Free Agent Whispers: What Baseball Writers Smarter Than Me Are Saying


Ruben Amaro has some work to do. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

I’m going to level with you.

No one writing for this website has any connections inside the Phils’ front office.

I do not know Ruben Amaro‘s cell number, and the only way I’d know the office number is by trying to find it through Google.

So for me to say I have a real good idea of what Amaro’s plans are this winter would be a bald-faced lie.

And no one likes a liar.

Of course, it’s entirely possible none of the Phils’ beat writers or the national baseball scribes have any better idea what is on the Phillies’ agenda this offseason, and they probably know what color socks Ruben likes to wear on Tuesdays. That being said, it’s probably instructive to scan the worldwide Twitterweb and see what the world is saying about any potential plans the Phillies may have for 2013.

Because I’m just guessin’ here, folks.

CSN’s Jim Salisbury is running down all the possibilities for the Phillies, starting last week with B.J. Upton and now this week with Cody Ross. Ross had a nice season in 2012 and is a potential corner outfield target, but as Salisbury notes in his article, the Red Sox have made signing him a priority. Still, he’d be a good fit.

"A player like Ross would not be the Phillies’ primary offseason target. The Phils need an everyday centerfielder and while Ross can and has played the position, his best fit is as a corner outfielder. He played mostly right field in Boston. Ross hits right-handed and the Phillies are in need of right-handed pop. He would be a tremendous fit at one of the corner spots if the Phils were to land a centerfielder such as B.J. Upton or Angel Pagan."

Of course, we’d all have to forgive Ross for the 2010 NLCS. We all have to move on with our lives, people. Let’s all heal together.

All the talk over the last few days has been about B.J. Upton and the overwhelming consensus by the rest of the living, breathing baseball world that he is destined for the Phillies.

In fact, Ken Rosenthal even noted how overtly the Phillies have been tarting themselves up in trying to make themselves as appealing to B.J. as possible, even going so far as to stockpile their coaching staff with names Upton is familiar with and likes a great deal. It’s shameful.

"…a pair of embedded ex-Rays officials who know Upton quite well recently assumed prominent positions with the Phils.Bart Braun, previously a special assignment scout with the Rays, joined the Phillies last month as a special assistant to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.Steve Henderson, the Rays’ hitting coach from 2006 to ’09, will fill the same role for the Phillies after spending the past three years with the club as a minor-league coordinator.The moves did not go unnoticed by the Upton camp, and in the words of one player agent, “there are no coincidences in baseball.”But Amaro Jr., while acknowledging the Phillies’ interest in Upton, said that nothing unusual is afoot.“My understanding is that yes, B.J. has or had a relationship with Hendu,” Amaro said. “Obviously, Bart has been with Tampa Bay for a long time. But that doesn’t mean that B.J. is going to be a Philadelphia Phillie by any stretch of the imagination.“The reason we got those guys has nothing to do with B.J. We thought they were the right guys for the organization, that both would make us better. One had nothing to do with the other.”"

Yes, NOTHING to do with B.J. There’s NOTHING to see here people. Your speculation is jibber-jabber. Your “logic” is a bunch of claptrap and hooey. There is absolutely NO gambling going on in that casino.

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Interestingly, Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi, in that really cool Bleacher Report slideshow format that all the world loves oh so much, ran down his list of where he thought the Top 13 MLB free agents would go this offseason. Incredibly, he had none of them landing with the Phillies, including Angel Pagan, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn or Upton.

Morosi has Bourn going to Cincinnati, Upton to the Nationals, Swisher to Seattle and Pagan re-signing with the Giants. Left unsaid was what he thinks the Phils will do with their outfield situation. Clearly, there is some anti-Phillies bias here.


ESPN’s Buster Olney noted something I pointed out recently on Twitter concerning Pagan, and why he might be the best fit for the Phillies this offseason.

The lack of a qualifying offer to Pagan means that if the Phillies do sign him, they would not have to relinquish a draft pick. Signing Upton, Josh Hamilton and a number of other free agents would require them to give up a pick. So while there are drawbacks to Pagan’s game, this development adds an extra wrinkle to the outfield market.

Now, I’m not wild about a fourth year for Pagan, and if the Phillies have to do that, I’d rather they look at three-year deals with other players. But if it’s a three-year deal, I’m all in on the Angel.

