Jonathan Papelbon and Jim Thome are both under new contracts with the Philadelphia Phillies, but with Black Friday right around the corner, this club's shopping list is far from finished.
After an embarrassing exit from the National League Division Series at the hands of the eventual World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, the Phillies' off-season shopping list went from a few players (after all, the 2011 squad certainly had the talent to win a World Series) to guys that would not only require major commitments, but fill major holes on the roster.
Of those obvious needs are a starting shortstop, a closer, a more productive bench, and perhaps players for a few other areas that could use some depth, for instance, the bullpen.
Signing Papelbon takes care of that need for a closer and Thome goes a long way in upgrading the bench, but the bullpen and the bench could both use some work. The Phillies don't have a shortstop and the bench is riddled with mediocrity. There are championship caliber pieces in place for the Phillies, but there are also big holes.
That, however, is what the off-season is for. The free agent market is littered with valuable free agents and what you can not find on that market, can certainly be had on the trade market for a price. This slide show will run down some players that the Phillies should be targeting this winter, ranking them in overall value to the club.
For what it's worth, this slide is about as close to an "Honorable Mention" as you can get. Jose Reyes has been linked to the Miami Marlins for weeks now, and it was reported earlier this week that the club had already made him an offer. Considering that offer is rumored to be in the six years, $90 million range, the Philadelphia Phillies probably aren't going to bite at that price, which will be the floor of Reyes' negotiations.
However, it would be unwise to not, at the very least, mention him. Though Jimmy Rollins remains the Phillies' first choice at the shortstop position, it is imperative that the club have a contingency plan should he fail to re-sign.
Pouring a ton of money into Reyes may not be a sound decision, but it certainly changes the landscape of the Phillies' offensive attack without having to pay multiple, aging veterans. Again, it is at least worth mentioning.
Kevin Kouzmanoff is an interesting free agent. In three seasons with the San Diego Padres (2007-09,) he put up good power numbers despite playing his home games at PETCO Park, a fabled dream-land for pitchers everywhere. After hitting 59 home runs for the Padres, the Oakland Athletics acquired him and he slowly began to fizzle out.
His power numbers dropped, as he hit just 20 home runs in a season and a half, and he was dealt yet again, this time to the Colorado Rockies, during the 2011 season where he continued his downward slide. After being out-righted from the Rockies' roster, Kouzmanoff elected free agency.
He makes some sense for the Philadelphia Phillies, should he be willing to accept a Minor League deal. An average to above average defender at third base, he is an intriguing possibility on the offensive side of the ball simply because of the potential he showed just a few seasons ago.
The Phillies' are noticeably thin at AAA, and it would behoove them to build depth behind current starting third baseman, Placido Polanco, who has dealt with numerous injuries over the last few seasons, even if the club is able to acquire a more suitable starting third baseman at the Major League level.
Delmon Young is an interesting name to keep an eye on this winter. He was acquired by the Detroit Tigers from the Minnesota Twins during last season's waiver trade period to boost the club's lineup during the stretch run. Eligible for arbitration this winter, the Tigers have been open to trading Young, but there is speculation that they're not even prepared to tender him a contract.
So what's the catch?
Young is due a nice raise in arbitration, and over the course of his career, has been too streaky to warrant a guaranteed deal. After a few mediocre seasons, he seemed to break out with the Twins in 2010, hitting 21 home runs and posting an OPS of .826. His offense flat-lined in 2011, however, when his OPS dropped to .695 and his home run total was cut nearly in half.
Though the Tigers have been adamant about trading him or tendering him a contract, should they ultimately non-tender him, Young would be an interesting option to square off against left handed pitching in place of Ben Francisco, also a non-tender candidate. He posted an OPS of .759 against lefties in 2011, and a year before that, .927.
Taking him to arbitration and surrendering a prospect for him isn't a worthwhile investment, so this is a strictly "what-if" selection.
With their need for a closer settled, if the Philadelphia Phillies were going to make any improvement to their bullpen, it may behoove them to add a second lefty. As good as Antonio Bastardo was in 2011, the need for him late in ball games gave the Phillies a strategical disadvantage, one that could be evened out with the addition of a specialist like Mike Gonzalez.
While the options for left handed specialists on the free agent market are not idea and you won't find many guys available on the trade market, Gonzalez could be a nice fit. He is coming off of surgery to repair the meniscus in his knee—a minor surgery that won't keep him out Spring Training—and should be relatively inexpensive given his injury history.
