Posted by Frank Klose
According to Howard Eskin, Ryan Howard has indeed torn his achillies and will be out until at least May or June.
So, what can the Phillies do until then?
1) Play John Mayberry Jr. at first base and pick up another outfielder.
John Mayberry mostly played first base in college. However, given his athleticism he was mostly used professionally as an outfielder. With uncertainty surrounding Domonic Brown, Mayberry was the fall-back plan for next season. So, if Mayberry plays first base, they may need a right-handed hitting outfielder.
Lower-cost free agents that fit the bill include Conor Jackson and 2010 NLCS hero Cody Ross.
2) See if Cody Overbeck or Matt Rizzotti show something in Spring Training.
Matt Rizzotti and Cody Overbeck have both put up pretty impressive numbers in the minor leagues. Rizzotti is a first baseman, for lack of a a better position (though DH would be much better), and Overbeck is a third-baseman who ended up trying some outfield before settling in at first base. Rizzotti is left-handed and Overbeck is right-handed. This coul be an opportunity for one of them to step in, much like Howard himself did in 2005 thanks to a Jim Thome injury.
3) Pick up a first baseman.
There are not many exciting options out there in free agency, given that whoever they sign would need to yield the position back to Howard upon his return. Derrek Lee, Lyle Overbay, and former Phillie Russell Branyan may be the cheaper options out there. Lee probaby could still get a starting job elsewhere in hopes of a trade to a contender. Lee replaced Overbay in Pittsburgh after Overbay was not good enough there. I personally would rather have a more athletic or versatile player than signing one of these free agent options.
4) Play Chase Utley at first base, play Placido Polanco at second base.
Polanco being uncertain himself, and with Jimmy Rollins' status well up in the air, perhaps the Phillies could look to solve the third base position long-term. Should they do so, Polanco would end up in a utility player position, perhaps being more productive not playing every day. Should the Phillies acquire a new third baseman, Polanco could slide to second base with Chase Utley playing first base as he did in 2003 and 2004 under Larry Bowa whenever Thome was out, or to get his bat into the lineup occasionally.
One thing is clear: Howard's value (or lack thereof) should become very apparent this season. "I can't believe this is the first of a new five-year contract" arguments abound; let's see what the team does without him.