While the weather outside is supposed to be frightful, the Hot Stove Season seems to have reached its Yuletide period of rest. Several of the “big names” have splashed around in the headlines establishing the market pricing. Now teams and players alike take their wish lists to Santa Claus only to realize that jolly old Saint Nick is powerless amid the face of supply and demand.
There are only 30 MLB teams and a finite amount of talent. Be this a very expensive game of Musical Chairs, Muscle vs. Market or Monopoly eventually there will be an end. Some players will be overpaid due to a lack of available talent while still others may have priced themselves completely off the market. Everybody else lands somewhere in the middle, altering their asking price or their team’s budget to accommodate the mutual need for job security, staffing needs and of course… MONEY!
The Miami Marlins seem to be playing the role previously inhabited by the galloping ghosts of goliath free agent frontiersmen such as the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees. Newly re-christened, Los Marlins are simply trying to stockpile whatever available talent (Mark Buerhle, Jose Reyes, Heath Bell) they can with new funds generated by their new stadium, new uniforms, new branding and generally new attitude. This freewheeling spirit hasn’t been seen in Miami since Wayne Huizenga’s Blockbuster fortune made the Mercenary Marlins of 1997 and local hope is that it puts derriers in seats as well as assets in luxury suites.
like Yu Darvish, Prince Fielder, Aramis Ramirez and Cuban comet Yoenis Cespedes remain at-large. 2012 is already being called the year of the power shift – and that is not just because Ryan Braun faces a potential 50-game suspension to match that of Manny Ramirez.
Philadelphia has seen its beloved Phillies making strides to reload for their 2012 run – adding names like Jonathan Papelbon, Ty Wiggington, Laynce Nix and Jim Thome. Grady Sizemore and Carlos Beltran rumors abounded as did several regarding Jose Reyes, Michael Cuddyer and Aramis Ramirez but it seems that the departing free agents have been making more headlines.
Roy Oswalt will not be returning in 2012 nor will former closer Ryan Madson. Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras also spent time as closers and setup men along with the beleaguered Madson but this bullpen exodus still ranks second fiddle to the Jimmy Rollins Saga.
Rollins turned down a reasonable offer from the Phillies (a three year deal for $10M per season) claiming that he was seeking job security and his final payday on the open waters of free agency. Six weeks later, Jimmy Rollins has fielded about as many offers from clamoring MLB teams as Jim Thome has grabbed with a first baseman’s mitt – ZERO.
Rollins has been a member of the Phillies organization since 1996 when he signed at the age of 17. Rollins has won an MVP Award (2007), been the vocal team leader for 5 NL East titles (2007-2011), two NL pennants (2008-2009) and one World Championship (2008). Still the 33-year-old SS seemed to want to test the free agent market somehow seeking more… respect? … admiration? … prestige?…MONEY!
Jimmy Rollins is truly the lynchpin for the Phillies further 2012 free agent plans. Should Rollins sign elsewhere it would free up enough funds to pursue another top-level free agent – perhaps an outfielder (like Michael Cuddyer) or even thumping 3B Aramis Ramirez – but it would leave behind a gaping void at shortstop. Allowing Madson, Lidge, Oswalt, Ross Gload, Raul Ibanez and Contreras into the free agent pool would permit the Phillies to regain control of their spiraling salary structure and reorganize their priorities – but it would not solve their shortstop problem.
Now the number of teams in need of a SS is dwindling but still includes clubs like Milwaukee, Atlanta, New York and San Francisco. Rollins may find that his only option is to return to Philadelphia and take what is offered by the Phillies – who value his leadership as much as his abilities.
Without Rollins, the Phillies would have to cobble together some combination of supersubs Wilson Valdez, Michael Martinez and raw AA prospect Freddy Galvis – each of whom have yet to hit their weight over a full major league season.
What ARE the Phillies free agent needs? Would Rollins departure help or hinder Philadelphia’s holiday shopping fulfillments? Sizemore is off the table and Nix has been signed along with Thome and Wigginton, which shores up the Phillies reserves. Ross Gload will not be back nor will Ben Francisco (dealt to Toronto for Frank Gailey), which means Valdez, Martinez, Brian Schneider and John Mayberry will be joined by these newcomers on the Phillies bench.
Thome will play early in the season while Ryan Howard recovers from injury and Wigginton will likely spell Chase Utley and Placido Polanco in addition to lending help at corner OF spots. Despite this, the Phillies should be able to swing one more major free agent move or several smaller ones.
Jonathan Papelbon was a $50M signing plus Thome and Wiggington but this team needs another infusion of talent. Will that be Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Beltran, Aramis Ramirez or the return of Jimmy Rollins?
Option A: Allow Rollins to explore free agency but burn the bridge by trading Placido Polanco to Miami Marlins (who just signed Jose Reyes) in exchange for disgruntled SS Hanley Ramirez. This would also open the door to sign 3B Aramis Ramirez overhauling the entire left side of the Phillies infield and lengthening the Philadelphia lineup. This would preclude the possibility of signing Cuddyer, leaving left field in the hands of John Mayberry, Jr. and Laynce Nix (hoping that Domonic Brown reaches his potential someday prior to the end of the Mayan calendar).
Option B: Sign the much-heralded Michael Cuddyer (heavily pursued by Colorado) while hoping that Rollins will eventually resign himself to re-signing with Philadelphia due to lack of interest from the other 29 clubs. This would make Cuddyer the starting LF with the option of sharing 3B with Polanco. Cuddyer can also play 1B, 2B and RF when needed (though none of them very well). Should this occur and Rollins does not sign it leaves platoon situations for both LF and 3B and some kind of stopgap SS would still be needed.
Option C: Sign several less-heralded free agents such as Dontrelle Willis, Jason Kubel, Edwin Jackson, Eric Chavez, Jeff Francis, Orlando Cabrera, Brad Hawpe, Connor Jackson, Cesar Izturis, Francisco Cordero, Miguel Tejada or any combination of veteran help from the cast of castoffs (Scott Kazmir, Kosuke Fukudome or Andruw Jones) – all hoping that either Rollins or Ramirez might remain available when the dust settles. Neither Rollins nor Ramirez will remain on the market until Christmas!
Option D: Sign no one and wait to see what happens. Wait until February and take whatever leftovers remain after the gluttonous big spenders have had their fill. Inviting unsigned players (like Vladimir Guerrero, Ryan Ludwick or Kevin Kouzmanoff) to Spring Training would fall in line more with the thrift shopping mentality of previous years when names like Greg Dobbs, JC Romero, Jamie Moyer, Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino became found property in the disposal bin of MLB. Call it sloppy seconds or scavenger hunting but ask yourself if Scott Hairston, Seth Smith or Jeremy Hermida would be better or worse than Scott Podsednik, Mayberry and Laynce Nix?
Whatever the plan, surely Ruben Amaro has made his list for holiday shopping and will do whatever he can to improve this team’s talent level. Then it will be up to the coaches and manager to mold that talent into a team.
Might Ryan Ludwick be the next Pat Burrell? How likely would it be that Eric Chavez becomes yet another left-handed compliment to Hunter Pence? What about an aging veteran like Magglio Ordonez or a hard-luck case like Lastings Milledge?
Would the Phillies really trade Polanco for the possibility of having the left side of the infield manned by Ramirez & Ramirez?
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me email@example.com