Philly Sports Network, I would first like to wish everyone Happy Holidays! I thought it would be fitting to do a Holiday Wish-List series for the Phils, given the current state of the MLB is trying to unlock hidden video game characters.
Each article of the series will point to some identified areas of need, with a few player suggestions. By no means is it a comprehensive list, just my thoughts on the possible fits. And I highly anticipate some disagreements along the way.
Middle of the order power hitting OF, preferably RH
In a league where the average runs per game is 4.59 over the last 5 full seasons, the Phillies have finished under or tied with that mark in all of them. In 2021, there were a grand total of 1 Phillie with 25+ RBIs from the 4th spot in the lineup (thank you J.T. Handsome). Even worse, no Phillie had more than 9 home runs at cleanup – a 35 y/o McCutchen (now gone) who had the third-highest HR total of his career. More salt in the wound, Odubel Herrera (also gone) had 10 from the leadoff spot. An investment needs to be made.
Personally, I would love to bring in Kris Bryant. While he has primarily been a 2-hitter over his career, he has dominated Citizens Bank Park, with the highest BA and SLG% at any park with 15+ games played. Plus, having one of his closest friends in Bryce Harper in the same clubhouse would be a huge boost for his game, while his defensive versatility would be a boost to the Phillies’ defensive woes.
I will concede that his career trajectory has definitely be on the “decline,” which can be expected after following up his Rookie of the Year with the NL MVP in his first 2 years. That will also make him the highest-priced option of the OFs available. Yet, I think he is the most consistent available option, and is probably at the lowest value you will ever see for a 30 y/o former ROY and MVP that hasn’t taken a massive hit in production.
The ”so hot right now” guy across the league is Nick Castellanos. In talking with a lot of friends/people who know baseball, they like Castellanos as the preferred option, and I definitely see why. Nearly every year of his career has seen an increase in production and consistency, culminating in his first All-Star appearance and first Silver Slugger award in 2021. Which is why I don’t think he is the guy.
Castellanos had the perfect situation for himself fall into place: he is arguably the best OF on the market right now, coming off of his best season of his career, and a new CBA which ultimately should help him. Defensively, he is a liability, which the Phillies absolutely do not need. Offensively, I think regression is imminent. Castellanos is the spokesman of buying high on a player, and the Phillies have multiple areas of need to be investing like that.
The talk of the town from multiple outlets is Kyle Schwarber and honestly, I don’t hate it. He would be the cheapest option of the three here, without a doubt. And he is not lacking in the power department, hitting 30+ HRs in 3 of the last 4 full seasons, and averaging 37 HRs in a 162-game season.
Schwarber also seemed to steady his declining plate approach in Washington with then-Nationals’ and current Phillies’ hitting coach Kevin Long, posting the highest BA and OBP of his career in 2021 (hit .291/.435 in 41 games with Boston). Schwarber also would be a great tool if/when the DH comes to the NL, maybe even as soon as the next CBA (though his asking price will likely skyrocket). Schwarber isn’t a particularly splendid defender, but he’s not the level of liability that Castellanos would present.
Who will the Phillies sign?
In the end (barring any drastic changes to the CBA), I think they will end up signing Schwarber to a short-term deal. Or even Michael Conforto, who I didn’t touch on in this article, but would be an above average signing (steep dip in production in 2021). I think staying under the luxury tax is going to prevent the Phillies from signing any of these outfielders for over $25 million a year. I would love it if Middleton proved me wrong, but I really think the pitching woes are where a lot of the resources are going to be allocated, both in the rotation and the back end of the bullpen. Next, I’ll be looking at some starting pitching options available, with one name that a lot of people might not enjoy.
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire