As the winter meetings near, CF BJ Upton seems to be the top target the Phillies have their eye on.
Ever since before the final pitch of the 2012 World Series was thrown, the hot stove of the Philadelphia Phillies has been burning brightly. Before the regular season even ended, the team had already been connected to top-notch free agents. The rumor mill began to swirl as it always does in the offseason. This year, however, the presence of the big and available names provide quite a large free-agent pool.
The question then is not if, but when, Amaro will eventually jump in and make a splash.
Before we all wake up one morning to find out that Amaro did in fact make the big splash that, let's face it, has become his and the Phillies' calling card as of late, let's take a look at the names MLB Trade Rumors have connected the Phillies to and why they either would or wouldn't be a good fit with the team.
Here are the pros and cons of each of the top 16 free agent/trade targets the Phillies have been connected to since the start of the offseason.
The Rumor: According to several sources, including Buster Olney of ESPN.com, the Phillies are interested in the pursuit of top winter target, free agent Josh Hamilton. Olney reports on Twitter that the Phils are, "OK with the high annual salary that Josh Hamilton might command, but they have concerns about the length of the deal."
Hamilton, who is coming off a season in which he hit 43 home runs and 128 RBI, would provide the Phillies with a power hitting outfield bat that the team has lacked since the departure of Pat Burrell after the 2008 season. Hamilton also would provide the Phillies with someone who can hit for average as in the course of his five year career, he has a career batting average of .304. In addition to average, Hamilton's power numbers have been consistent, and in a park like Citizen's Bank, he could break the 45 home run plateau.
Hamilton is 31 years old and despite a career year in 2012, is heading away from his prime. As a result, a long contract is certainly a risky proposition. He is a sub par defender in the outfield and despite his solid numbers, would be yet another left handed bat in the Phillies' already lefty-heavy lineup. Also worth note, Hamilton has been virtually useless in the postseason, having posted a .227 average in 37 games played. He is a typical power hitter in that he doesn't work out many walks and his strikeout numbers have been on the rise.
The Outlook: Amaro would certainly turn heads if he brought Hamilton to the Phillies, but ultimately, it doesn't seem that this is the best fit for the All-Star. As pointed out, Hamilton is already 31. He will no doubt command a huge contract both in terms of amount and length. Considering his recent injury issues, it doesn't seem likely that he would give the Phils the best value for their investment.
The Rumor: According to Ryan Lawrence of Philly.com, the Phillies could look to make a big splash in the free agent pool by returning outfielder Michael Bourn to Philadelphia.
Bourn has great speed and despite getting older, has not seemed to lose any of that quickness. He stole 42 bases last season and would be a good addition to the Phillies, especially with the likely departure of Juan Pierre in free agency. Along with stolen bases, Bourn is a player who gets a fair amount of extra base hits and is a lock to score at least 90 runs a season. He also gives the Phillies a true leadoff hitter and would enable the team to play SS Jimmy Rollins lower in the lineup. He plays respectable defense and fills a huge need at the center field position.
Like Hamilton, Bourn is a left handed hitter. He is also going to be 30 at the start of next season, which could signal a bit of a slowing down toward the back end of a contract. He has never hit more than nine home runs in a season and strikes out at a far too high rate for those power numbers. Also, the team could be deterred by Bourn's lack of success while in the city. It was at the beginning of his career, but there is no guarantee after playing in Houston and Atlanta, that he would be able to handle the ups and downs of playing in Philadelphia. Also, his agent is Scott Boras, someone who in the past the Phillies have been very unwilling to negotiate with in terms of overvalued demands.
The Outlook: If the Phillies were to sign Bourn, they'd be putting out probably more money than he is worth because of how Boras operates. The biggest red flag should be that his speed is slowing but considerably, the numbers are evened out and don't show signs of a sharp decline. He could succeed back with the team that first drafted him but ultimately, isn't the team's best option to fill the center field position.
The Rumor: According to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Phillies are not only pursuing BJ Upton, but he is their "top priority" in this offseason. As of a November 2 report, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports considered the Phillies the early favorite to sign Upton.
Compared to Hamilton and Bourn, Upton at just 28 years old, is probably the most intriguing option available for the Phillies and it is for that reason, not really surprising to find him at the top of the team's priority list. Upton is a right-handed center fielder, which right there makes him an attractive player for the Phils. He also has slowly been on the verge of discovering a power stroke as he hit a career high 28 home runs last season. Additionally, with a .989 fielding percentage in center, Upton is a plus defender. He also has a very strong and accurate arm. He also possesses some good speed and has stolen at least 31 bases in each season since 2008.
