Towards the end of his tenure as a Phillie it was readily apparent that Pedro Feliz was declining and his days of being an every day player were coming to and end. It’s the nature of the business in wanting to win championships that you have to replace pieces of your team that are possibly holding you back from your goals. It is sad, especially when it is a popular player among the members of the team. The Phillies did not sign Feliz and he left as a free Agent. In turn they brought back Placido Polanco, their former second baseman to play third. This is why the feeling of déjà vu exists among many Phillies fans across the world.
Polanco was brought in because he was the type of hitter the Phillies said they needed in their line up. A high contact, low strike out guy they could plug into the number two hole behind Jimmy Rollins which would let then hit and run more and have some less erratic at bats at the top of the line up. At first Polanco looked like everything the Phillies could hope for until Tim Hudson threw an inside pitch which just happened to slam into Polanco’s elbow. After that injury Polanco was never the same hitter and last season thanks to a sports hernia his offense was even worse as he became a high priced singles hitter who could not stay in the line up.
There are parallels to Pedro Feliz’s last season in town with Polanco as they were both aging players closer to the end of their careers than the beginning and their effectiveness was waning. There are several differences though. Feliz and Polanco are not the same type of hitters. Feliz was a free swinger with decent power to go with his excellent glove, where as Polanco is a more patient hitter whose power has always been seen in doubles with the occasional homer and a high rate of contact. Polanco also has had injuries and the Phillies hope it was the injuries and not age advancing that took away from his offense. In Feliz’s case he did not have the injuries to make it questionable if his skills were truly diminishing. Another difference is, Feliz only was here for two seasons, where as Polanco got another of Amaro’s specialties, that extra year on the contract.
So now here we are, Placido Polanco is the incumbent at third base. One of the reasons why is because even though the Phillies wanted to upgrade the offense at the position they just happened to wait around until all of the actual upgrades that were on the market were gone. They were linked to Aramis Ramirez, but he signed in Milwaukee after the Phillies decided that they could not afford both him and Jimmy Rollins (Fear Da Luxury Taxezzzzzz!!) and that Rollins and Polanco were a better combination than Ramirez and Freddy Galvis on the left side. They also flirted with outfielder Michael Cuddyer coming in as a third base, first base, outfield option before he signed with the Colorado Rockies.
They looked at Chone Figgins briefly since he would have come really cheap with Seattle willing to eat about $14 to $15 million of the remaining contract on him but they passed as he wouldn’t have been an upgrade. After finding an empty cupboard the Phillies, who had actually made Polanco available to teams, decided to keep Polanco as the starter and fill around him. It is not a total wash out, if Polanco can prove that he is healthy and the injuries were the real reason his production died. He is a very good defensive third baseman, having won the gold glove there last season. That is a plus since the Phillies like to try to employ ground ball pitchers to help offset Citizen Bank Park’s homer friendly environment. Despite his great hands and throwing Polanco does not have elite range anymore, but if he can get to it, he catches it.
One move the Phillies did make was acquiring Ty Wigginton from Colorado after he was made expendable by the Cuddyer signing. Wigginton is not the elite defensive glove at third Polanco is, but his glove isn’t made of Teflon either. Wigginton is actually quite like the man Polanco replaced, Pedro Feliz. I talked about him at the other infield positions; he has decent power and has been an All Star at third in the past. For depth he is not a bad guy to have on board and though most of his early playing time will be at first base until Ryan Howard returns I am thinking that by the end of the season he just may be the starting third baseman. With Polanco’s age and recent injury history this actually isn’t much of a risk to make the assumption.
Once you get past Wigginton it starts to get a bit scary. Next in line on the depth chart is our own Mini-Mart, Michael Martinez. Carlos Ruiz is too important behind the plate to go back to third base for anything more than an extra inning double switch, but he can fill in a few innings. After him the Phillies do not have an actual option on the Major League roster. This most likely will not be a problem since you do have the three options but if Rollins or Utley get hurt and with Wigginton possibly tied to first while Howard recovers there may be a problem here.
For the one who will actually ask and hopefully they are few, no, Jim Thome is not an option for third. It is not 1993, if it was we would have a pretty good player at third who likes to eat rusted metal run through walls. The Phillies actually had thoughts of John Mayberry Jr possibly learning third base. They came to their senses really quickly on that one though. I guess in a pinch the emergency third baseman would be Shane Victorino, he was an infielder once upon a time. If not him, Dontrelle Willis may have to pretend he is back in little league.
Down on the farm it is a bit bleak as well. Cody Overbeck would be next and would probably be the guy recalled if Polanco or Wigginton goes down for an extended period of time. Excellent power, not so excellent glove at third but he is a guy who should be able to make a go at the position. Freddy Galvis has a limited experience at third and could possibly get a look if the Phillies want to go with glove over Overbeck’s power potential. Then you have Pete Orr and Hector Luna. Orr is the speed and glove guy, Luna is the power bat that has not transitioned to being able to hit with the same authority in the Majors as he has down on the farms of various teams. Play everywhere Kevin Frandsen rounds out the bodies at AAA who might get a shot at the position currently with the Iron Pigs.
The Phillies lost Carlos Rivero after removing him from the 40 man roster. He would have been the closest player at AA Reading to being able to contribute. Jeremy Barnes most likely will be at third for Reading this year and he is much farther away than Rivero was so he can not be counted on to help at the big league level. Makiel Franco is the heir at the position but he is still very raw and very far down the minor league chain and he most likely will not be seeing Philadelphia in a playing capacity until 2015.
NO!! Jim Thome does not go here.
Carlos Ruiz in a pinch and hope it don’t come to that
If we have to put Victorino here the Mayans were right.
We once had a guy named Mike Schmidt at this position ahh the memories…
Bedee bedee bedee bedee That’s all folks!!
Be sure to check out the rest of this series:
Breaking Down the 2012 Phillies – The Infield: First Base
Breaking Down the 2012 Phillies – The Infield: Second Base
Breaking Down the 2012 Phillies – The Infield: Shortstop
Breaking Down the 2012 Phillies: Catcher
Breaking Down the 2012 Phillies: The Outfield
Breaking Down the 2012 Phillies: Pitching – The Rotation
Breaking Down the 2012 Phillies: Pitching – The Bullpen
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Barry Jeffrey Jr. writes “The Crow’s Nest” column for PSC.