Who’s Left for Phillies? B.J. Upton Signs With Atlanta
If you're struggling to find a sense of loss at the news that free agent center fielder B.J. Upton signed a five-year, $75 million pact with the division-rival Braves Wednesday night, as conventional wisdom says you should, stop straining yourself.
It’s not worth it.
(Listen to Mike Gill's Interview with Phillies assistant FM Scott Proerock on the Sports Bash about the offseason)
For one, the dollars just don't make sense. While it wasn't Jayson Werth's seven years and $126 million, for an eight-year pro who once hit more than 25 home runs (2012) and once hit .300 (2007), Upton's figures simply scream "reach."
For the Phillies, for those terms – or, considering how Ruben Amaro bid against himself for Jonathan Papelbon this month last year, more – for an on-or-off player, even Upton at his best would've been hard to justify.
At his worst? Gag.
What's more? The Phillies never really seemed that vested in landing him.
All Amaro had to say earlier this week, after doing his due diligence to bring Upton in for a visit?
"The tricky part about that is you better pay for the right guy," he said. "When you pay for those guys, you just don't know how they'll play in Philadelphia. There's always a risk because you don't know a guy."
And at his year-end presser, when the pain that was watching his in-house options at center field was still fresh?
“I think it’s OK,” he said of the free agent market for outfielders, in a tone that admittedly could've been wielded to veil his intentions. “It's not fantastic."
Turning that on its head, though, starts to make you feel as if you're doing the same.
If not Bourn, then who? What? How?
That's the biggest consideration here: Whether the team can return to prominence next season, in time to milk whatever's left of its aging roster. And – perhaps more optimistically than sensibly -- if it can do so without upgrading at center field.
In a different year with a surer staff, maybe the lineup could do as is, especially with a heightened sense of urgency sparked by a team-wide understanding of its inadequacy -- and some good ol’ fashioned youthful vigor from Darin Ruf and, maybe, Domonic Brown.
This, though, isn’t said year.
That said: The free agent market seems officially soured because now it's set, inflating the cost for Michael Bourn and Angel Pagan, who, even though they won't get more years and dollars than Upton, will demand a pricer haul than they should get -- and more than the Phillies should give them or anyone in this crop.
The trade market appears a better alternative, particularly for a club that's got $123 million tied up in seven players next year. It's humble -- we're talking Denard Span or Dexter Fowler or someone similar -- but maybe more balanced, in that it lends itself to pretty much every item on the team's short list: a trade would let them all at once dump payroll, get younger and plug more holes than a single free agent signing. Even a series of them.
In October, Amaro even hinted at it as a preference.
"I think there are people there that can help us," he said. "I think there may be some people on the trade market that may be better for us."
Maybe not better in the traditional sense of senseless fandom. But in the grounded, practical, self-corrective sense of a man who knows he's overleveraged a bit on some unwise and unnecessary expenditures, this booms brilliance.
Minor problem: The Wilton Lopez trade Wednesday may have cleared out their farm system, complicating future deals.
Major problem: Their big-league roster is largely overpaid and, correspondingly, undervalued on the open market.
Their easiest sell, Cliff Lee -- who's future earnings and recent production don't exactly sell themselves -- would require that the Phillies eat a considerable chunk of his $75 million through 2015 and $27.5 million club option for 2016 with a $12.5 million buyout. Not exactly attractive, nor are the alternatives.
Ultimately, if Amaro can swing an Amaro-like deal this offseason, it will surely be his finest, and not just because it would likely white out some of the ink-stained slip-ups.
More likely? The team signs free agent Shane Victorino and makes similarly minor moves at third base and for utility infielders and outfielders to spackle its cracks and provide depth.
Maybe this winter will show more sizzle.
But in reality, one most should’ve recognized before the Upton signing all but nixed that possibility, that might not have ever been the plan.
Maybe that’s for the best, even if 2013 suffers for it and the fans suffer through it.