Breaking Down Potential Third Base Candidates for 2013 Philadelphia Phillies
Potential Third Basemen in 2013
The Philadelphia Phillies very likely won't be renewing the option on Placido Polanco's contract this offseason, meaning the team will have to find a player that can play third base for the team in 2013.
The free agent class is thin so the Phillies may need to make a trade or look within the organization. Whatever GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. decides to do, it probably won't be an easy decision.
The Phillies still have the capability to contend in 2013. After all, this is a team that had won five consecutive NL East titles from 2007 through 2011, advancing to two World Series and winning one championship.
But the Phillies really haven’t recovered yet from losing Scott Rolen via trade to the St. Louis Cardinals in July 2002. Since then, the Phillies have employed David Bell, Greg Dobbs, Wes Helms, Abraham Nunez, Pedro Feliz, and Polanco at the hot corner. None of those players has been the answer the team has been looking for.
In fact, the Phillies have just 27 home runs from their third basemen since 2010 – the fewest total in all of the major leagues. Their 214 runs batted in represents the second lowest total in the big leagues and the 16 stolen bases are the sixth-lowest total in the major leagues.
Since 2003, the first full season in which the Phillies no longer had Rolen, they’ve had the worst offensive third basemen in the National League. Collectively, the Phillies have gotten 141 home runs and 890 RBIs – totals that rank dead-last and fourth-worst in the major leagues during that span. The home run total is a ridiculous 29 fewer than any other National League team. And the Phillies’ WAR is at 16.1, which ranks last among NL teams and third-last in baseball.
So it’s time the Phillies get a player at the hot corner that can fill the position admirably for years to come.
Here's a breakdown of the 30 starting third basemen in the league – along with a few others thrown in – and how realistic it is that the Phillies have them as their starting third baseman in 2013.
No Chance, No Way
The following players are all but off-limits because of their contract situation and their value to their team:
Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, and David Wright are all the faces of their franchise, and since the New York Mets are likely to pay Wright $100 million to keep him long-term, he’s out for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Miguel Cabrera is arguably the best player in baseball so he’s not going anywhere.
Scott Rolen and Chipper Jones are each planning to retire, although I don’t think either would go to Philly – Rolen because he’s worn out his welcome and Jones because he’s never played anywhere but Atlanta.
Manny Machado is just 20 years old but he’s a bright young player for the Baltimore Orioles, and they’re certainly not going to trade him.
And David Freese and Mike Moustakas are each well on the way to being top-10 players in the league at their position.
There’s a reason each of the following players is listed as doubtful as opposed to no way.
Alex Rodriguez is a long shot but the New York Yankees would have to pay a substantial portion of his remaining five years that adds up to $114 million. A-Rod has too much baggage with him and he’s just not that good anymore.
Chase Headley seemed to be a very plausible trade candidate but then he went on an absolute tear in the final two months, hitting .318/.389/.632 with 19 home runs, 63 RBIs, and five steals in 57 games. That all but makes him untouchable in trade talks, especially considering he still has two years remaining before he hits free agency.
Hanley Ramirez was just traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers as well, but he’s also signed through 2014. It’s unlikely he will go anywhere, even though his play has dropped off.
Todd Frazier was arguably the National League Rookie of the Year in 2011 but he is already 26 years old and he may be an outside candidate for a trade.
Pablo Sandoval does have some postseason heroics to his name (his World Series ring in 2010 and his three-home run game in 2012). What might make him a possible trade candidate is that he’s struggled with his weight over his career, leading to relatively inconsistent numbers from year to year.
Pedro Alvarez probably isn’t a franchise player because he has too many flaws in his game (high strikeout total, no speed, poor defense). But he did hit 30 home runs with 85 RBIs as a 25-year old in 2012, and that’s pretty intriguing. Considering the Pittsburgh Pirates are up-and-coming though, they’re going to want to keep him.
Kyle Seager is just 24 years old and he hit 20 home runs with 13 stolen bases as a first-year starter in 2012, so that’s reason enough for the Seattle Mariners to keep him barring an unexpected trade.
Will Middlebrooks played well enough as a rookie in 2012 that the Boston Red Sox felt comfortable enough trading away veteran third baseman Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox. Middlebrooks tore up the American League when he did play, contributing with a .288 batting average, 15 home runs, 54 RBIs, and a .509 slugging percentage in half a season.
