By Ben Ballier, Sports Talk Philly Staff
Entering the 2021 season, most Phillies fans were feeling pretty good about the Phillies’ bench. Originally comprised of Andrew Knapp, Brad Miller, Matt Joyce, Ronald Torreyes and Roman Quinn, the bench has been whittled down as injuries have piled up.
Two remaining members are Knapp and Joyce. Knapp has a sub-par .152 batting average, but he has continued to call great games behind the plate. Meanwhile, the veteran outfielder Joyce has struggled off the bench. Usually a reliable power threat, Joyce has hit 0 home runs through 38 plate appearances with a “whopping” .133 SLG%.
Meanwhile, Miller has transitioned into a utility-starter role following Adam Haseley’s absence, Quinn’s finger injury, and until recently Jean Segura’s quad strain. Manager Joe Girardi has seemingly tried to get him into the lineup as much as possible, which is easy because he can play almost any position on the field.
In a move corresponding to Torreyes’s 10-day injured list stint, rookie Nick Maton was called up from the minor leagues. He has played tremendous defense and has been just as productive on offense.
Maton has not played professional ball since 2019 (due to the pandemic), yet he has accumulated 0.3 WAR in 20 games while hitting .295 and tallying 2 RBI. He certainly stepped up for the Phillies when they desperately needed someone to lock down the second base position. Now that Jean Segura is healthy, he is a solid option off the bench.
Scott Kingery rounds out the bench, and he has been absolutely dreadful. Not much to highlight with a .077 batting average and 7 strike outs in 13 AB’s.
Keep in mind that the Phillies are operating with a 4-man bench while the aforementioned OF Joyce recovers from a calf strain. So, as it stands, the Phillies’ bench consists of Knapp, Miller, Maton, and Kingery.
Maton and Miller have been fine, but overall the bench has provided little production at the plate. Before Tuesday’s win over the Nationals, players coming off the bench had combined for 3 RBI through 35 games. That is simply unacceptable. But outside of the generally poor offensive output, there is one more glaring predicament…
Where is the right-handed pop coming from?
Knapp, Quinn, and Kingery have combined for 37 career home runs from the right side, 30 of which are from the struggling Scott Kingery. Even with the 30 HR from Kingery, none of their bench options are widely regarded as power threats, and there do not have a righty slugger waiting in the wings in the minors…
So if the Phillies want to balance their bench, President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski will have to explore external options. That is no easy task, however, as the Phillies would either need to free up a roster spot for a free agent acquisition, or they would need to ensure that they remain comfortably under the luxury tax in the event of a trade.
Thankfully, that is not my responsibility. However, I will list a few names that they might be interested in pursuing:
- Yoenis Céspedes – The former Home Run Derby winner is looking for a team after having a fallout with the New York Mets. Céspedes hosted a showcase for teams in March, but nothing came of it. There are certainly some injury and character concerns surrounding him, but adding a right-handed bat with 165 career HR to the bench would be considered a sizeable upgrade.
- Renato Núñez – Currently with the Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate, Núñez hit only .148 in 7 games with the major league club before being DFA’d. But in 2019, he hit 31 HR and drove in 90 RBI. He could be an easily obtainable bench bat with sneaky power for the Phillies.
- Edwin Encarnación – Now a free agent, Encarnación did nothing but mash baseballs throughout his illustrious career. He amassed a 35.4 career WAR, hitting 424 HR while collecting over 1800 hits. The biggest concern with Encarnación is his age. He turned 38 years old in January, but he has expressed interest in continuing his career. He would bring leadership and professionalism on and off the field.
- Todd Frazier – The Toms River New Jersey native is the latest big name to be DFA’d. Frazier has racked up 218 career HR and is renowned for being a tremendous teammate. He has experience coming off the bench and, although he has been brutal since the beginning of the 2021 season, I think taking a flier on him could be worth it.
- Albert Pujols – Arguably the most prolific right-handed hitter of all-time, Pujols finds himself with no team after being released by the Los Angeles Angels on May 6th. It is no secret that Pujols has played lousy baseball over the past few years. However, it is also no secret that Pujols insists on being an MLB starter. I doubt he will end up on any team if he maintains that mindset, let alone the Phillies, but you never know.
Whether or not the Phillies end up making the necessary moves to bolster the bench with a righty power bat is unknown, but one thing is for sure: the current bench is scuffling. It is typically a strength of the best teams in baseball, so it is critical that the Phillies’ bench improves soon.