During the 2015 season, I began a series here at TBOH on potential free agent targets for the Philadelphia Phillies this off-season. There was an examination of the player’s history, and a look at how they could fit into the future of the team.
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I also tried to take a guess at what a free agent contract might have to look like for each of these players. As the offseason begins, that series will continue, beginning here with a primer for what will lie ahead.
The series will look at more potential targets that the Phillies might have in their sights, trying to determine if the fit is right for both player and team. Each piece will lay out an argument both for and against the Phillies actually signing that player.
Each free agent comes with his own set of positive and negative qualities. It’s only fair to shine a spotlight on both sets of traits when examining whether each particular player would be good fit for the club. Each piece will then end with a speculative look at what the price tag might be to land that particular player.
To be clear, none of this should be construed as an endorsement for the Phillies to actually try to sign each player examined. In reading the prior article about Matt Wieters, you can see that I do not believe signing the Orioles catcher would be in the best interests of the club.
However, it makes sense to examine Wieters and other similar players because he is a top free agent that is about to hit the open market, and he fits a need for the team. That said, let’s take a look into which players are not likely to be considered by the Phillies.
If the goal of the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies was to contend for a spot in the MLB playoffs, the team would need a number of dramatic upgrades. An ace starting pitcher, a productive outfielder, and an increase in power production throughout the lineup would all be required to attain that postseason goal.
Realistically, these upgrades will not be coming in the 2015-16 offseason. Phillies management is already publicly on record as saying they won’t spend heavily, unless it’s for exactly the right player.
With that being said, it’s worth looking at Free Agent Power Rankings from the MLBTraderumors.com site to see if the Phillies appear to even have a shot at any of the top names on the market. These are the very top names available, according to that website:
1. David Price – The Phillies have no shot at Price. He will command somewhere around $30 million annually, and probably six to seven years guaranteed length in his contract. The Phillies are simply not prepared to spend that kind of money, over that period of time, especially for a 30-year old arm. While he would be a terrific fit for any contending team, it just isn’t happening in Philly.
2. Jason Heyward – I wrote about Heyward at the beginning of this Phillies free agency series. This may be exactly the player that new Phillies president Andy MacPhail is talking about when he says “the right player” to target in free agency. He has everything the club would appear to be looking for – youth, upside, skill set.
Unfortunately for the Phils, Heyward is likely to receive multiple huge contract offers, because other teams are also well aware of the non-traditional statistics that reveal Heyward to be a special player. His introductory piece in this series opined an eight-year, $180 million contract as a likely offer to land the Cardinals outfielder.
At this point, that offer might prove to be a low one when considering how many teams are likely to be involved in the bidding for Heyward. Since the Phillies are a rebuilding team, they would have to pony up a few extra dollars to lure him. However, there is recent precedent for such a signing.
Following the 2010 season, the Washington Nationals signed Phillies free agent outfielder Jayson Werth for what was then considered by many to be a silly amount of money and length of contract for an already 32-year old player: seven-years and more than $122 million.
The Nationals were criticized for spending that much on a player when they weren’t yet ready to win. That criticism was especially strong when Werth struggled during the contract’s first season in 2011, and the Nats finished in 3rd place with a losing record.
Looking back on it now, this was a perfect signing. Werth’s abilities and contributions both on and off the field gave the Nats exactly what they needed to jump-start what has become a winning program. That is what the signing of Heyward would hopefully accomplish for the Phillies. This is the one free agent signing for which Phillies fans should be rooting.
3. Justin Upton – Upton was also examined earlier in this Phillies free agency series as a potential top target for the team. While he doesn’t possess the same skills or upside as Heyward, he would add a dimension to the offense that the Phillies are lacking – power. Upton would be a nice fit for the Phillies, but I think the odds of his coming here are slim.
4. Chris Davis – Though he does have power, Davis isn’t the right fit for this ball club at this time. Until Ryan Howard is gone, first base will belong to ‘The Big Piece’, either outright or by way of a platoon. Davis’ best position also happens to be first base.
5. Yoenis Cespedes – This would be a nice addition to any contending team. However, the money he will want is going to be way out of the comfort zone of Phillies ownership for a player with Cespedes’ abilities and limitations.
Cespedes’ low on-base totals and prodigious strikeout numbers are something the Phillies already have in abundance. Sure, the power would be great, as is his ability to play all three outfield positions, not to mention the bat flipping awesomeness. But now that he has been the toast of the Big Apple for two months and into the postseason, he probably isn’t going anywhere.
6. Zack Greinke – Greinke isn’t coming to Philly for mostly the same reason as Price – too much money. That, and he will soon be 32 years of age.
7. Alex Gordon – Gordon is an interesting option, and in fact will be the next player covered in this free agency series. Stay tuned.
8. Johnny Cueto – Turning 30-years old in mid-February, the Royals starter is a pitcher who’s had elbow issues this year. He wants a free agent deal nearing what Jon Lester got this past offseason: 7 years and something north of $150 million. Pass.
9. Jordan Zimmermann and 10. Mike Leake – These two starting pitchers will be examined more closely with their own pieces in this series as well. Both are interesting options for the Phillies in their pursuit of quality, veteran starting pitching.
These are the MLB free agents-to-be deemed by most expert evaluators as the best available. It’s a deep crop, and names like Ian Desmond, Scott Kazmir, and Jeff Samardzija weren’t even mentioned. They all figure to be handsomely rewarded this offseason as well.
If Phillies fans hope to see the club become active in the free agent market, they should be looking below this top tier of players. Those who would be willing to sign a one, two, or even a three-year contract will hold the most appeal to the club at this time. Some of the more interesting of these players will be covered in this series as the off-season continues to unfold.
There is a plan beginning to emerge now that MacPhail has taken over, and John Middleton has stepped forward as the public face and voice of ownership. Phillies fans now will sit back and watch as they begin to execute that plan more fully as the off-season develops.