After a long and disappointing season, the Philadelphia Phillies, are anxious to start 2013 off on a different note. In order to do so, however, a lot will be said of what the Phillies are able to accomplish in the free agent market this off season.
According to Tim Dierkes of mlbtraderumors.com, three of the top 50 free agents are projected to land with the Phillies. Included in this list is a player that Dierkes ranks as the fifth best available free agent in BJ Upton.
"Upton's best offensive season was 2007, when the Rays employed Steve Henderson as their hitting coach. Henderson now fills that role for the Phillies, which has to be a plus for the center fielder.Playing on the East Coast might also appeal to Upton, who hails from Norfolk.
From the Phillies' point of view, Upton could add some balance and power to their lineup as well as strong center field defense. At 28 there's room for growth with Upton, but the status quo would probably give a team their money's worth. The Nationals and Rangers could be other contenders for his services" - Tim Dierkes courtesy of mlbtraderumors.com
Dierkes makes some very good points in his short analysis of why he believes Upton will don the red and white pinstripes. The 28-year-old is far from perfect, but he is a polished player and one that gives the Phillies a nice replacement for Shane Victorino in center field. He also provides the team with a more reliable option than John Mayberry.
Although there is a bit of risk with Upton such as inconsistent performance, overall he is a player that would make the Phillies a better team and he also would be a cheaper option than Josh Hamilton.
When the Phillies won their second World Series Championship in franchise history, it was largely because of the regular and postseason contributions of right fielder Pat Burrell. In fact, in 2008, Burrell smashed 33 home runs and 33 doubles. He hit three home runs and drove in eight RBI, including a crucial game winner in the World Series.
When the Phillies reached the World Series yet again in 2009, it was Jayson Werth that held down the starting position in right field. He hit .268 and mashed a career-high 36 home runs. In the post season, he was just as good with seven home runs and 13 RBI. In 2010, Werth hit .296 with 27 home runs as the Phillies made it as far as the NLCS.
Burrell left the team following the 2008 season and Werth left the team after 2010. Since then, the Phillies have used combinations of Domonic Brown and John Mayberry in right and center field, only in the midseason of 2011, adding Hunter Pence.
Now with Burrell, Werth, Pence and Victorino gone, the Phillies have an immediate need at multiple outfield positions, a need that Upton could fill. In addition to shoring up an outfield that looked shaky at best last season, Upton fills another need for the Phils and that is a right-handed power bat.
In 2012, Upton hit a career-high 28 home runs and all signs point to him being able to top thirty in the 2013 season. If he can reach this power potential, then he gives the Phils a legitimate answer in the field and in the lineup as a right-handed power bat.
Although the Phillies finished atop the majors in base stealing efficiency last season, they have really lacked a true base stealing threat in the past couple of years. Last season, most of their stolen bases came from Shane Victorino (24), who is now with the LA Dodgers and Juan Pierre (37), who may or may not be re-signed.
With most of their speed likely gone, the Phillies will once again look to rely on the power of the home run ball. They expect to have both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley back for the entire 2013 season and, with the possibility of Darin Ruf on the bench, could find themselves returning to what their strength has been built around.
This is where BJ Upton comes in.
As mentioned in the previous slide, Upton brings to the Phillies a right-handed power hitting bat. What he also brings however is speed, evidenced by three straight seasons of 40+ stolen bases and two consecutive seasons of 30+.
He could very well be the player to give the Phils a more dimensional offense which could be key to the Phillies chances at winning the NL East again.
Just a few short years ago with Burrell, Werth and Victorino, the Phillies boasted one of the best and one of the most productive outfields in all of the majors. Entering into the 2013 season, however, their outfield is anything but solid.
Without Pence and Victorino, who departed prior to the trade deadline, the Phillies were forced to experiment with different combinations in their outfield, ultimately none of which was really successful.
They were forced to start Domonic Brown, who many in the organization are still hoping can develop like the top prospect they expect him to be. Also rotating in and out was Juan Pierre, John Mayberry and, toward the end of the season, Darin Ruf.
While these guys did provide moments of success for the Phils, the overwhelming result was negative as neither of the four guys really turned out to be an every day player. The difference however, is that BJ Upton is that every day player.
Since 2008, Upton has played in 143 games or more each season and has done so efficiently both on offense and on defense.
Unlike the Brown, Pierre, Mayberry and Ruf combinations, Upton is an above average defender. Again, since 2007, Upton has only had two seasons in which he recorded a 98 percent fielding mark. In the other four seasons, he topped the 99 percent mark.
No doubt, Upton is a defensive upgrade in center field.
When the MLB hot stove began to heat up shortly after the SF Giants won the World Series, the Phillies were immediately linked by several sources, including CSNPhilly, to the possible free agent signing of Texas Rangers' slugger Josh Hamilton.
Signing Hamilton certainly would not be out of GM Ruben Amaro's wheelhouse. Since he became general manager of the Phillies, he had not gone one offseason or trade deadline without making a blockbuster move.
Going along with that, the Phillies have been currently negotiating a new tv contract with Comcast and are expected to see a significant payday because of ratings they have consistently brought the network.
That said, Amaro has money to spend. The real question though is if they want to spend all of that money and throw all of their eggs in Hamilton's basket.
Hamilton is expected to receive a monster payday, not unlike the seven-year, $126 million contract Werth received when he signed with the Washington Nationals. Upton also will be due his fair share, but likely is more affordable and would give the Phils flexibility to sign a much-needed bullpen arm.
Add to that the fact that Upton is three years younger and that his defense and arm is well above average and then you see that it clearly makes sense for the Phils to go with him instead of break the bank to get the slightly better offensive talent in Hamilton.
Bang for your buck, Upton has more to offer.
One of the most obvious reasons for the Phillies to go after Upton is his age. He is not as young as players like Brown or even the 26-year-old Ruf, but at the same time he is younger than Victorino and Pierre. He is 28 years old and with increasing stats in each of the last three years, is considered to be right in his prime.
With the careers of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins seeming to be in decline, the Phils could certainly use a player with the experience yet youthfulness of Upton. They also could benefit from what could turn out to be Upton's best career season, if his expected improvements continue.
Overall, Upton is the right choice for the Phillies. He will be more costly than Angel Pagan or Torii Hunter, but, in the end, he will offer the best shot to actually make good on the contract the team will need to offer him.
It is also worth noting, that the Phils recently hired two former Rays personnel, including their old hitting coach that helped Upton to his breakout career season in 2007.
All signs point to the young Ray as the player the Phils are targeting and of the free agent options, he definitely makes the most sense for this team.