An expected move, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports that the Phillies have declined their half of Placido Polanco’s $5.5 million mutual option for 2013.
Polanco will receive a $1 million buyout and will become a free agent. This was a pretty easy call for the Fightins, as the 37-year-old was limited to just 90 games this season due to back, knee and finger injuries and batted just .257/.302/.327 with two home runs, 19 RBI and a career-low .629 OPS in 328 plate appearances. After signing a three-year, $18 million deal during his last stint as a free agent, Polanco will almost certainly have to settle for a one-year deal with a modest base salary this time around. His days as a starting player are likely over.
As of now, the Phillies intend to keep Chase Utley at second base next season, so Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis are the most likely in-house alternatives at third base. Neither option inspires much confidence, so Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. figures to explore the free agent and trade markets.
On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”
There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.
It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:
On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.
“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”
One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.
None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”