'Tis the season to be jolly.
Well, it's not quite the Christmas season just yet and with the World Series now in the rear view mirror, not many baseball fans enjoy the thought of having to watch a different sport for a few months, but to some, this is the most wonderful time of the year—the offseason.
It's a time filled with suspense, anticipation and the occasional shocker as great baseball talents hit the open market in search of a new team or contract. I'm not going to lie—I find the offseason to be incredibly exciting.
So in that spirit, let's focus on the Philadelphia Phillies for a moment. It's going to be a busy winter for Ruben Amaro Jr. and company as he attempts to fill various holes on his roster as well as manage the names already on it.
You know what that means. It's prediction time.
In this slideshow, I'll give my take on how I see a number of Phillies related topics shaking out this winter. Who plays third base? Who plays center field? Any other drama to keep an eye on?
Time to dust off the good ole crystal ball and find out.
Prediction: The Phillies sign B.J. Upton.
The Phillies are going to sign a center fielder this offseason, and while there is plenty of debate about who is the right options for this club moving forward, I think that they wind up with former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder.
Upton fits their gameplan in a lot of ways. He's 28 years old. He's right-handed. Those are a couple of pluses right off of the bat.
Then you look at the skill-set. If he can turn some of that potential into results, he'd be a scout's dream—a true five-tool player that can hit for contact and power, run, defend and throw.
There is plenty of risk involved, but the Phillies could use the upside.
Prediction: The Phillies sign Kevin Youkilis.
The Phillies need a third baseman.
Now that Placido Polanco is a free agent, some people are comfortable handing over the reigns to defensive wizard Freddy Galvis, but the Phils need a little upside offensively—not to mention that they would be asking Galvis to learn yet another new position this spring.
For me, it comes down to this: Where is the upside offensively at third base? Do you think Galvis is going to develop into a consistent hitter or do you think Youkilis will rebound at the plate?
I'm thinking that the latter is more likely. He is not going to be overly expensive, and while he certainly does not make the Phillies any younger, he does give them a right-handed bat to plug into the middle of the order.
Prediction: The Phillies sign Ryan Madson.
Ryan Madson wants to be a closer.
That's not a surprise. He hit the market last winter as one of the best options available and almost signed a lucrative deal to fill that role for the Phillies.
However, that opportunity collapsed and he missed an entire season following Tommy John surgery. It's time for Madson to level his expectations a bit. He is either going to close games for a non-contender or pitch in the eighth inning for teams with a shot.
The Phillies would love to make him their setup man again. It gives them a dominant eighth inning option and a bit more experience on pitching in high-leverage situations for their younger guys.
I think Madson comes to his senses.
Prediction: The Phillies put in some calls to corner outfielders, but don't sign one.
The Phillies are a team that has quite a few holes to fill and not a ton of money to spend. While I'm sure they would like to upgrade in a corner outfield spot, they'd only be able to do so if the price is right.
Domonic Brown is going to fill one of those corners. The other could be filled by a solid, in-house platoon with names like Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr., Nate Schierholtz and Laynce Nix. They could also bring in a different platoon options for much cheaper.
While names like Cody Ross, Nick Swisher and Josh Hamilton would look nice in the middle of the Phillies order, I think it is more practical for them to pass.
Prediction: The Phillies show a strong interest in international players this offseason.
Historically, the Phillies haven't been big players in the international market, but it may be time to turn a new leaf this offseason.
The Phillies are looking to upgrade their pitching staff a bit and two players could help them specifically: Ryu Hyun-Jin and Kyuji Fujikawa.
Hyun-Jin is a talented left-handed pitcher that is going to be coveted by MLB clubs this winter. He has the potential for four plus-pitches and could function as either a back end of the rotation starter or a reliever with some upside.
Fujikawa is going to end up being one of the best relievers available. He has a good fastball with a pair of plus-secondary offerings that helped him dominate Japanese hitters for years.
I expect the Phillies to be active on both fronts.
Prediction: Teams call the Phillies about the availability of Cliff Lee, but they do not trade him.
