When free agency began last November, Pedro Feliz figured to be third on the list of third basemen who would get big deals. Both Alex Rodriguez and Mike Lowell figured to command more interest and money and they did, but when both re-signed with their former club, Feliz had to feel pretty good since nobody who was looking for help at third base had been able to find it through free agency. In December, the Astros declined to offer arbitration to Mike Lamb and he snapped up a healthy deal from Minnesota, leaving Feliz just hanging around as the holidays hit. Now, after waiting and waiting, there are finally some suitors calling Feliz to talk about having him come to their team to play third base and the Phillies are one of those teams.
So just how good of an investment would Feliz be for the Phillies?
Last season, Phillies third basemen combined for a lowly .688 OPS, the lowest in the National League. They also declined to pick up an option on Abraham Nunez, letting the best defensive member of their third base triumvirate to walk, leaving Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs to platoon at the position. There is no disputing that Pedro Feliz would provide the Phillies with a defensive upgrade over either Helms or Dobbs, but offensively, the question is a bit tougher. After all, Feliz mustered just a .708 OPS last season and has a pitiful .288 career on-base percentage. On the upside, he has averaged 21 home runs over each of the last four seasons and that's playing half of his games in Pac Bell Park, widely considered to be a pitcher's park. It's likely that he could boost his power numbers if he were to play at Citizens Bank Park, where he has hit .293 over the last three seasons. But would his power number increase? While his .293 average at CBP - which is identical to his OBP there - is nice, his power numbers are off his usual pace. He's hit just one home run in 41 at bats in Philly, under the one home run per 28 at bats he's averaged elsewhere over the same span. There is also a concern that Feliz, who turns 33 in late April, is on the downside of his career and the Phillies aren't looking at him as a long-term solution. In fact, they're looking at him as a one-year fix, but Feliz is still hoping for a deal of at least two years. The age concerns may be overblown, considering that he hit .275 after the All-Star Break last season, compared to just .234 before. His power numbers were down in the second half though as he hit just eight of his 12 home runs after the break.
Signing Feliz would come much easier if the Phillies were able to deal Helms and his $2.8 million contract elsewhere. Earlier in the off-season, the Marlins had asked about Helms, but were rebuffed by the Phillies, who were insistent that they weren't going to deal Helms. Now, the Marlins interest has cooled and they're no longer willing to pay Helms entire contract, meaning that the Phillies would have to eat some of that money. Feliz could continue to slide and the Phillies might be able to get him cheap enough that they will make the move even if they haven't found a trading partner for Helms. The Dodgers and Brewers are the main competition for the Phillies when it comes to signing Feliz, but neither team is in dire need of help at third base. If both of those teams decide not to invest in Feliz, his demands could come down to where the Phillies want them to be.
The bottom line is that Feliz is not a great upgrade at third base, although he might provide more power and he would provide better defense.
Prices for the remaining free agents are continuing to slide. Former Phillie Kyle Lohse and his agent, Steve Boras, are backing off demands for a four-year deal worth close to $48 million. Instead, they're now talking about a three-year deal, but still hoping to come close to about $12 million per season. The Phillies are interested and would do three years on Lohse, but won't touch the $12 million per. One option would be a vesting option for 2011, which would pay Lohse enough to take him up to the four years and $48 million mark if he were to hit some fairly lofty incentives. It's interesting to note that the New York Mets have jumped back into the market for Lohse since his demands have fallen.
And are the Phillies talking to Oakland about Joe Blanton? No. The Phillies don't want to give up the type of prospects that the A's would want in exchange for Blanton. It's likely that Oakland will want Carlos Carrasco and Joe Savery. The catch is that the Phillies can't trade Savery until June 15th since he was just drafted last June, so the deal would have to have him as a player to be named later, which would get tricky should Savery come up with an injury in the meantime. Because of that, there likely isn't an easy combination of players that would get the deal done.