Trade Option: Josh Willingham

Posted by Pat Gallen, Mon, November 29, 2010 09:46 AM | Comments: 72
Analysis, News, Opinion, Posts

We may have found an outfielder worthy of replacing Jayson Werth (that is, if Werth doesn’t return, of course). That’s not to say Josh Willingham is on the same level as Werth as a fielder or hitter – clearly, he’s not as the numbers will prove. Willingham is, however, an inexpensive option should the Phillies be forced to move on.

Over the past five seasons, Willingham has become a familiar face in these parts, stopping through with the Florida Marlins and Washington Nationals. Over those five years, he’s been remarkably consistent. Willingham’s 162-game average over his career his 25 home runs, 82 RBI, and a .268 average. Not bad for a guy who gets very little publicity throughout the major leagues.

Turns out, Jayson Werth’s 162-game average is extremely similar: 25 home runs, 85 RBI, and .272 average. “The Hammer” also has an OPS of .841 during his career, just seven points lower than Werth’s.

Topping out at 26 home runs in 2006 and 89 RBI in 2007, Willingham has some pop from the corner outfield position. Sure, you say – hitting for power is nice, but can he hit lefties? That’s been the offseason-old question thus far for anyone who would step into the Phillies lineup.

It turns out that Willingham has handled left-handed pitching nearly the same as he handles right-handed pitching. His .267 career average against southpaws is nothing to write home about unless you’re comparing that number to a guy like Carlos Quentin (.212 vs. lefties). That sort of stability against lefties from the right side is all the Phillies could ask for as they attempt to find a suitable right fielder.

Over the past two seasons, Werth has separated himself from the rest, becoming an elite outfielder. His .921 OPS was 73 points higher than The Hammer’s in 2010. The issue last season for Willingham was his knee. The 31-year old is expected to be ready for 2011 after having surgery to fix his left meniscus in August. He finished the ’10 season with a .268/16/58 stat line in only 114 games and 450 plate appearances for the 69-93 Nats.

The good news is, Willingham is still relatively young. Werth didn’t hit his stride until he was close to 30 and benefited from an insanely well-rounded offense to boost those overall numbers. Could Willingham use that same talented Phillies lineup to take the next step as a hitter and flourish? Never has he been part of an offense like the one seen in Philly over the past few seasons.

One thing Josh Willingham is not known for is his defensive prowess. He’ll never be mistaken for Jayson Werth with the glove which is why his UZR has been a negative number in four of his five full seasons in the outfield.  While not fleet of foot, Willingham doesn’t screw up in the field often. Last year he committed just one error, and in nearly 5,000 innings in the outfield he’s put up just 16 “E’s.”

“Five-tool player” and “defensive stalwart” are titles that will never be used as descriptors for Willingham, and that’s OK. You know what you get with the guy: a fairly potent bat from the right side and average defense in right field. The question is, will he become available?

Two weeks ago, Adam Kilgore of the Washintgon Post wrote that Willingham was unlikely to receive an extension from the Nationals, meaning they could offer him another one-year deal or trade him.

CHANCES: With his salary expected to rise from $4.6 million to somewhere around $6 million for the upcoming season, that’s still within Ruben Amaro’s wheelhouse. The prevailing thought is that Willingham could be available and might be a decent addition to the Phillies. He’s also a guy who can cost-effectively take over in left field after Raul Ibanez leaves town. I give this deal five out of 10 Ruben Head’s.

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About Pat Gallen

Pat Gallen has written 1714 articles on Phillies Nation.

Pat is Editor-in-Chief of Phillies Nation. He also covers the Phils for 97.5 FM in Philly.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    If Manny Ramirez is unsigned by April 15th…and the Phillies end up signing him….I will personally call on Cardinal Justin Rigali, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, to be present for the absolution.

    That’s AFTER I organize a protest to be staged in front of CBP that could result in my also asking the Cardinal for forgiveness.

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Hahahahahahaha. That funny. Good one, Chuck.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    Seriously, Uribe is a super utility player…who may be used as an everyday 2B. Either way hes getting overpayed.

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    Maybe take Rizzotti and send him to Washington for Willingham

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Uribe totally capitalized on his postseason success. He was smart. The Dodgers weren’t.

  • Posts: 0 George


    If I were Amaro, I wouldn’t be completely comfortable with Ibanez, Victorino, Francisco, and a fourth guy. But Ibanez and Vic probably in locks, so right field might end up as a platoon situation. Were I Amaro, I’d be looking at the options and probably be deciding that there isn’t much out there that’s better than a Francisco/Brown platoon unless that player cost too much in young prospects or another major league player. The Phils can’t afford to give up an infielder or catcher, and the only pitchers they would trade are back of rotation types who still won’t bring back a premium right fielder.

