Nearly a quarter of the Phillies 40-man roster is filled by outfielders after the team claimed 23-year-old Josh Kroeger off waivers from the Diamondbacks last week. Meanwhile, rumors involving the potential trade of Bobby Abreu continue to swirl.
The 23-year-old Kroeger hit .261 last year with 14 home runs, 62 RBIs and 17 stolen bases for triple-A Tucson. A 6-3, 200 pound left-handed hitter, he was a fourth-round pick of the D-Backs in 2000 and ranked as their 7th-best prospect headed into last season, according to Baseball America.
The Phillies have no shortage of these types of outfielders: young with some pop and speed, hovering close to the big league level.
The indication is corner outfield is being fortified to prepare for a major change. Even those who’ve spent the last two weeks in the Dominican Republic have read the rumors involving Abreu/Tejada/Ramirez, and even a few involving Jason Michaels, though Baltimore's trade for Corey Patterson may have dried up that well. The latest gossip from the Boston Globe has the Phils still chatting about Manny. My general belief is the Phillies have been trying to get together on a three-team deal since the Winter Meetings in order to get starting pitching in any trade involving Abreu.
The Kroeger signing brings the 40-man roster up to 39, including eight outfielders, two more than teams typically protect. That’s plenty of flexibility in case Abreu, or somebody, is moved and an outfielder isn't acquired in return. My sense is Kroeger would not be the one to replace Abreu or Michaels, and would instead replace the man who replaces them internally.
On a practical level, let’s not forget the Phillies are faced with the potential loss of several minor league free agent outfielders: Jim Deschaine, Ryan Fleming, Jorge Padilla, Mark Budzinski and Jim Rushford among them. In each case, they have been fixtures at AA or AAA for several seasons. Chris Roberson, who would project as Scranton’s best outfielder in 2006, may actually stick with the Phillies as speed off the bench. The system is so poor that the Phils are basically forced into making moves like this just to plug the holes. In other words, they actually needed a triple-A outfielder, and a decent one at that.
The upside is Kroeger could become a pretty good player, though he experienced a slight drop in production last season. He’s young, promising, but there was apparently no room for him among Arizona’s young and talented batch of outfielders. He's a big kid: 6-3, 200 pounds and can hit it hard, according to one comment I read from a fan who follows Tucson.
From the team’s standpoint, it’s better to have guys like Kroeger than Deschaine or Budzinski, both very nice veterans, but fruitless for any type of future plan.
We’ll wait to see what Gillick does with his growing stockpile.