General managers and their crew of front office cronies have spent the last month or so sweet-talking free agents and laying the groundwork for major trades. Now, with the annual Winter Meetings rounding into focus, it's about time they put their money where their mouth is.
Ruben Amaro Jr. and company came into the offseason knowing that the Philadelphia Phillies have a specific set of needs: center fielder, third baseman and setup man, likely in that order. Until the moment those voids are filled, we can only wonder—who are they going to sign?
When you look at a team like the Phillies this winter, we can build a ranking of who they are most likely to sign and which free agents are on the other end of the spectrum. They're operating on a limited budget, are locked into contracts at most positions and have very specific areas of need.
So with that in mind, let's rank them. The following list will start at number 25 and list a player that the Phillies are not likely to acquire, culminating in number one—the player that the Phillies are most likely to wind up with when the offseason is over.
Experience tells us that you can't count Ruben Amaro Jr. out of any player's market—especially that of an elite starting pitcher, but Zack Greinke is going to wind up signing elsewhere.
While it is conceivable that the Phillies could make a run at Greinke and then move some of their starting pitcher for an elite hitter, that only happens if all of their free agent targets dry up and they're uncomfortable with the starting pitching depth that they already have.
Greinke is in line for a payday similar to the one Cole Hamels got from the Phillies, and with both Los Angeles teams interested in his services, he could get more.
It won't be from the Phils.
When the Toronto Blue Jays went on their little shopping spree in Miami, one person that was none too pleased about the whole ordeal was Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton—and rightfully so. The club went from having a solid core to completely depleted in the matter of minutes.
So when Stanton publicly voiced his displeasure with the Marlins, the trade speculation went into overdrive. Let's put it this way: Who isn't going to be interested in a 23-year-old, right-handed power hitter who is a capable defender and not even eligible for arbitration?
The answer? No one. Everyone is going to have some level of interest.
And I hesitantly include the Phillies under that broad "everyone" umbrella because they probably don't have the goods to swing a deal. In my opinion, the Marlins won't even perk up their ears unless Vance Worley, Domonic Brown and maybe Jesse Biddle are in the deal.
That's a lot of talent heading to a division rival that just added two top 100 prospects (Jake Marisnick and Justin Nicolino) to go along with their pair of top 25 prospects (Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez).
The present is dull for the Marlins, but the future is bright. Acquiring Stanton could cripple the Phillies in the future, unless of course, they were able to pull off a trade and not move almost all of their top five prospects.
At this point, you would have to assume that any trade between the New York Yankees and Phillies for start third baseman Alex Rodriguez would have to be the perfect storm of events. That almost happened last season.
Yankees manager Joe Giardi benched Rodriguez during the postseason and simultaneously created a trade buzz surrounding the third baseman's future.
For the Phillies to get involved in any discussions, the Yankees would have to be willing to eat at least $100 million of the $114 million remaining on his contract and refuse to clean out the Phillies' farm system at the same time.
It's just not happening.
Justin Upton has come up in trade rumors at every junction a trade has been theoretical for the last few seasons, but the Arizona Diamondbacks can't seem to warm their cold feet enough to trade him.
And with good reason.
At just 25 years old, Upton is already one of the game's top right-handed bats. He is a well-rounded, five-tool player that is under team control through the 2016 season at an affordable price for a right fielder of his skill set.
Because they have some depth in the outfield, any Upton deal would have to fill other areas of need for the D'backs. They've been targeting several positions including starting pitching, shortstop and third base.
While the Phillies would love to have him, they probably don't have the goods to swing a deal for Upton unless they're willing to move Cliff Lee and absorb the majority of his remaining contract.
Peter Bourjos has been a popular name among speculators of the Phillies' offseason plan of attack so far this winter, but why would the Los Angeles Angels move him for anything less than a gross overpay?
Sure, Mike Trout has firmly entrenched himself as the club's starting center fielder (no, he's not available—don't even think about it), but that doesn't mean that he's forcing Bourjos out the door. The latter is affordable, under team control and coming off of an injury.
