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With the off-season now well underway, the Philadelphia Phillies currently find themselves with some questions still to be answered. Earlier in the month, we discussed the need to sure up the bullpen.
So, in this article, we will address the need to upgrade center field.
With the team seemingly cutting ties with their longtime first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who is now an unrestricted free agent, this ensured that Bryce Harper (who did a tremendous job last season filling in for the injured Hoskins) would now be typed into that spot on the roster moving forward.
That move allowed Kyle Schwarber (who is now over the age of 30) to no longer have to patrol the outfield, which provides Kyle the opportunity to instead just focus on hitting Schwarbombs as the team’s everyday designated hitter (DH).
But as we saw last postseason, these moves presented a problem. And that problem is, who is going to be the team’s everyday center fielder in 2024?
Sure, the team seems set at the corner out fielding positions with Nick Castellanos and Brandon Marsh not due to become unrestricted free agents for at least the next couple of years, but who is going to patrol that big empty space in between these two?
Unreliable Options already in the system:
Foreseeing this could be a potential problem as early as last year. The Phillies front office went out in 2023 and acquired the highly touted prospect Christian Pache from the then Oakland A’s, but although Christian proved to be adequate in the field, Pache was only able to hit for a .238 avg. and totaled just two home runs and 11 RBI’s last season. And if that wasn’t bad enough, in seven at-bats in the postseason, Pache saw his batting average fall to an embarrassing .143.
This 23-year-old prospect was called up by the Phillies this past season not for his bat but for his defensive abilities. But while his outs over expectation were through the roof, Rojas’ bat posed no offensive threat in the playoffs. Many times over, Johan was able to come up to bat with runners in scoring position, and he failed to bring them in. In fact, he was so bad this past postseason that he turned out to be more of a routine out than when the Phillies—still had the pitchers going up there trying to bunt during every one of their at-bats. Don’t believe me? Well, in 43 postseason attempts, Rojas managed to put the bat on the ball only four times. This bringing his batting average down to a very laughable .093%. And, while Rojas is still just 23 years old and has time to improve, the Phillies, who made it deep into the playoffs each of the last two seasons, cannot conceivably head into next season with someone in the lineup who could easily get out hit by one of the stadiums’ peanut vendors.
So, who’s left? Jack Cave? He is certainly not an everyday center fielder. Heck, at this point in his career, he is primarily just used as a glorified pinch hitter.
And you better not depend on any initial help coming from the teams’ farm system because the only outfield prospect showing any real upside besides Rojas is 19-year-old Justin Crawford, who was taken by the team in the first round of the 2022 MLB Draft. And he doesn’t even project to be ready for at least another two or three seasons.
With that being said, I feel if this team truly wishes to compete for a World Series Title next season, they have no other choice but to sign a center fielder in free agency this winter.
Now, of course, the most appealing option would be to sign the 25-year-old Korean hitting sensation Jung Hoo Lee, who is a five-time gold glove winner in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) and their 2022 MVP, where he hit .349 that year, totaling 23 home runs, 85 runs, and 113 RBI’s. But to me, chasing after him is a waste of time because he is already rumored to want to head to the Padres, where Korean players Kim Ha-Seong and Ji-man Choi suited up last season.
And besides all that, the Phillies’ President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski, has already come out and said (in not so many words) that the teams’ checkbook is not going to be as wide open as it has been in the past. Instead, the franchise will look to fill in empty roster spots with Type B or C free agents that other teams have perhaps overlooked.
So, while that news is somewhat disappointing, just where might the team be able to find someone with a bit of pop left in their bat to sign until the likes of Justin Crawford is ready to make his MLB debut?
My suggestion for the Phillies would be to sign 32-year-old Michael A. Taylor. Now, hear me out. Besides Lee, there is no one under the age of 30 worth a dam available this year in free agency. And, while I know signing a 32-year-old to patrol center field is not ideal, sadly, the Phillies may not have much of a choice thanks to them having seven players on their roster due to make over $20 million next season. Besides, I wouldn’t have even brought Michael up if I didn’t think he was worth talking about. If you’re not familiar with Michael A. Taylor. I assure you both Bryce Harper and Trea Turner are seeing that the three of them played together on the Washington Nationals for multiple seasons before they each went their separate ways. Now, while Taylor may NOT have gone on to have the kind of production to garner him a $300 million contract like his former teammates, he did manage to remain effective. For example, last season, while playing for the Minnesota Twins, Taylor was able to hit for an average of .220 and set a new career high in Home Runs with 21, not to mention the fact that in addition to all those home runs, he was able to score 48 runs and drive home 51 more (RBIs).
Now, as far as how much Taylor may cost the Phillies to sign. I don’t know; the market is the market. The only thing I do know is Michael is not considered to be a top-tier guy, so my best guess would be that he will probably look to sign a very similar contract to the one that he just finished playing out, which was a two-year deal worth $ 9 million. So, expect him to ask for roughly 4.5-5 million dollars a year.
If this is the case, I think the Phillies should definitely jump at the chance to add this veteran player. He already has chemistry with a few members of the team and could provide some much-needed stability at both the plate and center field until the likes of Rojas and/or Crawford prove consistent enough to be trusted with the daily duties in the major league.