PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies just might find another hitter before Spring Training.
Sources told MLB.com on Tuesday that the Phillies remain interested in and have maintained contact with free-agent outfielders Brandon Moss and Michael Saunders. The Phillies also have been monitoring the trade market, which includes Mets right fielder Jay Bruce.
Those sources said there is almost no chance the Phillies sign free agent Jose Bautista, even on a potential one-year contract. The Blue Jays offered Bautista a qualifying offer, so the Phillies would have to forfeit a second-round Draft pick and its accompanying bonus allotment (more than $1 million) to sign him.
That makes little sense for the rebuilding Phillies. They signed No. 1 overall pick Mickey Moniak (Phils' No. 2 prospect) for $6.1 million last summer, nearly $3 million under his bonus allotment. The Phillies used the savings to pay second-round pick Kevin Gowdy (No. 9 prospect) $3.5 million -- nearly twice the allotment for the 42nd overall pick -- as well as pay other Draft picks over their slot value. To forfeit a second-round pick, plus more than $1 million in bonus money, on a one-year free agent seems to go against the Phillies' plans.
Moss, 33, makes a lot of sense for Philadelphia because he is a left-handed power hitter who can play left field, right field and first base. He hit .225 with 28 home runs, 67 RBIs and a .784 OPS in 464 plate appearances last season. He hit .270 with 25 homers, 60 RBIs and a .930 OPS through Aug. 26 before finishing in a 10-for-106 (.356 OPS) tailspin.
Saunders, 30, also is a left-handed corner outfielder. He hit .253 with 24 home runs, 57 RBIs and an .815 OPS in 558 plate appearances. He made the American League All-Star team before hitting .149 with a .454 OPS from Sept. 2 through the end of the season.
The Mets have a surplus of corner outfielders, which is why Bruce is available. He hit .250 with 33 home runs, 99 RBIs and an .815 OPS with the Reds and Mets in 2016. Bruce, 29, also hits left-handed. If the Mets feel compelled to move Bruce for a relatively small return before Spring Training, the Phillies will be waiting.
The Tigers reportedly could trade outfielder J.D. Martinez, but it is unlikely he lands with the Phillies.
The Phillies are likely to see how the markets play out. At the moment, there is a surplus of hitters, and the longer they wait to find a home, the greater the chances of the Phillies signing one of them to a one-year contract or acquiring one of them for a relatively small return (think second-base prospect Josh Tobias for Clay Buchholz).
If the Phillies do not acquire anybody, it is likely they will move forward with Roman Quinn in right field. (Aaron Altherr also will compete for the job.) The Phillies have said they want to provide opportunities for their young hitters, but Quinn has been unable to stay healthy throughout his career.
Quinn's tenuous health is a factor in the Phillies' continued interest in hitters like Moss and Saunders. The Phillies found themselves shorthanded early last season when Altherr and Cody Asche succumbed to injuries. They ended up starting Cedric Hunter in left field on Opening Day and played David Lough and Emmanuel Burriss in the outfield for the first few weeks of the season.
The Phillies would like to avoid another situation like that, if possible.
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.