February 6, 2023

Top Outfield Bench Options After the Exit of Matt Vierling

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17: Matt Vierling #19 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a home run in the third inning against the Washington Nationals during game two of a doubleheader at Nationals Park on June 17, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

In the 5 player deal that brought Gregory Soto and Kody Clemens to Philadelphia, the Phillies’ bench depth took a significant hit. In the deal, Matt Vierling, Nick Maton, and Donny Sands were shipped to Detroit.

The subtraction of Donny Sands was essentially a throw-in to the deal while Nick Maton and Matt Vierling were the meat.

Maton, a young left-handed hitting infielder who even saw some time in the outfield in 2022, will be somewhat easier to replace as he was rarely used and the Phillies have Edmundo Sosa under team control for 4 more years. Maton likely wouldn’t have seen many opportunities on the Phillies in 2023 with Trea Turner and Bryson Stott holding down the middle infield while Sosa can be plugged all around the diamond. Although Maton has great potential, the team doesn’t necessarily have to fill a hole by losing him.

Matt Vierling on the other hand leaves a hole that must be filled.

Vierling played in 117 games last season and made multiple appearances in the postseason. He was often used as a platoon bat with Brandon Marsh in centerfield. He can play all 3 outfield positions. Vierling was used many times off the bench as a power righty bat to face left-handed pitching. One of Vierling’s best moments as a Phillie was hitting a go-ahead home run in the top of the 9th off Josh Hader in Milwaukee, showing his power ability off lefties.

With Vierling now in Detroit, the Phillies need to find a right-handed, flexible-positioned outfielder to sure up the bench for the 2023 season.

Another large piece to this issue is Bryce Harper’s injury. Harper went through Tommy John Surgery and is expected to miss the first half of the season. This will require the Phillies to lean on their outfield depth even more.

There are some internal options.

Dalton Guthrie was used in 14 games last season and played pretty well. In his 28 plate appearances, he batted .333 with an OBP of .500 and an OPS+ of 179, 79 above the league average. He also registered a .4 WAR according to Baseball Reference’s metrics. Guthrie will be a nice piece off the bench for Philadelphia, but if the team desires to make it back to the World Series, they need another outfield option to pair with Guthrie off the bench.

Johan Rojas is also an intriguing internal option. He is currently the Phillies’ number 5 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. He is a great outfield defender, however, his bat is not ready for the MLB level just yet. He reached as high as AA in 2022 and likely needs more time in the minor leagues before being used in the big leagues.

While these internal options are suitable, the Phillies are looking to get back to the Fall Classic and don’t want to leave any room for error. Dave Dombrowski and the Phillies front office are also known for upgrading through the free agency market.

With that said…here are 3 free-agent options the Phillies can look to add to fill in the bench position.

1. Adam Duvall

Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Duvall, 34, is coming off a down year in 2022 but should be ready to contribute at a high level in 2023. Duvall is a former Gold Glove winner and all-star. He was a big piece of the 2021 Braves World Series team. Defensively, he has great flexibility, as he has played all 3 outfield positions in his career. He recorded a dWAR higher than 1 in 3 Major League Seasons. Offensively he is not a great average hitter, but he is a great power bat. Over a 162-game average, Duvall averages 32 home runs. This would be a great bench option.

2. Tommy Pham

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Pham, 34, has played both corner outfield positions. He is an above-average hitter as his OPS+ is 114 for his career. His dWAR average over 162 games is -.3 obviously below average. While Pham will not be able to contribute much defensively, he is known for his availability. In the last 4 seasons, he has played over 140 games, 3 times (the exception being the 2020 Covid Season). Pham would not bring the defense Vierling was able to bring, however, he would be able to bring the power from the right side. Off left-handed pitchers in his career, Pham is a .276 hitter. Pham is a good but not great option.

3. Chad Pinder

Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Pinder, 30, played all positions except catcher and shortstop in 2022. His flexibility gives the Phillies many options to use him wherever needed. Although he isn’t an above-average defender, his splits against lefties are what makes him an attractive option. In his career, Pinder bats .264 against left-handed pitching. He also has the same amount of home runs against lefties as he does righties in 225 fewer plate appearances. If Pinder were to be used only against lefties, he would likely be able to produce a better overall average and oWAR.

The free agent market is slim at this point in the off-season, especially after AJ Pollock signed with the Seattle Mariners. But, there is still some value that can bolster the Phillies bench. Look for Dombrowski and the Fightins’ to continue to upgrade up until Opening Day.

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