Which Phillies players will be affected by the Whit Merrifield signing?

The Phillies bench just got a lot more crowded with the addition of Whit Merrifield. Who will be the odd man out on Opening Day?
Philadelphia Phillies Jake Cave is going to have a battle for a bench spot this spring
Philadelphia Phillies Jake Cave is going to have a battle for a bench spot this spring / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

When the Philadelphia Phillies signed super utilityman Whit Merrifield on Friday to a one-year, $7 million deal, the team had finally made a move that could be categorized as a true roster upgrade. With all due respect to the number of minor league depth pieces the Phillies have signed or traded for in recent weeks, the addition of Merrifield addressed some major concerns Phillies fans had going into the 2024 season.

Diehard Phillies fans know the narrative by now. The team has questions about how the slick-fielding Johan Rojas will adapt as a hitter if he wins the center field job out of spring training. Brandon Marsh recently had minor knee surgery and will miss a decent amount of spring training rehabbing the injury. The Phillies needed another right-handed bat to complement a lineup that was sometimes exposed when facing left-handed pitching.

The signing of the three-time All-Star Merrifield has seemingly quieted those concerns as his fit on the roster will allow manager Rob Thomson to get creative with his lineups this season. On days when Thomson wants to slide Marsh over to center field, Merrifield can make a start in left field. If one of the infielders requires some rest, Merrifield has experience at every position but catcher and shortstop.

Merrifield's versatility will be on full display during the 2024 season. But his addition will come at the expense of a few players who will see playing decrease. It's already affected one player, as recently added pitcher Kaleb Ort was designated for assignment on Monday to make room for Merrifield on the 40-man roster, per MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.

Let's take a look at Phillies players likely to be affected by the signing of Whit Merrifield.

Jake Cave

Jake Cave offered the Phillies a lot of value last season when injuries created holes at first base and in the corner outfield spots. The 31-year-old bench bat filled in wherever he was needed in 2023, and until the signing of Merrifield, he looked to have a similar role heading into this season. Cave avoided arbitration and agreed on a $1 million deal earlier this offseason.

With Merrifield now in the fold, it wouldn't be a shock to see Cave become a casualty when the Phillies need to trim the active roster before Opening Day. With Bryce Harper taking over full-time first base duties in 2024 and the outfield looking set with Nick Castellanos, Brandon Marsh, Johan Rojas, Cristian Pache, and Merrifield, the prospects of seeing Cave with the Phillies this season appear slim.

Cristian Pache

The second biggest loser of at-bats and playing time in 2024 will be Cristian Pache. The 25-year-old former top prospect has had a tough time staying healthy during his brief MLB career. His latest opportunity to make good on that potential was last season when the Phillies acquired him in a trade with the Oakland Athletics. A torn meniscus in April landed Pache on the shelf until August, and by that time, Rojas was entrusted with the job in center field.

Pache will likely be a player the Phillies keep around when roster decisions are made. His relative youth, ability to play all three outfield positions, and right-handed bat would seem to give Pache the edge over a player like Cave. If the signing of Whit Merrifield is an insurance policy on the development of Rojas, then Pache would seem to make more sense as a fourth or fifth outfielder in 2024. Pache definitely finds himself in a tough position heading into spring training.

Edmundo Sosa

The addition of Merrifield will likely also cut into the playing time of reliable utilityman Edmundo Sosa. Unlike Cave and Pache, Sosa doesn't have to worry about his spot on the roster. Barring a trade, Sosa will likely be used in a similar role as the one he's carved out since being acquired at the trade deadline in 2022, and will probably see a decent amount of time at third base and shortstop this season.

With the versatile Merrifield now expected to play a significant role all over the field — the Phillies aren't paying him $7 million to sit on the bench — Sosa will likely see his playing time and at-bats decrease in 2024. He still holds a lot of value off the bench but might have to wait for opportunities to get on the field this season.

Rodolfo Castro

When the Phillies acquired Rodolfo Castro in a Trade Deadline deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team was hoping to add depth to the bench for another playoff run. In 14 games with the Phillies, Castro rarely saw the field, only hitting .100 with three hits in 30 at-bats with his new club. Left off the playoff roster, Castro will come into camp with a lot to prove on a team that has few major league spots available.

The signing of Merrifield has made it more than likely that Castro will begin his season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He has one minor league option available, and the team will certainly carry Sosa and Merrifield with the big league club. The 24-year-old, along with Cave, figures to be the two who have the most to lose, with the Phillies facing a logjam on the active roster.