Smaller Deals Could Be Better Than Giving Josh Hamilton One Jillion Dollars


Emilio Bonficacio might be the perfect trade target for Philadelphia. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Followers of the Phillies have become accustomed to Ruben Amaro making trades for big-name stars or signing top tier free agents for contracts big enough to choke a horse.

And man, those signings are fun. That is, until the player in question breaks down and becomes an albatross around the neck of the organization.

So as the Phillies ponder whether to sign Josh Hamilton or Michael Bourn, or trade for Justin Upton, Jacoby Ellsbury or Curtis Granderson, there are some smaller, less impressive names that bear watching as the winter progresses.

After all, there are numerous positions besides center field at which the Phillies are looking.

You may remember Scott Hairston as the perpetual Phillie killer that got radio play-by-play Scott Franzke so rankled last year. Hairston had a productive season with the Mets, although most of it was against left-handed pitching. So if Hairston is a real possibility, it would only be in a platoon role.

Of course, the Phillies already have a right-handed hitting platoon outfielder on the roster in John Mayberry Jr., so it’s questionable what purpose signing Hairston would serve. Of course, if the Phillies do nothing with center field, Mayberry is suddenly the starting center fielder, which would make an addition like Hairston more valuable.

Another name to keep an eye on is Emilio Bonifacio, who can play virtually any position on the diamond. He can play all three outfield positions (yes, including center field) as well as third base, second base and shortstop.

His 2012 season was limited by injury, but in just 64 games he hit .258/.330/.316 and stole 30 bases in 33 attempts. The 27-year-old Bonafacio was part of the Marlins-Blue Jays mega-deal that kicked off the offseason, but with Maicer Izturis a potential second base option for Toronto, the Jays have apparently made Bonifacio available.

For a team with multiple holes to fill, Bonifacio could be a great target, either as a cheaper center field option or a temporary solution at third base. Or both.

And, one of the players I mentioned in my plan for the offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays’ Jeff Keppinger, is apparently drawing heavy interest from multiple teams.

Of course, that kind of money for a career part-time player is flat-out ridiculous. But the right-handed hitting 33-year-old had a terrific season for Tampa, hitting .325/.367/.439 for an OPS of .806 and an OPS+ of 127, while hitting nine home runs and 40 RBIs in 418 PAs.

Jeff Keppinger is a nice player, but 3/13? Yikes. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Many see him as a right-handed hitting platoon option, which may not be a necessity for the Phillies with the re-signing of Kevin Frandsen. The Phils would be better served offering a contract to Eric Chavez, provided it’s for no more than two years.

But the way money is getting thrown around Nashville, I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone offer Chavez a five-year contract and a quarter ownership stake.

So, as the Phillies explore more aggressive ways to improve themselves for 2013, their best options may end up being moves around the periphery.

It wouldn’t be much of a “splash,” but at the end of the day, it might make the Phils a better team.