We are 10.5 hours into the free agent signing period, meaning veteran lefthander Jamie Moyer and veteran left fielder Pat Burrell are both on the market. Yesterday, we examined the middle reliever position and some of the names who are available to the Phillies. We also took a look at catcher, which isn't expected to be a focal point. Right now, we'll delve into the one you've all been waiting for, and what is in my mind the No. 1 question facing the Phillies the offseason: how will they replace Pat Burrell.
Depending on the market for Burrell, he could still end up in a Phillies uniform. But as you witnessed with Aaron Rowand last season, it only takes one team. And I still get the feeling Burrell won't be back.
There isn't a strong corner outfield market. Manny Ramirez's price tag has put him out of the equation, and the rest of the big guns on the market are left-handed, including Garrett Anderson, Raul Ibanez and Adam Dunn.
But there are some options out there.
Here is a look at the ones who are most interesting to me:
Juan Rivera, Angels: One of the most intriguing names out there. After hitting .310 with 23 home runs and 85 RBI for the Angels in 2006, he missed almost all of 2007 with a broken leg. The 29-year-old righty played in 89 games this season, hitting .246 with 12 home runs and 45 RBI. For a couple years, Rivera was one of the brightest prospects in the game.
Willie Bloomquist, Mariners: Another interesting situation. In six full seasons with the Mariners, he was never an everyday player. But he can play any outfield or infield position - he has played at least 30 games at all seven - and has put up some decent offensive numbers. He would improve the Phillies overall speed - 14 stolen pases in 165 ABs this year - and carries career averages of .263/.322/.324. The Phillies like versatility. And guess who was the general manager of the Mariners when Bloomquist broke into the big leagues? Yup. Pat Gillick. Oh, one small hang-up: His agent is Scott Boras.
Milton Bradley, Rangers: He is coming off a monster season for the Rangers - .321/.436/.563, 22 HR, 77 RBI - but character issues have followed him throughout his big league career. He does hit right-handed, and he does hit well. He also has familiarity with Charlie Manuel, who managed him from late 2001 until he was fired by the Indians in June of 2002.
Jerry Hairston Jr., Reds: Another interesting name. The 11-year veteran rebounded from a horrible 2006 campaign to hit .326/.384/.487 with 47 runs and 15 SB. But he hasn't had more than 300 ABs in a season since 2005, and doesn't have the middle-of-the-order power the Phillies will lose in Burrell.
Casey Blake, Dodgers: I don't think he'd sign with a team who plans on using him exclusively in the outfield. But you never know. Charlie Manuel loves Blake, and the third baseman has played some right field before.
Gabe Kapler, Brewers: He knows what it is like to platoon - he's done it his entire career - and he does it fairly well. Kapler is coming off a season in which he hit .301/.340/.498 with eight HR and 38 RBI in 229 AB. He is a career .294 hitter against lefties.
Greg Norton, Braves: He's been a solid OBP guy the past three seasons and he has some power - seven HR, 31 RBI in 171 AB for the Braves in '08. He's also a switch-hitter.
Rocco Baldelli, Rays: It'll be interesting to see what the market is like for him. He was one of the brightest young stars in the game in 2003 and 2004, hitting .280+ with 70+ RBI as a 21 and 22 year old. But he has had just 217 ABs in 2007 and 2008 while battling a muscular disorder that causes him far greater fatigue than the average player. He can't play every day. Would the Phillies consider him as a platoon option? It's hard to say.
Kevin Mench, Blue Jays: Delaware's own, the 30-year-old righty hit .243/.321/.357 for the Blue Jays last year. His power numbers have decreased steadily since he hit .279 with 26 HR and 71 RBI for the Rangers in 2004.
Later on today we'll try to take a look at the starting pitchers, followed by the infielders.