What makes him intriguing? Gonzalez has pitched in numerous bullpen roles, including closer, and has postseason experience. He is especially tough against left handed hitters (.214 batting average, 2.78 FIP in 2011) and if he can stay healthy, could prove to be a valuable weapon to a contending team.
The Philadelphia Phillies will be looking to upgrade their bench in a major way this off-season, and that may not be good news for incumbent right handed slugger Ben Francisco, who is eligible for arbitration this winter.
They'll take a look at a number of options, one of whom is likely to include Ryan Ludwick. The Phillies kicked the tires on him at last year's trade deadline, but ultimately, decided to go after the big fish and landed Hunter Pence, with Ludwick eventually being dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Many people were interested to see whether or not Ludwick's power numbers would respond to a move out of PETCO Park, but he battled injuries with the Pirates and never really had that chance.
What makes him an interesting option? Ludwick once hit 37 home runs as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008 and owns a .757 career OPS against left handed pitching. He could be a low-cost option should the Phillies part with Francisco, with the potential to provide significant right handed power off of the bench.
Johnny Damon makes sense for a lot of contending teams as a fifth outfielder. His skills have diminished to the point where he is certainly not an everyday player in the outfield, and he isn't strong enough defensively to take on the role of that fourth outfielder. That isn't to say that he'd be a nice, extra man on a club's bench, including the Philadelphia Phillies, as first and foremost a bat off of the bench.
The question is, would he accept such a reduced role?
Though Damon played 150 games for the Tampa Bay Rays last season, most of those appearances came as the club's designated hitter. The Phillies already have one of those (Jim Thome) in a league where they can't be used in that role.
Assuming that the Phillies would be able to add some defensively versatility elsewhere on the bench, Damon would be an interesting guy to take a flier on, on the cheap. He owns a career .809 OPS against right handed pitching as a left handed hitter, but has also hit left handed pitching well, posting an OPS of .775 against lefties in his career.
With Jonathan Papelbon on board to pitch the ninth inning and Antonio Bastardo and Jose Contreras forming a formidable duo to pitch in the late innings as well, the Philadelphia Phillies' bullpen is arguably set. With young, controllable talent at the ready, the Phillies don't need to go out and spend on relievers, especially of the right handed variety, but some are worth considering.
Though the Phillies could theoretically rely on their young pitching, it would be wise to consider other, inexpensive options as well, given the control struggles of players like Mike Stutes and Michael Scwhimer down the stretch. Bringing a veteran aboard may not be such a bad thing, and LaTroy Hawkins certainly fits the bill.
A veteran right hander, Hawkins is in line for a one-year deal after spending last season with the Milwaukee Brewers. A strong ground ball pitcher, he pitched one of the best seasons of his career in 2011, filling the same role in Milwaukee that he would in Philadelphia.
He posted a ground ball rate of 61.7%, an unsustainable rate, though, he does have a 47.1% rate over the course of his career. He posted strong numbers across the board, including a 2.76 FIP, 3.42 xFIP, and 3.06 SIERA.
This role of middle innings reliever does not necessarily have to be filled by Hawkins, or a veteran reliever at all, for that matter, but bringing someone with experience aboard may make some sense.
New York Mets' general manager Sandy Alderson has made it clear, at least early in the off-season, that he is not actively shopping David Wright on the trade market, and that he would have to be blown away to move the face of the franchise, and rightfully so.
The Philadelphia Phillies will have other options to upgrade offensively at third base, but if all else fails, will they turn to a division rival to strike a deal? The ludicrous outfield dimensions of Citi Field obviously hurt Wright's game in 2011, when his home run total dropped from 29 in 2010 to just 14 in 2011. (He also missed time with injury and played in just 102 games.)
Needless to say, that is an upgrade from what Placido Polanco contributed offensively in and of itself. The real question is what price would the Phillies have to pay to pry Wright away from the Mets? Well, he wouldn't come cheap.
He has just one guaranteed year left on his contract, with a club option for the 2013 season. However, he is able to void that option should he be traded. To trade him to a division rival, the Mets would start the conversation with Domonic Brown, and probably wouldn't finish it without having him included in a deal.
Is this trade worth it for the Phillies? Probably not. Though the farm system is still ripe with talent, moving top prospects to a division rival is never a sound investment, especially when you're acquiring one, expensive year of a player without any guarantee beyond that.
Though the other third base options won't match his offensive productivity, there is probably a better deal for the Phillies out there elsewhere.
