Placido Polanco is under contract for $6.25 million next season with a $5.5 million team option or $1 million buyout for 2013, but manager Charlie Manuel said yesterday that he’d like to see the Phillies find an upgrade at third base this offseason.
“If we need to upgrade and we can, we should do it,” Manuel told Nate Mink of MLB.com. “If we can stay healthy, it gets back to that being a key. Being healthy and being on the field is going to take care of a lot of things.”
Polanco missed 40 games with an assortment of injuries this season and underwent a pair of sports hernia surgeries earlier this week. And the 36-year-old also missed 30 games in 2009.
He’s still one of the game’s top contact hitters and remains able to post a solid batting average with decent on-base skills, but Polanco has managed just 11 homers and a .365 slugging percentage in 1,125 plate appearances since signing with the Phillies. During that time there are 24 different third basemen with at least 750 plate appearances and his .702 OPS ranks 20th, ahead of only Kevin Kouzmanoff, Miguel Tejada, Jose Lopez, and Brandon Inge.
Jimmy Rollins hitting the open market as a free agent will be the Phillies’ biggest infield issue this winter and finding a clear upgrade over Polanco may not fit into the payroll plans, but at the very least a quality backup seems likely to be on Ruben Amaro Jr.’s shopping list.
Brewers closer Corey Knebel set a modern major league record for relievers to start a season, as Thursday’s appearance marked his 38th consecutive appearance with a strikeout. He set down the side in order in the ninth inning, striking Josh Bell out to start the frame.
Aroldis Chapman held the record previously, recording a strikeout in his first 37 appearances of the season in 2014 with the Reds.
Knebel, 25, has flown under the radar despite having an incredibly good season. He moved into the closer’s role in mid-May when Neftali Feliz, now a free agent, struggled. After Thursday’s appearance, Knebel is 12-for-15 in save chances with a 0.96 ERA and a 65/17 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings.
Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.
In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”
Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.
Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.