By now, there’s no more confetti on the floor from that unlikely run of the Philadelphia Phillies into the World Series, so it’s obviously time for some serious MLB off-season speculation. Welcome to the hot stove season, Fightin’ fans.
Who’s going where? Which big star should Phillies sign to help them get to a world championship? How much will he cost? How many players must be signed to ensure at least another deep run into the playoffs?
With the MLB average OBP at a half-century low, which free agent shortstop should the Phillies sign?
The social media buzz among Phillies faithful fans has reached a consensus that a big-name shortstop must be plucked from among the four available, and another starter must be secured as well. Some also feel the bullpen must be added to. That definitely seems a tertiary concern. Philly’s relievers are no longer pathetic.
Anyway, MLB.com forcefully kicked off the hot stove season with a piece posted November 11 in which they relay their writers’ and analysts’ views about where the high-profile stars will land.
And guess what? The consensus among 50 of MLB.com’s people is that the highest profile shortstop available on the free market, Trea Turner, will go to the Phillies.
Happy days are here again!
Wait, that prediction is qualified. Nine other teams are listed besides the Phillies as possible landing sites for Turner, which means that at most 41 of the 50 MLB.com “experts” see the free agent going to Philadelphia. Who knows, though, how many votes there were for other teams? If each “other team” listed got two votes apiece, this would mean only 32 of those polled favored Turner going to the Phils. And those other teams include three division winners (the Cardinals, Dodgers and Yankees).
This is the nature of speculation. It’s kind of mushy.
However, what would Turner bring to the Phillies? As noted in the MLB.com piece, he is an “elite combination of contact hitting, power and speed.”
But first and foremost, what Turner would bring is a far above average on-base percentage. In a slightly off-year this past season, his OBP was .343. His career OBP is .355. The context for this figure is the fact that the average MLB OBP has been falling for four straight years and is now at the lowest point, at .312 this past season, since 1972. In the first decade of this century, in contrast, five straight years’ average figures (2005-09) were .330, .337, .336, .333, and .333.
The Phillies need a high-OBP player.
Interestingly, though, Turner actually ranks third in career OBP among the high-profile shortstops available. Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa are a couple of percentage points higher. Dansby Swanson is more than 30 points behind the other notable FA shortstops, but still is no slacker in this regard.
Where Turner blows the others away, however, is in stolen bases — 230 for his career to Bogaerts’ 74, Swanson’s 58, and Correa’s 38 (and none in Correa’s case in ’22).
The Phillies have a handful of fast, young players who need the influence of such a base-stealer.
Additionally, Turner is a former teammate of and, allegedly, friendly with Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper, as well as another student of hitting coach Kevin Long. Long’s contract was just extended for two years by the Phillies.
While he will not be cheap (as Bogaerts, Correa, and Swanson will not be), Turner seems a no-brainer addition for the Phillies. The only question is whether or not managing partner John Middleton will spend the necessary money. This one player, however, could drive changing the Phillies from a team that too often strikes out or walks without results into something else.