Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Top Fallback Outfield Options Following Recent Signings

Matt BoczarContributor IIIDecember 10, 2012

Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Top Fallback Outfield Options Following Recent Signings

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    The offseason may not have gotten off to the kind of start that the Philadelphia Phillies thought it would when free agency began last month.

    However, general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. has still managed to do the unthinkable. In an offseason full of numerous options, despite none being guaranteed to pay off, Amaro has managed to acquire two inexpensive players, giving the Phillies even more options as the offseason continues.

    Ben Revere gives the Phils a young center fielder that is under team control through the 2017 season, while Michael Young provides experience for at least one season at third base.

    Combined, the two players will likely cost the Phillies under $7 million next season.

    With two needs filled, the Phillies still have plenty of payroll flexibility to acquire a pitcher for the eighth inning, or even a starter to take Vance Worley’s spot in the rotation.

    However, another outfielder is still needed to improve a lineup that could still use an infusion of youth, power or stability.

    Although players such as B.J. Upton, Angel Pagan and Shane Victorino have signed free-agent deals, a handful of outfielders at the corner spots still remain as options for the Phils, who still have money to spend if they so choose.

    Here are five fallback outfield options that the Phillies can still sign as the offseason continues.

Cody Ross

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    Cody Ross may not have been one of the team’s primary targets when the offseason began, but recent additions have made him more of a fit for the Phillies.

    Ross will be looking to capitalize on his performance this season, when he batted .267 with 22 home runs and 81 RBI for the Boston Red Sox, and will benefit from the deals given to B.J. Upton and Shane Victorino.

    However, he is also a corner outfielder whose price tag will still be less than those of other remaining free agent corner outfielders.

    As Jon Heyman recently tweeted, Ross is an option for the Phillies.

    Ross fits the bill as the type of player the Phillies could look to acquire in a few areas, such as being a right-handed batter capable of playing both left field and right field and providing some power at the plate.

    However, his highest batting average in a season in which he played in over 100 games is .270.

    Nevertheless, Jim Salisbury on CSNPhilly.com recently wrote that the Phillies have liked Ross for a while now.

    The Phillies could use someone capable of playing both corner outfield spots on a regular basis and posting consistent offensive numbers from the right side of the plate.

    Ross is the only remaining free agent who could fill at least some of these needs while likely not costing the Phillies more than what teams have already paid for outfielders this offseason.

Josh Hamilton

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    No remaining free agent outfielder plays at an MVP type level, or has more upside when they’re at their best, than Josh Hamilton.

    Of course, it’s not that simple.

    Hamilton is a left-handed batter who has off-field concerns, but he still batted .285 with 128 RBI and a career-high 43 home runs this season.

    Despite being another left-handed batter, Hamilton would greatly increase the Phillies' power numbers while protecting Ryan Howard in the Phils lineup.

    Yes, he would cost the team a lot to sign and become another player on the roster with an AAV of at least $20 million. However, with the lack of money that the Phillies have spent this offseason, they would be able to afford Hamilton while still having enough flexibility to acquire a pitcher for the eighth inning.

    The Phillies would also still have a switch-hitting Jimmy Rollins, and players such as Darin Ruf, Carlos Ruiz and Michael Young that bat from the right side, giving the lineup at least some balance.

    It would be a risky move for the Phillies to sign Hamilton, and it’s no guarantee that he would even be interested in such a move despite the Phils acquiring Young. But the chance to add an elite power bat to a lineup with a healthy Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, as well as younger talent, is intriguing.

Nick Swisher

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    Nick Swisher is one of the last available free-agent corner outfielders, besides Cody Ross and Josh Hamilton, who could potentially hit at least 20 home runs in each year of his next contract.

    Swisher is also another player who could bat from the five-spot and give Ryan Howard some protection, or bat from the two- or six-spots.

    The switch-hitter batted .272 with 24 home runs and 93 RBI for the New York Yankees this season. Swisher posted near equal batting averages from both sides of the plate, but hit 19 of his home runs right-handed.

    Swisher has now hit over 20 home runs in eight consecutive seasons.

    Swisher would bring with him a high strikeout total, but also an ability to play both corner outfield spots, as well as first base.

    Swisher is another player who will likely benefit from the contracts signed by free-agent outfielders already this offseason. But with the flexibility to add payroll, the Phillies might focus their attention on one of the few remaining free-agent corner outfielders who has posted consistent power numbers in recent seasons.

Scott Hairston

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    If the Phillies are able to land one of the top remaining free-agent corner outfielders, they will head into next season with potentially Darin Ruf, Ben Revere and another acquisition as their starting outfield.

    However, Ruf has yet to prove himself at the Triple-A level, let alone in the major leagues.  There’s still a great chance that Ruf will be able to cut it at the big-league level, with his bat helping make any learning curve in left field easier to digest. But finding a low-cost platoon option would still make sense and provide a safety net.

    If the Phillies go this route, Scott Hairston could be a player they try to sign, as someone who is a right-handed batter who played primarily in left field this season, but who has played all three outfield positions during his career.

    According to a recent tweet by Ken Rosenthal, the Phillies are in the running for Hairston.

     

    Source: #Phillies, #Mets, #Yankees remain in mix for Scott Hairston.

    — Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 5, 2012

     

    Hairston batted .263 with 20 home runs and 57 RBI this season, giving him his highest batting average since 2004, and the highest home run total of his career.

    Hairston struggled against right-handed pitching this season, but batted .286 against left-handers.

    Hairston’s addition alone would not be a great improvement to the Phillies outfield, but combined with a larger move for a corner outfielder, Hairston’s signing would be an upgrade over Laynce Nix and give the Phils a solid platoon option in left field with Ruf.

Dayan Viciedo

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    The Phillies filled their first two needs through trades involving one high-ranking prospect and another that was picked for this year’s Futures minor league all-star game.

    Although these trades make sense for the Phillies, they could still leave the team hesitant to give up any more prospects this offseason.

    However, Dayan Viciedo could be an intriguing option if the Phillies decide to look at the trade market one more time.

    According to an article by Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (subscription required), as described by Ben Nicholson-Smith on mlbtraderumors.com, the Chicago White Sox have talked about trading Viciedo who, at 23 years old, is not yet even eligible for arbitration.

    Viciedo is a right-handed hitting left fielder who batted .255 with 25 home runs and 78 RBI this season.

    Although his strikeout numbers are high, his power numbers this early in his career, combined with the fact that he is still six years away from free agency, could make him an intriguing trade candidate similar to Ben Revere.

    Viciedo struggled mightily against right-handed pitching, but crushed left-handers by posting a .350 batting average.

    Viciedo only played left field this season, but has started in right field and at third base and first base. In over 1,000 innings in left field this season, Viciedo made two errors.

    If Viciedo can play right field, the Phillies could try to use him in a platoon role with Domonic Brown depending on opposing pitching matchups. Brown, a left-handed batter, hit just .196 against left-handed pitching this season.

    A starting lineup with Viciedo in right field against left-handers and Brown in right against right-handers would be an intriguing option for the Phillies if they decide to continue looking for young, low-cost and controllable outfielders this offseason.