The Philadelphia Phillies shipped two-time All-Star center fielder Shane Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers days before the trade deadline, opening up a spot for a newcomer to step in and win the job for the 2013 season.
There are a handful of talented players hitting the free agency market that could contribute next year and the Phillies freed up some money by trading away Hunter Pence before his final year of arbitration kicks in. GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. may elect to go with a high-profile free agent acquisition but he may keep it simple and go within the team (if he starts Michael Martinez full-time, I’m retiring from being a baseball fan). Here are the 10 likeliest scenarios in my opinion.
1. Josh Hamilton
This would be a big splash, and I profiled both the advantages and disadvantages of signing a top player like Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton would command a huge contract, probably five to six years for anywhere from $100 to $130 million or maybe even more. He’s a left-handed bat and he’s a .305 career hitter who can give a team 30 home runs and 120 RBIs per season. He’s currently in an awful slump that has prolonged over several months but his start was hot enough that he’s still leading the American League with 95 RBIs this season and his .926 OPS ranks sixth-best in the AL.
Signing Hamilton means the Phillies almost have to go with a cheap option in right field because there’s no way they can afford to pay Hamilton and another big-name player or even a medium player.
2. B.J. Upton
Once upon a time, B.J. Upton was a great baseball player. He batted .300 with 24 home runs and 22 stolen bases in 2007 and then turned in a phenomenal performance in the playoffs for the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays that went to the World Series.
Upton hit seven home runs in the ALDS and ALCS combined, a staggering total considering he hit just nine in 145 regular-season games. And then he dropped to .241 in 2009, .237 in 2010, .243 in 2011, and just .242 this year.
He gets points for consistency, but he’s just not the same player anymore. Upton strikes out 150 times or more per season and he doesn’t walk as much as he used to. He also doesn’t play great defense. I don’t really have much interest in getting Upton, and he’s still just 27 years old so he could get a four-year deal or so.
3. Michael Bourn
The Phillies had Michael Bourn initially but let him go to Houston, where he developed into an All-Star and Gold Glove outfielder. Bourn is essentially a similar player to Victorino but he’s younger.
Bourn is hitting .289 in his walk year, although that figure was as high as .319 in mid-June. Bourn steals a ton of bases, having led the league the last three seasons. And after hitting seven home runs in his previous 2,000-plus plate appearances, Bourn has nine already this season.
I think Bourn could command a five-year deal worth up to $60 million, and that’s a lot of money for basically a singles hitter who doesn’t quite have the all-around power Victorino has.
4. Shane Victorino
Just because the Phillies traded Victorino away doesn’t mean they can’t bring him back next season.
Victorino may be a rental for the Dodgers if they don’t want to pay him, and the Phillies know exactly what kind of player he is – a very underrated one who can do everything (although his 2012 season was subpar compared to his standards recently).
Victorino is 31 years old but I think he has enough to offer a team that he will get at least a four-year offer in free agency. I enjoyed watching Victorino immensely as a Phillies fan and he played a big role on the World Series championship team but I would rather not shell out $50 million-plus for him at this point.
5. Melky Cabrera
After his terrific 2011 season with the Kansas City Royals, Melky Cabrera settled for a one-year deal in free agency. The San Francisco Giants emerged as big winners, as they’ve gotten his .352 batting average, 10 triples, 11 home runs, 12 steals, and league-leading 80 runs scored and 154 hits for just $6 million.
Cabrera is set to hit free agency for the first time this offseason but the problem with Cabrera is that he’s just 27 (28 tomorrow) and he may get a sizeable deal in free agency, and I don’t know if he’s consistent enough for me to feel comfortable with my team having signed him. He also plays primarily in the corner outfield positions, so while he could – and has – played center field, he rates only subpar defensively in center field.
6. Angel Pagan
Like Cabrera, Angel Pagan is in his final year of arbitration which means he hits free agency after the season. Pagan is having a solid year because he’s a pretty solid player.
Pagan is already 31 years old because he spent so much time in the minor leagues but he could be a good offer at a three or so year deal for $25-30 million. Pagan steals up to 30 or 40 bases per season in a good campaign, and he’s a competent glove man in center field.
7. Grady Sizemore
I know Grady Sizemore is nowhere near the player he was in his prime, but he’s not coming back to Cleveland next year and maybe the Phillies could benefit from taking a chance on him and platooning him for a year.
Sizemore signed a one-year prove-it deal with the Indians, and he failed that. He can’t stay healthy and he actually has yet to even step onto the field in 2012. And when he did play last, he hit just .224 in half a season in 2011. He hasn’t played so much as 100 games since 2009 and he hasn’t played a full year since 2008.
Sizemore is a good hitter against lefties though – he posted a .751 OPS against lefties in ’11, which wouldn’t be too bad if the Phillies wanted to platoon him. It’s certainly not ideal but if you find the right player to platoon him with, it might work.
8. John Mayberry, Jr.
There’s a lot to like about John Mayberry, Jr. – he was a former first round pick, he comes from a baseball family, and he has a low of raw power. He can play all three outfield positions and first base, and he slugged .513 with 15 home runs in 2011.
He’s taken a step back this year drastically (.668 OPS) but he hits lefties well. He has a .784 OPS against lefties with seven home runs in 116 plate appearances. Combine that with Sizemore, and the pair hit 15 home runs in 351 plate appearances against opposite-side pitchers, which translates to 25-30 home runs in a full season. It may not be ideal but Sizemore wouldn’t cost much at all and Mayberry isn’t even at arbitration yet so if the Phillies want to go cheap, this might be it.
I like the Hamilton option a lot, although of course it’s a lot of money. The Phillies already have three players locked up to a deal over $100 million, and Hamilton would make four.
That’s not to mention players like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Roy Halladay, and Jonathan Papelbon that are on the hook for a lot of money next year. Preferably, I’m torn. It’s a lot of money to spend if they get Hamilton but that could make the Phillies serious playoff contenders right again. Pagan might not be too bad of an option considering they can probably get him for relatively cheap. And I really don’t like the Sizemore/Mayberry platoon.
My ideal preference would be to go all in for Hamilton and see if the team can make one final World Series run before the core of the team is gone.