We've reached the point in the offseason where free agency becomes a waiting game. Players are waiting for teams to get desperate enough to overpay them, and teams are waiting for players to become bargains. Something has to give.
The Philadelphia Phillies have filled almost all of their needs this offseason. While a right-handed, power-hitting corner outfielder would be nice, there isn't any one player on the market that undoubtedly fills that need. They'll wait for a bargain.
Of course, that bargain doesn't necessarily have to be a free agent. Heck, it doesn't even have to be a bargain. There are still players available that would help the Phillies in 2013, and possibly beyond. So with that in mind, here are a few names to consider as the rumor mill continues to churn.
This one was very close to being "fact." With Bobby Abreu once again reiterating his interest in playing in 2013 and the Phillies looking more and more likely to go with two platoons in the outfield, Abreu would, at the least, represent a better left-handed option than Laynce Nix.
As things would shake out at the moment, the Phillies would tentatively use a platoon in both left field and right field with some combination of Nix, Domonic Brown, John Mayberry, Jr. and Darin Ruf.
Abreu, even at this stage of his career, would be a good name to bring aboard on a non-guaranteed deal in spring training and offered an opportunity to win a platoon job out of camp. 2012 may have been a disastrous season, but he is a year removed from hitting .259 / .366 / .400 against right-handed pitching with eight home runs.
I personally think he is worth a look on a non-guaranteed deal. What's the worst that could happen?
With free-agent options quickly drying up, the Phillies could look towards the trade market to add a corner outfielder if they decide that they are not satisfied with the in-house options. In that event, the Los Angeles Angels and their plethora of outfielders are likely to come up often.
One of the most appealing trade targets for most clubs in need of outfield help is Peter Bourjos. He is young, affordable and under team control for a long time. All are big positives in trade discussions.
Of course, that's also a big part of the reason that he won't be playing in Philadelphia next season. Before the Phillies had acquired Ben Revere, Bourjos' name was one that surfaced often in rumors. The Angels would like to add a starting pitching upgrade, and the Phillies traded their best chip (Vance Worley) to the Minnesota Twins. And now that the Angels have added Jason Vargas, one could argue that adding another pitcher isn't even a need for the them.
I don't see a fit for a trade between the Phillies and Angels at this point, at least not for Bourjos.
Could Michael Bourn still sign with the Phillies?
The first answer that comes to mind is a resounding "no," but there is at least one scenario in which I can imagine the Phillies making another offer to the Scott Boras client—on a one-year deal.
Now, I should mention that the chances of Bourn signing this kind of deal are remote, but when you look at his current market, there aren't many contenders coming up roses. This is an elite center fielder moving into the prime of his career after a taste of the postseason with the Atlanta Braves. He wants to win.
Thanks to the Minnesota Twins, who traded a pair of center fielders this winter, his market evaporated quickly. The only way that I can see him coming back to Philly now is if agent Boras instructs him to sign a one-year "pillow deal."
In this scenario, Bourn takes a one-year deal from a contender to prove his value (once again) and avoids playing for a non-contender willing to make a splash.
Is this a move that ultimately helps the Phillies? I don't think so. What this club really needs is some power in the middle of the lineup. But on the other hand, is signing Michael Bourn to a one-year deal better than a John Mayberry, Jr./Laynce Nix platoon? You bet.
If the Oakland Athletics make Yoenis Cespedes available in a trade, this is the kind of rumor that could become "fact" fairly quickly. The A's have enough depth in the outfield to make a trade, and Cespedes is a guy within striking distance for the Phillies.
Of course, the A's have yet to make him available, so that could be a moot point. He is a right-handed power bat that struggled defensively in center field, but wouldn't have much of a problem in either corner outfield position.
His current contract only runs through the 2015 season. He is also due two years of salary arbitration, at which time he could become an expensive player for a team like Oakland.
At this point in time, I don't think that it is much of a secret that the Phillies like what Michael Cuddyer brings to the table. They pursued him aggressively when he was a free agent last offseason and now, could have interest in acquiring him from the Colorado Rockies.
