Finding the best fit for third base

The Phillies have a major hole to fill at third base and there are no shortages of candidates. But, should they go through free agency or a trade and which of the players is the best fit?

First, a quick look at the candidates.

Mark DeRosa - The Phillies have pursued DeRosa in the past and have always come up short. There is no denying that they like DeRosa for a lot of reasons, including: 1. His versatility 2. He's a local guy in that he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and, 3. He's a good ball player. DeRosa is a Type-B free agent, so the Phillies wouldn't lose a draft pick by signing him, which is another plus.

Placido Polanco - One reason to like Polanco is that he's a known entity. As a former Phillie, they know firsthand about his clubhouse qualities - which are excellent - and how hard he plays. He was always a popular player in Philadelphia, but there are two drawbacks. 1. He hasn't played third base since he left Philly and prefers to stay at second, and, 2. Since he's a Type-A free agent, the Phillies lose a draft pick to sign him.

Adrian Beltre - Beltre is a two-time Gold Glove winner, although he didn't win the award this past season. Ironically, his fielding percentage was right around where it's been in the past, but a shoulder injury prevented him from making some of the more dazzling plays that he many times made look routine. That shoulder injury is also to blame for his reduction in power, which saw him hit one home run every 56 at-bats, well short of the one every 25 at-bats that he averaged in his previous four seasons with the Mariners. He's represented by Scott Boras, who wants a minimum four-year deal for his client, but at least Beltre is a Type-B free agent.

Chone Figgins - This is the premier third base option for clubs who need to fill the hot corner. Figgins is a special type player, who hit .298 with a .395 on-base percentage in 2009, thanks to drawing an American League high 101 walks. He swiped 42 bases and, if needed, could move to the outfield or even to second base in an emergency. Figgins is a Type-A free agent, but might be worth sacrificing a draft pick to obtain. He would give the Phillies a bona fide leadoff hitter, allowing them to drop the free-swinging Jimmy Rollins down in the order.

Pedro Feliz - The Phillies have said that they wouldn't rule out re-signing Feliz at a cheaper price, but Feliz has reportedly told friends that he was bothered by the fact that the Phillies didn't pick up his option and that he prefers to sign elsewhere.

There are also a couple of trade candidates for the Phillies to consider.

Aramis Ramirez (Chicago Cubs) - Here's a name that has danced around the fringes and seems to be more of a fallback option for the Phillies. One big problem is his contract; Ramirez is guaranteed $15.75 million in 2010 and holds a player option, not a club option, to make $14.6 million in 2011 and a club option for $16 million in 2012. If the Phillies weren't comfortable with just over $5 million for Pedro Feliz, why would they trade a couple of players to Chicago for Ramirez?

Garrett Atkins (Colorado Rockies) - The Rockies have been dangling Atkins off-and-on for a while now. Between 2004 and 2008, Atkins hit .302 and averaged 18 home runs per season, with more of his home runs actually coming on the road rather than in the rarified air of Colorado. Atkins avoided arbitration last season by signing a $7.05 million one-year deal with the Rockies and is in his final season of arbitration, meaning that he can become a free agent following the 2010 season. His numbers dipped off horribly in 2009 [9-48-.226] and it's possible that Atkins will be non-tendered by Colorado if they can't find a willing trade partner.

Statistical analysis for 3B candidates over the 2008 and 2009 seasons

Atkins 35.41 7.23 .264 281 8.64 255 24.16 265.75 1 1:1.95 .321
Beltre 33.00 9.00 .266 254 8.51 267 19.45 1089.0 21 1:2.38 .317
DeRosa 26.57 7.08 .268 288 6.46 273 22.06 292.25 9 1:1.96 .348
Feliz 41.85 7.77 .259 291 10.36 260 22.20 272.00 0 1:1.79 .306
Figgins 208.17 16.43 .288 274 6.71 308 28.39 156.13 76 1:1.19 .383
Polanco 72.44 10.03 .295 294 7.58 354 20.06 186.29 14 1:1.25 .340
Ramirez 23.50 5.61 .299 231 6.90 257 17.02 493.50 4 1:1.34 .383

PA=Plate Appearances.
Example - PA/HR measures how many times a hitter comes to the plate before he hits one home run.

There are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Figgins and Polanco are Type-A free agents, which would mean the Phillies would sacrifice a draft pick. Atkins and Ramirez would require giving up players in a trade to acquire them. The others could be signed without sacrificing any draft picks or players.

  • Figgins and Polanco are very different players from the others. As a leadoff man, Figgins doesn't worry about home runs, so his power numbers will be lower, but his stolen base and on-base percentage numbers are at the top of the bunch. Keep in mind too, that Polanco hasn't played third base since he was with the Phillies in 2005.

  • Beltre is coming off of a shoulder injury.

  • Atkins could be non-tendered in December, meaning the Phillies could sign him without having to trade for him. Of course, his average dipped to .226 in 2009, which is part of the reason that Colorado is shopping him.

  • We used the past two seasons stats for comparison, because that was the time that Feliz was in Philadelphia.

Fielding percentages over the past two seasons:

Polanco - 100%    (71 total chances over the 2004/2005 seasons.)
Figgins - .972
Feliz - .969
DeRosa - .965
Beltre - .961 (Gold Glove in 2007 and 2008)
Atkins - .961
Ramirez - .946

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