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Phillies outfield solutions may come in 2016

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There is great uncertainty about the Phillies outfield for next year. Why doing nothing now may be the best move

The Phillies should be saving their pennies until Jason Heyward becomes available.
The Phillies should be saving their pennies until Jason Heyward becomes available.
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies need a lot of help in the outfield.

As a unit, they were not very good in 2014. You know this. You screamed about Domonic Brown's terrible season. You watched Ben Revere hit a lot of singles and steal a lot of bases, but not much else. And you were pleasantly surprised that Marlon Byrd managed to hit some home runs and play a passable right field, even as the strikeouts piled up and a September swoon dropped his overall numbers down.

The Phillies got 1.7 Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) from the outfield this year, 14th out of 15 NL teams. Their 49 homers were 9th, as was their OBP and SLG, their OPS was 11th, and their wOBA and wRC+ were both 12th. They also played the worst outfield defense in the National League, dead last in Fangraph's Def numbers, Defensive Runs Saved (-39) and UZR (-21.6).

The Phils appear to be unsettled in left field as well as center. They are unconvinced that two of their young starters, Brown and Revere, are long-term options in either spot. And they appear to want to upgrade in both positions, and perhaps even want to find a taker for Byrd in the off-season as well.

This all makes sense. And certainly, the Phils should be doing everything within their power to try and land the prize of free agency this off-season, Yasmany Tomas, to be their everyday left fielder for the next six-to-seven years.

However, if the Phillies are unable to land Tomas (and given the number of big-money teams who have interest, the odds are not in their favor), it would make sense for the Phils to not go big on an outfielder this winter.

There are two reasons why. The first is that this year's crop of free agents, outside of Tomas, stink on ice.

In left and right field, the best names are Melky Cabrera (30), Nelson Cruz (34), Jonny Gomes (34), Mike Morse (33), Nori Aoki (33), Michael Cuddyer (36), Alex Rios (34) or Chris Young (31). Woof.

In center field the options are even more limited, with Emilio Bonifacio (30), Nyjer Morgan (34), Colby Rasmus (28) and Chris Young (31) really the only options.

However, as of now, the free agency landscape for the outfield after next season brightens a bit, thanks mainly to two-thirds of the Atlanta outfield potentially becoming available.

Justin Upton and Jason Heyward will both be free agents after 2015. At this time, neither player has signed a contract extension with the club, although it seems likely that at least one of these guys will end up sticking around. Still, there are other options too, including Yoenis Cespedes, Alejandro De Aza, Alex Gordon (he has a $12.5 million player option he could choose not to exercise), Dexter Fowler, and Jose Bautista (thereis a $14 million club option for 2016).

This Phils could attempt to trade for some of those players, however, it's probably not a great idea to deal away any prospects for guys who could become free agents in 12 months, unless they agree to sign an extension after the trade.

Free agency is still a bad way to go about rebuilding. But Heyward will be just 26 years old when he hits free agency, and Upton will be only 28. If ever there were two players to spend big on in free agency, it's two young outfielders like Heyward and Upton.

So while the Phillies will certainly investigate ways to improve themselves in the outfield this season, it's hard to see how they can do anything significant, other than sign Yasmany Tomas. Signing Tomas should be their #1 priority this fall, and they appear to be thinking along the same lines.

Regardless, the real solution to the Phils' outfield problems may not present themselves until next off-season.