If the Philadelphia Phillies thought this past season was rough, they’re about to have an even more difficult challenge ahead of them beginning on Saturday at 12:01 a.m.
After this time, all of the predictions surrounding which moves the Phils should make this offseason can give way to official transactions as the team builds toward the 2013 season.
But when a team’s offseason begins nearly a month sooner than many had hoped, there’s plenty of time to speculate as to which players will be targeted.
Judging by some of the names mentioned as possible targets for the Phils, maybe there’s been a little too much time for speculating.
Here is the latest chatter surrounding the Phillies’ offseason moves.
Michael Bourn’s name has been mentioned as someone the Philadelphia Phillies have been interested in since the team traded away Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Joe Blanton, as Buster Olney wrote on ESPN.com (Insider Subscription required) during the regular season.
The Phils must now determine whether or not Bourn will be the center fielder that they target once free agency begins.
However, as Jim Salisbury on CSNPhilly.com wrote this week, there are a few areas that point to the Phillies looking elsewhere for center field help.
Bourn’s addition would add another left-handed batter to a lineup that is already primarily left-handed. He did, however, manage to bat .274 with nine home runs and 57 RBI this season, and is one season removed from batting .294. He has also stolen 103 total bases combined over the past two seasons.
But it’s what Salisbury writes at the end of his article that further puts Bourn’s status as a target in question. According to the article, Bourn, whose agent is Scott Boras, could be looking for a new contract worth nearly $100 million.
Bourn’s WAR value was the second highest among qualified National League center fielders this season, at 6.4, according to fangraphs.com, while his UZR led qualified NL center fielders at 22.4, also according to fangraphs.com.
However, if Bourn is looking to break the bank this offseason, it would be the second time this year that the Phillies have signed a player to a $100 million deal.
If his demands are lower, Bourn would be a stronger candidate as a player the Phillies will target this offseason.
Melky Cabrera will be an interesting case this offseason.
He was likely in-line for a new contract worth upwards of $60 million this offseason before he was suspended for 50-games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
Cabrera’s .346 batting average this season and .305 average last year have now been called into question, and it’s safe to wonder whether his .255 average during the 2010 season is more accurate of how he’ll perform in future seasons.
Nevertheless, Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote last month that the Phillies have been mentioned as a possible free agent destination for the 28-year-old.
In seven seasons, Cabrera has racked up 69 home runs and 417 RBI to go with a .284 batting average. However, his versatility on defense is what could intrigue the Phillies.
Cabrera has played in over 100 games at all three outfield positions, and has over 300 career starts in both left field and center field.
Cabrera is a switch-hitting outfielder who could help the Phillies defensively, but his true offensive numbers remain uncertain, as does the fan reaction that he’ll receive next season.
B.J. Upton joins Michael Bourn as another free agent center fielder that the Philadelphia Phillies could soon target.
Tim Dierkes and mlbtraderumors.com recently released their predictions for where the top-50 free agents will land this offseason, and predict that Upton will wind up signing with the Phils.
Dierkes makes an interesting point in the article when he writes that one of Upton’s best seasons came in 2007 when Steve Henderson, who was promoted by the Phils’ to be the team’s hitting coach following the regular season, was hitting coach for the Rays.
Upton batted .246 with 28 home runs and 78 RBI this season, and had 31 stolen bases, which ranked in the top-10 in the American League. In 2007, Upton batted .300 with 24 home runs and 82 RBI.
Upton’s WAR value of 3.3 ranked seventh among qualified American League center fielders this season, according to fangraphs.com.
Upton, 28, is a right-handed batter who batted primarily from the two-spot in the Rays’ lineup this season. His power numbers combined with his stolen base totals could make him a great addition between Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley in the Phils’ lineup.
Upton’s career average doesn’t make him one of this offseason’s elite free agent outfielders but, after Josh Hamilton, he will be part of the second tier that teams will be trying to sign to improve their outfields.
