How to Solve the Phils’ OF Conundrum

Posted by Corey Seidman, Tue, June 12, 2012 03:00 PM | Comments: 32
Opinion, Posts, Rumors, Trades, Transactions

Jim Salisbury wrote yesterday for CSNPhilly.com that the Phillies’ interest in Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler — who signed with the Cubs on Monday — was a reflection of the Phils’ own outfield uncertainty.

That refers to impending free agent centerfielder Shane Victorino and rightfielder Hunter Pence, who is under team control for 2013 but becomes a free agent afterward.

Salisbury writes that Pence, because of his team control, has more value than Victorino, which is true.

However, it’s my opinion that it still probably makes more sense to trade Victorino since a decision on him must be made sooner rather than later.

Victorino is deserved of a contract in the range of what Brandon Phillips was just given by the Reds — six years, $72.5 million. I would expect Victorino to get one fewer year than Phillips but the same annual average salary of $12 million.

Sixty-million dollars is a lot to commit to a centerfielder who will be 32 years old before the contract even begins. Pence,  meanwhile, is two years younger and speed is not his biggest skill. He’s probably a safer bet to commit to long-term.

Trading Victorino or letting him walk would put the Phillies at just about $121 million next season for 20 players. That leaves them just under $60 million to play with for next season. Add in Pence’s final year of arbitration at about $15 million and you’re down to $45 million — more than enough money to re-sign Cole Hamels (keep in mind that the luxury tax threshold increases from $178 million to $189 million after next season) and still make more moves.

The question becomes, “What do you covet more: Victorino’s speed and skills in center or Pence’s run production?”

There is one major factor that helps answer that question.


Domonic Brown has played eight games in centerfield since Phillies player development director Joe Jordan noticed how good he looked shagging balls in center a few weeks ago. Brown has played 10 games in center since May 24, and since May 26 he’s 21-for-61 (.344) with four homers, seven RBI and 16 runs scored.

It was the kind of switch that has the potential to do two things — reestablish Brown’s  trade value and make Victorino a bit more expendable. The Phillies certainly wouldn’t just hand the everyday CF job to Brown next season, but if he hits well enough and plays adequate defense there they could give him regular playing time with a few days a week in center next season. They could sign a cheaper outfielder like Angel Pagan to roam center the rest of the time and play left or right field when Brown gets a turn in centerfield.

That scenario allows you to save money, develop Brown, pay Hamels, pay Pence and at the end of the day, Pagan isn’t so much worse than Victorino. He’s hit .289/.339/.429 the last four years with 162-game averages of 37 steals and 58 extra-base hits per season. Victorino over that same span is at .274/.344/.449 with 162-game averages of 66 extra-base hits and 30 steals.

But Victorino is going to get that $60 million, whereas Pagan could probably be had for three years, $24 million.

It may appear on the surface that the Phillies are hampered by their current and upcoming contracts. But this exercise shows you just how much wiggle room can be created by not paying one of Victorino or Pence.

Avatar of Corey Seidman

About Corey Seidman

Corey Seidman has written 210 articles on Phillies Nation.

Corey is Analysis Editor for Phillies Nation and also writes for CSNPhilly.com.

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    Dear Corey – Shane Victorino will NOT receive a a 5y/60m contract from anyone. Not even close. What I would not mind doing is extending Shane for another 3 years, sticking him in right, where he is a MUCH better fielder than Pence, and then trading Pence and get more value back. If you wanted to do that in about two weeks that would free up Brown to go to CF, if you think he’s worth a damn there, and see how he works out there for the rest of the year, Now that’s something that’s worth considering, IMO.

    The Dipsy

    • Posts: 0 Jeff Dowder

      Pence would definitely return more in a deal, and Victorino seems to genuinely enjoy playing in Philly…maybe enough to take a reasonable three year deal. I like the Dipsy plan.

  • Posts: 1189 Manny

    Avatar of Manny

    You gotta look at the rest of the team and put the situation in context: lots of players with declining skills (the 2008 core is aging) and Victorino will not help that case. Pence is somewhat younger and is less likely to head downhill within the next 3-4 years.

    That being said, they both drive me nuts with their style. They need to take a break from the Spam and the Red Bull.

    • Posts: 0 Jeff Dowder

      Pence with an arbitration season left will bring back more than Victorino as a two month rental. That’s the key here.

      The team really can’t afford to experiment anymore. In 2011 we had the Ben Francisco Experiment and this season the John Mayberry Jr. Experiment. The odds were against either one working out and neither one did.

  • Posts: 0 James

    Trade victorino now, attempt to get a right hand for the bullpen, bring com brown up and see what you have now. If brown is a bust, you know what you have, but it’s no better then what you have now. If anything, you’ll add consistency to the lineup instead of Shane popping up the the shortstop all the time because he can’t stop uppercutting the ball.

  • Posts: 10 Schmitty

    Avatar of Schmitty

    Trade them both, sign Bourn and Hamilton. Problem…….solved.

  • Posts: 0 Psujoe

    If they decide to sell They’ll trade Vic and Pierre and maybe a young BP arm. They’re going to try like heck to get Middlebrooks, but it would be a steep price.

  • Posts: 2952 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    I can’t see the BoSox letting Will Middlebrooks get away. No way Vic, Pierre and a young bullpen arm gets that deal done.

    • Posts: 0 Psujoe

      I agree. I do see some value in Polanco if he’s healthy and the Phil’s pickup most of his salary. What do you think?

      • Posts: 0 chuck schreiber

        Are you serious?? Really!!!

      • Posts: 0 Psujoe

        Absolutely series. Who wouldn’t want a .290(well over .300 for May/June) gold glove 3b down the stretch? Don’t let last year cloud your judgement. Polanco is having a good year and his absence is killing the club.

