Philadelphia Phillies: Ranking Their 25 Biggest Targets This Offseason

Greg Pinto@@Greg_PintoCorrespondent IOctober 24, 2011

Philadelphia Phillies: Ranking Their 25 Biggest Targets This Offseason

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    Ever since becoming monetary powerhouses in Major League Baseball a few years back, the Philadelphia Phillies have thrown their weight around the free agent and trade markets, reeling in the big names and leaving other teams fighting over the scraps.

    That's not going to happen this season.

    It's not that the Phillies can't afford to add more salary or move around big contracts, but the landscape for doing so is noticeably bleak. They're not in a position to steal away another ace, so CJ Wilson won't be making this list, and I'm sure that Prince Fielder's .981 OPS would look great in the middle of the order, but there's no place for him on the diamond. In a more narrow sense—the Phillies have a lot of expensive pieces to the puzzle already in place, and there is little wiggle room for squeezing those final pieces together.

    Let's face it—though most of us have taken the, "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me," approach to the Phillies' front office, this time when they tell us there isn't much money, we have to believe them. The Phils already have more than $112 million guaranteed to 11 players (including the buyouts of Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge) on the books for 2012. Factor in five arbitration cases, and you can see why money may be tight.

    So when we start looking at the free agent market, it is important to remember that while we'd like to think they can pull another rabbit out of a hat and land a top free agent, the Phillies have big holes to fill and limited funds to do so.

    For that reason, realize that this list will attempt to be as realistic as possible. This is not a list of the market's best free agents. This is a list of players that the Phillies will look at to fill holes on the roster from a realistic perspective. While it's tempting to throw a bunch of popular names out there, that's not how free agency works.

    That's also not how the trade market works. Remember that while there could be a few attractive names on the trading block this winter, the Phillies have limited resources both in terms of money and prospects. The options are limited.

    Heading into the winter, the Phillies will look to address specific areas of the club, at the forefront of which will be bench depth and power, the back end of the bullpen, and possible options at third base. Those potential additions will be looked at in much more depth than say, for example, an outlandish suggestion of Albert Pujols signing his mega-deal with the Phils.

    So without further ado, let's take a look at the 25 most realistic targets the Phillies will have heading into this off-season.

The Best of the Rest

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    Between the free agent and trade markets, a ton of baseball players will have their names bandied about this winter, and it is impossible to talk about them all in a slide show that lists only the 25 top options. With that being said, there are also a lot of guys on the brink of making the 25 spots, but are left off for some reason. I thought it would be appropriate to talk about them in one slide, here, in no particular order.

    Ryan Doumit: Doumit is going to have a lot of suitors. There are clubs that will like him as a catcher or a corner outfielder, and he'll find a starting job. He'd have to take a significant pay-cut to play on the bench for the Philadelphia Phillies, and that probably won't be happening.

    Russell Branyan: The Phillies will be looking for some left handed power off of the bench, and the former Phillie Branyan has a ton of that. However, a combination of below average production against right handed pitching, a continued, downward decline, and better overall options keep him off of the list.

    Edwin Encarnacion: Not much room on the defense-oriented Phillies for a guy with the nickname, "E5." Would be nice to add his pop, but he is a streaky hitter that is extremely limited defensively. Once again, there are better options.

    Jose Molina: Back-up catcher coming off a good offensive season. Nothing against him. Just not in the top 25.

    Nick Swisher: All signs indicate that the New York Yankees will pick up his option, and while he could be a trade candidate for the Phillies, those rumors are skeptical, at best. The Yankees value Major League starting pitching, and the Phillies won't be trading any of that. (A swap of Roy Oswalt makes some sense, but still, it's skeptical, at best.) The Yanks are picking up his option because he's an offensive threat in right field.

    Joe Nathan: The Phillies will pass on most injury-prone relievers, and Nathan's case is about money. He'll want to be paid like a closer and someone will oblige. The Phils will look elsewhere.

    Johnny Damon: Damon would be an ideal fourth outfielder, and if I wasn't convinced that he'll land a starting gig somewhere, he'd probably be on the list. Let's label him as number 26 for now, but I think the Phillies are content with Domonic Brown and John Mayberry Jr.

    Rafael Furcal: Furcal is going to ride his postseason success to a nice contract, and while he's effective when healthy, he's hardly ever healthy. Have to imagine it's either Jimmy Rollins or Freddy Galvis for the Phils at short.

