The Phillies continue their veteran minor league deal splurge going into spring training
For the sixth time this offseason the Phillies have scrapped the bottom of the barrel and added a veteran free agent to fight for one or two final opening day roster spots.
Forsythe played 101 games for Texas last season hitting .227 with seven home runs, 17 doubles, and driving in 39 runs. After a steady run with San Diego and Tampa Bay Forsythe will join his fifth team in as many seasons looking to stick as a bench player.
The competition for Philadelphia’s bench spots will be tight with veterans Josh Harrison, Neil Walker, Phil Gosselin, Ronald Torreyes, Mikie Mahtook, and now Forsythe all signing minor league deals this offseason.
Philadelphia’s bench has been dreadful under general manager Matt Klentak with a combined batting average of .205 over four seasons, which included a .255 clip in 2017 when Ty Kelly, Andres Blanco, and Daniel Nava were productive off the pine. The Phillies relied on young players like Nick Williams, Roman Quinn, and Mitch Walding to help off the bench, but would later add veterans like Justin Bour, Wilson Ramos, and Asdrubal Cabrera too late into the season.
Think about how the Phillies championship team built their bench. They had Matt Stairs as the power guy, Eric Bruntlett playing every position, Geoff Jenkins and Greg Dobbs coming up to hit in clutch situations, and a steady back up with Chris Coste or Brian Schneider. It was really a perfect bench during the contending years.
Right now the Phillies 40-man roster doesn’t have a veteran infielder other than their four starters. Infield prospect Arquemedes Gamboa is on the 40-man roster, but that’s mainly to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
There’s room to clear on the roster for veterans like Walker, Harrison, or Forsythe. The best thing about each of them is that they bring some level of versatility. Walker is limited to the infield, but he can still hit well enough to stick coming off a .261 season in Miami.
Harrison, while primarily an infielder, can give the Phillies some games in the corner outfield spots.
For the outfield it’s expected that Jay Bruce will be back as a big part of the bench, finally giving the Phillies a power hitter off the bench like Matt Stairs and Jim Thome did later in their careers.
Roman Quinn is always a team favorite, but he’s only valuable when he’s healthy, which isn’t often. He’ll likely fight for a bench spot and play behind Adam Haseley in center field.
There’s still the possibility of another outfielder (Kevin Pillar, Billy Hamilton) being added to complement Haseley in center field.
So, if the Phillies have four-five bench spots, who ultimately fills those in? Andrew Knapp is expected to backup J.T.Realmuto, and we already covered that Bruce and Quinn are likely candidates.
This means that there are no more than two spots, and potentially only one depending on how many bullpen arms the team carries. Forsythe certainly isn’t a scrub and the team is familiar with Gosselin after his play last year.
Ultimately, I think Walker and Harrison are the favorites going in given their veteran status and history of hitting at a high level against big league arms.