Cuddyer would be a better fit for the Phillies now because they'd be using him primarily in the outfield. When they pursued him as a free agent, he was considered more of a third baseman. He is a right-handed power bat that is affordable over the next two seasons.
All in all, Cuddyer is a good fit for the Phillies, but the Rockies haven't shown much interest in trading him. I'm calling this "fiction" for now, but if the Phils are in contention at the trade deadline and the Rockies are out, look out for this deal.
Color me confused, but I don't see Scott Hairston being a significant upgrade over what the Phillies already have in-house. Seems like signing a free agent for the sake of making some headlines as opposed to adding a quality upgrade.
Of course, it all comes down to how you feel about Hairston. Do the Phillies really need another part-time, right-handed hitter who strikes out quite a bit and can't take a walk?
With free agents like Cody Ross and Nick Swisher having come off the board, Hairston has been linked to the Phillies quite a bit, but he isn't going to solve their need for an everyday corner outfielder. How much of an upgrade is he over the likes of John Mayberry, Jr. and Darin Ruf?
Here's another name for you to consider if his team ever makes him available: Corey Hart.
Hart has been the subject of trade rumors for what seems like a long time in Philly, probably because he is a comparable player to Jayson Werth. He is a tall, lanky outfielder with good right-handed power and the ability to play solid defense.
A quick look at the Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff shows that they could use some help in the starting rotation, but are the Phillies capable of helping? The most expendable starting pitchers the Phillies now have to offer are Kyle Kendrick and Tyler Cloyd.
When you think about it, a deal around one of those pitchers may not be so far-fetched. Hart has but one year remaining on his contract, at which time he'll become a free agent. Kendrick has two years of team control remaining, and Cloyd has six.
Again, just another interesting name to consider should he be made available.
With the addition of Cody Ross, the Arizona Diamondbacks are even more of an interesting trade partner for the Phillies than they were before. Now, they have more outfielders than available playing time and should swing a deal for one of them before spring training.
From a Phillies perspective, Jason Kubel is a name that comes up often. He isn't the greatest fit for this club, being a left-handed power hitter who strikes out a lot and doesn't have great plate discipline.
Now, if the Phillies are able to talk down his price a bit, he could be a very interesting option as a platoon partner for one of the Phils' right-handed bats. Kubel hit .264 / .348 / .540 with 23 home runs against right-handed pitching last season, but struggled mightily against lefties.
Kubel has one guaranteed year remaining on his contract with the D'backs and an option for the 2014 season at $7.5 million. Now, the question is whether or not there is a match between the D'backs and Phillies in a trade, and that is a bit more difficult to decipher.
With Cody Ross now complicating the Arizona Diamondbacks outfield logjam even further, people are quick to speculate that the D'backs could have a deal in place for one of their other outfielders, namely Jason Kubel or Justin Upton.
One name that hasn't come up as often but should receive the same amount of speculation is Gerardo Parra. He isn't the most popular player in the system and would be more valuable in a trade than Kubel. He also has less of a home in the crowded outfield if the D'backs truly plan to go with youngster Adam Eaton in center field.
The Phillies would have some interest in acquiring a guy like Parra, but may not have the goods to swing a deal. Parra, who was eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason, will become a free agent following the 2015 season.
What does three years of a supreme defensive outfielder and offensive player with upside cost? A lot. Given the fact that he doesn't address many of the Phillies' needs, I can't see them paying the price for a guy like Parra.
Josh Reddick would be an ideal trade target for the Phillies. He is a left-handed, power-hitting corner outfielder with years of team control. The problem here is that he is an ideal trade target for a lot of clubs and the Oakland Athletics don't have to move him.
But they will have a crowded outfield next season. The addition of Chris Young this offseason gives the A's five outfielders capable of playing every day in Young, Reddick, Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith.
Even then, in order to move a player like Reddick, the A's would have to be getting a nice deal. How about their shortstop of the future?
Even after signing Hiroyuki Nakajima, whom some scouts wonder can be an everyday shortstop, the A's could be intrigued by a legitimate shortstop prospect. The Phillies could offer Freddy Galvis, an elite defender but light offensive player.