    Mike Gonzalez: Great situational lefty. Left off of the list because of better options, but would be a great sign.

    Albert Pujols: It would be great penciling his name into the middle of the order, but unless he's going to play third base or left field, it's not happening. Sorry people.

    Aaron Hill & Kelly Johnson: The two guys who were traded for each other, either would be a great fit for the Phillies, who are looking to add versatility and rest older players. But I'm sure that both of these guys will land full-time, starting gigs—something neither would get in Philadelphia.

    Greg Dobbs: Dobbs had a nice year in Florida, but the Marlins were able to play him much more than the Phillies and kept him sharp at the plate, with almost 300 more plate appearances. When he sits on the bench, he loses his edge. Not a good option, in my mind.

    David Wright: He'd be a perfect fit in red pin-stripes, but please, look at this from a New York Mets' perspective. Why would they move the face of their franchise to not only their division rival, but nemesis, for anything less than four of the Phillies' top five prospects? Can't see a deal getting done.

    Raul Ibanez: I wouldn't close the door on Ibanez, but it's hard to envision him having a role. Maybe if all of their other options sign elsewhere and he'll sign a one-year, minor league contract.

25. Clint Barmes

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    The Philadelphia Phillies are looking to add some versatility to their bench that won't be a complete liability at the plate. Clint Barmes is an interesting option, though the Houston Astros have expressed interest in re-signing him, and he has shown interest in staying. That's not hard to imagine, considering not many other teams would give him a job as the starting shortstop.

    If he's interested in becoming an often-used utility infielder, the Phillies would certainly be interested, though. Barmes has played every infield position besides first base in his career and has played them well. He has some pop in his bat and would be able to spell the likes of Placido Polanco and Chase Utley without having the "Michael Martinez Effect" on the lineup.

    In other words, he wouldn't be a black hole with overrated "versatility."

24. Jamey Carroll

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    Jamey Carroll is appealing to the Philadelphia Phillies for many of the same reasons as Clint Barmes. Within the last two seasons alone, he has played every position on the diamond outside of pitcher, catcher, and center fielder, and he plays those positions well.

    His offensive numbers dictate that he may be on the downside of his career and no longer much of an everyday player, but consecutive seasons posting a wRC+ of 104 show that he would be a nice option to turn to off of the bench.

23. Henry Blanco

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    Back-up catchers are a dime a dozen, so I wasn't intending on including any of them on this list. However, I couldn't bring myself to leave Henry Blanco off simply because he does everything that the Philadelphia Phillies like in a back-up catcher well.

    He has a wide reputation of being one of the hardest working, best defensive back-up catchers in baseball, and the Phillies value the defensive aspect of catching more than anything, especially in their secondary backstop. However, Blanco was no slouch at the plate last season either, posting an OPS of .870 and a wRC+ of 127 in limited action.

    Those numbers will regress to the mean and he's likely to re-sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he'd be a good option should the Phillies be able to pry him away.

22. Jerry Hairston Jr.

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    Every off-season, the Philadelphia Phillies go on the hunt for that elusive "versatility" off of the bench, and every season that follows, it seems like Jerry Hairston Jr. comes back to haunt them in some way, shape, or form by donning a division rival's jersey.

    It's time to get ahead of the curve.

    Hairston had a very good year with the Milwaukee Brewers in much of the same fashion as he would be used with the Phillies—playing frequently, but playing multiple positions. He posted an OPS of .727 and a wRC+ of 106. Not too shabby for a reserve player.

21. Jason Kubel

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    The Minnesota Twins surprised a lot of people around the game at last season's trade deadline when they held on to a couple of players that they could have found some value for in a trade. That loyalty may help them sign said players at a reduced rate, but the Philadelphia Phillies will be interested in some of those guys regardless, one of which is Jason Kubel.

    Kubel, who plays first base and the corner outfield positions, would be a solid option for the Phillies' bench as they determine just how much time Ryan Howard is going to miss, and would serve as a fail-safe if Domonic Brown and / or John Mayberry Jr. are unable to be productive in right field.

    Kubel posted an OPS of .766 overall, and an OPS of .783 against right handed pitching. He has solid power and a knack for getting on base, two factors helping his wRC+ climb to 110 in 2011.

