The Last time I wrote about the Philadelphia Phillies the word “Dynasty” was being written. A series with the San Francisco Giants changed that pretty quickly. No one in the city of Philadelphia saw what was coming when the Giants came into Philly. Who would have thought that a waiver pickup, Cody Ross, would cement his name in Giants lour. Phillies fans left Citizens Bank Park shell shocked, amazed that their Phillies were unable to reach the World Series for a third consecutive year. Immediately fans started to point the finger of blame.
“How could Howard just look at the pitch?!? He doesn’t care he’s got his 25 million”
“Should never have pitched Blanton in game 4. Should have pitched Halladay”
“How could Perlozzo not send Jroll on that hit?!”
Many of the allegations that I heard walking out of Citizens Bank Park were ridiculous. The fact is the Phillies ran into a hot team, and the best team in Major League Baseball. As the hot stove reports heat up it brings us to five questions, and possible answers, surrounding the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2010-2011 off season.
1) What will happen with Jayson Werth?
The Phillies are reportedly trying everything to keep Werth in Phillies pinstripes. Werth, who hit .296 with 27 homeruns and 85 runs batted in. He stole 13 bases in 2010 and had an on base percentage of .388. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a press conference shortly after the season that the Phillies would like to keep Werth, and they probably have the money to do so but they also have other needs that need to be addressed. He added that while Werth had a good year in 2010 it wasn’t a great year.
Werth’s new agent Scott Boras took those as fighting words but even Boras can’t really believe that the 2010 Jayson Werth is better than the 2009 one. Werth had less HR, RBI, & SB. His batting average was up, but his batting average with runners in scoring position was a putrid .186 which was way down from the .279 he hit in 2009.
The fact is the Phillies do have enough money to keep Werth but they also have a player in Domonic Brown who is probably going to go into the 2011 season as one of the top 5 prospects in all of baseball. While many fans are saying “trade Ibanez!” those same fans aren’t realizing that it takes two to tango, and no one wants to take on the Ibanez contract. The likely scenario is that the Phillies will make Werth an offer but some desperate team is going to throw a boat load at the right fielder.
While I would love for the Phillies to trade Victorino to free up space to bring Werth back it’s a gamble that isn’t worth the risk. If the Phillies were to trade Victorino, whose value is at an all time high as he just won his third Gold Glove today, which would lead the entire city of Philadelphia to believe that they made the move to sign Werth. But what happens if they trade Victorino, free up space, and still a team like the Red Sox drastically overpays for Werth? Then the Phillies are out their starting right fielder and centerfielder in a very weak free agent class.
This is a lot like the Aaron Rowand situation in 2007. The Phillies would love to keep Werth but they know the reality. Werth wants to get paid and hired Boras midway through the season to ensure he gets his big payday. While both sides have said all the right things regarding Werth coming back to Philly even Werth’s former teammates don’t expect him back with Ross Gload telling him “Don’t let those Yankees boss you around.” Philly needs to get ready for life after Werth and get prepared for the Domonic Brown era to begin in Philly
2) Do The Phillies Make a Run at Cliff Lee?
No. Short and simple answer to the question that many Phillies fans are asking themselves. Fans fell in love with the lefty after he came over from Cleveland during the 2009 trade deadline. He was only in town for two and a half months until he was traded to the Seattle Mariners in a three way deal that brought Roy Halladay to town. Phillies fans proceeded to cry for the next nine months about losing Lee which got old really, really fast.
I know this is going to shock some people reading this but losing Cliff Lee worked out great for the Phillies and before you throw your computer let me try to explain why. Lee was going play for the Phillies in 2010 and then leave town for free agency. So the team saw an opportunity to trade him and get a better pitcher, Halladay, who would be in Philly for the next 4 years. Midway through the season the Phillies realized their rotation needed a boost and called up their old buddy Ed Wade and convinced him to not only trade his ace, Roy Oswalt, but take on a good chunk of his salary. Oswalt is locked up for the 2011 season and has a mutual option for the 2012 season.
In review, if the Phillies had kept Lee their 2011 rotation would look a lot like this:
1) Roy Halladay
2) Cole Hamels
3) Joe Blanton
4) Kyle Kendrick
5) Vance Woorley
Because the Phillies traded Cliff Lee their 2011 rotation will look like this:
1) Roy Halladay
2) Roy Oswalt
3) Cole Hamels
4) Joe Blanton
5) Kyle Kendrick/Vance Woorley
Now be smart here and you tell me which is the better rotation. If the Phillies had kept Cliff Lee they would have had no reason to go out and get Oswalt and it would have left their rotation with a gaping hole going into the 2011 season.
