Coming into spring, the word was that both Marlon Byrd and Placido Polanco may need to fill out change of address cards before too long. Both were being openly shopped and the Phillies were hoping that each would show something to visiting scouts this spring that may enhance their value on the open market. The good news is that both players came into camp and wowed the scouts. Both have had huge springs and generated some interest in their services. The bad news is that the Phillies may need both to cover a couple of key injuries that have cropped up this spring.
Marlon Byrd was available cheap this offseason. Milwaukee was interested, Los Angeles was interested, but both backed off. They both preferred to see what Byrd might do this spring as did a handful of other teams. The Phillies almost seemed forlorn that they were unable to deal Byrd elsewhere and went on with their plans to replace him on their roster. Kenny Lofton was brought in from New York and the Phillies drafted center fielder Shane Victorino in the Rule 5 Draft last December. The Phillies did everything but send someone over to pack Byrd's bags for him. Fast forward to spring training and a rejuvenated Marlon Byrd comes into camp saying and doing all the right things. From the first pitch that he saw, he was hammering shots all over the field and it's continued through spring.
A gruesome looking dislocated finger slowed the flight of Byrd, but hasn't derailed his spring. He should return to the lineup early this week and if he picks up where he left off, there will be no problem and he'll be right back where he figured on being. When he exited the lineup, Byrd was hitting .390 with a .419 OBP. There was talk of having him platoon with Lofton, rather than having Jason Michaels share the time in center field. Victorino was seemingly left in the dust and could wind up back in the Dodgers organization before the season begins.
Marlon Byrd should be one of the more talked about trade prospects of the spring, instead, the Phillies are slow to move him, thanks to the injury to Lofton. It's looking more and more like Lofton may start the season on the disabled list and Byrd could in fact be the starting center fielder when the Phillies start the season against the Washington Nationals in one week. It would be somewhat prophetic since Byrd came into camp saying that he wasn't looking to win a spot on the roster, he was looking to win a spot in the starting lineup. Once Lofton returns, it may be difficult to get Byrd out of the lineup if he is hitting with the authority that he has shown this spring.
As for Polanco, his value to the team was made clear when David Bell didn't even make it to the first official full squad workout before his achy back gave out. Before media photos were even taken, Bell was in the trainer's room and Polanco was taking ground balls at third base. For his part, Polanco, like Byrd, has done everything to show how valuable he can be to the Phillies or another team. Polanco has hit .404 this spring and has come up with some key hits, in addition to playing well defensively at third base.
Polanco's situation is more complex than Byrd's. One thing has been sure this spring and that is Polanco's unwillingness to be a utility player at this point in his career. The Phillies need to keep him around as insurance against Bell's aching back, but they certainly don't need the negative attitude - dare I say cancer? - in the clubhouse if Polanco isn't playing everyday. To make things more sticky though, there is nobody else who can really step in at third base other than Tomas Perez. The Phillies don't envision having Perez play third on a regular basis, so Polanco is a necessary evil. You can rest assured though that if Bell does show himself to be fit, the Phillies could make a wager on dealing Polanco if they could fill another hole on the club. Any potential deal involving Polanco though would have to wait until later in the season, giving Bell time to prove that he's fit enough to play on a regular basis.
So, if Byrd and Polanco are both seemingly off the market, then are there other Phillies who could be shopped around? The odds are that there aren't any major pieces of the puzzle who could be headed elsewhere. The Phillies insist that they won't look to deal Ryan Howard and have in fact mentioned keeping him as a left-handed hitter off the bench. Would the Phillies deal Jason Michaels? Possible, but again, with the injury to Lofton, they would only do it if they felt pretty sure of the player they were getting in return.
As for pitchers, the Phillies don't have starting pitching to deal. They could deal a reliever or two, but none of those moves would figure to be of the blockbuster variety. There are plenty of teams looking to take Ryan Madson off the Phillies hands, but it's not likely that the Phillies would oblige those requests. Rheal Cormier has been mentioned in some circles, but again, it's more likely that the Phillies will keep him as a part of their bullpen.
Over the final week of spring training, the Phillies will likely listen to some ideas from other clubs. They may even propose a few of their own. Suffice it to say though that any move that they make isn't likely to be huge and if it is, it will come out of nowhere, taking almost everybody by surprise.