The Philadelphia Phillies crawled back from the dead this season and managed to become relevant in the NL Wild Card race down the stretch. The bulk of the success this season came after the club traded away outfielders Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino. Those moves coincided with the return to health of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and, according to Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the 2013 version of the club could have a much different look.
Listen to manager Charlie Manuel, and you can envision a team with Chase Utley at third base, Freddy Galvis at second base, a big-ticket free agent playing center field, and at least one quality free-agent addition to the bullpen.
The plan is that the Phillies would like to upgrade their team defense while also supplementing the lineup. Moving Utley on third on a full-time basis would allow for Freddy Galvis to take over a second. Galvis began the season at the position for the Phillies in 2012, filling in for the injured Utley. Unfortunately for the Phillies, Galvis suffered a back injury and wound up suspended for PED use. If drugs enhanced his performance, Philadelphia might be in real trouble when he comes back clean next season, as he posted a mere .226/.254/.363 line in 200 plate appearances.
While Galvis has a slick glove that will be an upgrade on the limited range of Utley at second, Utley’s move to third would bring an end to Placido Polanco‘s second tour of duty in the City of Brotherly Love. Polanco is in the final season of a three-year deal signed following the 2009 season and, when he’s been healthy, he’s been a steady performer. Polanco has won a gold glove at third, so Utley likely represents a downgrade at the position, but his bat more than makes up for the difference. The difference between Polanco and Galvis, however, is more like a chasm.
Utley’s hip is likely to continue to cause him problems, and a move to third means much less movement defensively. The choice isn’t really as simple as Galvis or Polanco, it’s probably more “Utley and Polanco until Utley gets hurt and then Galvis and Polanco.” The Phillies are hoping that by shift Utley across the diamond, they can keep him healthier and in the lineup more going forward. And that makes them a better club, no mater how you slice it.
As far as the “big-ticket free agent” in centerfield, Brookover mentions Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton by name for the role and both would be excellent, though expensive choices. The Phillies saved $14 million by dealing pence to the Giants and will have $6 million coming off the books from the Polanco contract, so there is money to spend despite a payroll that already features four $20 million men. Upton and Bourn are going to be two of the bigger names available this winter and while each will command a salary upwards of $10 million per year, hat should fit into Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s budget.