Let the bargain shopping begin!
Then again, the Philadelphia Phillies are a team that has been "bargain shopping" all offseason long; have they not?
This is a club that was expected to make a pretty big splash in the free agent market and, instead, made their biggest moves through a pair of trades, acquiring center fielder Ben Revere and third baseman Michael Young.
The Phillies shored up their pitching staff with a few free agent signings, adding Mike Adams and John Lannan, but the big free agents passed them by with Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher, B.J. Upton and others all finding new homes, with none of them relocating to the "City of Brotherly Love."
So what's next for the Phillies? For all intents and purposes, this is a club that would be comfortable with their roster as is moving into spring training. They have battles in the outfield and in the bullpen, but other areas are settled.
But it is in those same areas that the Phillies could still upgrade this winter. As the calendar rolls into January and teams look for bargains on the remaining free agents, here are a few names to consider.
If the Phillies are serious about playing two platoons in the outfield to open the 2013 season, they may want to add another left-handed outfielder. While Darin Ruf and John Mayberry Jr. have both shown that they can hit for power from the right-handed side, Domonic Brown and Laynce Nix leave something to be desired.
Now, I'm not saying that Bobby Abreu is going to add a tremendous amount of power, but this is a bat that the Phillies could use, especially against right-handed pitching. He has a tremendous approach at the plate, great patience and he can still be a quality outfielder.
No, you're not going to be getting an Abreu that brings back memories of the years prior to 2005, but my bet would be that he could be a better platoon player than Nix, at the very least.
What's the harm in offering a minor league deal?
Is Lance Berkman willing to serve as a part-time outfielder at this stage of his career? He is coming off yet another knee surgery and is probably best suited to serve as a designated hitter. It wouldn't be surprising to see him wind up with the Houston Astros.
But if he is willing to give playing the outfield a shot, this is a guy that the Phillies should be interested in as a part-time player. Berkman has always mashed right-handed pitching as a left-handed batter throughout his career, and he could serve as a strong platoon partner.
Is he willing to accept a role with decreased playing time? I don't see why not.
The real question is whether or not his knees can handle the strain of playing the outfield a couple of times per week and if he can stay sharp in between.
A similar experiment for Jim Thome didn't work in 2012.
My gut feeling wants to write "fiction" all over this slide. Sure, Michael Bourn's options are running thin, but when is the last time that a seemingly desperate Scott Boras client signed a "team friendly" contract late in the offseason? The man is magic when it comes to this sort of thing.
The suitors for Bourn are definitely dwindling, though. The Texas Rangers haven't made much noise. The Seattle Mariners are still an option. Anyone else who jumps into this "race"—if you can call it that—is going to be of the infamous "mystery team" variety.
Could that mystery team be the Phillies once again? I'd like to say no, but crazier things have happened. My gut instinct tells me that the Phils will want to hold on to their 16th overall pick in next summer's draft—a pick that they'd have to surrender to the Atlanta Braves of all teams to sign Bourn.
But could the Phillies be tempted to do so if they can lure Bourn back to Philadelphia with a one-year "pillow contract" below market value? I think the chances of this are very, very slim, but I still can't bring myself to rule this one out altogether.
If the Colorado Rockies had made any indication that Michael Cuddyer was being made available in a trade, this would be fact. The Phillies are known to have had interest in him in the past when he was a free agent, before he ultimately joined the Rockies.
Now, the circumstances are different. The Phillies can afford to give him the right field job, where he is more comfortable, and roll with their other options (Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr.) in left field.
But again, there is no indication that the Rockies are interested in moving Cuddyer. They have been shopping Dexter Fowler this winter, so one would have to assume that they would listen to offers. What would it take to land him from a Phillies' standpoint, though?
The Rockies would certainly want pitching. They would likely ask for one of Jonathan Pettibone, Ethan Martin and Adam Morgan, as well as a secondary prospect.
You know what the Phillies don't need? Another left-handed, middle of the order bat that can't hit left-handed pitching.
Andre Ethier fits that mold after posting a dreadful .222 / .276 / .330 line against lefties last season.
Of course, he also mashed right-handed pitching to the tune of a .325 / .398 / .546 line, but the Phillies aren't really in a position to take on another platoon player, let alone one that is set to earn $85 million over the next five seasons.
