With the World Series winding down and free agency set to begin soon after, the Philadelphia Phillies will soon have their chance to improve a team whose offseason began far too early this year.
Unfortunately, no clear game plan exists for completing this task.
Will the Phils break the bank on a marquee free agent, or will they scan the market for under-the-radar signings that hopefully make a difference? Should they use their depth at certain minor league positions to acquire help via trade? Which players from this season did enough to allow the Phils to stand pat at their position?
By trading Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Joe Blanton mid-season, and by declining options on players such as Placido Polanco, Ty Wigginton and Jose Contreras, the Phils will have money to spend and flexibility for trade acquisitions this offseason.
But why spend money just to spend money?
General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. has said that they must be creative this offseason, as an article by John Gonzalez on CSNPhilly.com mentions. This means that Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton and Nick Swisher may not be the only outfielders that the team targets, although they will likely be the most expensive.
The trade market, on the other hand, could be where the Phils find one of their 2013 outfielders, and one who will not cause the team’s payroll to skyrocket after just one acquisition.
Here are five bargain trade options that the Phillies could explore this offseason.
That didn’t stop Ken Rosenthal on FoxSports.com from writing that the Diamondbacks could still trade Justin Upton or Jason Kubel this offseason.
However, it’s 2011 Gold Glove winner Gerardo Parra who may be the most enticing trade option for the Phillies.
Parra, who won’t turn 26 until next season, batted .273 with seven home runs, 36 RBI and 15 stolen bases this season. Parra now has a .280 career average in four major league seasons.
Although this season saw him receive 60 fewer at-bats than his 2011 total, Parra still received 50 or more at-bats from four different spots in the lineup. His .273 average included a .307 mark from the leadoff spot, .314 average from the two-spot and .286 average from the seven-spot.
In addition to a respectable average, despite limited power numbers, Parra’s defense would greatly improve a Phils’ outfield that took a hit without Victorino roaming center field.
During his Gold Glove season of 2011, Parra made 117 starts in left field. Last season, his highest number of starts came in center. In total, Parra has made at least 50 career starts at all three outfield positions.
Yes, he bats left-handed, but if he can provide Gold Glove defense in center field, or platoon with a right-handed hitting Darin Ruf in left, Parra could be a trade option that the Phillies consider this offseason.
And after making $502,000 this season and, according to Tim Dierkes and Matt Swartz of mlbtraderumors.com, expected to make near $2.1 million next season, he just might be a bargain that pays huge dividends in 2013.
Bourjos’ name has been mentioned as a trade candidate for the Phillies going back to the non-waiver trade deadline, as shown in this tweet by Jon Paul Morosi.
And after batting just .220 with three home runs at a salary of $500,000 this season, now might be the time for the Phillies to try and acquire the 25-year-old right-handed hitting center fielder.
Bourjos lost playing time this season following the emergence of MVP candidate Mike Trout, and depending on if Torii Hunter is re-signed, he may be a trade candidate for the Angels according to Alden Gonzalez on the team’s website.
Despite the low numbers this season, Bourjos is just one season removed from batting .271 with 12 home runs, 43 RBI and 22 stolen bases.
He wouldn’t provide the Phils with versatility in the outfield, but he could become a bargain trade acquisition who re-discovers his offense while holding down center field.
Bourjos is not yet eligible for arbitration, which will likely keep his salary close to, if not below, the $1 million mark next season.
As a bargain, young, right-handed hitting center fielder who needs a change in scenery, Bourjos and the Phillies could be a match.
Dirks has yet to appear in over 90 games in a major league season, but still managed to bat .322 in 314 at-bats with the Detroit Tigers this year.
The 26-year-old has played all three outfield positions in two seasons with the Tigers, with his highest number of starts coming in left field. As a left-handed batter, Dirks would give the Phils another platoon option with the right-handed hitting Ruf in left field.
Dirks managed to bat .336 in 241 at-bats against right-handed pitchers this season. His numbers from last season were enough for the New York Mets to at least consider trying to acquire him to play center field last offseason, according to a tweet from Joel Sherman.
Dirks’ future with the Tigers could be impacted this offseason depending on the team’s moves. Delmon Young is set to hit free agency but, according to Buster Olney on ESPN.com (Insider Subscription required), the Tigers may also be a landing spot for Josh Hamilton.
If Hamilton signs with the Tigers, Dirks could have an even more difficult time getting on the field.
After making $485,000 this season and with solid numbers against right-handers, Dirks may have an opportunity with the Phillies.
Fowler will likely cost the Phils more in return than some of the previously mentioned bargains, but a slightly higher price could be worth it for a player who just had the best season of their career as they enter their prime.
Fowler will be eligible for arbitration for the second time this offseason and, according to Tim Dierkes and Matt Swartz on mlbtraderumors.com, will make approximately $4 million next season after having just made $2.35 million.
The 26-year-old right-handed hitting center fielder was mentioned as an option for the Phillies by Ryan Lawrence on philly.com, after batting .300 with 13 home runs, 53 RBI and a .389 OBP this season. Each of these numbers was a career high.
Fowler has started over 100 games at center field in each of the past four seasons, and posted solid offensive numbers against all types of pitching this season. In 143 at-bats against left-handed pitching Fowler batted .315, and batted .293 in 311 at-bats against right-handers.
Fowler has primarily batted from the leadoff spot, but has also had over 400 at-bats over the last three seasons from the two-spot, a spot in the lineup that the Phillies will be looking for someone to fill regularly next season.
Fowler may not be a bargain option for much longer, as he is running out of eligibility for arbitration. But if a five-year, $42 million extension, as proposed by Ben Nicholson-Smith on mlbtraderumors.com, is what it will take to sign him long-term, the Phillies would have a great chance at keeping him past the next two seasons. Throw in that Scott Boras no longer represents him and Fowler becomes even more enticing.
Fowler’s 2012 season combined with his estimated salary push the boundaries for him to remain as a cheaper option. But compared to the possible five-year, $60 million deals that free agents could ask for, Fowler is still a bargain trade candidate.
Zobrist does everything on a baseball field.
Seriously, besides pitcher and catcher, Zobrist has started at every position on the field in the major leagues.
Although he spends a lot of time in the infield and made over $4.5 million this season, his ability to play right field and everywhere else would make him a valuable option for the Phillies.
The 31-year-old batted .270 with 20 home runs and 74 RBI this season while starting at second base, shortstop and right field. Given the team’s age and injury history, Zobrist would likely play all of these positions with the Phils, as well.
Zobrist has started 210 career games in right field, and has appeared in over 20 games in both left field and center.
The Tampa Bay Rays will have little reason to trade Zobrist this offseason, unless they decide to save money elsewhere and keep their starting rotation intact.
Zobrist will make $5.5 million next season, and has a $7 million option for 2014 and a $7.5 million option for 2015. These are totals that the Rays may not be looking forward to paying.
Meanwhile, James Shields has a $9 million option for next season and a $12 million option for 2014.
The Rays will also have to pay David Price an estimated $9.5 million next season, according to Tim Dierkes and Matt Swartz on mlbtraderumors.com.
Even with the increased salary figures, the Rays may favor keeping Zobrist, especially if Upton signs elsewhere.
However, if the Phillies make a good enough offer and the Rays can save close to $20 million over the next three seasons, the Phils might just have Zobrist playing right field, and nearly every other position for that matter, next season.