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Your Move, Ruben

Posted By Christopher Rowe On Dec 28 2011 @ 7:07 pm In Philadelphia Phillies | Comments Disabled

[1]The final week of the calendar year is typically one of the quietest weeks on the baseball calendar. At this point in the offseason, many of the marquee free agents have been signed and the waiting game for Ego Salary Requests vs. Budgetary Constraints has begun (see “JIMMY ROLLINS). General Managers and most front office denizens generally take Week 52 as a good time for rest and relaxation.

[2]Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. had a Caribbean excursion scheduled to begin Tuesday, but that has not stopped the rumor mill from churning full speed ahead. The good thing about speculation is that you can have some fun thinking about what might be. The flip side to that rumor mill is that it churns out some preposterous scenarios and people tend to believe most of what they hear. Blame it on fantasy sports, the MLB channel or the 24-hour news cycle but some of this is absolutely outlandish.

[3]ESPN Deportes is reporting that the Phillies have talked to free agent Jorge Posada. That information, according to the website, came from Posada’s father. Meanwhile, a local blog, (which will not be named here) ignited a cyber-firestorm by claiming a source hinting that the Phillies are talking to the New York Mets about acquiring third baseman David Wright. Those rumblings first surfaced in October but would require several moving parts (i.e. a third team trading partner) to become reality.

When you look at the composition of the Phillies’ 40-man roster, it’s entirely possible to consider that Amaro will make another possibly large move when he returns from his vacation – though it is more likely he will make several moves of a less earth-shattering variety.

[4]Projecting an opening-day squad that should include 11 pitchers (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Vance Worley, Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick, Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Mike Stutes, Jose Contreras and [5]Dontrelle Willis), 4 outfielders (John Mayberry Jr., Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Laynce Nix), two catchers (Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider) and 6 infielders (Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Wilson Valdez, Ty Wigginton and Jim Thome). First baseman Ryan Howard is not mentioned as he will open the season on the disabled list.

That leaves room for possibly a fifth outfielder/utility player and another pitcher. In this era of Phillies history nothing is impossible (Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Pence, Lidge, Papelbon) but it seems far-fetched that Amaro would sign Posada or trade for Wright.

[6]Posada. 40 years old and in serious decline for the past two seasons. He is no longer capable of playing more than the occasional game or emergency stint at catcher. He started 93 games last season, and 82 were as a designated hitter. The other 11 were at first base. He has entertained the possibility of playing for the Miami Marlins but will almost certainly wind up with an American League team. Taking up a National League roster spot with someone as defensively limited as Posada would be a mistake. Besides the Phillies already have Jim Thome in that role.

[7]David Wright is far more interesting because everybody wants a 29-year-old, five-time all-star capable of hitting 30 HR and driving in 100 RBI is more desirable than having an aging and oft-injured Placido Polanco. While it would be foolhardy to say that anything is cataclysmically impossible, this one is darned close to being at least implausible. The Mets are a mess financially and while they have provided no reason other than Wright to flip the turnstiles at Citi Field, this would require a slew of blue chip prospects that the Phillies simply don’t have. That means a third team would need to be involved as would Placido Polanco.

[8]So you’d need a team with a handful of blue chip prospects wanting to send them away and not get Wright but wind up with Placido Polanco? Doesn’t make sense. If the Mets are to trade Wright (who becomes a free agent after 2013) there is a clause in his contract that allows him to become a free agent following the 2012 season. What team would trade for Wright knowing they would lose him after one season should they fail to extend his contract?

[9]From the Phillies’ standpoint, making a potential David Wright deal work financially would be no small feat. Wright is scheduled to make $15 million in 2012 – a fair salary but difficult one for the Phillies to accommodate unless they dumped all of Polanco’s salary in the same deal. There is not much of a market for a guy making $7.25 million and coming off a season in which he had nine extra-base hits after April 30.

[10]Naturally it would make sense for the Phillies to pursue another pitcher and another outfielder. They already have Laynce Nix and Ty Wiggington joining John Mayberry, Jr, Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence but certainly should consider candidates from the likes of Ryan Ludwick, Brad Hawpe, Connor Jackson or Andruw Jones. More intriguing might be the possibility of Kevin Kouzmanoff or perhaps Eric Chavez. How great would it be to add a left-handed thumper into the lineup to platoon with Polanco at third? Polanco, Utley, Wiggington and Chavez would help each other to limit their at bats while also providing flexibility and veteran options off the bench. Chavez should become a priority now that Grady Sizemore, Michael Cuddyer and Aramis Ramirez have been taken off the market.

[11]The pitching prospects remain interesting because neither Ryan Madson nor Roy Oswalt has signed with another team. Madson and his agent (Scott Boras) were soured by their negotiations in light of Papelbon signing, but Boras’ $44 million deal over 4 years doesn’t seem very realistic. While Madson may want to return to the Phillies, he still could be a closer on any number of teams (Boston, Baltimore, Cincinnati, San Diego, Minnesota, Seattle). He will not return to the Phillies due to pride issues, agent issues and possibly spousal issues.

[12]Reports on Roy Oswalt are that he’s willing to sign a one-year deal, but it seems unlikely his price ($15 M) would be reduced. Factor in Oswalt’s chronic back issues and limited longevity and it might be a better idea to see if Jamie Moyer is looking to re-sign. Oswalt may wind up in Boston or possibly St. Louis.

Make no mistake there remains some work to be done. Truly shrewd general managers earn their living by finding bargain basement priced talent which fits their team needs. Remember when Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Greg Dobbs, Jamie Moyer and Carlos Ruiz were names that few fans knew? Finding this talent from a pool of seasoned veterans becomes a matter of supply and demand but identifying a need and actually filling it is really the only way to build a champion.

Wood Chips. Incidentally there are rumors that the Phillies are one of the potential suitors for free agent reliever Kerry Wood ( 3-5 with a 3.35 ERA for the Cubs last season. Anaheim, Cincinnati and Detroit are also in the mix). If anyone can make a compelling argument as to why Wood is a better investment than Brad Lidge, Jose Contreras or Ryan Madson then I will jump on the bangwagon.

At this point, the 6th man in the bullpen does not warrant a fat paycheck. Better to go for another everyday player like Eric Chavez. Comments are welcome!

RELATED ARTICLE:  http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/12/17/santa-brings-true-meaning-of-free-agency/ [13]

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