Monday, December 17, 2012

Ross or Swisher make the most sense for the Phillies

By PATRICK GORDON

The Phillies addressed their need for a solid setup reliever over the weekend, leaving the addition of a corner outfielder with pop as the lone item remaining on Ruben Amaro Jr's off-season punch-list.   

The biggest outfield bat on the free-agent market is Nick Swisher, but a source close to the organization believes Amaro is more interested in Cody Ross.  The 31-year-old hit 22 home runs and  collected 81 RBIs while hitting .267 last season with Boston, but he is seeking a three-year deal worth somewhere near $40 million - a bit more than what the Phillies want to spend. Swisher put up comparable numbers with the Yankees last season, hitting .272 last season with 22 home runs and 93 RBIs. 

Amaro, of course, isn't afraid to think outside the box. Reports surfaced last week indicating he explored the possibility of trading Domonic Brown to the Chicago Cubs for Alfonso Soriano. The club has also been linked to the Angels and outfielders Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo. 

The chart below compares the various outfield options in two unique statistical categories. Offensive Average (OA) and Estimated Runs Produced (ERP). OA is a variation of Slugging Percentage that adds walks and stolen bases into a simple mathematical equation (TB+BB+SB)/(AB+BB). The number has a strong relationship to run production and is indicative of offensive skill. ERP is a more simplistic take on Bill James' Runs Created formula. (2 x (Total Bases + Walks + Hit by Pitches) + Hits + Steals - (.605 x (At Bats + Caught Stealing + GIDP - Hits))) x .16. This number demonstrates the number of runs produced and is meant to be used as a comparison tool to see an expected net gain (or loss) in runs.

The statistics used to compute OA and ERP are based on career averages per 162 games as listed on Baseball-Reference.com.




Now we see where the various outfielders rank, but what all does it mean? 

Statistically, Soriano appears to be the best option of the bunch but he's a defensive liability and is owed $36 million over the next two seasons - he's also 36-years-old and strikes out way too much. Bourjos is an interesting option, but if Amaro is looking for a power threat he's likely not a fit. Trumbo fits but it's doubtful the Phillies have the pieces available to swing a trade, leaving Swisher and Ross as likely matches.

Again, it comes down to what the Phillies are looking to spend.  Trumbo would certainly be a nice addition, but the question becomes what do the Phillies have in terms of prospects that interest the Angels?  

Ross and Swisher seem the logical options as free agents, but both appear to be asking for more than the Phillies want to give.

Amaro has been methodical in checking items off his off-season punch-list, but the last checkbox may just be his hardest to fill.  

- Patrick Gordon in managing editor of the Philadelphia Baseball Review. Follow him on Twitter @Philabaseball or e-mail him at pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com

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