MLB Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Rumors: Top 5 Offseason Targets

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Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Top Offseason Targets

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Not a lot of people are saying a whole lot of nice things these days about Ruben Amaro Jr., the GM of the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies dropped to mediocre in 2012 with an 81-81 record and finished with a losing record this season for the first time since the 2002 season. A lot of Phillies fans are blaming the fall on Amaro, who signed underachieving players like Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins to long-term guaranteed contracts.

Amaro can change a lot of that thinking with what he does in the offseason. The Phillies need help in a lot of areas, but fixing the team is going to require some tightrope-walking by management. They have to keep players like Rollins and Howard in place (since there are no internal replacement options) and build around those edges.

Amaro does have some flexibility in fixing the bullpen, catcher and outfield, and promised to be aggressive in those areas. If the Phillies come away with a couple of big names in those places, they can go from a losing team to a contender in one season, but Amaro will have to find the right pieces. Most of the pieces can be added through free agency, but the Phillies might also have to get one or two through a trade.

Howard and Rollins will be playing first base and shortstop for two more years, and second baseman Chase Utley's contract runs concurrently with those, so the Phillies will be wise to get young and fill in around those three and target areas of need within the pitching staff.

Amaro’s five top offseason priorities should be:

Mike Gibson is a Phillies writer for Follow him on Twitter @papreps , “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Grant Balfour

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The Oakland A's late-inning specialist can either help as a seventh- or eighth-inning setup guy, providing some insurance if Mike Adams isn't fully recovered season-ending shoulder surgery. Balfour is a free agent who, in 65 innings, had a 2.59 ERA.

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4. Brian McCann

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The Phillies could accomplish two things by signing McCann: Bolster their anemic lineup and hurt the lineup of their top rival, the Atlanta Braves. The Phils could resign their current catcher, Carlos Ruiz, but Ruiz doesn't have McCann's pop in his bat and is five years older.

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3. Josh Johnson

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Signing Johnson, another free agent, would soften the blow of the Phillies saying goodbye to Roy Halladay should they chose that route. Johnson is not the same pitcher who went 15-5 in 2009, but he's good enough and he doesn't have the fatigue and dead arm problems Halladay has.

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2. Jamie Moyer

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Whatever Amaro needs to do to bring Moyer on board as a pitching coach should be done. When Moyer was a 16-7 pitcher for the World Champion Phillies in 2008, he was often seen coaching Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. There was no member of the staff more respected, and if anyone can turn around Hamels' 8-14 season, it's the lefty who won 269 major-league games. Moyer is a Philadelphia-area native, and this would also be a popular move with what has been a disgruntled fan base.

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1. Giancarlo Stanton

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Amaro has said in the past that he tried "10 times" to engineer a trade for Stanton, dating back to the days he was known as Mike Stanton. The 11th time could be the charm because the Phillies have something the Miami Marlins need this time, a third baseman. They have two top third base prospects and they should give the Marlins a choice between major-league ready Cody Asche and top minor-league prospect Maikel Franco, who has a higher upside but appears to be at least a year away. With Stanton, Howard, Utley and McCann in the Phils' lineup, Citizens Bank Park could become once again a den of horrors for opposing pitchers.