So, if the Phillies were to build a deal around Galvis, would the A's listen on Reddick? I think they would, but ultimately, I can't see them pulling the trigger on that kind of deal unless they were getting a king's ransom in return. The Phillies don't have those caliber of pieces.
With their free-agent options dwindling down to nothing, it sure seems like if the Phillies are going to add an outfielder at this point, it is going to come through a trade. With limited funds and prospects, a team that is willing to deal an outfielder it's soured on is probably the best bet.
One name that comes to mind is Alfonso Soriano. The Chicago Cubs have been trying to rid themselves of his contract for years, and now that they are moving into a rebuilding mode, would be happy to call it a sunken cost and get some kind of salary relief.
Soriano, on paper, could help the Phillies at the right price. He is a horrendous defender, but a powerful right-handed bat that could fit into the order behind Ryan Howard. Now, what is the price?
With two years remaining on his deal, the Phillies would want to pay Soriano as little as possible without sending any prospect of real substance back to the Cubs. The Cubs would likely have to absorb $26-28 million of the $36 million remaining on Soriano's deal, and the Phillies would probably like to deal from an area of depth, perhaps a reliever in the mold of Michael Schwimer?
When you look at the Phillies' offseason shopping list, the one item that has yet to be crossed off is a power-hitting, right-handed corner outfielder. Well, Mark Trumbo certainly fits that bill, but don't expect him to be joining the Phillies.
The Los Angeles Angels' signing of Josh Hamilton created a small ripple effect. All of a sudden, they have more outfielders than they know what to do with. Where does Trumbo start in an outfield already consisting of Hamilton, Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos?
Well, following a recent trade, we have our answer: designated hitter. After trading Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners for Jason Vargas, the Angels addressed their logjam and acquired a starting pitcher. They won't be moving Trumbo.
Given the way that they have shopped him over the last few seasons, a gut feeling tells me that the Arizona Diamondbacks would not have agreed to sign Cody Ross if they did not have a deal in place for Justin Upton.
However, another gut feeling tells me that he is going to be playing for the Texas Rangers in 2013, not the Phillies. All along, the speculation has been that if the Rangers are willing to part with Elvis Andrus, they could have Upton. Maybe they're getting ready to pull the trigger.
But even if they're not willing to deal Andrus, what makes the Phillies a better option? They're not going to be trading Cliff Lee and don't have the farm system to facilitate a deal for the right fielder. This has been a pipe dream from the get-go. It's not happening.
A more likely trade target for the Phillies is Vernon Wells. (I'll give the audible groans a moment to subside here.)
On a serious note, Wells could help the Phillies quite a bit—at the right price. The Phils, who did not want to surrender their first-round draft pick to sign Nick Swisher or commit to three years to sign Cody Ross, could throw a few million at the Los Angeles Angels to take Wells off of their hands.
The Halos see Wells as nothing more than a sunk cost at this point. He is their fifth outfielder, and they'd like to save a few million by getting him off of the books. He won't cost a decent prospect, and with other teams interested, it is a race to see who will pay the most for him.
The Phillies would like to get him cheap. He has two guaranteed years remaining on his contract, and if I were in charge, I would not want to pay any more than $8 million—total. And even that's a risk. The hope would be that the last two seasons have been an aberration, and with more consistent playing time, he could post numbers closer to the .273 / .331 / .515 line he posted with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010.
Even with that being said, he did manage to hit 25 home runs for the Angels in 2011 and would provide some right-handed pop to the Phillies lineup.
Josh Willingham is probably the Phillies' top trade target. He is on an affordable, short-term deal. He is a powerful, right-handed corner outfielder. The only problem is that the Minnesota Twins haven't shown a willingness to deal him, and that isn't much of a surprise. They've already traded two starting outfielders this winter.
But if the Phillies were able to convince them to deal Willingham, what would he be worth? That's an interesting conversation. The Twins are still looking for starting pitching depth, so could the Phillies convince them to build a deal around a guy like Tyler Cloyd?
If not, one area of depth for the Phillies is right-handed pitching on the farm. Even after dealing Trevor May earlier this winter, the Phils could realistically part with a guy like Jon Pettibone or Ethan Martin (and I'm not saying that I would for two seasons of Willingham).