Gun Metaphors

Jumping the gun. Shooting oneself in the foot. Firing blindly.

We like our metaphors around these parts, but it seems safe to say that any of the above could safely be used to describe what’s happening here with the Phillies and Placido Polanco.

There are 19 free agents this offseason who can play a competent third base. Nineteen names from which Ruben Amaro can choose to fill an obvious void at the hot corner, now that Pedro Feliz’s option has been declined. These 19 third base free agents, as listed over at MLBTR, have a few pretty good names tossed in: Adrian Beltre, Chone Figgins and Mark DeRosa among them. Not one of these players has signed with a team, but the Phillies aren’t talking with any of these top names.

No, they’re talking to Placido Polanco.

Polanco, for the record, hasn’t even sniffed third base since 2005 (which, ironically enough, was his last season here in Philadelphia). He has a league-wide reputation as a very good defender and, in truth, the numbers say that he is indeed plenty competent throughout the infield.

There is a case for Polanco being a good fit, I suppose, when you look at the numbers over the last three seasons, coupled with each player’s age on opening day 2010.

2007-09 Age G PA 2B HR
Beltre 31 403 1,728 97 59
DeRosa 35 437 1,743 81 54
Figgins 32 389 1,752 68 9
Polanco 34 436 1,945 101 27
2007-09 AVG OBP WAR 3B Inn. 3B UZR
Beltre 0.269 0.318 9.5 3,476 23.7
DeRosa 0.276 0.355 8.1 1,275.67 1.2
Figgins 0.301 0.386 11.6 3,090 21.1
Polanco 0.310 0.356 11.5 0 0

And there are caveats aplenty to go with those numbers, at that. Some:

  • Chone Figgins was not really a distinct possibility for the Phillies. Probably would have cost too much. His inclusion just serves comparatively.
  • Beltre’s WAR is weighed down by an injury-plagued 2009 campaign, and Polanco’s is buoyed by a 2007 season that saw him hit .341 with a .349 BABIP, well above his .314 career BABIP mark.
  • Beltre played all three of those seasons in SafeCo Field up in Seattle, a notorious pitcher’s park.
  • Beltre’s OBP is the lowest of the group. However, injury aside, his bat isn’t really showing signs of decline. It stays basically the same. Polanco’s numbers over the last three seasons, from year to year, seem to indicate decline.
  • Polanco’s WAR is against second basemen; with his lack of power, his value as a third baseman is well below what it is as a second baseman.
  • Again, look at those two zeroes at the end of Polanco’s line. He hasn’t played a single inning at third base in the last three years, and only has nine games there since 2005. He’ll be moving from second base, where he’ll have to react faster to balls hit his way. Third base play is heavily reliant on quickness and instinct rather than just range, and who’s to say Polanco will have that upon his transition?

Amaro is beginning to set a rather disturbing trend with his big free agent signings. With Raul Ibanez, Amaro got lucky. He jumped the gun then, signing Ibanez to a deal that ended up being well above market value for a player of his type. He was rewarded with lightning in a bottle until Ibanez’s second half, following a groin injury. For $6.5M, Ibanez’s first half looked like a mega bargain. With his second half and the inevitability of his contract jumping up to $11.5M for each of the next two seasons – not to mention the decline in his defense that came with the injury – the tides have turned.

It doesn’t seem much different here with Polanco. The man has a pretty good bat – but is apparently declining – hasn’t played the position he is being signed to play in four years, is arguably the third-best defensive choice on the third base market, and will be the first player to get signed.

I don’t like this trend at all. The annual amount doesn’t bother me (approximately $6M, don’t know specifics), but for three years with an option, I have a strong, strong feeling that we’ll be having buyer’s remorse sooner than later.

All indications, to me, are that this deal was made at the wrong time for the wrong guy. We’ll have to see how it plays out.

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1 Comment

Filed under Offseason 2009-10

One response to “Gun Metaphors

  1. Blockie, Friend of the Blog and Sometime Fantasy Sports Antagonist

    On the positive side, Polanco is exactly the kind of bat this lineup could use. He’s consistent, works deep counts, doesn’t strike out very often, and puts balls in play. He could do a lot to stop the “feast or famine” issues that the lineup has had. What he lacks in power he more than makes up for in consistency. The Phillies hit a rather pedestrian .258 as a team last season, good for 23rd in the MLB. A consistent bat in Polanco could go a long way to helping that number come up.

    Is Beltre a better player? Maybe. He’s going to be very expensive, and this team is already locked into over $112 million in salary for next year. Given the Phils’ needs at this point, Polanco may be the better value.

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