As Ruben Amaro and the Philadelphia Phillies’ traveling circus contingent arrive in Nashville, TN (long known as a baseball mecca, of course) for MLB’s Winter Meetings, there is a growing sense of anticipation that some serious stuff is about to go down.
After all, the Phillies have been linked to just about every outfielder, middle reliever and third baseman available in the last few weeks, and most GMs and baseball “insiders” believe the Phils will be one of the most active teams there.
You know, those Bluetooth phone thingys ain’t gonna pay for themselves.
It certainly appears as if Amaro is looking into every single player who has ever played the game of professional baseball, even if their best years were anywhere from two to six years ago. In the last 36 hours alone, the Phillies have been linked to Alfonso Soriano, Chone Figgins and Ichiro Suzuki.
If Rube was looking to put together a killer team in 2006, this would be a decent strategy.
Hopefully, most of these rumors are garbage, little nuggets of hope planted by players’ agents and other teams’ officials looking to trade off some of their superfluous waste.
It would be nice if the Phils were not the toilet this week.
The Phillies have holes to fill in center field, the bullpen, third base, and perhaps a corner outfielder as well. Below are my dream scenarios and potential nightmares as the Phils try to fill each of these holes.
CENTER FIELD DREAMS:
Angel Pagan (no more than 4 years, $45 million) – Angel Pagan has been my preferred choice since the day the regular season ended. However, my main reason for initially liking him was that he would come cheaply. The Giants’ deep playoff run ended that possibility. What was looking like a three-year, $30-33 million contract is now looking like a four-year, $40-45 million deal. That’s a lot of years and money to give to a 31-year-old player who has never made an All-Star team and was a part-time player until 2010.
Still, he’s the best fit for this offense, and it appears he’s become the #1 target of the Phillies now that B.J. Upton is off the market. The Phils and Giants are rumored to have offered him a four-year deal already. If the Phillies must go five years for Pagan, it has to come in the form of a team or performance-based option. Otherwise, it’s too rich a contract for the Phillies to give.
CENTER FIELD MEHS:
Josh Hamilton (any 3 year deal) – Everyone knows the history of Hamilton by now. Everyone knows what he is and what he isn’t. Hamilton is a terrific power hitter, but is a left-hander that would not give the Phillies any balance in their lineup, and his age should scare the bejeezus out of everyone. Still, on a three-year deal, Hamilton suddenly becomes a bargain. It’s doubtful his value would sink that low, but if it does, the Phillies would be wise to snap him up and figure out a way to make it work.
Michael Bourn (any 3 year deal) – Like Hamilton, a deal for Bourn all comes down to value. He doesn’t provide as much power potential as Pagan, but is a better pure leadoff hitter and can create a ton of havoc on the basepaths with his legs. And, like Hamilton, Bourn’s current price tag is way more than the Phillies (or anyone else for that matter) should be prepared to pay, especially for a player whose best asset (his legs) will be the first thing to go three to four years into any deal.
That said, if Bourn’s value drops to three years and the Phillies lose out on Pagan, Amaro should snap him up in a heartbeat.
Shane Victorino (3 years, $30 million) – Everyone knows what Shane Victorino is and what he isn’t. He’s a platoon player who just can’t hit left-handed anymore. Still, free agency is all about value. If Pagan, Hamilton and Bourn all insist on five-year deals, and no trades for productive center fielders can be found, signing Victorino to a three-year deal makes some sense. It wouldn’t be a sexy pick, it wouldn’t change the culture of the lineup, and it wouldn’t make the Phillies marginally better than they were last year. But someone’s gotta play center, and if Shane bounces back from a subpar year last year, a three-year, $30 million deal for him would be pretty good value.
Dexter Fowler trade – I’m reluctant to go the trade route for any center fielder, mainly because there are still three or four free agents that won’t require the Phils to give up any minor leaguers. However, if Amaro thinks the price tags for the remaining free agents are too expensive, and the Rockies decide to make Fowler available, he’d be a good fit in Philadelphia. Fowler hit .300/.389/.474 for an OPS of .863 in 530 plate appearances with Colorado in 2012. He’s a switch hitter, has good speed, plays good defense and enters the 2013 season at just 27 years old.
The Phils would probably have to give up Trevor May and a couple other prospects to get him, and Fowler’s home/road splits scream Coors Field inflation, so there are reasons for pause. But Fowler has the potential to be a top notch center fielder for years to come, and the Phillies would be getting him in his prime. It’s rumored the Reds are interested in Fowler and the Rockies apparently like Homer Bailey, so a trade between those two clubs might make the most sense.
Peter Bourjos trade – Like Fowler, Bourjos is a young guy that would need to be acquired via trade. Unlike Fowler, Bourjos didn’t do much last year, playing in a reserve role for the Anaheim Angels.
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But his 2011 was solid, and the guy is a defensive whiz with incredible speed to burn. He’s also just 25 years old. However, the Angels are said to want to use Bourjos in their starting outfield next year, so a deal for him is unlikely. However, should the Angels make him available, and the top pick the Phils would give up is May, the Phils would be wise to consider Bourjos.
Alejandro de Aza trade – See Fowler, Dexter.