Here’s where too much time for speculating comes into play.
The New York Yankees, like most teams, can become frustrated when a player bats .120 with three hits in the postseason.
And yes, the Philadelphia Phillies will be looking at the third base market this offseason.
But that does not mean that the Phils will be making an offer for Alex Rodriguez.
However, Corey Seidman on CSNPhilly.com recently wrote that targeting Rodriguez would make sense for the Phillies.
Rodriguez batted .272 with 18 home runs and 57 RBI this season, the third consecutive season that he’s batted under .280.
If Rodriguez were a free agent, he might make sense for the Phils as he would be one of the top third basemen available along with Kevin Youkilis.
Instead, Rodriguez is still owed nearly $120 million over the next five seasons, and has a full no-trade clause.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports also recently wrote that no teams have called about acquiring Rodriguez so far this offseason.
If the Yankees are willing to pay 90% of Rodriguez’s salary, it would make him intriguing. Even then, however, how would he fit in the Phils’ clubhouse?
There’s chatter, but it is likely nothing more.
Speaking of Kevin Youkilis, Tim Dierkes and mlbtraderumors.com also predict that the former Chicago White Sox third baseman will sign with the Philadelphia Phillies this offseason.
The article notes that signing both Upton and Youkilis would push the Phillies’ payroll to the brink, but Youkilis remains as one of the best free agent third basemen after the White Sox declined his $13 million option.
Youkilis batted just .235 while spending time with both the Boston Red Sox and White Sox this season. However, he did hit 19 home runs, his sixth straight season with 16 or more home runs.
Youkilis will be 34 years old at the start of next season, and his batting average has decreased now in consecutive seasons. However, as recent as 2009, he batted .305 with 27 home runs and 94 RBI.
Youkilis will benefit from the weak free agent market at third base, but the Phils don’t have any proven options currently on the roster. Yes, Kevin Frandsen played great following his call-up, but can he maintain similar offensive numbers over a 162-game schedule? Will Freddy Galvis be able to make another position switch while also improving his own offensive numbers?
After declining Placido Polanco and Ty Wigginton’s options, the Phillies further created an opening for another third baseman.
If they go the free agent route, it just might be Youkilis.
There’s still a chance that Ryan Madson could spend his career pitching only for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Madson signed a one-year, $8.5 million deal with the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, but missed the entire season following Tommy John surgery. Madson recently declined his portion of an $11 million option for next season.
According to Jon Heyman on CBSSports.com, the Phillies are thought to be interested in Madson, but the 32-year-old will be looking for a closer’s role, an opening that the Phils don’t have.
However, Ryan Lawrence on philly.com thinks that Madson will have a tough time finding such a role this offseason, and mentions that setting up for Jonathan Papelbon in his first season back could help him in the long-run.
Madson was never able to fully take over the closer’s role until his last season with the Phillies, when he had 32 saves in 34 chances and a 2.37 ERA. It was the second straight season in which his ERA was under 2.60.
Madson may look for a team that will give him the opportunity to close, and the Phillies have more pressing needs.
But for a player who is looking to bounce back and a team who is looking for a proven right-handed pitcher for the eighth inning, this could be an interesting match.
The New York Yankees recently picked up Curtis Granderson’s option for 2013 at $15 million, meaning the 31-year-old center fielder is nearing free agency.
However, it is still highly unlikely that the trade proposed by John Harper of the New York Daily News would ever take place.
In his article, Harper suggests that the Yankees trade Granderson to the Philadelphia Phillies for Darin Ruf.
Granderson is likely getting ready for a big pay day through his next contract, and trading Ruf for a player with 84 home runs combined over the past two seasons is something the Phillies would have to strongly consider.
Not that such a deal would even be proposed in the first place, especially from the Yankees’ perspective, and considering that Ruf has appeared in just 12 total major league games. But this is still the time when speculation can run free.