Now, if the payroll Goliath Los Angeles Dodgers were willing to absorb enough of that salary to make Ethier a realistic option as a platoon player, the Phillies may be interested. But they won't, and the Phillies probably don't have the type of prospects that it would take to facilitate a deal.
Bleacher Report's MLB Lead Writer, Ian Casselberry, recently mentioned the Phillies as a possible suitor for Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez—if he were to be made available—but the Phillies may not have the goods to pry him away.
After all, this is a club that was looking for MLB-ready starting pitching in any deal for Dexter Fowler earlier this offseason, and the Phillies moved on to acquiring Ben Revere from the Minnesota Twins after talking to the Rockies. They moved their best trade chip in Vance Worley.
So now, the Phillies would have to send a haul of prospects in a deal for CarGo, and the Rockies would undoubtedly want pitching. The Phillies have some of that, but would be more inclined to move players in the Jon Pettibone / Ethan Martin / Adam Morgan mold, as opposed to prized top prospect Jesse Biddle.
The Phillies have other players to facilitate a trade. Roman Quinn should become a top prospect in no time, and players like Maikel Franco and Carlos Tocci have very high ceilings, but they're not what the Rockies are looking for.
Gonzalez also has five years and $71 million left on his contract, and if he were to be made available, there would be plenty of interest. The Phillies may be willing to pull the trigger, but I seriously doubt that they'll put together the best deal.
After coming up empty in their search for a full-time corner outfielder this winter, it looks as though the Phillies will focus on adding to their handful of platoon players. One name that has come up with some frequency is Scott Hairston.
Hairston would be an interesting fit. He hit 11 home runs and posted an OPS of .867 against left-handed pitchers last season. He also plays an average defense in left field. From a Phillies' perspective, you have to wonder how much of an upgrade he would be from John Mayberry Jr. or Darin Ruf in that same role.
From Hairston's perspective, I would think he is holding out for playing time. This is a guy that hit 20 home runs for the New York Mets last season in a more regular role.
In mid-December, Washington Nationals' beat reporter for MLB.com Bill Ladson suggested that the Phillies could be a potential landing spot for free agent left-handed reliever J.P. Howell. It doesn't seem like a logical fit, at first.
After all, the Phillies are already spending an upwards of $19 million on Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Adams alone this season. With guys like Antonio Bastardo, Jeremy Horst, Jake Diekman and Raul Valdes affordable and also in the mix, I don't see the need for a guy like Howell.
Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if this is just a tactic by the Phillies' front office to drive the price on Howell up for the Nationals, who are known to have them near the top of their list.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a crowded outfield. After plucking Cody Ross off of the free agent market, he'll join a club that already boasts an outfield of Justin Upton, Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra and Adam Eaton. That's five outfielders for three jobs, so something has to give.
One name that the Phillies could realistically show some interest in is Kubel, but probably only as a platoon player. Kubel struggled big time against left-handed pitching last season, but mashed right-handed pitchers to the tune of a .264 / .348 / .540 slash line with 23 home runs.
Of course, the D'backs would have to be willing to absorb some of his salary because the Phillies aren't going to spend $7.5 million on a part-time player. The D'backs would likely have to eat at least half of that to facilitate a trade.
Another player that the Arizona Diamondbacks could stand to deal is Gerardo Parra. They plan to move into the 2013 season with Adam Eaton (no, not that Adam Eaton) as their starting center fielder and leadoff hitter, and if the club decides to keep Jason Kubel, Parra is out of a job.
Parra is a guy that could interest the Phillies. He is an above-average defender who should have no problem playing either outfield position. He has good speed and on-base skills and makes solid contact. With that being said, he also strikes out quite a bit and doesn't have much power to speak of.
At the very least, Parra could be a solid platoon partner. He hit .278 / .349 / .405 against right-handed pitching last season, with five home runs.
The Phillies' search for a corner outfield has come down to a few things this offseason. They're not going to surrender their 16th overall pick in next June's draft unless they have to, and they're not going to overspend on a free agent. That opens the door to a couple of trades.
One interesting name that keeps coming up is Alfonso Soriano, who the Chicago Cubs would basically pay to get rid of at this point. They're rebuilding and would love to save a few million dollars on his contract.
That could interest the Phillies. If the Cubs are willing to move him while still paying a portion of his contract—I can't imagine the Phillies would have to pay any more than $5 million per season, at the maximum—then Soriano could be a fit. He would be the right-handed power source that they've been searching for.
