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Phillies rumors: Philadelphia interested in Jose Bautista, veteran bats

The asking price of veteran sluggers may have dwindled so much this offseason that it’s worth it for the rebuilding Phillies to make an addition.

MLB: ALCS-Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies might be interested in adding one of the big veteran bats that are still floundering in free agency. According to Ken Rosenthal, the team could look at adding Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders, or Brandon Moss through free agency, or lining up a trade with the Mets to acquire Jay Bruce.

The “open-minded” Phillies have been exploring the possibility of adding a veteran bat with increasing interest as the offseason has progressed. Per Rosenthal:

The team’s wide-ranging list of potential targets includes free-agent outfielder Jose Bautista, who is perhaps the best hitter still available. But the Phils, seeking the lowest possible acquisition cost, consider Bautista a less likely option; they are reluctant to lose a draft pick for signing him, sources say.

With the cost of losing a compensatory draft pick being prohibitive for a team that is currently rebuilding, Bautista appears short of suitors. Another point against adding Bautista is that, if his defense continues to deteriorate, the National League Phillies don’t have a designated hitter spot. Of course, Bautista could convert to a first baseman in the event an NL team signs him, but Tommy Joseph is under team control for the next six seasons and managed an .813 OPS last season—just four points lower than Bautista’s 2016 rate.

In all likelihood though, Saunders or Moss make more sense. While Moss is 33-years-old, Saunders is even younger at 30—six years Bautista’s junior. While neither necessarily warrant long-term deals, their ages certainly look better for a team looking to add longer-term pieces.

Saunders had one of his most productive seasons ever in 2016. While his OPS eclipsed the .800 mark for the first time in his career, he also stayed healthy for the majority of the season. While his numbers tapered off in the second-half of the season, and his defense in the outfield was troublesome at times, Saunders could fit into the Phillies line up with ease.

Moss on the other hand has seen his numbers decline over the past two seasons but could become comfortable if afforded some team stability. In the 2016 season—Moss’s age-32 season—he posted a full workload with the Cardinals and had a .784 OPS, which nears his peak career numbers from two years ago that he spent with the Athletics.

Neither Saunders or Moss are likely franchise-altering potential signings, however, both could offer some stability to a team in need of major league names on the roster. Furthermore, if the Phillies do choose to sign one of them, they could become bargaining chips at the trade deadline. And at their current cost, it might make a lot of sense for the Phillies to explore signing a veteran bat.