I do this every year. I look through the Free Agents for baseball and come up with my dream scenario of where I think my team should go. I understand there is a lot more that goes into building these teams then the drag and drop method I am going to lay out here but I am a fan and I am going to think like a fan. With that being said, I will not be ridiculous and have Pujols manning the hot corner and Prince chasing balls down in CF. I do realize there is a slotting in baseball and that money does end up making a lot of decisions.
My team is the Phillies. I was heart broken as Howard collapsed to the ground and the entire Cardinals team was dancing around the infield at the bank a few weeks back. Although I still believe the best team was the Phillies I have to hand it to the hot team in the Cardinals for beating a daunting team like the Phillies. I do believe that the Phillies beat themselves though. They beat themselves because they had a few major flaws. Flaws I am going to attempt to sew up in my post here...
Free agency is not light on star power at the top but seriously lacks depth at the bottom. Fortunately the major defeciency this year's class of free agents has is a major strength already for the Phillies...Pitching. There are some potential game changers out there though and that is what I am going to attempt to find...so here...we...go...
CATCHER- Carlos Ruiz is a lock as a starter. He is one of the best at calling a game and even his offensive numbers are respectable. With Sebastian Valle still a season or two away from making an impact at the MLB level the Phillies need to find a reliable back up to Ruiz. With the exception of a few they all look the same...mid 30's, not offensively impressive in any way.
FIRST BASE- Ryan Howard-The 25 million dollar man! Actually he doesn't reach that peak until next season but at a cool 20 million he is due to miss significant time this season barring a miracle like rehab of his achillies. Think what you want about him...there are about two million arguements out there as to why he is not elite but he continues to rack up 100+ RBI and 35+ HR seasons despite his anemic batting average and left handed pitching prowess. Simply put...you win ball games by driving in runs and Howard is one of the best in the league at doing it. He is servicable defensively and for the way this team is built is worth the money. The big question is going to be how to replace him...
SECOND BASE- Chase Utley- If he isn't the best second baseman in baseball anymore he is still top 3. Chase will be back and healthy for the first time in a few seasons. Look for a BIG year.
SHORTSTOP- Jimmy Rollins? I don't know. By far one of the best defensive SS's in the league. Offensively offensive the past couple of years. He did have a decent season but not the kind of season that gets you 5 years at the age of 33 at the rate of money he is expecting. He is the heart and soul of this team but hasn't been the vocal leader that we are used to seeing the past 2 years. I would inquire on the price of Reyes if I were the Phillies...if you are going to spend money on the SS position then I would spend it on him. I know the contract will need to be huge and he was a Met...and he has injury history...but he would be a real lead-off hitter. If the price is too high then I would go back to Rollins...offer a 3 year contract worth 36 million dollars with a player option for the 4th and a mutual option for a 5th. That is the closest he is going to get to a five year deal. The last option? Sign a stop gap SS for a year and hope that Freddy Galvis is everything we think he might be.
Third Base- Placido Polanco. I feel like there has been a severe drop off in support of Polanco for no reason really. He has been playing hurt all year. If you have never had a sports hernia then you won't understand how hard it is to do anything let alone play 3B for a full season. I expect a healthy Placido back.
Right Field- Hunter Pence. Need I say more?
Center Field- Shane Victorino. Had his best season of his career in 2011...look for him to take on the leadership role for this team.
Left Field- John Mayberry. He is a potential .280 hitter with 30+ HR power in an everyday role. He is Jayson Werth of 2008 and 2009. I have been on this guys side since they acquired him and I think he deserves a chance to be the guy in LF for the Phillies. Dominic Brown needs a full year in AAA in LF before he can even be considered for the Phillies.
BENCH- Two guys enter this conversation and only one should make the roster out of spring training. The Phillies need to decide whether the infield utility role goes to Martinez or Valdez. I give Valdez the edge here since he can also pitch in the late innings (joking). The truth is the Phillies wasted a bench spot carrying both. I know for most of the year they needed both but there are guys available as free agents that could fill the defensive role and even offer a little offense off the bench. Wilson Betemit would be a great fit here. He would be a decent stop gap starter should any of the infielders get hurt and would offer a switch hitter bat off the bench for the Phillies. I believe the smartest thing the Phillies could do is grap Ryan Doumit. He would be able to spell Ruiz at catcher as needed and would offer yet another switch bat off the bench with a little pop. Not to mention he can also play 1B and the OF...something that may come in handy with Howard on the DL. Other guys I would like to see added in a bench role would be Conor Jackson, Juan Rivera and or Grady Sizemore. Conor Jackson plays 1B and OF and had the ability to offer power off of the bench. He once was a great prospect and I think he could regain form in Philadelphia. I really don't see Rivera spending too much time in the OF but could serve as a decent bench bat and a solution at 1B until Howard returns. Lastly, Sizemore could be had and may be a potential steal. This guy was an absolute beast and at one point was a top 10 guy in all of baseball. He is just hurt. He would take an incentive laden contract with a team that has legit chances at the post-season. How do you get him over the other teams? A multi-year deal. This is just a chance you take with a guy like this and hope he can make it pay off for you. Sizemore would allow Mayberry to man 1B until Howard returns.
There is a lot of contingencies here...but in the end a bench of Valdez, Betemit, Doumit, Jackson and Sizemore seems decent right? Sizemore is a nice insurance policy for the OF and potential trade chip should he return to form. Sound better than Valdez, Martinez, Francisco, Gload and Bowker? I think so.
Blanton's health is the concern here...if he is not healthy do they turn to Kendrick? I think bringing in another SP would be smart but they can't spend too much on it.
There is a lot of young talent available for relief in Philadelphia. If a FA is added it should be of the lefty variety. Kendrick is a long guy and has the potential to move into the rotation...Contreras's health is a concern...Stutes ran out of gas toward the end the year. All big questions...I do think DeFratus and Savery are ready to play a role in 2012. Other guys in house are Mathieson and Schwimmer.
SET UP- Antonio Bastardo- He will be elite. I can just feel it.
CLOSER- In a perfect world this remains Mad Dog Madson but insert any closer available and the back end should still be pretty formidable. Papelbon would look nice in red pinstripes too.