The Philadelphia Phillies could soon see their offseason plan begin to take shape, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes that free agent B.J. Upton would like to make a decision on where he will sign this week.
The Phillies have their share of weaknesses to improve this offseason, such as the outfield, third base and the bullpen, but they are not the only team looking to fix these areas.
If the team misses out on Upton, it will have to compete with a number of teams for fewer available outfielders. If the team is able to sign one of this offseason’s top free agents, it could look to find quick, low-cost fixes that improve the roster in other areas while not causing the payroll to skyrocket.
Once a larger number of free agents begin signing, the Phillies will need to have their contingency plans in place and ready to go, and some options could include making quick trades before the market thins.
None of these players would be considered flashy acquisitions, but combined with a few expensive free-agent signings, these trades could be the best options for filling the remaining needs.
Here are five players that the Phillies could target in quick trades that would fix the team’s weaknesses heading into next season.
Denard Span batted .283 with the Minnesota Twins this season, and his current contract includes a team option for the 2015 season.
Span, 28, batted .283 with four home runs, 41 RBI and 17 stolen bases this season. These numbers don’t quite match his performance during the 2009 season, but his average was the second-best of his career in a season in which he played in more than 100 games.
Span had the fifth-best WAR value among qualified American League centerfielders this season, according to fangraphs.com, while his 8.5 UZR was the second-best among AL centerfielders with a minimum of 800 innings, also according to fangraphs.com.
Span was mentioned in an article by David Murphy on philly.com earlier in the offseason as an outfielder who could be available through trade.
There are a few marks against Span, such as that he bats left-handed and has batted primarily from the leadoff spot in recent seasons. However, his .275 average against right-handed pitchers and his overall batting average were still higher marks than the ones posted by the Phillies’ current group of outfielders. He also had just 62 strikeouts in 516 at-bats.
Span should not be the Phillies’ first choice at center field, but if Upton signs elsewhere and the Phillies don’t feel that the asking price for a player such as Angel Pagan fits their value, they could choose to spend money elsewhere.
If the Phils miss out on a top free-agent centerfielder, they could decide to go after Nick Swisher to fill a corner outfield spot and possibly spend more on Kevin Youkilis at third base. At that point, Span could make for a solid trade acquisition that fills a remaining need.
Although he’s likely not a primary target, Span could make for a nice fallback option that sill improves a weakness in the outfield.
The San Diego Padres had the fifth-best bullpen ERA in the National League this season at 3.24.
This is likely a reason why, as Edward Creech noted on mlbtraderumors.com, Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune said in an online chat a few weeks ago (that had previously appeared on the company's website) that a pitcher such as Luke Gregerson could be traded for a starting pitcher.
The Phillies don’t need to trade for bullpen help, and finding a reliever for the eighth inning is behind improving the outfield and third base.
However, Gregerson has proven to be a dominant right-handed reliever in late innings and, according to Baseball-Reference.com, isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season.
He made just $1.55 million this season.
Gregerson went 2-0 with a 2.39 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 71.2 innings this season. His ERA has now declined in each season of his major league career.
Gregerson could be benefiting from pitching in Petco Park, but if his ERA were to go up similar to Mike Adams’ ERA after he was traded to the Texas Rangers, he would still make for a great addition to the Phillies bullpen.
The Phillies could offer a deal around Kyle Kendrick, who is set for a pay raise next season, or see if the Padres would be willing to bet on Vance Worley’s health being improved. If the Padres are able to sign a No. 2 or No. 3 starting pitcher, they could be willing to acquire someone like Kendrick or Worley to solidify their rotation. The Phillies, meanwhile, have depth at starting pitching.
Dealing for a reliever is low on the priority list, but dealing for a young, inexpensive reliever who is under team control for two more seasons could be intriguing.
Maybe the Marlins are looking to free up even more payroll.
Greg Dobbs would be far from a flashy pickup, but his versatility in the field combined with a .285 batting average this season would give him value as a trade acquisition.
Dobbs has played in over 250 games during the last two seasons with the Marlins. This season, he saw time at third base, first base, left field and right field, four positions that the Phillies could use help at either through starters or depth off the bench.
Dobbs would have a chance to receive close to 70 starts again with the Phils between potentially serving as a platoon option with Darin Ruf in left field or with whoever starts in right, being added to the mix at third base and backing up Ryan Howard at first base from time to time.
Dobbs batted .285 with five home runs and 39 RBI for the Marlins this season and had a .301 batting average prior to the All-Star break.
Dobbs is set to make $1.6 million next season, the last season of a two-year deal he signed with the Marlins earlier this year.
The Phillies have many more pressing needs, but Dobbs would likely serve as a better utility player than someone such as Michael Martinez or Pete Orr.
Again, Dobbs would be far from a flashy acquisition and would not fix a major need. However, when it comes to more minor needs, such as fixing weaknesses off the bench, Dobbs is a player capable of starting or providing depth at both the corner infield and corner outfield spots.
Jed Lowrie had trouble staying on the field this season, playing in only 97 games. However, as Buster Olney recently tweeted, teams are still interested in the switch-hitting infielder.
Lowrie has still yet to play in 100 games in a season, but had the highest home run total of his career this season with the Houston Astros. He managed to bat .244 with 16 home runs and 42 RBI.
Lowrie made $1.15 million this season and, according to Tim Dierkes and Matt Swartz on mlbtraderumors.com, will make $1.9 million next season through arbitration.
The Phillies would have to be cautious in any deal for Lowrie and make sure their offer is reasonable for a player with such an extensive injury history, and one who is nearing free agency. However, if the price is right, the Phils could find themselves with a third baseman that is just starting to reach his potential.
Lowrie started only at shortstop this season, but has made over 50 career starts at third base.
Lowrie could take over at third base with Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis ready to provide depth off the bench, or the Phillies could use all three players in platoon roles. Lowrie and Galvis have recently played at shortstop and second base, respectively, meaning both are versatile enough to bounce around the infield and help keep starters fresh throughout the season.
Lowrie’s addition wouldn’t fix all of the Phillies’ weaknesses, but it would add depth and solidify the infield if the team misses out on Kevin Youkilis and/or decides to simply add another player to the mix.
Chris Denorfia signed a two-year extension with the San Diego Padres in September, just after the team had received interest in him at the trade deadline, according to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
However, if the Padres decide to extend Chase Headley and are able to find a top starting pitcher on the free-agent market, the Phillies might be able to convince the Padres to part with Denorfia and the $4.25 million now owed to him through 2014.
Denorfia batted .293 with eight home runs and 36 RBI this season, the third straight season that his average has increased. This season saw him have his highest batting average, and hit and run totals, in his major league career.
What would make a great addition for the Phillies, however, is his ability to play both left and right field.
Denorfia is a right-handed batter who is now signed for less than $3 million each of the next two seasons and who has made 142 career starts in right field and nearly 50 in left.
With such a team-friendly contract, the Padres have no reason to trade him unless another team makes a great offer.
Depending on what happens with B.J. Upton and the rest of the free-agent market, the Phillies’ best option may be to make a great offer in order to add a high-average hitting outfielder to their roster and improve their weakness at the corner spots.