Philadelphia Phillies' Free Agency: Updated Targets & Rumors

Matt BoczarContributor IIIOctober 2, 2012

Philadelphia Phillies' Free Agency: Updated Targets & Rumors

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    With the Philadelphia Phillies officially eliminated from playoff contention, the team must now fully turn their attention to the upcoming offseason and creating a game plan that gets them back atop the National League East standings as soon as possible.

    That’s easier said than done.

    The Phillies entered this season with the highest payroll in the NL, and were able to shed what was left of the salaries of Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Joe Blanton through non-waiver and waiver wire deals.

    The team will also gain back flexibility if players such as Placido Polanco, Ty Wigginton and Jose Contreras are bought out.

    How will the team’s roster look next season?  Which current players are being included in long-term plans?  Which positions will the team focus on through free agency, trades or both?

    Here are the latest targets and rumors for the Phillies as they head into the offseason.

B.J. Upton

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    After trading Victorino and Pence at the non-waiver trade deadline, the Phillies allowed players such as John Mayberry, Jr. and Domonic Brown to use the remaining games to win a starting outfield spot for next season.

    Neither has claimed one.

    With both of these players set to join Laynce Nix and Nate Schierholtz as the only players currently on the roster heading into the offseason with considerable experience in the outfield, the Phillies must focus much of their efforts on improving the position.

    One such player to help in this area could be B.J. Upton, according to an article by David Murphy on philly.com last month.

    Upton, 28, is set to become a free agent after making $7 million with the Tampa Bay Rays this season.

    Upton has continued to struggle while trying to raise batting average to the .250 mark, but has hit a career high 28 home runs so far this season.

    In continuing with the mix of good and bad, Upton has 31 stolen bases this season, but has struck out 167 times.

    Are his power numbers enough for the Phils to make an offer during the offseason?

    Upton could still be considered an upgrade to the team’s outfield despite the low batting average, but will the Phillies be willing to outbid teams?

    In a recent article on ESPN.com Jerry Crasnick wrote that contract estimates from executives for Upton varied from three-years, $27 million to as much as five-years, $70 million.

    Upton could make for a good addition to an outfield that needs improvement, but the Phils will have to keep their options open once the price begins to rise on a player whose average has remained around .240 during the past few seasons.

Michael Bourn

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    The outfield is the one area of need for the Phillies that also has a solid grouping of free agents set to hit the market this offseason.

    And, after Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn will be part of the next tier of free agent outfielders that teams will have the most interest in signing.

    As Buster Olney had written on ESPN.com after the non-waiver trade deadline, at least one rival official was quick to mention the Phillies’ supposed interest in Bourn.

    Bourn, who currently ranks No. 1 in the National League in stolen bases, is batting .276 with nine home runs, 57 RBI and 40 stolen bases.  His 40 stolen bases are actually his lowest total since the 2008 season.

    Bourn’s batting average has fluctuated during his career, but the 29-year-old has still managed a .272 career mark.

    Similar to Upton, Bourn’s asking price could rise steadily this offseason once teams start bidding, especially with agent Scott Boras on his side.

    Bourn’s speed and defense would be great additions for the Phils, but would they continue to increase their bid for a player who has struck out 291 times during the past two seasons?

    Bourn would also be an upgrade to the team’s outfield, but with possibly another outfielder, third baseman and at least one reliever still needed, the Phillies could wait to offer their next contract upwards of $60 million.

    Either way, it appears as if the Phillies will be monitoring Bourn’s status once free agency begins.

Nick Swisher

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    Swisher will become a free agent this offseason after hitting over 20 home runs for the eighth consecutive season.

    David Murphy on philly.com has at least expressed his interest in Swisher for the Phillies’ lineup.

    In 145 games, Swisher is batting .264 with 24 home runs and 92 RBI.  Although this is his second straight season of batting near the .260 mark, it is also the fourth straight year that he has driven in over 80 runs.

    Swisher will turn 32 years old during the offseason, so he is not necessarily the type of young player that the Phils will target this offseason.

    However, at 32, Swisher could still provide a power hitting bat in the team’s lineup for the next few seasons.  The Phillies may also view Swisher as a better option for spending a little more on this offseason due to his consistent power numbers.

    The team will have to see how the free agent market sets up for outfielders.  After Hamilton signs, teams still in need of an outfielder will view the likes of Swisher, Upton and Bourn as the best available options, and the price of each player could reach a level that the Phils are unwilling to pay.

    If they’re able to sign Swisher prior to the attention on the market shifting, it could be a risk worth taking.

Cody Ross

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    Ross has re-discovered his power stroke this season after hitting 14 home runs in each of the past two seasons.

    This season, however, Ross hit 22 homers to go with 79 RBI and a .269 average.

    And, according to Nick Cafardo on Boston.com, the Phillies will be a team interested in the current Boston Red Sox outfielder once he becomes a free agent.

    After giving Phillies fans some sleepless nights during the 2010 NLCS, Ross batted just .240 in 2011 with the San Francisco Giants.  Ross has bounced back this season to tally 125 hits in 127 games.

    Ross, a 31-year-old right-handed batter, is also hitting .302 against left-handed pitchers this season.

    Ross has played all three outfield positions this season and throughout his career.  He has made over 100 career starts at all three positions.

    Power numbers from a right-handed batter who can play all three outfield positions should catch the attention of the Phils this offseason.  But will Ross look to cash in big time after this bounce back year?  Will the Phillies be willing to offer a multi-year deal to Ross over some of the other free agent outfielders?

    If the Phillies spend big in other areas, signing Ross to a short-term deal could make sense.  If not, the team could look elsewhere to fill their outfield.

Chase Headley

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    The Phillies were already rumored to have had interest in Headley at the non-waiver trade deadline, as Jon Paul Morosi’s tweet shows.

    And with Chase Utley staying put at second base, according to Todd Zolecki, the Phillies could attempt to trade for a third baseman this offseason.

    As Zolecki’s article mentions, the San Diego Padres will not trade Headley easily, likely due to Headley’s play and the team’s second half performances.

    Headley is batting .283 with 31 home runs and 84 RBI in 159 games this season.  The 28-year-old batted .289 in 113 games last season, but hit just four home runs.

    Now that he’s put it all together this season, Headley finds himself leading qualified NL third baseman in home runs and RBI.

    Headley has only had one breakout season so far, and still has a high strikeout total, as he’s struck out 155 times.  He’s also drawn 84 walks.

    However, the lack of available third basemen, especially power hitting third basemen, could make the Phillies offer a trade package to the Padres.

    Even if Headley’s numbers dip to .270 with 20 home runs per season, the Phillies would still have one of the better hitting third basemen in the NL.

    Of course, there’s no guarantee that the Padres would even pick up the phone.