The Philadelphia Phillies have had some internal conversations about bringing former Minnesota Twins' player Jason Kubel aboard to play left field, despite the fact that a similar type of offensive player, John Mayberry Jr., is already under contract.
Kubel isn't as great a fit for the Phillies as his former teammate, Michael Cuddyer, but does make some sense in the even that Mayberry is forced to play first base as Ryan Howard recovers from a torn Achilles tendon. He should be less expensive than Cuddyer, but wouldn't have the same type of impact.
He hit 12 home runs and posted an OPS of .766 in 99 games with the Twins in 2011, dealing with a foot injury, but has averaged 22 home runs a year, when healthy. At most, he is a solid "Plan B" should the Phillies' first choices dry up, but he'll command a multi-year deal, and with little versatility, the Phillies may not want to go there.
A few weeks ago, though they were looking to upgrade at third base, the thought of the Philadelphia Phillies making a contract offer to Aramis Ramirez seemed suspicious, at best. After all, he is a 33-year-old third baseman who is below average defensively, looking for a multi-year commitment. The Phillies are looking for versatility, and Ramirez can't offer any of that.
There are better fits out there for the Phillies, but what happens if those options dry up?
The interest in Ramirez early in the off-season has been minimal, at best. Several of his rumored top suitors, the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Angels, have denied interest in him, and his demand of a three or four year contract seems to be slipping by the way side.
If his price drops low enough, he would be a nice fit for the Phillies, offensively, on a two-year commitment, maybe with an option for a third year. He hit 26 home runs for the Chicago Cubs in 2011, posting an OPS of .871. The Phillies are in desperate need of some power from the hot corner, and Ramirez fits the bill.
He could become an interesting option for the Phillies, but isn't at his current asking price.
Josh Willingham is a player that the Philadelphia Phillies have had interest in acquiring in the past, but have since gone in different directions. Now that he is a free agent, it is plausible that the Phillies could rekindle those talks and bring him back aboard to play left field in 2012.
Even after playing through some injuries in 2011, Willingham hit 29 home runs playing his home games in a spacious park for the Oakland Athletics, who have since moved on in their off-season plans. He is currently seeking a three-year deal, an investment the Phillies are probably wary of making, but could have interest should his price come down.
Just how interested the Phillies are in acquiring a left fielder may boil down to the progression Ryan Howard makes in his rehabilitation. If John Mayberry Jr. is forced to play first base for a significant amount of time, the Phillies may explore left field options, but would still prefer someone with more versatility.
If the Philadelphia Phillies are serious about changing the composition of their bench for the 2012 season, David DeJesus could be a nice fit as a fourth outfielder. Playing for the Oakland Athletics in 2011, he struggled a bit at the plate but was also a bit unlucky, as evidenced by a .274 BABIP.
A quick glance at his history shows that DeJesus can still be a productive player, and if he can be had on a one-year deal at a low guaranteed salary, the Phillies should be interested. He owns a career .815 OPS against right handed pitching and is an above average defender.
DeJesus would be a solid option as the club's fourth outfielder, and in most regards, and upgrade to the incumbent Ben Francisco, given his ability to play all three outfield positions.
If the Philadelphia Phillies do explore adding a veteran presence to take care of those middle innings out of the bullpen, Brad Lidge may be the best fit. Sure, it was arguably all down hill from Lidge after his perfect 2008 season, the rest of his career riddled with injuries, but when he returned to the mound in 2011, he was good.
It was obvious that he did not want to leave following the Phillies' first round exit at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, and if the Phillies make him the right offer, he may be willing to come back on the cheap. He threw just 19.1 innings last season, and though his walk rate soared, his strikeout rate remained very good. He posted a FIP of 2.82, and xFIP of 3.40, and a SIERA of 3.44.
A one-year, incentive laden deal could work well for both parties. The Phillies would offer Lidge a low base salary of guaranteed money with the opportunity for incentives based on innings pitched, appearances, or a similar statistic. The Phillies get their inexpensive veteran mentor to their young bullpen arms, and if Lidge can stay healthy and be effective, sets him up for a much better deal next off-season.
Roy Oswalt is a curious case. Will he stay or will he go?
2011 was a disappointing season for Oswalt, who struggled with back injuries and missed a big chunk of the regular season. When he was on the mound, it was clear that he was struggling to regain his form, as the velocity of his fastball took time to return and at times, he struggled with control.
With that being said, however, he still made 23 starts for the Phillies and was effective. He posted a FIP of 3.44, an xFIP of 3.95, and a SIERA of 4.04. Each of those marks climbed quite a bit from the 2010 season, and it isn't hard to blame that fact on injuries.
