Eight games is “way too early,” according to manager Joe Girardi, to deem the Phillies’ two-headed monster in center field a failure, and he’s probably right. There’s a reason why most teams usually take until Memorial Day before making determinations about their relative weaknesses and begin seeking trades to remedy them.
But how about a 68-game sample?
From the beginning of last season through Saturday night’s 5-4 loss in Atlanta, Phillies center fielders posted a .599 OPS, third-worst in the National League and fourth-worst in the majors. Between them, Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn accounted for 83.6% (204 of 244) of those plate appearances.
Combined OPS for Haseley and Quinn: .597.
Average OPS for major-league center fielders: .737.
So, while the Phillies will surely give Haseley and Quinn more time to be productive out of the No. 8 spot in the lineup, they must be getting close to having seen enough to know what to expect, right?
“I think you’ve got to give them at least 50 to 75 at-bats in a sense before you really start making up your mind how they’re going to do,” Girardi said. “We’ve seen really good hitters in the big leagues have a bad month and they bounce back. But a lot of times those guys have track records, so you don’t worry as much.”
Haseley and Quinn have no such history. Quinn, in particular, has the look of a reserve outfielder who is useful off the bench because of his speed and defense. The Phillies won’t give up on Haseley, their 2017 first-round draft pick, after only 353 major-league plate appearances. But they might prefer a stronger platoon partner, especially because the other seven hitters in the lineup have not yet clicked as expected.
There are options at the Lehigh Valley alternate site -- from Odúbel Herrera and Scott Kingery to Mickey Moniak and Travis Jankowski -- and the Phillies figure to try some of them before president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski explores a trade. After all, they almost certainly will have other needs, too, before the July 31 deadline, including possibly another starting pitcher or late-inning reliever, and only about $7 million of wiggle room below the $210 million luxury-tax threshold.
But it’s also worth thinking about center-field help that might be available outside the organization. Here, then, is a way, way, way-too-early look at a few potential targets:
Oakland is off to a 3-7 start and may be positioned by July to sell Canha, 32 years old and a free agent at season’s end, for a midlevel prospect.
Canha fits better in left field than in center. But he has made 134 career starts in center, including 118 since 2018. He possesses the on-base skills that have long been valued by the Athletics, reaching at a .393 clip since the start of the 2019 season, and right-handed power.
And at a prorated portion of his $6.925 million salary, the Phillies likely would be able to make another move, too.
Michael A. Taylor
Taylor might have made for an interesting late-offseason free-agent flier. But the Royals struck early and snagged him on a one-year, $1.75 million contract at the end of November.
A former teammate of Bryce Harper’s in Washington, Taylor fell into a reserve role with the Nationals over the last two years. He’s off to a solid start as Kansas City’s everyday center fielder, going 10-for-24 through seven games. Although he likely will drop off at the plate (he’s a .239/.293/.399 career hitter), he has always been able to run and play defense.
If the Royals fall out of the race in the weak AL Central, they could look to flip Taylor to a contender.
It may be a long shot because the Blue Jays expect to compete for a playoff spot. They also have room in the lineup for Grichuk, George Springer, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Teoscar Hernandez when they’re all healthy. (All but Grichuk is presently on the injured list.)
But if things go haywire, it will be worth keeping an eye on Grichuk. The 29-year-old has power from the right side (.479 slugging percentage since 2018) and is a good defender in center field.
Grichuk is also under contract for two more years at $10.3 million in both 2022 and 2023. The control might be appealing to the Phillies, who have two openings in the outfield next year if they don’t exercise their $15 million option on Andrew McCutchen. But the Blue Jays could also command a bigger haul for Grichuk because he would be more than a two-month rental.
A few other veteran center fielders could be available, including Milwaukee’s Lorenzo Cain and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier. But Cain is owed $18 million next year, while Kiermaier has dealt with injuries over the last few years and is under contract for $12million in 2022.