The Phillies need to clear room in their infield this offseason
With 30 games to go in the 2018 Regular Season, the Philadelphia Phillies sit in second place in the NL East with a record of 71-62, 3.5 GB the Atlanta Braves and 2.5 GB the Milwaukee Brewers for the second wild-card spot.
Within the Phillies’s many flaws as a team has been production at the very top of the order. The leadoff hitter is the one who should be able to spark the offense at the beginning of the game and set the tone.
This offseason, there are many questions that the front office needs address.
One of those points should be that the Phillies must look to trade lead-off hitter Cesar Hernandez.
Let’s compare Hernandez, the Phillies’s leadoff man, to those for other teams who are currently in the hunt.
This analysis will examine both the offensive and defensive metrics for each player that contribute most to everyday value.
Statistics for those who have held the leadoff spot most recently for teams in the hunt (entering play Wednesday 8/29), provided via baseballreference.com:
Mookie Betts (BOS): .336/.425/.627, 27 HR, 65 RBI, 65 BB, 72 K, 4 GDP, 276 TB
Brett Gardner (NYY): .239/.331/.373, 11 HR, 38 RBI, 59 BB, 85 K, 6 GDP, 168 TB
Francisco Lindor (CLE): .291/.267/.533, 29 HR, 78 RBI, 60 BB, 90 K, 5 GDP, 284 TB
George Springer (HOU): .250/.336/.430, 19 HR, 60 RBI, 54 BB, 90 K, 10 GDP, 191 TB
Marcus Semien (OAK): .259/.319/.384, 11 HR, 48 RBI, 48 BB, 110 K, 11 GDP, 203 TB
Ronald Acuña (ATL): .287/.355/.565, 21 HR, 46 RBI, 29 BB, 90 K, 3 GDP, 175 TB
Anthony Rizzo (CHC): .280/.374/.481, 22 HR, 86 RBI, 56 BB, 66 K, 10 GDP, 220 TB
Matt Carpenter (STL): .274/.385/.577, 34 HR, 71 RBI, 81 BB, 123 K, 0 GDP, 267 TB
Lorenzo Cain (MIL): .306/.398/.429, 9 HR, 32 RBI, 60 BB, 76 K, 6 GDP, 186 TB
Jon Jay (ARI): .280/.345/.363, 3 HR, 37 RBI, 30 BB, 80 K, 9 GDP, 170 TB
Charlie Blackmon (COL): .278/.347/.480, 23 HR, 56 RBI, 49 BB, 111 K, 10 GDP, 242 TB
Joc Pederson (LAD): .264/.321/.506, 19 HR, 47 RBI, 35 BB, 60 K, 4 GDP, 164 TB
Hernandez (PHI): .257/.363/.361, 11 HR, 41 RBI, 82 BB, 125 K, 11 GDP, 180 TB
FIELDING including overall WAR
Betts: 1 E, .996 Fld%, 15 DRS, 8.4 WAR (113 games)
Gardner: 2 E, .991 Fld%, 10 DRS, 2.8 WAR (117 games)
Lindor: 13 E, .974 Fld%, 14 DRS, 7.0 WAR (129 games)
Springer: 1 E, .995 Fld%, -4 DRS, 2.1 WAR (115 games)
Semien: 19 E, .966 Fld%, 9 DRS, 3.8 WAR (130 games)
Acuña: 3 E, .978 Fld%, 6 DRS, 3.4 WAR (80 games)
Rizzo: 7 E, .993 Fld%, 3 DRS, 2.3 WAR (121 games)
Carpenter: 11 E, .984 Fld%, 5 DRS, 5.2 WAR (127 games)
Cain: 4 E, .985 Fld%, 17 DRS, 5.8 WAR (114 games)
Jay: 0 E, 1.000 Fld%, 6 DRS, 1.3 WAR (121 games)
Blackmon: 1 E, .996 Fld%, -26 DRS, -0.2 WAR (125 games)
Pederson: 1 E, .992 Fld%, 1 DRS, 1.8 WAR (121 games)
Hernandez: 9 E, .982 Fld%, -4 DRS, 1.8 WAR (132 games)
To begin, you may notice that many of the players above have very few errors, and a couple have much more. Those with few errors are all outfielders, and vice versa.
Hernandez is a below-average hitter and possesses a slugging percentage below that of his on-base percentage. This indicates that when he is not hitting his 11 HR, he is reaching base via walk, single, or an error.
Hernandez has played more games than any other player on this list at 132. Hernandez possesses the fourth-fewest total bases courtesy the absence of extra base hits, and those who trail him have played 52, 15, 11, and 11 fewer games in Acuña, Pederson, Gardner, and Jay, respectively.
Hernandez’s walk, strikeout, and fielding numbers are almost identical to those of Matt Carpenter, but Carpenter is a far better and much more productive hitter overall, which makes him almost three and a half wins more valuable than Cesar.
Only Jay, Gardner, and Cain drive in fewer runs, however, Cain and Gardner make up for their misgivings in the field, who both possess double-digit defensive runs saved. Pederson and Springer are slightly worse fielders, but make up for that by being better hitters, which explains Springer’s slightly higher WAR.
The only three players that I could conclusively say that I would keep Hernandez over are John Jay Joc Pederson. Now, this analysis may seem unfair with the concept that I might be cherry-picking players who are better than Cesar Hernandez, but the truth is that if you want to be a contender, you need a solid leadoff man. And if he is just okay, you need seven other players (excluding the pitcher) to back him up.
The Phillies do not have either of the two. The rest of the teams up here have one, the other, or (in the case of the best teams) both.
Cesar Hernandez is the Phillies’s fifth-highest paid player at $5.1 million this season. He has two years of arbitration left before he is eligible to become a free-agent. A player with two years of team control left is very attractive to trade suitors and might provide the Phillies with an offer that could very well yield a greater return than that of what he currently provides.
If the rumors of Manny Machado come true and he signs here, the Phillies will have a question to answer. Who should the team move? It will not be Scott Kingery, who is in year one of a six-year contract (which, by the way, only pays him $4.25 million in the first three years).
Could it be Maikel Franco? It’s possible, given that he gives the impression of being very good but is entirely average (0.2 WAR), but he also has an extra year of team control. And Carlos Santana isn’t going anywhere, not that Machado would play first anyway.
Hernandez could very well be the odd-man out, and from the looks and the statistics of what he provides the team as a leadoff hitter, he does not match up to those of the true contenders. The Philadelphia Phillies should trade him this offseason to bolster their rotation, bullpen, or even the farm system.