As I type this the most overrated general manager in the game of baseball, Brian Cashman, is talking to Cliff Lee personally and “wooing” him to come pitch in the Bronx. When you print money the way the Yankees do it doesn’t take much convincing. You simply show up and ask “how much” and a few days later there’s a press conference where you show off your shiny new toy.
Everyone has accepted the fact that Cliff Lee is destined to be in Yankees pinstripes and it’s only a matter of time before he signs. He and his wife are great friends with C.C. Sabathia and his wife and they were going to go house shopping midway through the season when it appeared like the Yankees had landed the lefty right before Texas snagged the former Cy Young winner.
While some beat writers expect the Phillies to make a run many Phillies fans are taking that to the bank. The Phillies are just one of about ten teams who will be looking to court Lee this offseason and are up against the Yankees, Texas, Nationals, Red Sox, Cubs, Angels and a few others. Don’t get greedy Phillies fans. The Phillies are going to go into the 2011 season with arguably the best rotation in the National League. I’m sure they will make Cliff Lee an offer but Cliff Lee will never be a Philadelphia Phillie ever again
3) Coaching Decisions
In a move that flew under the radar for some Phillies fans, the Phillies parted ways with their first base coach Davey Lopes. While many people might not see the loss of a coach as a big deal this one is surely going to hurt.
Davey Lopes was one of the best first base coaches in the game of baseball. He helped guys like Victorino and Werth become solid base runners. Even Ryan Howard swiped a few bags in 2009 under Lopes tutelage. If you don’t think the loss of Lopes is big then do yourself a favor and go look up Shane Victorino’s base running totals from when he played with the Scranton Wilkes Barre Red Barons. Victorino had blazing speed and not a clue of how to use it. With the help of Lopes Victorino became “The Flyin Hawaiian”.
Lopes and the Phillies reportedly “Couldn’t come to an agreement on financial terms” which is a joke considering coaches don’t make all that much to begin with. Lopes claimed that he wasn’t looking to break the bank and I have no reason to doubt him. It really reminds me of the Phillies decision to offer Scott Eyre a minor league deal last season after he had dominated lefties out of the pen.
The Phillies will be looking for a new first base coach and they have been rumored to be in contact with former Phillie Juan Samuel who recently was the interim manager for the Baltimore Orioles this past season. He could be a good fit but with a guys like Domonic Brown, and Tyson Gillies coming through the system it would have been great to have Lopes there to teach the young guys and make them better base runners.
Also something to keep an eye on is the injury to former Phillie Jamie Moyer. Moyer injured his elbow pitching in a game during a Winter League game in the Dominican Republic and is likely headed for retirement. Moyer was looking to pitch well in winter ball and earn a contract with a team for the 2011 season. I don’t want to see Moyer go out like this but his career is probably over and you have to wonder if he would want to go into coaching. He obviously didn’t want to leave the game of baseball as he wanted to pitch in the 2011 season. I would love for the Phillies to bring Moyer back as a coach to help the young guys out. Moyer is a great teacher and has helped pitchers like Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, and JA Happ. Everyone has said he’s a great teammate and it couldn’t hurt. He is already comfortable with the locker room and he is from the area. It would be a great way to retain a great baseball mind. This however is all speculation on my part
4) Who Will the Phillies Get to Boost the Bullpen?
Ruben Amaro has said that while the team has money to spend on free agents Jayson Werth and Cliff Lee they also have more pressing issues and the bullpen situation is one of them. A major flaw during Ruben Amaro’s tenure as GM was giving Danys Baez a two year, 5 million dollar deal. If it wasn’t for the second year Baez would have been designated for assignment back in May. Unfortunately Baez will be back, at least for spring training, but who will join him in the bullpen?
The Phillies currently have three free agents who they could bring back. The first is Jose Contreras who pitched really well for the Phillies on his one year deal and solidified himself as a work horse out of the bullpen and a solid seventh inning set up guy. The combination of Contreras, Madson, and Lidge was unstoppable late in the season.
