The Philadelphia Phillies’ rebuilding program continues to move along at a reasonable pace. After finally resolving to commit to that rebuild, the club has spent the past two years jettisoning aging, expensive players.
The Phils bottomed out in the standings in 2015. That year, the club finished with the worst record in all of baseball. In this past 2016 season they improved by seven games, and escaped the cellar of the National League East for the first time since 2013.
It is expected that the Phillies will continue to move up as the 2017 season unfolds. Not necessarily to a playoff contending level yet, but certainly to make a push for the .500 mark.
It has been speculated that Phillies management would like to add another veteran bat in the outfield prior to spring training. Just days ago for CSN Philly, insider Jim Salisbury summarized the situation:
“For months, Klentak has been weighing the merit of adding another veteran outfield bat against giving an opportunity to youngster Roman Quinn. When the dust settles on this offseason, Klentak likely will have opted to add another bat to help in the outfield.”
There has been a great deal of speculation in Phillies web chatter and in the old-school print media on this topic. Most of that chatter has centered on free agent outfielder Jose Bautista.
Signing ‘Joey Bats’ would be a terrible idea for the Phillies, in my opinion, and I simply do not see it happening. There are a number of logical reasons for this position.
First, let’s look at the player himself. Bautista is now 36 years of age, ancient in modern baseball terms. He is coming off a season in which his power production declined by nearly half. After hitting 40 homers in 2014, he clubbed just 22 last year. He drove in 122 runs in 2014, and just 69 last season.
Bautista offers little beyond what appears to be his dwindling power game. He is a career .255 hitter, and batted just .234 last season. Never a speed threat, he stole just two bases and scored only 68 runs last year while playing on one of the game’s top offensive clubs.
BAUTISTA DEFENSE AND COST
Defensively, reports are that Bautista’s game has seriously declined in that regard as well. Why would a rebuilding team like the Phillies want to block a young player who needs at-bats with an aging and declining slugger? They shouldn’t, and I believe wouldn’t.
Another reason to stay away from Bautista is his cost. No, not the contract. He is probably hoping for a two-year deal in the neighborhood of $20-25 million. The Phillies have trimmed their payroll to the point where they can easily afford that kind of money, especially on that short a term.
The cost that I am talking about is compensation of another type. The Phillies would have to give up their second round pick in the upcoming 2017 MLB Amateur Draft to the Toronto Blue Jays. They would also lose approximately $1.5 million in pool allotment money.
BAUTISTA FAR FROM A “PERFECT FIT”
The final reason that I would not add Bautista is that I can see nothing positive that he could bring to the team. That includes as a veteran presence and locker room “example” provider.
Ryan Lawrence of The Philly Voice has championed the cause of adding Bautista for months. He reiterated this position once again earlier this week. Lawrence opined that “Bautista remains a near-perfect fit for the Phillies.”
Lawrence highlights the possibility that Bautista could bounce back at the plate. He further states that the Phillies’ young prospect outfielders are likely not quite ready to play in the big leagues.
Both of those are speculative. I wouldn’t want to bet on Bautista clubbing 30+ homers again over the next two years, and I wouldn’t spend $20 million to find out if he can do so.
Nick Williams did indeed have a down year in 2016 and should begin 2017 with a few more months with AAA Lehigh Valley. Tyler Goeddel was forced to the majors early last year due to his Rule 5 status, and also needs more AAA developmental time.
However, while Quinn has indeed been injury prone, he is an exciting player when healthy. He should not be blocked for a single game by an aging has-been, just so the Phillies can prop up their lineup with a “name” player.
BAUTISTA IS NOT THOME
Bautista is not, as Lawrence compares him, similar to Jim Thome. ‘Big Jim’ was 32 years old and arguably still in his prime, albeit on the back-end of it, when the Phillies signed him for the 2003 season.
The Phillies got two big years out of Thome at ages 32 and 33. He then moved on to the Chicago White Sox, and produced three more strong power years, taking him through his age 37 season.
It must be considered that Thome was not playing the field in those Chicago seasons. He was the DH for the ChiSox. Thome played in just five games defensively over six seasons after leaving his first stint with the Phillies.
BAUTISTA BRINGS NOTHING POSITIVE
The last thing that these rebuilding Phillies need is some lumbering, old, dwindling power, shell of his former self, has-been loping around in right field for a year or two.
Signing Joey Bats would do nothing more than give sportswriters someone interesting to cover and write about.
For fans, it does nothing to push the program forward. That program will take patience for another season or two. In the 2017 and 2018 campaigns, the Phillies must be about providing as many big league at-bats as possible for every prospect who shows they are ready.
In 2017, if Quinn, Williams, J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro are not ready for significant playing time down at Citizens Bank Park at some point, it has to be considered a major step back for this organization.
No, signing Jose Bautista is not the answer. Signing him would not make the Phillies a playoff contender. While some want you to think “Thome”, I am more inclined to think Danny Tartabull.
The problem for me is that the Phillies traded for Kendrick and have anointed him the everyday left fielder. They made a significant financial and emotional commitment to Odubel Herrera this offseason.
This would appear to leave right field as the place for Quinn and Aaron Altherr to battle for playing time. They will already be challenged in finding the at-bats needed to show what they can do. It is also a place where Williams can get his own shot, should those two falter or become injured.
No one inside or outside of the organization wants the Phillies to return to winning any more than I do. But none of the remaining free agents in this year’s market are going to make that winning happen any quicker.
My hope, and it should be yours, is that the Phillies stick with their youngsters. Allow the rebuild to move into and through the 2017 season with organizational players. I say no way Jose.