20. David DeJesus

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    After posting near-career lows across the board in 2011, a lot of teams, including the Oakland Athletics who are stocked with outfielders, are going to think twice about whether or not David DeJesus is still an every day player. In my opinion, the answer is no, but he would be very productive to the Phillies as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

    An above average defender, the Phillies would lose nothing in that regard on days that DeJesus plays the field, and against right handed pitching, he posted an OPS of .787. He may be a role player at this stage in his career, but the Phils will need a lot of those moving forward, and DeJesus represents an affordable option.

19. Eric Hinske

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    After the Atlanta Braves were dispelled in the first round of the 2010 postseason by the San Francisco Giants, Eric Hinske's impressive knack / streak for appearing in the World Series came to a close. In 2011, of course with the same team, he wouldn't even make the postseason. It may be time for a new streak, and Hinske could benefit from the Philadelphia Phillies.

    The Phillies will spend a lot of time, thought, and dollars upgrading their bench this off-season, and Hinske fits the profile. Last season with the Braves, Hinske played first base and the corner outfield positions, and he has played some third base in the past, though, you won't be getting any Gold Glove-caliber defense from him anywhere on the diamond.

    With that being said, he is a solid options to turn to off of the bench or give a spot start. Hinske had a relatively unlucky season last year (.288 BABIP,) but his track record as a pinch hitter / spot starter speaks for itself. He also posted a .754 OPS against right handed pitching in 2011, something the Phils were sorely lacking in the injured Ross Gload.

18. Derrek Lee

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    Derrek Lee had a solid enough 2011 campaign to warrant him consideration for a starting job somewhere, and the Philadelphia Phillies probably wouldn't have much interest in his services unless Ryan Howard was going to miss a significant chunk of time or Lee were willing to sign for cheap as a primary pinch hitter. That said, there is some ground for speculation of common interest.

    After battling injuries with the Baltimore Orioles over the first half of the season, Lee really turned things on following a trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates (where he also battled a wrist injury.) In 28 games he posted an OPS of .982 for the Bucs and a wRC+ of 171.

    Obviously, that production is unsustainable over the course of a full season, but Lee could be a solid option for the Phillies given either of those circumstances listed in the first paragraph. He also posted an OPS of .729 against lefties, but was actually slightly better against right handed pitching.

17. Wilson Betemit

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    Wilson Betemit's name came up quite a bit in regards to the Philadelphia Phillies as the team tried to upgrade at the trade deadline, ultimately landing Hunter Pence. As an underrated third baseman with a solid offensive background, you can expect to hear his name quite a bit more over the winter.

    Now a free agent, it wouldn't be surprising for a team, especially a non-contender, to give him a shot as their starting third baseman—something that the Phillies likely wouldn't be willing to do with Placido Polanco under contract. However, they'd be extremely interested in signing Betemit to play more of a super utility role.

    Betemit posted an OPS of .795 and a wRC+ of 116 after splitting the season with the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers—his second solid season in a row. Something that may concern the Phillies is the vanishing act he pulled in the postseason, going 0-for-9 through the first two rounds in 2011.

16. Aramis Ramirez

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    The Philadelphia Phillies need a third base upgrade and some power in the lineup, so at a glance, there seems to be natural interest in free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez (which would, in turn, place him higher on this list.) But let's not forget that the Phillies will be on somewhat of a budget this year, and Ramirez's nagging injuries may turn them off, and on to lesser options.

    If he comes at a reasonable price, he is arguably the best fit for the Phillies. He slugged 26 home runs for the Chicago Cubs last season, posting an OPS of .871 and a wRC+ of 133. Of course, he's not likely to come cheap, and the perfect storm of off-season moves would probably needed for the Phils to get involved.

    Ramirez could be a possibility, but it's unlikely, at best.

15. Reed Johnson

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    From one member of the Chicago Cubs to another, the Philadelphia Phillies could also benefit from inking outfielder Reed Johnson to a contract. He seems to have been on their radar for years, and this year especially fits the profile they've built, so it wouldn't be unreasonable to see a healthy dose of speculation about the two parties over the coming weeks.

    Though he's been profiled as a fourth outfielder on most teams—and that's exactly the role he'd play with the Phillies—Johnson put up the type of numbers you'd like to see out of one of your regulars in 2011. He posted an OPS of .816 and a wRC+ of 122, though those numbers were accompanied by an unsustainable BABIP of .394.

    Most appealing to the Phillies would be his splits against left handed pitching. With Ben Francisco having struggled for most of the season, it may be wise to non-tender him and let Johnson, who posted an OPS of .797 against lefties (and a better OPS vs. right handed pitching) take a crack at that fourth outfielder's role.