The Phillies will explore all of their options this winter and trading Lee is certainly a possibility. They asked other teams about their interest levels last summer and could do the same again this offseason.
But they're not going to trade him.
The strength of this team is its starting pitching and the Phillies are a much better team with Lee in the rotation—especially without a legitimate option to take over should they make such a move.
You'll see Lee's name pop up in some rumors and speculation, but the Phillies probably won't even consider moving him.
Prediction: The Phillies inquire on several of the trade market's best available players.
The Phillies can fill most of their needs on the free agent market, but some of the best possible fits are on the trade front.
The name that immediately comes to mind is San Diego's Chase Headley—a right-handed third baseman that would slot perfectly into the Phillies lineup and be exactly what they're looking for.
They'll also call around on the outfield front. The Minnesota Twins have a couple of outfielders available in Denard Span and Josh Willingham and the Los Angeles Dodgers could make Andre Ethier available.
The Phillies have options.
Prediction: The Phillies don't make a major trade this offseason.
The Phillies would love to have Chase Headley. They'd love to get an affordable outfielder like Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins. The fact of the matter is that making a top tier trade is going to be difficult for this club.
After making several big deals in a relatively short period of time, the Phillies are going to have to hold on to the top prospects that remain in their system. Their farm system has taken a plunge and they'll need to promote players to help their own club soon.
Trading prospects like Trevor May and Jesse Biddle would be a short term fix for a club that needs to start considering long term solutions.
They won't make a major trade.
Prediction: The Phillies tender Nate Schierholtz a contract.
Because he is eligible for arbitration this winter, the Phillies have the option to "non-tender" Nate Schierholtz, essentially making him a free agent. They won't.
While he certainly wasn't the centerpiece of the dealt that sent Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants, he was one of the bigger pieces.
Schierholtz offers a skill-set that the Phillies may find useful in 2013. He can play all three outfield positions and hits right-handed pitching well, making him a viable bench option or solid half of a platoon.
There is a role for him in 2013. He'll be tendered a contract.
Prediction: The Phillies release Laynce Nix before the 2013 regular season.
They may wait until spring training rolls around to make it official, but I'm predicting that the Phillies are going to part ways with Nix before the regular season begins.
It comes down to a numbers crunch. Now that Ryan Howard is healthy, Nate Schierholtz is a similar player with more value. Nix can only play the corner outfield positions and first base and did not hit for nearly as much power as the Phillies expected him to in 2012.
His roll becomes a little redundant with Schierholtz already on the roster, so I expect the Phillies to bite the bullet and release him.
Prediction: Freddy Galvis makes the club as the utility man.
I don't think that the Phillies are ready to commit to Galvis as the everyday third baseman, something that they may have to do if they cannot find a suitable replacement for Placido Polanco, but there is definitely a role for him in 2013.
Galvis is a sensational defender and a switch-hitter. He gives the Phillies the option to rest players like Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins and certainly won't hurt them with his defense.
Though I believe it is unlikely, Galvis may wind up playing third base for the Phillies on a more regular basis and they wouldn't lose a thing defensively, but even if the Phils go a different route at third, there is a role for Galvis on this club.
He'd be one hell of a utility man.
Prediction: Kevin Frandsen doesn't make the MLB club out of spring training.
Frandsen did an admirable job playing third base in place of Placido Polanco last season, earning respect from the notorious Phillies fans for his hard-nosed style of play. But is there really a place for him on the roster in 2013?
Anyone who expects Frandsen to hit nearly as well as he did last season needs to come back down to Earth. His .366 BABip compared against his career BABip of .284 makes that highly unlikely.
What the Phillies really have in Frandsen is a solid utility man who can play a couple of infield positions, but the Phils can fill that roll with Freddy Galvis, who is a better defender and switch-hitter to boot.
I expect the Phillies to hold on to Frandsen if they can, but I don't foresee him making the MLB club out of camp next spring.