Trevor Plouffe came out of nowhere to enjoy a remarkable stretch in late May and early June in which he clubbed 10 home runs and four doubles in 14 games. Plouffe batted .375 with a ridiculous .982 slugging percentage.
He finished the year though with just a .235 batting average and since he plays poor defense at third base, he may not be the long-term answer for the Minnesota Twins at this position (or the Phillies should they consider trading him).
Martin Prado is still under Atlanta Braves control for another year, so there’s a chance the team could trade him to get something in return before he hits free agency. But Chipper Jones is retiring and Prado will probably switch to third base, so it’s unlikely the team lets him go for anyone.
Brett Lawrie is a talented young player for the Toronto Blue Jays who hit .273 with 11 home runs and 13 stolen bases as a 22-year-old player in 2012. He plays phenomenal defense and he’s under team control for five more seasons so it would take a lot for the Phillies to get him.
Potential Trade Candidates
Mike Olt is one of the top prospects in all of major league baseball, but there’s definitely a logical reason that the Texas Rangers could trade him as part of a package deal.
The Rangers have Adrian Beltre signed at third base for another three years, Elvis Andrus for another two years at shortstop, and Ian Kinsler at second base through 2017. Michael Young is also signed to be the designated hitter for 2013 still, and the team has both Jurickson Profar and Olt in the waiting.
Profar is a shortstop so if the Rangers can find a way to trade Andrus somewhere (maybe the New York Yankees to take over for Derek Jeter), Profar could take over there. But I’m not sure what the team will do with Olt unless they use him sparingly for next season and then move him to the designated hitter spot in 2014 when Young departs.
Adrian Beltre is a very logical candidate, and this makes the most sense. He’s signed for three more years at an average price of $17 million per season through 2015 and a possible vesting option for 2016. Beltre is already entering his 16th major league campaign but he’s still an elite player – he just hit .321 with 36 home runs, 102 RBIs, a .921 OPS, and terrific defense at the hot corner.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have a ton of talent on their team and not enough spots. Mike Trout is the center fielder of the future, which means Peter Bourjos probably has to move to left field, and Mark Trumbo has to play right field. Torii Hunter could always come back but Kendrys Morales is the DH and Albert Pujols is playing first base for the next decade. The thing is that none of this really affects Alberto Callaspo, who seems to be playing third base in 2013 no matter what.
Matt Carpenter can play all over the field, and he put forth a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage last year for the St. Louis Cardinals. Carpenter batted .294 with an .828 OPS in 340 plate appearances but since he’s under team control for awhile still, the Phillies would have to find a way to acquire him via trade.
Possible Platoon Players
Wilson Betemit isn’t a very intriguing option at all considering he hit .261 with 12 home runs in 376 plate appearances. But he is a veteran third baseman with plenty of starting experience and if the Baltimore Orioles don’t want him back (because they do have Manny Machado waiting to play third base), they might part with Betemit – one more year on his contract at $1.75 million – for next to nothing.
Yan Gomes was Brett Lawrie’s backup in Toronto and he may be worth taking a look at because he has a lot of raw power. Gomes tore up Triple-A last year (.328, 13 home runs, .557 SLG) before he struggled in brief at-bats in the major leagues, logging a .204 batting average in 43 games. Realistically though, Gomes wouldn’t be more than a backup at the major league level in 2013.
Pedro Ciriaco is really nothing more than another Kevin Frandsen. He overachieved in 2012 with the Boston Red Sox by hitting .293 and he has little power and rarely draws walks.
Greg Dobbs already had his turn in Philly but he did hit .275 and .285 the last two seasons for the Florida and Miami Marlins. That .285 mark would be nice for the Philadelphia Phillies but I don’t think fans would take too well to Dobbs coming back to start.
Chris Nelson hit .301 as a 26-year-old for the Coloado Rockies in 2012 but take a closer look at the numbers - .347 in home games in Coors Field and .257 on the road.
Potential Free Agent Acquisitions
This is probably the most realistic option for the Philadelphia Phillies. Kevin Youkilis is coming off a four-year deal with the Boston Red Sox (one that ended with him in Southside Chicago), and he’s going to be 34 years old by the time 2013 starts.
A two-year deal worth around $16-18 million seems plausible. Youkilis batted .235 with 19 home runs in 509 plate appearances last year. Youkilis has seen a significant decline in his batting average as of late, posting a .307 batting average in 2010, .258 mark in 2011, and .235 last year.