14. Casey Kotchman

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    Casey Kotchman is another one of those borderline first baseman who could be in line for a starting gig in 2012. He had somewhat of a renaissance season with the Tampa Bay Rays last year, filling in for Carlos Pena, who had bolted for the Chicago Cubs.

    If the Philadelphia Phillies determine that Ryan Howard will miss a large chunk of the season, they could offer Kotchman a one-year deal and the starting gig until he returns, but Kotchman may be in line for a better deal than that.

    He hit 10 home runs, posted an OPS of .800, and accumulated a wRC+ of 125. He'd be a great option for the Phillies (and would provide a great left handed threat off of the bench when Howard returns to action, as shown by his .838 OPS versus right handed pitching,) but teams will look at his .351 wOBA and offer him a multi-year contract—something the Phillies will be unable to do unless he's willing, and able, to change positions for the future.

13. Nick Punto

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    Drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1998, perhaps it is time for Nick Punto to come full circle. One of the few people on this list still playing baseball this season, the former Phillie would be a huge upgrade to the bench in 2012, as he is capable of playing all infield positions and would be an upgrade, offensively, over the likes of Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez.

    One of Tony La Russa's favorite, gritty, go-to options off of the bench for the St. Louis Cardinals, Punto was surprisingly good offensively in his return trip to the National League. He posted an OPS of .809 and a wRC+ of 123, while playing the above average defense he's made a name for himself with.

12. Jose Reyes

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    I'm not convinced in the least bit that the Philadelphia Phillies will make a play for Jose Reyes, but it would be silly to leave the possibility off of this list all together. They may inquire on Reyes, but it has become clear that Jimmy Rollins is their first target to play shortstop in 2012, and a bevy of other reasons may prevent them from pursuing the former New York Met at all.

    First and foremost, someone is going to pay him a ton of money. The San Francisco Giants have long had interest in the shortstop and are desperate for some kind of offense. He fits their system well and may be their top priority. The Phillies, who have prospect Freddy Galvis waiting in the wings, may not be willing to overspend on a shortstop with character issues.

    With all of that said, Reyes would be a huge upgrade to the Phils' offense. He is extremely dynamic at the top of the order and is coming off of his best season, where he posted an OPS of 877, a wOBA of .386, a wRC+ of 149, and stole 39 bases.

    Will the Phillies pony up for a player known to have character issues; the type of player they've shied away from in the past?

11. Carlos Pena

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    When Carlos Pena signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs, it was a negotiating tactic that was supposed to line him up for a big multi-year contract this winter, after he rebounded from a down season in 2010 with a much better one in 2011. It didn't go quite as he and agent Scott Boras had planned.

    While those who value SABRmetrics will notice an increase in offensive output in 2011, traditionalists will look at his power numbers—28 home runs in each of the last two seasons—and see just a slight increase in other traditional stats, like batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, the multi-year deal he seeks isn't going to happen.

    It's time to face facts—Pena is a poor man's Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. The thing is, there aren't many contenders that are going to value his services moving forward. Maybe I'm over-analyzing things a bit here, but if he were to accept another one-year deal, Pena would be in a position to be at the top of the first basemen free agent class in 2013.

    If the Philadelphia Phillies feel that Ryan Howard is going to miss most of the season, it may behoove them to offer Pena that one-year deal. Once (if) Howard returns in 2012, Pena moves on to the bench and though he'll be playing sporadically, it'll be for a contender.

    Seems like a long shot, but there are reasons for both sides to consider a deal.

10. Roy Oswalt

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    I don't think it's any secret that the season didn't end the way the Philadelphia Phillies thought it would in 2011, and that obvious truth is none the more obvious than to starting pitcher Roy Oswalt. After all, he approved a trade to the Phillies with one objective in mind—winning a World Series—and he's 0-for-2 in that category.

    There is benefit to the Phillies picking up their end of the $16 million mutual option for the 2012 season, but all signs point towards the team declining and Oswalt becoming a free agent, where several teams will be interested in his services on a weak free agent market.

    The Phillies will be one of those teams though, and one thing that Oswalt made clear when coming here is that he was going to be picky about where he went. With the St. Louis Cardinals' rotation and budget at max (they were one of Oswalt's preferred destinations,) the Phils should be a favorite, assuming that they offer him a fair, two-year deal.

    Even with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels under contract, the Phillies proved that pitching wins games in 2011, and replacing Oswalt with the likes of Joe Blanton or Kyle Kendrick is an obvious downgrade.