This is the definition of a team "selling low"—and the Angels would be selling way low.
Bourjos is a decent top of the order hitter with plenty of speed to burn and a good defender. While their need for starting pitching could push the Angels to move him, I think Bourjos stays put this winter.
Finding a third baseman has been a struggle for the Phillies since the day they traded Scott Rolen to the St. Louis Cardinals and there isn't a doubt in my mind that they would love to get their hands on Chase Headley.
After a breakout season in 2012, Headley is affordable, under team control and a right-handed power bat—all things that the Phillies need—but also things that make him valuable to the San Diego Padres.
With prospect Jedd Gorkyo ready to take over, the Padres could conceivably move Headley, but they don't have to, and that pushes him towards the back end of this list. The Friars are searching for starting pitching, so any deal would likely cost the Phillies both Vance Worley and Trevor May plus a lot more.
Any team that trades for Dexter Fowler this winter is probably going to be taken for a ride by the Colorado Rockies.
I can imagine any trade conversations now. The Rockies will paint Fowler as a young, speedy center fielder with all the talent in the world—and in some ways, he is. Scouts believe that Fowler can become a solid five-tool player and he is affordable and under team control for a while.
With that being said, his home / road splits from last season are hard to ignore. Coors Field is a notorious hitter-friendly ballpark, and Fowler hit .332 / .431 / .553 with 10 home runs there last season. On the road, he was a different player. He hit .262 / .339 / .381 with three home runs.
Those road numbers aren't terrible, but the Rockies' asking price for Fowler is said to be very high and a team like the Phillies can't afford to pay retail value for a guy like Fowler.
At one point during the offseason, the thought of the Phillies making a run at David Wright seemed like a laughable concept, as all reports were indicating that he and the New York Mets were making progress on a contract extension.
Now, new reports suggest that the Mets don't actually have the funds to extend Wright's contract, which could quickly put him back on the market, and if that were to happen, he'd be one of the best fits, on paper at least, for the Phillies.
Without a doubt, the Phillies are drooling (okay, not really—but close enough) at the thought of adding a middle of the order, right-handed power hitter who also happens to be one of the league's best third baseman—even if it's only for a year.
But if the Phillies were some way, some how able to pull off a trade for Wright, there is not a doubt in my mind that they would throw whatever boatload of money at him he wants to get him to stay in Philadelphia, and while it sounds kind of funny given his history, I think he'd be a perfect fit for this club.
So what does it take to get Wright?
That's the question indeed. Right now, the Mets are in trouble. Rival clubs know that they're not going anywhere in 2013 and if they can't afford to extend Wright, their only choice is to trade him. They have almost no leverage in negotiations.
With that being said, they wouldn't want to trade him to the Phillies unless they could hit them where it hurts in terms of prospects, and in my opinion, any deal would start with Trevor May and Tommy Joseph. The Mets will ask for Jesse Biddle, but the Phillies won't move him unless they're guaranteed a negotiating window and a contract extension with Wright.
Realistically speaking, the Phillies only have a few holes to fill this offseason, but they're going to be expensive ones. Signing a center fielder is the top priority and will eat up a good portion of the club's offseason budget.
Right after that, the Phillies will focus on signing a setup man to pitch the eighth inning ahead of Jonathan Papelbon and the speculation has been that they would likely to add an experienced, right-handed reliever on a one-year deal.
It's all speculation on my behalf at the moment, but if the San Francisco Giants are to non-tender former closer Brian Wilson—and Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that this could be the case, as the Giants and Wilson are not "seeing eye to eye"—he could be just what the doctor ordered for the Phils.
Granted, it's a pretty big risk. Wilson is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, but even before that, was not the same dominant closer in 2011 that he had been in recent years. But if he has to take a one-year deal to rebuild his value, why not as the Phillies' setup man?
How about that for some personality in the later innings?
