It can be difficult to let the following fact sink in during the thick of a dreary, chilly day in the middle of January, but spring training is right around the corner, with pitchers and catchers reporting to camp about a month from now.
And while there is an air of excitement among baseball fans everywhere, clubs with front offices still trying to upgrade their rosters are starting to feel the heat. The Philadelphia Phillies addressed most of their needs earlier this winter, but still have small tweaks to be made.
The Phillies came into the offseason with a few obvious needs before swinging trades for center fielder Ben Revere and third baseman Michael Young. At that moment, their needs changed, and Ruben Amaro Jr. signed Mike Adams and John Lannan to address their bullpen and starting rotation concerns, respectively.
Now, the Phillies are left with no obvious holes in the roster, but the desire to add depth both in the starting rotation and the outfield is noticeably strong.
So as we take a look at some of the items still burning on the offseason rumor mill, keep in mind that the Phillies are looking to make more of a subtle addition than a huge splash in the month of January.
Remember, labeling a rumor / speculation as "fact" does not mean that said player will join the Phillies. It means that there is a realistic possibility of a deal happening. On the inverse, "fiction" means that there is little to no chance that a player joins the Phillies.
The Phillies, who would still like to upgrade in the outfield, are going to have to be creative to accomplish that goal at this point in time. The obvious upgrades are off of the market and the right-handed power bat that they seek doesn't exist.
The next logical step here would be to upgrade their platoon situation. With Darin Ruf and John Mayberry Jr. on board, the right-handed side of the issue is covered. Domonic Brown is going to be one half of the left-handed outfielders, but an upgrade over Laynce Nix is possible.
While it almost sounds funny to say, a left-handed hitter like Bobby Abreu makes some sense. He has a patient approach, is durable and can still hit right-handed pitching.
At this point in the offseason, Michael Bourn obviously doesn't address the Phillies' biggest need in the outfield—right-handed power, but he would represent an upgrade over either of their current corner outfielders, especially defensively.
As the offseason drags on and Bourn remains on the market, some people around the game have been speculating that the center fielder may be forced to sign a "pillow contract" this winter—a one year deal that would allow him to reenter the free agent market next offseason with less competition, but one man who is not worried is agent Scott Boras, who said this to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick:
“People call me all the time and say, 'Man, your players aren't signed yet,'” Boras said. “Well, it doesn't really matter what time dinner is when you're the steak.”
And that may be true, especially about Bourn, who is undoubtedly the best outfielder left on the open market. When it comes to Boras, he usually gets the contract that his client deserves. There is still some interest in Bourn and the Phillies don't seem keen on giving up their 16th overall selection in June's draft.
Andre Ethier has become a popular name on the speculation mill now that the Los Angeles Dodgers have added yet another huge contract in Zack Greinke and could conceivably look to move one for some payroll flexibility.
For the Dodgers, the outfield is a logical spot to shed some of that mammoth payroll, as they owe a combined $250.5 million to Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford alone. Ethier, who struggled against left-handed pitching in 2012, would be the logical one to go.
However, this wouldn't be a great fit for the Phillies. The last thing that this club needs is another left-handed, middle of the order power hitter that looks like a fish out of water against left-handed pitching, and Ethier's .606 OPS against lefties last season was, well, fishy.
The Dodgers would also likely ask for a team to take on most of Ethier's salary, and that's just too big of a risk for the Phils.
Another popular name on the speculation mill is Colorado Rockies' outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. The thought here is that the Rockies aren't going anywhere fast and Gonzalez's contract, while hefty, is affordable for a man who is just a year removed away from near "superstar" status.
However, as ESPN's Jayson Stark tweeted from December's winter meetings, the Rockies just don't plan on moving "Cargo." Along with Troy Tulowitzki, this is the base for any of the Rockies' potential rebuilding efforts.
But let's just assume for a moment that the Rockies decided to make Gonzalez available in a trade. A look at their depth chart shows that they would obviously be looking for quality starting pitching, and in any deal with the Phillies, they would want Jesse Biddle.
Would the Phillies move their top prospect for a career .258 / .313 / .422 hitter on the road? I'm going to go with "no." There just isn't enough upside (or availability) to take any Carlos Gonzalez speculation seriously.
The Phillies have been interested in Scott Hairston throughout the offseason, and Todd Zolecki of MLB.com notes in a recent mailbag that the Phils have tried to acquire the outfielder in the past, so I'm going to call their interest "fact."
What has become less clear is the question of whether or not the Phillies actually have a chance of signing him. Last week, Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York reported that Hairston had likely narrowed down his choices to the New York Mets and New York Yankees, leaving the Phillies on the periphery.
If that is the case, then what is the holdup?
