Listen, we all know it sucks. Rhys Hoskins has (likely) been lost for the 2023 season and that is just crushing. We can talk about replacing what he does in the field until we’re blue in the face, but the fact is that the team is looking to put back 30 HR/80+ RBI into the lineup that has just vanished in the blink of an eye. As vocal as Hoskins’ critics are, that isn’t something that one can simply conjure out of thin air.
And this says nothing of what he brings to the team in terms of the clubhouse. We were fortunate enough to see how much he meant to the team during their recent playoff run, but that’s just what we see on camera. When the cameras have stopped and the clubhouse doors have shut, the players, almost to a man, rave about Hoskins as a leader of the team. That is not going to be replaced no matter what they do.
However, the show does have to go on. Once everything has settled down, the front office and field staff will sit down to try and approximate how they will inject an offensive profile similar to Hoskins back into this lineup. There are some options, both internal and external, that the team can consider, so let’s help them along.
The internal options
Darick Hall - Hall is going to be the first name mentioned when all of this is discussed. He’s already on the team, he’s a natural first baseman and he has the power that the team would need to replace in the lineup in Hoskins’ absence. There’s just one small issue: he’s left-handed and has struggled against left-handed pitching.
There’s been a lot of discussion about Hall’s 2022 season and how much of a success it is. Nine home runs in 142 plate appearances is nothing to sneeze at, but facts are facts. Twelve of those 142 plate appearances were against left-handed pitching and seven of them ended in a strike out. The team clearly did not want him exposed during their playoff run and were fortunate that they did not need to expose him. They had the players available to mix and match, but a lot of that has now gone away. Were they to give Hall some extended run at first, he’d eventually have to face left-handed pitchers and show a modicum of success for the team to continue on that course.
Alec Bohm - Moving Bohm across the diamond has always been in the back of people’s minds with Hoskins’ impending free agency anyway for a number of reasons. His build would lend itself to the position, his height affording him the ability to get throws both high and low, coupled with his perceived lack of progress at third base defensively led others to naturally assume a position switch was in order.
The biggest issue is twofold. First, Bohm isn’t exactly known for having the best of footwork at third base as it is. His arm has never really been in question at the hot corner, but how he moves. First base is all about footwork, meaning the area that Bohm struggles the most in would be exposed on a more frequent basis. Second, the bar for first base offensively is much higher than it is at third base and even there, Bohm is currently average at best. Most people this season were talking about Bohm as a candidate to take a step forward with the bat this season, something his spring performance suggests could come to fruition. However, a move across the diamond would require not just a step forward offensively, but for that step to be much larger that it should be now. On top of having to learn to play a new position with the glove. It would seem to me that the juice wouldn’t be worth the squeeze.
A platoon - Of course, should the team decide that they were looking to keep things inside right now, a platoon at the spot would be their likely course of action. What that platoon would look like could have all kinds of variations.
Option 1: vs. LHP - Bohm at 1B, Edmundo Sosa at 3B
Option 2: vs. LHP - J.T. Realmuto at 1B, Garrett Stubbs at C, Bohm at 3B
Option 3: vs. RHP - Hall at 1B, Bohm at 3B
All three of them have their positives and negatives. Option one sees better defense at third base, something they would probably value, but again, it also forces Bohm into a position he hasn’t been regularly playing for a while. Option two could be done once in a while as a way to get Stubbs’ bat into the lineup, but as much favor as he has curried with the fanbase, that would be a significant dropoff defensively at a time when the rules are going to dictate the catcher be a defensive weapon once again. Option three, we’ve already talked about. There is just so much that they can do with the current roster that it’s probably the easiest way to piecemeal something together. They have the bench options available to help move players around the diamond if need be, but none of them can bring to the plate what Hoskins does. Expecting them to would be folly, so it’s best not to do so.
The external options
Luke Voit - The coming days feature many players in camps on minor league deals with opt out decisions coming due. Luke Voit is one of those players.
We all know Voit from his exploits during the pandemic 2020 season when he smashed 22 home runs in 54 games, garnering a top ten MVP finish that season. His 153 wRC+ that year was a high water mark as it’s something he hasn’t been able to approach in the two seasons since. He’s still above average with the bat (112 wRC+ in 2021, 102 wRC+ last season), but the defense is has held him back from getting higher WAR marks. He still bests Hoskins is most defensive categories, but he’s also still below average at first base. His batted ball profile suggests that he hasn’t lost much. He still boasts some impressive exit velocities.
The biggest issue with someone like Voit would come down to money. Should he decide to exercise his opt-out and become a free agent, what would he be expecting from a team like the Phillies? Would he be looking at more than the league minimum? Would the Phillies be interested in that with so little wiggle room before they end up crossing the next luxury tax threshold?
Yuli Gurriel - Had the Marlins not signed Gurriel to a minor league deal with an opt-out clause, this is probably the player I’d bet money on the Phillies giving a phone call to.
Putting Gurriel into the lineup would give the team something they haven’t had in a while: someone who doesn’t strike out. Gurriel has been lauded for years as one of the hardest players in baseball to send back to the dugout with his bat on his shoulder, his strikeout rate of 11.2% almost half of the league average since 2016, his debut season. Last year was no different, only last year was one of the worst seasons of his career. His 85 wRC+ was the second lowest since he became Houston’s regular first baseman. His defense, usually right around league average, fell to even below what Hoskins was offering last year according to OAA (-9 for Gurriel vs. -8 for Hoskins). Being 37 years old, one has to wonder if Father Time, usually undefeated, has finally caught up with him, perhaps the main reason why he was only able to secure a minor league deal this offseason. He, too, has an opt-out in his minor league deal with Miami approaching soon, so if there are whispers with the Phillies about a possible job opening, one has to wonder if he’d exercise it.
Miguel Sano - Have to admit: completely forgot Sano was even still playing.
At one point in his career, the prospect of signing Sano was exciting. He was a promising young player with a ton of power who could hit a lot of home runs.
He’s a player who had a 9 wRC+ with Minnesota last season and is currently unemployed. If the team were truly desperate, maybe Sano gets a call, but he’d likely be used as no more than minor league depth in case things got truly dire.
Christian Walker/C.J. Cron - These names have popped up quite a bit, mostly as trade options when people look at those teams projected to finish at or near the bottom of their divisions. The idea of trading for one does have some appeal. Both are power hitting right handed first basemen who making a relative pittance when it comes to other players in the league who do what they can do. Walker hit 36 home runs for Arizona last year and even won the Gold Glove for his position. Cron had what may have been the quietest two years in the league for a player that has hit 57 home runs over those two years. He’s not the defensive artist that Walker is there, but he’s no slouch either.
The issue becomes: what do those teams see themselves as? Arizona has the parts on the roster where they could make life miserable for those fighting for playoff positioning and if things break just right, they might have an outside shot. We never know what Colorado is thinking, but if their signing Jurickson Profar is any indication, they see themselves as a few breaks short of playoff contention as well. The trade packages for either would like have to start with either Mick Abel or Griff McGarry, something the Phillies would probably be loathe to do, even if they were prepared to move on from Hoskins next year anyway.
These are just a few ideas for what the team is thinking about for replacing Hoskins. We’ll know more when they speak about it today, but the smart money is on them staying internal with their choices. Someone is going to have to step up. The question is who.