The Phillies entry in the Roy Halladay sweepstakes was all the rage coming out of the general managers’ meetings but the Phillies could be looking at other positions rather than starting pitching.
The Phillies have more pressing needs than adding another arm to the rotation.
“Our need at third base and in our bullpen,” general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. said Monday to MLB.com. "Those two areas are our priorities.”
Those priorities made sense considering that the pen and the hot corner were glaring holes in the Phillies roster throughout most of last season. Pedro Feliz was defensively solid at third but he cooled off at the plate when it counted most batting a lousy .225 from Aug. 1 until the end of the season. As for the pen, outside of Chan Ho Park (once he was penned) and Scott Eyre, mostly every other relief pitcher struggled for long periods.
The Phils declined Feliz’s option making him a free agent and essentially bidding him farewell.
The Feliz move made sense considering the depth of right-handed third basemen in the current free agent crop. Experienced third basemen Adrian Beltre, Melvin Mora, Mark DeRosa, Troy Glaus, Joe Crede and Chone Figgins are all on the market. The potential pool of third basemen expands if the Phillies would consider moving Miguel Tejada or Placido Polanco to third.
The best fits for the Phillies appeared to be Beltre, DeRosa and Figgins with Crede, Tejada and Polanco as dark horse candidates.
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Beltre, 30, doesn’t nearly swing the stick he once did (only eight homers in 2009, league-leading 48 in 2004) and seems to be older than his age but he has won two straight gold gloves and could give the Phillies a similar replacement to Feliz with the potential for a bit more pop from the seven hole in the order.
DeRosa, 34, could fit nicely into the Phillies lineup. He not only provides pop (20-plus homers for two-straight seasons) but he also is a career .976 fielder who can play third, second or the corner outfield spots.
Think of him as an upgraded version of Greg Dobbs with the ability to spell Chase Utley and Jayson Werth on occasion.
DeRosa underwent off-season wrist surgery that could make teams balk at signing him but could also drive down his asking price even though DeRosa planned to be ready for Spring Training.
Figgins, 31, is the most attractive option at third. He is an on-base-percentage machine who eats stolen bases for dinner averaging 58 steals over 162 games.
Figgins is a more natural switch-hitting leadoff hitter than Jimmy Rollins. He could be penciled in atop of the Phillies order while Rollins could bat No.2 giving J-Roll more RBI opportunities while not losing out on scoring chances.
Figgins also exhibited the plate discipline that Rollins lacked atop the order. Figs lead the American League with 101 walks in 2009.
Should the Phillies sign Figgins they could then dangle centerfielder Shane Victorino as trade bait for a pitcher. There are so many potential pitching options that it would be too difficult to pinpoint a suitor but many AL teams would love to bring in a guy like Suga Shane who could bat atop the order or out of the nine spot.
Heck, all this is speculation and the Phils could still opt to bring Pete Happy back to Philly. But, with big dead money (Jim Thome, Geoff Jenkins and Adam Eaton) and other contracts (Brett Myers and Feliz) coming off the books the Phillies can afford to through some extra dough into a solid third baseman.
Let the hot stove burn.