If the 2013 Phillies are going to get back to contending, they will not be standing pat this off-season. They simply aren't good enough to do that. After last year's relatively quiet off-season produced this 78-78 ball-club, they should know better. Without a pipeline of young prospects, at least not yet, free agency has to fill the club's holes. Just what will they look like in 2013? Well, here's my thoughts:
- Infield- Chooch, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins are all highly likely to be back in their spots catching, playing first, and playing shortstop, come Opening Day. That's the easy part. Heading into contract year, Chase Utley seems to be headed for a move from second to third base to both help his knees and fill a need. That leaves second base open. Aaron Hill's name comes up with some fans, and it makes some sense. Freddy Galvis could be the guy internally, and Cesar Hernandez might be the long-term guy, so he has to be in the discussion. With Utley entering contract year, It seems clear at least one, if not two or more infield moves will be made. Chase Headley's name comes up a lot, and I'm not against it, but it appears the Phillies don't like the price.
- Starting Pitching- For all the talk that they will trade an ace, count me in the camp that doubts it. Hamels is a lock to return, and Lee was really good down the stretch. He had at least a good enough season to warrant criticism of paying another team to have him pitch for them, particularly knowing what he can do. If those two are staying, that leaves Doc Halladay. Trading Doc makes sense only if you think he's finished, which a lat-pull would not make him. If you dealt him now, you'd be trading at low value, which is stupid, so he'll be back. So 60% of the rotation is set. Vance Worley is likely to be back in the rotation, though I'd say that's not absolute. Kyle Kendrick, Tyler Cloyd, and Jon Pettibone are also around, and could make the rotation. I don't think this is the priority area to fix for next season.
- Outfield- Dom Brown will be back, and they will sign at least one more guy. I would think the pool of desired centerfielders is Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, and B.J. Upton. My personal pick, based on likelihood of it happening and price, is Upton. He's just 28, and will probably require a little less than Bourn. He's a solid defensive player with 25 homer type of power and 30 steals type of speed. His average is down a little, though he does fit behind Howard nicely in the line-up, and may take less than Bourn will. Bourn is looking for a lot of money, is a couple years older, and strikes out a lot. All three would be upgrades though. The next tier of Free Agents- the Angel Pagan's, the Melky Cabrera's, and even the Shane Victorino's- don't seem worth it to me, at least in center. In the last outfield slot, which I assume to be left, there are several internal options, including the very popular Darin Ruf, who now has 40 professional homers this season (39 in AA ball). They also have Juan Pierre, John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix, and Nate Schierholtz. The name Cody Ross has been tossed around too. If Ruf is the guy, I'd like to see them keep Pierre around too, to face tougher righties. If they signed Ross, any of the lefties would do.
- Bullpen- I would expect Papelbon to return for certain. Currently, I would expect the bullpen behind him to be Aumont, Stutes (once healthy), Lindblom, Bastardo, Horst, and Cloyd. I would also expect the Phillies will move at least one of these guys and sign someone. De Fratus, Diekman, and Rosenberg seem to have passed Schwimer and Savery in the pecking order as well, but that appears to be the depth of this team. While the closer is expensive, this is a relatively cheap bullpen otherwise, so they have room to work here. I'd expect them to seek out a dominating 8th inning guy.
- Bench- Kratz is highly likely to be the back-up catcher. Past that, it's an open ended question. At least one spot will be a utility man, which I think will either be Galvis (if an outside second baseman or third baseman is brought in), or Kevin Frandsen, who plays all four spots in the infield in AAA. I would expect Nix to return as the left-handed power bat, and Mayberry as possibly the righty. That leaves just one more spot, which under my model goes to the non-starter each day between Ruf and Pierre in left. This means no option for Wigginton, and probably a non-tender for Schierholtz. I'm not so crazy about letting Nate go though, so we'll see what happens.
Looking at their free agency needs, the Phillies need one, possibly two, outfield starters, a set-up man, and an infielder, most likely. These can't be cheap, at the margins moves either. This team is not that close to the Nationals and Braves right now, as this last homestand proved. It's time for some change.