Inside Baseball: A Francisco-Gload platoon in right for Phillies?

Domonic Brown (left) and Ben Francisco may figure in the Phillies' plans to replace rightfielder Jayson Werth.
Domonic Brown (left) and Ben Francisco may figure in the Phillies' plans to replace rightfielder Jayson Werth.
Posted: December 09, 2010

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Phillies' best right-field alternative came off the board Sunday when the Washington Nationals gave Jayson Werth 127 million reasons to leave Philadelphia.

The next-best alternative remains open for debate, which is, of course, the essence of these Hot Stove days and nights that fill the space between the last out of the World Series - or, in the Phillies' case, the last out of the NLCS - and the first popping mitt of spring training.

Even if the Phillies choose to do nothing to replace Werth, they have options in right field.

The one Ruben Amaro Jr. has played up most this week is a platoon. But somewhat surprisingly it's not a time share between Domonic Brown and Ben Francisco. Instead, the Phillies' general manager suggested that Francisco and Ross Gload could make a fine team in right field.

"We're still trying to assess whether a platoon-type situation in right field will be every bit as productive as Jayson was," Amaro said. "We have some people internally who believe . . . a platoon of Gload and Ben Francisco may very well produce enough offense for us to continue to be a championship-caliber club."

One person externally vehemently disagrees, especially in Gload's case.

"I learned a long time ago not to put players in roles they can't succeed," said a National League scout who did not want to be named. "There is a reason he has been a backup the past few years. You find your niche in your game and you get really good at it. His niche is off the bench, and he's good at it."

Gload was good off the bench last season and has been a solid player his entire career. But three years ago with the Kansas City Royals he got a chance to start a career-high 104 games and accumulate 388 at-bats. He hit a respectable .273. But the scary statistic was his total number of home runs. He hit three.

The National League scout said he believes that Francisco is much better equipped to get extended playing time, and the past seems to prove that theory, too. Francisco's 32 doubles and 15 home runs in 447 at-bats in 2008 with Cleveland are solid numbers.

Amaro admitted one of his main concerns about a platoon with Gload and Francisco in right field would be a significant drop in defensive play.

The general manager has also done his best to downplay Brown's potential role for the 2011 season, saying "in a perfect world, we don't need Domonic to make our club unless he shows us in spring training that he's ready to take that next step."

Actually, in a perfect world the Phillies' bankroll would be as expansive as the New York Yankees' and they'd still have Werth. And in a perfect world, Brown would not have looked "sluggish and tired" in the Dominican Republic while getting two hits in 29 at-bats before heading back to the United States.

But even here in Disney World, the right-field situation looks far less than perfect for the Phillies right now.

Amaro still mentions John Mayberry as a potential righthanded bat off the bench, but he does not do so with much conviction.

Jeff Francoeur and Matt Diaz seemed like viable outfield options when the meetings started, but both have signed elsewhere.

Some trade options remain. The Phillies were linked to talks with the San Francisco Giants about Aaron Rowand, the last outfielder before Werth to leave Philadelphia for an enormous contract elsewhere.

"There's nothing going between the Giants and the Phillies with Rowand," Giants general manager Brian Sabean told reporters Wednesday.

The fact that Rowand has two years and $24 million left on his contract makes him difficult, if not impossible, to trade. The Giants are looking for a young, lefthanded hitting outfielder, but Raul Ibanez is not young, and the albatross around his neck is an $11.5 million salary.

Rowand, a major disappointment since joining the Giants, might be able to rejuvenate his career in Philadelphia and would certainly be a welcome clubhouse presence, but a deal seems unlikely.

A National League source said the Phillies weren't in the running for free-agent outfielder Magglio Ordonez because his price tag figures to be too high.

Juan Rivera of the Angels and Josh Willingham of the Nationals are reportedly on the trading block, but Amaro is always quick to mention that trades are difficult to make, and improving the bullpen is the team's top priority.

Take away all the rhetoric, and the bottom line for the Phillies remains the same now as it was when the off-season started.

The Phillies need Domonic Brown to step up, and they need him to do it now.


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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