December 11, 2012
Tuesday, December 11
A busy weekend gave way to a lethargic Monday: Apart from the Twins reaching a two-year deal with Kevin Correia, the transactions wire was completely dormant. As we await more action, here’s a glance at two recent developments and a look back at the lead-up to the weekend’s most polarizing trade.
Phillies likely to land one of top three free-agent corner outfielders
Matt Gelb, who covers the team for The Philadelphia Inquirer, reported on Monday that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is cognizant of the problem and expects to address it in the coming weeks. With Carlos Ruiz (suspended for the first 25 games of the 2013 season), Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins returning, and Young now onboard, the infield is set; that means the pop will have to come from either left or right field, where the internal options are Domonic Brown, John Mayberry, Laynce Nix, and Darin Ruf. Manuel told MLB.com beat writer Todd Zolecki that the quartet could be used to form a dual platoon flanking Revere, but that possibility seems remote, especially if—as Gelb calculated—Amaro has up to $20 million left to spend.
Gelb believes that one of Josh Hamilton, Cody Ross, or Nick Swisher will report to Clearwater, Fla. with the Phillies come spring training, though which of the three most appeals to Amaro is not yet clear. As Gelb previously reported from Nashville, Amaro hinted at his interest in Hamilton during the Winter Meetings, but he is wary of making another long-term commitment to a high-risk position player, with Howard signed through at least 2016. Hamilton is also a dicey fit for Manuel’s current lineup, because he—like Utley and Howard—bats left-handed, and has logged a relatively pedestrian .284 TAv against southpaws over the past several years, using the weighted-year system on his player card.
As the above plot from his hitter profile shows, the recipe for retiring Hamilton, at least for left-handed pitchers, isn’t much of a secret: Feed him a steady diet of breaking stuff down and away. That weakness existed in 2011 and in 2010, and Hamilton, who turns 31 in May, isn’t likely to solve it anytime soon. Amaro won’t pass up the opportunity to ink Hamilton on team-friendly terms, but if the bidding escalates beyond four years or $25 million per season, his warts may lead the GM to turn his attention to Ross or Swisher.
Ross, a right-handed hitter whose weighted-season platoon split against lefties is a robust .325, would slide much more smoothly into Manuel’s batting order, complementing Utley and Howard to form a balanced attack. The Phillies’ nemesis in the 2010 National League Championship Series, Ross turns 32 on Dec. 23, and works best on a roster with a left-handed partner to spell him versus northpaws who can exploit his Achilles’ heel: the same down-and-away sliders that plague Hamilton, only to the other side of the plate. Either Brown or Nix could serve in that role, assuming that Ross’ price tag is not prohibitive for a less-than-full-time player.