TODAY: Philadelphia has no realistic interest in Bautista, per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. However, the other players mentioned previously — Saunders, Moss, and Bruce — are all said to be plausible targets.
YESTERDAY: The Phillies are still open to the idea of adding a veteran bat — likely an outfielder/first baseman — to their relatively young lineup, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Among the potential free-agent targets are Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders and Brandon Moss, although the Phils are reluctant to surrender their second-round draft pick (their first-rounder is protected) in order to add Bautista, Rosenthal adds. FanRag’s Jon Heyman wrote last week that the Phillies have some interest in Moss and would prefer any bat they add to be of the left-handed variety, and earlier today, CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury called the addition of another bat “likely,” speculating that Saunders and Moss could be potential targets.
Rosenthal also reports that a trade for Mets right fielder Jay Bruce is something the Phillies would consider, so long as they weren’t required to part with any significant prospects or MLB assets in the deal. (He brings up the trade that sent Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney to the Dodgers in exchange for Howie Kendrick and the trade of minor leaguer Josh Tobias to the Red Sox for Clay Buchholz as points of reference.)
[Related: Philadelphia Phillies Depth Chart]
Any of the four listed options would give the Phillies an alternative in right field to the current trio of Aaron Altherr, Tyler Goeddel and Roman Quinn, who figure to compete for outfield playing time this spring. Kendrick is likely to man left field, while the recently extended Odubel Herrera is poised to reprise his role as Philadelphia’s everyday center fielder. While adding a veteran could, in the eyes of some fans, block that trio, there’s certainly a case that each could use additional time in the minor leagues to develop.
Altherr, 26 later this month, missed most of the 2016 season due to a wrist injury and batted a woeful .197/.300/.288 in 227 plate appearances upon returning. He’s also tallied just 53 Triple-A games in his young career. Goeddel, who spent the entire season on the Phillies’ roster due to his status as a Rule 5 pick, looked more than overmatched at the plate, hitting just .192/.258/.291 in 234 trips to the plate. And while Quinn looked sharp in a 15-game September cameo, the 23-year-old speedster jumped from Double-A to the Majors and has yet to make even a single plate appearance in Triple-A.
Rosenthal does note that the Phillies aren’t keen on blocking any of their young players by handing out a long-term contract, implying that a one-year commitment to any of the free agents would be the likeliest option. (Bruce, meanwhile, is under contract for just one more season at $13MM and will be a free agent next winter.) Minimizing the commitment would allow GM Matt Klentak and president Andy MacPhail to keep multiple outfield spots open for the 2018 season, when the Phillies will have a better idea of what they can expect from players like Altherr, Quinn, Goeddel and prospects Nick Williams and Dylan Cozens. And, adding a veteran bat on a short-term commitment will of course give the still-rebuilding Phillies a potential midseason trade chip in the event that he performs well and generates interest from contenders in need of offensive improvements.
Bruce and Saunders figure to be strict outfield options, but there’s been some thought that a signing club could put Bautista at first base on occasion, and Moss of course has plenty of experience at that position himself. Moss would, in my mind, represent the best fit, as he’d also give the Phillies a potential platoon partner for Tommy Joseph (as Rosenthal also points out) while allowing the team to give a younger option a look in the outfield should he prove himself ready with a strong minor league performance.
Lastly, from a financial standpoint, the Phillies can comfortably afford to add any of the listed players. MLBTR’s Jason Martinez projects a modest $104MM payroll for the Phils over at Roster Resource — a drastic reduction from the $177MM Opening Day payroll the team carried as recently as 2014. Furthermore, the only guaranteed contract on the books beyond the 2017 season is that of Herrera, as veterans like Buchholz, Kendrick, Jeremy Hellickson, Joaquin Benoit, Pat Neshek and Andres Blanco are all on one-year pacts. Adding another one-year commitment to the ledger would allow the Phils to maintain plenty of flexibility as the team looks to continue adding to its young core and eyes a return to prominence in the NL East.