From a Phillies' perspective, you have to wonder if a guy like Hairston is an "impact signing." He is best suited to be a platoon player, though he has some experience playing more regularly, and would likely enter the spring in a position battle of sorts for playing time with Darin Ruf and John Mayberry Jr.
For now, this remains a "fact," but it could be much ado about nothing.
If the Phillies aren't able to add a right-handed corner outfielder with enough bat to play everyday, the next logical choice may be to upgrade their platoons. Assuming that Laynce Nix would be the odd man out—on the left-handed side—Jason Kubel would be an interesting replacement.
As an everyday player, Kubel probably wouldn't be of much interest to the Phillies because the middle of their order is already predominantly left-handed, but this is a man who also hit .264 / .348 / .540 with 23 home runs against right-handed pitching last season, and you can bet your bottom dollar that the Phillies know that.
So what would the Arizona Diamondbacks want in a trade? When rumors with the Baltimore Orioles surfaced last week, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the D'backs are interested in young pitching, which is something that the Phillies can offer.
While I seriously doubt the Phillies would move any of Jesse Biddle, Adam Morgan, Jon Pettibone and Ethan Martin, tossing around a name like Tyler Cloyd couldn't hurt.
Any team looking to add some quality starting pitching depth at this point in the offseason probably has their eye on Kyle Lohse, who posted a record of 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA. Lohse's problem is that he is bogged down by a qualifying offer that could force a team to surrender a draft pick, questionable advanced statistics and Scott Boras' demands.
For a team like the Phillies, Lohse would be a solid addition at the back end of the rotation, even with John Lannan already aboard. However, the Phillies, who showed a ton of restraint in their center field search, won't give up that draft pick unless they're getting a real steal, and that won't be happening with Lohse.
He may be forced to sign with a team who has a protected draft pick at this point, because contending teams are going to be wary of surrendering their first round selection.
I have been calling this "fact" for the last couple of weeks because it only seems like a matter of time before the Arizona Diamondbacks trade an outfielder, but with little to no chatter about Gerardo Parra on the rumor mill, it may be time to lay this one to rest.
Parra isn't the kind of player that the Phillies would salivate over dealing for. He's a very good defender with no power. He's left-handed, has good speed and can be a threat at the top of the order or out of the eight hole in front of the pitcher.
Would the D'backs consider dealing him? It's hard to imagine that they wouldn't given their outfield depth, but here is an interesting quote from general manager Kevin Towers, passed along by Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Central Sports.
I don’t feel like we have to be leveraged if we start the season with Parra, Kubel, Ross and Upton. We’re in good shape. We’ve still got our depth with Eaton down below. If somebody presents us with a deal that we think improves our club and gives us the right type of prospects we’ll consider it.
The only problem with bringing those four outfielders to camp is that none of them have played much center field as of late, and most people believe that Eaton will be the club's leadoff hitter and center fielder, bringing us back to square one.
So the D'backs will likely deal an outfielder, but the Phillies may be a long shot and getting Parra may be even more unrealistic.
Erik Bedard—Fiction: Bedard is a solid, back of the rotation lefty, but he has a lengthy injury history and hasn't been tied to the Phillies at all this winter.
Dallas Braden—Fiction: Pitchers who throw perfect games tend to get second chances, and Braden could be a solid pickup for someone. He's the kind of arm that the Phillies could target for depth, but no club has been extensively tied to him this winter.
Jair Jurrjens—Fiction: Not much buzz on the former Atlanta Braves All-Star, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently reported that the Colorado Rockies were interested. Teams in desperate need of starting pitching will take a chance on Jurrjens' upside. The Phillies won't be among them.
Jeff Karstens—Fiction: There has been some speculation that Karstens is a pitcher that the Phillies could be interested in as they build depth, but they haven't been extensively linked to him so, for now, I'm calling this "fiction."
Derek Lowe—Fiction: Lowe's career as a starter may be over, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported earlier this offseason that as many as five teams have expressed interest in the veteran right-handed pitcher, but all as a "swingman."
Shaun Marcum—Fact: The Phillies haven't necessarily been linked to Marcum this winter, but I'm going to call this "fact." If the club is looking to build starting pitching depth and can get a steal on Marcum, he has the upside to keep them interested.
Kevin Milwood—Fiction: I think this ship has sailed.
Joe Saunders—Fiction: An interesting option for the back of the rotation, but Saunders is reportedly looking for a three-year deal to surpass Joe Blanton's contract, which isn't a very good start here in Philly.
Alfonso Soriano has been linked to the Phillies since before the winter meetings in early December, and that isn't going to change any time soon, as the Phils have yet to address their corner outfield situation, even if they go with a double platoon.
The Phillies, sources say, continue to look at all options, including the signing of free agent Scott Hairston and trades for the Chicago Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano and Los Angeles Angels’ Vernon Wells.
