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Phils sign 3b Wes Helms still has it as "close," but ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Phils have agreed in principle with free agent third baseman Wes Helms on a two-year contract worth around $5.5 million, with an option for a third year that could bring the total value to $8 million.

Helms had a career year last season in part-time duty for the Marlins (.329/.390/.575, 10 HR in 240 at-bats). He'll turn 31 next May, his defense is reportedly subpar, and he hit in extraordinarily good fortune in 2006, with a BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) of .394. (The norm is a bit north of .300.) That's the bad news, such as it is; the good news is that his splits hold up pretty well, and he's loved hitting at CBP (1.415 OPS, albeit in very limited sample size). And while '06 was his best season, 2005 was his next-best, from an OPS standpoint (.815); this suggests to me that like David Dellucci, he's become a better hitter with age and experience.

My guess is that Helms and Abraham Nunez will split third-base duties, with Helms starting 4-5 times a week and giving way to Nunez for defensive reasons late in games when the Phils have a lead. At a combined $4.8 million or so, they should offer decent production--not Aramis Ramirez-level, naturally, but a damn sight better than what David Bell and Nunez had to offer in 2006. Strong start for the off-season.