As teams continue to pull players off the hot stove to fill needs, those moves inevitably have a trickle down effect on major-league rosters. The Philadelphia Phillies are no different. While general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. entered this offseason with "no Plan As and about 10 Plan Bs," the reality is the Phillies more likely ended up following Plan K to get where they are today. There are still moves to be made, and perhaps the final move before Spring Training kicks off will be to find a reliable bench bat to fill the vital role of pinch hitting late in National League games.
After limping to an 81-81 record in 2012, it's no secret that the Phillies had gaping holes to fill this winter. They addressed centerfield with the acquisition of Ben Revere from the Minnesota Twins, opening up another hole, this time in the starting rotation, by including Vance Worley in the deal.
They rolled the dice on a relatively cheap Michael Young to fill the chasm at third base, hoping Young will deliver offensively enough to mask a probable inefficiency defensively. They filled those needs by relinquishing four young arms from their modest bounty of young pitching talent.
We all know where those moves left the Phillies. As it stands, there is still need for a veteran corner outfielder with power (preferably from the right side unless you are willing to put all your eggs in Darin Ruf's unproven basket), a starter and a veteran bullpen arm. In my opinion, that is the hierarchy of need.
Looking at the Phillies proposed lineup as constructed on December 13, if you plug in Ruf and Dominic Brown in the corner outfield positions (a sketchy proposition if you expect to contend), and assume the Phillies carry 12 pitchers on the 25-man roster, the bench will consist of Sebastian Valle (eventually Erik Kratz once Carlos Ruiz finishes his suspension), Freddy Galvis, Kevin Frandsen, John Mayberry, Jr. and Laynce Nix.
Frandsen will likely get 250 at bats giving Young time off and the Phillies hope he can fill the role of clutch hitter off the bench. Frandsen has hit adequately against both righties and lefties in his career (.260/.282) and is coming off his best season, putting up a .338/.383/.451 (AVG./OBP/SLG) line in 210 plate appearances in 2012.
The question is whether or not Frandsen, at 30, has matured and will provide similar offensive numbers without being an everyday player in 2013.
Galvis would play the role of utility man and will spot Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins on, God willing, occasion. If Galvis has a bat in his hands off the bench late in less than a two-run game and it's not the 16th inning, the Phillies have a problem.
Mayberry could provide a spark against lefties off the bench. We all know Big John hits right-handed pitching about as well as Ryan Howard hits lefties (.229 in 2012 and .232 in Mayberry's career). I have no problem sending him up there against left-handers, but when you look down the bench for a Del Unser, Greg Gross, or even a Greg Dobbs, Mayberry doesn't exactly spawn that kind of confidence.
Nix will be kept in the fold because he's cheap and should provide left-handed power off the bench. Of his 67 career homers, 64 were against righties. Not sure what else Nix gives you. Nix's penchant for finding himself disabled could help the Phillies by solving a numbers problem down the line when further additions are made.
Of the free agents available, Lance Berkman stands out as the kind of veteran bat that could provide the Phillies with a spark that garners attention late in games. Berkman, who is being courted by his former team, the Houston Astros, to be a DH in their new American League home, would be a terrific left-handed stick off the pine, but the switch hitter's numbers against lefties have been suspect. That being said, he's always been a high on-base percentage guy (career .409) and he's got pop.
Another interesting bat is free agent second baseman Kelly Johnson. While hitting only .225 last season, Johnson is a veteran left-handed bat with some power (16 homers in 2012). After a down season, Johnson may be willing to be a bench player for the right money. He would also allow you to start Galvis in Triple-A where he can play everyday and we can get an idea of just how enhanced his trip down PED lane made his bat. It also provides veteran insurance for Utley's knees.
The addition of another corner outfielder would bump one of the young OFs to the bench, but it would still not solve the issue of having a veteran presence to pinch hit late in games. Amaro has bigger fish to fry right now, but down the line, it's another piece that needs to be found to complete the puzzle.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer who has covered the Phillies for more than three years and followed the team since the days when that noise you heard over the silence of broadcasts was Harry Kalas lighting a heater.
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