Free agent preview: Philadelphia Phillies

2012 was a disappointing year for an aging Phillies team. The house of cards collapsed as numerous lpayers suffered injuries, and the Phillies just couldn't get a streak going all season. Going into 2013, the team is in an extremely interesting position, with lots of money tied up in older players that are fading fast.

A third baseman is probably the prime target of Phillies GM Ruben Amaro after a year where minor league veteran Kevin Frandsen was the most productive player at the position. Placido Polanco is as good as gone, with hte $1 million buyout on his mutual option looking like a certainty to be exercised right now. The team also needs help in the outfield after trading both Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino in July, with one spot likely going to Domonic Brown, and the center field spot still up in the air. Left field is another struggle for the team after largely using impending free agent Juan Pierre last season.

Possible Options
Left field will likely be filled internally by minor league slugger Darin Ruf, who is no spring chicken at age 26 with a 32% strikeout rate in a brief major league tryout in 2012. There is a huge lack of third basemen on the free agent market, and I think the Phillies will end up going with a trade option as opposed to a free agent to fill that hole. Unless, of course, they either shift Chase Utley to third or start defensive-minded no-bat infielder Freddy Galvis at the position. As for center field, the Phillies have their pick of a number of talented, but flawed, candidates, including Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, and BJ Upton. I think they'll end up going with the former Phillie farmhand in Bourn, but the team needs to be careful when it comes to how long of a contract and how much money they give him as a player who relies mainly on his speed that will be 30 this December.

Trade Options
I'm sure the Phillies would *love* if a team would take Ryan Howard's contract off of their hands, which still has $95 million (plus an option with a $10 million buyout) left on it. I also wouldn't be surprised if the Phillies at least listened if a team inquired about Roy Halladay, who had an injury-plagued 2012 while looking nothing like himself in the process. One potential option for the Phillies to deal is catcher Carlos Ruiz, under contract for an affordable $5 million club option in 2013 and coming off of career year. Ruiz will be 34 for the 2013 season, and with young catchers Sebastian Valle and Tommy Joseph in the upper minors, Ruiz's time in Philly is probably coming to an end.

Trade Targets
Ruben Amaro did a decent job in converting Pence, Victorino, and Joe Blanton into young talent this past summer, and I think it would be wise for him to try to do the same thing if he wants to trade any more veterans this year. However, with Chase Headley and David Wright potentially on the trade market as excellent options to fill the third base hole for the Phillies, I could see Amaro dumping off even more prospects for either player. With the Phillies core aging very quickly, I think Amaro is going to try to make one more run before Utley, Halladay, and Ruiz all potentially leave as free agents in 2014.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.