Philadelphia Phillies Free Agent News: 5 Available Players Who Fit Needs
With the offseason gradually winding down and the beginning of spring training creeping closer and closer, many transactions around the league have been completed and most teams have a good sense of what their Opening Day rosters will look like. Prince Fielder and Edwin Jackson being exceptions, most free agents have also signed with either their teams of old or have left familiarity and have signed elsewhere.
The Philadelphia Phillies, for once, seem like they have most of their Opening Day roster in place. They had an opening at closer and filled it with the best available in Jonathan Papelbon. They had to find some bench bats and signed Jim Thome and Laynce Nix, and traded for Ty Wigginton. They needed to find a shortstop; they re-signed Jimmy Rollins. A backup catcher and lefty specialist were needed, and Brian Schneider and Dontrelle Willis were brought back and welcomed in, respectively.
While one could contest that the Phils' roster is set and ready to go for April, there are still a few holes that could be filled. For starters, the team needs a fifth outfielder after trading Ben Francisco to the Toronto Blue Jays. They also have a potential need of another reliever—especially a set-up man—if Jose Contreras isn't ready for Opening Day and/or if the team wants to add an external seventh reliever. And while they don't need one, another backup infielder sure wouldn't hurt, either.
This slideshow will cover five potential free agent options the Phils could use to fill their remaining vacancies. Again, while there isn't a pressing need for the Fightins at this time, these are 10 moves that would be appropriate should they be pursued.
Without further ado...
Let's start this off by addressing rumor central
Possessing a need for a set-up man, the Phillies are exploring all options. From re-signing one of Brad Lidge or Ryan Madson to using Antonio Bastardo or Jose Contreras, or even calling up one of their Triple-A arms in Justin De Fratus, Phillippe Aumont or Michael Schwimer.
However, a new name came into the fold on Sunday when it was revealed that the Phillies have interest in former All-Star starter and veteran reliever Kerry Wood. Wood, currently 34 years of age, reportedly seeks around $4 million (see previous link) on a one-year deal. That seems to be out of the rebuilding Cubs' price range, yet it may also be too pricey for the Phillies. Per GM Ruben Amaro, Jr.:
“Our payroll is well past where we want to be after signing Jimmy [Rollins]—that’s a fact. It’s going to be right around or about where we finished last year. We’re in a dangerous area.”
There's also the thought that Wood may want to earn market value after signing for a team-friendly price of $1.5 million last year, and being on the bad side of 30, he may want a ring, and the Cubs aren't currently in a position to win one in the next few years (if they ever win one again).
If the Phillies do sign Wood, he'd presumably set up for closer Jonathan Papelbon, and with the way Wood pitched last year (3.35 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 57 Ks and just 21 walks in 51.0 IP), a set-up combination of Wood-Papelbon could be good.
I'm not sure whether this would be a good or bad move.
Wlison Betemit can hit rather well, and for a Phillies team that could use an infield bat, Betemit's a good candidate for the job. It's just his defense is...well, terrible.
Nevertheless, he'd be a great backup for Placido Polanco and a decent option to start should Polanco go down during the season, which seems to be inevitable at this point. As a switch hitter, he also provides flexibility at the plate and can be placed most anywhere in Charlie Manuel's lineup.
With the Phillies' bench looking bare at third base, Betemit also fills a hole. Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez (should he even start the season in the majors) are better suited for middle infield, and while Ty Wigginton can play third base, he'll likely be used in the outfield before he's considered at the hot corner. Since Betemit's primary playing position is third base, he'd be of great use to the Phillies.
If the Phils can sign Betemit, then their infield bench should be all set.
Ryan Spilborghs would be an interesting option for the Phillies.
Spilborghs, who was non-tendered by the Colorado Rockies this offseason after hitting just .210 last year with a .588 OPS, three home runs and 22 RBI in 98 games, could be an inexpensive fifth outfielding option for the Phillies. He's not an outstanding fielder, posting a -2.4 UZR this year, but he can play all three outfield positions, and in left field, his UZR was actually positive, at 1.2
The Phillies have a need for a fifth outfielder. With Hunter Pence starting in right, Shane Victorino in center, and a platoon of John Mayberry, Jr. and Laynce Nix in left field, the need for a fifth outfielder becomes necessary, and with the team's lack of major-league ready outfield prospects in their farm system, Spilborghs is a good option. He should come relatively cheap, and as a right-handed bat, can be used in a variety of circumstances.
Should the Phils ink Spilborghs to a contract—likely a minor league deal at this point—their bench, especially their outfield bench, will have strengthened significantly.
Now here's an interesting choice.
Jonny Gomes is another free agent outfielding option for the Phillies. Having hit just .209 last year, he does have pop in his bat, posting a .714 OPS along with 14 home runs and 43 RBI in 120 games between Cincinnati and Washington. Defensively, he's also superior to Spilborghs, with a 3.4 UZR last season, comprised mainly of playing left field, where his UZR was 2.8.
Gomes can hit left-handed pitching as well, batting .311 against them this past year. But as a right-handed bat, he doesn't hit right-handed pitching so well—he hit well under the Mendoza line there, batting just .167. Given that righties are more common in the game, though, Gomes did hit 11 of his 14 home runs off right-handed pitching and 30 of his 43 RBI against them as well.
As a potential power bat off the bench, or more likely a fifth outfielder, Gomes would be the best choice available through free agency. He can play in right and left field with average to above average defense, and he can hit for average against southpaws. Use him as a fill-in for either Pence or Mayberry/Nix against the lefties? You bet.
Gomes would be relatively cheap, and while he's looking for a major league deal, there's no reason he shouldn't get one. If the Phillies decide to sign Gomes, there outfield corps would be pretty remarkable.
Who said I can't include Phillies free agents?
Yeah yeah, I know. Ryan Madson isn't coming back to Philly. He's got this bad taste in his mouth after losing out on a four-year, $44 million contract and being let go in favor of Jonathan Papelbon as the Phillies' new closer. I get it. Why would he come back?
Well, Madson's market has depleted. Teams are no longer looking for an expensive closer, and with Madson still looking for a deal comparable to the one Heath Bell received from the Miami Marlins (three years, $27 million), he sure isn't getting one. The only teams with interest at all right now in Madson closing are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals, yet none of the three will pay him the money he demands.
If Madson isn't seeing offers he likes, why doesn't he return to Philly? Sure, it'd basically be a crapshoot move for Madson, considering that he'd set up like he had before, but a combination of Madson and Papelbon to set-up and close out games? That'd be unparalleled in the rest of the sport.
We all know of Madson's fastball-changeup combination, and we know about his ability to close, but if the team signed him to a one-year deal worth $7-8 million, then what's the harm? He could even become a trade deadline target at that point, or, more likely, he'd be the best free agent closer on the market next year, and would likely get his desired payday, if not more.
From an economical standpoint, Madson's best gimmick is to play one more year in the city with which he's familiar. And that's Philadelphia.