With Spring Training just around the corner, the Phillies are still in need to fill some of their gaps within their depth chart and lineup that they so desperately need. One of these spots is that of one of the corner-outfield positions.
Throughout the offseason, the team has been linked to many corner-outfielders such as Justin Upton, Scott Hairston, Cody Ross, Alfonso Soriano, and even Josh Hamilton, who was the marquee name in the free agent pool this offseason.
As of today, the Phillies have come up empty-handed in their pursuit for such power-bat. What they haven't been left out of, ironically, is pursuing depth in the infield. Currently, they have four non-roster invitees signed-on for Spring Training: newcomers Andres Blanco and Josh Fields & returnees Michael Martinez and Pete Orr. Infielders on the 40-man roster include All-Stars such as Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Michael Young, along with Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis.
On top of all the before-mentioned names, as of today, the Phillies have been linked by CBS' Jon Heyman to two-time World Champion middle-infielder, Ryan Theriot. If the Phillies indeed sign Theriot, which would presumably be a major-league deal and thus putting the team approaching near their maximum desirable salary cap, the team would be left going into the 2013 season without having signed a corner outfielder to complement centerfielder Ben Revere.
So, do they trust 26 year-old rookie Darin Ruf, who has had only 33 at-bats thus far in his career, and Domonic Brown, who has struggled in just about all aspects of the game, to both start on Opening Day in the corner outfield positions? Probably not. Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro have said themselves they do not like to just hand-over jobs in the beginning of Spring Training. All players, especially unestablished ones, have to earn their spot on the Major League roster as the team pursues the ultimate goal of being World Champions near the end of October.
Who could give Darin Ruf and Domonic Brown competition in Clearwater? Laynce Nix is a possibility, as newly acquired Michael Young believes Nix could be a great asset to the team this upcoming season. Not even Nix really fits the spot well, however. John Mayberry is still there on the roster (for some reason), but him getting a starting role seems out of the question as of now. (A stellar Spring Training could change that, obviously). There's also Tyson Gillies, but he's not quite ready yet.
Thus, with the sudden infield surplus that the Phillies currently have (especially if they acquire Ryan Theriot) only one final name comes to my mind that could should be given the opportunity to play in the outfield: Chase Utley. It has been speculated before, as far less diving occurs in the outfield, which would go a long way in extending his playing career. As of today, Ruben Amaro has said “Chase is doing very, very well” thus far in being healthy enough to play in his first Spring Training game in two years.
While the idea of Chase playing in the outfield seems far-fetched, there's still a chance it could happen if all else fails. Even if the likeliness of it occuring is 1%, 1% is still more of a chance than 0%.
Matt Rappa is a contributor for Philliedelphia.com. You can find him on Twitter @mattrappa.