As Dave Dombrowski enters just his second offseason as the President of Baseball Operations for the Philadelphia Phillies, he has quite the task ahead of him: fixing a broken, but promising baseball team. The Phillies finished only two games above .500 in 2021, despite having a MVP candidate in their lineup and a Cy Young-caliber pitcher in their rotation, and are potentially losing a large quantity of players to free agency.
Of that large quantity of players are left fielder Andrew McCutchen and center fielder Odubel Herrera. The Phillies declined both of the players' club options on Nov. 3, and have since outrighted Herrera, making him a free agent. As Matt Gelb of the Athletic noted, McCutchen and Herrera accounted for 17.5 percent of the club's 2021 plate appearances, so their likely departure leaves two gaping holes in the lineup and in the outfield.
"We have to have someone to play left field, we have to have someone play center field," Dombrowski said Tuesday at MLB's annual general manager's meetings. "So those are complete necessities."
Dombrowski expressed earlier in the offseason that a "middle-of-the order" bat is a priority for the Phillies this winter, so it'd make sense to acquire an outfielder with an offensive upside, and the free agent options are plentiful. Among the possible candidates are Atlanta Braves' Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler, and Joc Pederson; Los Angeles Dodgers' Chris Taylor; Boston Red Sox's Kyle Schwarber; and San Francisco Giants' Kris Bryant.
Luckily for the Phillies, each one of these outfielders has won a World Series over the last five years. Gelb notes that Dombrowski pointed out how the Phillies do not have a player on the roster who has won a World Series, or even appeared in a World Series game. And while it's not a "prerequisite," it would certainly help, as most of the roster hasn't tasted postseason baseball at all. It could be just what they need to break the decade-long drought.
The baseball world saw first hand how the Braves' deadline acquisitions in Rosario, Soler, and Pederson paid off for the club during their World Series run. Rosario was named the NLCS MVP after batting .560 with three home runs and nine RBI during the series, and Soler the World Series MVP, who posted a 1.191 OPS, three home runs, and six RBI. These are merely sample sizes, but if the price is right for either of these three outfielders, Dombrowski said he's not against platooning in left or center field. "We're open-minded," he said.
The Dodgers' Taylor has been a name circulating as a possible option for Philadelphia for quite some time now. Taylor, named to his first All-Star Game in 2021, batted .254/.344/.438, with 20 home runs, 25 doubles, four triples, and 73 RBI in 148 games. Taylor appeared in 61 games in left and 30 in center this past season, with a .991 fielding percentage in left and .968 in center, and two errors in 137 chances overall. While Taylor might not be the best available option, the Phillies could sign him at a decent price.
Former teammates on the Cubs Schwarber and Bryant are both free agents after being moved at this past year's deadline. Schwarber has already been rumored to be linked to the Phillies earlier this offseason, per MLB Insider Jon Heyman, through Philadelphia's hiring of his former hitting coach Kevin Long. While Schwarber can hit for power, slugging 32 homers in 2021, he would not be the best defensive option in the outfield, producing a -5 defensive runs saved (DRS) in 724 innings in left this season.
Bryant, on the other hand, could be the ideal option both offensively and defensively for the Phillies. In 42 games in left field between the Cubs and Giants in 2021, Bryant posted a .803 OPS with six home runs, eight doubles, a triple, and 18 RBI. In 17 games in center, he slashed .319/.407/.511. Defensively, the former 2016 NL MVP posted a .983 fielding percentage in left, and a 1.000 in center, committing only one error in 84 chances across both positions, good for a -1 DRS.
Additionally, Bryant is a good friend of Bryce Harper, with Harper even using his bat during games for the Phillies. Having the pair of former MVPs in the outfield would bode well for the Phillies, and keep their franchise player happy, as he would finally have some decent protection in the lineup. However, acquiring the four-time All Star would certainly come at a steeper price.
But Dombrowski went on record saying that he found his 2022 budget from owner John Middleton to be "not restrictive," despite the possible work stoppage ahead. So, it's possible the club goes all out in acquiring the best option for their outfield and in their lineup.
More From SI's Inside The Phillies:
- Harper Named MVP Finalist, Wheeler Named Cy Young Finalist
- Dombrowski Looks to Patch Phillies' Leaky Bullpen
- Would Seiya Suzuki Be a Logical Fit for the Phillies?