The 2013 offseason hasn't exactly gone the way the Philadelphia Phillies drew it up. They came into the winter in need of a center fielder, a third baseman, a setup man and possibly, a corner outfielder and were on the verge of leaving baseball's notorious winter meetings with none of the above before an eleventh hour trade for former Minnesota Twins outfielder Ben Revere.
Is it too soon to look ahead to the 2014 offseason?
Well, in this sport, it's never too soon to look ahead, but this slideshow has little to do with the shortcomings of the Phillies' front office this winter. It's more about taking a look at what could become a landmark offseason for this club.
In players like Roy Halladay, Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz, the Phillies could have a ton of money coming off of the books. There are free agents available that could receive a big payday from a club like the Phils and trade targets that should become more available.
If you thought the 2013 offseason was interesting, just wait until 2014. The Phillies will be one year away from a mammoth TV deal and be faced with several of the classes' top free agents given the opportunity to jump ship.
What are the Phillies going to do?
Glad you asked. Consider this slideshow as a bit of a primer and a reminder. Here are 25 players (and reasons) to be excited about the 2014 offseason. Oh, the possibilities!
The Phillies came close to acquiring Carlos Beltran during the 2010 season before the New York Mets sent him to the San Francisco Giants and the Phillies later acquired Hunter Pence. Could they rekindle their interest in Beltran next offseason?
Beltran, who seems to have revived himself in right field, would be finishing up a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. He'll be 37 years old and in the twilight of his career. Is that really the type of hitter the Phillies should pursue?
Then again, if the 2013 offseason is any indication, they'll be desperate for help in the outfield. Beltran hit 32 home runs in a relatively healthy season with the Cardinals. On a one-year deal, he may not be a bad idea.
Alberto Callaspo has flown under the radar for the last couple of seasons, but could be the kind of bat that helps the Phillies change their "swing happy" culture. He is a patient hitter who walked (10.8%) nearly as much as he struck out (11.3%) in 2012.
Once again, however, Callaspo would be a creative solution to the Phillies' third base void. He is a solid defender with below average power who could be inserted into the top of the order, preferably in the two-slot.
Another solid year with the Los Angels Angels in 2013 could make him quite valuable on the free agent market next season. There aren't many options available.
I'm having a really difficult time picturing Chase Utley wearing any uniform that doesn't read "Phillies" across the front for the rest of his career, but let's say for a moment that the Phillies let him test the waters and he signs elsewhere.
Would they have interest in current New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano? Of course they would.
Cano has developed into a perennial All-Star and one of the best two-way players in the game, and if the Yankees don't sign him to a contract extension—as is their policy—most teams would have interest in him, but he is in line for a huge payday, is represented by Scott Boras and would expect a nice chunk of change.
Because I believe the Phillies will eventually re-sign Utley, I don't expect them to be big players for Cano, but there is a chance in the even that they decide Utley is too big of a risk moving forward.
The Oakland Athletics are stacked with outfielders. They have four players who can realistically play everyday right now, and could stand to move one of them. They also have a few nice prospects coming through their system that could force Billy Beane into moving a couple of those guys.
If the A's dangled Yoenis Cespedes, I don't have much doubt that the Phillies would come calling. His is a salary that the Phillies could afford to take on without the A's pitching in a ton of cash, meaning that the return in prospects would not need to be as significant.
In Cespedes, the Phillies would be acquiring a physical specimen and incredible athlete. He showed 20-plus home run power in his first MLB season and at 27 years old, still has some room for growth offensively.
I think he would be a very solid corner outfielder that the Phillies should look into.
Shin-Soo Choo is a Scott Boras client with an injury history that will still expect a huge payday—not the kind of player the Phillies have had fruitful negotiations about in the past.
With that having been said, the outfield market isn't all that great next offseason and the Phillies should have some interest in Choo. He wasn't very productive against left-handed pitching in 2012, which could be a deal breaker if the negotiations get out of hand, but could still help the middle of the Phillies' order.
When healthy, Choo is a solid outfielder that can hit 20 home runs—maybe more if playing his home games in Citizens Bank Park. I don't expect the Phillies to be overly interested though.