    Just a gut feeling, but I think these two parties work something out.

9. Heath Bell

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    There was plenty of talk at the trade deadline of the San Diego Padres being unwilling to move closer Heath Bell at the trade deadline, but I think it's more likely that they were unable to trade him. Once upon a time a sure thing to be dealt, Bell's regressing numbers scared teams away, and trading partners with an obvious need for bullpen help looked elsewhere, like to Bell's teammate, Mike Adams.

    Now a free agent, Bell's first choice is to re-sign with San Diego, and that may be the best fit for him. The Philadelphia Phillies, who will definitely be in the market for a veteran closer, may inquire, but should move on to better options.

    Bell's 2011 season was a bit alarming in various regards. Despite registering a low BABIP, most of his numbers went into decline. He gave up more home runs and struck out fewer, threw fewer innings, converted fewer saves, and his HR/FB rate jumped by 5%, and those weren't the results of "spacious PETCO Park," as it's called. 

    The Phils will have some interest in Bell, but he's a last resort, in my mind.

8. Javier Lopez

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    The Philadelphia Phillies have made it known that they'll be in the market for bullpen help, but really narrowed that down to "veteran closers." With the only left handed reliever in the bullpen being Antonio Bastardo, who struggled down the stretch, it may behoove them to inquire on a few left handed specialists, and Javier Lopez is going to be the best on the market.

    As a member of that great San Francisco Giants' bullpen over the last couple of seasons, Lopez is set to hit free agency this winter and will draw interest from a lot of teams, specifically those that are rivals of the Phillies looking to shut down lefties like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

    Jumping ahead of the curve would be wise. Paid to get left handed hitters out, they hit just .160 against Lopez last season, and he posted a FIP of 2.31 against them. As long as he doesn't see much of right handed opposition (something I'm not sure Charlie Manuel would do correctly,) he'll be a valuable asset to any contender's bullpen.

7. Brad Lidge

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    Some people think that the Philadelphia Phillies should pass on Brad Lidge, but it makes so much more sense to bring him back aboard. After the Phillies decline his option, the former closer will hit the free agent market, which is already littered with closers seeking work. His injury history and inconsistency will keep him from landing a closers gig, but his attachment to the Phillies' organization and a young bullpen should make him a top priority.

    What most people want to overlook about his 2011 season, for some reason, is that Lidge was good. After elbow troubles sapped the life out of his fastball, he came back throwing slider after slider and that strategy produced good results.

    Though he pitched in just 19.1 innings and his control was shaky, his strikeout numbers were good and the opposition recorded just 16 hits against him, which when considering his BABIP of .327, is very impressive.

    As it stands right now, the bullpen in Philadelphia is young and inexperienced. Outside of Jose Contreras, there isn't much experience out there. Lidge has been a leader in the Phillies' clubhouse and bullpen for years. Considering the fact that no one will give him more than a one-year deal and he'll come cheap, it would be wise to bring him back.

6. Jim Thome

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    Now that all of the milestones are reached and the media obsession has ended, it would be a great idea for the Philadelphia Phillies to bring Jim Thome back aboard. Sooner or later, even though his numbers are fairly good for his age and a more limited role, he is going to have to realize that teams are just not going to make him a full time designate hitter.

    But Charlie Manuel is a big fan of Thome's, and he would have no problem using him off the bench every game as a pinch hitter, and that would be a good thing for the Phillies. The bench sorely lacked a source of power, especially from the left side of the plate where power was non-existent, and boy, does Thome have a lot of that.

    Splitting time with the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians in 2011, Thome hit 15 home runs despite missing a good chunk of time with a calf injury, and posted an OPS of .838. Surprisingly, he was better against left handed pitching than he was against righties, as he posted an OPS of .878 (145 wRC+) against lefties and an OPS of .822 (123 wRC+) against righties.

    Assuming that teams are wary of making him a full time DH, it could be a good fit for both parties for Thome to come aboard as the team's top threat off of the bench.

5. Jason Giambi

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    Then again, it may be wise for the Philadelphia Phillies to offer a contract to a guy who, though in Jim Thome's build, may be better suited to a pinch-hitting role, having done it for a few years, and can still play the field (somewhat.) That man is of course Jason Giambi, who showed the Phillies just how potent he can be in a reserve role by hitting three home runs against them in a single game earlier this year.

