The Phillies appear to have targeted Placido Polanco as their top choice to replace Pedro Feliz at third base.
The team’s official website had the first of multiple reports tonight that the Phils had been aggressive in pursuing the Detroit second baseman and former Phillie to play third. General manager Ruben Amaro did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and a source indicated to the Inquirer that a deal did not appear imminent. But the Phils’ interest in Polanco has been clear throughout the offseason, and word that talks have grown serious made sense in light of Amaro’s comments on Tuesday.
The GM said that, with utilityman Juan Castro and backup catcher Brian Schneider signed (Castro still must pass his physical tomorrow to finalize his deal), he was ready to focus on signing a third baseman.
He also said that Type A free agents not offered salary arbitration by their teams would become more attractive to him, because they would not require the Phils to sacrifice a first-round draft pick to the player’s former team. The Tigers did not offer Polanco arbitration before Tuesday’s deadline to do so.
Polanco would make the Phils a better team than they were with Feliz, whose $5 million option they declined--though the upgrade would not be massive. Let’s compare the two:
--Both players are 34 (Feliz will be 35 in April).
--Both hit for below average power for a corner infielder (Polanco had 10 home runs and a .396 slugging percentage last season; Feliz hit 12 homers, with a .386 slugging).
--Polanco gets on base far more than Feliz, with a .348 career on-base percentage, versus Feliz’s woeful .293.
--Both are expectional defenders, though they are difficult to compare because they have played different positions in recent years. Polanco won a Gold Glove award last month, and led all second baseman in Ultimate Zone rating, an advanced fielding metric. Feliz is known as a terrific third baseman, but the advanced stats have shown a recent decline.
--I wasn’t there, but players who were tell me that Polanco was very popular in the clubhouse during his first tenure with the Phils. Feliz was certainly not unpopular, is very close friends with Carlos Ruiz and an all-around funny guy. But he did irritate Charlie Manuel on a number of occasions for an, um, less-than-attentive style of play (my favorite quote of the year came the day after Feliz was doubled off in Tampa because he forgot how many outs there were in the inning. Asked if he would speak to Feliz about it, Manuel said, "I can stand up in a meeting and scream and holler. I can call you a dumb ass. But what good is that going to do if you don't know the situation in the game and how many outs?")