Prediction: Both Darin Ruf and John Mayberry Jr. figure into the Phillies' plans this offseason.
Is there room for both Ruf and Mayberry on the Phillies roster next season?
It figures to be a tight fit, but I think that there is. Mayberry has been a part of the Phillies roster for the last few seasons and has handled left-handed pitching with well. He plays an adequate defense in left field and could be part of a platoon.
Ruf is making sure that the Phillies' front office can't forget his name. He dominated Double-A, handled MLB pitching and then went to Venezuela to conquer that league's pitching as well. His minor league numbers show that he has seen left-handed pitching well and could also serve as half of a platoon—if not more.
Part of me wants to suggest that the Phillies will consider cutting Mayberry loose, but I just can't see it happening. They're probably a better club with both of these guys on the roster.
Prediction: The Phillies call teams about their interest in Vance Worley this offseason.
As far as trade chips are concerned, Worley is probably the best of what the Phillies have to offer.
Teams go crazy over affordable, controllable, young, MLB-proven pitching with upside, and Worley certainly fits that bill. Not that the situations are the same, but look at the price that the New York Yankees paid for Michael Pineda last winter.
The Phillies figure to be active on the trade market this winter and any big deal that they attempt to make will likely center around the availability of Worley.
Prediction: The Phillies end up holding on to Vance Worley this winter.
Is Worley more valuable to the Phillies in their starting rotation or as a trade chip?
That's one of the decisions that the Phillies' front office will have to make this winter and without a viable replacement already lined up, I expect them to hold on to Worley.
Right now, they can fill most of their needs on the free agent market. The big holes are in center field and the bullpen and there are plenty of options there. They can find a third baseman or a starting pitcher there as well, but those are secondary needs.
The Phillies aren't going to trade Worley unless they're getting an impact player in return, like a Justin Upton or Chase Headley. They may make an offer, but there are teams with more of a need and better farm systems that will make better offers.
Prediction: The Phillies pursue a couple of free agent starting pitchers.
The Phillies could stand to upgrade their starting rotation this winter. On paper, they look pretty solid with three names that could be considered for a Cy Young in any given season, Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick.
On the field, things get a little hairier. Look at what happened to Roy Halladay in 2012. The youngest member of the rotation (Worley) dealt with a bone chip in his throwing elbow for nearly an entire season.
What the Phillies really need is starting pitching depth. I expect them to pursue free agents in the mold of Dan Haren—guys who will be looking for one-year deals to reestablish value and jump back into the market next winter.
Prediction: The Phillies do not sign a free agent starter that has an impact on their starting rotation.
Heading into the 2012 season, the Phillies were comfortable with the back end of their starting rotation consisting of Vance Worley and Joe Blanton. Moving into the 2013 season, Blanton is tentatively replaced by Kyle Kendrick.
Kendrick and Blanton, statistically speaking, are similar starting pitchers. That's a long way of saying that I don't believe the Phillies will sign a free agent starting pitcher unless he practically falls into their laps as a bargain.
Guys like Dan Haren and Scott Baker sound nice, but they'll probably get better offers from clubs with more of a starting pitching need.
Instead, I expect the Phillies to sign a couple of guys with some upside that they can stash in Triple-A until they're needed.
Prediction: Kyle Kendrick is the fifth starter.
There could conceivably be a little bit of a competition in spring training for the fifth starter's role even if the Phillies don't sign a free agent starting pitcher this season.
Tyler Cloyd isn't going to set the world on fire with his pitching repertoire, but he could probably give Kendrick a good run for his money as the club's fifth starter.
For Cloyd, it all comes down to developing a pitch that can retire left-handed hitters. Cutters that break right into the happy zone aren't going to cut it at the highest level.
That's why he'll go back to Triple-A and work on developing that kind of pitch until the Phillies need him during the regular season. Kendrick will stay in the rotation and if he continues on the path that he was when 2012 ended, may stay there for good.
Prediction: The Phillies ask about Alex Rodriguez, but talks never get serious.