Granderson’s .232 average and 195 strikeouts this season were the worst marks of his career, but he still managed to hit 43 home runs and 106 RBI.
Granderson would be another left-handed addition to the Phils’ lineup, but could slot into the two-hole.
Again, a Granderson for Ruf deal seems way too far-fetched, but it wouldn’t hurt the Phillies to monitor the Yankees’ decision making when it comes to the three-time All-Star.
Shane Victorino represents another option among center fielders, as he would once again provide solid defense for the Philadelphia Phillies, and likely won’t cost as much as Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton or some of the other members of the second tier of free agent outfielders.
Victorino’s .255 batting average this season was the lowest of his career in a season in which he played in over 100 games. His .261 average with the Phillies was actually higher than the .245 mark he posted following his trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Victorino posted down numbers across the board, but would still improve a Phils’ outfield that took an even larger blow following trades that sent two-thirds of the team’s starting outfield packing at the trade deadline.
Ryan Lawrence on philly.com thinks that Victorino would provide the most value in terms of what he will likely sign for this offseason, compared to other free agent center fielders.
Victorino still had the fifth-highest WAR value among National League center fielders this season, according to fangraphs.com.
However, Victorino’s defense is what could actually help him provide the Phillies with more value if he were to return to the team.
After being traded to the Dodgers, Victorino started primarily in left field. With the Phillies, he hasn’t played a position other than center field since 2008.
If the Phillies break the bank for a center fielder, could they then target Victorino to become the team’s left fielder?
Both sides might not be in favor of Victorino signing to play left field, but added versatility combined with a cheaper signing price could make him a part of the Phillies’ offseason moves.
Mike Adams’ ERA since the 2008 season is 1.94, as the right-hander has become one of the league’s best eighth-inning pitchers.
However, Adams also has already undergone Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery since the end of the regular season.
Tim Dierkes and mlbtraderumors.com predict Adams to be another player to wind up with the Phillies this offseason, although the article mentions that the Philadelphia Phillies’ payroll likely doesn’t have room for Adams, B.J. Upton and Kevin Youkilis.
Adams would improve one of the Phillies’ biggest weaknesses from this season, the eighth-inning role, and give the team two proven veterans to finish games.
In 61 games with the Texas Rangers this season, Adams had a 3.27 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 52.1 innings. Adams also held right-handed batters to a .248 average.
Signing Adams would allow the Phils to use a combination of younger pitchers such as Phillippe Aumont, Jake Diekman, Michael Stutes, Justin De Fratus and Jeremy Horst to fill out the team’s bullpen, and also not have to rely on Antonio Bastardo in an eighth-inning role after his ERA increased to 4.33 this season.
As Corey Seidman on CSNPhilly.com noted, Brandon League’s recent $22.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers could also increase Adams’ next deal.
The Phillies don’t have to put signing a right-handed reliever at the top of their priority list, but signing a pitcher like Adams, if healthy, will lead to a lot fewer headaches next season.
In addition to Kevin Youkilis, the Chicago White Sox also recently declined Brett Myers’ option for next season at $10 million.
Myers has pitched in all sorts of roles in recent seasons, going from a starter to a closer while with the Houston Astros, to serving as another bullpen arm for the White Sox.
Of course, he also pitched in these types of roles while with the Philadelphia Phillies from 2002-2009.
Ryan Lawrence on philly.com questions whether Myers might be a good eighth-inning option for the Phillies on a multi-year deal rather than trying to find a closer’s role on a one-year deal.
Furthermore, Myers could be a long-relief option if Kyle Kendrick remains in the starting rotation.
Myers had a 3.31 ERA, 41 strikeouts and 19 saves while spending time with the Astros and White Sox this season.
Again, the Phillies have more pressing needs, and Myers may be bumped down the list of potential options by players such as Mike Adams, Ryan Madson and Brandon Lyon.
At the least, Myers is an interesting new addition to the free agent market from the Phillies’ perspective.