What Do the Philadelphia Phillies Need to Do About Placido Polanco?

The Philadelphia Phillies entered 2012 with Placido Polanco as their starting third baseman, despite numerous attempts to trade him during the offseason.

Polanco is in the final season of a three-year deal he signed prior to the ’10 season, and he is making $6.25 million. There is also a mutual option for 2013 for $5.5 million with a $1 million buyout, although it’s very doubtful the team will renew it at this point.

Polanco is as fundamentally sound defensively as any player in the major leagues, but he’s a major liability offensively. The Phillies are lacking run production without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, and Polanco’s bat at the hot corner is not helping the team score runs: He is batting just .188/.220/.208 with one RBI in 50 plate appearances. He has more double plays (2) than extra-base hits (1), and his .428 OPS is well over 200 points less than that of Freddy Galvis.

Polanco is a Gold Glover in the field, and that’s definitely of some value to the team. He has the highest lifetime fielding percentage at two positions (second and third base), and even at nearly 37 years of age, he rarely makes errors on defense. But his bat is brutal, and the Phillies need to start looking at other options.

It’s not traditional for a team to bench a player when he’s making a hefty salary; then again, $6.25 million really isn’t that much and if he isn’t producing, there’s no point in playing him. The Phillies don’t have a ton of options waiting in the minor leagues, but if a player like Pete Orr can produce a .650 OPS, it honestly might be a better option to bring him up and have him at least split time with Polanco.

Polanco was named the starting third baseman for last year’s NL All-Star team, but he slumped miserably down the stretch. He hit .398 in April but finished the season at just .277 with five home runs, and he posted a .324 slugging percentage in the second half of the season. The Phillies are using Ty Wigginton enough at first base with Howard out, and Wigginton’s defense is reason enough to make you want to start Polanco. But he has 20-home run power, and Charlie Manuel may be smarter to try Wigginton at third base, John Mayberry/Jim Thome/Laynce Nix at first base, and Polanco as simply the utility infielder for now.

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