Now that we know the Phillies will be without Chase Utley for two months and Placido Polanco for three to four weeks, let's take a look at some of the players who could be available. I've included second baseman and third baseman, since Wilson Valdez can play either position until Polanco returns, and Polanco can play either position when he returns. I've divided the names into three categories:
Five good fits: These are players who would provide the best possible offensive upgrades at either second base or third base. Problem is, most of them will likely require a decent prospect in return.
Probably not: These players have solid offensive track records, but probably don't fit the profile of what the Phillies are looking for, in terms of price and performance.
Marginal upgrades: Since it is still early in July, and the rest of the sport knows the Phillies can't afford to wait until July 31 to swing a deal, these players might end up being the most available.
Dirt Cheap: Guys who are available for next to nothing.
Without further adieu. . .
Five Good Fits
1. Mark Ellis, Oakland: His name hasn't popped up much in trade speculation, but the 33-year-old veteran could be exactly what the Phillies need right now. He's a good defender at second base (.990 career FLD PCT), has some pop (10 HR in 410 PA last season, 84 in the last six years), and is known as good clubhouse guy. Oakland might be reluctant to sell, but they are nine games out of first place in the ALWest, have gotten solid play out of Adam Rosales at second during Ellis' bout with a hamstring injury, and have two top prospects who play second base (switch-hitter Jemile Weeks is hitting .304 and slugging .490 at Double-A, while former Phils prospect Adrian Cardenas, who plays third and second, is hitting .298/.358/.388 at Triple-A). Ellis is owed roughly $2.5 million the rest of the season. He has a $6 million option for 2011 with a $500k buyout. The hamstring injury has limited to 44 games, but he has played regularly since the start of June and is hitting .286/.353/.370 with two home runs and seven doubles in 44 games. The problem is that Oakland is in a position to demand at least a solid prospect for Ellis.
2. Ty Wigginton, Orioles: The knock on Wigginton is his fielding. But despite mediocre fielding percentages at second base (six errors, .963 in 36 games) and third base (two errors, .833 in six games), he does play a variety of positions and would be able to get some at-bats in the outfield when Utley returns. He's believed to be available via trade and will be owed roughly $1.75 mil the rest of the season.
3. Kelly Johnson, Diamondbacks: It's impossible to tell what the recent upheaval in Arizona's front office means for the trade market, but Johnson is one of their more marketable players. He plays second base (and can play outfield), has hit 13 home runs, and is signed to a $2.35 million contract. But Arizona could be looking for a solid prospect in return.
4. Jhonny Peralta, Indians: The 28-year-old has been something of a disappointment after hitting 80 home runs from 2005-08, but he still has some pop (5 home runs and a .401 SLG in 269 AB this season) despite mediocre contact (.253 BA) and on base (.318) numbers. He isn't know as a great defender at third base, but is adequate enough. A right-handed bat, he's owed roughly $2.5 mil the rest of the season and has a cheap buyout of his 7 mil option for next season. There is some thought that the Indians' dealing of Cliff Lee to the Phillies last season could complicate a trade, since the public perception in Cleveland is that the organization was rooked. But, at least on paper, the four prospects the Indians received for Lee have fared better than the three the Phillies got from the Mariners. Although catcher Lou Marson struggled mightily after starting the year with the team, Jason Donald continues to show that he can, at the very least, be a solid utility player, and righthander Carlos Carrasco has had some success at Triple-A. And though Jason Knapp underwent offseason shoulder surgery, he is still only 20 years old.
5. Jose Lopez, Mariners: He's younger than Miguel Tejada, cheaper than Tejada, and is coming off a career year in which he hit 25 home runs. But he has struggled this season, hitting just .242, and his career OBP is just .300. That said, Lopez has hit .298 and slugged .429 against left-handed pitching this season and has hit .287/.322/.412 against them in his career. He can play second or third. One option the Phillies could consider is a platoon at third with Greg Dobbs.
1. Miguel Tejada, Orioles: Although his power numbers have declined steadily and his OBP is just .314, Tejada is still a solid contact hitter. That said, he has struggled at times in his transition to third base, with 10 errors already this season. Combine that with the $3 million he'll be owed and it's hard to see this being a fit, despite the Phillies' affinity for him during his illustrious career. Of course, if the Phillies can get him for next-to-nothing in exchange for taking on his money, he might be worth the risk.
2. Cristian Guzman, Nationals: He's a very good offensive player and he's killed the Phillies in recent years. But he will be owed about $4 million the rest of the season, meaning the Phillies would either have to take on money or give up better prospects for the Nats to eat some of the cash. Plus, it's hard to see Washington trading within the division at the risk of turning off a fan base that has become energized with the arrival of Stephen Strasburg.
3. Alex Gonzalez, Blue Jays: It's hard to see the Blue Jays selling off Gonzalez, even though they stand little chance of making the postseason. He signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal in the offseason and has a cheap $2.5 million option for next season, which isn't a bad price to pay for the excitement that his 14 home runs bring to the fan base.
1. Mike Fontenot, Cubs: A contact hitter with a little bit of pop, he's played well in a part-time role with the Cubs.
2. Jeff Keppinger, Astros: Not much power, but is hitting .275 with a .331 OBP this season.
3. Willie Bloomquist, Royals: He can play anywhere and is a career .270 hitter against lefties.
1. Hank Blalock, Rays-DFA
2. Garrett Atkins, Free Agent
3. Mark Grudzielanek, Free Agent