The Philadelphia Phillies have a tough decision when it comes to third base. Will the team build from within or test the free market?
And no—the team will not trade for a third baseman.
The main focus this offseason has been center field and rightly so. The outfield talent swimming in the free-agent waters far outweighs the limited third base talent attempting not to drown—it just so happens the Phillies are in desperate need of a center fielder.
But are the Phillies desperate at third base?
Earlier this month, the team avoided arbitration by signing last year's second-half starter, Kevin Frandsen, to a one-year deal. Frandsen compiled a nice season, ending with a .338 batting average and .383 OBP—yet only two home runs and 14 RBI. He was average, at best, in the field.
Does this warrant a starting spot next season?
First, let's look at the third base talent the Phillies could realistically pursue.
Kevin Youkilis, Eric Chavez, Marco Scutaro or Jeff Keppinger—not the most exciting list of ball players.
Let's get Keppinger out the way. He is basically Kevin Frandsen with a few more years of experience. Granted Kepp is the better fielder, it would be a lateral move for the Phillies. In other words, he's a waste of money.
Marco Scutaro has developed into a solid ball player and adding a World Series championship to his resume makes him worth that much more. He's always been a consistent, average, utility-type player, but his past two seasons have been above average.
Scutaro, 37, will be looking for larger dollars and longer years. The Phillies would be getting a solid player, but not a long-term investment. More than likely, he re-signs with the Giants.
Eric Chavez is far too risky of a signing. The veteran third baseman enjoyed a nice comeback season, but who knows if he can repeat the performance. The last time Chavez played in 100-plus games was back in 2006. Injuries have slowed his once promising career, and the Phillies would be overpaying him this offseason.
This leaves the only free-agent third baseman left on the table—Kevin Youkilis.
Youk’s play has declined over recent seasons, but he still remains an above-average player. He is a patient, right-handed power hitter, who could be inserted nicely in the Phillies lineup. Youk would also serve as the reserve first baseman, behind Ryan Howard.
The issue with Youk is he wants a multi-year contract, and the Phillies are hesitant.
Who could blame them?
With Cody Asche tearing up the minors and Freddy Galvis being groomed as the next best utility player, why would the Phillies sign the aging vet to a multi-year deal?
The Phillies executives need to determine if signing a free-agent—at the right price—is necessary to win a championship next season.
If the Phillies could ink Youkilis to a one-year deal, he would be the ideal choice for the club next season.
Otherwise, Kevin Frandsen is your Opening Day starter, and the Phillies will ride him, as far as he can go.