The real question is whether or not the Phillies actually have any interest in bringing him back. Oswalt has generated a ton of interest early in the off-season, but most Phillies' fans know that Oswalt isn't going to play for a team without a clear shot at the postseason. I think you can cross inquiring teams like the Kansas City Royals off of the list.
If it truly isn't about the money for Oswalt, who wants nothing more than to win a World Series, could he work something out with the Phillies, who would benefit from the pitching depth regardless? Only time will tell how his market plays out.
Some of the names on this list aren't going to be of the flashy variety, but why should they be? For the Philadelphia Phillies, most of the pieces to this roster are already in place. They don't need the big name free agent this winter, but to build depth, especially on the bench and especially in the middle infield. One guy that could be a fit is Clint Barmes.
Rumor has it that some teams are interested in making Barmes their starting shortstop. I'm not quite sure how accurate that is, but if the Minnesota Twins are willing to give the honor to Jamey Carroll, I suppose anything is possible.
Barmes makes a lot of sense for the Phillies as a bench player, however. He is an above average defensive player with experience at second base, third base, and shortstop, and isn't exactly a slouch at the plate. He posted an OPS of .698 with the Houston Astros in 2011 and hit 12 home runs.
With Carroll and Mark Ellis receiving multi-year deals, however, Barmes may be out of the Phillies' price range.
Reed Johnson had a great season with the Chicago Cubs in 2011, but the greatest risk in making him a contract offer may well be paying for that production, which he is unlikely to replicate. In an ideal scenario, the Philadelphia Phillies would offer him a Minor League deal, which he would accept, but he is likely to get a Major League deal somewhere.
With the Phillies, Johnson would obviously be a part-time player as a fourth or fifth outfielder type. Over the course of his career, he has handled right handed pitching well, but Johnson has absolutely mashed left handed pitching, posting an OPS of .832 for his career.
He has the ability to play all three outfield positions and, once again, represents an upgrade over the likes of Ben Francisco. Considering the fact that he can be had at a similar price, Johnson would be a nice fit for the Phillies.
If Grady Sizemore can stay healthy, any team in the MLB would love to have him.
That included the Philadelphia Phillies, who have at least kicked the tires on offering the former center fielder of the Cleveland Indians a contract. Because he has struggled to stay healthy over the last couple of seasons, many experts expect teams to offer him a one-year, incentive laden deal, and he would sure be an interesting left handed outfielder for the Phillies to turn to, with John Mayberry Jr. and Hunter Pence handling the corner outfield spots.
He hasn't thrown up the numbers fans have become accustom to because of injury, but when Sizemore is healthy, he is a great defender that can cover a lot of ground (but doesn't have a strong arm) and can do a lot of things at the plate, including the potential to hit for power and steal bases.
Can the Phillies afford to take a risk on a guy like Sizemore? Well, that remains to be seen.
Upgrading the bench shouldn't be the Philadelphia Phillies' first priority, but it should be at the top of the list. Adding depth starts with replacing the ineffective "utility" options like Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez and using more efficient players. One of those guys could be Nick Punto, who just won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Punto posted an OPS of .809 for the Cardinals in 2011, but history shows that is more of an anomaly than an upward trend. Teams value him because he's not a slouch at the plate and can handle himself defensively at multiple positions, including every infield position expect third base.
Punto is another experienced infielder who offers more to the roster than Valdez and Martinez, plain and simple.
Of all of the super-utility type players available this winter, Jerry Hairston Jr. might be the best fit for the Philadelphia Phillies. After splitting last season between the Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers, he'll likely have plenty of suitors this winter, as contenders vie for versatility and production.
Hairston played all over the place for the Nats and Brewers, spending time at second base, third base, shortstop, left field, and center field, and most importantly, playing each position well. At the plate, he posted an OPS of .727, hitting five home runs and rarely striking out (12.2 K%.)
Wilson Betemit is kind of the middle ground between adding a good offensive third baseman and adding a versatile utility player who can handle the bat and play multiple positions. When Placido Polanco struggled last season, his name came up in trade talks frequently before he was sent to the Detroit Tigers, so it would not be surprising to see the Philadelphia Phillies show some interest in him this winter.
Spending most of the season at the hit corner, Betemit posted an OPS of .795 and hit eight home runs. For what it's worth, after joining the contending Tigers, he posted an OPS of .871 and hit five of those eight homers.
