With the start of the winter meetings getting underway in the fine city of Indianapolis, the most interesting topic of discussion is where premiere talents such as Roy Halladay, Jason Bay, Matt Holiday, Jon Lackey will end up either via trade or free agency. However, for the Philadelphia Phillies, they didn’t need a hour and 15 minute flight to Indy to get started on putting the possible pieces of the puzzle together that will help bring a World Series parade back to Broad St.
2B/3B Placido Polanco: Phillies fans might recognize this name. Or at least they should. Polanco, a former Phillie who played his last season for the Philadelphia in 2004, was signed to a three-year 18 million dollar deal to replace Pedro Feliz at 3B. While the Phillies will lose a potential gold-golver in Feliz on the hot corner, Polanco is a more than suitable defender (2 gold gloves at 2B for the Tigers), and will give the Phillies more dangerous bat as a perennial .300 hitter who hardly ever strikes out in a lineup that is already potent offensively.
C Brian Schneider: Usually considered a Phillies-killer in his days with the Expos/Nationals and the Mets, Schneider will finally get a chance to play for his hometown team, as the Allentown native grew up a Philadelphia sports fan. Schneider will make around 3 million this year, serving as the primary backup catcher to Carlos Ruiz and the emergency first baseman if both Ryan Howard and Greg Dobbs are unable to play.
OF Dewayne Wise: The player responsible for the arguably the greatest defensive play of the 2009 season (saving Mark Buehrle’s perfect game with a home-run robbing catch) was signed to a minor league contract by the Phillies on December 1st. Wise will report to spring training as a possible fifth outfielder option on the opening day roster, behind the three all-stars (Werth, Victorino, Ibanez) and Ben Francisco on the depth chart.
UTIL Juan Castro: Another player signed to a minor league deal. Castro will be given ever opportunity in spring training to beat out incumbent UTIL player Eric Bruntlett for a spot on the opening day roster. If he can’t manage that, then shame on him.
3B Pedro Feliz: A sad end to a solid two years with the Phillies for Feliz. Always solid defensively, Feliz hit over .300 with runners in scoring position out of the 7th spot in the order when he was with the Phillies. The only other player to do that for the Philadelphia over those two-seasons was Ryan Howard. That’s pretty elite company. However, the Phillies envisioned Feliz to hit 25-30 HR’s when they signed him before the 2008 season. When he didn’t come close to those power numbers, the organization decided to go a different way with the signing of Polanco. Look out for Feliz finding a home with an AL team who will allow him to play 3B and DH, with Baltimore being the early front-runner as a possible destination.
SP/RHP Brett Myers: The tenuous partnership between Myers and the Phillies organization is finally over. Just a week after the Phillies season ended, GM Ruben Amaro made it clear that he would not be renewing Myers’s contract, saying that he wanted to go in a “different direction”. I’ve always been a fan of Myers, but it’s hard to deny that he needs a change of scenery. Myers, even with a clouded injury past, is still projected as a starting pitcher by a handful of teams in baseball. Look for one of those teams, possibly the Texas Rangers, to end up with Myers.
OF Matt Stairs: In case of emergency, use the stairs. If you don’t believe that, just look into your time capsule and turn it back to Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS where Stairs single-handedly saved the Phillies season with a pinch-hit 2-run HR against LA’s Jonathan Broxton that after a year and two months still hasn’t landed yet. While he will always be a hero to Philly sports fans for that sole moment, his career is finished. Sadly, Stairs can no longer catch-up to fastballs that he is used to crushing out of the ballpark, which is unfortunate because Stairs is a dead-red fastball hitter. That’s not a good sign.
C Paul Bako: Another departure due to a free agent singing. Bako performed admirably in his limited role with the Phillies in 2009, but the Schneider signing marked the end of the Paul Bako era in Philadelphia. What a shame..
SP Pedro Martinez= Will the Phillies bring Pedro back after the team was 8-1 in his nine regular season starts during his two-month stint in 2009? My guess is yes.
SP John Smoltz= If the answer to that last question is no, look for Smoltz to be an option to fill the fifth starter role for the Phillies. Age (42) is a question with the future hall-of-famer, but if the Phillies want to give phenom Kyle Drabek one more year in the minors and they don’t view Martinez as an option, look for Smoltz as a possible candidate.
RHP Brandon Lyon= Don’t like this one bit. There’s no question that Lyon has plus-average stuff, but he has struggled mightily the past two seasons both as a closer and a middle reliever with Diamondbacks and the Tigers. It’s not like the Phillies view Lyon as a potential closer, so if they sign him, his role would be similar to Brett Myers’s during the Phillies 2009 post-season run. I’d personally have Myers.
SP Roy Halladay: A discussion for a different day…
Lastly, I will be present at the final two days of the Winter Meetings, so look for updates to this post.