One thing I’ll bet most people think about a general manager’s job is that the most difficult part is having to tell a player they have been traded or released. There would be several accompanying waves of emotion flowing from the player, adding a sense of danger to the situation, particularly if that player has been around the team for a while.
Me, I’ve always wondered what the hardest part is about telling a player that you are interested in bringing him aboard your team, but you don’t want him playing every day. Is it the heartbreak in his eyes when he realizes this might be the best he is going to get? Is is the insult one must feel when something thinks you cannot do your job at peak performance anymore? Is it the realization that the big paydays aren’t coming anymore?
Usually, these kinds of players are the ones teams add to their bench. In the past, they could have have squeezed out maybe somewhere in the vicinity of 250-300 plate appearances thanks to the National League utilizing the starting pitcher as another part of the batting order, but with the designated hitter proliferating the game, that options has gone. Now, players are going to have to hope for a manager that believes in matchups or being part of a platoon if they want to have more playing time than originally planned.
For a while, it looked like the Phillies had their bench set. It was easy to see them coming up with a quintet of Nick Maton, Matt Vierling, Garrett Stubbs, Edmundo Sosa and Darick Hall, but post-Gregory Soto trade, there are some jobs open. We can probably safely assume that Dalton Guthrie has been gifted a job now, but there are still one, maybe two, jobs open depending on what the team does with Hall. What options remain? Assuming they go with 13 pitchers like the rest of the game likely will, we can assume these spots:
C - Stubbs
INF - Sosa
INF/OF - Guthrie
INF - Hall (?)
OF - <vacant>
There are still some solid options as simply bench players, presuming they realize their days as a starter are over. These are just a few.
Jackie Bradley, Jr.
Let’s get this out of the way first: Bradley can’t hit anymore.
In the last two years, Bradley is the only player in the game to receive as much playing time as he had (>770 PA) and post an OPS+ as low as he has (45). It’s actually quite startling to see how bad he is at the plate, especially recently. There isn’t going to be a team in the game (at least, there shouldn’t be) that would hand him a starting job of any kind. That makes him the perfect candidate for the Phillies to snatch up.
Well, for one, he won’t require a starting job. That’s kind of important. With that lack of a starter’s job comes a lack of a starter’s salary, meaning they’d likely be able to get him for a minor league deal with a minimum guarantee at best. So, he’d be cheap.
Second, and maybe more importantly, he can still go get it in the outfield. Last year, he ranked tied for 13th among all outfielders with +7 OAA as a CF, and, if you wanted to narrow it down further, 6th among all right fielders with +4 OAA (in center alone, he’d be 8th). The man can still be used as a defensive weapon, something that might be appealing to a team that currently looks to deploy Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos in the outfield with regularity. He could be a solid option late in games, with a sprinkle of starts here and there, on a team that isn’t looking for starters right now.
This is the least likely of all the names mentioned here. Harrison spent 2022 with the Chicago White Sox and garnered quite a bit of playing time for himself there. This was due to some injuries that occurred to the roster, but when Harrison was put into the lineup, he held his own, if not a little more. He hit .256/.317/.370 across 425 plate appearances, playing most of his games at second base. He can move around the dirt, logging a handful of games at shortstop and third base, but you wouldn’t want him there for a lengthy period. He can play the outfield, but is limited to left field if we’re being realistic about his ability. The Phillies would not be able to offer him a starting position right now, something that might be required to put pen to paper, but if he keeps staying on the market, maybe the appeal of playing for a World Series contender might appeal to Harrison.
A blast from the past?
Williams would be an option to be on the Phillies bench as someone who has the versatility to move around the infield (save shortstop) as well as the outfield in case of emergency. His numbers in the big leagues last year weren’t much to write home about (.236/.287/.315 over 136 plate appearances), but while in the minors, the numbers were markedly better. He still strikes out way too much (32.4% in MLB), but as a guy who wouldn’t be asked to do much with the bat anyway, the team could live with it. He’s also got some valuable minor league options left, so a minor league deal would mean the team could move him back and forth as necessary.
These are but a few names the team could consider. They might just hold an open competition for the last spot or two among their group at minor league camp, but many of their moves signal they want to stack the roster with as much major league caliber depth as possible. The weeks are getting shorter for spring training, so we’ll have to wait and see what direction they move in.