Where Will Phillies Turn for Outfielders If Bourn, Swisher Are Too Overpriced?
The Philadelphia Phillies are on the lookout for an outfielder, but their dilemma is that they're looking for Ferraris on a Toyota budget.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. isn't liking the price tags he's seeing on the free-agent market:
phillies gm amaro on top free agent OFs: "we feel like the demands are north of where we want to be.'' eying trades too— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 20, 2012
Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer crunched the numbers last week and determined that the Phillies' payroll projects to be over $170 million after arbitration and other things, leaving them precious little money to spend on an outfielder if they want to avoid the $179 million luxury tax threshold.
With so little money at their disposal, here's a look at bargain outfielders the Phillies can pursue on the free-agent and trade markets.
Juan Rivera's inclusion on this list says all you need to know about how thin the free-agent market has become this winter in regards to outfielders.
Still, the Phillies are looking to go cheap, and Rivera is an option for them if they're open to going dirt cheap.
Rivera's production has experienced a sharp decline in the last three seasons, as his OPS has fallen from over .800 in 2009 to .721 in 2010 to .701 in 2011 and .661 in 2012.
However, there may still be some pop left in Rivera's bat. He was a productive hitter away from Dodger Stadium in 2012, as his road OPS was 81 points higher than his home OPS. If he were to play in a hitter-friendly park half the time rather than a pitcher-friendly park, he could see an uptick in his production.
A move to Citizens Bank Park would suit Rivera well. It's a park that offers righty pull hitters a short porch to aim for, and Rivera certainly qualifies as a righty pull hitter. Per FanGraphs, he has a .596 slugging percentage for his career on balls hit to left field.
Rivera could be had for a couple million dollars on a one-year deal, and for that, the Phillies could end up getting between 15 and 20 home runs. For the amount of money they'd be paying him, that would do nicely.
Yeah, Delmon Young is still out there. It's OK to admit that you forgot all about him.
There doesn't seem to be a lot of interest in Young on the free-agent market, and for good reason. He's coming off a season in which he posted a .296 OBP, and he's a notoriously awful outfielder. If he is lucky enough to land a multi-year deal, it will be from an American League club looking for a steady DH.
But since Young is still only 27 years old, he should definitely be open to taking a one-year "prove it" deal that could help him score a multi-year deal next offseason. And if he really wants to broaden his horizons, he'll jump on the first one-year deal he can get from a team willing to let him play left field.
The Phillies could be that team if the price is right. Say, $7 million or so.
Even if Young were to improve his defense, the Phillies would surely have to live with some occasional (or maybe constant) gaffes in the outfield. They would just hope that the trade-off would be some decent power production at the plate.
Young is capable of providing that. He's a highly impatient hitter, but he did hit 18 home runs in 2012 playing in a ballpark that wasn't as friendly to power hitters as Citizens Bank Park (see ESPN.com). Regular action in Philly's home park could lead to a 20-homer season or maybe even a 25-homer season.
For a one-year deal worth less than $10 million, that would be perfectly acceptable. Even with the horrid defense, of course.
The signs point towards the Phillies preferring to bring in either a righty hitter or a switch-hitter for their outfield, but they may be open a reunion with an old lefty-swinging friend of theirs.
Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported earlier this month that the Phillies have expressed some interest in Raul Ibanez:
Ibanez hit 70 home runs in his three seasons with the Phillies, and he's coming off a season with the Yankees that saw him hit 19 home runs in the regular season and a couple more in the postseason.
Much of Ibanez's success had to do with Yankee Stadium, as he had a .545 slugging percentage in home games and a .365 slugging percentage in road games. That's not as much of a concern for the Phillies as it is for other clubs, however, as CBP's right field dimensions aren't all that different from Yankee Stadium's.
The bigger concern is that Ibanez was most productive in 2012 when he was a DH, so playing him in left field on a daily basis again could sap his production. In addition, Ibanez is a lefty power hitter, and that's an area where the Phillies are already set.
Still, Ibanez is a safer option for a cheap one-year deal than either Juan Rivera or Delmon Young. So at least he has that going for him.
If the Phillies are open to doing more than a one-year deal for an outfielder, a couple righty hitters stand out as realistic options.
The first is Scott Hairston, who ESPNNewYork.com says is looking to capitalize on a strong 2012 campaign by scoring a multi-year deal. And according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, the Phillies are interested.
In 134 games for the New York Mets in 2012, Hairston hit a career-high 20 home runs with a career-high .504 slugging percentage. The fact that these numbers were largely accumulated against NL East competition should intrigue the Phillies.
So should the fact that Hairston can be moved around in the outfield. He can play left, right and center, and he's also played some second base in the past. He could thus spell Chase Utley on occasion if need be (and the need will certainly arise).
