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So far this hot stove season, the Philadelphia Phillies have done a masterful job of ticking off the boxes on their to-do list. Resign catcher J.T. Realmuto. Check. Resign shortstop Didi Gregorius. Check. Reconstruct a historically dreadful bullpen. Check. Replace an inferior general manager (Matt Klentak) with one of the top executives in the game (Dave Dombrowski). Check.
So all good for the 2021 season?
Not yet, not quite.
The Phillies still have a hole — a cavernous one — center field. Last year, Roman Quinn, Adam Haseley and Scott Kingery swapped turns in center for the Phils, and nobody impressed. Quinn batted .213 and found himself on the IL yet again. Haseley batted a respectable .278 but with zero power and little speed. And Kingery massively regressed to an embarrassing .158 average.
So what’s the Phils’ plan for center this season? Do they hope Quinn can stay healthy — which is like hoping for a miracle — and he gets on base enough to steal 50 bases? Do they hope Haseley can flash some pop and hit 12 to 15 HRs? Or do they hope Kingery can recapture his 2019 speed-power magic? That’s a heaping of hoping, and the odds seem against much of it.
A long-shot is another in-house option: Mickey Moniak, the first overall pick of the 2016 MLB draft, who debuted last year with the big club and batted .214 in a handful of AB’s. No soothsayer pegs Moniak as anything more than a fourth outfielder. His minor-league career has been a big, fat yawn for a kid taken as the top pick in the country. Maybe Moniak hits his way into the center-fielder conversation with a sensational spring, but likely not.
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Other CF options could come via free agency. Jackie Bradley Jr., who turns 31 in April,
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Free agent Jackie Bradley Jr. is option for the Phillies, who could be in the market for a … [+] GETTY IMAGES
wants a contract of more than three or four years. Bradley is an elite defender with holes in his swing, much like another free agent center fielder, Kevin Pillar. Comps to note: Denard Span inked a three-year, $32 million contract at age 32 in 2016, and Michael Bourn signed a four-year, $48 million pact at 30 years old in 2013. So Bradley or Pillar would likely cost a minimum of $10-12 million a year over the length of any multiyear deal. Is either player worth inching closer to the $210 million luxury-tax threshold? Currently, the Phillies’ 2021 payroll comes in at around $171 million, according to RosterResource.com. A COVID-related slashing of payroll is expected for the Phils (and many other teams). So there may be no cash left for free agent signings.