The biggest knock against Upton is that he has only hit for average in two of his seven seasons and that his current stats are far from his breakout season of 2007. Upton also has high strikeout numbers and lacks perfect plate discipline. His extra base numbers are respectable, but due to a low average, he has failed to score more than 90 runs or eclipse 150 hits in any single season in his career. Overall, he still has time to mature and seems as if he has yet to meet his potential.
The Outlook: Commanding the smallest salary of the three big name free agents, Upton gets a clear look because of his excelled defensive abilities and potential to function as a five-tool player. He is also right handed. A lot about Upton resembles Shane Victorino from a few years ago, and this and maybe a little better is what the team will hope to get from the young center fielder. Upton is far from perfect but overall, if Amaro is looking to make a big free-agent splash, Upton is the best option.
The Rumor: Early in October, Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly.com, put forth Cody Ross' name as a guy the Phillies could pursue in the free agent outfield market. A few weeks ago, a tweet by Buster Olney confirmed that the Phils are in fact "talking" with Ross.
There is nothing particularly spectacular about Ross, and he isn't necessarily going to be dirt cheap. That said, he is second-tier free agent in the outfield and is more than capable of playing the left and right field positions. Right off the bat, Ross is an upgrade over Domonic Brown. The Phillies may give Darin Ruf a continued look in left, but at the same time may want to have a proven commodity just in case. Of course, the biggest plus to signing Ross would be keeping him away from the opposition. Not once, but twice, Ross decimated Phillies' pitching in the postseason, something the team would certainly love to avoid yet again.
Ross will be 32 when the 2013 season starts and as I mentioned, is a very average player. With the exception of a few strong seasons, Ross is a very similar player to Laynce Nix. That said, Nix was paid very minimally, and Ross is likely to get a better deal because of his recent uptick in home runs and slightly improved average.
The Outlook: Overall, Ross really wouldn't look bad in a Phillies uniform. He provides an upgrade over what the team already has in the outfield positions and has been a bit of a Philly killer in the past. He has proven the ability to play well in the postseason. If a deal comes at the right price, Ross could make a very good addition to this team.
The Rumor: According to multiple Philadelphia based sources, including Phillies beat writer Todd Zolecki, the team may have legitimate interest in signing free-agent outfielder Angel Pagan.
The Giants' loss could turn out to be the Phillies' gain, as Pagan would be a great addition to the Philadelphia lineup. Pagan is a switch hitter who hits for average and often makes contact. In his career, he has struck out just 390 times in over 2400 plate appearances. He also has 678 hits and a career average of .281. Unlike Upton, Pagan is more of a sure and proven thing and would give the Phils a comparable replacement for Shane Victorino in center. Pagan may not be a power hitter, but he is a proficient extra base hitter and has an on base percentage more fitting of what the team needs in the second or sixth spot in the lineup. He also rarely ever grounds into double plays and coming off of 95 runs last season, with the power hitters in this line-up, could be on his way to his first 100-run season.
There isn't much to knock on Pagan about as he has been a very consistent player over the course of his career. However, Pagan is 31 years old and could be on the decline. He doesn't have much of a power stroke and his fielding can be a little shaky. He also has just an average arm and is past the point in his career where arm strength is going to increase.
The Outlook: Ultimately, even at 31, it is tough to criticize a player coming off the best year of their career. Pagan will be a cheaper option than Bourn, Upton or Hamilton, but in the end, might be the one to actually successfully max out his contract. He likely won't warrant more than three years as the biggest fear with Pagan is that his numbers will decrease with age. That said, Pagan could end up being the best fit in Phillies pinstripes.
The Rumor: According to a report from Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, Amaro has not ruled out the possibility of putting Shane Victorino back in a Phillies uniform for the start of the 2013 season.
Victorino is a guy with red and white blood running through his veins. With his clutch home runs against C.C. Sabathia in the NLCS, Victorino affectionately became known as the "Flyin Hawaiian" and earned his place in Phillies history as a member of the 2008 World Series Championship team. He'd be welcomed back for sure. Other than his connections to the city, Victorino does still have his speed, as he stole 39 bases in his time with the Phils and Dodgers. Used in the right role, Victorino, who rarely strikes out, could be a good addition in the back of the lineup. His defense has never been in question, and he still plays near flawless center field.
