We've talked about outfield help. We've discussed the rotation and bullpen needs and the complicated catching situation. But bolstering the Phillies' weak bench is another task for Ruben Amaro Jr. this offseason.
The Phillies' bench was a strength in their peak years, when they had Greg Dobbs lead the league in pinch-hits one year and Ross Gload provide a couple solid seasons off the bench. They infused the bench midseason with powerful veteran hitters such as Matt Stairs and Mike Sweeney.
Then you look at 2012 and 2013 and see a lot of failures. Laynce Nix couldn't hit and was ultimately released before his (strange) contract was up. Kevin Frandsen hit .192 over his final 58 games. The pinch-hitting combination of Freddy Galvis, Roger Bernadina, John McDonald, Casper Wells, Michael Martinez and Ezequiel Carrera went 3-for-39. Talent wasn't there, so it was little surprise the bench stagnated as the season wore on.
The Phils have some options to fix the bench. Darin Ruf should provide much-needed right-handed power since it appears he won't be the everyday rightfielder. The utility spot will likely be filled by Freddy Galvis. All of those other players from the previous paragraph won't be on the Opening Day roster.
One way to help bolster the bench would be by signing either Chris Young or Rajai Davis to replace John Mayberry as the fourth outfielder. Both have more useful skills.
Young is an exceptional fielder who's bottomed out and won't find too many offers to start. The Phils might be able to snag him with a two-year, $10 million offer or a one-year pact that helps him reestablish his value for next winter. He has 25-home run power, can steal bases and give you elite outfield defense.
Davis is an even better base stealer, having averaged 42 the past three seasons despite not being a full-time starter. He strikes out more than you'd like, but has some gap power, it's not all singles.
For some lefty pop, they could turn to Eric Chavez, who would fill a corner-infield need. He had an .827 OPS against righties last season.
Juan Uribe is another supersub to consider. He hit .278/.331/.438 for the Dodgers in 2013 with 12 homers and 50 RBI. He's played every infield spot over the last three years.
Why not invest some actual money in the bench? Snag one of Davis or Young, and one of Chavez or Uribe, and you'd be spending perhaps $10 million in luxury tax considerations for two players you could be confident in late in games, or have faith in starting when a position player inevitably hits the DL.
I understand that some may be reluctant to condone spending that kind of money on non-starters when so many other holes exist, but the cost-efficient route hasn't worked in recent years. Ty Wigginton was a disaster. Laynce Nix was a disaster. The Phils need some reliability, and when you're getting only 10 or so at-bats a week, you want to give those ABs to players with actual talent.
A five-man bench of Rajai Davis, Eric Chavez, Darin Ruf, Freddy Galvis and the backup catcher would give the Phillies elite defensive replacements in the corner infield, middle infield and outfield, as well as power from both sides and speed in Davis. And if you go the Davis/Chavez route, it might cost a grand total of $7 million in free agency.