Inside the Phillies: For Phillies, third base is a problem

Posted: November 01, 2012

Third in a series examining the Phillies' potential offseason moves. For part two on the corner outfielders click here . For part one on the center fielders click here .

The position once was occupied by the best player in franchise history, but no place on the diamond looks more vacant for the Phillies right now than third base.

With Placido Polanco unhealthy and unproductive, the Phillies turned to Plans B, C, D, E, F, and G in 2012. Seven players got a chance to start at third base, with the last and most effective being Kevin Frandsen, a minor-league free agent who at the very least earned the right to be one of manager Charlie Manuel's bench players next season.

The other plans did not work out so well. Phillies third basemen combined for five home runs and 42 RBIs, both major-league lows.

Ty Wigginton couldn't catch or throw the baseball at third base and did not hit nearly well enough to compensate for those flaws. Ditto for Mike Fontenot. Michael Martinez and Pete Orr were not the answer at any position, and Hector Luna played there only once, so we'll cut him some slack.

As well as Frandsen performed in his 49 starts at third base and as much as the Phillies believe in Freddy Galvis' ability to play defense at any of the infield positions except first base, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. can at least consider filling the void from within the organization.

"We might stay with the internal option," Amaro said.

Galvis and Frandsen were the names he mentioned as the organizational options. He did not revive the idea of Chase Utley's moving to third base.

The Galvis-Frandsen combination at third base would not sell any tickets.

After missing the final 104 games of last season because of a fractured back and drug suspension, Galvis has played well so far in winter ball in his native Venezuela. Through Tuesday, he was hitting .328 with three doubles, three home runs, and a .924 OPS in 16 games.

Asked about the external solutions at third base, Amaro did not make an overwhelming endorsement of the idea.

"There are solutions," he said. "There are very few of them."

The Phillies have some decent minor-league prospects at third, with the closest to the big leagues being Cody Asche, who hit a combined .324 at single-A Clearwater and double-A Reading last season. He is playing in the Arizona Fall League.

"He's probably a year, maybe a year and a half away," Amaro said. "We'll let him decide how quickly he's going to develop into a major-league player."

While Asche continues to develop, Amaro will examine some of the free-agent and potential trade options at third base for next season.

Kevin Youkilis, Chicago White Sox. At 33, he still has the ability to drive the baseball. He hit 15 home runs in 292 at-bats after joining the White Sox last season.

Pros: He always plays hard, knows how to take a walk, and wears out lefthanded pitching.

Cons: His overall offensive numbers and health have been in decline the last two seasons. He is not worth signing beyond one season.

Eric Chavez, N.Y. Yankees. The 34-year-old third baseman had his best and healthiest season since 2005, hitting .281 with 16 home runs and an .845 OPS.

Pros: He is a former Gold Glove winner and can play first base. He should be affordable.

Cons: The lefthanded-hitting Chavez has value only against righthanded pitching. He hit .152 against lefthanders last season.

Marco Scutaro, San Francisco. The 37-year-old veteran was a huge in-season acquisition for the World Series champion Giants, and his bat has shown no signs of age.

Pros: He is considered more of a second baseman than a third baseman, but that's a positive when you factor Chase Utley's health the last two seasons into the overall equation.

Cons: He probably played his way into a sizable multiyear contract with the way he performed for the Giants.

Jeff Keppinger, Tampa Bay. At $1.525 million, Keppinger, 32, was a real bargain for the Rays in 2012, hitting .325 overall and .376 against lefthanded pitching.

Pros: He also can play second base and shortstop, and is an outstanding contact hitter. He has struck out just 173 times in 2,705 career plate appearances.

Cons: Like Frandsen, he does not have a lot of extra-base power.

Alex Rodriguez, N.Y. Yankees. No matter what Yankees manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman say, they will listen to trade offers for their 37-year-old third baseman. The Phillies are highly unlikely to be among the suitors.

Pros: His righthanded bat might be able to find the flower bed at Citizens Bank Park 30 times in a season.

Cons: The Yankees would have to agree to eat nearly all of his contract, which is five years and $114 million. That does not include five $30 million bonuses for milestone home runs. His presence would bring a circus-like atmosphere.

David Wright, N.Y. Mets. The Mets just picked up the $16 million option on their six-time all-star third baseman, but his free agency looms in 2014 and the Mets show no signs of being contenders next season.

Pros: Wright, 29, would be the perfect fit for what the Phillies want at third base.

Cons: The Mets' price tag for trading Wright to one of their division rivals would be astronomical.

Mike Olt, Texas Rangers. The 24-year-old third baseman was ranked as the game's 43d-best minor-league prospect by Baseball America before last season and hit .288 with 28 home runs at double-A Frisco.

Pros: The Phillies would love nothing more than to get their hands on a young player such as Olt.

Cons: The price likely would have to include Cliff Lee.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @brookob.

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