Like so many of the free-agents the Phillies are linked to, one of the obvious knocks against Victorino is his age. At 32, and evidenced by his numbers from last season, Victorino is in decline. If he had a chance to be a good power hitter, that is no longer the case, as his home run totals dipped. Many of his other numbers went down as well, including his lowest number of runs scored since 2006 and lowest RBI totals since 2008. In seasons in which he has played in 100 or more games, Victorino had his lowest on base percentage in 2012.
The Outlook: I just don't see the Phillies going in the direction of signing Victorino. He is past his prime, will probably be looking for more money than he is worth and just overall is not the best option the Phils have at this position. He does have a connection to the city and its recent glory days so that might prompt at least some talks, but overall, I would guess the Phillies have moved on from Victorino.
The Rumor: Recently Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Phillies are one of six teams interested in acquiring the services of now free-agent outfielder, Nick Swisher.
Swisher is an interesting name to pop up on the Phillies radar. It isn't surprising that the team would have interest though. Swisher is a switch-hitting power hitter who would fit well in the fifth spot in the lineup. He has hit at least 21 home runs in each full season of his career and is good for at least 20 extra base hits as well. He has never recorded more than 100 RBI but has reached over 85 four times in his career. He also has a great OPS and could play right field or first base if needed.
Swisher is 31 and demanding quite a contract. The Phillies would not be wise to sign him for anything more than three years and 60 million dollars, but with what Swisher currently is asking for, this is well under that price. Also, Swisher is far from a perfect player. His strikeout numbers could be lower, he doesn't have much in terms of speed and he is just a .169 hitter in 154 at-bats.
The Outlook: Swisher would be a good fit with the team, but only if he dramatically lowers his asking price, which according to Heyman, is in the neighborhood of a Jayson Werth type of seven year $126 M deal. Only if the Phils strike out with their goal of getting a top-dollar center fielder would I say they should make a push at Swisher. Otherwise, they could find themselves with yet another lofty contract that ultimately pays no dividends.
The Rumor: According to a tweet from Fox Sports insider Ken Rosenthal, Marco Scutaro is one name that the Phillies are considering to fill their void at third base.
In a free agent market that is slim at best for this position, signing Scutaro to a short-term deal is not the worst thing in the world. The 10 year journey man is a right-handed hitter and boasts a career average of .276. He is coming off of his best career average and one of his better seasons. He makes good contact, doesn't strike out a lot and has hit on average, 22.4 doubles a season. He isn't particularly great in any category but if the price is cheap enough, Scutaro could platoon in the role with in house product Kevin Frandsen.
Scutaro, at 37 years old, is nearing a point in his career where he will likely be nothing more than a utility man. He has virtually no power, has low RBI and run scoring numbers and is really not a base stealer. He doesn't work out as many walks as he could, and his defense is average at best.
The Outlook: Kevin Youkilis is the obvious choice to replace Placido Polanco at third, but Scutaro should be worth a look. He may be aging but he does give the Phils a right-handed contact hitter. Frandsen likely fills this role if he can repeat his 2012 season but having Scutaro, if they can get him on a one or two year deal, might be the way to go.
The Rumor: In the same tweet as the one connecting Scutaro to the Phillies, Rosenthal mentions that a multi-position player such as Jeff Keppinger could also be on the Phillies radar.
Another journey man, there is a lot to like about Keppinger. He is on the younger side compared to Scutaro and Youkilis and is coming off of a season that saw him post career numbers in several categories. He is a career .288 hitter and could have another solid season left in him. He can play multiple infield positions but is a third baseman by trade. He rarely strikes out and makes good contact, as he has a pretty compact swing. He also has a very good on base percentage and could be plugged in nicely in the sixth spot in the lineup.
While signing Keppinger does seem to have its benefits, it should only be done on a short term deal. At 32, most of his best years are likely behind him and there could be worries that he wouldn't be able to fill out the back end of a contract. That said, at most Keppinger has only played in 137 games and is more of a utility than an everyday player. He could platoon with Frandsen however. Also, Keppinger does not have a high walk rate. He is not known for his speed either.
The Outlook: Personally, I really like the prospect of Keppinger. Scutaro is aging, so is Youkilis and other than that the free agent market is dense. A one year deal for Keppinger could open the Phillies up to the potential of signing David Wright as a free agent next summer. Keppinger could give the Phillies a strong year as well, especially because he is coming off of a good season. The defense is so-so, but if he can replicate his 2012 numbers, Keppinger would fill a void the Phils have.
The Rumor: The Rockies are not actively shopping Fowler, nor are the Phillies actively pursuing him. However, according to Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com, the teams should start talking because both have pieces that the other team wants.
