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Center of attention in Phils lonely outfield

With Upton off market, team looks for options in center field.

There are two ways to look at the one who got away. B.J. Upton would have added power, speed, an infusion of youth and the ability to play a solid center field for the Phillies.

But Upton, 28, has hit for a .242 average over the last three seasons. During that span, The former Ray has struck out at least 161 times each season.

"I wouldn't cry over not getting Upton," a NL executive said. "The Phillies already have enough guys, who don't hit for average and strike out a lot. Do you need another one, especially at that price?"

That price is $75.25 million over five years, which is what division rival Atlanta paid for Upton's services.

The Braves aren't the only division rival to add a starting center fielder from the American League. The Nationals traded for Denard Span, who also gives the NL East champs a bonafide lead-off hitter and an outstanding outfielder.

That cuts down the available capable center fielder list considerably. Angel Pagan, who had a strong bounce-back year for the World Series champion Giants is still out there as a free agent. And so is Josh Hamilton and his big bat.

Will the Phillies splurge to add Cliff Lee's favorite slugger? When Lee returned to Philadelphia after spending a portion of the 2010 season with Hamilton and the Rangers, a kid asked the lefty who was the best he ever played with.

"Josh Hamilton at 70-percent is better than anyone I've ever played with at 100-percent," Lee said.

After the ridiculous lack of support last season, it's not hard to figure who Lee would love to see in the Phillies' lineup. But Hamilton's personal issues and contract demands may make that addition difficult.

"You can always make a trade," the NL executive said.

Young, speedy center fielders, such as the Rockies' Dexter Fowler and the Angels' Peter Bourjos, could be had in a deal.

Don't be surprised if the Phillies speed it up and make a move to fill the void in center after their division rivals struck.



1. Michael Bourn, .274, 42 steals

Pros:
Exceptional center fielder, a prototype lead-off hitter and great clubhouse guy. Looking for a team with some money to spend.

Cons: Bats left-handed and strikes out too much. Lacks power. Represented by Scott Boras, who has a turbulent relationship with

the Phillies (J.D. Drew, Ryan Madson). Wants a bigger deal than Upton in terms

of years and cash.

Odds: 20-percent. Phils and Boras aren’t usually a good match, but what other team that needs a center fielder has the cash?



2. Josh Hamilton, .285, 43 HRs


Pros: Elite hitter, productive game-changer. Provides crazy power, which the Phillies need.

Cons: Bats left-handed and a better corner outfielder than a center fielder. Troubling past filled with substance and alcohol abuse. Wants a long-term deal.

Odds: 25-percent. The word is that Hamilton will not get more than a three- or four-year deal due to his problems. If Texas passes, the door may be open for the Phillies. Ruben Amaro has a knack for scoring big-ticket items.

3. Angel Pagan, .288, 56 RBIs

Pros: Solid defensively. Coming off career season (.288/.338/.440). Has speed and extra-base power. Led NL with 15 triples and also had 38 doubles. Phillies won’t lose 2013 first-round pick if they sign Pagan.

Cons: Mediocre 2011 with the Mets. What Pagan will show up next season? He’s 31. The Phillies have too many players on the wrong side of 30.

Odds: 30-percent. Giants have a limited budget and Amaro has noted that he is aware of what Pagan can bring the Phillies

4. Peter Bourjos (above) or Dexter Fowler

Pros:
Both are young (Bourjos, 25; Fowler, 26), fast and have very good gloves. Bourjos lost his job to Mike Trout. In 2011 he had 11 triples. Fowler hit. 300 and blasted 13 homers in 2012.

Cons: Phillies will need to deal prospects. Will they have enough to make a trade? The Reds (who also need a center fielder) have more to offer in trade.

Odds: 40-percent. Amaro has said that he wasn’t that impressed with the outfield free agents and noted a trade could be the answer for the Phillies.

5. Shane Victorino, .255, 11 HRs

Pros: Very good defensively and has speed to burn. Plus, Victorino loves it here. Shouldn’t cost much since Vic is coming off his worst season. The Phillies might get the most bang for their buck with Victorino.

Cons: Victorino hit poorly from the left side of the plate and made a number of bad decisions in the field and on the base paths last season and he is 32.

Odds: 15-percent. Amaro gave the impression that he is ready to move on from the Victorino days. Shane could return if all else fails.

 
 
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