With free agency starting November 3rd at midnight, the Philadelphia Phillies have some decisions to make. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr will have roughly $46 million to fill voids both in the field, and on the mound. With the sting of the 2011 season still hurting, and fans hungry for another parade, what should Ruben Amaro do?
1) RESIGN JIMMY ROLLINS
This is the only organization James Calvin Rollins has ever known, and unfortunately that could change very soon. Rollins is coming off a decent season, where the soon to be 33 year old played in 142 games, hitting .268, 16 HR, and 63 RBI. He scored 87 runs, along with swiping 30 bases. While Rollins has never come close to recapturing the dominance he had in 2007, he is still the straw the stirs the Phillies drink.
While Jimmy Rollins' offensive skills have diminished a bit, his defense is still superb. Many fans are ok with letting Jimmy Rollins go because of the flavor of the week; Freddy Galvis. While Galvis did win the Paul Owens award as the Organizations best position player, and he is major league ready in the field and has been since he was 19, his offensive skills need some work. Galvis is coming off his best year at the plate, hitting .278 with 8 HR, 43 RBI, and 23 SB (with 13 CS) but he is still very raw.
Rollins however is a rare breed that can not only play unbelievable defense, but also can add some offense at a position that usually doesn’t ask for it. Not many short stops can hit 15+ HR, and swipe 30 bases a year, while playing the Gold Glove defense that Rollins possesses. But I can go over the stats until I’m blue in the face. The biggest thing that Rollins gives you, the thing that you won’t be able to find on a stat sheet, is Rollins leadership.
I think a 3 year deal would be a perfect scenario for The Phillies and Rollins. This would allow enough time for the future short stop (Galvis) to mature in the minors, and spend a year or two as the primary backup for Rollins. Rollins was paid $8.5 million in 2011, so you would expect a slight raise to keep the All Star short stop in Phillies pinstripes. But at the end of the day, money talks and if another team succumbs to Rollins 5 year demands, than you would expect the Phillies to thank Rollins for his services and move on.
2) Let Ryan Madson Walk
Crazy thought isn’t it? I wrote back in June about why the Phillies should let Ryan Madson go, and nothing in my mind has changed. Did Ryan Madson do a phenomenal job last season? Absolutely! Is Ryan Madson replaceable? Absolutely!
The Phillies will offer Ryan Madson arbitration, meaning that if he signs with another team (barring that teams place in the standings) the Phillies will receive that teams first round picks. Because of the fact that you cannot trade first round picks, and the fact that players salaries continue to rise, most teams are putting a lot of value in draft picks. Teams would rather manufacture talent at a cheap cost, than go out and sign big time free agents. With the Phillies farm system somewhat depleted after big time trades, it wouldn’t be a good idea to take the picks and let Madson sign elsewhere.
While Madson was impressive last year in the closers role, he certainly wasn’t the only one. While Madson was injured the Phillies relied on 26 year old left hander Antonio Bastardo. Bastardo recorded 8 saves in 2011 and proved to be a viable option if Madson doesn’t return in 2012.
Bastardo is far from the only young arm that the Phillies have in the bullpen. Reliever Justin De Fratus projects as a future closer recording 15 saves in 2011 for 2 minor league clubs. He should make the opening day roster. The other is Phillies reliever Phillippe Aumont who the Phillies received in the deal that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle. Aumont had 7 saves last season at two minor league organizations.
The Phillies should also consider bringing back reliever Brad Lidge if Lidge is willing to take a major pay cut. Lidge spent most of 2011 season on the disabled list, but when he finally took the hill again he performed well with a 1.40 ERA. Lidge is clearly no stranger to the closers role, and if he were to struggle than you could give the ninth to Bastardo. Having a proven closer veteran like Lidge would also be good so he can tutor the young guys like Bastardo, and De Fratus. A one year deal to bring back Lidge wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.
You have to figure that after the season the Ryan Madson had he is likely to receive close to $8.5-10 million from a team. His agent is the Drew Rosenhaus of baseball (Scott Boras) and was comparing Ryan Madson to Mariano Rivera BEFORE his breakout 2011 season. Boras will do everything in his power to secure a long term deal for big dollars. With what he is projected to be paid, and what the Phillies could receive, I just don’t think it’s worth it to bring back Madson
3) Inquire into Michael Cuddyer
The Phillies are likely to be without Ryan Howard for AT LEAST half of the 2012 season. Before Howard blew out his Achilles on the last out of the 2011 season, the Phillies had projected to stick John Mayberry Jr. in left field for the 2012 season. Now however it looks like Mayberry will be the Phillies 2011 opening day first basemen.
The Phillies have a hole in left field, and could use insurance for both first base, and third base. Michael Cuddyer can give you all of that. The 32 year old has played both first base, third base, and the outfield in his career. He is also a right handed bat, something the Phillies don’t have a ton of even after acquiring Hunter Pence. He is coming off a season where he hit .284 for the Twins with 20 HR, and 70 RBI. He has some pop in his bat, something that the confines of Citizens Bank Park could help as he was playing in the pitcher friendly Minnesota for all of his career.
The market for Cuddyer will be interesting because of his versatility. The Phillies had inquired into Cuddyer before, so there is no reason to think that they wouldn’t take a look at him now. He was paid $10.5 million in 2011 after he signed a 4 year contract extension in 2008.
4) Look into Jim Thome
What Phillies fan wouldn’t love this? The Phillies could certainly use a first basemen with Howard out, and Jim Thome loved his time in Philly. I can’t understand why Phillies beat writers dismiss this suggestion like fans are suggesting the Phillies go sign Albert Pujols. Thome has already said that he wants to continue to play in 2012, and if you’re a 41 year old slugger who has never won a World Series, you’re going to be looking to sign with a contender.
It is well documented that Thome loved playing for Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, giving Manuel a lot of credit for the success he has had in his career. After Thome hit 25 HR in 2010 the Twins resigned him for only $3 million dollars. The Phillies could get Thome for $2 million dollars, maybe even less. The fact that he has only played a handful of games at first base since leaving the Phillies doesn’t worry me too much. You don’t forget how to play first base, and he likely wouldn’t be an everyday starter. This would be a good, inexpensive move for the organization to bring back such a class act.
5) Resign Cole Hamels
The Phillies third best pitcher is better than most team’s ace. Soon to be 28 year old Cole Hamels is coming off the best season of his career in 2011. Winning 14 games in 2011, Hamels sported a 2.79 ERA. He struck out over 194 batters in 216 innings (the second most of his career). He also only gave up 19 HR in 2011, tying the least amount of his career which came in his rookie year of 2006.
Hamels signed a 3 year contract extension in 2009, an extension that will run out after this season. The Phillies paid Hamels $9.5 million in 2011 but that number will go way up for his next contract. The Phillies need to take a good chunk of their money and invest it in Hamels, who looks like he is only going to get better as the seasons continue. I’d hate to be writing this same thing a year from now. Ruben needs to get Hamels locked up before he gets paid Sabathia money.