With an additional spot to fill on the bench next season, the Phillies will audition four players with big-league experience, two of whom have local ties.
Utility infielders Phil Gosselin and Josh Harrison and outfielders Matt Szczur and Mikie Mahtook signed minor-league contracts with invitations to major-league camp in spring training, the Phillies announced Friday. All four players figure to have a shot at making the team, with active rosters set to expand to 26 players beginning in 2020.
“I think you’re going to have different teams that approach [the 26th man] very differently,” general manager Matt Klentak said recently. “You may have some rebuilding clubs that are going to use that as an opportunity to give an unproven player more playing time.
“For contending teams, you might find they are using that roster spot on some sort of specialist: a pinch runner or pinch hitter, or a defensive specialist.”
Gosselin, a Malvern Prep graduate, is returning to the Phillies after playing in 44 games last season and batting .313 (10-for-32) as a pinch hitter. The 31-year-old has started at five defensive positions (second base, third base, shortstop, left field and first base) in parts of seven nomadic seasons with a half-dozen teams, and could provide the Phillies with valuable versatility.
Szczur, meanwhile, is coming home after spending last season in triple A with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 30-year-old native of Cape May, N.J., is best known around here for being a two-sport star at Villanova, where he was a wide receiver and gained 270 all-purpose yards in the 2009 NCAA FCS national championship game against Montana. But he has also played 363 games in the big leagues, including 107 for the Chicago Cubs’ World Series-championship team in 2016.
Mahtook, 30, is a former first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays. He plays all three outfield positions and is two years removed from batting .276 with 12 homers in 109 games for the Detroit Tigers.
Harrison, who agreed to a contract last month, is a two-time All-Star with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 32-year-old has played all over the infield and outfield, a quality that likely will be attractive in a 26th-man candidate.
“Josh certainly profiles as a guy who can play a bunch of different positions and has had a lot of major-league success, plus [character] guy, high-energy guy,” Klentak said. “He fits the description. We’ll have to see how he looks and how he plays in spring training. Nothing is guaranteed there. But that’s definitely one way we could go.”