If the Phillies do wind up filling their eighth inning setup role with a pitcher coming off of an injury, Joakim Soria could be the guy.
Soria had a second Tommy John surgery last season that all but forced the Kansas City Royals to decline his club option for the 2013 season. If he's healthy, Soria has the potential to be one of the best relievers in baseball.
But getting him healthy is going to be the first priority for any team that signs him. Most reports state that Soria will not be ready to pitch in the MLB until around May. If the Phillies can get him for cheap, that may not be the worst deal in the world. They have the relievers to hold down the fort.
My guess, however, is that the Phillies will look for a reliever that is healthy—or at least—closer to being ready for the start of the regular season. Soria is still a question mark.
The Miami Marlins kind of look like your favorite department store after that big Black Friday sale. The Toronto Blue Jays came in and got some of the best items at a bargain rate, but the best shopper comes in that Saturday and gets the best deal on what's left.
Teams have to be chomping at the bit to get Logan Morrison out of Miami. A bum knee limited his playing time last season and playing left field certainly didn't help. He got into a bit of a kerfuffle with the Marlins' front office as a result and they sent him to Triple-A.
Scouts know he is a better player than what the 2012 results show. This offseason is a prime time to pick him out of Miami for cheap and hope that he blossoms in a different clubhouse. Morrison isn't an ideal fit for the Phillies, but could help.
Marco Scutaro isn't the most appealing third base option on the free agent market because the honest truth is that he's not a third baseman. Scutaro is a middle infielder that hasn't played the hot corner with any regularity since 2008.
With that in mind, I don't think there is much of a fit here on two fronts.
The first is that Scutaro just won the World Series as a starting second baseman. He had a great year offensively and played a solid defense up the middle, jumping to other positions when the San Francisco Giants needed him to.
He won't have that option with the Phillies. Barring any unforeseen injuries, the Phillies can't offer him that playing time up the middle.
On a similar note, the Phillies want a right-handed bat with some pop if they're going to upgrade offensively at third base. Scutaro is a capable defender, but the Phillies can defend at third base for a lot cheaper with Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen.
Jeff Keppinger caught a tough break this winter—both literally and figuratively—when he suffered a broken fibula following what some people consider to be a "breakout season," likely impacting his value in some form as a free agent.
While some teams won't be deterred, they won't be paying full price for damaged goods either.
You can't count the Phillies among those teams. While they already have a similar player in Kevin Frandsen, the Phils will likely take a look at Keppinger this offseason and determine if he can be their everyday third baseman.
When they realize the answer is no and that Keppinger is at his best when he is the right-handed bat in a platoon, they'll move on.
Denard Span could be an interesting trade option for the Phillies.
The Minnesota Twins are interested in starting pitching and that is a position where the Phillies obviously have a bit of depth. Just what it takes to land a bat like Span is still up in the air. Would the Twins ask for Vance Worley? Would they be more interested in a top prospect like Trevor May?
Regardless of who would be going the other way, Span would help the Phillies quite a bit. He is an elite defensive center fielder and a legitimate top of the order bat. He hits both left-handed and right-handed pitching well and is a speed threat with solid on-base skills.
Given the depth of their farm system, however, the Phillies would probably prefer to add their next center fielder through the free agent market.
Nick Swisher could quickly become a focal point for the Phillies if their primary free agent target, BJ Upton, signs elsewhere.
While the Phillies' agenda has been to get a center fielder signed, losing Upton to another team—especially the Atlanta Braves—would sting. They'd have to turn their attention to Michael Bourn first and foremost following by a few second tier options.
They'll get a center fielder on the books before the winter is over, but adding a bit of offense is just as important for the Phillies. If they lose out on Upton, Swisher could be one of the guys that the Phillies turn their focus to.
Swisher is a switch-hitter and a solid defender in right field. He wouldn't be the impact bat that the Phillies desperately need from the right-hand side of the plate, but he would be an option for Charlie Manuel in the middle of the order at what will likely be a price much more affordable than Upton.
