NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Baseball convened Monday at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, and soon thereafter another centerfield option fell off the board. With Angel Pagan's four-year, $40 million reunion in San Francisco, the Phillies have fewer answers to a lingering dilemma.
But what if they have been asking the wrong question?
Centerfield has been Ruben Amaro Jr.'s priority from the beginning of this winter. He first courted B.J. Upton and, sources say, offered five years and $55 million. Atlanta signed him to a five-year, $75.5 million contract. Pagan was a fallback option, and the Phillies would not match San Francisco's terms.
With only Michael Bourn and Shane Victorino as the remaining free-agent options, what if the Phillies instead focused on obtaining a corner outfielder?
The appeal with Upton was his power potential. Josh Hamilton, probably a corner outfielder at this point in his career, has tantalizing talent with obvious risk. Nick Swisher, 32, has averaged 26 home runs and an .850 OPS during the previous four seasons. Ryan Ludwick, 34, bashed 26 home runs for Cincinnati in 2012.
Signing Bourn, Hamilton or Swisher would require forfeiture of the Phillies' first-round pick (No. 16 overall).
Acquiring a corner outfielder does not solve the centerfield quandary because there are no real internal options. The Phillies would ultimately have to find someone for center, but if they upgraded the corners, there is less needed in center. Ideally, the Phillies find someone who at least is above-average defensively.
The Phillies are yet not willing to meet Bourn's contract demands. He is believed to be seeking a deal richer than Upton's, and the Phillies offered Upton significantly less than what Atlanta did. A reunion with Victorino is viewed unlikely by multiple baseball sources because it would be a lateral move. Colorado is said to be asking a ton for Dexter Fowler, whose road numbers make him look like a product of Coors Field.
Again, there are few answers to this lingering question. Maybe it's time to think differently.