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The Phillies’ Plan for Center Field: What’s Next?

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An Upgrade for the Outfield

There is no denying the Phillies could use an upgrade in the outfield. Dombrowski has suggested as much himself.

At his end-of-season press conference, the president of baseball operations said, “I’m not going to anoint [Rojas] a position with our big league club next year. He has to be able to contribute some offensively or else then he has to go down and continue to develop.”

Not long after, Jayson Stark of The Athletic reported the Phillies were “shopping for a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder who could be part of the left-field mix.” Such a move would push Marsh over into center field, at least part-time.

More recently, however, Dombrowski offered a new perspective, telling Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, “We also are in a position with Rojas where we’re really not trying to block his path to the big leagues.”

So, here’s the question: Has Dombrowski genuinely changed his mind about Rojas playing a regular role, or did he simply realize he’s running out of alternatives? After all, it’s not as if Rojas has faced any MLB pitching over the past three months.

The Phillies Are Running Out(field) of Options

If the Phillies are looking for a bona fide center fielder in free agency, the options are dwindling. Cody Bellinger is the only clear upgrade remaining on the market, but he’s going to cost an arm and a leg, likely pushing Philadelphia over the third luxury tax threshold when all is said and done. He’s also a lefty, and although his career platoon splits aren’t bad, the Phillies don’t need another lefty bat.

A more realistic alternative is Adam Duvall. He’s a right-handed power hitter who plays all three outfield positions, but he won’t command a huge salary or a multi-year deal. That said, he’s also 35 years old, inconsistent, and injury-prone. I’d rather have Duvall than Cave or Pache, but he can probably find another team willing to offer him more money and playing time than Philadelphia.

It’s a similar problem with Bellinger. He could be a good addition to the Phillies lineup at the right price, but there are bound to be other teams more desperate for his services and willing to pay far more than the Phillies would or should.

Other outfield options on the free agent market include Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson, Michael A. Taylor, and Tommy Pham, none of whom is a good fit for Philadelphia.

Soler and Pederson are plus bats, but they’re primarily DHs at this point in their careers. Meanwhile, neither Taylor nor Pham is necessarily enough of an upgrade, if even an upgrade at all. I wrote about both of them last week, calling the pair “low floor, low ceiling” outfielders:

For teams in need of any outfield help they can get, Michael A. Taylor is a name to keep in mind. He’s a phenomenal defender, but even at his best, he’s a bottom-of-the-order bat. Still, his glove is strong enough that he can be a valuable everyday player in center field.

Another option is Tommy Pham; he doesn’t excel on either side of the ball, but at least he won’t be a total liability. He’s an average-to-above-average hitter, and his glove is good enough to stick him in a regular role in an outfield corner.

“The Free Agent Outfield Market Is Shrinking” (Jan. 9, 2024)

Trade Blocked

Unfortunately for the Phillies, the trade market doesn’t offer many more solutions.

Most of the teams with surplus big league outfielders to trade will be looking for MLB-ready pieces in return, and the Phillies don’t have much to offer in that department. It would take a huge package for Dombrowski to pry Randy Arozarena from the Rays or Chas McCormick from the Astros.

Dylan Carlson is a more realistic possibility, but still, it’s hard to picture who the Phillies have that the Cardinals would want in return.

Perhaps the Phillies could dangle Cristopher Sánchez as trade bait if they sign another starting pitcher, but that’s a whole other conversation – we’ll cross that bridge if we ever come to it.

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