Friday, September 19, 2014
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A slow December, for a change?

A week from today, baseball's annual winter meetings will kick off in Dallas. At the moment, it is hard to envision anything of consequence happening to the Phillies' roster between now and then. With the acquisition of Ty Wigginton last week, the team has the vast majority of its Opening Day roster in place.

A slow December, for a change?

One of the Phillies´ top priorities is to either re-sign Jimmy Rollins or go after a high-caliber shortstop. (Yong Kim/Staff File Photo)
One of the Phillies' top priorities is to either re-sign Jimmy Rollins or go after a high-caliber shortstop. (Yong Kim/Staff File Photo)

A week from today, baseball's annual winter meetings will kick off in Dallas. At the moment, it is hard to envision anything of consequence happening to the Phillies' roster between now and then. With the acquisition of Ty Wigginton last week, the team has the vast majority of its Opening Day roster in place.

The current tally:

13 veterans signed to a guaranteed total of $122 million (Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, Carlos Ruiz, Shane Victorino, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton, Jonathan Papelbon, Jose Contreras, Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton, Brian Schneider)

2 regulars who are arbitration eligible projected to earn in the neighborhood of $25 million (Cole Hamels, Hunter Pence)

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2 players who will receive close to the veteran minimum of $480,000 (John Mayberry Jr., Vance Worley).

That leaves eight slots open on the 25-man roster with about $30 million of payroll between their current projected obligations and the $178 million luxury tax threshold. Going over the luxury tax is not debilitating - at this point it simply means the Phillies will have to pay about $200,000 for every $1 million they spend over $178 million. But all indications are that the Phillies will attempt to keep their payroll right around that level. 

We have already examined most of this stuff in previous blog posts, but in the absence of any concrete news to report, we are left to re-hash. 

Their priorities:

1) Short stop - I expect this market to continue to play out slowly. Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins would present offensive upgrades for most big league clubs, but the usual big-spenders are mostly set at the position. The Phillies appear to be at a point where they have three options: sign Rollins to a multi-year contract, sign a cheap veteran, or swing a trade with a team that can afford to part with the position (the Red Sox, with Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro, or the Yankees, with Eduardo Nunez, for example). All three options depend on how the market develops, and right now the players with marketable offensive skills (essentially Reyes, Rollins, and Rafael Furcal) have little incentive to rush into a deal, given the lack of supply-side competition. And so we wait. 

2) Outfield - Regardless of what the Phillies say publicly, they are going to bring in an outfielder who can give them some depth/insurance behind John Mayberry Jr. Mayberry played great last season, but nobody knows if he can do it on an every day basis. The smart money is on a left-handed bat. I've floated the name David DeJesus because he is one of the few options who brings any sort of offensive and defensive versatility to the table, and because he is just one year removed from hitting .300 and doing a lot of nice things for the Royals. He had a career-worst year last season in Oakland, but let's face it: a lot of players have career-worst years in Oakland. Johnny Damon is another guy who has some upside, but he is also far enough away from his peak years that any investment is fraught with risk. The rumor mill has mentioned the Phillies in the same sentence with Twins lefty Jason Kubel on several occasions. Such a signing would not surprise me, although it would seem to run counter to the Phillies' desire to change the dynamic of their lineup.

The Phillies have clearly targeted Michael Cuddyer, but the acquisition of Ty Wigginton at least gives them another option for depth at the corner infield positions and lessens the need to go well beyond their comfort range in dollars and years. The way I see it, the signing of Cuddyer would not eliminate the need for another lefty bat, although the Phillies might not see it the same way. 

Josh Willingham is one of the better offensive outfielders available, but there have never been any indications that the Phillies view him as a likely fit. One wild card to watch is Carlos Beltran. If the veteran outfielder was prioritizing a shot to win a ring and was willing to accept a one or two-year deal, the Phillies might find themselves tempted to make a run at him. He would drastically upgrade the offense, provided he remained healthy. 

3) Bullpen - Amaro has said he is comfortable with where the unit stands, but I would not be surprised to see them wade back into the relief market if they see a cost-effective veteran, particularly a lefty, who can be had on a one-year deal with a base salary under $3 million. 

That's about where things stand at the moment. The Phillies have two complicated contract situations to figure out with Hamels and Pence as the free agent market continues to develop. Otherwise, it is shaping up to be a slow December. 



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