Right now, the Phillies starting outfield is Darin Ruf, Ben Revere and Domonic Brown.
And if you think the Phillies are getting more than 5.0 WAR out of those three players, you’re more of an optimist than I.
Clearly, the Phils still need more pieces, but barring a brain hemorrhage by the general manager for either the Marlins or Diamondbacks, an impact bat doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the horizon.
And while the pitching staff appears to be in place, there are still big question marks concerning Roy Halladay‘s health, the production of Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan, and the young arms that are expected to make major contributions in the bullpen.
So, armed with about $7-8 million left to spend in order to stay under the luxury tax, is there anyone left out on the free agent market that’s worth anything?
Taking a look at ESPN’s Keith Law’s Top 50 Free Agents, the answer is, maybe one or two. But not many.
Michael Bourn is the highest rated player still on the board, Law’s #4 free agent. And while the Phillies do need an outfielder and could move Revere to a corner position, adding Bourn doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Phillies. Even though his price has probably come down, putting together an outfield of Revere, Bourn and Brown would make the Phillies extremely light offensively. Yes, there would be speed and defense to burn, but probably not enough power to power a small coffee maker. Plus, signing Bourn would require the Phillies to relinquish their #1 draft pick this year. Sure, the 1985 Cardinals won with that formula, but we’re in a different era now. Look for Bourn to head back to the Braves.
Kyle Lohse, #6 on Law’s list, is an interesting possibility, if only because it seems as if no one is interested in him and the Phils might be wise to grab an upper-tier arm as Halladay insurance. There’s no guarantee that Halladay is going to be any better this year than he was last year, and having a starter who went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 2012 as the #4 starter, and possibly the #3 if Halladay hits the shelf again, might not be such a bad idea. It would be a terrific idea if Loshe can’t get any more than a two-year deal for around $7 million a year.
Rafael Soriano is #14 on Law’s list and is the best bullpen arm available. However, after signing Mike Adams, and with a plethora of young arms already in the stable, adding a high-priced bullpen piece probably wouldn’t be in Ruben Amaro‘s best interests.
Adam LaRoche continues to insist on a three-year contract, while Washington only wants to give him two years. And while he had a career year in 2012 with 33 HRs, 100 RBIs, a .271 average and sterling defense at first base, the Nationals are in a great bargaining position. They don’t HAVE to sign LaRoche because they can just slot Michael Morse into first base and be just fine. However, expect LaRoche, Law’s #16 prospect, to re-sign with Washington and for the Nats to put Morse on the trade block. And if that happens, Amaro will certainly be picking up the phone before the ink is dry on LaRoche’s contract.
Shaun Marcum is a back-of-the-rotation starter that probably would have interested the Phils had they not signed Lannan. But seeing as how the Phils got themselves a #5 starter on a one-year, $2 million deal, signing a pitcher like Marcum, who can be a #3 starter when healthy, to a multi-year contract and would cost about four times as much would be wasteful spending. No thanks.
Jose Valverde is a reliever who stumbled badly at the end of last year, and probably wouldn’t give the Phils anything of value, even on a reclamation project. Kyle Farnsworth, although ranked lower on Law’s list, actually would be a better option for someone, mainly because he can still throw his fastball by people. Again though, when you already have Phillipe Aumont, B.J. Rosenberg, and Justin DeFratus, signing Valverde or Farnsworth doesn’t make much sense.
And as we reach the bottom of Law’s Top 50, we see two older veterans, Francisco Rodriguez and Daisuke Matsuzaka, still on the board. And, there’s a reason for that. These smell like potential Mets signings.
So, in early January, there isn’t much left. In order to get an impact bat for the outfield, the Phillies are going to have to get really, really creative on the trade front, or sign Bourn and live with an outfield of speed, speed, and more speed. And lots of singles.
Or, double-down on pitching and sign Lohse and make the starting rotation even stronger, thereby taking the pressure off an offense that will struggle to score runs.
Because other than that, it’s a great big crapburger out there.