610-WIP's Howard Eskin verified what many have assumed, that redundancy between speedy outfielders Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn opens up the possibility that one of them will be traded.
Even with Aaron Rowand filing for free agency, the Phillies appear to have enough slashing outfield depth to swing a deal to shore up other needs. Victorino, 27, and Bourn, 25, have similar appeal and skill sets and would be attractive for teams seeking cheap answers in center field. Eskin, on his Tuesday radio show, said a Phillies source suggested they will dangle both players.
Speed is something Phillies fans take for granted while other teams struggle and obsess over it. The Phils were one of the fastest groups in the league and set a Major League record for base stealing efficiency. Victorino and Bourn stole 55 combined bags and were thrown out only five times. They also burn up ground in the outfield. While Bourn still has room for improvement, Victorino has established himself as one of the top defenders in the game, with excellent range and a rifle arm.
Salary is a minor factor in deciding which player to keep. Victorino, who earned $410,000 last season, is still a year from arbitration, and thus, a year from making real money. Age is a stronger factor since most of their game is predicated on speed. Victorino, the older of the two, is a year closer to losing a step. Vic’s sturdy .347 OBP gets a boost from infield hits, and it’s the same for Bourn, who may be even faster.
They begin to separate when you consider experience. Victorino tallied 972 plate appearances the last two seasons, so we have a good sense of the type of ballplayer he is. As a switch hitter with no cavernous difference in splits, the Phillies only need to sit him once in a while as an act of preservation more than anything. Besides an enormous spike in thefts, Vic produced similarly both seasons, with a 91 OPS+ in 2006 and a 94 OPS+ in 2007. I was surprised how deep he planted balls into the seats, so maybe he has a chance to follow in Jimmy Rollins’ footsteps by tapping into his power potential later in his career. Maybe he can make up a small portion of what Rowand will be leaving behind.
Still, power isn’t what they want most from Victorino. What they want is a table setter to compliment Rollins. In that regard, Bourn has a chance to be just as good, maybe better. In 133 plate appearances, the former 4th round pick showed signs of being a patient hitter, posting a 21/13 K/BB ratio in sparse action. However, we have yet to see how he hangs with big-league pitching over a full season, particularly against left-handed pitching. He didn’t get into a steady groove until mid-summer, culminating in an eye-opening 4-for-4 against the Pirates, hitting from the lead-off spot.
The Phillies could deal the one who gives them the better return, which may be Victorino, the more established of the two. Around the league, Oakland, San Diego, St. Louis, Washington and Pittsburgh have a need for speed, and could all use help in the outfield. Florida has needed a center fielder since Juan Pierre and are reportedly high on Vic. The Phillies obviously need pitching.
Between these teams, there is a match.