The Phillies have at least one too many third basemen. General manager Pat Gillick says that's not a problem. And he's probably right. The first full workout for pitchers and catchers isn't until 2 weeks from tomorrow.
At some point, though, this numbers game will become an issue. Unless Pedro Feliz, whose signing should become official by the end of the week, is injured during the Grapefruit League, something's gotta give.
And while anything can happen and situations change by the day, at the moment the odd man out appears to be Wes Helms. His two positions are third base and first base. The Phillies' depth chart will show Feliz and 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard at those spots. It's not hard to see that Helms now appears very expendable.
The Phillies aren't going to say that, of course, and undermine what little trade leverage they may have. But you have to believe that they're already scouting the landscape to see what teams might be looking for help.
Here's a look at the (short) list of clubs that might be in the mood to add a third baseman before Opening Day:
Marlins: This is the first team everybody thinks of because the teams did have discussions during the winter meetings. It was reported at the time that Florida offered righthander Scott Nestor and that the Phillies turned it down because the Fish also wanted them to pay about half of the $2.9 million ($2.15 million 2008 salary and $750,000 option buyout) Helms had left on his contract.
Since then, the Marlins have signed Jose Castillo to play third. But they're familiar with Helms, who had a pretty good season for the Marlins in 2006.
Rays: There is some disagreement in the front office over whether superprospect Evan Longoria would be better served by playing in the big leagues this season or getting another year of experience in the minors.
Twins: Minnesota can't be sure that Mike Lamb can handle the position on a regular basis. At the same time, if the Johan Santana deal to the Mets goes through, they would appear to be trying to rebuild rather than compete.
Giants: Letting Feliz go left San Francisco without an obvious replacement; Rich Aurilia and Kevin Frandsen are currently the options.
Athletics: Eric Chavez is coming off operations on both shoulders and his lower back.
All this is subject to change, of course, as teams report to spring training and have previously unsuspected needs. No doubt, the Phillies will be monitoring the ever-changing market closely.
Mike Schmidt and Garry Maddox will return as guest instructors at spring training. Schmidt's role has been expanded. He will spend 2 weeks in camp and work alongside infield coach Steve Smith with the third basemen. *