Who will replace Andrew McCutchen in the Phillies outfield?
At 35 years old, McCutchen still has bat power, but his defensive struggles were too much to overlook for the price tag. Of course, part of that likely has to do with the fact that he was a centerfielder playing left field; he spent the first nine seasons of his career in center before shifting to left.
Regardless, the Phillies need to get younger if they want to keep up with the competition. The free-agent market isn’t exactly flush with left fielders, but here are the splurge, scrimp, and save options the Phillies could take this offseason:
Splurge: Kyle Schwarber
If they want to spend more than what they would have paid McCutchen, Kyle Schwarber might be available. He has a mutual option with the Boston Red Sox, who acquired him at the deadline, but part of that decision likely hinges on whether or not their DH, JD Martinez, opts out.
After working with new Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long last offseason, Schwarber hit .266/.374/.554 with a .928 OPS between 72 games with the Nationals and 41 games with the Sox. His OPS was the best of any season in his career by far (previous high .871). Between June 12-30, he hit 16 home runs in 19 games, with 21 runs scored and 27 RBI.
Before the Sox’s wheels fell off in Game 4 of the ALCS, Schwarber had hit .281/.361/.594 with a .955 OPS, three home runs, eight runs scored, and six RBI in his first eight games of their improbable October run. He now has 35 total postseason games under his belt.
Schwarber would be a dream fit for the Phillies. He’s got outfield, first-base, and extensive postseason playing time. He won’t come cheap – if he comes at all – but he’s proven he’s worth every penny.
Scrimp: Eddie Rosario
Eddie Rosario was down on his luck when the Atlanta Braves grabbed him at the deadline, but he turned out to be one of the most underrated midseason pickups in the game, homering as many times (7) in 33 games after the trade as he did in 78 games prior. His OPS shot up from .685 to .903.
Before the pandemic, Rosario hit .284/.317/.495 with a .813 OPS between 2017-19. He averaged 31 doubles and 28 home runs in those three seasons.
During the Braves’ postseason run, he hit .383/.456/.617 with a 1.073 OPS. Over 16 games, he amassed 23 hits, including three doubles, a triple, and three home runs. He scored 11, drove in 11, and only struck out 10 times, earning him NLCS MVP honors.
Long, whom Schwarber credits with revamping his swing last winter, is the new Phillies hitting coach. Rosario did well this season and in the postseason, but maybe Long could help him get even better.
Rosario won’t exactly come cheap, but he won’t be a $15M AAV guy, either. The Phillies could likely grab him for 2-3 years at less than $10M AAV with some escalators and maybe a club option.
Save: Luke Williams and/or Matt Vierling
If the Phillies want to direct their funds elsewhere, they have a few rookies who debuted in 2021 and have outfield experience. Only having to pay them the MLB minimum of less than $600K would enable the Phillies to spend big on areas in desperate need of upgrade, such as the bullpen.
Luke Williams made his debut in 2021, and hit .245/.315/.316 with a .631 OPS over 58 games. He’s already played multiple games at every outfield and infield position, save for pitching and catching. Williams spent seven games in left and 15 in center, and only made one total error.
Matt Vierling also debuted in 2021, and hit well in 34 big-league games: .324/.364/.479, a .843 OPS, three doubles, a triple, two home runs, and two stolen bases. He’s also already played multiple games at each outfield position as well as first base, and did not make an error at any spot.