Jacoby Ellsbury trade - I wrote about Ellsbury last week, noting it was extremely unlikely the Red Sox would part with him, and if they did, it would take an insane amount of prospects to get the deal done. Still, if Trevor May was the cornerstone of a deal surrounding Ellsbury, he’d be a decent fit with the Phils, even though he would be yet another left-handed hitter. This one has almost no chance of happening. In fact, it ain’t gonna happen. Let’s just move on.
CENTER FIELD NIGHTMARES:
Pagan, Hamilton, Bourn or Victorino on five year deals – None of the remaining center field free agents are worth five years. All are in their 30s, and as we’ve seen from the Phils in recent years, signing 30-year-old players to contracts that take them into their mid-30s just isn’t very smart. The market for these four players is such that a deal under five should be attainable for all of them. Shame on Ruben if he caves.
Giving up Cliff Lee or Jesse Biddle in any trade – None of the center fielders potentially available in trade talks are worth either Lee or Biddle. If Amaro has to give up either of these two players in order to acquire a center fielder, he’s doing GM wrong.
CORNER OUTFIELD DREAMS:
Justin Upton trade – Of course, a trade for Justin Upton would be huge for this team. Yes, he had a down year in 2012, but was an MVP candidate in 2011 and enters the season at 26 years old. He’s a right-handed hitter who, with a change of scenery, could emerge as a 7-8 WAR player once again. The Phillies would have to give up a ton to get him, including Biddle and Worley, most likely. But young superstar outfielders don’t grow on trees, especially in the Phillies organization.
Nick Swisher (4 years, $50 million) – If you’re looking for someone consistent, someone who stays healthy, provides power and hits from both sides of the plate, Swisher is your man. He has a career on-base percentage of .367 and has hit between 21-35 HRs every season since 2005. Yes, he’s not young, entering 2013 at 32 years old, and he’s looking for a huge payday. But four years at $50 million might be enough to get it done.
CORNER OUTFIELD MEHS:
Cody Ross (3 years, $35 million) – I don’t trust Cody Ross, and not just because of the 2010 playoffs (although I still want to punch him in the ovaries for that). I just don’t think he’s a star player, certainly not worthy of a mega deal. I would do 3/35, but nothing more than that.
Ryan Ludwick (3 years, $25 million) – Ludwick is a nice right-handed power bat and actually would provide pretty good value at 3/25. He’s not a great defensive player and will be 34 years old next year. A two-year deal would be ideal, but those 26 HRs and .346 OBP would be a very nice add to the lineup.
Josh Willingham trade – Willingham had a phenomenal 2012 season (35 HRs, 110 RBIs, .366 OBP, .890 OPS, OPS+ 144, 2.9 WAR), and has two years left on a deal that pays him $7 million a year each of the next two years. Willingham turns 34 in February, but with just two years left on his contract, would not commit the Phillies to a huge chunk of time. I’d be reluctant to give up Biddle or May for a 34-year-old player, but I might be willing to part with May if Worley is not in the deal. He’s be a definite upgrade, but the price in prospects might be too high.
CORNER OUTFIELD NIGHTMARES:
Ichiro Suzuki – No, no, no, no, no, no, no. At age 38 last year, he posted a .307 OBP with no power and diminishing speed. This would not be a good thing.
Alfonso Soriano trade – No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I wrote about this possibility as well. I wrote about it really well too. Read it. I’ll wait.
Michael Cuddyer trade – I was in favor of signing Cuddyer as a free agent last offseason. Then he was hurt for much of 2012. Why would it be a good idea to trade for this same player after he’s been hurt, is one year older, and will cost you prospects? Not seeing it.
THIRD BASE DREAMS:
Chase Headley trade – I wrote about Headley a few weeks ago, and I know a trade for him would come at a huge cost. But for the right price, I’d be ecstatic to see a talent like Headley end up in a Phillies uniform somehow.
Eric Chavez (2 years, $10 million) – A platoon between Kevin Frandsen and Chavez would be an excellent temporary solution for the Phillies, as Frandsen does very well against lefties, and Chavez destroys righties. If the Phillies are going to spend on production in the outfield, they can afford to go the platoon route at third. This would probably be the smartest move the Phils could make at the position this offseason.
THIRD BASE MEHS:
Kevin Youkilis (2 years, $10 million) – Youkilis would act as an Asche bridge (as would the rest of the potential third base ideas) and would be a decent on-base guy, if he can get healthy. But he’s an older gent (34 next year) and most of his game has left him. If the Phils can get him on a one-year deal, that would be ideal, but a two-year for Youk would be OK.
THIRD BASE NIGHTMARES:
Chone Figgins – Why was there even an inquiry?
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I mean, yikes. Keep him as far away from this team as humanly possible.
Michael Young – Young turns 36 next year and is set to earn $16 million next year. Unless the Rangers are prepared to eat about $12 million of that cash, no thanks.
So, as Amaro, Scott Proefrock and the rest of the minions prepare to sleep with cell phones crazy glued to their ears all week, here’s hoping the boys can come home with a couple presents underneath the Christmas tree.
This is Ruben Amaro, after all.