I still consider this a long shot though. This is a market that doesn't have many impact bats at the corner outfield positions or first base, and Swisher can play all three. Some club will make him happy with a four-year deal—maybe more. I don't think it will be the Phillies.
Shane Victorino could be a solid Plan B for the Phillies, but a recent report by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports suggests that the "Flyin' Hawaiian" has no shortage of suitors and could be a Plan A for more than one of them.
And that doesn't come as much of a surprise. Even following a down year, teams know that Victorino has the potential to be a steal in this market that is flush with good center fielders. With teams like the Phillies and Atlanta Braves focusing elsewhere, Victorino could wind up being a bargain.
I wouldn't close the book on Victorino and the Phillies completely, but at this point in time, it seems as though the Phils are moving in a different direction and the return of Victorino is a long shot, at best.
Josh Hamilton doesn't appear to be at the top of the Phillies' wish list right now, but the interesting thing about this offseason has been that he doesn't appear to be at the top of anyone's list.
The fact of the matter here is that teams aren't overly anxious to throw a ton of money at Hamilton for longer than they would like for a guy who has plenty of baggage and hasn't been able to stay healthy.
I think the Phillies will remain in the picture until the day that he signs, but it is so hard to get a firm grasp on which teams are seriously interested and at what price. If BJ Upton signs elsewhere, the Phillies may jump back into the Hamilton sweepstakes big time.
A few months ago, Angel Pagan was a guy that a lot of people expected to be one of the best bargains of the coming offseason. He was a capable center fielder, but way under the radar. That's not abnormal for a "second-tier" free agent.
But over the next few months, mainly October, Pagan made a name for himself in a big way. He had a stellar postseason for the San Francisco Giants that culminated in a World Series title. Every team looking for a bargain got a wake up call.
Pagan will be the most coveted free agent on the market once BJ Upton and Michael Bourn sign, but whatever team that signs Pagan is going to pay the price now. It isn't hard to envision him signing a four-year deal in the $48-56 million price range.
Will the Phillies be interested? Sure, especially if Upton and Bourn sign elsewhere. They may be even more interested if Pagan can be had for less and they can pursue a corner outfielder or a third baseman as well.
Cody Ross could wind up being the left fielder for the Phillies next season regardless of whether or not the club signs a center fielder. He is one of the only corner outfield bats on the market that is going to be affordable either way.
The right-handed slugger had a solid season for the Boston Red Sox last season, but teams will be wary of his splits outside of Fenway Park. There was a noticeable difference in his success at home and on the road.
But the Phillies could be looking at a different statistical split—Ross' success in Citizens Bank Park. He is a career .271 / .323 / .542 hitter with eight home runs in just 36 games in Philadelphia.
Ross won't be a primary target for the Phillies, but could be an interesting name if he is still lingering on the market later this winter.
The Phillies haven't left much doubt that BJ Upton is their top target this winter, but Michael Bourn may be more of a "Plan-1a" than a "Plan B."
The former Phillie—traded to the Houston Astros in the Brad Lidge deal prior to the 2008 season—has become an All-Star caliber center fielder since leaving Philadelphia. He is a solid top of the order bat, a speed demon and an elite center fielder.
With that being said, Bourn probably isn't the greatest fit for the Phillies. He will be 30 years old to start the 2013 season and most scouts would agree that his next birthday will push him over the wrong side of 30 for a player who's primary skill is speed. His strikeouts increased in 2012 and he's left-handed—not that it makes a world of difference.
Bourn is also represented by Scott Boras, who doesn't exactly have the greatest relationship with the Phils. Modeling Bourn's next contract off of Carl Crawford's deal with the Boston Red Sox may alienate the Phillies all together.
Just how desperate are the Phillies to add a third baseman?
