12 Dream Free Agent Pickups for Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies saw two free agent outfielders sign with new teams last week, leaving their list of available options a little lighter but still lengthy nonetheless.
However, with all of these options, the Phils will also be competing with multiple teams both in signing players and in setting the market at various positions.
The Phillies are also in a different situation this offseason. Yes, they still have money to spend and have pieces already in place, but this is also their first offseason following a regular season that ended without a trip to the postseason since 2006.
Ideally, the Phillies will be able to convince their top targets that they can return to the playoffs quickly, and that salary demands are not a problem.
Of course, this won’t be the case with every free agent, but there are enough options available that give the Phils a chance to turn things around next season with the right signings.
Here are 12 dream free agent pickups for the Phillies who, although they cannot sign every player on this list, can still fill big-time needs heading into next season.
B.J. Upton met with the Philadelphia Phillies last week, as tweeted by Ken Rosenthal, and remains as one of the top outfielders available on the free agent market.
Upton is one of the few options that the Phils have as far as players who bat right-handed, play above-average defense in center field and who can bat from the No. 2 spot in the team’s lineup. Todd Zolecki recently wrote on the Phillies’ website that Upton is the team’s top target.
Upton batted .246 with 28 home runs, 78 RBI and 31 stolen bases for the Tampa Bay Rays this season, but also struck out 169 times and had an OBP under .300.
Upton had the seventh-highest WAR value among American League center fielders this season, according to fangraphs.com.
However, as Jon Heyman on CBSSports.com recently wrote, both the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves also have interest in Upton, meaning that the Phillies could be bidding against two division rivals in order to sign him.
Upton’s batting averages over the last several seasons are likely lower than what the Phils would like, but he still fills multiple needs, especially compared to other free agent outfielders.
The Phillies have limited options when it comes to finding a third baseman through free agency, but they don’t have to look far to find an option that would help improve the team.
Kevin Youkilis batted just .235 this season for the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox, but still managed to hit 19 home runs and 60 RBI. His home run total was the sixth-highest among qualified AL third basemen.
According to Jon Paul Morosi on mlbbuzz.yardbarker.com, the Phillies have shown interest in the three-time All-Star.
Youkilis has a few marks against him, such as that his batting average has decreased in two straight seasons, and that he will be 34 years old at the start of next season.
However, he is also a right-handed batter who hit .275 against left-handed pitchers this season. Youkilis also drew the third-highest amount of walks among qualified AL third basemen. The Phillies as a team drew the fourth-lowest amount of walks in the NL, while their third basemen drew just 32 walks, the lowest total in the NL.
For a player who has still posted solid power numbers, can bat anywhere from second to sixth in the lineup and has also seen time at first base, Youkilis would be a free agent pickup for the Phillies that fills multiple needs while also helping to balance their lineup.
Ryan Madson signed a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds last offseason after the Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon to be the team’s closer.
However, Madson missed last season following Tommy John surgery, and is now a free agent for the second straight year.
According to an article by Jon Heyman on CBSSports.com, he’s also looking for a closer’s role for the second straight year.
Madson saved 32 games for the Phillies in 2011, but entered that season with 20 career saves and 24 career blown saves.
If Madson cannot find the right deal this offseason he could make for the ideal signing for the Phillies.
Ryan Lawrence on philly.com recently wrote about the possibility of Madson signing a one-year deal with the Phils and taking over the eighth-inning role in his first season back from injury.
A one-year deal would give the Phillies’ younger relievers another season to adjust to the major league level, while helping the team to avoid signing another right-handed reliever to a long-term deal.
It may not be his first choice, but taking an eighth-inning role with a team such as the Phillies could be Madson’s best option.
B.J. Upton isn’t the only Tampa Bay Ray who could fit nicely with the Phillies.
Jeff Keppinger batted .325 this season while bouncing around the infield, including a .332 average following the All-Star break.
As Buster Olney on ESPN.com (Insider Subscription required) recently pointed out, Keppinger had the seventh-best batting average following the All-Star break this season.
Keppinger is a right-handed batter who hit .376 against left-handed pitchers, and who also started over 20 games at third, second and first base this season. He has also started over 150 career games at shortstop.
Among AL third basemen with a minimum of 400 plate appearances, Keppinger had the sixth-best WAR value, according to fangraphs.com.
This season saw Keppinger have his highest batting average since playing in 67 games in 2007, but his low strikeout total was on par with his career numbers.
