Polanco's Situation Could Get Interesting

Last season, Kevin Millwood threw a bit of a curve to the Phillies when he accepted arbitration. This season, Millwood wasn't extended the option of accepting arbitration, but Placido Polanco was. The Phillies believe Polanco will decline and sign elsewhere so he gets a chance to play everyday. With the clock ticking though, it's not out of the question that Polanco will be the next Kevin Millwood.

It's not that nobody wants Placido Polanco. It's just that he's not the highest of priorities for other clubs. Polanco wants to play everyday and the Phillies have told him that won't happen in Philadelphia unless there is an injury. With that in mind, Polanco has been shopping, but has the comfort of an arbitration offer from the Phillies in his back pocket.

For their part, the Phillies believe that the offer will go unused. They believe that Polanco's desire to play on an everyday basis will override the one-year deal that arbitration would bring. That was one of the reasons why they broke their self-imposed rule of signing any free agents who require draft compensation, and got Jon Lieber to sign on the dotted line. The Phillies will lose a first round pick to the Yankees, but they're figuring on getting a first round pick from elsewhere once Polanco declines arbitration and signs with another club.

The Indians were one of the first teams to approach Polanco. They instead signed Jose Hernandez and their interest in Polanco has definitely cooled. The Rangers have been rumored to be shopping Alfonso Soriano and would need a replacement if they were to pull the trigger. Polanco would be a solid fit and the Rangers have expressed some interest, even though they don't expect to deal Soriano.

The best option for Polanco might be to return to St.Louis. Polanco's career started with the Cardinals, who dealt him to the Phillies as part of the Scott Rolen deal. The Cardinals are focusing on filling the hole at shortstop created by Edgar Renteria's free agency. Word is that Renteria will finalize a deal with Boston for four years and $40 million. The departure of Renteria to go with the earlier departure of Tony Womack to the Yankees leaves the middle of the Cardinals' infield wide open.

The Cardinals first want to fill their hole at shortstop and are pursuing Orlando Cabrera, who spent the last part of last season with Boston. There are other options, including some potential trades that they'll pursue if they fall short of getting Cabrera.

When the attention turns to second base, Polanco will likely be at the top of the list. "Nothing is imminent," said Polanco's agent Paul Kinzer. Don't discount the Cardinals and their previous relationship with Polanco though, because Polanco still has a lot of friends on the club and was always a favorite of manager Tony LaRussa.

As for accepting arbitration, Polanco has until Sunday to let the Phillies know whether or not he'll accept. With the Cardinals being the only team that is seemingly in hot pursuit of Polanco, Kinzer will have to feel that they're going to get a good enough offer from the Cardinals to make it worth their while. Coming back to Philly probably wouldn't do much for Polanco's value, since the Phillies have told him that Chase Utley will be their second baseman in 2005. That would leave Polanco with a utility role and not much chance to put up the kind of numbers that would make him a more valuable free agent next offseason.

As for the Phillies, they're banking that Polanco will reject arbitration. They believed that they've filled a utility role by taking Chris Gomez in the Rule V Draft this past Monday. Gomez can play second, short and third and has a good shot at making the club. Tomas Perez was also re-signed, so the utility spots for infielders appear filled. The Phillies would also be left without a first round pick if Polanco were to accept arbitration, something that they did not want to have happen. Plus, there isn't room in the budget for Polanco, much like there wasn't room for Millwood last season.

Logic says that the Phillies won't have to worry. There is likely a safe and comfortable place for Polanco to land in St.Louis and coming back to Philadelphia won't increase his value.

The other player offered arbitration by the Phillies, outfielder Doug Glanville, will likely decline the offer. Basically, there was already an agreement in place for Glanville to decline, but the arbitration offer gave both sides more time to negotiate a deal. If all goes as the Phillies planned though, Glanville's spot is likely gone with the selection of Shane Victorino in the Rule V Draft. The speedy Victorino would in effect be the next Doug Glanville on the Phillies' bench.

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