There isn't much about the 26-year-old Fowler that doesn't intrigue me at this point. He is younger than any of the other center field options and would demand less money over a longer period of time. He is a switch hitter, which is another plus, and finally had his breakout season in 2012. Fowler has a great eye at the plate which is evidenced by his 260 walks in the past four seasons. On average, he takes over four pitches per plate appearance, which is testament to patience that most young hitters don't have. Fowler has yet to discover himself as a base stealer or power hitter, but he has shown signs of being able to accomplish both. He set career numbers in home runs, walks and RBI last season and could be primed to improve upon that in 2013.
Much like Upton, Fowler is far from a sure thing. He has a very high strike-out rate and to this point, could still be in benefit of further polishing of his skills. Also, since the Phillies would have to acquire him via a trade, the obvious con is that it further diminishes their farm system. The Rockies want pitching and the Phils do have that in their farm system, but the question comes up if Fowler is worth it.
The Outlook: Personally, I would welcome Fowler. We may have to give up some of our depth at pitching talent, but Fowler was a top prospect himself. He has shown more signs of success than Domonic Brown has and might be a guy worth taking a gamble on. Fowler seems to be on the brink of finding a power stroke and at just 26, is just entering his prime. If the Phils fail to sign any of their top free-agent targets, it would be wise to at least make an offer to Colorado.
The Rumor: Although there has been no direct contact between the Phillies and Angels regarding the young Peter Bourjos, Jim Salisbury reports that as the offseason continues, Bourjos might be a name that the Phils investigate.
Much like Fowler, Bourjos is a player who has a lot of upside and a lot of intrigue. At just 25, Bourjos is still developing, but at the same time, has shown potential to succeed as a major league center fielder. He is a right-handed hitter and has displayed some of the best speed seen recently in the majors. He has yet to really wow in any other category but with just two years under his belt, could be primed to break out soon.
Unlike Fowler, Bourjos is still considered an unproven player and therefore more of a risk when it comes to a potential trade. He is still developing so it is unknown what will happen. Overall, he has struggled to hit for average in parts of three seasons and has also had a high strikeout rate. He has speed but still has to work on his success rate on the base paths. He also has to work on plate discipline but that could and will come with age and maturation.
The Outlook: Bourjos would likely have come to Philadelphia if Cole Hamels been traded to the Angels. The Phils definitely do have interest in the young Bourjos, but at this time, it seems they are looking for a more polished product. Considering that the team would have to part with one of their top pitching prospects, it makes sense that they would prefer to acquire a center fielder via the strong free-agent market for that position.
The Rumor: According to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, the Phillies are have shown "preliminary interest" in acquiring Kevin Youkilis to play third in place of Placido Polanco.
Youkilis is not the ideal answer at third but in this free agent class, represents the best option. Despite his age, there is a lot to be excited about when it comes to Youkilis. First and foremost, you don't get the title, "Greek God of Walks" for nothing. He also hits for average, recording a mark of .283 over his eight year career. The combination of a player who hits for average, walks often and doesn't strike out entirely too much, has Youkilis with a great on base percentage and a skill set that fills a hole the Phils lineup has. Youkilis also has power and including last season, has hit at least 19 home runs four times.
The 33-year-old is nearing the twilight of his career, some of which may be evidenced by his career low numbers from last season. Youkilis is also a sub-par defender and could cost the Phillies on occasion because of his glove. Much like Polanco, Youkilis is not a speed guy and could clog up the base paths. He has also suffered from injuries recently, having not played more than 136 games since the 2008 season.
The Outlook: It seems to be the consensus opinion that the Phils will sign Youkilis. Really, it's not a bad move but it should be dependent on contract. Youkilis on a one year contract could be a stop gap after all, as Cody Asche has seemed to emerge as the third baseman of the future from within the organization. Overall, if the Phils overpay Youkilis, it could cost them both in terms of financial obligations and in terms of bang-for-buck value.
The Rumor: Having long been interested in David Wright, Jim Salisbury reports that the Phils may want to actively pursue a trade for him this offseason.
Some Phillies fans would probably hate if the team went out and traded for Wright just because he was a NY Met. Those fans however, would quickly realize that with what is available via free agency, that trading for the All-Star might not be the worst thing in the world. I find myself a supporter of a possible Wright trade because of what he brings to the team. He is 29, so is still in his prime and is a career .301 hitter. He has a great on base percentage and on a better team than the Mets, is certainly capable of consistently driving in 100 runs. He has a pretty good source of power and that could reach even higher levels at the hitter's ballpark that is Citizen's Bank. Oh and I forgot to mention, he is a righty with gold glove defensive skills at third base.