Hairston could potentially be had on a two-year deal if the money is right. He's looking for a considerable raise on the $1.1 million he made in 2012, but that could only mean $5 or $6 million per year.
The Phillies could afford a contract like that, and they'd stand to get around 20 home runs and much better defense than they would get from Rivera, Young or Ibanez.
If the Phillies want to set their sights a little higher than Scott Hairston but much lower than Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, their focus should be on Cody Ross.
Jon Heyman has reported that the Phillies are interested in Ross, who would fit nicely behind Ryan Howard in their lineup. In the outfield, he could play either left or right alongside Ben Revere in center.
The problem is Ross' price tag. He made only $3 million in 2012, but he's due a big raise after hitting 22 home runs and compiling an .807 OPS as a member of the Red Sox. The Phillies can't really talk him down because their own ballpark would likely be just as kind to him.
Ross knows this as well as anyone, as he's hit eight home runs in 36 career games at Citizens Bank Park, and that's not including the damage he did against the Phillies in the 2010 postseason.
It's probably going to take a three-year offer to land Ross, and ESPN's Buster Olney put his asking price at $25 million earlier this offseason. The Phillies may be able to afford that, but just barely.
If they can make it work, the Phillies will have done well. Ross is by far the best option available to them in a free-agent market that, as you can tell, is very thin on options.
As for the trade market...
Big-name outfielders who could be had in a trade, like Justin Upton, Josh Willingham and Giancarlo Stanton, aren't realistic possibilities for the Phillies due to their lack of prospects and shortage of payroll space.
Dayan Viciedo, on the other hand...
Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune has reported that the Chicago White Sox are open to moving either Viciedo or leadoff man Alejandro De Aza, and Viciedo is precisely the kind of hitter the Phillies are looking for.
Viciedo isn't the most disciplined hitter, but he certainly has pop. He hit 25 home runs in his first full season as a major leaguer in 2012, and that wasn't all thanks to U.S. Cellular Field. Viciedo hit 13 home runs at home, and 12 home runs on the road.
Viciedo is cheap now, and he isn't due to hit free agency until 2018, so the Phillies wouldn't have to be worried about being burdened financially if they were to trade for him. They don't have many prospects to offer the White Sox in a trade, but Chicago may be open to taking on Domonic Brown. He's a young, controllable outfielder with a lefty bat—something that the White Sox are supposedly looking for.
If the White Sox prove unwilling to do business with the Phillies, they can always turn to a couple of outfielders whose clubs don't want them anymore.
If you clicked that Jon Heyman link back on the Cody Ross slide, you probably noticed that Vernon Wells was name-dropped too.
The Phillies have him on their radar as well, presumably because they figure they may be able to get him for very little. There's no room for Wells in the Angels' outfield, and they may be willing to pick up the majority of the $42 million still owed to him just to get rid of him.
Wells does have a no-trade clause in his contract, but you have to think that he'd be willing to waive it if he saw an opportunity for more playing time in Philadelphia. The Phillies could play him in either left or right field, and they'd obviously hope to get some solid power production out of Wells.
The power probably would be there, as Wells was able to hit 25 home runs in 131 games in 2011 and could do so again if he were to get regular action at a park like CBP. The catch would be that his power would likely come with a batting average and an OBP below the .300 mark.
That's not good, but the Phillies would take it without complaining. They could just tell themselves that all they're paying for is the power, while all the rest is on the Angels' tab.
If the Phillies want a guy with a little more upside, though,, they're better off putting in a call to the north side of Chicago.
The Cubs want Alfonso Soriano gone, and Jon Heyman says that they're willing to pay a heavy price to get rid of him. Soriano is owed $36 million over the next two seasons, and the Cubs are willing to pick up $26 million of that.
Presumably, the Phillies are already well aware of this. Heyman reported earlier this month that the two clubs talked about a swap of Soriano for Domonic Brown—a proposal that ultimately led nowhere.
The Phillies may reopen talks with the Cubs now that their list of options has shrunk. And though Soriano's contract has indeed been a disaster for the Cubs, now's actually the perfect time for a club like the Phillies to take a gamble on him.
Somewhat quietly, Soriano had a good year at the plate in 2012. He hit 32 home runs and compiled an .821 OPS, and he may be able to repeat that production if he continues to use a lighter bat. He ditched his usual heavy bat early in the season, and the results speak for themselves.
The Phillies would be rolling the dice if they were to send Brown, John Mayberry Jr. or Darin Ruf to the Cubs for Soriano, but it's possible that the deal would pay off. If Soriano were to hit 60 home runs or so in his two years in Philadelphia and help lead the Phillies to the playoffs, all for a mere $10 million, the Phillies will have done well.
In the event that it comes down to a choice between Soriano and Vernon Wells, going for Soriano would be a no-brainer.
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