The boys at CBS Sports have weighed in on where they think five of the top free agents available will go. Jon Heyman, Matt Snyder and C. Trent Rosencrans (yes I believe that is his real name) all see Upton on the Phils, while Dayn Perry and Danny Knobler see Bourn manning center field at The Bank.

"Knobler on Bourn: “Phillies. The Nationals have long been the chalk in the Bourn derby, and they still could end up with him. But there are also strong voices in the organization who would like to see Bryce Harper stay in center field. The Phillies have the greater need right now.”Perry on Bourn: “Phillies. The Phils still have a roster that can contend, and they’ve never been shy about adding payroll. Also, having dealt Shane Victorino, they need a new center fielder. Bourn’s defense and base-running chops should appeal to GM Ruben Amaro. There’s also the added bonus of plucking him from a division rival.”Heyman on Upton: “Phillies. Philly badly needs and wants a center fielder. And since I see Bourn going to the Nats, Upton is probably their second-best option. The others are Shane Victorino, a terrific talent whose time appeared up in Philly by the time he was traded away, and Angel Pagan. Upton, with both power and speed, could interest several teams, including the Mariners and maybe the Rangers, but the Phillies are the favorites.” Bourn could still be coming to Philly. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRESnyder on Upton: “Phillies. They’re not rebuilding; they’re reloading on the fly, and Upton’s power will play exponentially better in Citizens Bank Park than it did in the Trop. Plus, we get the side storyline of Upton trying to compete with Ryan Howard in the strikeouts category [though he can’t].”Rosecrans on Upton: “Phillies. The Phillies have an opening in center field, they have money and they need players south of 30 — Upton fits the bill. Upton is a good defensive outfielder and has pop from the right side. Although the knocks against him are that he’s underperformed and has attitude problems — two things that don’t go over well in Philly — he has enough talent to tempt any team. Moving from Tropicana Field to Citizens Bank Park should give him a chance to improve upon his career-high 28 home runs from 2012.”"

Finally, love him or hate him (and most Phillies fans hate him for some reason), ESPN’s Keith Law is out with his Top 50 free agents for 2013 (requires Insider access). Surprisingly, he has Upton ranked at #2 overall, right behind starting pitcher Zach Greinke.

"“The one thing that concerns me about Upton’s 2012 season isn’t specifically his on-base percentage but how often he missed fastballs in the zone or fouled them off rather than squaring them up. Upton has good bat speed and remains a great athlete who can run, throw and play a very good center field. He is young enough to maintain those skills for the next five years, but he needs to find a workable middle ground between his swing-at-everything approach of 2012 and the more patient approach he had earlier in his career.”"

Law has Hamilton at #3, Bourn at 4, Swisher at 10, Melky Cabrera at 17, Torii Hunter at 18 and Angel Pagan all the way down at #20.

"“A switch-hitter, Pagan has more power and a better eye from the left side, opening his hips early when hitting right-handed, although he’s comfortable going the other way rather than trying to pull pitches he can’t get to. He’s an above-average defender in an outfield corner but would come in average or below if asked to play center regularly. That plus running speed has helped Pagan add value through basestealing and baserunning over the past few years, although that’s the kind of tool that can fade quickly as a player gets into his mid-30s. I’d love to get Pagan on a two- to three-year deal to play left and to slide over to center as a backup when needed, hitting him eighth or ninth since he doesn’t get on base enough to be an ideal leadoff guy.I don’t foresee more 5-WAR seasons in Pagan’s future, between his age, his reliance on his legs and the potential for a widening platoon split that eventually leaves him as a part-time player.”"

Number 20 seems a bit low to me for Pagan, but as everyone knows by now, I wear rose-colored glasses for the guy.

No matter what the Phillies decide to do over the next few weeks and months, Ken Rosenthal says not expect the Phils to jump on the market early, unlike last year.

"Amaro said the team’s needs include a center fielder, a corner outfielder, a third baseman and bullpen help. But unlike in some previous years, the GM does not expect to be active early in free agency.“I don’t see us doing anything very quick, I really don’t,” Amaro said. “I don’t know how all this is going to play out. There are a lot of moving parts for us, different pieces of the puzzle. We’re taking a really, really broad look at this thing.“There are a lot of things to look at. I’m not sure we can add four or five of those things. We’re just trying to make the team better in certain areas, not necessarily all of those areas.”"

I think we can all agree that allowing the market to set itself, especially with a glut of top notch free agent outfielders hitting free agency, is the smart course of action.

Or, perhaps it would be wise to remember this one immutable and unavoidable fact when talking about the Phillies.