COMMENTARY | It's been a whole 24 hours and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro still has money burning a hole in his pocket.
The Winter Meetings are just getting started, but the free agent center field market is shrinking quickly. With B.J. Upton headed to Atlanta and Angel Pagan staying in San Francisco, the Philadelphia Phillies could look a few different directions for an answer to center field.
Amaro has successfully landed his top free agent choice the last few years - Roy Halladay in 2009, Cliff Lee in 2010 and Jonathan Papelbon in 2011 - but things may not be so easy this time around. Fortunately, Amaro does not seem to be panicking.
"We didn't really have a Plan A. We had like 10 Plan B's because, to be frank with you, I just didn't think that the marketplace was all that strong in the beginning." said Amaro.
"There were some good players out there, and there still are some good players out there, but I don't know if there's a difference maker... maybe one." - (Josh Hamilton?)
While the Phillies had interest in Upton and Pagan, they clearly had a limit to the money they were willing to spend. Upton is not worth the $75 million he got from Atlanta nor is Pagan worth the $40 million he got from San Francisco. Both are nice players. Both would have fit well with the Phillies. Just not at that price.
As much as I admire the Phillies' patience and diligence this winter, it's inevitable that they will eventually have to do something.
There is still a glaring hole in center field, and there are no real dynamic players left on the market. They will likely have to choose between speed - Michael Bourn and Shane Victorino - and hitting - Hamilton and Swisher.
The trade market has a few more options with Justin Upton, Dexter Fowler and possibly Curtis Granderson hitting the block. A trade, however, would be much more costly to the Phillies who have a thin yet optimistic farm system. The farm system that will soon be needed as key players like Halladay, Lee, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard approach their mid-to-late 30s.
Ken Rosenthal tweeted last night that the Phillies talked to the Colorado Rockies about Fowler and that the Rockies would want pitching back "for now and in the future." Pitching is the one area that is relatively deep for the Phils, so it could be a match, but maybe not at the best return.
Fowler is 26 and under control for two more seasons. I would regard him as a younger Juan Pierre who hits for average and gets on base, but does little outside of that.
In 2012 for the Rockies, he posted a .300 batting average with a .389 OBP and has decent range in center field. He only had 12 stolen bases in 143 games, however, a far cry from the 37 stolen bases put up by Pierre last year.
Granderson and Upton would bring more power - something the Phillies are desperate for - but will be hotly pursued by several other clubs, essentially putting the Phillies out of the running.
Upton would be the best fit because of his age, contract status and what the Diamondbacks are looking to get back in a trade. Even with Upton, the Phillies would still need a center fielder, third baseman and relief pitcher.
A trade is not the answer, nor is there a free agent who would guarantee a winning season in 2013.
Still, my gut feeling tells me they could come out of left field again and sign Josh Hamilton. The Braves and Nationals both got considerably better, the market for a solid bat is deteriorating and Amaro is mostly staying quiet. This usually points to something big in the works.
Scott Lentz is a regular contributor to Yahoo! Sports, Football Nation and The Gaming Advisory. He grew up in the Philadelphia area and currently resides in the nearby suburb of West Chester. For more Phillies commentary, follow Scott on twitter: @scottlentz27.
All stats and figures courtesy of baseball-reference.com
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