      • Posts: 0 c schreiber

        I thought you meant in a trade for Middlebrooks. That’s what we were talking about when you made that comment.

  • Posts: 0 Psujoe

    If the Phil’s pay the salaries of Vic, Blanton, Polanco, Pierre and Thome could they get enough prospects for Middlebrooks?

    • Posts: 0 chuck schreiber

      No!!! The only way to get Will is Hamels or Lee (paying a good bit of his salary) and Dom Brown,

  • Posts: 2952 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    chuck schreiber – a bit of anger, eh??

  • Posts: 0 George

    There are going to be quite a number of center fielders this year in free agency (barring extensions). Unless someone is desperate for one RIGHT NOW, Vic isn’t going to bring back a lot. Teams that only sort of need one won’t bother, they’ll wait until the end of the year. I really don’t think the Phils would get much more in trade for Victorino than they would in draft compensation. Maybe one extra middling prospect.

    It’s my guess the Phils don’t trade either Pence or Victorino, unless they go into full rebuild mode. If anyone in management thinks the team might still have a chance, (I personally don’t think they do, but I’m not management) they won’t want to trade someone they have no replacement for immediately.

    • Posts: 0 Psujoe

      I think it will all depend how Vic is playing. A great fielding CF switch hitting base stealer should have decent value.

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    Can somebody clarify for me what Polanco’s salary is for next year? It says 1m on Cots but I don’t know if thats the option price or the actual salary. Thanks.

    The Dipsy

    • Posts: 0 Psujoe

      $5.5 million mutual option with a $1 million buyout.

  • Posts: 0 Jeff Dowder

    If they bring Brown up now and let him play everyday and work through his struggles, they’d at least have some basis to formulate their plan for 2013. It seems like a no-brainer.


  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    Thanks Joe. If your season is shot, and t very well may be pretty soon, you might as well bring Brown up. No pressure. Either that or trade him ASAP because if he does come up and bats .234 with 75 errors, he’ll be box office poison.

    The Dipsy

    • Posts: 0 Jeff Dowder

      I think if they deal him now all they’d get back was some other organization’s disappointment (like the Golson / Mayberry Jr. deal). If that’s the case, I’d rather see him play three months and find out once and for all what he is. The kid’s got 2200 minor league PAs, it’s time to see him up here for a long stretch.

  • Posts: 0 BART SHART

    I do not feel that Victorino will be offered any more than a three year, $27 million deal. Also, a lot depends on whether Cole Hamels really wants to stay in Philly, despite what he says in interviews. He may want to go out West.

    I like the idea of letting Brown play some centerfield. If we lose Vicorino, which is likely, then Brown may fit in nicely. I personally do not want to lose Pence. He will hit over 30 homers, drive in over 100 runs, and hit near .290 or better. He has little protection in the lineup and he is producing. All this depends on his health for the rest of the season, of course.

    Moreover, I would send Mayberry down to Lehigh for some tutelege for the month of July. It worked wonders last year.

    • Posts: 0 Jeff Dowder

      Mayberry is out of options, so he’d need to clear waivers for that to happen. It’s possible that he’d go unclaimed, the way he’s played this year.

    • Posts: 0 George

      The way he’s played, he probably wouldn’t be missed if some other team did claim him.

  • Posts: 2952 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    I’m not a D Brown fan to this point but I have to agree that now (or pretty soon) might be the time to bring him up and see what he has. Problem is, where do you put him unless someone is traded? Using him as a 4th/5th OF won’t do anybody any good. He needs to play every day, given a chance, with no pressure form the organization or the fanbase….if that’s even possible anymore…

  • Posts: 4542 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Put yourself in Boston’s position. You have Youk and Middlebrooks. Which one would your fan base want you to keep? They can have Hamels and Victorino for free if they wait two extra months if they really want them. Sorry, but to me, no deal involving Middlebrooks makes sense from their side.

    Besides, with their record, Boston has almost as much chance of being sellers as we do.

    Look up Mike Olt, Rangers farm system- almost the same situation, they might be willing to part with Beltre. The difference being that they will not be sellers.

  • Posts: 0 Psujoe

    Boston would have to be able to negotiate with Hamels before the deal. Similar to a sign and trade. If they could lock down Hamels they’d have to seriously consider Middlebrooks for Hamels and Polanco.

  • Posts: 1135 EricL

    Avatar of EricL

    If this team fields an outfield with both Brown and Pence starting you’ll set records for awful OF play and Cliff Lee will be in jail for murdering a teammate by next August. Maybe they could sign Ibanez who is a free agent after the season and just play circus music every time a ball is hit past the infield.

    Trade Pence. Sign Bourn with his money. Allow Vic to walk and take the compensatory pick in the draft. Promote Brown who is like Hunter Pence lite, except at 1/20th his salary. Then stopgap fill LF with a cheaper FA or Nix or Wigginton or Pierre or whatever.

  • Posts: 0 George

    I think the real problem for the Phils going forward is not the outfield. The real problem is second base. Even when Utley returns, his health is still questionable, and he may be out a large part of 2013 as well as 2012. With the outfield, it may only be a matter of who brings in the biggest trade haul. There will be options in free agency and in the farm system. With second, there are more “ifs” to consider. Do you keep trying to get a full season from Utley? Do you move him to a new position? Do you rely on stopgaps if he has trouble getting going, or do you attempt to replace him entirely, eating his salary? Can you even find an above average 2nd baseman as a replacement? Do you try to trade him to the AL, where he might be of use as a DH?

  • Posts: 0 Mike albrecht

    Can’t believe everyone is writing off the season already.

    • Posts: 0 nick

      Agreed. They still have a shot, at least for the wild card. BTW, 1982 Indians?

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