The Philadelphia Phillies shipped All-Star right fielder Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants 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 Shane Victorino and 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.
1. Nick Swisher
The New York Yankees haven’t re-signed Nick Swisher yet which means the team may let him walk in free agency. Swisher is an underrated hitter who has topped 20 home runs for seven years running, and he’s going to make it eight in a row this year.
Swisher is a switch-hitter which helps his free agency case and he’s having a pretty solid campaign – .263/.346/.460 with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs, and his 113 adjusted OPS is about on par with his yearly totals since 2009.
Swisher has a great eye at the plate, having drawn 80 walks five times and he rates 10th among 167 AL qualifiers since 2006 with a 13.5 walk rate. Swisher can play right field and first base, although if he signed with the Phillies, it would be strictly right field. He would likely command a deal around four years, $48-52 million.
2. Torii Hunter
Torii Hunter is finishing up a five-year, $90 million deal this offseason and I’m sure the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will be thrilled to part themselves with Hunter’s $18 million per year salary.
Hunter is having a pretty decent year for a 37-year old player, as he’s hitting .291 with 12 home runs and five steals, and his .790 OPS is good enough that he can still help a team. Hunter is no longer the elite center fielder he was in his prime and right field suits his skills better now, but he could probably be signed at a two or maybe three year deal for about $8 to $10 million per season.
3. Ichiro Suzuki
Just because the New York Yankees traded for Ichiro Suzuki doesn’t mean they plan on re-signing him to be their right fielder for 2013, although they likely will be losing Swisher in free agency.
Suzuki is a far cry from the player he once was – after hitting .331 with 10 200-hit seasons in the 10-year span from 2001 through 2010, Suzuki dropped off to .272 in 2011 and he’s at just .262 combined between the Seattle Mariners and Yankees so far in ’12. His power is all but gone which makes him a singles hitter who hits .260 or .270. He doesn’t walk, although he does still have tremendous bat control, terrific speed, and he’s an elite defensive right fielder who has a cannon of an arm.
Suzuki rates as a +14.9 defensively per FanGraphs. That’s the single best mark for any position player in baseball, exceeding both the +13.2 and +13.1 marks by Michael Bourn and Jason Heyward, respectively.
I really don’t know what kind of a deal the 38-year old Ichiro (soon to be 39) could get in free agency. I can’t imagine more than two years and one year is more likely.
4. Cody Ross
The former San Francisco Giants playoff hero isn’t much more than an average corner outfielder but he has power and he can hit 20 or more home runs per season. Ross is having a very productive year for the Boston Red Sox, as he’s at a .278/.345/.538 statline with 18 home runs and 58 RBIs, and his .884 OPS is the highest single-season total he’s put up since he was on the 2007 Florida Marlins.
Ross is 31 years old and he’s not much more than a two-year player for any team, considering he’s just not that good. If the Phillies want to go with a cheap option, they could probably get Ross for two years, $10 million.
5. Lance Berkman
Lance Berkman is on just a one-year, $12 million deal, and he’s barely stayed healthy enough to play. When he has played though, Berkman is still one of the best hitters in the game.
He hit .301/.412/.547 with 31 home runs and 94 RBIs last season for the St. Louis Cardinals, helping the team win the World Series. He’s stepped up to the plate just 90 times so far this year but his .267/.389/.467 line shows he can still hit a ball. Berkman is pretty poor defensively, but then again, Hunter Pence wasn’t very good and he could hit. The Phillies could definitely get Berkman on a one-year deal, but the problem would be assuming he can stay healthy enough to play regularly.
6. Melky Cabrera
I previewed Melky Cabrera in my article yesterday when I talked about eight players the Phillies could sign to play center field for the 2013 team.
Cabrera can play any outfield position so if the Phillies wanted to sign him to play right field, that would also work too. As I mentioned yesterday, Cabrera will probably get a sizeable deal and the more I think about it, I think a team may give him upwards of five years worth around $70-75 million. That’s just too much money for a guy who has been relatively inconsistent over the past several seasons.
7. John Mayberry, Jr.
Maybe the Phillies really do want to go with John Mayberry, Jr. full-time and they want to put him in the corner outfield because they bring in a great fielding center fielder like Bourn.
Mayberry has gotten exposed when he’s tried to play full-time but he has a lot of potential and a lot of raw power, and the Phillies might want to just find out if he’s good enough to start or not.
8. Nate Schierholz
Nate Schierholz is under team control through 2014 so the Phillies could start him next year at a minimal price. He’s a borderline starter, as Schierholz has hit just .262/.314/.405 in 1,150 plate appearances since 2009. He can fill in at center field some too and he has a strong arm, although he’s merely an adequate starter.
It’s ridiculous to realize the Phillies don’t have any outfielders committed to playing for the team in 2013 as starters. I don’t know how much the team will want to spend to bring a player in.
Swisher would be a great option but he’s going to cost at least $10-12 million for four years. Hunter is a good player but the team always wants to get younger and he’s not going to help that. Suzuki just doesn’t have much left at this point other than as a utility outfielder.
None of these options stand out to me but I don’t think the team should spend a lot so I might go with a player like Ross or Schierholz and hope someone from the minor leagues comes shooting up the farm system sometime soon.