Then again, if you're going to try and save money by giving the left field job to a bad defender who hits home runs, why not just give it to Darin Ruf?
The Phillies do not have the pieces to acquire Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins. This is the most fictitious rumor of the offseason at this point, and it isn't going to go away until the day that the Marlins have finally had enough of Stanton and deal him. Still, it won't be to the Phillies.
Take this, for example. If I were the Marlins, any deal with the Phillies must include their top talent. They are a division rival, after all, so I'd ask for a package that starts with Domonic Brown, Jesse Biddle, Roman Quinn, Jonathan Pettibone, Maikel Franco and Carlos Tocci.
Would that be enough? It might be, but what's to stop the Boston Red Sox from offering a package consisting of Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and more? What's to stop the Texas Rangers from offering Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt and Martin Perez to start? What's to stop the Seattle Mariners from offering Mike Zunino, Taijuan Walker and more?
The point here is that the Phillies would have to cripple themselves for the next decade or so to land Stanton, and even then, teams can still offer better packages to Miami. This is fiction. Just take my word.
I can't imagine that there is a team in the game that wouldn't love to have Justin Upton on its roster—outside of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have been trying to trade him for what feels like an eternity.
And while it sure seems as though they will be moving him this offseason, I seriously doubt that the Phillies have the pieces to facilitate a trade. No, they're not trading Cliff Lee and eating more than half of his remaining salary to do so. Don't even suggest it.
Any deal for the Phillies would likely have to be built around guys like Jesse Biddle and Freddy Galvis, plus high-end prospects. What's stopping the Texas Rangers from finally saying, "Okay. We'll send you Elvis Andrus," and getting this thing wrapped up?
There is plenty of interest in Upton around the league, and the Phillies don't have the pieces to outbid clubs like the Rangers and Seattle Mariners, who have a plethora of prospects.
Vernon Wells is a more likely trade candidate. This is a situation similar to the one the Chicago Cubs face with Alfonso Soriano. At this point in time, the Los Angeles Angels would essentially pay Wells to go to a different team.
This isn't an ideal fit for the Phillies because there is no guarantee that Wells is going to hit for power—or hit at all, for that matter. They would be banking on his last couple of seasons being down years due to injury and inconsistent at-bats and not simply a decline in his playing ability.
If they can't get him cheap enough, it's a low-risk, high-reward kind of deal. But at this point in his career, it is hard to imagine the rewards being all that plentiful for a club who makes a trade for Vernon Wells. The Phillies may be best served sticking with what they already have.
There is no perfect fit for the Phillies at this point, but Josh Willingham is as close as it gets. He is affordable, under team control for two seasons and hits for plenty of right-handed power. The problem is that the Minnesota Twins don't look as though they're willing to trade him.
You have to imagine that, as they discussed Ben Revere, the Phillies and Twins had a few conversations about Willingham. The Twins, at the time, were (and still are) in need of pitching. I imagine that the disagreement was over what kind of pitcher the Phillies would be willing to trade for Willingham.
While Revere netted the Twins Vance Worley and Trevor May, a guy like Willingham is more suited to bring back names like Kyle Kendrick or Tyler Cloyd.
It wouldn't surprise me to see the Twins move Willingham this winter. They're not going to contend over the next few seasons and his value is never going to be higher. They're probably holding out for the right deal.
Could the Phillies still make a trade for Willingham? Sure. But until the Twins show that they are really willing to trade him, this is fiction.
Here's an interesting name for you to consider: Delmon Young.
2012 was a whirlwind year for the former Detroit Tigers outfielder. He was arrested for "aggravated harassment" in April and named the ALCS MVP in October.
Despite playing some left field during the World Series, clubs view him as more of a designated hitter than anything else this offseason, which isn't surprising. He is not a good defender. Would a National League team be willing to reconsider if he were to become a platoon player?
At this point in the offseason, it is hard to see the Phillies paying for a right-handed platoon player unless he is a significant upgrade over John Mayberry Jr. and Darin Ruf, which Young truly could be. He hit left-handed pitching well last season, posting a line of .308 / .333 / .500 with seven home runs.
I'm calling this fiction because there haven't been any rumors actually linking the Phillies to Young at this point. This is all just speculation. But if he still hasn't signed in late January and has to take a minor league deal, I could see the Phillies offering one.