Does Rowand Inherit Center Field?

It wasn't too long ago that Shane Victorino was being annointed as the Phillies starting center fielder. Now, with Aaron Rowand's arrival in Philadelphia, center field isn't quite as clear as it might have seemed.

Aaron Rowand is the kind of guy that fans in Philadelphia are likely to love. The word "gritty" can be overused, but that's the term that many scouts and White Sox fans throw around when describing Rowand.

While Rowand's offensive numbers weren't overpowering in 2005, he is widely considered one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. Just ask the Yankees, who were so impressed with Rowand's defensive skills in a series at Yankee Stadium this past season that they were trying to pry him away from the White Sox.

While many believe that the two young, left-handed pitchers acquired in the deal - Giovany Gonzalez and Dan Haigwood - were the real keys to the trade, don't discount Rowand.

With Rowand's arrival, the Phillies have several options.

Send Rowand elsewhere

It's possible that Rowand's stay in Philadelphia will be short. The Yankees were just one of the teams that had asked Chicago about Rowand, since the Sox are blessed with a number of talented and major league ready outfield prospects. It was widely figured that Rowand might be available and it's widely figured that Pat Gillick will receive phone calls asking if the Phillies might be interested in sending him elsewhere.

Put him in coach... He's ready to play center field

Yes, Rowand could be the starting center fielder in 2006 for the Phillies. It's somewhat ironic that last winter, Ed Wade said that Chase Utley would be the starting second baseman on opening day of 2005 and he wasn't. This year, Pat Gillick says Shane Victorino is the starting center fielder and he... well, we'll see.

Rowand, who has played in all or part of five major league seasons, was drafted 34 picks after Pat Burrell in the '98 Draft. He's put up decent numbers through his first five seasons, hitting .283 with 54 homeruns and 211 RBI. He has a decent on-base percentage of .337 and runs the bases pretty well although he's certainly not considered a speed demon or much of a stolen base threat. He is learning how to use what speed he has and has swiped 33 bases over the past two seasons.

Rowand's recent post-season exploits don't hurt either. You can rest assured that he'll be telling teammates about what playing in October is like and just how good it feels to hold that big old trophy.

Is there another deal in the offing?

No, not Rowand, somebody else.

Gillick has been rumored to be shopping either Pat Burrell or Bobby Abreu to other teams. While playing primarily in center field, Rowand has also played 98 games in left field and 42 games in right field for the White Sox. He - or Victorino - could conceivably move to one of those spots, should Gillick find a taker for Burrell or Abreu.

The new math with the exit of Thome could also hasten the departure of Burrell or Abreu. The Phillies could conceivably eat a bigger chunk of their contracts to help tempt a trade partner. With Thome's departure and the cash deal that went with it, it's thought that the Phillies will save about $6.5 million in 2006 even with the money that they'll pay Rowand. With that kind of savings, they might be willing to pay a slightly higher percentage of another player's contract if it helps them to make a deal they believe benefits the club long-term.

Aren't the Phillies well stocked in center field?

Yes, they are. However, the true stocking won't happen for at least a couple of years. Rowand has a contract that fits well with the Phillies current and future plans. He is signed for $3.25 million in 2006 and has a player option for another $3.25 million in 2007. Should Rowand decide he doesn't want to return and not exercise his option, the Phillies could exercise the option that they hold for 2007, although it would cost them $5 million instead of the $3.25 bargain price.

With a contract like that, the Phillies have some flexibility with Rowand. Behind Victorino - who is ready for the majors now - are Chris Roberson and Michael Bourn. The earliest that either of them would really be ready is 2007. At that point, the Phillies could ship a relatively inexpensive Rowand - especially if they get him for $3.25 million - elsewhere to make room for Roberson or Bourn. Or, if they feel they need another year out of Rowand, they can simply keep him around to keep the spot warm for Roberson or Bourn in 2008.

Right now, there's no saying what will happen to Aaron Rowand. Whether or not the Phillies keep him around remains to be seen. A platoon won't be likely since Rowand, Victorino and Jason Michaels are all right-handed hitters. For Rowand though, if he does stay in Philadelphia, it would bring a bit of irony. His arrival as the Sox' starting center fielder was delayed when the White Sox signed Kenny Lofton prior to the 2002 season. In Philadelphia, Rowand would replace none other than Lofton.

Aaron Rowand's Career Stats

2001 4 20 .293 63 123 21 36 5 0 5 15 28 .385
2002 7 29 .258 126 302 41 78 16 2 0 12 54 .298
2003 6 24 .287 93 157 22 45 8 0 0 7 21 .327
2004 24 69 .310 140 487 94 151 38 2 17 30 91 .361
2005 13 69 .270 157 578 77 156 30 5 16 32 116 .329
Career 54 211 .283 579 1647 255 466 97 9 38 96 310 .337

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