Domonic Brown is not a very popular player among most Phillies fans right now.
Brown had a rough go of it in 2014, and it's understandable that fans may have given up on the former All-Star after his brutal season in which, by all metrics, he was one of the worst players in Major League Baseball.
But in an interview with Kevin Cooney of the Bucks County Courier Times this week, Phillies interim president Pat Gillick, the man who was GM before Ruben Amaro took the reigns, said he is still a believer in Domonic Brown.
"I’m basically a Domonic Brown guy," Gillick said. "I know he had a bad year after he came off a great 2013. But I’m in his corner. I think that if Domonic Brown is going to succeed or failure, he has to be right here. I think that Ruben is going to listen to all offers. If he is going to get something that’s going to improve the ballclub, I think he’s going to move him. But I would like to see Domonic make it here."
Gillick was asked if a change of scenery would help Brown.
"It’s up to Ruben. If Ruben saw something that is going to help the club, he is going to move him. But I like Domonic Brown. I like him more than his 2014 performance."
So while Gillick is leaving the door open to a possible Brown trade this off-season, the team apparently still has confidence that Brown can be the type of player we saw in the first half of 2013.
Now, I don't know if I'd call his 2013 season "great," but it was certainly very good. His 1.7 fWAR was 22nd best among all outfielders last season, and among left fielders with at least 300 plate appearances, it 11th best. But that low Wins Above Replacement number was due to his less-than-league-average defense. Offensively, his 27 homers that season were tied for first among all NL left fielders, and his wOBA of .351 was sixth-best in the National League among left fielders.
So yeah, he was good, even though he was much hotter in the first half of the season (.363 wOBA) than in the second half (.322 wOBA).
Of course, this year was an unmitigated disaster, and was reminiscent of another terrible season by a Phillies left fielder in recent years.
|2014 Dom Brown||512||.235||.285||.349||.280||75||10||-1.7|
|2003 Pat Burrell||599||.209||.309||.404||.313||88||21||0.4|
Pat Burrell had a brutal season in 2003, his third full season in the Majors. But the Phils stuck with him, and he responded the following season by hitting 24 HRs with a .354 wOBA, and then hit 32 HRs in 2005 with a .384 wOBA. He would continue to be the starting left fielder, anchoring the middle of the order through the world championship season of 2008.
Now, Burrell had one extra season of productivity upon which to rest some confidence in 2003. He hit 27 homers in 2001 and had 37 with 116 RBIs in 2002, the season before his collapse. There was a good reason to believe he could bounce back in 2003, and the Phils had also just committed to him financially, signing him to a six-year, $50 million deal.
He was their starting left fielder in 2004, no matter what. The Phillies are not locked into such a financial obligation with Brown. If they keep him, it will be with the faith he can still be a productive player.
However, here the Phillies are, with a decision to make. Do they sell low with Brown, opting for a change of scenery and a clean slate with someone else? And if they do, what do the Phillies do in left field?
If they are able to land Yasmani Tomas, the Phils could either trade Brown, or try to trade Marlon Byrd and move Brown back to right field, where his strong arm would be more useful. But if the Phils do not land Tomas, the possible Brown replacements in free agency aren't all that more palatable, either in talent or in contract money, than Dom.
It's entirely possible, and perhaps even probable, that Brown is never going to be the player he has shown flashes of being. He's now accumulated 1544 plate appearances over parts of five seasons with the Phillies, which is a pretty healthy sample size.
But as of now, with the season having ended just a few short days ago, the Phillies interim president is showing support for Dom Brown. Phils fans should be prepared for his return, and hope that his youth and athletic ability will help his baseball instincts improve enough to be a bounceback candidate in 2015.
Pat Burrell did it. The Phils may choose to see if Brown can follow in his footsteps.