The other is Chad Durbin who is a younger version of Jose Contreras. Durbin was signed by the Phillies for the 2008 season and it paid off beautifully as the former starter proved to be a much better reliever and flourished with the Phils. Durbin has been a really solid pickup for the Phillies and will likely garner some serious interest on the open market. The third is lefty reliever JC Romero who won’t be back.
While Romero won’t be back it leaves the Phillies bullpen with Antonio Bastardo and Mike Zagurski as the only lefties. The Phillies need to add at least one lefty and two other relievers. A guy the Phillies could be interested in is former Met Pedro Feliciano who has shut down lefties this past year holding them to a .211 batting average. He’s also a work horse appearing in 266 games in the past 3 seasons. Another lefty that the Phillies will likely target is former Blue Jays pitcher Scott Downs. The Phillies coveted Downs last season but never pulled the trigger on a trade. Down however will likely be a Type A free agent which means if the Phillies do sign him it will cost a first round draft pick. It may be worth it though as Downs held lefties to a .152 batting average in 2010 and had an amazing .079 WHIP against lefties.
The Phillies could also look to bring back Chan Ho Park who has finally accepted that he isn’t a starter in the majors anymore. Park enjoyed great success in Philly during the 2008 season and then left for the Yankees on a one year deal for the 2009 season. His Yankees career was a bust and he was put on waivers where he was claimed by the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates. In Pittsburgh Chan Ho got his groove back posting a 3.49 ERA out of the Bucks pen. Park has said that Charlie Manuel was the best manager he has ever played for and he likely wouldn’t cost the Phillies much. He could be an interesting option if the Phils are looking for bargain spending.
While this free agent class is weak the free agent market for relievers is fairly strong. The Phillies could throw 10-15 million at three relievers and turn that bullpen back into a force.
5) What Will the Phillies Do In Right Field?
Do you give the keys to Domonic Brown and let the rookie get 600 at bats in the majors? Or do you ease him into the roll by having him split time with a veteran like Ben Francisco? With Jayson Werth likely gone this is one of the hottest debates in Philly right now. While I’m in favor of letting Brown get 600 at bats the organization might not be inclined to do so which begs the question of who will split time?
Ben Francisco is the in house candidate and likely choice if the Phillies don’t make a move for another right handed bat in a lefty heavy lineup. While Francisco hasn’t really enjoyed too much success in Philly you have to remember that he was a starter in Cleveland and hit 15 homeruns while hitting around .260 for the Indians. While it’s not great it’s not awful. He a right handed bat that has some pop but he has had trouble transitioning to pinch hitting. So don’t jump to conclusions that he can’t play because he can.
If the Phillies don’t have faith in Francisco they could look to add a veteran bat and that could mean newest villain Cody Ross. Ross has long been coveted by the Phillies front office and they even looked into putting in a claim for the veteran outfielder. Before Cody Ross went off in the NLCS it was more likely that Ross could become a Phillie but Ross has become the Matt Stairs of San Francisco and the front office will likely feel the heat from the fans to resign him. If the Giants let him walk I would expect Ruben Amaro Jr. to look into bringing him to town.
I do want to point out that eventually it’s going to be a slow news day in town and one of the beat writers is going to have a deadline and nothing to write about. They will look everywhere for a story and come up empty until they look on the free agent list and see one interesting name staring them in the face; Manny Ramirez. They will write how it could be a low risk high reward move and that he would be reunited with Charlie Manuel once again. Don’t buy it for a second. The Phillies are looking for Brown to at least split time in right field and not take a back seat to anyone. Brown is the future of the Phillies and with Manny Ramirez defense and his attitude….just doesn’t buy it. The reporter will come up with some scenario where Manny would play, and flourish, on a one year deal and the town would love him but it’s not happening. If the Phillies make a move for an outfielder it’s not going to be anyone flashy.
Phillies fans were shocked at what took place in the NLCS and are looking to blame someone, and make some changes. The fact is though this is a good team that really doesn’t need much tinkering. In previous years the Phillies have stolen headlines with the signings of Raul Ibanez, Placido Polanco, and trading for Roy Halladay. This will likely be a quiet off season for the Phillies because there isn’t much that needs to be changed. The Phillies are still one of the best teams in the league and are returning almost all of their starters. Remember this was a team who lead Major League Baseball in wins last season and had almost everyone injured at one point or another. “If it aint broke don’t fix it” and believe it or not the Phillies are far from broken.