Trea Turner will be back for the Phillies on Monday night. He’s been out of the lineup for a little more than six weeks and missed 38 games.

For the first 18 of those games, the Phillies barely missed him. They went 15-3 and Edmundo Sosa picked up hitting right where Turner left off.

In the last 20, Sosa, and the rest of the Phillies lineup – which also has been without Brandon Marsh and J.T. Realmuto for small stretches – has been more pedestrian and the Phillies have gone 10-10.

It’ll be good to get him back, but to activate him, a position player needs to come off the roster. It’s pretty much a three-horse race for who that player is between bottom of the roster outfielders – Johan Rojas, Cristian Pache and David Dahl.

You might want to include Whit Merrifield in there, but the Phillies won’t give up on a veteran they’re paying $8 million after just 10 weeks.

So, it’s one of the three.

The other caveat is neither Dahl nor Pache can just be sent down. Both are out of options, meaning that the Phillies would have to designate them for assignment, and would likely lose them to another team in baseball who are looking for outfield depth.

To keep everyone in house, it just makes sense to send Rojas back down.

The Phillies handed him the starting center field job despite a lousy spring training because they believed his defense would be such a difference that they would be willing to live with even a hint of offensive from him.

Basically, the argument they were making is that if Rojas could just see a bunch of pitches, bunt enough to keep defenses cheating in on him and then slap a few hits past drawn in infielders, work pitchers and maybe get some walks and then wreak havoc on the bases with his speed, then that would be more than adequate out of the No. 9 spot in the lineup.

It wasn’t faulty logic, but there was even some doubt there from within, which is why they held on to Pache instead of Jake Cave at the end of Spring Training. He would be the parachute – offering similar defense in the outfield and slightly better offense, despite an inability to hit breaking balls – in case Rojas didn’t come through.

The thing is, with Rojas, the offense has been about what the Phillies expected. He’s hitting .235. He has 19 RBI and 14 stolen bases. But he’s had some blunders on base that have been troubling. He’s been picked off three times, most on the team. He’s been caught stealing twice more. Only Bryce Harper (three times) has been caught more.

Rojas’ adventures on the base paths have also created some other angst. For example, he was thrown out at home plate Friday in Baltimore in the bottom of the 10th inning on a single by Kyle Schwarber. He was inserted into that game as a pinch runner at second. The Phillies were not happy with Rojas’ secondary lead. Both manager Rob Thomson and first base coach Paco Figueroa spoke with Rojas about it afterwards. Apparently, Rojas is seemingly reluctant to get a good secondary lead because he doesn’t want to get picked off again. It’s this void in his baseball acumen that has caused the organization to bristle about him a little.

Then there’s the defense, which should be his calling card.

In 2023, his Defensive Runs Saved was plus-15 in just 57 games (according to Baseball Info Solutions). 

In 2024, it’s been minus-8 in 56 games.

Defensive metrics are wonky – and even the analytically-minded Thomson has said he doesn’t look at them and prefers to go on the eye test with defense, but even the eye test has indicated that Rojas has been less reliable this season in center. He’s overrun balls and, in turn, dropped them. He’s mis-calculated balls in front of him. He’s taken strange routes to fly balls. It’s been a little perplexing, considering his track record.

If he’s not going to provide elite defense, then what is he bringing to the table?

Not to pile on, but offensively, it’s worse than his standard numbers would indicate. Consider the following percentile rankings among all batters in baseball this season:

  • Average Exit Velocity – 84.4 MPH (Bottom 1%)
  • Walk rate – 3.6% (Bottom 3%)
  • Barreled ball percentage – 3.2% (Bottom 9%)
  • Hard hit percentage – 29.5% (bottom 11%)
  • Chase percentage – 35.2% (bottom 12%)

It’s a terrible profile. Since May 4th he’s walked one time and has one extra base hit. He’s pretty much under water at the plate unless he gets lucky.

Here’s the one extra base hit:

Yeah, it’s been a minute.

The best thing for him right now is to go back down and work on his swing and his approach and pitch recognition. Get meaningful at-bats for Lehigh Valley. Work on his baserunning. Work on his bunting. Continue to fine tune his defense. Become a better version of himself.

Later this season, he can come back to the Phillies as a better player, and one ready to contribute to a championship contender.

Meanwhile, the double platoon that the Phillies will likely employ is not exciting. It’ll be Brandon Marsh and Pache in center and Dahl and Merrifield in left.

Pache and Marsh will serve as defensive replacements with the lead when they are not starting. Marsh and Dahl will serve as pinch hitters when they aren’t starting.

It’s not perfect, but it did work here in the past – in 1993, Jim Eisenreich and Milt Thompson played outfield against righties and Wes Chamberlain and Pete Incaviglia played outfield against lefties.

It’s a different world today with more power pitchers than back then, so that changes the calculus, but the Phillies have the luxury of a big lead in the N.L. East that they can give this double platoon a bit of a runway before deciding what they have to do to put the roster over the top at the trade deadline.

Most importantly, sending Rojas down should motivate him to want to get back and do the things necessary to get here. And the Phillies can do that while maintaining all of their depth options and not losing any players.

It’s the smart move. It’s the right move. And it’s the one we should be hearing is official Monday afternoon.