    In other words, Francisco/Brown would make a lot of sense rather than paying out for Francoeur, Ramirez, or even Willingham to replace Ben Fran. He’s still really cheap, does a pretty decent job, and won’t cost any prospects.

  • Posts: 0 brooks

    Here’s what I think George – I think he finds a RH replacement for Werth but in the long run what I believe or hope will happen is something like this:

    Vic in CF – nothing changes

    I kinda like the idea of a Willignham signing but with the option of starting him in RF and platooning him in LF with Raul. Of course, if Raul stumbles like he did last year out of the gate, let Willingham play more in LF and see what Brown has to offer then as a #1 RF. That kid has lots of promise, upside and give him the position (RF) to lose, its his to manage. Of course, if Raul shows life in LF, Willingham and Brown would somehow work out in RF.

    If Ben stays on, he is the backup CF or LF.


  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Either he lost a lot of money….or he’s naturally just the most miserable human being that God ever created.

  • Posts: 0 Pat Gallen

    I dont think Willingham is a platoon player. 25 homers and 85 RBI with a .265 average for about $6 million isn’t worth platooning. He’s too good for that.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Pat, I agree. I could see him as a fallback…and a decent one….if Werth isn’t back.

  • Posts: 0 brooks

    Jenkins was originally signed to be our probable RF back in 08. He platooned with Shane if you who just flat out proved he belonged there. Hell, Jenkins was a former AS, had some decent power and a career BA of about .280.

    If you let Raul and Willingham fend for the LF spot and occasionally put Willingham in RF in place of Brown, the cream will float and there will be decent options.

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Brooks – I agree with you my friend. That would totally be the way to do it. Let the best two of the three get the time. You hope one is Brown because he just has to play or there is no point having him up here. Willingham can also sub in for Utley (Polanco moving over) once every three weeks or so. I like his versatility but I don’t like his pricetag. But he’s a nice player.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Scrap that third base idea. I was thinking of another guy.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Lefty

    I’m with you too Brooks, competition for “minutes” as they say in Hockey and Basketball is the best scenario. It makes everyone play their best at all times.

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    I’d go Diaz 1, Willingham 2 unless Brown starts in AAA. Diaz will come cheaper interms of $$$ and no need to give up anything for him.

  • Posts: 0 Josh

    I still think the Phills need a guy with a little more versatility. Considering what they already have on the roster, a guy like Bill Hall would fill more holes that Willingham.

  • Posts: 0 brooks

    You kinda got me on that infield comment for a sec Dip – I was about to scatter and check it out… = )

    Whoever winds up distinguishing themselves, the Phils wont lose. Odds and hopes are of course with D. Brown, lots of upside but if Willingham manages to ursurp our friend in LF, the Phils and us win out. If Raul’s bat remembers the speed which he displayed early last year he is and has been a formidable offensive threat, we would probably be witnessing some damn good baseball from him. If Raul doesnt produce and the leash doesnt have to be that short, Willingham takes over. Like I said, no loss for the Phils.

    So like I said before, with average years from Howard, Utley, Vic, Jrol – what a bonus for a stud like Brown to shine and someone like Willingham or Raul to back it all up. I know, I look for the stars to shine.. Lots of promise, I’m starting to get pumped JAY

  • ME 2 BROOKS……ME2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Posts: 0 brooks

    Josh, lets at least try to smell the roses here! We really dont know what Willingham might be looking for yet do we? I believe I read it could be around the 6 mil mark, that is less than what we were paying Jayson this past year. What exactly would you do with Hall? And how do you firmly address the situation in RF? Let those two duke it out, we’ll win.

  • Posts: 0 jonnyboy

    Oh come on. Would philly fans really be content with a career.268 hitter? it’s like a younger ibanez. except when ibanez was younger, he was better than a .268 hitter! I think that Brown will no doubt hit at LEAST .260, so i wouldn’t spend the extra money on someone who will hit minimally better. We should either go big (Justin upton, carl crawford, jayson werth, or even manny) or leave things the way they are….

  • Posts: 0 Josh

    Brooks…..Last year Hall was the BoSox jack of all trades player. I say why not do the same with him on the Phills? He plays 3-4 games a week between RF, LF, 3B, SS, and 2B. I think it would serve all of those guys well to be more rested. Not only that, but he is a much better insurance policy than Valdez as an INF starter.

    I’m, not saying I don’t like Willingham, but I think with BenFran, Dom Brown, and Raul already taking a huge potion of the playing time in the corner OF spots, Willingham’s talents are wasted.

    My point is that as the roster looks currently, Willingham would have to be the stopgap/platoon for Dom Brown. If that is the case, then one of the other bench players (benfran, gload, or sweeny) must be replaced with someone who can play middle inf. A guy like Bill Hall can fill both of those needs.

    The only way Willingham truly fits on this team is if Raul is out and he takes over as the full time LF bc Dom Brown is going to be at least the platooning RF next year (assuming Werth is gone).

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