Keppinger would give the Phillies another option at third base but, more importantly, he would also give the team an option at nearly every other infield position, which is crucial for an aging lineup with their share of injuries.
Keppinger wouldn’t improve the Phillies’ power numbers, but he would still be a valuable addition this offseason.
The Phillies need upgrades in center field and at the corner outfield spots, although right field could be a difficult position to fill through free agency.
However, Nick Swisher remains as a potential power-hitting option that could fit nicely into the Phils’ lineup.
Jon Heyman on CBSSports.com recently wrote that the Phillies are thought to be interested in Swisher and also that, more importantly, Swisher won’t be getting a deal similar to the $126 million contract that Jayson Werth received from the Washington Nationals.
If that’s the case, Swisher could even more so be a fit for the Phils.
The switch-hitter batted .272 with 24 home runs and 93 RBI for the New York Yankees this season, his eighth straight season with 20 or more home runs.
Swisher has played all three outfield positions, but primarily played right field for the Yankees. He has also seen time at first base in each season of his career.
Swisher is another player who can bat anywhere from second to sixth in the lineup, and his addition would mean that the Phils wouldn’t have to rely on Domonic Brown, a left-handed batter who hit .196 against left-handed pitching this season, or Nate Schierholtz, if he’s tendered a contract, in right field.
The Phillies could choose to spend big on a center fielder instead, but if they choose to target a corner outfielder, Swisher would be a free agent pickup who fills needs both offensively and defensively.
Here’s where things get interesting.
Yes, Buster Olney tweeted that the Phillies are not concerned with Josh Hamilton’s contract demands, while Jon Heyman tweeted a quote from David Montgomery in which he doesn’t deny the Phillies’ interest in the former MVP winner. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good fit.
Hamilton’s batting average dipped to .259 following the All-Star break, although he still managed to bat .285 with 43 home runs and 128 RBI on the season.
However, it’s his off the field concerns that make Hamilton’s next contract a mystery, and also what makes it difficult to picture how he would perform in Philadelphia.
If his off the field concerns don’t come into play, however, Hamilton has the biggest upside of any free agent outfielder.
Hamilton has hit 25 or more home runs in four of the last five seasons, 100 or more RBI in three of the last five seasons and batted over .300 in two of the last five seasons.
Hamilton is likely going to receive a contract that gives him a high AAV, which is something the Phillies are familiar with, and would also be another left-handed batter in the team’s lineup.
Every free agent outfielder has their share of question marks, and none are guaranteed to excel while with the Phillies. However, it is Hamilton who, when he’s at his best, is an MVP candidate.
Since we’re talking about dream free agent pickups we can talk about Hamilton when he’s at his best, and in that case, he fits the mold.
Jason Grilli may not be the first name that comes to mind when thinking of dream free agent pickups, but he could be the ideal candidate for filling the Phillies’ bullpen need.
Grilli was released by the Phillies during the 2011 season and signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. This season, he had a 2.91 ERA with 90 strikeouts in 58.2 innings.
The right-hander held opponents to a .207 batting average, including a .168 average against left-handed batters.
The Phillies need a right-handed reliever who can pitch in the eighth-inning, but also someone who they can sign to a shorter deal so that their young relievers have more time to adjust to the major league level.
Grilli, 36, could be a player who signs for a short-term deal and helps the Phillies’ younger relievers pitch in lower pressure situations while not being blocked for the long-term.
While a pitcher such as Mike Adams would make for a great fit as well, he is also likely looking for a longer deal, and could receive a higher yearly salary following Brandon League’s new deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Jeremy Affeldt’s new deal with the San Francisco Giants.
Grilli, on the other hand, could be a cheaper option who provides similar numbers.
Grilli’s ERA has been under 3.00 the last two seasons, but was 5.32 in 2009. His career mark is 4.34.
However, if the Phillies decide to take their chances on a cheaper right-handed reliever, Grilli could make for a solid pickup.
Marco Scutaro is 37 years old, but is coming off a season in which he batted .306 between the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants, and .328 in the postseason while winning NLCS MVP honors.
Scutaro’s average has actually increased now in two straight seasons, while his 74 RBI this season was a career high.
Scutaro batted .306 with seven home runs and 74 RBI this season, finishing with the seventh-best batting average in the NL.
However, it’s his ability to play third base, as well as second and shortstop, that gives him value as a potential free agent pickup for the Phillies.
