Free-agent matchmaker: Shane Victorino

Rich Schultz

Where will Shane Victorino go? Where should he?

Let's get this full-disclosure stuff of the way first. I do not like Shane Victorino. I do not like him. He does stuff like this …

And stuff like this ...

Which is a gateway drug for this sort of thing ...

Which is bad enough, except he also does this whenever he can ...

I do not like Shane Victorino. Could not, would not, on a boat. Will not, will not, with a goat. My impression of him got me kicked out of a few places in my time.

But do you know who does like Shane Victorino? WAR. Since 2006, Victorino is one of 12 outfielders worth 20 wins or more. That's not cherry-picking, either -- move the goalposts around to the last three or four years, and he still grades out well. He runs the bases well, and he plays average defense in center by most metrics, with the exception of GIF. He's stayed relatively healthy over the years, and he has surprising power -- if he's not a 20-homer guy, but he helps make up for that with his penchant for hitting triples.

Yep, if you average out his seasons, he's one of the better outfielders in baseball. Here's the thing, though: Teams aren't guaranteed the average Victorino. No, they aren't guaranteed a thing about his future. And while the average season is quite nice, the trend isn't encouraging.

2009 (age-28): 3.5 WAR
2010 (age-29): 2.8 WAR
2011 (age-30): 5.0 WAR
2012 (age-31): 2.4 WAR

By my calculations, his age-32 season is up next. That would be followed by his age-33 and age-34 seasons. When a player in his 30s has his worst year since becoming a regular, there's a strong chance it means something. It doesn't have to, of course. Two of Victorino's comps on Baseball Reference -- Jose Cruz and Randy Winn -- both had some of their strongest seasons in their 30s. And it doesn't look like teams are scared away:

Angel Pagan signed a four-year deal, and he's just a few months younger than Victorino, with similar skills and profile. Michael Bourn is close to the same age, but he might get twice the contract Victorino does. Victorino is one of the last outfielders left who's pricing himself between outlet-store and boutique prices. Who will come away with him?

The favorite

You know which team is followed by millions of people who don't loathe Shane Victorino? The Phillies. You know who else is a grabby-hands when he's running the bases? Chase Utley. And you know who's looking for an outfielder this offseason? The Phillies. The breakup was necessary because of trade-deadline maneuvering, but it's time to go home, Shane. No, go on. Git. Go on, go home.

The Phillies are in a bit of a pickle when it comes to their long-term contracts, but not because they're going to run out of money, wear a barrel with straps, and sell apples on the street corner. The problems will likely have to do with players declining during the life of their contracts. What does that mean? Double down on the current roster, if they're financially capable. What's Cliff Lee going to be like in 2016? Dunno, but he's pretty danged good right now, so an improved team wouldn't be a bad idea. There's no sense waiting for the over-30 pitching and Ryan Howard to fall apart even more.

The ideal

The Reds used all sorts of goofballs in the leadoff spot last year. Zack Cozart, Drew Stubbs, Chris Heisey, and even Willie Harris got starts at the top of the order. The result: a .208/.254/.327 line, with an on-base percentage just 28 points higher than their production from the #9 spot. Stubbs might get another shot. But even in his good years, he's never been an on-base maven.

Victorino can move to a corner spot when Billy Hamilton is ready, and even though he's supposedly received a four-year offer from someone, I don't think it would be at a premium, hyper-pricey annual salary. The speedy, switch-hitting Victorino seems like a guy Dusty Baker would love, even if he comes at twice the price of Ryan Ludwick.

Note: I actually had the Brewers as my team until I noticed that Carlos Gomez had a .463 slugging percentage and an OBP over .300 last year. You people need to tell me these things.

Begrudging prediction

Phillies, three years, $36 million. He'll give back one of the years another team is offering for a little familiarity. He can continue his fine work in the shameful baseball arts over in the place where it all began for him as a starter. Roster-wise, it works. Financially ... not sure. If the Phillies were chasing B.J. Upton, though, they likely have a little money left over for their outfield. A little scratch for Ol' Scratch.

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