Philadelphia Phillies Should Target These 10 Free Agents
As the Philadelphia Phillies' season came to an abrupt end against the Giants in the NLCS, the offseason went about itself the next day.
We have already seen J.C. Romero's $4.5 million option not picked up and heard from Jayson Werth about him testing the free agent waters. All odds are pointing toward him not being in a Philadelphia uniform in 2011. With that being said, there are definitely some needs that this Phillies team has to address, and the most likely way to address that is through free agency.
We don't have any major flaws and we don't have much payroll that were going to want to add, but that doesn't mean we won't be aggressive in the free agent market for the positions that we need to address.
Void to Fill: Right-Handed RF/LF
With Jayson Werth probably gone, Domonic Brown will probably be slated to start in right field more likely than not. However, I highly doubt the Phillies brass is thinking he will start all 162 games in right.
They will in fact be VERY left-handed dominate in the lineup, and Brown is a lefty. I'm guessing that the Phillies are going to look either in house to possibly fill the right-handed bat void with platooning with Brown (perhaps with Ben Francisco) or get a free agent, which is my guess.
Another reason why they will be going after a right-handed bat (or two) is because Raul Ibanez has had a decline in production ever since his amazing first-half performance last season. He will be turning 39 years old two months into the season, which is very old for a starting left fielder, and you definitely can't count on him to have a productive enough season and a healthy enough season to sustain that role without help.
Here are a few possible free agents the Phillies could target to help out fill that void of a lack of right-handed bats.
1. Jose Guillen, OF
Jose Guillen is a guy that can play both corner outfield positions. He's a right-handed bat who is very capable of platooning with Ibanez or Brown. He's going to be turning 35 years old a month into the season and also coming off an injury, but he should definitely be healthy enough to start next season.
He's a guy that notoriously has killed left-handed pitching when given a chance. In '07 and '08, his last full times of playing injury free and without switching teams, he's hit .315 in those two seasons combined against left-handed pitching.
The past few years, his batting average against left- and right-handed pitching have been about the same, but he's definitely a guy that is better against the lefties, as are most right-handed batters.
What I like about Guillen is that most of his hits are line drives. He's not a guy who's going to strike out often, he has a really good arm in the outfield, and he's just a veteran presence.
He would greatly benefit from batting in this lineup and also hitting in Citizens Bank. He might be looking for a bit more money than what he's worth, but I don't think the market will be too big for him since he'll be a 35-year-old coming off an injury and has had prior injury problems the past few seasons. I think the market will settle down and he'll be within the Phillies' price range.
2. Andruw Jones, OF
I know, you're all probably saying Andruw Jones' days are done and over. If you told me that two seasons ago, I would have agreed with you.
However, it seems as though Jones has gotten things back on track a bit. He's not his old 35-home run, 120-RBI self, but he's a guy that will come in, play a solid defensive corner outfield, still has significant pop in his bat (19 homers in 278 at-bats last season). Putting that into perspective, a full season is about 600-650 at bats, so he was on pace for about 40-45 homer season.
He's a player who will walk quite a bit, but also strike out quite a bit as well. However, he's better against lefties than righties, which is where he will see his playing time. Jones has also had experience coming off the bench, so I don't see any reason as to why we couldn't try and bring him on the team to help platoon.
I don't think he'll be looking for much, probably an incentive-laden contract.
3. Austin Kearns, OF
Austin Kearns has always had the same issue, which is his health. When he's healthy though, he's a good player.
His arm is very good, with his defense being solid but nothing to write home about. He'd be an upgrade defensively for Ibanez in left at least (though, that's not saying much). He's a player that has always had a good eye and walks quite a bit (as his .353 OBP would suggest) and doesn't strike out too often.
He's coming off his best season since 2007, playing with both the Yankees and Indians and having a .263-10-49-.353 line. As Guillen and Jones would benefit from Citizens Bank Park, the same can be said about Kearns most definitely.
He'll probably be the cheapest option out of the three, as he's still only 30 years old. He's probably looking to get one more year to prove he's finally back healthy and producing before he gets that bigger contract I'm sure he's looking for.
