Quick Overview of Early Rumors

Jayson Stark published perhaps the most thorough list of names related to the Phillies so what better time to examine the off-season than now?

Clubs that checked in on [Zack] Greinke have also come away with the impression he wouldn’t approve a deal to ANY major-market East Coast team (Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets).

One can appreciate Greinke’s reluctance to go into a major media market having been hampered by social anxiety and depression earlier in his career. It doesn’t seem like the Phillies would have legitimately been part of any discussions involving Greinke, but imagining the starting rotation with him included induces nearly as much drool as Cliff Lee.

Here’s one Phillies source on the odds of his team finding a way to keep Jayson Werth: “No chance. None. Zero.” In the end, it might not even be the annual dollars that will force the Phillies to move on. It’s their unwillingness to go beyond three or four years for a player who will turn 32 next May.

Goodbye, Jayson. It was nice knowing you.

So where might the Phillies turn? Reports of their interest in guys like Magglio Ordonez, Pat Burrell and Andruw Jones appear highly exaggerated. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. continues to talk up Ben Francisco, at least in a potential platoon with Domonic Brown — or with Ross Gload if they decide Brown isn’t ready. But the Phillies would still shop for another right-handed-hitting outfield bat. One name we’ve heard a lot: Jeff Francoeur, who has told friends he’d love to play for Charlie Manuel.

Let’s start from the top. Ordonez demolishes left-handed pitching (career .411 wOBA) and would be great in a platoon with Raul Ibanez but Patrick Berkery of PhillyBurbs.com suggests that a one-year deal for the former Detroit Tiger could cost about $10 million. While Ordonez is still quite potent with the bat, that price is too high for the cash-strapped Phillies.

Burrell could accept something more team-friendly and also hits well against lefties (career .381 wOBA). However, the Phillies already have someone who can handle left-handers in Francisco (albeit not quite as well) and will assuredly earn a salary in the vicinity of $1 million as the Phillies will likely avoid going to arbitration with the outfielder. Unless Burrell is willing to sign for a lot less money than he’s used to making, the better option is Francisco.

Jones hits lefties about as well as Francisco (career .355 wOBA), but he has the baggage of being a severely declining 34-year-old outfielder. Why sign a Francisco clone when you already have Francisco?

Francoeur. I think the letters “ROFL” sum up the thought. He does not hit lefties as well as perceived (.346 wOBA). Frenchy is actually so below-average against right-handers that his production against lefties seems great by comparison. And again, Francisco is at least an equivalent player still under team control for three more years. Why not give him the shot to platoon with Ibanez?

The snippet above talks about platooning with Brown, but I’m assuming GM Ruben Amaro isn’t into sabotaging the progression of his organization’s top prospects.

The free agent the Phillies have been most aggressive about trying to re-sign isn’t Werth. It’s right-hander Jose Contreras, who struck out 57 in 56 2/3 innings in his first full season in the bullpen.

The issue with Contreras is his price, of course. The Phillies took a $1.5 million flier on him last year and it worked out quite well for both sides. The problem with fliers is that, if the players succeed, their price jumps considerably. While relievers with a 9.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 are not plentiful, the Phillies should look elsewhere unless Contreras accepts a salary close to what he earned last year — very unlikely.

The Phillies have a limited budget. Overpaying for relief pitching is not smart with these constraints.

Amaro wouldn’t confirm that, but did say: “We’ve made contact with 40 free agents, predominantly bullpen guys.” He also said: “Left-handed relief is a priority for us.”

Two names that could top that shopping list: Mets escapees Pedro Feliciano and Hisanori Takahashi.

Feliciano would be a great addition to the Phillies’ lefty-empty bullpen. Over the course of his career, Feliciano has a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against fellow lefties, good for a 2.88 xFIP. Feliciano made $2.9 million last year. As a 34-year-old who led the league in appearances in each of the last three seasons, the wear-and-tear on his arm is a concern. However, he has not showed any signs of slowing down as his second-half production last year was better than the first-half, and his overall stats match those of seasons past, for the most part.

Takahashi has slightly better strikeout and walk numbers against lefties compared to Feliciano, and has the added benefit of being able to start in a pinch having started 12 games for the New York Mets in 2010. Takahashi would likely come at a cheaper price than Feliciano, making him the more attractive option to the Phillies.

In other news, Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that the Phillies have signed former Atlanta Brave and Washington National Pete Orr. Offensively, Orr is around the same level as Eric Bruntlett and has experience playing both second and third base. The hot stove is burning!