Would Soriano be an upgrade for the Phillies? That's actually tough to say. According to FanGraphs, Soriano was worth four Wins Above Replacement in 2012, which certainly would be an upgrade for the Phillies.
A large part of the reason for Soriano's very positive value last season was because of his defense. While he is regarded as a butcher in the outfield, Soriano actually posted very solid advanced marks to go along with his .262 / .322 / .499 slash line. He also hit 32 home runs.
For the Phillies to make this deal work, they would need to get him for as cheap as possible. That means getting the Cubs to eat as much money as they can stomach and sending back a fringe prospect.
I haven't really done the math, but the odds of the Phillies acquiring Giancarlo Stanton are kind of like being struck twice by lightning on a surfboard with your supermodel girlfriend after you put the finishing touches on a perfect NCAA bracket.
So, not good.
But for some reason, Phillies fans keep mentioning the "possibility" of making a trade for the burgeoning Miami Marlins superstar, and I use the word "possibility" very lightly because such a thing does not even exist.
The real reason for that is that the Phillies simply don't have the goods to make a deal. They can build a package around "quantity" (if they want to stink for the next decade), but don't have the blue-chip, top-notch, can't-miss prospect that it would take for the Marlins to pull the trigger.
Just in case that wasn't enough to dispel the rumor for good, here is an interesting quote from Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.
Simply put, the Marlins "are not moving him," according to a source I spoke with. They haven't even "discussed" it internally. The team's plans calling for Stanton to start the season with the club and occupy the clean-up spot have "not changed at all," according to another source with knowledge of the Marlins' intentions.
What in the world did Justin Upton do to the Arizona Diamondbacks to deserve this? It seems as though year in and year out, Upton's name is one of the hottest burning rumors on the trade market, and while the Phillies could certainly use a right-handed hitting corner outfielder with his potential, a trade won't be happening between these two clubs any time soon.
And that's not because the D'backs don't want to trade Upton. In fact, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the D'backs had agreed to a deal that would have sent Upton to the Seattle Mariners for four prospects, only to have the deal blocked by Upton, who has limited no-trade protection.
So what's the deal with Upton? Some people believe that he is holding out for a trade to the Atlanta Braves, where he would join his brother, B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward in an extremely talented outfield, but the Braves are said to be "lying in the weeds," according to ESPN's Buster Olney.
Regardless of what happens with Upton, the Phillies just don't have the blue-chip prospect to get into the bidding, especially against loaded farm systems like the Mariners and Braves. This one is fiction from a Phillies' perspective.
Now that most of the outfield bats on the free agent market have dried up, the Phillies have turned their attention to building some starting pitching depth. One name to keep an eye on is Javier Vazquez, who fits the Ruben Amaro Jr. mold to a tee.
Like Juan Pierre last season, Vazquez would be an aging veteran in an area of need for the Phils, but with a limited financial commitment, there is plenty of room for upside. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, scouts who have seen Vazquez pitch in Puerto Rico have reported that his fastball velocity is in the 92-95 mph range.
Now, it would be unwise to believe that the 36-year-old Vazquez could sustain that kind of velocity throughout the season, but at this point in time, there is very little reason to believe that he cannot, at the very least, be a solid fifth starter for a contending team.
While they haven't shown a ton of interest as of yet, Jayson Stark of ESPN has reported that the Phillies have at least scouted Vazquez in Puerto Rico.
If the Phillies make a trade for a corner outfielder, anyone other than Vernon Wells or Alfonso Soriano would come as a bit of a surprise, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reiterated their interest in the pair again recently.
The real problem for the Phillies right now is that they don't have the kind of blue chip prospect that would land a player like Justin Upton, so they're fishing at the bottom of the barrel with names like Wells and Soriano—guys who would make an impact, but a small one.
Of the two, Wells is probably the bigger risk. He has dealt with injuries over the last couple of seasons and hasn't been a productive outfielder since 2010. Would a change of scenery help? Who knows. The consistent at-bats would, but the Phillies may be best served going with Darin Ruf and Domonic Brown.
The Phillies haven't been linked to Delmon Young extensively, but when you're one of the few power hitting, right-handed corner outfielders left on the free agent market, you're going to be linked to teams looking for power hitting, right-handed corner outfielders, like the Phillies.
But Young is a questionable fit for the Phillies, at best. Looking over his splits from last season, it becomes clear that Young is a platoon player at this point in his career, posting a strong .833 OPS against lefties last season, but a mediocre .649 OPS against right-handed pitching.
If the Phillies are going to "upgrade" with a guy like Young, they would need to put some separation between what the already have in Darin Ruf and John Mayberry Jr., and I don't see that in Young, who is dreadful defender as well.