If the Phillies were going to break the bank for any one player in next offseason's free agent class, it would probably be Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz.
Cruz would plug a couple of different holes for the Phillies. He could be the right-handed power bat that they've been in desperate need of for the last couple of seasons and he is a solid outfielder to boot.
But what would he cost? That's the interesting part here.
Cruz, who is a late-bloomer of sorts, will hit the free agent market as a 33-year-old right fielder. He has developed into a solid slugger for the Rangers, but there are question marks—the biggest one being the fact that he hit 18 home runs at home and just six on the road in 2012.
Can he thrive outside of The Ballpark in Arlington?
This is the second version of this slide. I wrote the first one before the Phillies had acquired center fielder Ben Revere and this is the baseball gods' method of smiting me. But then I go to thinking. Could the Phillies still pursue Jacoby Ellsbury next winter?
I think the answer is yes. Ellsbury is a Scott Boras client, and if Boras is learning anything this winter, it is that teams are not going to overpay for center fielders (hellp, Michael Bourn). Could Ellsbury take over a corner outfield spot for a contender?
There are obvious benefits. He has the power to play a corner. It would likely be less taxing on his health. I think that there are legitimate reasons for Ellsbury to sign with a club as a corner outfielder..
And hey, money talks.
Would the Phillies let Roy Halladay walk at the end of the season, assuming his option does not vest, and pursue a different, younger starting pitcher for the top of their rotation? I think there is only a small chance that this happens, and thus, I only included a couple of names.
One name is Matt Garza.
The Chicago Cubs have been trying to trade him or work out an extension with him for a while now and neither option has panned out. As of right now, he is slated to hit the open market following the 2013 season.
Garza is a big, durable right-handed starter with a solid repertoire and positive results in both the American and National Leagues. He isn't the kind of guy that I would pay an arm and a leg for, nor is he an upgrade over Roy Halladay, but if he doesn't cost a ton, he could be a solid option and less of a risk if the Phils are still worried about Halladay's health.
Curtis Granderson is another center fielder that I could see playing a corner outfield spot in the future, because while he has a solid reputation as a good defender, his defensive metrics were ugly in 2012.
Now, was that an outlier season or a sign of regression? I think it was a little of both. But what Granderson is proving in a big way is that he has the power to play a corner outfield spot. Given the depth of the Phillies' farm system, they may be in the market for corner outfielders forever.
Granderson is the kind of guy that could make a smooth transition to one of the corners and may even be able to increase his value a bit, but would he be willing to move?
Roy Halladay, who's contract includes a vesting option for the 2014 based on a couple of durability incentives, could become a free agent following this season. I'll let that soak in for a moment.
Eventually, the Phillies are going to have to make an interesting decision on Halladay. He could hit the market as a 36-year-old free agent and still demand quite a chunk of change. The two sides could discuss a contract extension, but the Phillies will undoubtedly want to see if he's healthy.
At the end of the day, you have to figure that this is a deal that gets done in some form. Halladay could very well turn back into his iron, durable self in 2013 and force the option to vest, but if not, I think he still comes back to the Phillies on a new deal.
When you look up Corey Hart's similarity scores on Baseball-Reference, a couple of interesting names pop up in the top five: Hunter Pence (2) and Jayson Werth (5). I find that intriguing more than anything, but Hart would certainly help the Phillies replace those players.
A foot injury and the departure of Prince Fielder forced Hart into more of a first base role for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012, but he has played right field for most of his career and could be an option for the Phillies in the 2014 offseason.
All things considered, he should be a solid right-handed power bat that doesn't hurt the wallet too bad.
This is just my opinion, but the San Diego Padres will eventually trade Chase Headley. They have a couple of solid third base prospects coming through their system and Headley is coveted on the trade market.
He is affordable for a while and there is no rush to deal him, so Headley may not move this offseason, but eventually, the Padres are going to cash in. Will the Phillies ask about him next winter if he's still around? I think so.