What makes him an interesting choice from a Phillies' perspective is that he has played every infield position outside of the catcher's spot over the last two seasons. He has also played 18 innings for the Kansas City Royals in left field in 2010, so that could be an option as well.
The Philadelphia Phillies are in need of a back-up catcher, and according to Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal, they may have already decided on bringing back Brian Schnieder. Is that the right move? I'm not so sure, but back-up catchers are a dime a dozen, so I'll use this slide to express my opinion on the situation.
In recent history, the Phillies have preferred a defense-first back-up catcher, and Schneider is certainly that type of player. He became Vance Worley's personal catcher last season, allowing Carlos Ruiz to handle the rest of the staff. The pitchers, by all accounts, like throwing to him, making him a valuable asset.
Too bad he is a virtual black hole at the plate.
It would behoove the Phillies to sign a catcher that, while being defense-first, can also handle himself at the plate. Ivan Rodriguez is one of the greatest defensive catchers of all time, and despite missing time with injury in 2011, posted an OPS of .604, down from .640 in 2010.
Who would you rather have?
If the Philadelphia Phillies ink a back-up catcher in the coming days, the need for a player like Ryan Doumit becomes less obvious, but not extinct. After battling numerous injuries over the last couple of seasons, some scouts believe that his days as a full-time catcher are over, but he has also played first base and right field over the course of his career.
With the Phillies needing to fill several roles on the bench, including back-up catcher, corner infielder, and corner outfielder, Doumit could be a nice fit in a three-for-one type sign.
He reportedly turned down a $3 million contract offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers, which would price him out of the Phils' range, but if he were to sign a deal with the Phillies, Charlie Manuel would be able to find him plenty of playing time behind the plate, in left field, and at first base.
Doumit posted an .830 OPS for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011 and hit eight home runs. He is a career .271 hitter and would be a nice upgrade to the Phillies' in-house options.
Yoenis Cespedes made waves in the MLB when it was announced that he would become a free agent sometime this winter, and although it hasn't happened just yet for technical reasons, it will, and when does become a free agent, the bidding could get out of hand.
Cespedes is a Cuban-born center fielder, who played for his country during the World Baseball Classic, and is an absolute physical specimen. Scouts love him because he is truly a five-tool talent. He can hit for average and power. He can run and throw, and he can fly around the bases.
Some believe he profiles as a left fielder in the MLB, but he has played center field in Cuba, and with Shane Victorino becoming a free agent following the 2012 season, Cespedes, who will be ready for the MLB by 2013, at the latest, would be an interesting option for the Phillies, who have center field prospects further away from the show.
Many experts believe that the bidding will surpass the deal Aroldis Chapman signed with the Cincinnati Reds, and clear $30 million with ease. While the Phillies are known to have some interest, they've played coy about the extent of that intrigue.
Certainly, at the least, an interesting possibility.
It's no secret that the Philadelphia Phillies want to re-sign Jimmy Rollins. They're in desperate need of a shortstop and he is the best fit. Drafted and developed by the Phillies, Rollins has spent 12 seasons at the MLB level with this organization and it would be strange to see him leave.
Most Phillies' fans already know Rollins' story—he is an elite defender at shortstop with the ability to be an above average offensive player. One thing is for certain, when he gets on base at the top of the Phils' order, he makes things happen.
With few replacements, it would be odd if the Phillies let Rollins walk, something I believe they have no intention of letting him do.
Do the Philadelphia Phillies really need Michael Cuddyer?
Some people believe that bringing him aboard is more of a luxury than a necessity. After all, for as much as has been made about the state of the Phillies' offense over the last season, they still finished with the best record in all of baseball, and after the arrival of Hunter Pence, the offense really turned it on. Replacing Raul Ibanez with John Mayberry Jr. certainly can't hurt their chances.
On the other hand, there is a contingent that views Cuddyer as a necessity. After Placido Polanco's collapse at third base last season offensively, the Phillies may not be able to survive a full season of that ineffectiveness, and even worse, a continued decline. Ryan Howard's status is also up in the air, and John Mayberry Jr. is just a season removed from mediocrity.
In short, Cuddyer solves most of those problems. He hit 20 home runs playing in a large Target Field for the Minnesota Twins and posted an OPS of .805. He has played all over the field during his career, and according to Charlie Manuel, and reported by Jeff Janiczek of the Philadelphia Daily News, told the Phillies' skipper, "Charlie, I'm a baseball player. I'll play anywhere you want me to play, and I'll do a good enough job that it will pass."
Sure sounds like the Phillies and Cuddyer are on the same page.