As the Phillies enter MLB’s free agency period, they do so with a glaring need in the middle of their infield and plenty of cash burning in their pockets.
The departure of Jean Segura opens up a hole at either shortstop or second base, with incumbent shortstop Bryson Stott and utility infielder Edmundo Sosa the only capable middle infielders on the roster at this moment.
The Phillies have a need. Thankfully, the free agent market has some excellent solutions.
Trea Turner is at the top of most Phils’ fans’ wish lists, but Xander Boagerts, Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson are also terrific alternatives. No shade at Segura, whose bat-to-ball skills, mentorship of Stott and outstanding glove work will be missed, but any of these players would make the Phillies better in 2023.
There really is no wrong answer.
Among the free agents mentioned above, Swanson finished with the highest fWAR of the four, 6.4, second only to New York’s Francisco Lindor’s 6.8. Turner was just behind at 6.3, with Bogaerts at 6.1 and Correa at 4.4.
Turner’s power numbers were down a bit from 2021, with his .466 slugging percentage the lowest its been since 2018’s .416. However, he did slug 21 home runs, scored 101 runs and knocked in 100 while stealing 27 bases, playing 160 games for the Dodgers. His 39 doubles were a career high, and his high contact approach at the plate is superior to Segura’s, with a 6.4% walk rate and .343 on-base percentage that is plenty good enough to put at the top of the lineup.
While he’s an above average defender, defensive metrics rated him as the fourth-best among the group in ‘22, surprisingly at -3 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and 0 Outs Above Average (OAA). But he has good range and Baseball Reference’s dWAR of 1.0 rates him as very good defender.
They even had Jon Hamm narrate a sizzle reel for the dude. Not that it was needed.
In terms of pure offense, Correa had the best overall season last year, posting a 140 wRC+ in 136 games (390 PAs). His 10.3% walk-rate was highest and he hit .291/.366/.467 with 22 HRs, 70 runs scored and 64 RBIs, posting an OPS of .834, very good numbers playing in Minnesota, as Target Field ranked 23rd among 30 MLB parks in terms of overall offensive Park Factors from 2020-22. Defensively, he was worth 3 DRS and -3 OAA, with a dWAR of 1.1 that was slightly higher than Turner’s 1.0.
If you’re looking for a leadoff hitter, Correa, who turns just 28 next year, might be the best option.
Bogaerts didn’t hit a ton of dingers last year (15), but he does have a 33-homer campaign in his tally sheet (2019), and over the last seven non-pandemic shortened seasons, his doubles numbers are thus (starting in ‘22 and working backwards): 38, 34, 52, 45, 32, 34, 35. He hit .307 with a .377 OBP last year and a .456 slugging percentage for a 134 wRC+. His .833 OPS was the lowest it’s been since 2017 (.746), but that number looks better in a slightly offensively-repressed season.
Defensively, the numbers like him better than Turner or Correa, with 4 DRS and 5 OAA, good for a dWAR of 1.3. He’ll turn 30 next year, and his relationship to Dave Dombrowski might make him the most likely candidate of the four.
Phillies are believed to have real interest in Xander Bogaerts, Phils honcho Dave Dombrowski has strong link to Bogaerts from his Boston days.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 13, 2022
Which brings us to Swanson, the perceived fourth of the four options. Make no mistake, he’d be great, too, and would likely cost less than the other three.
Not that we care about the money.
Swanson had a career year for Atlanta, coupling outstanding offensive production with the best defensive season of his life. He slugged 25 homers, scored 99 runs, knocked in 96 and hit .277/.329/.447, playing in all 162 games. He also stole 18 bases and has only missed 2 games over the last three seasons, an incredibly durable player who turns 29 next year. Swanson also was worth 9 DRS and an MLB-best 20 OAA defensively, with a dWAR of 2.0 that puts him at the very top of defensive shortstops in Major League Baseball.
Last season, Swanson was worth -7 DRS and just 3 OAA, but in 2020, put up 9 DRS in just 60 games for the Braves, so the glove has been a bit all over the place. Nevertheless, he was tops among the four shortstops in WAR last year, and likely won’t cost as much as the other three.
So who is the best fit for the Phillies? Ideally, the new addition would be able to either hit leadoff or in the No. 2 hole, provide some power and line drive contact, hit for extra bases, and play great defense.
Turner is the darling pick of the fanbase, but Correa, Bogaerts and Swanson would all be massive upgrades as well, giving the Phillies a terrific double-play combination with Stott at second base, as well as a top-of-the-lineup hitter for the next 5-7 years, if not longer.
They really can’t go wrong.