Placido Polanco is in the final year of a three-year, $18 million contract that goes through the 2012 season. While the deal includes an option for 2013, it’s very unlikely Polanco will see that renewed at a price of $5.5 million, considering he is a 37-year old player hitting .266 with no power.
The Philadelphia Phillies don’t have a deep minor league system so it’s likely that next year’s third baseman comes from somewhere else in the game, whether via a trade or free agency. Here are the top candidates to play the hot corner in Philly in ’13.
It’s quite possible that the Phillies realize there aren’t a whole lot of options around the league, especially through free agency, and thus they decide to renew Polanco’s option. I think that would be a mistake considering he doesn’t deserve to start for a major league team at this point in his career – and the Phillies definitely want to get younger – but they might conclude this is their best option.
I sure hope not.
The Phillies don’t have a ton of good prospects but Cody Overbeck is one of the better ones, and he’s 26 years old so it might be time to call him up soon. Overbeck saw his first Triple-A action in 2011, and while he’s not playing great in ’12 (.259/.306/.429 with eight home runs and 39 RBIs in 317 plate appearances), it might be worth a shot to see if he can contribute at the major league level.
He’s not great defensively – bad enough in fact that the Phillies have all but moved him from third base to first base – so they would have to decide his good offense outweighs his bad defense. I don’t think he will ever project to more than a backup at the major league level.
Ty Wigginton is signed to a two-year deal through 2012 with an option for 2013, and the Phillies always could go with him at third base. It’s a pretty boring selection and Wigginton is best suited as a backup.
But he could get the team 12-16 home runs and maybe a .240-.260 batting average with so-so defense. That’s pretty bland.
The Boston Red Sox felt highly enough about Will Middlebrooks (once the 51st overall prospect in the game according to Baseball America) that they traded away longtime Bo-Sox player Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox.
Middlebrooks has played superbly as a rookie, hitting .298 with 10 home runs and a .536 slugging percentage. He tore up Triple-A earlier in the season, batting a ridiculous .333 with nine home runs and a .677 slugging percentage that earned him a promotion to the big leagues. Middlebrooks is awful defensively, as he’s made seven errors already and has just a .935 fielding percentage at the hot corner, but his offense is worth a lot.
Considering he doesn’t hit free agency for a long time, the only way the Phillies would get him would be through a trade, and it would likely take Cole Hamels for the Phillies to get Middlebrooks (along with a bunch of other prospects).
There’s nothing spectacular about Chase Headley. He’s a .268 career hitter who averages eight to 12 home runs per season and he has a .741 OPS. But he’s very good defensively, he’s relatively young (28 years old), and he’s under team control for the next 2 ½ seasons.
Since 2009, he has the ninth-most wins above replacement among third baseman. He’s worth pursuing if the Phillies can get him in a package deal.
Like Middlebrooks and Headley, the Phillies would only get Brett Lawrie in a trade, likely in a package deal for Hamels.
Lawrie was a top-100 prospect for three straight seasons and he has excelled in his two major league seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. Lawrie is hitting .291 with an .821 OPS and he’s absolutely phenomenal with the glove. The Phillies have long since prided themselves on defense. Look at Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Polanco, Freddy Galvis, Carlos Ruiz, and Chase Utley.
Lawrie is just 22 years old and if the Phillies could somehow get him – an immensely talented right-handed hitter with some power – they would have a terrific player for a decade or more.
Yan Gomes could be a solid option for the Phillies. The Blue Jays have a great player in Lawrie and Gomes is pretty good to just be sitting on the bench.
He absolutely dominated Triple-A competition earlier this year, hitting .346 with a .596 slugging percentage. Gomes added 10 home runs in just half a season and he has shown a lot of power in the major leagues (three home runs and a .496 SLG in 44 plate appearances).The problem with Gomes is that he could be a John Mayberry type who shows a lot of power but gets exposed when he plays every day (.685 OPS vs. righties, .813 vs. lefties).
Even though the Chicago White Sox just traded for Kevin Youkilis, he’s likely just a rental. His four-year deal expires after the season and the Phillies could sign him.
He’s 33 years old and the Phillies want to get younger but maybe they could try him for a one or two year rental. He is playing very well for the Chi-Sox this year, hitting .347 with a .571 slugging percentage in 55 plate appearances. Youkilis probably won’t hit much better than .260 with 15-20 home runs next season but a little power would be nice considering the Phillies have Polanco at the hot corner.
This would only happen in a trade but look at the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim right now. They have Albert Pujols locked down at first base for the next decade. Mike Trout is tearing it up but they have Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter at the corner outfield positions and Peter Bourjos at center field, plus Alberto Callaspo at third base and Kendrys Morales at DH.
Hunter is a free agent after the season but the team has Wells signed through 2014. That means the outfield next year will be Trout, Wells, and Bourjos with Callaspo playing third base, Pujols at first, and Morales DHing.
There’s not a lot of room for Mark Trumbo. Sure, he will work his way into the picture because he’s too good not to play regularly, but that takes up time from either Callaspo or Wells or Morales. Morales isn’t making enough to trade him for anything. No one will take on Wells’ salary. Trumbo could be a good acquisition for a team like the Phillies.
I have a feeling the Angels would love a guy like Hamels. And the Phillies would love Trumbo. The problem is he’s so bad defensively that I don’t see this working out. In 63 innings at third base this year, he has a .714 fielding percentage. He doesn’t even play the position anymore. That just doesn’t seem like a good match.
Martin Prado doesn’t become a free agent until after 2013 so the Phillies would have to trade for him too. He is playing left field now for the Atlanta Braves but he also can play second and third base.
He is a .321 hitter in 2012 with five home runs and 11 steals in 12 attempts. Prado’s .839 OPS is the highest of his career and he is just 28 years old. That could be an intriguing option for the Phillies.
Imagine if the Phillies got David Wright. The New York Mets still haven’t re-signed the face of their franchise, and he’s having his best season in a career year.
Wright is hitting .351/.441/.563 with 11 home runs and nine steals in half a season. That’s amazing, and there’s a good chance the Mets will renew his $16 million option for 2013 considering they’re suddenly in contention and they could use his services.
If Wright does hit free agency though, the Phillies have to be seen as players, especially if they let Hamels go. They will likely trade Victorino, they will definitely let Blanton go, and that frees up the $100 million they’re going to need if they want Wright.