The Philadelphia Phillies are apparently serious about not just landing a premium free agent like Josh Hamilton or B.J. Upton this offseason—they are looking at stars under contract too.
This is the sort of aggressive thinking that happens when a team follows up five division titles with a season its fans would have been happy to see end in July.
Couple that with the gaping holes the Phillies have in the outfield and at third base (apologies to Kevin Frandsen) and you can see why the team with the second-highest payroll in 2012 may be getting ready to write a few more huge checks. (Via USA Today.)
And it is probably the only way to explain why the Phillies would be linked to the possibility of signing Josh Hamilton (per Buster Olney).
The arguments against Josh Hamilton as a big-money free agent are plentiful. Can you remember an established superstar hitting free agency with more questions surrounding him than Hamilton?
In the past four seasons with the Texas Rangers, Hamilton has missed an astonishing 157 games. Then you see his underwhelming postseason numbers (.227 batting average, .424 slugging percentage) and the thought of guaranteeing Hamilton generational money looks as dubious as some of his life choices. (Via baseball-reference.com.)
In the past five seasons, though, Hamilton has made five All-Star teams, won two Silver Slugger awards and a Most Valuable Player award. His team went to two World Series.
The considerable fretting about his age (he will turn 32 in May) and the missed games ignores what he would bring to Philadelphia for the shorter term, something they do not have right now.
Hamilton would give the Phillies a hitter opposing pitchers fear.
Up to now, the prevailing speculation was that B.J. Upton was the preferred candidate to man center field for the next few years (per CSN Philly). It is easy to see why.
Upton is a legitimate power/speed threat at a premium position. At 28 years of age, Upton is coming into his prime right now, and his 28 home runs and 31 steals in 2012 prove that point.
The holes in the Phillies' outfield can be addressed in free agency, particularly if Darin Ruf and Domonic Brown can be counted on to play significant roles in 2013 and beyond.
Third base, though, is looking like a position that would best be addressed via trade.
Headley emerged from a series of solid but unspectacular seasons to post a slash line of .286/31/115 in 2012. At 28 years of age, Headley's trade value is never ever going to be higher. Will the Padres trade him? Will they sign him to an extension?
The Padres are kidding themselves if they think they can contend in the near future for the National League West title with the recent two-time world champion San Francisco Giants and the big-dollar, big-expectation Los Angeles Dodgers in the division.
So it will be interesting to learn whether the Phillies are willing to overpay the Padres for Headley. He would fill a huge hole in the field and in the lineup.
The shocker, though, is the emergence of news of another superstar third baseman who may be on the move.
Wall Street Journal writer and self-described sports analyst Michael Salfino tweeted Sunday that a source told him that "Wilpon/Mets are broke, can't extend R.A. or Wright and have maybe two years left before they lose team." (Via hardballtalk.nbcsports.com.)
Could the Phillies make a play for Wright?
The Mets certainly would be chagrined to see Wright wander down I-95 to show up in the Phillies' lineup against them almost 20 times a season.
But if the Phillies are willing to part with value for Wright in a trade, or if the Mets feel like there may be better uses for the $16 million Wright will get in 2013 plus whatever amount it will take to sign him to an extension, the idea of Wright in red pinstripes becomes less far-fetched.
The sad truth for the Mets is that by the time the team fully recovers from its financial difficulties and gets competitive again, Wright will be past his prime. (Via New York Post.) If the Mets are going to rebuild, parting with Wright is the best way to get started.
The Phillies need a third baseman and Wright is among the best in baseball.
A deal sending Wright to Philadelphia is unlikely. But given the recent rumblings from New York, it is certainly not impossible.
Securing the services of even one of these huge names would almost certainly convince a newly-skeptical fanbase that the Phillies are once again ready to challenge for a championship in 2013.