In his ‘Inside Baseball | Destinations for top-25 free agents-to-be’ report on Thursday, baseball insider Jon Heyman suggested that the Phillies could be a potential landing spot for free agent-to-be outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Jay Bruce.
I am not here to berate Heyman’s reporting because for the most part I thoroughly enjoy his work. He’s also a very good follow on Twitter. Here is an example that just so happens to feature a subject of this very article.
trade worked out nicely for jay bruce. came to team with 22 wins in a row from one with 22 injuries in a row.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) September 15, 2017
Now that I positively advertised Heyman, I feel as though it is fair to criticize this bit of reporting. It makes absolutely no sense for Matt Klentak and the front office of the Phillies to make a push for either one of these players during the offseason.
Gonzalez, who will be 32 at the start of next season, and Bruce, who will turn 31 on April 3, will both likely command player-friendly contracts that last for multiple years. Rest assured that this is not a knock on Gonzalez and Bruce. Players in their 30s should look for long-term, player-friendly commitments from teams as it is one of the only forms of security in professional sports. The Phillies, however, should not be the team to sign these players. I’ll start with Gonzalez.
Gonzalez’s 2017 has been his worst statistical season since 2014 and is his worst in any season in which he has played at least 100 games — he played 70 in 2014. He has played in 124 games this season and carries a slash line of .251/.327/.401 to go along with 12 home runs, 29 doubles, 50 walks, and 109 strikeouts. These numbers on the 2013-2016 Phillies may have been acceptable, but in regards to 2018, no thank you. CarGo is also an extreme beneficiary of playing at Coors Field in Colorado. Aside from his first professional season in which he played with the Athletics, Gonzalez has spent his entire career with the Rockies. Here are his career home and away splits:
Home: 596 G, 2451 PA, .321/.381/.590/.971, .355 BABIP, 151 2B, 25 3B, 130 HR
Away: 592 G, 2385 PA, .253/.308/.428/.736, .309 BABIP, 111 2B, 11 3B, 83 HR
As you can see, Gonzalez’s performance at Coors Field as compared to his performance away from Coors Field is monumentally better. Coors Field is the FirstEnergy Stadium — Reading’s home ballpark — of the MLB. If a player’s numbers show he performs poorly while away from the home park, it generally means they are a beneficiary of the hitter-friendly conditions. In Gonzalez’s case, that is exactly what it means.
Now to move on to Bruce.
Bruce has been remarkably consistent ever since first being promoted by the Reds in 2008. His highest single-season batting average is .281, but Bruce’s career .249/.319/.472 slash line shows just how flat of a career line he holds. Those sorts of numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page and scream ‘Wow!’ at you.
Bruce is also limited strictly to right field and isn’t exactly the quickest of outfielders. He has played a few games at first base throughout his career, but we have this guy named Rhys Hoskins who, I think, can effectively handle the first base duties for the foreseeable future. If the Phillies planned on signing Bruce as a fourth outfielder, I guess I’d consider the option. There is virtually no chance, however, that Bruce will settle for not playing everyday.
There seems to still be an elephant in the room, so I might as well address it:
There is simply no room for either Gonzalez or Bruce on this Phillies roster. As it stands, the Phillies are carrying eight outfielders on the 40-man roster. Pedro Florimon, Hyun Soo Kim, Daniel Nava, and Cameron Perkins are four listed outfielders who are practically locks to be removed from the 40-man in order to open up spots for others; Florimon and Nava will more than likely be DFA’d or released once they are healthy. Minor league outfielders Andrew Pullin and Carlos Tocci need spots to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft and have almost certainly showed the Phillies enough to guarantee them being added. Add those two into the mix that already includes Aaron Altherr, Dylan Cozens, Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, and Nick Williams and you have far too many outfielders on your hands. Unless Heyman has inside knowledge about the front office’s aspirations to trade one or more of these outfielders, the math just doesn’t add up.
The Phillies have gone young to close out the season and it seems to be working beautifully. Adding a veteran outfielder in Gonzalez or Bruce not only makes no sense stats-wise, but it makes for a crowded outfield in the case no one is traded. Why, after seeing the development of Altherr, Herrera, and Williams, would you want to trade one or more of them in order to sign an aging player?
In the end, there is not a single logistic to this narrative that makes sense. Therefore, Matt Klentak and the Phillies front office should keep their checkbooks away from Carlos Gonzalez and Jay Bruce.