The Phillies need a third baseman that could help with the bat in the worst way and I personally think that it would be worthwhile to call the New York Yankees about Rodriguez, but I certainly don't believe that a deal of this magnitude could get done.
For starters, the Phillies probably wouldn't even really consider bringing Rodriguez aboard unless the Yankees were willing to eat about $100 million of the $114 million left on the third baseman's deal.
At that point, the Yankees would want some top prospects back and that's just not something that the Phillies are going to consider at this point.
No to A-Rod.
Prediction: The Phillies build a young, affordable bullpen this winter.
For a bullpen that will likely only guarantee spots to two relievers as it stands right now (Jonathan Papeblon and Antonio Bastardo), the Phillies are in a pretty good spot with their relievers right now.
Fans got a glimpse of the future last season when Phillippe Aumont and Justin De Fratus starter working in the later innings later in the year. Other right-handed relievers include Mike Stutes, Michael Schwimer and Josh Lindblom.
Jeremy Horst had one of the best seasons of any Phillies reliever last year and he'll likely be on the fast track for a spot, though Jake Diekman could have something to say about that.
This prediction is kind of a freebie, but here it is anyway: The Phillies will employ a young, affordable, but talented bullpen next season.
Prediction: Carlos Ruiz gets a contract extension.
With talented catching prospects like Tommy Joseph and Sebastian Valle on the way, the common train of thought seems to be that Ruiz is nearing the end of his tenure as a member of the Phillies. I'm not so certain.
If you ask me, Ruiz is one of the most irreplaceable players on the roster.
Before 2012, he was one of the best defensive catchers in the game that could handle a tough pitching staff with ease. Following 2012, he was not only a great defensive player, but a dynamic offensive player as well.
I could see Ruiz getting an offer from the Phillies this winter and happily accepting it.
Prediction: The Phillies and Chase Utley do not agree to a contract extension this offseason.
Full disclosure: I do think that the Phillies and Utley will eventually agree to an extension, but that it happens during the regular season.
At the end of the day, I struggle to picture Utley playing in a different uniform and I expect that many people are the same way. He is one of the greatest players in franchise history and deserves to retire as a member of the Phillies when he is ready.
With that being said, the Phillies need to see that he is healthy first before making any kind of commitment. If spring training goes okay for the second baseman and he gets through the first month or two of the season without a problem, I can see both sides wanting to get an extension out of the way.
Prediction: Ryan Howard has a healthy offseason and arrives at spring training in much better shape.
When Howard made his regular season debut in 2012, he looked like a guy who had torn his Achilles tendon about half a year earlier.
When the Phillies first baseman shows up to camp this spring, I expect him to look like he's in much better shape, and that's because he will be. With the Achilles injury a thing of the past, Howard has an opportunity for a regular offseason workout.
That should be beneficial to the Phillies in the long run. There is no doubt that having a healthy Howard in the middle of their order makes the Phillies a much more dynamic team—even if he is only there to hit home runs.
Prediction: After an offseason of rest and rehabilitation, Roy Halladay comes back strong in 2013.
One of the biggest concerns of the offseason for the Phillies has to be the health of Halladay. While he is expected to be healthy for the regular season, the lack of velocity on his fastball and loss of control has to raise a few warning signs.
Will it force the Phillies to look for a starting pitcher this offseason? Well, that's a different story. Regardless, all eyes will be on Halladay this spring as he shows off his arm. Will he be healthy?
I think so. I think that Halladay has learned that he needs to tone back his offseason regiment some and will come back in March looking healthier. He'll also have an idea of how to attack hitters without that extra pop on his famous cutter.
Prediction: Chase Utley finally has a "normal" offseason.
For the third consecutive season, all eyes will be on the Phillies second baseman when spring training arrives, curious as to whether or not he is going to be ready to go at the start of the regular season.
I think he will be.
Now that has to be taken with a grain of salt with the way that the last two springs have gone, but I do think that Utley has a much better grip on how to handle his condition.
He finished the regular season strong and I think that it was a sign of things to come.