If the Phillies are able to sign Scutaro, they would still have Kevin Frandsen to play third base at times, and Freddy Galvis, who can also play multiple infield positions.
Corey Seidman on CSNPhilly.com recently wrote that Scutaro’s next contract could give him an AAV similar to the one he had following his recent two-year, $12.5 million deal, and that the Giants want to re-sign him.
However, if contract talks stall, Scutaro could be an infield free agent option that would be a great pickup for the Phillies.
Cody Ross is looking to sign a deal that is impacted by his 22 home run, 81 RBI season with the Boston Red Sox.
If three-years and $25 million, as tweeted by Buster Olney, is what he was looking for from the Red Sox, the Phillies could have a candidate for filling their corner outfield need.
Olney also recently tweeted that the Phillies have talked to Ross.
Ross batted .267 this season - not the highest average of his career, but higher than his .240 average from the previous year.
Ross has started games at all three outfield positions, although he primarily started in right field this season.
A three-year, $25 million deal would give him an AAV of just over $8 million. The Phillies were set to pay Shane Victorino $9.5 million this season before trading him and what was left of his contract to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
If Ross is looking for more than $25 million, the Phillies could likely find more value in center fielders or other corner outfielders.
However, as a right-handed batter capable of hitting 20 or more home runs, Ross is a free agent who, although not as a primary target, could fill out the Phillies’ lineup and outfield nicely.
Mike Adams would have made for a great pickup for the Phillies prior to his having surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome already this offseason, and if not for fellow free agent relievers likely setting a market that will pay him close to $7-$8 million annually.
However, similar to Josh Hamilton, we’re talking about dream free agent pickups. In that case, Adams would give the Phils a dominant one-two punch in the eighth and ninth innings of games with Jonathan Papelbon.
Adams had a 3.27 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 52.1 innings for the Texas Rangers this season. The right-handed reliever struggled against left-handed batters, but had a 0.82 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 11 innings in August.
Adams’ ERA this season was his highest in recent seasons, after he benefited while pitching for the San Diego Padres from 2008-2011. During these seasons, Adams had an ERA of 2.48, 0.73, 1.76 and a combined 1.47 mark between the Padres and Rangers in 2011.
Adams will turn 35 years old during next season, which could make the Phillies hesitant to offer a three-year deal, especially since he has already undergone surgery this offseason.
The Phillies don’t have to jump into the reliever market that has now become expensive following recent deals. They could also target pitchers such as Jason Grilli, Ryan Madson or Brandon Lyon.
But if contract demands didn’t come into play and his health is fine, Adams would be a dream free agent pickup to solidify the Phillies’ bullpen.
Angel Pagan bounced back to bat .288 with eight home runs and 56 RBI for the San Francisco Giants this season.
He’s also a player who the Giants could be focused on re-signing, as he ranked in the top-10 in the NL in both runs and stolen bases this season.
The switch-hitting center fielder batted .296 against right-handed pitching, and has also played all three outfield positions during his career.
Pagan batted .262 in 123 games with the New York Mets in 2011, which could make the Phillies hesitant to sign him to deal based more so off of his performance this season. However, since 2009, Pagan has batted under .280 one time, meaning his .288 average this season could be more accurate for how he’ll perform on a four- or five-year deal.
Pagan would not add much power, but his 174 hits this season would be a great addition to a Phils’ lineup that could use more RBI opportunities. He had the fourth-best WAR value among qualified NL center fielders, according to fangraphs.com.
Pagan could be a free agent pickup that doesn’t require the Phillies to break the bank, while still helping them secure a center fielder capable of above-average offense and defense.
Scott Hairston isn’t a dream free agent pickup in that he would come in and become an everyday starter for the Phils, but he would have a ton of value as a fourth or fifth outfielder over John Mayberry, Jr. and Laynce Nix.
Hairston batted .263 with 20 home runs and 57 RBI for the New York Mets this season. He also played all three outfield positions, including over 30 starts in both left field and right.
Hairston could provide depth off the bench in place of Nix who, in comparison, batted .246 with three home runs and 16 RBI in 70 games, or platoon with Darin Ruf in left field and whoever starts in right.
Hairston would be an upgrade if the Phillies are able to trade Nix or decide to non-tender Nate Schierholtz, and could also fill-in for an extended period of time in the starting lineup.
When it comes to dream free agent pickups, even the bench has to be considered.