A 'long shot' for Bourn, Phillies 'have to be creative' in center
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NASHVILLE – The juxtaposition was quite interesting.
As Charlie Manuel spoke about his desire for a top defensive centerfielder late Wednesday afternoon, agent Scott Boras was about 150 feet away boasting about the defensive abilities of his client, free-agent centerfielder Michael Bourn. Boras called Bourn an “elite” performer at the position.
It’s difficult to argue with that assessment. Manuel sure didn’t. He said his ideal centerfielder would be “someone who could cover a lot of ground and go gap to gap, someone like Bourn, (B.J.) Upton or (Denard) Span.”
Interesting names all.
The Phillies made an offer to Upton but finished in second place to Atlanta. Span went off the board when he was traded from Minnesota to NL East rival Washington.
Does that leave the Phillies as the lead dog in the Bourn sweepstakes?
Not necessarily, multiple sources say.
Though Manuel wants a top defensive player in centerfield – GM Ruben Amaro Jr. favors that approach as well – it has been difficult to find anyone at these winter meetings who believes the Phillies are anything more than interested bystanders in the Bourn derby.
“Long shot,” said one source familiar with the Bourn market.
Not only does Bourn project to be very expensive – he figures to want more than the five years and $75 million that Upton got – but he doesn’t fit the Phillies’ need to add right-handed pop. On top of all this, Boras has a history of keeping his clients on the market well into the winter as he attempts to fetch the highest price. Though Amaro said he’s willing to be patient in filling the centerfield hole, there have been indications that he prefers not to wait past the holidays to fill his team’s No. 1 need.
So where might the Phillies go?
Sources say they’d love to get Peter Bourjos even though the Angels plan on keeping him and starting him in centerfield. A trade for Colorado’s Dexter Fowler is a possibility. And then there’s this whacky idea: Signing Ichiro Suzuki to play centerfield and trading for a corner man like Minnesota’s Josh Willingham. The Phils have interest in both players, sources say.
While it’s admittedly a reach to think Suzuki could play regularly in centerfield, Amaro did not shoot down the scenario when presented with it. He acknowledged that the Phils would have to be “creative” in finding the defense and offensive production they’d like to add in the outfield.
Suzuki has played mostly right field in a career that has earned him 10 Gold Gloves. He has appeared in 273 games as a centerfielder. Even at 39, he runs and throws well. Could he play the position for the Phillies, maybe with John Mayberry Jr. lending some occasional help? That remains to be seen, but Ichiro is confident he can do it. Sources say his camp has informed the Phillies that he can play centerfield. Interesting.
“We’ve talked about Ichiro,” Manuel said. “I think Ichiro can help our club.”
If they add a defense-minded centerfielder, the Phils would still need to boost their offensive output in the outfield. They like Willingham and have targeted him. They’ve talked about Cody Ross. Reports have linked them to Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs, but his lack of outfield range would be a definite concern.
The Phils have a lot of scenarios in the air. They’re not even sure what they will end up with.
“We have to be creative,” Amaro said. “None of these players are without warts. No player is going to give us all the combinations that we want. We’re going to have to be creative to get those combinations.”
In addition to upgrading the defense and the offense in the outfield, the Phils would like an upgrade at third base. According to multiple sources, they are in discussions with the Texas Rangers about acquiring Michael Young.
The winter meetings end about noontime on Thursday. Amaro didn’t sound all that confident about getting anything done before he headed home.
“Generally I feel optimistic that we can do some things here – not here necessarily, but perhaps sometime soon,” he said.
The meetings end Thursday with the Rule 5 draft. Over the years, the Phils got Dave Hollins, Shane Victorino, David Herndon and Michael Martinez in the Rule 5 draft. They hope to be active in this year’s draft. The Phils could end up losing minor-league pitcher Juan Sosa in the draft.E-mail Jim Salisbury at email@example.com