    Serving as the back-up to Todd Helton for the Colorado Rockies over the last two and a half seasons, Giambi has proven a great, late threat. He hit 13 home runs last season, posted an OPS of .958, a wOBA of .407, and a wRC+ of 150.

    His splits were equally impressive, though he had limited at-bats against left handed pitching. He mashed right handed hurlers though, posting an OPS of .990, a wRC+ of 157, and hitting 10 of his 13 home runs against them.

    He and the Rockies have a $1 million mutual option, and Giambi has expressed his interest in rejoining the Rockies, and I'm sure the Rocks would be excited to have him at that price. It may be wise, however, for Giambi to turn down the option and field offers on the open market.

4. Jonathan Papelbon

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    If the Philadelphia Phillies are unable to land their first choice of a veteran closer, this will be the guy that they turn to. Though there are some questions about his character, and I imagine that will be the case for nine out of ten players coming out of the Boston Red Sox organization, Jonathan Papelbon's success really speaks for itself.

    After a few years of worries about declining numbers, Papelbon put those worries to rest in 2011 by having arguably his greatest season to date. He posted incredible strikeout and walk rates, highlighted by an impressive 8.70 K/BB. He posted a great FIP of 1.53, and the greatest concern about signing him may just be how much money he'll command.

    Either way, the Phillies are going to shell out some money on a closer this winter.

3. Ryan Madson

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    Of course, the Philadelphia Phillies' first choice of a veteran closer is a guy who really isn't much of a "veteran" in regards to closing games at all. Ryan Madson is just a season removed from his first full season as the team's closer, but with all of those concerns about Madson not having a closer's "mentality" put to rest, the results speak for themselves.

    Madson, like Jonathan Papelbon on the previous slide, posted strong strikeout and walk rates, including a 3.88 K/BB mark. After seemingly mastering the art of the change-up a few seasons back, Madson has made a name for himself as one of the best relievers in baseball, and that was no different this season, when he posted a FIP of just 2.25.

    The Phils would love to have him back closing games, but like all Scott Boras clients, it will have to be for a fair price. They're not going to pay what Boras considers "top dollar" for him, but he'll get a nice contract.

2. Michael Cuddyer

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    Michael Cuddyer makes a lot of sense for the Philadelphia Phillies for a lot of different reasons. The first are the areas of need. With Ryan Howard missing time, the Phillies could use a first baseman, but that is just the root of the problem. Chase Utley's knee will need resting at various points throughout the season and Placido Polanco is no longer considered an every day player. With John Mayberry Jr. likely spending some time at first base, the Phils could use a left fielder as well, assuming the team is uncomfortable with playing Domonic Brown.

    So, what do those positions have in common? Cuddyer plays all of them.

    The Phillies need to sign a player that has the versatility to play multiple positions and the skill to produce numbers like a regular player, and no player on the market does that better than Cuddyer. Even without a home on the defensive side of the game, Cuddyer hit 20 home runs for the Minnesota Twins last season, posting an OPS of .805, a wOBA of .354, and a wRC+ of 124.

    Even as what some people would call a "super utility man," Cuddyer is going to be paid like an everyday player, and should, because he'll be playing everyday. It is an investment that the Phillies not only should, but must make to keep players like Utley and Polanco fresh throughout the season.

    The real question is whether or not Cuddyer will leave the Twins—an organization that he has strong emotional ties to.

1. Jimmy Rollins

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    Some will argue that the Philadelphia Phillies' first target should be signing a veteran closer and others will argue that a guy like Michael Cuddyer should be at the forefront of this winter's agenda, but in the long run, the Phillies need Jimmy Rollins to be wearing red pin-stripes on Opening Day.

    Freddy Galvis had made big strides in the Minor Leagues, but he's not ready for the grind of a 162 game, Major League season. Jose Reyes is an option, but how likely is it that he'll sign? With the team already on an offensive decline, adding temporary stopgaps like Marco Scutaro just isn't an option.

    For a long time, the Phillies' fan base has labeled Rollins as the team's "spark-plug," and while there isn't much statistical proof of that, you'll just have to believe me when I tell you that's the case. When Rollins gets going, the Phillies get going. In 2011, he hit 16 home runs, posted an OPS of .736, a wOBA of .329, and a wRC+ of 106. He stole 30 bases and played his usually phenomenal defense.

    He'll never get the five-year contract that he's been hocking for obvious reasons, but in the long run, it's hard to imagine the Phillies not working out a deal with their longtime shortstop, and it's a deal that will work well for both sides.