Headley is everything the Phillies are looking for in a third baseman. He is a right-handed power hitter. He plays good defense. He isn't going to break the bank. Right now, it is a matter of the Padres feeling as though they are a better team with him than with any prospects they'd acquire for him.
For years, teams have been telling themselves that if Josh Johnson is even remotely healthy, they'd love to get him into their starting rotations. Well, the Toronto Blue Jays have finally made that happen. Now, Johnson can pitch himself into quite the payday if he can succeed and stay healthy in the American League East.
When he hits the open market next winter, Johnson will be one of the best starting pitchers available. The lengthy medical history will certainly scare some teams off, but if Roy Halladay's contract is off the books, I think the Phillies will have plenty of interest.
The real question here is how a team can safeguard themselves against Johnson's health. Once upon a time, the Phillies had a policy not to guarantee more than three years to a starting pitcher. That was a policy based on not guaranteeing years to a volatile position.
If a club wants Johnson, however, they're going to have to buck up to get him. He could be a worthwhile investment or a major bust. That's the risk and reward of free agency.
Jason Kubel isn't the kind of player that the Phillies should find themselves targeting moving forward, but he is an option for the 2014 season nonetheless.
What you have in Kubel is a big, left-handed power threat that strikes out a ton and is a defensive liability in the outfield. That shouldn't sound like something the Phillies need in the future, because it's not.
With that having been said, Kubel has mashed right-handed pitching in the past and could serve as a strong platoon partner for a guy like Darin Ruf, and I mention Ruf specifically because that would be an entertaining platoon.
Well this would be an interesting turn of events.
There are a few starting pitchers on the 2014 free agent market that the Phillies would have some interest in, but I've highlighted just three. We've already covered Matt Garza and Josh Johnson, a pair of interesting options, but they pale in comparison to what a Phillies pursuit of Tim Lincecum could do.
Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants have spent the last few offseasons haggling over a long term deal, and after the 2012 season, that doesn't even seem like a realistic option. He may not get the huge deal that was once possible, but with a few mechanical tweaks, Lincecum could still be a great starting pitching option.
Would the Phillies have interest? Would he have interest in the Phillies? To be perfectly honest, I have no idea. After all, Charlie Manuel once called him "good, but not great." You can't deny that this wouldn't be a fun rumor to pursue though.
Eventually, the Phillies are going to find themselves in a situation where they should seriously debate, internally, over trading one of their elite starting pitchers. Because I think that they'll eventually re-sign Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee could be on the move in the near future.
Of course, a lot can happen between now and next offseason, but the Phillies should have a few starting pitchers ready to knock down the MLB's door, including Trevor May, Jonathan Pettibone, Adam Morgan and Ethan Martin. Jesse Biddle isn't all that far away either.
Trading Lee could give the Phillies an opportunity to free up some capital to pursue position players—guys that aren't coming through the upper levels of the system with any frequency. What kind of package they could get for a 35-year-old Lee is beyond me, but he won't be any easier to deal with two years and $62.5 million still owed to him.
What if Carlos Ruiz hits the open market after the 2013 season and neither Sebastian Valle nor Tommy Joseph are ready to catch in the big league? Well, there is one interesting name out there in what would be a former rival, Brian McCann.
The Atlanta Braves, who have a couple of young catchers of their own pushing through their farm system, could feel as though McCann is too rich for their blood moving forward. He has been plagued by injuries recently and some wonder if he can stay behind the plate long term.
McCann is a six-time All-Star who averages 25 home runs per season from a notoriously weak offensive position. If the Phillies have a catching vacancy, they'll be interested, but would they block Valle and Joseph?
Mike Morse used to be a shortstop, which is something that I find endlessly entertaining considering the guy is listed at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds and is nicknamed "The Beast."
Anyway, Morse is slated to hit the open market following the 2013 season and could be just the kind of right-handed power bat the Phillies are looking for. He has some tremendous power and, as a late-bloomer with the Washington Nationals, probably has some upside at the plate.
The downside of this discussion is the same one that we're currently having about Darin Ruf. He is a guy that should be playing first place but is bumbling around in the outfield so that a manager can get his bat in the lineup.
