Inbox: How will Asche, Franco fit into Phils' plans?
Inbox: How will Asche, Franco fit into Phils' plans?
By Todd Zolecki
Two of the Phillies' top prospects, Cody Asche and Maikel Franco, play third base. Would the Phillies consider a change of position for one of them?
-- Myron S., East Aurora, N.Y.
The Phillies have already played Franco at first base to make him more versatile, and they have talked about Asche possibly playing some outfield. But the team likes Asche's glove at third and Ryan Howard is the first baseman, so if Asche makes the team as the Opening Day third baseman and Howard is healthy at first, I'm not sure what the Phillies would do, other than platoon at third base. They could do that, allowing both players the opportunity to break into the big leagues.
Following Howard's Rookie of the Year season in 2005, the Phillies traded Jim Thome to the White Sox, taking on some of Thome's salary. Howard would be much more difficult to trade, because he is owed $60 million following next season, but it is something to keep in mind going forward.
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With rumors of Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton being traded for a heavy price, would Ruben Amaro Jr. try to acquire him, and what would be the cost? I could foresee Jesse Biddle, Darin Ruf, Ben Revere, Asche, and maybe Freddy Galvis.
-- Bob D., West Creek, N.J.
Amaro has said a few times that he has called the Marlins about Stanton. And he will continue to call the Marlins about Stanton, because the slugger would be a tremendous boost to a left-handed-heavy lineup. But it will take a steep price, and frankly, the players you mentioned don't get it done. But Biddle and Asche could be a starting point.
Looking at the list of pending free agents, not too many names stick out, but to fill the void of a right-handed bat, do you think the Phillies are interested in Nelson Cruz, Hunter Pence or Michael Morse? Two other guys on that list that would be interesting are Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury.
-- Joe W., Newark, Del.
Cruz just served a 50-game suspension related to the Biogenesis investigation. Buyer beware, especially if he is looking for a multi-year deal. Personally, I wouldn't take the risk. The Phillies have enough contracts they can't move. Pence already resigned with the Giants, so he's out. Morse struggled this season, but the Phillies have loved him in the past. Beltran is interesting, but at what price? Ellsbury hits left-handed, so if that happened, the Phils would need to trade one of their left-handed bats to find somebody to hit right-handed. Amaro has said he would load up on left-handers if they can hit left-handed pitching, but the team overall can't hit left-handed pitching. Their .679 OPS against southpaws ranked 22nd in baseball. This team needs balance.
It just doesn't make any sense to make pitching a No. 1 priority, considering Citizens Bank Park is a hitters' park and the 2008 Phillies hit their way to a win a World Series. Why not focus on offense in the offseason? The Phillies need power and to increase their on-base percentage.
-- Ron K., Hughestown, Pa.
The Phillies have holes everywhere, so they really can't concentrate on just one area. They tied for 26th in baseball with 610 runs, and their .306 on-base percentage ranked 24th. Pitching-wise, their rotation ranked 25th with a 4.41 ERA, while the bullpen came in 27th with a 4.19 ERA.
They could focus solely on improving the offense, but they don't have much flexibility there. They have Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and most likely Asche in the infield. Domonic Brown and Revere are expected to take up two outfield spots. That leaves just right field and catcher. Even if the Phillies put all their eggs in one basket and land a superstar in the outfield, they could fall short because of pitching.
Ruf seemed like the only player willing to take a walk and was the only power from the right side. So why does Amaro seem so down on him? He wasn't great in right field, but was able to hold his own.
-- Bob M., Glendora, N.J.
The Phillies haven't effectively replaced Jayson Werth since he left following the 2010 season. They tried Ben Francisco in 2011, John Mayberry Jr. in 2012 and Delmon Young in 2013, so I think they're looking for a sure thing -- or as close to a sure thing as they can get. Ruf carried a .348 on-base percentage and hit 14 home runs in 293 plate appearances, but he also hit just .150 (9-for-60) with runners in scoring position. And as much as anything, the Phillies need to improve their outfield defense. Brown showed lapses in left, and while Revere made improvements in center before he got hurt, this team can't go another season letting so many balls fall into the gaps.
Will manager Ryne Sandberg break up Howard and Utley by putting a right-handed power bat between them?
-- Lee F., Easton, Pa.
They don't have that guy right now, so no.
Will Amaro consider trading Brown for a good right-handed hitter to play in the outfield?
-- Phil S., Lebanon, Pa.
If a GM from another team comes calling about Brown, Amaro would be wise to listen. He has talked about getting creative this offseason, so that means listening to anything that comes his way.
What is going to happen to Mayberry? I feel he can play if they give him a chance. He has speed, and he can catch.
-- Kathy C., Ridley Park, Pa.
They have given him a chance. He had 479 plate appearances in 2012, but he never produced consistently, carrying a .695 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He had 384 plate appearances this season, but had just a .677 OPS. Mayberry is eligible for salary arbitration, and I would be surprised if the Phillies tendered him a contract.
If the Phillies are going to bring back the core of a roster that lost 89 games, they have to make changes somewhere. Moving on from players like Mayberry and Michael Martinez may be a good place to change the look and feel of the roster. It won't catapult the Phillies to the World Series, but they can't keep the status quo, either.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.