5 Dream Free-Agent Pickups for Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies are headed for a critical offseason. With holes in the bullpen, rotation, at right field and at catcher, the Phillies will have some work to do this offseason if they plan on fielding a contender in 2014.
Even if the Phillies can't realistically expect to contend for the postseason in 2014, they can still do more than just patchwork. While this year's free-agent crop is thin, it's headlined by its fair share of stars who could make an impact on any of MLB's 30 teams.
Given the Phillies' already hefty payroll and likely unwillingness to exceed the $189 million luxury tax, they will only be able to do so much with their vacant dollars on the free-agency front. While it's not far-fetched to think that the Phillies could sign a top free agent, the chances that they will sign three or four are probably slim to none.
With free agency officially starting at 12:01 a.m. EST Tuesday, November 5, the clock is ticking for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and Co. to determine which positions should be prioritized and who to sign to fill them. If he had his way, chances are that Amaro would sign the top free agents at each necessary position.
Today, that's what we're going to consider.
Amaro has the resources to sign at least one of the five players to be mentioned in this slideshow. Here are five dream free-agent pickups the Phillies would want to (and could) make.
Masahiro Tanaka, SP
Although technically not a free agent, Japanese superstar pitcher Masahiro Tanaka has put himself on the map as the top foreign import player this offseason has to offer. He's widely considered not as good as Yu Darvish, now with the Texas Rangers, but Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that he's expected to surpass Darvish in one thing: cost.
Passan writes that Tanaka's posting fee and contract very well could surpass Darvish's figures, which were $51.7 million and $60 million, respectively.
Tanaka went 24-0 in the NPB regular season with a 1.27 ERA and hadn't lost a start since August 19, 2012 until a 160-pitch complete-game loss in the Japan Series last week. The next day, Tanaka came back out and collected a 15-pitch save. An unnamed scout was "worried about [Tanaka's] arm" as a result of his overuse in the Japan Series, according to David Waldstein of the New York Times. Could that impact his price point in the States?
Regardless, there's plenty to like about Tanaka. He's only 25 years old, has put up video-game numbers in Japan and comes without the sacrifice of a draft pick should he be signed.
Of course, the big con is the potential posting fee and how the arm use could present itself as a dissuasion to other teams. But if a team like the Phillies has the money—which they might if they sign their new TV deal soon—the money may not be an issue, and the Phillies could have arguably this offseason's top starting pitcher in their rotation.
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Jacoby Ellsbury has been a player of constant flux. Until 2011, he'd been an above-average but injury-prone regular for the Boston Red Sox. Then 2011 came along and Ellsbury broke out, placing second in AL MVP voting. 2012 saw Ellsbury get hurt for a good chunk of the season again, and in 2013, Ellsbury led the AL in steals with 52.
Ellsbury's other numbers in 2013 were also stellar. The 30-year-old Ellsbury hit .298 with a .355 OBP and .781 OPS along with nine home runs, 31 doubles, eight triples and 53 RBI. Considering that he had played in just 74 games in 2012, Ellsbury's bounce-back season was encouraging, to say the least.
Most other MLB teams would salivate at the thought of having Ellsbury atop their lineup cards, but he'll cost a pretty penny. With Scott Boras as his agent, it's a given that whichever team signs Ellsbury will have as many dollars milked out of it as possible.
The influence of Boras—along with Ellsbury's injury history, the qualifying offer attached and Ben Revere's presence on the roster—is likely to turn the Phillies away from making a serious push for Ellsbury. Add in his left-handedness to an already lefty-heavy batting lineup, and you have an illogical fit. However, that's not enough to dissuade CBS Sports' Danny Knobler, who predicts that Ellsbury will land with the Phillies when all's said and done.
Could it happen? Sure. Would the Phillies be thrilled if it did? Absolutely. But the price tag will be exorbitant, and as long as Boras is in the picture, the Phillies, whose relationship with Boras is infamously strained, will probably kick the tires, but nothing more.
Ubaldo Jimenez, SP
Ubaldo Jimenez isn't the flashy name he was in 2010 when he placed third in NL Cy Young voting, but he's still been solid since then. Sure, he was a bit rocky after his trade to the Cleveland Indians in 2011 (pun intended), but after a decent 2012, Jimenez bounced back and pitched well in 2013, especially in September.
Jimenez's 2013 stat line reads as follows: 13-9 with a 3.90 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 194 strikeouts in 182.2 innings. It's far from elite, but his September was spectacular. In the final month of the season, Jimenez went 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 51 strikeouts in 41.1 innings.
He certainly positioned himself to strike gold in the offseason, and as a result of his fantastic finish to the season, Jimenez voided his club option for 2014, an ability he possessed due to his 2011 trade.
He's far from the most consistent starting pitcher on the free-agent market and would cost draft-pick compensation if signed since the Indians extended a qualifying offer to him. However, that's no object for the Phillies, who, thanks to their top-10 pick in next year's draft, would only surrender a second-round draft pick if they signed anyone with a qualifying offer attached to them.
If the money and contract length were right, the Phillies would be hard-pressed not to sign Jimenez. He's still got plenty left in the tank, and he'll turn only 30 years old in January. Jimenez might not be the smartest allotment of money, but if the Phillies had to miss out on Tanaka, Jimenez is arguably the next best option.
Shin-Soo Choo, RF
Shin-Soo Choo has been a man of consistency while he's been in the majors. Throughout his eight-plus year career, he's managed to tally up a .288 batting average and .389 on-base percentage. Combine that with a .465 slugging percentage, and you end up with a lifetime .854 OPS. That's pretty darn good.
Choo isn't much of a power hitter, as he's only slugged 104 homers in his career. But in 2013, Choo did well to show that he's got some power in him and that he's worth a sizable contract this offseason.
This past year, Choo batted .283 with a .423 OBP and .462 SLG, which combine to form an .885 OPS. He also hit 21 home runs, stole 20 bases and drove in 54 runs atop the Cincinnati Reds lineup. You can't ask for much better than that.
There are two major problems with Choo, however. One is the same as it is with Ellsbury, and that's that Scott Boras is his agent. The other is that Choo has primarily played right field in his career, though he played most of his games in 2013 in center. In right field, his defense is superb, but in center field, it was atrocious.
Having said that, the lack of freshness in right field shouldn't be an issue for Choo, and it's an issue that any team could work around rather easily. The bigger problem—for a team like the Phillies, especially—is Boras. If the two sides could potentially work around their differences, then a deal could be struck and the Phillies would have a solid 31-year-old right fielder on their hands.
Brian Wilson, RP
Didn't expect to see this guy here, did you?
I'm as tired of Brian Wilson's schtick as the next Phillies fan, but after returning in late 2013 from Tommy John surgery, Wilson showed that he's still got plenty left in the tank, and his reconstructed elbow.
After spending years as the San Francisco Giants' closer and winning two World Series rings in the process, Wilson joined the dark side—at least, that's how San Francisco saw it—when he signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers in late July. It didn't take him long to reacclimate to professional baseball, and he proved that he belonged back in the majors with an incredible stat line over the final month-and-a-half of the season.
In 18 games this season, Wilson pitched to a 2-1 record with a 0.66 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 13 strikeouts in 13.2 innings. It's a small sample size, but Wilson did little to suggest that his days as an elite reliever are finished.
Wilson could market himself as either a closer or a setup man, and the Phillies would be glad to have him aboard as the latter. If Wilson's price range is acceptable and he opts to sign as the latter, he could end up as the elite setup man the Phillies have longed for since Ryan Madson walked after 2011.