Of course, Morse is move proven against MLB pitching and could be a solid option for the Phillies regardless.
Martin Prado is the kind of player that the Phillies would make a priority if he were on the open market this offseason.
He is a patient hitter at the plate who doesn't strike out much and has a solid, contact-oriented approach. Naturally, he manages to find ways onto the base paths, which the Phillies could desperately use at the top of their order.
Prado isn't a guy that is going to hit for a ton of power, though he has averaged 12 home runs per season. He is going to make his money by being a technically sound, quality defender with a good approach at the plate.
He would help the Phillies either at third base or in the outfield in 2014.
You'll have to forgive the morbid euphemism here, but did Carlos Ruiz put the final nail in his own coffin when he was suspended for another positive amphetamine test this offseason? MLB suspended Ruiz when he tested positive for Adderall a second time.
Now the Phillies are in a bit of a pickle—was Ruiz's progress last season legit or a byproduct of a banned substance?
The Phillies, who have already exercised Ruiz's option for the 2013 season, will get a full year to decide his future with the club, but with top prospects Sebastian Valle and Tommy Joseph inching closer to the MLB level, Ruiz's tenure may be nearing an end.
Until the day Justin Upton is traded, I am going to write about him and why he is a good fit for the Phillies (because he really is; not because I'm stubborn).
The Arizona Diamondbacks have plenty of outfielders and need to fill other holes in any deal that involves Upton. The most popular rumors have centered around dealing the outfielder for an elite starting pitcher or a shortstop.
While the Phillies would offer Freddy Galvis, Kevin Towers would politely laugh them off the phone and Ruben Amaro Jr. would call back willing to discuss Cliff Lee, but that ship has sailed now that the Phils have moved Vance Worley.
The Phillies could, however, assemble a package of top prospects for Upton. Would a deal consisting of Jesse Biddle, Tommy Joseph, Maikel Franco and more get it done? I don't know, but I'd call and ask.
Believe it or not, Chase Utley is on the verge of becoming a free agent. The seven-year deal that he signed with the Phillies back in 2007 is set to expire following the 2013 campaign, allowing him to hit the open market.
Will he even get that far?
Part of me believes that he and the Phillies will agree to a contract extension before the end of next season even rounds into focus. What Utley needs to do is prove that he is healthy and can manage his chronically deteriorating knees.
The funny part about this whole situation is that, even with the bad knees, Utley is still one of baseball's top five second basemen. How much would it cost the Phillies to extend his contract? But regardless of that, I don't think Utley is going anywhere.
There isn't exactly a heaping helping of corner outfielders to be had in next year's free agent market, so the Phillies may be best suited trying to convince some center fielders to move to a corner outfield spot. One guy they could have some interest in is Chris Young.
Young, who was recently traded to the Oakland Athletics, will be eligible for free agency next winter. He has solid power, is right-handed and a good defender. Sounds like the kind of player the Phillies would be interested in.
I don't think that he would cost an exorbitant amount of money and could help the Phillies in the middle of their order. I will be interested to see what he can do with the A's.
The old "rock and a hard place" metaphor doesn't even come close to describing how desperate the Phillies' third base situation has become. With both the trade and free agent markets barren and some scouts doubtful of prospect Cody Asche, another one-year stopgap may be the Phillies' best option.
Could that be Michael Young?
There is no doubt that, at this point in his career, Young is but a shell of his former self. He is very limited range at third base and isn't going to set the world ablaze offensively.
But on a one-year deal that is much, much cheaper than what the Texas Rangers were paying him, the Phillies could probably do worse than a good contact hitter who is going to give you some quality at-bats.
It's not like they have many better options.
If the Tampa Bay Rays decline their club option on Ben Zobrist next offseason, the Phillies are almost guaranteed to have some interest in him, mainly because of his versatility. Since his debut in 2006, Zobrist has played every infield position except catcher and all three outfield positions.
The kicker here is that he has developed into a very nice hitter and is dependable at every defensive position he plays. A switch-hitter who averages 20 home runs a season and could be a potential option a third base, second base or either corner outfield spot?
You can bet your bottom dollar that the Phillies would be interested.