But he is still a productive player who has decent power and he gets hit by a ton of pitches. His on-base percentage last year was .336, still a fine mark for that low of a batting average. And he plays solid defense at the hot corner.
Jeff Keppinger batted .325 last season for the Tampa Bay Rays, and he’s set to become a free agent. He’s a .288 career hitter so it’s unreasonable to expect that batting average every season, and he also has little power. He’s a solid option but not great.
Potential In-House Options
The Philadelphia Phillies could always bring Placido Polanco back on a new deal (picking up his $5.5 million option for 2013 is too much to spend on him). He can’t stay healthy, he has little to no power, and his batting average has dipped recently, but what he does provide is phenomenal defense at third base. He could be either a starter or a part-time player if the Phillies want.
Freddy Galvis showed a remarkable glove at second base in 2012 before a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs ended his season. He really struggled with the bat, hitting just .226 with a .254 on-base percentage and three home runs in 200 plate appearances. But if he can find a way to move over to third base for 2013, that would allow the Phillies to keep Chase Utley at second base. Galvis could always split time with a player like Ty Wigginton, who doesn’t field well but has power.
Chase Utley is coming back for 2013, that’s for sure. Where he will play remains to be seen. It’s almost a fact that Galvis is quicker on the double play pivot and release than Utley. Utley also has a much superior bat and third baseman historically hit much better than their second base counterparts. If Utley can successfully make the transition to third base, the Phillies will be thrilled.
Jimmy Rollins moving to third base? Not likely. I just had to throw it out there.
Kevin Frandsen played third base down the stretch in 2012, hitting at a ridiculous .338 clip in 195 at-bats. Considering he’s 30 years old though and a .267 lifetime hitter, it’s highly unlikely Frandsen will maintain any kind of a hot streak like that.
Ty Wigginton is brutal at third base, and we all saw that in 2012. But he has substantially more power than Polanco or Galvis or Frandsen, so if for some reason the Phillies want to bring Wigginton back to platoon with one of those guys, it’s an option.
Cody Asche won’t be ready to play in 2013 but he’s worth mentioning because he has a chance to be the third baseman of the future. Asche is a 22-year old left-handed hitter who batted .300 with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs in just half a season at the Double-A Reading level in 2012.
Eric Chavez turned in a fine season for the New York Yankees in 2012, especially since they probably weren’t expecting too much from him. Chavez batted .281 with 16 home runs on a mere $900,000. Maybe the Yankees will bring him back and maybe they won’t. But I think it is too unreasonable for the Philadelphia Phillies to expect that kind of production from him since he batted just .263 with two home runs in 58 games in 2011.
Brandon Inge’s career was all but over when the Detroit Tigers released him earlier this season but he managed to latch on with the Oakland Athletics. Inge helped them to the playoffs, smashing 11 home runs and driving in 52 runs in just half a season. Realistically though, he’s nothing more than a platoon player at this point in his career.
Ian Stewartis worth mentioning because he was a starter for much of 2012 and he hit as many as 25 home runs in a season before. But last year, Stewart batted just .201 with a .627 OPS in 55 games. No thanks.
Solid Players But No Interest
Mark Reynolds likely won’t be returning to the Baltimore Orioles in 2013, but the Philadelphia Phillies don’t need another player that hits a ton of home runs, strikes out a ton, and plays awful defense. Reynolds decreased his strikeout percentage to 29.6 in 2012 from an outrageous 35.4 in 2010 – although 29.6 is still pretty outrageous. With his defense though, there’s no need to bring Reynolds to Philadelphia.
Mark Trumbo would be a great player but he just can’t play third base. He tried it for about 50 innings last year and posted a .714 fielding percentage. That’s bad enough to not even think about playing him at the hot corner.
The Best Scenario
If Chase Utley can find a way to move over to third base, that would be the ideal situation. Realistically, I don’t think that will happen.
I wouldn’t argue too much with a platoon of Kevin Frandsen and Placido Polanco, even though it’s boring and relatively unproductive.
A trade to bring over Adrian Beltre would be an amazing scenario for the Philadelphia Phillies, but I’m not sure how willing Texas would be to get rid of him. Same with the Milwaukee Brewers and Aramis Ramirez.
I would approve of a deal to bring Kevin Youkilis to Philly on a two-year contract as well.
Outside of this, GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. may have to find a way to be creative.