After a “shocking” defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Philadelphia Phillies find themselves vacationing early this offseason. There are many questions that general manager Rubén Amaro Jr. will have to examine in the coming months. Obviously an early exit in the playoffs was not in the “cards,” if I am permitted a pun.
Amaro will have several decisions to make in regards to free agency, including third base. I would like to inspect the third base position of this team, currently occupied by Placido Polanco.
Polanco is coming off an injury-riddled season that has some fans speculating if Polanco’s time is up in Philadelphia. The 36 year old third basemen had a less than stellar regular season, and an even worse postseason.
Is it time for a change at third base for the Philadelphia Phillies?
Let’s take a look at our options.
Aramis Ramirez is the top third base free agent this offseason. His services will not come cheap, but he will provide good power and consistency to any lineup. This would be the most obvious fantasy option for any major league team, including the Phillies.
Ramirez is three years younger than Polanco and would provide the boost of offense that the Phillies so desperately need. With Ramirez in the lineup, you could have him protect Ryan Howard. Charlie Manuel could then move Chase Utley to the two spot and have Hunter Pence move to third in the batting order.
Although Ramirez would boost offensive production, he is still 33 years old. On a team already filled with thirty-somethings, this move would only temporarily help out the Phils. Management seems to realize you cannot have a team of thirty-somethings all aging together. The Phillies will need to get younger eventually in certain positions.
Eric Chavez spent the 2011 season with the New York Yankees. Now a free agent, one has to wonder where the six time Gold Glove winner will go from here.
Chavez would make an excellent defensive replacement for Polanco at third base. The biggest concern about Chavez is his health. He has not started more than 60 games since 2007. With that kind of health concern, why would he even be on this list?
He’s cheap and a great defensive third basemen. Polanco, unless bought out, will still be a member of the Phillies next year. Perhaps in an effort to manage two injury prone players, you start them both throughout the season. This way neither player would be overworked, and could still be productive.
Chavez is only 33 years old and is worth a shot at a low salary. Maybe he will stay healthy and give the Phillies more than we could even imagine.
Betemit is a journeyman in the majors, playing for five different teams over an eight season span. If the Phillies are looking for a starting third basemen for the next five years, then Betemit is not a viable option. If they are looking for a player to bridge the gap until a suitable option in the farm system is ready, then Betemit may be a realistic option.
The veteran third basemen will be turning 30 in November. That makes him six years younger than Polanco. Betemit would be cheap and is coming off a fairly decent year where he hit .285 for the season. Most likely he would be hitting in the bottom of the lineup, but he could do the job adequately.
Jorge Cantu is a free agent coming off a disappointing 2011 season. He had signed with the San Diego Padres in the offseason, but was released in late June of this year. The Colorado Rockies signed Cantu to a minor league deal in July.
In 2009 Cantu drove in 100 runs as a member of the Florida Marlins. That season seems so long ago now. Since 2009, Cantu has been with the Marlins, Padres and the Texas Rangers. The last two seasons have been substandard for the 29 year old.
Cantu is a versatile infielder that can play first, second and third base. Defensively, he is only sufficient at first base. Offensively, he is an enigma at this point. He has the talent to be a producer, having driven in 95-plus runs in three different seasons. However, he has also had seasons where he has gone missing. You cannot be sure of which Jorge Cantu you are getting.
This could be another option to platoon third base with Polanco. He could also serve as a backup to Ryan Howard with Ross Gload being a free agent. For a low salary I’d be willing to take a shot on him.
Mark Derosa, Miguel Tejada, Omar Vizquel and Melvin Mora are all free agents this year. Each of them is over the age of 36, so they would not be options to get younger at the hot corner.
I have thrown them all together because there is very little difference between them. By signing any one of them you are getting a cheap player, who at this stage of their career is both an offensive and defensive liability. The only reason to put them on this list is because they are free agents. Anything is possible, but these names seem unlikely.
I would add Casey Blake, but he had neck surgery this offseason and may not even return to baseball. He is 38 years old.
Perhaps the most likely substitute for Placido Polanco is Placido Polanco himself.
Polanco will not become a free agent until next year. He is going to make $6 million dollars in 2012 and with that kind of salary it would be hard to justify him being on the bench.
The most likely scenario I see is Polanco starting at third, with Michael Martinez filling in when he needs rest. Perhaps Martinez will take a step forward and fight Polanco for playing time.
If Polanco can stay healthy next year he will be a productive part of the team. If he continues to be injury prone, then you may be seeing the final season of Polanco. However, even when he was healthy, this was a down year for him.
The major problem is that when you go down the list of possible third base options for next year, the Phillies are in a very tough spot. Amaro would either have to spend big on Aramis Ramirez, keep Polanco as the starter or find an option to platoon. Each one of those options has its pros and cons.
No matter what, the Philadelphia Phillies will need to address third base sometime in the immediate future.
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