Wright is very much a five tool player, but he does have some areas that could be improved. He is good for 100 strikeouts a year and grounds into quite a few double plays a season. Of course, a con to signing him would be how much money the Phils would have to pay to extend his contract. Also, it would be an inter divisional trade that would literally cost the Phils big time. There is one piece though that the Phils have to trade and that the Mets need. So at least, there is reason to get the conversation started.
The Outlook: Wright is the kind of third baseman the Phillies want but ultimately can't have. While I don't expect Wright to agree to an extension with the Mets, I certainly don't see them trading him within the division. He'll be a free agent next year and if the Phils want to take a run at him then, that seems to make the most sense.
The Rumor: Despite his desire to secure a closer's job, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Phillies are in fact interested in bringing back Ryan Madson, albeit in a set-up role for Jonathan Papelbon.
It really shouldn't be all that surprising that the Phillies are interested in bringing back Ryan Madson. After all, when he was the set-up man, the team won the World Series. With a solid answer at closer, having Madson back would certainly improve this pen leaps and bounds. Madson pitched well as both the closer and eighth inning man in his career with the Phils. He has a fantastic strikeout to walk ratio which sits at 7.81 for his career. He also performed brilliantly in the postseason for the Phillies. Having come off of Tommy John, Madson might not get the closer role he so desires elsewhere and may find himself back with the Phils on a one year deal that could benefit both parties.
Madson has a pretty good ERA for someone out of the pen but has at times struggled with giving up the home run ball. His numbers have improved, but there is no guarantee what will happen when he returns. For that reason, the biggest turnoff to a Madson signing is this uncertainty. Couple that with the fact the Madson wants to close and that his agent is the notorious Scott Boras, and it makes the Phils chance of signing him that much tougher.
The Outlook: If somehow the Phillies can convince Madson to reprise his set-up role for a reasonable price, then he has a real good shot of being the guy. There is the question of how strong his arm will be, but overall, the Phils should be most worried about his agent, who is known to jack up the price of his players.
The Rumor: According to Ken Rosenthal, the Phillies have asked around regarding the right-handed free agent Koji Uehara, as he is a possible candidate to be the team's new set-up man.
Over the course of his career, Uehara has proven himself to be a reliable bullpen arm. In 157 games played amounting to 211.2 innings pitched, Uehara has struck out 231 and has walked just 29 batters for a K/9 ratio of 9.82. He has given up on average just 17 earned runs a season and as a result, has just a 2.89 ERA. He has worked in the set-up role and could do the same for the Phils if they are looking for a veteran to fill that role. Uehara will likely be cheap as well and could be the best free-agent option for this bullpen.
Uehara is 37 years old, although that doesn't matter so much for a bullpen arm. The biggest knock on him is in giving up the home run ball. He yields a little under seven in an average of 53.2 innings pitched which is only slightly better than some of the arms the Phillies already have.
The Outlook: Despite his age, Uehara could be just what the Phillies need to sure up their very young bullpen. It is a small body of work, but Uehara does have experience. Plus, he has been very successful in multiple roles in the pen and gives up an average of just .211 to opposing hitters.
Of all the rumors, this one probably has the least amount of substance, but hey, one can dream right? Stanton, who is one of the few remaining stars left on the Marlins, is exactly what the Phillies are looking for and more. To go through the checklist: Stanton is young (check), right-handed (check), hits for power (check) and average (check), gets on base (check) and drives in runs (check). Stanton is just 23, but he is already making a name for himself as one of the best right-handed hitters in the game. He mashed a career high 37 home runs last year and likely would have had more had he not missed 39 games. He has a great swing and can play pretty solid defense. With the state of the Marlins, the Phillies would be dumb not to at least see what the Marlins want in return for their All-Star.
Stanton, like a typical power hitter, does have some high strikeout numbers. His walks were down last year, and he has yet to score more than 80 runs or bat in 90 RBI. His stroke is still developing, and he doesn't always make contact. Also, he is within the division and it would likely cost the Phils and arm and a leg just to get the conversation started.
The Outlook: I would be all too happy if the Phillies somehow, someway, managed to trade for Stanton. I don't agree in mortgaging the future for the present, but Stanton is the future. He is 23, yet is already proven and further along then so many of the Phils prospects. He brings back a right-handed power bat to the lineup. I can't stress enough that he is still developing, meaning his best years are still in front of him. Stanton is a gem, and if he hits the free-agent market, he will be able to demand a serious contract if he keeps improving upon his already stellar body of work. He is worth whatever the Phillies would need to give up to get him.