Major Signing Alert
It has been reported today that Placido Polanco signed a 3 year $18 million contract to sign with the Phillies. This follows his exiling to make room for Chase Utley at 2B in 2005 (rather than moving David Bell). What are the Phillies losing or gaining by replacing Pedro Feliz with the newly-converted 2B.
Hitting: Polanco has a definitive profile as a hitter. Low walk rate, low K rate, high contact rate, low power, mostly high AVG. In 2009, he hit Was 2009 the beginning of a decline phase for him since he was 34 years old? The underlying numbers suggest that he was the almost the same player in 2009 and in 2008 when he hit. He will slot into the #2 or #6/7 slot in the order, probably pushing Victorino down.
Pedro Feliz also has a definitive profile. Low to middling AVG, middling to high power (declining recently), low contact rate, low walk rate. He has been remarkably consistent over his career, posting between a .694 and .709 OPS over the last 4 years. His power has declined significantly since coming to the Phillies, and though he almost set a career high in walk rate last year, his approach at the plate left something to be desired.
I'm not sure if Polanco is as free as a first pitch swinger as Feliz, though.
Advantage: Slight edge to Polanco
Fielding: Polanco has not played third base in a large number of games since 2002, and last played the position at all in 2005. He was surehanded at 2B, committing only 14 errors total over the last 4 years. He also had an above-average range-factor (getting to more balls in his zone than the average 2B). The concern would be the position adjustment mentality (though typically a shift to the left on the defensive spectrum is not a reach) and the strength and accuracy of his throwing arm.
Feliz was a good to great fielder at 3B. He had a better than average range factor and also had few errors for a third baseman. His arm was a major plus.
Advantage: Feliz because of his experience at the position
Contract: Polanco signed for $6 million per year for 3 years at age 34. Feliz played in 2008-2009 with the Phillies at $3 million and $5 million at ages 33 and 34. It would probably take a similar contract to resign him.
Summary: With a small increase in price, the Phillies signed a sure-handed defender who may possibly be an above-average hitter as well (assuming that luck played a role based on his BABIP for his 88 OPS+). Feliz is a good defender, but consistently has an OPS+ hovering around 80. All Feliz's value is in his defense, while Polanco's value is in his defense and batting average/high contact rate.
Verdict: The Phillies improved at 3B overall with the Polanco signing for 2010. It's hard to project him to maintain this performance past the next year because of his age. I don't think he was the best option/fit on the market for the team (Beltre, Figgins), but the low comparative pricetag coupled with the fact that they would not have to give up a draft pick probably solidified their decision. Hopefully, they use this apparent cost savings on bullpen help and another pitcher to slot into a starting role.