At a glance, you'd probably answer, "Pretty dang desperate." While Kevin Frandsen filled in admirably at the hot corner last season, he isn't an MLB-caliber third baseman. Freddy Galvis barely hit his waist size. The two could form one formidable defender, but the offense is shaky.
That's where a guy like Kevin Youkilis comes in, albeit, he has more than his fair share of question marks as well. Even after the trade to the Chicago White Sox last season, Youkilis' numbers are those of a player in obvious decline.
Now, I do think that there is room for some improvement. While Youkilis' swing was much slower in 2012, he did post a BABip (.268) that was well below his career norm (.322).
But even if Youkilis improves upon last season, you're still going to wind up with a shell of the former Boston Red Sox's player. He is not a good defender at third base and doesn't have the same approach at the plate that he once did.
If he can be had on a one-year deal, however, or even a two-year deal at a good price, Youkilis would be worth the investment. For what it's worth, Bill James still believes in him. He projects Youkilis to post a line of .265 / .371 / .465 with 21 home runs next season.
The Phillies would take that production out of a third baseman any day of the week.
One of the best relievers on the market this winter is a guy that hasn't been talked about much since the end of the season—former Texas Rangers right-hander Mike Adams.
Adams had surgery to correct his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome at the end of the year and teams have shifted their focus elsewhere to start the offseason. Of the best relievers available, Adams is one of the few to have pitched exclusively as a setup man for any extended period of time.
For the Phillies, that creates an interesting Catch-22. Adams' proven success as a setup man will likely net him a cozy, multi-year deal. The Phillies may not want to do that. On the other hand, they could take a flier on a closer coming off of an injury, a la Joakim Soria or Brian Wilson, and get better results for cheaper.
Either way, I expect them to be interested in Adams as the offseason wears on, especially if they can get him on a two-year deal. Three years has been the rate for relievers so far this offseason, however.
The Phillies aren't going to enter the regular season with one of Kevin Frandsen or Freddy Galvis as sole owner of the third base gig. They'll look to add a regular third baseman this winter, but may be forced to settle for a platoon, in which case Eric Chavez would be an ideal fit.
Chavez spent the last couple of seasons with the New York Yankees after a bad back derailed his career with the Oakland Athletics. While he was practically an automatic out against left-handed pitchers, Chavez mashed right-handed pitching to the tune of a .911 OPS and 16 home runs.
Paired with one of Frandsen and Galvis, the Phillies could form a formidable platoon that wouldn't break the bank.
Of all the potential setup men still on the market, Koji Uehara could be the best fit for the Phillies—especially if he is willing to sign a one-year deal.
Uehara's MLB career has been a fun one to follow. He first signed on with the Baltimore Orioles as a starting pitcher in 2009 and didn't have much success in that role. The following year, the O's sent him to the bullpen and he was excellent.
After he seemed to have perfected that role in 2011, the Orioles dealt him to the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline and he struggled adjusting to the hitter friendly environment in Arlington, leaving some to wonder if he was a bust.
But Uehara bounced back in a big way in 2012. He made 37 appearances for the Rangers, posting a SO/BB mark of 14.33 (36 innings) and a 1.75 ERA.
The Phillies would likely have a bigger workload for him in 2013, if he were to sign on, and part of me wonders if that could be problematic—although, he did toss 65 innings between two teams in 2011. If he could be had for the right price (around $5 million on a one-year deal plus incentives?) it could be a solid deal for the Phils.
The Phillies have made it no secret that BJ Upton is their primary free agent target this winter. The center fielder has toured the city, met the manager and negotiated with the general manager. The question now is whether or not he will sign.
Upton has also been pursued aggressively by the Atlanta Braves and the speculation is growing that the National League East rivals are caught in a bidding war.
The Phillies won't roll over and let him go to the Braves. Upton fits their lineup nicely. He is a right-handed hitter with some pop that will slide into the top of their order and an elite defender in center field. He's also just 28 years old—something that the Phillies value.
At this point, it would be a surprise if Upton went to a team other than the Phillies or Braves.