A Very Early Look at Potential Philadelphia Phillies 2014 Free Agent Targets
Phillies fans do not know whether this year's team has one final playoff push in it, but one thing is absolutely certain: This core group of players will largely be gone after 2013.
Of course, Ryan Howard and his enormous contract are not going anywhere. Neither probably is Cole Hamels, as long as he is getting paid over $20 million a year to lose five games for every one he wins.
After those two, though, there is uncertainty for the Phillies around the diamond.
Jimmy Rollins has one year left on his present contract, but he could be a useful piece for a contender if the Phillies fall out of the race this summer.
Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon have longer deals in place, but then they are still premium players at their respective positions and they could be moved.
The contracts of Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, Carlos Ruiz and Michael Young are all up after 2013. It is tough to foresee any of them, even franchise poster boy Utley, coming back next season.
This sort of upheaval can be terrifying for fans, but the undeniable benefit to the likely departures of so many expensive, over-the-hill players is the free agent money that their absence from the payroll will free up.
So, without meaning to bury the 2013 Phillies before the coroner does the autopsy, here is a look at potential free agents the Phillies may have interest in this winter.
Robinson Cano would neatly fill the half-void the Phillies have had at second base the past three seasons, as Chase Utley has broken down and missed significant time.
Cano is doing nothing to hurt his free agent stock in his walk year, with 16 home runs and 42 runs batted in through less than half the season for an offensively challenged New York Yankees team.
Cano is batting under .300 now, but he hit .300 or better in each of the past four seasons. He also played no fewer than 159 games in any of those years.
The Phillies will likely face significant competition for Cano's services on the free-agent market. Primarily, they will probably have to tangle with the Yankees, who will not want to let one of their own get away.
Still, here's hoping Cano gets out of New York somehow, if only so we can all stop hearing that asinine "Robbie Cano, don't you know" home run call from John Sterling.
Speaking of hard-hitting New York Yankees, Curtis Granderson would certainly be an upgrade for the Phillies over players like Delmon Young and John Mayberry, Jr.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Phillies now seem to have left field and center field figured out for the time being with Domonic Brown and Ben Revere producing. Brown has an outside chance at an All-Star nod.
Still, this Phillies team is starved for the long ball. Brown has 19 home runs, but the next-closest Phillie is Ryan Howard with eight.
His injury woes might actually bring his free agent price tag down. Granderson would be a fine fit for tiny Citizens Bank Park, and could form a terrifying power partnership with Brown for the next few seasons.
While Curtis Granderson's injury woes are fairly recent, Nelson Cruz's issues with injuries are more of a constant concern.
Maybe it is just the toll that playing in the Arlington heat takes (remember, Josh Hamilton had injury troubles there too), but whatever it is, Cruz is a player who puts up power numbers when healthy.
The gamble would be on how healthy he can stay.
Cruz played 159 games in 2012 and is on pace to play about that many this season as well. But from 2009-11, he averaged an even 120 games per season. Despite all those missed games, he still hit no fewer than 22 home runs in any of those years.
Cruz would slot in nicely in right field at Citizens Bank Park where the right-handed hitting Cruz could bat between Domonic Brown and Ryan Howard some days, breaking up the two left-handed hitters.
Cruz is another player who would almost certainly take full advantage of the small dimensions at Citizens Bank Park.
With Michael Young unlikely to return to Philadelphia next season, the Phillies will be back in the market for a third baseman.
That means Mark Reynolds could make sense for the Phillies in 2014 and beyond.
Reynolds is, admittedly, a limited player. He strikes out a ton, hits for a low average and he is a subpar defensive third baseman.
Those are all compelling arguments against Reynolds. Now here come the arguments for him.
Reynolds is a credible power bat from the right side and he is only 29, so he probably still has a few productive seasons left.
Further, with Ryan Howard continuing to look gimpy on his surgically repaired Achilles and iffy knee, Reynolds could see time at first base against tough left-handed starters.
Above all, signing Reynolds probably would not cost anywhere near what the likes of Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Nelson Cruz will command.
Even assuming that Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee will be back in Philadelphia in 2014, it is a near-certainty that Roy Halladay will not.
Kyle Kendrick would probably join Hamels and Lee in the rotation again barring any trades. Understanding that the fifth starter role is always filled by cheap help (John Lannan, Tyler Cloyd, Jonathan Pettibone, etc.), that still leaves the Phillies one useful starting pitcher short.
Ervin Santana is presently a .500 pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, but his peripheral numbers suggest that he has been a bit unlucky.
Santana's earned run average is under three while his strikeout-to-walk rate (71/13) is terrific.
The primary knock against Santana, particularly as it concerns coming to Philadelphia, is his penchant for giving up home runs.
In that regard, Santana is like a pitching version of Mark Reynolds: a useful, but flawed player.
Free agency, however, is full of such imperfect gems. Afer all, if ballplayers were all perfect, their teams would never let them go.