The Philles have signed former Giant third baseman Pedro Feliz to a two-year $8.5 million contract with an option and bonuses that could raise the total of three years and $15 million. Third base has long been a troublesome lineup spot for the Phils, and that trend seems likely to extend another two to three years. Let’s look at Feliz for a minute.
The typical BABIP is around .300. Feliz’ poor plate discipline leaves him forty points below average for his career. This would be okay if he slugged 40 homeruns every year, but he doesn’t. He slugs 20. Even moving to Citizens Bank Bandbox won’t improve Feliz’ power numbers enough to make him a better than average ballplayer. His fielding ability is rather good, but it hardly makes up for his deficiency at the plate.
As terrible as Feliz is, he represents an improvement over the three headed monster (Greg Dobbs, Wes Helms and Abraham Nunez) that tallied a combined line of .255/.321/.368/.689. The Phillies won the division thanks in part to an historic collapse by the Mets and a little internal luck. Their black hole 3B solution did not doom them last year, and they might be able to overcome that problem in 2008, too. However, without Aaron Rowand’s production in center, that task will be tougher. Their hitting core of Rollins, Utley, Howard and Burrell are all still young enough to be relied on to produce near current level or above for another few seasons. But a young third baseman with the capability of improving would have been far superior to an aging player with a good glove and limited ability at the plate.
Strangely, the Phils dealt away the best third base prospect in Michael Costanzo as part of the package to obtain Brad Lidge. I can’t imagine that the Astros were so bent on getting Costanzo that the Phillies substituting a different player or cash would have prevented them from acquiring Lidge. After all, Costanzo was later dealt by the Astros to the Orioles as part of the package to acquire Miguel Tejada. Costanzo looks like he will be in prime position to take over for Melvin Mora in late 2008 or early 2009. Costanzo, a Philly native, could have been underpaid to underperform for the next two or three years, freeing up a few million with which the Phillies could have shored up another area of need.
Teams that eschew inexpensive and equally effective solutions in favor of aging veterans of limited utility are failing their fans. Enjoy the title defense, Philadelphia. The cupboard looks pretty bare coming up next year.
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