Void To Fill: Bullpen Help
The next Phillies need is bullpen help, in particular the middle of the bullpen. With Chad Durbin, Jose Contreras and J.C. Romero going to be free agents, this should be a completely revamped bullpen outside of Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo.
I hope the Phillies bring back Contreras, and I think they'll make a strong push to get him back. Middle relief was definitely a weakness that needs to be addressed for next season. In this free agency class, the reliever market is very strong, so that should greatly help the Phillies.
Here are some relievers that the Phillies should target to help strengthen their bullpen.
4. Jeremy Affeldt, RP
Jeremy Affeldt has been a workhorse for the Giants. He was very dominant in 2009 and although he wasn't as dominant this season, he has still shown he's capable of getting batters out. He isn't only a lefty that can come in and shut down the left-handed bats, but he's very capable of shutting down the right-handed bats as well. He struggled most of the season, but he started to get it going later in the season.
He posted a 2.57 ERA in September, and has posted a 3.38 ERA in the playoffs thus far. The Phillies have only one left-handed pitcher out of the bullpen in Bastardo, and he's still an unproven commodity at this point, so it'd be great if the Phillies could get another lefty (or two) for next season.
Affeldt has had experience in the seventh-inning role, setup role and also in the closer's role, so he's been around and has been effective in basically any spot you want to put him in.
The question with Affeldt will be this however. Will the Giants front office decide to pick up his $5 million dollar option this season, or buy him out for $500,000? My guess is that with the emergence of Javier Lopez, they'll buy him out, especially considering his not so dominate season.
5. Joe Beimel, RP
Joe Beimel is the definition of a workhorse. He has worked in 72 or more innings in each of the past four seasons. He's known for being a very tough reliever against left-handed batters because of his quirky slow side-armed delivery, which makes it very hard for a lefty to pick the ball up. Because of that, he's been one of the best left-handed specialists in the league, but like Affeldt, he can also pitch against righties.
Last season with the Rockies, Beimel posted a 3.40 ERA and held left-handed hitters to a .221 batting average against him. This is the exact player the Phillies need and would be smart to snag this offseason.
6. Grant Balfour, RP
Grant Balfour has been a very interesting player. He's born and raised from Australia and was drafted by the Twins. Because of a lack of performance and injuries, he didn't play really at all outside of 2004 when he appeared in 39 games. After that season, he had a three-year absence from the big leagues until he finally appeared in a game with the Brewers before being traded to the Rays.
In 2008 with the Rays, Grant Balfour was one of the best relievers in the league. He posted a 1.54 ERA with a 0.89 WHIP in 58.1 innings.
In 2009, he struggled pretty badly with the Rays, but still was serviceable enough to appear in 67.1 innings, his career high. This past season, however, it seems as though he's found a bit of his 2008 side of him, as he posted an impressive 2.28 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP in 55.1 innings.
I really like Balfour, who has had experience in all the bullpen roles, and has been very effective in each. He'll be pretty highly valued in the free-agent market this season, but if there's a guy that the Phillies should mostly target, I could definitely make a case for Balfour to be that guy.
7. J.J. Putz, RP
J.J. Putz has been very up and down in his performance from 2007-2010. He was arguably the best reliever in 2007, posting a 1.38 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and 40 saves with only two blown saves.
After that season, he had a somewhat down year in 2008, only posting a 3.80 ERA, 1.60 WHIP and 15 saves with eight blown saves. His time in Seattle was over, as he eventually got traded to the New York Mets. His season with them was horrible to say the least; he was up and down between the Mets and their minor league system, because he just couldn't pitch there. He posted a 5.22 ERA with a 1.62 WHIP.
Putz was mad at first that he wasn't closing games, which probably had an effect on his play, and the fact that the Mets put him in so many different bullpen roles. He ended up with the White Sox this past season after the Mets cut ties with him, and he seemed to have found his old form.
A 2.83 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP in the AL definitely shows that he has. He was the primary seventh- and eighth-inning guy for the White Sox, and he seemed to accept that position and embrace it. That role is where the Phillies would use him.
