The Philadelphia Phillies are all-in offense- and may just be saying “who cares?” on defense.
Philadelphia signed outfielder/designated hitter Nick Castellanos to a five-year, $100 million deal on Friday night, as first reported by MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
Castellanos gets $100M for 5 years from Phils
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 19, 2022
Castellanos, 30, is coming off a career-best 2021 season, putting together a .309/.362/.576 slash line with a 140 wRC+ (tied for 12th among qualified MLB hitters). He was worth 4.2 wins above replacement (WAR) per FanGraphs.
Then again, the nine-year MLB veteran never topped 3-WAR or 130 wRC+ before 2021. While he had a .939 OPS in 2021, his previous top OPS was .863 in 2019 (split between the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs), and it was only .784 with the Reds in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. He’s always been a really good hitter, but in order to give the Phillies a good return on value with this $100 million contract, he’ll have to give them a few years closer to the hitter he was in 2021.
Additionally, he doesn’t walk all that much (7.0% last year and 6.6% for his career; .329 career on-base percentage), which puts even more pressure on him to consistently hit the heck out of the ball.
And then there’s his defense, which is only going to provide negative value, putting even more pressure on him to consistently hit the heck out of the ball. In 4,242 2/3 career innings in the outfield, he’s been worth -48 defensive runs saved (DRS). Over 1,123 innings with the Reds in 2021, he was worth -7 DRS. It’s been as bad as -19 DRS with the Tigers in 2018. He’s a corner outfielder, but for all intents and purposes, he’s a DH.
This comes after the Phillies signed Kyle Schwarber to a four-year, $79 million deal earlier in the week. Schwarber offers an extremely similar profile to Castellanos: terrific bat (.928 OPS and 145 wRC+ last season split between the Washington Nationals and Boston Red Sox), but he’s a corner outfielder or desperate first baseman (as the Red Sox used him sometimes) only. While his corner outfield deficiencies have been exaggerated over the years, he’s certainly not “good” out there either- and he was valued as a below-average outfielder last season by the metrics, coming in at -5 DRS. The slugger’s body also doesn’t figure to age well defensively.
Here’s where it gets particularly alarming: the Phillies had literally the worst defense in the majors last season by DRS! Philadelphia was valued at -54 DRS, which was 13 DRS worse than the next-worse team.
I have some questions for the Phillies. pic.twitter.com/sDw4C0yK2K
— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) March 19, 2022
Defense is often an overlooked trait when evaluating teams, and it’s frequently a crucial one. For context, here’s how recent World Series champions performed in the DRS department…
2021 Atlanta Braves: 50 (8th)
2020 Los Angeles Dodgers: 27 (3rd in COVID-shortened season)
2019 Washington Nationals: 26 (13th)
2018 Boston Red Sox: 10 (15th)
2017 Houston Astros: 21 (14th)
2016 Chicago Cubs: 107 (1st)
2015 Kansas City Royals: 35 (2nd)
2014 San Francisco Giants: 20 (9th)
2013 Boston Red Sox: 22 (11th)
2012 San Francisco Giants: 11 (11th)
2011 St. Louis Cardinals: -5 (20th)
2010 San Francisco Giants: 23 (9th)
As you can see, the 2011 Cardinals are the last team to not finish top-15 in the majors in DRS and go on to win a championship- and they still weren’t anywhere close to as bad as last year’s Phillies defensively.
So, the Phillies were already awful defensively, and then they added two defensive liabilities to the lineup this week. Yes, the DH being in the NL now helps, but both players are sure to play quite a bit defensively- and the Phillies already had enough players that should probably be DH’ing anyway! Really the only player that stands out as a plus defender on the team is catcher J.T. Realmuto.
The good news is that the lineup — for offensive purposes — is stacked (though not quite to Dodgers levels). Castellanos and Schwarber join a lineup that features Realmuto, Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, and Jean Segura. They’re going to crank many dingers.
Additionally, FanGraphs currently projects the Phillies’ starting rotation to be fourth-best, led by two ace-level arms in Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. So, the starting rotation may at least keep the run prevention okay enough, especially when considering how good the offense figures to be.
Phillies are planning to win a lot of 7-6 games this year https://t.co/z2LWhYeMNd
— Mark Simon (@MarkASimonSays) March 19, 2022
The 2022 Phillies’ roster construction is very unique, and it’s going to make them one of the most interesting teams to follow this season.