The Phillies avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract Monday with outfielder Jason Michaels. Now that he's signed, he could become more attractive in a trade.
The 29-year-old Michaels is expected to be the fourth outfielder for a Phillies team that is steadily getting deeper and younger in the outfield. Michaels hit .304 with four home runs and 31 RBIs in 289 at-bats while scoring a career-high 54 runs last season in a platoon role with Kenny Lofton.
Most impressive was Michael’s eye-opening .399 on-base percentage, career-best 44 walks and steady defense. According to Hardball Times fielding win shares, Michaels was the 12th-most effective defensive outfielder in the NL last season.
Often seen as a player that could become a solid full-time contributor, the team added center fielder Aaron Rowand this offseason in a trade that sent Jim Thome to the White Sox. Rowand, considered one of the top defensive center fielders in the game, is expected to start every game for the Phillies.
Blocked once again, the Phils currently have eight outfielders on the 40-man roster, two more than teams typically carry. Others include 24-year-old switch-hitter and International League MVP Shane Victorino, slugging prospect Josh Kroeger and Reading all-time single-season hits leader Chris Roberson, all younger than Michaels. The team also has several young infielders with a legitimate shot at breaking camp as help off the bench.
A trade may be the best thing for Michaels’ career, and from the Phillies standpoint, he's a very attractive chip because of 2005 and the small size of this contract. One team that may have interest is Boston, who is without a proven center fielder since the departure of Johnny Damon. Michaels’ name has surfaced in several rumors this winter, including a deal with Baltimore and one with San Diego, but those teams have since addressed their outfield needs.
Paired with an experienced left-handed hitter in a platoon like last season, teams can do pretty well for themselves with Michaels in center field or at a corner. I have doubts on Michaels as a full-time player. I don't believe he generates the kind of offense teams need from an outfielder through a 162-game season.
Keep your eye on J-Mike and the rest of the Phillies' outfield come trade deadline time. We could be seeing less, or more, of him.