I still think the likely solution in left field for the Phillies is that they’ll bring back Pat Burrell. In case they don’t, the list below includes hitters that 1) are right-handed 2) have spent time in the outfield over the past three seasons and 3) were among the top 40 right-handed hitters who got at least 400 plate appearances in 2006, 2007 or 2008 (using OPS as the measure). The left column is their name, the middle column is their OPS over the last three seasons and in the right column is a note if the player is thought to be available via free agency or trade.

Player OPS 2006-2008 Indications
the player is available?

Better OPS than Burrell 2006-2008
Manny Ramirez 991 YES — FREE
AGENT
Matt Holliday
979
Ryan Braun 938
Vlad Guerrero 925
Ryan Ludwick 913 MAY BE
AVAILABLE VIA TRADE
Magglio
Ordonez
910 MAY BE
AVAILABLE VIA TRADE
Carlos Lee 901
Jermaine Dye 900 MAY BE
AVAILABLE VIA TRADE
Alfonso
Soriano
897
Pat Burrell 889 YES — FREE
AGENT

Worse OPS than Burrell ’06-’08
Kevin
Youkilis
869
Carlos
Quentin
864
Jason Bay 859
Josh
Willingham
838
Alex Rios 836
Hunter Pence 834
Ty Wigginton 827
Torii Hunter 825
Xavier Nady 824

Conor Jackson

822
Juan Rivera 821 YES — FREE
AGENT
Corey Hart 816
Vernon Wells 814
Aaron Rowand 803
BJ Upton 801
Mike Cameron 801 MAY BE
AVAILABLE VIA TRADE

Marlon Byrd

796
Gary
Sheffield
790 MAY BE
AVAILABLE VIA TRADE
Bill Hall 786
Reed Johnson 778
Morgan
Ensberg
775
Melvin Mora 770
Justin Upton 769

Several of the players without a note in the right column are surely available, I only made a note where for players where there have been stories in the press suggesting their team may be looking to trade them. I’d guess that Morgan Ensberg could be pried away from Cleveland, for example.

That’s not a real long list when you’re looking to replace Burrell. I think there’s very little chance the Phillies sign Manny or trade for Ludwick or Ordonez. Trading for Jermaine Dye seems somewhat more reasonable, but you’d still have to pay him big money plus give up players to get him. It is a shorter term commitment, which is no doubt appealing, but Burrell is also younger than Dye and has been better over the past two seasons. Dye was a monster in 2006 when he hit 44 home runs, which puts his OPS for the three-year period ahead of Burrell at .900. Over the last two seasons, though, Dye has posted an .847 OPS. I think it’s likely that Burrell will outproduce him offensively in 2009.

Jason Bay is an interesting name on the list. He’s almost surely going nowhere after joining the Red Sox last season, but two of his last three seasons have been outstanding. He was miserable in 2007, but in ’06 and ’08 he hit to an impressive .911 OPS. If there was an opportunity to acquire him it looks like it closed last season, though, and you gotta believe the Phillies did the right thing what with winning the World Series and whatnot.

Josh Willingham is another guy that caught my eye. In what looks to me to be an outstanding deal for the Nationals, Florida sent Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen to the Nats last week for Emilio Bonifacio and minor leaguers Jake Smolinski (2B) and PJ Dean (RHP). Willingham can hit — I’d be surprised if both of these things proved to be true: 1) the Phillies think they will not be able to bring back Burrell and 2) they had no interest in trading for Willingham. If they don’t think it’s very likely they will re-sign Burrell and could have gotten Willingham, I think they made a mistake (especially if the price the Nats paid reflects what it would have cost the Phillies). Either way, it looks like the window to trade for him is closed as well.

Juan Rivera has had one good season out of the last three. Replacing Burrell’s bat with his, or a platoon of Rivera/Stairs, Jenkins/Stairs or Dobbs/Stairs would mean a big dropoff in offensive production at the position for the Phils. One of the things about Rivera that’s not true of a lot of the players lower on the list is that he’s been about as good against lefties as righties over his career, hitting 284/336/458 against left-handed pitching and 284/322/486 against righties. So unlike some of the other options, Rivera wouldn’t need to purely be a platoon player.

Here’s eight more available right-handed hitters and what they’ve done over the past three seasons with the bat, again using OPS as the measure:

Player OPS
2006-2008
Moises Alou 910
Rocco
Baldelli
806
Gabe Kapler 753
Kevin Mench 730
Emil Brown 727
Jason
Michaels
700
Jay Payton 692
Jerry
Hairston
681

Alou’s .910 OPS over the last three years is a bit misleading. He had 49 at-bats in 2008. I don’t think it’s likely that the Phillies would bring in Alou to be the main guy in left field given his age and injury history.

Close to zero chance they bring back Jason Michaels, I would guess. Jay Payton also seems exceptionally unlikely.

Hairston’s numbers over the past three years are miserable, but he did post career highs in ’08 as he posted a 326/384/487 line in 261 at-bats. To count on that kind of production as a regular player or even a platoon player in left field would be a huge mistake that the Phillies are very unlikely to make.

I’d love to see Baldelli on the Phillies, but not as the guy the Phils were counting on to play in left field regularly given his health concerns. I think whoever winds up with Baldelli in 2009 will be looking for a backup plan — if it’s the Phils let’s hope it’s a good one.

Mench has great career numbers against lefties, 299/358/542, better than Kapler’s 294/344/484. Either of those guys would have to man left as part of a platoon and Mench looks like the better option.

Emil Brown blasted 72 doubles in 2005 and 2006, but on-based .246 against righties in 2007 and .272 against them in ’08. So if he does anything for the Phils lets home it’s against left-handed pitching. His career line against lefties is 270/338/446, worse than Kapler and Mench.

Again, the emergence of Werth in 2008 took a big right-handed bat off the bench for the Phils. I think the Phillies need to add two right-handed hitters to their team before the start of ’09, meaning there may be room for Burrell plus another guy on one of the two lists. The dream scenario in my mind would be to add Burrell and Baldelli, although I would guess the chances of that are close to zero given that Baldelli will have lots of opportunities to join teams that will be able to give him far more playing time.

In a scenario where the Phillies don’t bring back Burrell, they seem almost guaranteed to lose offense at the position. In a Burrell-free world, my first guess would be that they would bring in Rivera. Second guess would be that they try to sign one of Baldelli, Kapler, Mench or Brown to come in and share left in a platoon with Stairs, Dobbs or Jenkins. I put Mench at the top of that wish list just because of the numbers against lefties over his career, but Baldelli would be high on it as well. If it were Baldelli the Phils would almost surely have to add a second right-handed bat that can play outfield as insurance.

I will be surprised if the Phillies trade for anyone to play left field for them, given the Willingham trade and the options that appear to be available without a trade.