Obviously, the Phillies are no fluke. And it’s temping to suggest that they should stand pat this offseason. After all, all the team’s best players are under contract for next season, and the rotation figures to be strong, with Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ and Jamie Moyer returning, and minor league prospect Kyle Drabek waiting for a chance at the big time.
But, as Rob Neyer says, “Baseball teams are like sharks: If they’re not moving forward, they’re dying.” The Phillies and GM Ruben Amaro seem to understand this. After all, Amaro’s big move last winter was signing Raul Ibanez and letting Pat Burrell walk. Is there any doubt that swapping Burrell for Ibanez was the difference between the Phils winning the east and sitting at home in October? Ibanez was worth 4.2 wins above replacement in 2009, while Burrell was worth -0.6, and would have been worth even less if the Rays had allowed him to play left field.
This offseason, the Phils have already made waves by cutting ties with SP/RP Brett Myers (due to excess douchiness) and announcing that they are looking to upgrade at third base.
Do the Phillies need to upgrade at 3B? No. Pedro Feliz’s outstanding defense makes him a valuable guy. But the Phils’ front office apparently can no longer stomach his craptastic hitting, and that’s understandable. So what are the options?
From MLB Trade Rumors:
There are several third base options on the free agent market that could pique Amaro’s interest. Both Adrian Beltre and Chone Figgins would represent a significant offensive upgrade at the position, and according to UZR/150, they’d even provide a defensive boost over Feliz’s already sterling glovework.
Figgins would be a great addition to the Phils, as he would add even more speed to the lineup and could supplant Jimmy Rollins as the team’s leadoff hitter. And whether or not Figgins comes to Philly, the Fightins need a new leadoff hitter. It is no longer tenable to allow a guy with a sub-.300 OBP to leadoff.
Beltre would likely provide a more cost-effective solution at third, as he is coming off an injury plagued 2009. But while Beltre would bring more power, he’d be another OBP-suck (though not as bad as Feliz or Rollins), while Figgins OBP has steadily improved each of the past few seasons.
Outside of 3B, the Phils need to figure out Brad Lidge and the rest of the bullpen. Neyer put this pretty succinctly in a recent post:
The Phillies won 93 games this year. Brad Lidge blew 11 saves and lost eight games. The key ingredient in another 93-win recipe is a closer who instead blows five saves and loses four games. Those guys are out there, and they don’t all cost a great deal of money. Ruben Amaro isn’t likely to get super-creative this winter; general managers of pennant-winning teams rarely do. But he just has to be creative enough to find a couple of dependable relief pitchers. Which is one of the easiest things in professional sports.
Conclusion: Figgins would be a great addition, but will likely cost too much. If the Phils don’t land him they should sign Beltre or bring back Feliz, and turn their attention to improving the bullpen and adding a couple of decent bench players (Eric Bruntlett, you are the weakest link). And they should shift Shane Victorino into the leadoff spot and bat Rollins second. Or ninth. Whatever.