Wednesday, November 18, 2009
As previously stated, The Phillies biggest need that will be addressed this offseason is the third base position. With all due respect to Pedro Feliz as he has been a significant improvement to what the Phillies have had over the past few years, Philadelphia has not had a legitimate contributor at third base since the non acrimonious version of Scott Rolen's career.
Once the Phillies declined the club option on Pedro Feliz it became clear that they were at least going to make an attempt to improve the position. At the same time, the Phillies have not closed the door on returning Pedro Feliz. It just seemed that the Phillies felt that either they could acquire a better player or resign Feliz at a cheaper price than his option. There are a handful of options on the free agent market that the Phillies could potentially acquire. The main options at third base that the Phillies could pursue are Chone Figggins, Mark Derosa, Adrian Beltre, Placido Polanco, Pedro Feliz, Troy Glaus, or Garrett Atkins via trade.
Chone Figgins will be viewed as the premium player within this group of free agents due to his age, 31, and successful 2009 season. Figgins had a great 2009 season as he paced the AL in runs scored and walks and was third in steals. He is clearly one of the elite top of the lineup hitters in the league as he hit .298 and had a .395 OBP. Another level of value that Figgins adds is his versatility as he can play basically every position on the field. If Figgins lacks anything it would be his lack of power as he only hit 5 homeruns last year while only posting a .393 slugging percentage. Figgins is listed as a type A free agent.
Mark Derosa has long been associated with the Philadelphia Phillies as he played football and baseball at the University of Penn from 1994-1996. Derosa is similar to Figgins in terms of his versatility as he can play most infield positions along with both corner outfield positions. When comparing Derosa to Figgins they are completely different hitters as Derosa traditionally posts lower averages but higher power numbers. Derosa has hit a respectable .275 over his career and hit a total of 44 homeruns over the past 2 seasons. Derosa is a risk though as he is currently 34 years old and is having offseason wrist surgery. Derosa is listed as a type B free agent.
Adrian Beltre is by far the most difficult player to analyze as his entire career has been defined by mediocrity outside of one monster year in 2004. Beltre was once one of the most highly touted prospects in baseball for the Dodgers, he did just enough early in his career to warrant a roster position but nothing more. In 2004 Beltre repaid the Dodgers' patience as he had an MVP caliber season posting career highs all across the board with a .334 avg, 48 HRs, and 121 RBIs. Since that point Beltre has been a severe disappointment based on his free agent contract but still consistently hits about 20-25 homeruns. Beltre is still relatively young at 29 and is an elite defensive third baseman. Based on his injury shortened 2009 season, Beltre will come at somewhat of a discount and would be a great signing if he could ever revisit his 2004 form. Beltre is listed as a type B free agent.
Placido Polcanco could be the most interesting of all the options as the only time he played third in his career was when he was on the Phillies at the time they brought up Chase Utley. Polanco is a similar type of player as Figgins as he always posts high averages but with little to no power. While in Philadelphia Polanco was a fan favorite, which is not hard to believe after remembering that he replaced Scott Rolen. It would be interesting to see how successful Polanco would be as a fulltime third baseman. Polanco is listed as a type A free agent.
Pedro Feliz has played for the Phillies for the past 2 years after signing a modest free agent contract coming from San Francisco. The Phillies were expecting more of a power contribution from Feliz as he was consistently hitting 20-25 homeruns in pitcher friendly, PNC Park. In his two years with the Phillies, Feliz only hit a combined 26 homeruns and averaged a .394 slugging percentage. Feliz has played gold glove caliber defense though and still posts good RBI totals as he is a very clutch hitter, he led the Phillies in avg with RISP in 2009.
Troy Glaus has been one of the most productive third basemen in the majors over the past decade. Over his career Glaus has hit 35 homeruns per 162 games played, along with a .500 slugging percentage, not many thirdbasemen can compete with those numbers. Glaus does not play great defense at this point in his career as he is 33 and has lost some range, he still does own a very strong arm though. Glaus is listed as a type A free agent.
Garrett Atkins is still under contract with the Colorodo Rockies and the Phillies have been associated with trade rumors surrounding Atkins for a few years so he is definitely worth addressing as an option. Atkins isn't necessarily being shopped around by the Rockies but he did lose his starting job to rookie, Ian Stewart, so it makes a trade possiblity more than plausible. The reason that the Phillies have been associated to Atkins in the past, outside of the Phillies always being in demand of a thirdbaseman, is that Chase Utley and Atkins are great friends as they played at UCLA together. Atkins has very good career numbers as he has a .290 avg and a .460 slugging percentage. From 2005-2008 Atkins posted great offensive numbers but in 2009 he had an abysmal season with a .226 avg and 9 homeruns in 126 games. Based on his 2009 statistics, the Phillies could acquire him for less than he is truly worth. Atkins is only 29 so his 2009 season cannot be attributed to a decline in abilities. At the same time it is always a risky move to trade for a player based on his offensive abilities when he plays in Colorodo.
As the Phillies sort through this list they have to consider things such as contract demands, free agent type, and potential lineup position. The Phillies are not going to deliver any large free agent contracts as they are not looking to increase payroll by a significant margin. The Phillies also have publicly stated that they would like to sign a type B free agent over a type A free agent as they would not have to potentially forego a first round draft pick. In terms of lineup positioning, whoever they sign will be hitting 7th in the lineup. Certain players such as Figgins or Polanco are great top of the lineup hitters but the Phillies will not replace Rollins or Victorino from the top 2 spots in the lineup. These type of players lose a significant amount of their value when placed in the 7th spot as power is more important than batiing average and speed. Since both of these players are not great fits for a the 7 hole along with the fact that they are both type A free agents, I would be surprised if the Phillies signed either of these players. In reference to Pedro Feliz, the Phillies will pursue better free agent options first. If their attempts deem unsucessful, the Phillies will attempt to resign Pedro. If anything, Pedro exists as a very good backup plan, assuming he doesn't sign with another team too early into free agency. I would not rule out a trade for Garrett Atkins but since there are enough free agent options it would make more sense for the Phillies to first pursue those. Glaus would be a great fit for the Phillies offense as he has a solid OBP and consistently good power numbers, but at his age and coming off an injury he presents too much of a risk, especially when he is classified as a type A free agent. This leaves the decision between Derosa and Beltre. Beltre is a much better option as he will not demand a much larger contract than Derosa but plays significantly better defense, is younger by about 5 years, and consistently provides more offensive production as he is almost a guarantee for 25 homeruns in Philadelphia. Dobbs, Ibanez, Beltre, why not make it a trend to sign Seattle free agents as it seems to have worked out thusfar.
After analyzing the third base options, it appears that Beltre is the best way to go due to contract demands, free agent type, and lineup position. That makes perfect sense as he is the only free agent third baseman that I left off the poll. Just imagine if Beltre could ever rediscover his 2004 talent. You could take bets on the amount of pitchers that coincidentally found themsleves on the DL the week they face the Phillies.