An Eye on Next Year: The Infield
Let’s continue our series of posts on improving the Phillies for next year. The Phillies are a season-low 8 games under .500, so we might as well. I am not officially writing them off, but it certainly doesn’t look good. They are 7.5 back in the wild card with about a zillion teams ahead of them. The Phillies, the team that won 102 games last year, are just three up on the Houston Astros, the team that has defined futility the last few years.
We first looked at the starting rotation, now we’ll move on to the infield.
The Phillies are set at catcher with our hero, Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz. He has one more year (club option) on his deal, so the Phillies will face an interesting situation after next year as Chooch will be 34 after next season and 35 to start the 2014 campaign.
At first base, Ryan Howard will be back. It will be interesting to see how he does the rest of this year, but, regardless, he is not going anywhere.
Second base is an intriguing story. The Phillies had one of the best ever at the position for a number of years in Chase Utley, but injuries have cut down his production by quite a bit. I’ve advocated on this blog to trade Utley in the offseason, even if he does well the rest of the year. I just don’t think the Phillies can go another year with that big off-season question of whether Utley will start the year in 2013 in Philadelphia or require another two months of rehab. If the Phillies can find an AL team to take Utley as a DH and pay his whole contract, I say go for it. I don’t say that lightly as he is my favorite Phillie, but next year would probably be his last year as a Phillie anyway. If they can lose his $15 million salary and use it elsewhere, they should. So that leaves Freddy Galvis to play second. Although a shortstop for the Phillies in the minors, Freddy switched to second to play in Utley’s absence. Galvis signed with the Phillies at a very young age, and was the classic “good glove, no bat” guy until last year when he had better production between AA and AAA. Of course, now that he’s been suspended due to alleged steroid use, that improved production may be looked upon suspiciously. With the big club this year, Galvis did amazingly well in the field, but struggled at the plate hitting just .226 with a .254 OBP. If he wants to be more than just a utility guy, he will have to improve there. If Galvis is going to be starting at second next year, the Phillies will have to get more offense from another position. Another possibility if Utley is traded is to sign a second baseman like Kelly Johnson (.259/.342/.435) to a deal and let Galvis get more seasoning in AAA as he is still young.
At shortstop, Jimmy Rollins will be back. Rollins might be able to provide addition offensive help if he could just avoid another prolonged slump next year.
There will be a new player at third base next year as Placido Polanco will not be back. The Phillies will almost certainly take his buyout. A class act and a good hitter over his career, Polanco’s offensive production has curtailed the past two years due to injuries and possibly age. (he is now 36). Unfortunately for the Phillies, the free agent third base crop for next year is incredibly thin. Most are over the age of 35. The Mets doing well is bad for several reasons, but for the Phillies it means the Mets will probably pick up David Wright’s option or extend his contract. So, this basically leaves the Phillies with Ty Wigginton (uh, no) and making a trade. Who could they trade? Well, I hope not Hamels, but that’s on the table. Lee and most significantly Hunter Pence are the other most tradeable commodities. Call someone up from the minors? As with most positions, the Phillies are quite thin on third base prospects.
Next we will look at the outfield.