Phillies offseason targets: Outfield bench bats

Phillies offseason targets: Outfield bench bats
November 10, 2013, 9:00 am

Rajai Davis (left) averaged 42 stolen bases from 2011-13. (USA Today Images)

Over the next several weeks we’ll unveil a list of potential free agents and trade targets the Phillies could pursue this offseason, one in which they’ll need to plug holes behind the plate, in the corner outfield and, most importantly, on the pitching staff.

Today, we look at two speedy outfielders who could bolster the Phils’ bench:

When the Phillies were at their peak from 2007-11, they were a dynamic offensive team that saw regular contributions from their bench. Greg Dobbs led the league in pinch-hits one year. Matt Stairs carved out his legacy with a moonshot at Dodger Stadium in the 2008 NLCS. Ross Gload and Ben Francisco provided punch from the left and right sides.

Once a source of strength, the Phillies have gotten next to nothing from their bench the last two seasons. The unit started out hot in 2013, but fizzled as the season wore on; Phillies pinch-hitters finished the year with a .222/.271/.325 batting line. That .596 OPS from Phils pinch-hitters ranked 10th among 15 NL teams.

Just look at the 2013 bench.

• Laynce Nix failed to hit and was released.

• Kevin Frandsen hit .192 after the second week of July.

• Erik Kratz took a step back offensively.

• The pinch-hitting combination of Freddy Galvis, Roger Bernadina, John McDonald, Casper Wells, Michael Martinez and Ezequiel Carrera went 3 for 39.

Improving the starting rotation and bullpen are priorities. Finding a catcher is another. If the Phillies can bolster the lineup with an experienced, powerful rightfielder that should also make them better. But Ruben Amaro Jr. cannot overlook the bench, and he can’t swing-and-miss with his low-risk signings again this year.

Enter two toolsy outfielders:

Rajai Davis

Age: 33

2011-13 stats: .252 BA, .299 OBP, .369 slugging; averaged 42 steals

Most recent contract: Made $2.5 million in 2013 (Toronto)

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Chris Young

Age: 30

2011-13 stats: .225 BA, .312 OBP, .412 slugging; averaged 15 HR, 51 RBIs, 13 steals

Most recent contract: Five years, $28 million (Oakland declined $11M option)

Either one of these players would give the Phillies’ bench an added dimension. Davis is a hugely successful base stealer who has experience as a starter and role player. His speed would make for an ideal defensive replacement or pinch-runner. He won’t wow you with his offensive numbers, though from 2009-10 in Oakland he hit .293 with a .734 OPS. There is some definite gap power there.

Young is more accomplished, though he’s bottomed out after being traded by Arizona and hitting .200 in Oakland. He is, however, hands down one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, and he’s hit at least 20 homers four times with one 32-homer season under his belt.

Both players are right-handed and both strike out more than you’d like. They aren’t starters at this point in their careers, they’re fourth outfielders with upside who could give you a few weeks in the lineup if an outfielder hits the 15-day DL.

But their real value would be the versatility they’d give Ryne Sandberg late in games. Young is such a natural fielder that he could replace even the speedy Ben Revere in the latter innings to give the Phillies a chance at outfield assists. Either Young or Davis could take Domonic Brown’s glove out of left field when the Phils have a lead, or end the night early for the Phils’ next rightfielder.

Davis is in line for similar money to what he made in 2013. A two-year deal worth between $5-7.5 million could probably get him to sign the dotted line. He’s likely looking for a starting job but won’t find one.

With Young it’s a bit cloudier. His once-enormous potential could entice a team to give him the opportunity to start. The Phillies can’t really be that team because they need big-time offense from the outfielder they sign to start, not just cost efficiency. If they simply hope for the best-case scenario with a player like Young they could end up in the same spot they were in when they had to release Delmon Young this past summer.

With Chris Young, you may be looking at a contract in the neighborhood of two years, $10 million. Or he may opt to sign a one-year deal to reestablish his value for next offseason. In that case, you might be looking at a one-year, $7 million pact.

You’d think that the Phillies should focus first on their rightfielder before fishing for bench help, but the big bats tend to sign later in free agency than the role players like Davis and Young. Amaro will likely want to determine how much he’s spending on a catcher before making a less pivotal signing for a fourth outfielder, but that doesn’t make the need for one any less glaring.

Either of these two players would provide more all-around value than John Mayberry Jr., who is still inexpensive but lacks upside.

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