Philadelphia Phillies Sign Chris Coghlan to Minor League Deal

With Spring Training less than a month away, the Phillies are putting the finishing touches on another rebuilding offseason. Rather than spending big now, the Phillies front office has taken the route of signing veteran players on short term deals.

Thursday evening the Phillies continued this trend by signing OF/2B Chris Coghlan to a minor league deal. Per the report by Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, the deal also includes an invitation to Spring Training.

Having spent his first five Major League seasons with the Marlins, Coghlan is no stranger to the NL East. Coghlan was the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year, batting .321/.390/.460 with 9 HR, 47 RBI, and a 2.7 fWAR. However he’s been unable to replicate that production from an offensive standpoint ever since. In fact, Coghlan’s 504 at bats as a rookie are the most he’s seen in a single season. Chris Coghlan is now considered a veteran at 31 years old, and is technically a World Series champion. Though he went hitless this postseason (0-7), Coghlan did contribute to the Cubs breaking their 108 year curse. 

The Phillies are certainly hoping that Coghlan can bounce back from a down year in 2016. He accumulated only 261 at bats with the A’s and the Cubs last season, batting .188/.290/.318 with 6 homers, 30 RBI and a -0.5 fWAR. It is promising that Coghlan slashed .252/.391/.388 after being acquired by the Cubs in June. That level of play provided Chicago with 1 fWAR through the end of the season. It’s unlikely that he’ll be able to sustain a 17.2% walk rate next year, as that kind of ridiculous number is bound to show up in such a small sample size (128 ABs with the Cubs).

Rebuilds are done through incremental improvements, and signing Coghlan is exactly that. Should he survive his spring tryout, Coghlan will likely be a bench piece/pinch hitter/defensive reserve for the Phillies in 2017. His 113 wRC+  in Chicago last season would have tied him with Tommy Joseph for first place on the Phillies. That was his peak level in a down season, but Coghlan has performed better than that in the past. 

The Phillies are still very young, and the starters will need to take days off. Even more importantly, injuries are bound to occur. Last year, Coghlan spent time at first, second, and third base, as well left and right field, and didn’t disappoint. Of all outfielders with a minimum of 300 innings last year, his 9.6 UZR/150 ranked higher than the likes of Starling Marte, Jackie Bradley Jr. Gregory Polanco, and Alex Gordon. Marte won a gold glove in left field last season, while Polanco, Gordon, and Bradley Jr. are regarded as top-tier defenders. Coghlan’s glove isn’t as impressive in the infield, but that’s why the Phillies have Andres Blanco.

If Coghlan can return to his 2014-2015 form, the Phillies will have themselves a very useful piece. During that two-season stretch, he hit .265/..346/.447 with 25 home runs, 82 RBI, and 5.7 fWAR. His walk rate was a much more realistic 10.4%, though he still managed to strike out less than 20% of the time. If the Phillies can help Coghlan get back to that version of himself, they’ll have a hitter 19% better than the league average (wRC+ 119 from 2014-2015). For the miniscule cost of a minor league deal, this is the exact kind of low-risk/high reward deal the Phillies should be making.

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