LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — When the Phillies offered John Mayberry Jr. a contract through arbitration, it did not guarantee his return to the 2014 team. Given the way team officials have spoken at this week's winter meetings, they are actively seeking his replacement.
"I still see us possibly getting in piece for the bench," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "A righthanded bat, the defense with depth at centerfield would be a plus for us."
"That's one of the important parts about being more athletic," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We'd like to get a little better in center if we can."
The Phillies are most likely to find that player via a trade, Amaro said. The free-agent options are severely limited. They could take a chance on a player like Franklin Gutierrez, a defensive savant prone to injury. But he could receive a higher guaranteed playing time elsewhere.
Mayberry, a righthanded bat who has played 104 games in center during the last two seasons, should make near $1.5 million through arbitration. Team officials were disappointed in his outfield defense. He turns 30 later this month.
The Phillies could possess his replacement in Cesar Hernandez, the 23-year-old Venezuelan utility man. Hernandez has played more center in winter ball. He was new to the position in 2013 and it showed.
"He has gotten better," Amaro said. "We'll find out more about that in spring training."
The Phillies may have to pursue a fourth outfielder before the spring because of that uncertainty.