Third base is a key position on every team. After making decisions this week to decline the options of Placido Polanco and Ty Wigginton, the Philadelphia Phillies are set to move forward with their offseason plans to address this infield spot.
Polanco was a good player for the Phillies during two different tours of duty (2002-05, 2010-12).
It seems hard to imagine that "Polly" was acquired slightly more than a decade ago from the St. Louis Cardinals in the Scott Rolen deal. That transitional move was made during the reign of Larry Bowa, as the team was building momentum toward its 2008 championship year.
After being traded to the Detroit Tigers, Polanco returned to Philadelphia via free agency. But, age and injury affected his performance this time around. While still a competent fielder, his batting average dropped from .298 in 2010, to .277 last year and bottomed out at .257 this past season.
Playing through his mid-30s (and having turned 37 on October 10), it's possible that Polanco doesn't have much baseball left in his body. He was only able to appear in 90 games this season. If he's able to regain his health, the 15-year veteran could become a productive platoon player for another team in 2013.
General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. understandably wasn't willing to exercise Polanco's $5.5 million option for next season, so he paid him a $1 million buyout instead. This decision was foreshadowed when number 27 wasn't seen on the bench at the end of the season.
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Ty Wigginton played 22 unimpressive games at third base (.833 fielding percentage) in 2012. While he performed decently at the plate, "Wiggy" was never in serious contention to become even a partial infield answer. On the other hand, Kevin Frandsen was a revelation.
That 30-year-old journeyman's moxie helped to make the case that he should at least be a key utility man on next year's team. Depending on what happens in the offseason, Frandsen might even head to spring training as one of the Phillies' platoon third base options.
Cody Asche is a good 22-year-old prospect who performed well at the Single-A and Double-A levels this season. If the Phillies don't acquire a long-term solution for third base in the offseason and he plays well at Triple-A Lehigh Valley next year, we could see Asche at Citizens Bank Park in the relatively near future.
If Amaro trades for a starting third baseman and that player has more than one-year left on his current contract, we'll know what the team's intentions are for that position. Of course, someone like Asche might be part of a package in that type of deal. The Phillies know that there will also be some limited free agent third base options available this offseason as well.
So, it's possible that the answer to this important positional question will soon be known. Further analysis about this important infield spot will be forthcoming as we head into November.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He began his professional career in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons' front office (the Philadelphia Phillies former Triple-A affiliate), later worked as a freelance sports writer and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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