The Phillies need more fire out of that bullpen, and Putz definitely fits the bill. He recorded 65 strikeouts in only 54 innings with 16 walks.
Void To Fill: No. 5 Starter in the Rotation
The final need that the Phillies have, in my opinion, is to solidify their fifth starter. We were jumping all around with our fifth starter last season between Kyle Kendrick, Andrew Carpenter, J.A. Happ, Vance Worley and Jamie Moyer.
Kyle Kendrick got the bulk of the starts, and I think it's safe to say that all Phillies fans want him gone.
The Phillies could keep Kendrick in the fifth spot, could go in house and look at a guy like Worley who showed some promise in his starts.
What I'm hoping is that we can snag a veteran presence to solidfy that fifth starter role, so we can stop with the 'Who's our fifth starter, Kendrick sucks' stuff.
8. Jake Westbrook, SP
Jake Westbrook would be possibly the perfect and best fit for this Phillies team. He's a veteran starter who has had his injury problems lately (five starts in 2008, didn't play in 2009), but he bounced back in a pretty big way last season, posting a very solid 4.22 ERA and throwing 202.2 innings.
The Phillies love these players that can give you a solid six innings every single night, because let's face it: we haven't had the bullpen as of late that you can say, 'OK, we have this won' when we go to them.
The middle of our bullpen has been very unreliable lately and probably will still be somewhat unreliable, so we need a guy like Westbrook that has shown he consistently goes six innings almost every start. He's a perfect pitcher for Citizens Bank Park as he's a sinker baller and doesn't allow many home runs at all (19 is his career high, which is not a lot at all).
Although his WHIP has always been around the 1.40 range, which normally wouldn't be good, but the fact that he induces so many groundballs means that he'll negate a majority of them on double plays and forceouts. Most sinker ballers have a high WHIP because the ball will find the hole on a grounder some times.
Regardless, Westbrook would be a fantastic No. 5 for us, and probably could actually supplant Joe Blanton as the No. 4 in terms of performance.
9. Brad Penny, SP
Brad Penny was pitching absolutely amazing last season before an odd shoulder injury. He had posted a 0.94 ERA until his next-to-last start and finished with a 3.23 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP in nine starts last season.
He went at least six innings in his first seven starts and looked better than ever. Penny is not at the age where an injury would scream that his career is in jeopardy, as he's only 32l. He has shown that these past few stints the last two seasons with the Giants and the Cardinals (both NL teams...what a surprise!) that he's a very capable starting pitcher.
He's the typical NL starting pitcher though in that he struggles a lot against the AL teams. For what the Phillies will be wanting out of their No. 5 though, he'll produce at times like a No. 3 but probably will be more of a No. 4.
He's not a guy who allows many home runs at all (21 is his career high in 2003, but hasn't allowed more than 13 since 2006) as he, too, is a sinker baller, which is such a huge plus when pitching in a park like the Phillies have. The only obvious concern with Penny is his shoulder. If his shoulder looks fine, just like Westbrook, he'd be a fantastic fit.
10. Javier Vazquez, SP
Everyone is probably saying to themselves 'Wait, you want Javier Vazquez, the same guy who posted a 5.32 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and was basically ran out of the Yankees rotation last season and left off of the postseason roster?'
Yes, the same Javier Vazquez. People don't realize that this guy has two different forms of himself, the AL side, a.k.a. the bad side, and the NL side, a.k.a. the good side.
Vazquez is notoriously used as the example of an NL pitcher, and for good reason. Take a look at his career numbers against both leagues, and you'll notice a significant difference in all of his numbers. The past two seasons are a perfect example.
Last season he still managed to post a 2.88 ERA against the NL in three starts. In 2009 with the Braves, he was a Cy Young candidate for the majority of the season, posting a 2.87 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. Pitching for the Phillies in the NL spells a fantastic season for him. When interleague hits, he'll only get a few starts, so that shouldn't be too bad. He won't be making any starts unless we made it the World Series, and even then we could go to a three-man rotation or with Blanton depending on performance.
Vazquez coming to the NL is what he needs for his career, and at 34, with no World Series ring, Philly is the place to go.