On December 1, writer Scott Lauber’s piece on the Philadelphia Phillies for Inquirer.com featured the headline “What if the Phillies whiff on a shortstop? Exploring contingency plans to improve the roster.”
Hold on, I thought.
The subhead was also alarming, despite a qualification: “There’s little reason to doubt the Phillies will land a top shortstop. But what if they don’t? Here are some options.”
The Philadelphia Phillies should be prepared for bang-bang shortstop action at the Winter Meetings.
This is not to say Lauber is a madman. Some 10 teams are thought to covet one of the free-agent star shortstops available this offseason, and if that estimate is accurate, it means several teams will not get to sign Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, or Dansby Swanson.
OK, OK, reasonable is reasonable, but the way the Phillies need to think about this problem is that it would be madness indeed for them to leave the coming Winter Meetings without one of these marquee infielders. Period.
If the MLB executives’ confab in San Diego next week produces a quick signing of the most desirable shortstop (Turner by consensus), then the Phillies must move quickly to snatch up the second-best available.
However, who is that among Bogaerts, Correa, and Swanson for the Phillies’ purposes?
Bryce Harper’s recent Tommy John surgery makes it fairly clear that for the first half of next season, Philly will need an injection of offense until their MVP-caliber star returns.
Thus, something like an algorithm must be designed that emphasizes offense. The reader, of course, could devise his own formula, but what if we included lifetime batting average, ’22 batting average, lifetime on-base percentage, lifetime on-base plus slugging, ’22 stolen bases, lifetime fielding percentage, and lifetime range factor per nine innings? Four batting, one base-running, and two fielding data points.
Not surprisingly, among the four-star shortstops considered here, Turner comes in first in three of these seven areas — lifetime BA (.302), lifetime OPS (.842), and ’22 stolen bases (27), as well as finishing second in ’22 BA (.298). There, arguably, is the replacement for Harper’s sitting time next season.
But what if the Yankees grab Turner on Monday? Who is second? Within the hour, I have heard a sports talk radio caller in Philly argue for Bogaerts, but I’d say our method says the second or perhaps co-first-place finisher in our comparison is Correa.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound, model modern shortstop who played for the Twins last season also has three firsts among our categories — lifetime OBP (.357), lifetime fielding percentage (.981), and lifetime RF/9 (3.88 putouts and assists/9 innings). Like Turner, he also has a second-place finish in our categories, an .836 lifetime OPS. For his lifetime OBP, both Bogaerts and Turner are within two points; for the lifetime OPS figure, Swanson and Bogaerts are within two points.
Too much information? Put it all this way: Turner, Correa, and Bogaerts are all very close; Swanson trails, but not by much.
Turner gets the first-place edge because all of his firsts are in offensive categories and, as argued on another day, the Phillies could use a real base-stealer both for the extra bases he would bring and as a teacher (Correa hasn’t stolen a base in three seasons).
So, before things all start December 4 at the Winter Meetings, the Phillies have to be focused on convincing either Turner or Correa to sign on the dotted line, and they need to be prepared to pounce on either if the other is grabbed up by another team quickly.