The Phillies have spent much of the off-season looking for a way to replace the tandem of Greg Dobbs and Wes Helms at third base. The weak numbers that Phillies third basemen put up last season are well documented and with the loss of Aaron Rowand through free agency, the Phillies offense took a hit. Because of those two facts, the Phillies had to do something at third base and Feliz was about the only remaining option. A cursory look at Feliz' numbers make the move look good. He's averaged 21 home runs and 83 RBI per season over the last four years and has played first base, third base and left field, giving the Phillies some flexibility should they be confronted with injuries at any of those spots. When you dig just a little deeper though, you see the well publicized .288 on-base percentage that Feliz sports and you have to wonder how much that's going to help the Phillies offense.
A simple look at the combined numbers of Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs and a comparison of those number with Feliz from last season is interesting.
Keep in mind that the combo of Dobbs and Helms had almost 50 more at bats to establish their numbers. Keep in mind also, that Feliz brings much better defensive skills, which will help in a big way for the Phillies. Keep in mind too, the doors that the addition of Feliz open for the Phillies, mainly through increasing the opportunity for the Phillies to deal Helms, which has also been rumored throughout the off-season. One potential scenario would see the Phillies send Helms elsewhere and adding another arm for the bullpen through a trade.
Some comparisons have been drawn between the signing of Feliz and the Phillies signing of another former Giants third baseman, David Bell as a free agent prior to the 2003 season. Bell played three and a half seasons in Philadelphia, but never captured the allegiance of fans in Philadelphia and his stats as a Phillie were somewhat average. Ironically, the career numbers of Bell at the time he came to Philly are fairly similar to those of Feliz as he comes to the City of Brotherly Love.
Feliz, like Helms and Bell before him, is looked at as a stopgap measure. The Phillies have been trying to groom a young third baseman for years and thought Helms would fill the gap until Mike Costanzo hit the majors, but Costanzo has since been traded. Now, the Phillies will try to sort out who their new third baseman of the future is and they'll hope that he can be ready for the majors by the time that Feliz contract is done after either the 2009 or 2010 season.
The bottom line: Feliz gives the Phillies not only another decent bat to put in their lineup, but a big glove to help cover the left side of the infield. Jimmy Rollins was right when he theorized that the left side of the infield was going to be fun to watch in 2008 and that gives a big boost to the pitching staff when they can know that plays will be made behind them to save hits and ultimately runs. The signing was more or less made out of necessity and ultimately is an upgrade for the Phillies at an important spot in the lineup. Don't think that Feliz will see a big jump in his home run numbers playing half his games at Citizens Bank Park though, because he hasn't shown higher numbers when playing in Philly than he did in most other cities where he played even though the park is a hitter's paradise. Overall, it's a good move that should serve the Phillies pretty well over the next two seasons.
Keep in mind too, that the whole story on the signing of Pedro Feliz isn't done. If the Phillies can find a landing spot for Wes Helms, it's going to net something in return which would be added to the equation of having signed Feliz.