Phillies In the Outfield

Well, it’s official: my Phillies phever has officially worn off, and now it’s back to business as usual, worrying about what they will do in the off-season. Newly appointed GM Ruben Amaro wasted no time signing lefty reliever Scott Eyre, and it is believed that the Phillies will also re-sign Jamie Moyer, even if the deal lasts two years. Otherwise, just about everyone not currently locked down to a long-term deal is eligible for arbitration. Most, if not all, of these players—Greg Dobbs, Joe Blanton, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Chad Durbin, Shane Victorino, Ryan Madson, and Jayson Werth—are going to win their case, meaning raises will be due across the board.

This will make it harder for Amaro to go out and sign an impact player, though most of the positions are already set in stone, with the bulk of their core returning. The only true question mark at this point involves the outfield. Victorino and Werth will be back, and together form a tandem of all-around, very productive players, that many people still don’t know about. Pat Burrell‘s spot is another story.

Burrell has mentioned numerous times that he would love to return, but he is currently seeking a three-year deal. Speculation surfaced that Amaro would offer two years, so if he ups the deal to a third year, it is very likely that Burrell returns. With free agent starting tomorrow, though, my personal feeling is that Pat the Bat will be offered much more money elsewhere, an opportunity cost too great for him to offer a hometown discount and return.

The trio of Burrell, Victorino, and Werth formed one of the top, if not the top, offensive outfields in 2008, combining for a WPA/LI of just under seven wins above average. Defensively, Victorino was about two wins above average with a positional adjustment; Werth was about a half of a win above average; and Burrell was just under two and a half wins below average. All told, factoring in offense and defense, the Phillies outfield was close to seven wins above average this past season.

There were rumors that the Phillies would send a package headlined by Victorino to the Rockies for Matt Holliday, but Ken Mandel of recently reported that the two clubs were never realistically close to making a deal. If they opt to resign Burrell, and are able to make a deal in the same range as other suitors, here are the projections for 2009:

Pat Burrell:     .253/.377/.490, 32 HR, 29 2B
Jayson Werth:    .279/.369/.484, 25 HR, 25 2B, 21 SB
Shane Victorino: .286/.345/.428, 13 HR, 24 2B, 27 SB

If Burrell signs elsewhere, Amaro has mentioned that he would likely platoon the left-handed combo of Geoff Jenkins, Matt Stairs, and Greg Dobbs with a right-handed bat signed from the free agent market. The righty bats that have been linked to the Phillies are Kevin Mench, Rocco Baldelli, Jerry Hairston, and most recently, albeit from a trade and not free agency, Jermaine Dye. Below are the projections for these players:

Geoff Jenkins:  .257/.330/.441, 15 HR, 22 2B
Kevin Mench:    .264/.322/.430,  7 HR, 16 2B
Rocco Baldelli: .279/.330/.465, 12 HR, 18 2B
Jerry Hairston: .264/.333/.391,  4 HR, 14 2B
Jermaine Dye:   .270/.334/.491, 31 HR, 33 2B
Matt Stairs:    .242/.341/.409, 12 HR, 17 2B 
Greg Dobbs:     .284/.329/.432,  8 HR, 16 2B

Other than Dye, who is a very significant power threat, all of these players have very similar projections for next season. Defensively, believe it or not, but Jenkins was +6 in 2006, and +18 as the second best left-fielder in 2007, before being right around average in his limited rightfield role in 2008. He might not be worth two wins above average defensively, but he is certainly more defensively sound than Burrell. Mench was +5 in rightfield in 2007, and +2 in limited duty this season. Baldelli doesn’t have a large enough sample size to base defensive evaluations on, but he should be no worse than average, which is about the same for Hairston.

Dye has posted the following numbers: -14, -41, -17. He has ranged from around 1.5-2 wins below average defensively, which comes pretty close to cancelling out the offensive production. At this stage in his career, Stairs is nothing more than an offensive threat, and while a larger role for Dobbs is likely merited, his arm is suspect and he is not a natural outfielder.

Dye is owed 11.5 million in 2009, and has a club option for 2010 worth 12 million. Oddly enough, that 23.5 million is about the same amount Amaro has hinted he would be offering to Burrell. This is all assuming Dye is even being dangled, which he very well may not be. If they lose Burrell to free agency, and opt to go with a Jenkins/Mench, Jenkins/Baldelli, or Jenkins/Hairston platoon, they are going to lose some offensive production, but improve defensively. With both Utley and Howard entrenched in the lineup, a big righty power bat sure would be nice, but Jenkins is due to perform better than he did in 2008, and a nice righty platoon partner wouldn’t be as dramatic a dropoff in total production (both offensively and defensively) as many would think.

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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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