One year ago, things were a little different.
I remember October 31 pretty vividly. I had come back to the Philadelphia area from 150 or so miles away for the very thing Yankees fans are enjoying and watching in the Bronx right now: a parade. Sure, I had seen other parades in my lifetime. I had been to see the Mummers once, I think. I saw my fair share of fire engine and high school cheerleading squad combination parades in small towns. But this one was something else altogether.
Granted, anything that features a million-and-change people will surely pale anything that comes out of a town with one main street, but the very aura of the event was something spectacular. The line to enter the PATCO station wrapped outside and around the sidewalk. Parking spots were overflown with cars. Everyone was talking to everybody else. Then, if you were lucky enough to squeeze on a train headed over the river, more than a few stations were passed by as overloaded rail cars rumbled across the bridge and into the heart of madness.
And it was our madness. We bred the insanity over the course of the postseason under it was ready to romp around Broad Street, and boy, did we ever let it have free reign over the city.
Now, a year and change later, we’re on the Tampa Bay side of things. We’ve just been defeated, and now head into the offseason with some questioning, some doubt, but a whole lot of optimism to balance it out. Herein lies the Offseason Plan for the 2010 Phillies to get back to the World Series and bring the party back to Philadelphia next fall.
- Exercise Cliff Lee’s 2010 option (this is already done)
What, you thought they should decline an $8M team option on a guy who pitched as well for the Phillies as even the most extreme optimist could have expected (though not without a few hitches)? Didn’t think so.
- Decline Pedro Feliz’s 2010 option (this is already done)
The Phillies have until Monday, Nov. 9 to make a decision on this, one way or another. Feliz has proven himself to be a more-than-adequate defender, but numbers show that not only was he less effective defensively during his tenure in Philadelphia than in San Francisco, but he actually seems to be declining (and hard). Unfortunately, he’s also fallen just short of Type B free agent status, and so his departure will net the Phillies no compensatory draft picks. Just as well: offering him arbitration likely would have netted him more than $5M, anyway, were he to accept. There are a couple of solid third base options in the free agent market at the right time – including one that’s a leaps-and-bounds superior fielder – to make declining this option plenty reasonable.
- Non-tender Eric Bruntlett, Tyler Walker and Clay Condrey
Jack Taschner has already been given his walking papers after being outrighted to AAA Lehigh Valley, so that removes one sure-thing move from this bullet point. Bruntlett, as has been well-documented throughout the season, gave little more to the 2009 Phillies than an unassisted triple play. Heck, even that required more luck than skill. His OPS+ this season was 21. He had 64 hits in his two years here and recorded 271 outs. For comparative purposes, Kansas City’s Tony Pena, Jr. had 43 hits and 243 outs in 41 more ABs over that same span. Eric Bruntlett made 38 more outs in 41 fewer ABs than, arguably, the worst position player in baseball over the 2008-09 time frame. He goes.
Something about Walker screams “horrid regression.” I’d be terribly dubious about using him in any high-leverage situation.
Condrey, for all of his valuable mop-up ability (I’m only being half-snarky, here. He actually started out rather well this year before getting hurt), really doesn’t fit into future plans here in Philadelphia. The ‘pen needs an overhauling, and it can start with offing a little dead weight.
- Let Brett Myers, Matt Stairs, Pedro Martinez, Paul Bako and Miguel Cairo walk without new deals
There a couple of interesting cases in this motley crew. Myers, for all the time he’s spent at the Major League level, is still only 29, but few people have any idea what to make of the man. He trudged through the early part of his career as an average starter (4.34 ERA, an ERA+ of exactly 100 from his rookie season in 2001 through 2006), then overthrew a pitch in Florida and completely rewrote his script. He was turned into a reliever upon his return, and was acceptable in the role. He returned to starting in 2008, average once more (96 ERA+), and then got hurt and relieved again in 2009. All of this happened as he made $5M, $8.5M and $12M in those three successive years. His production wasn’t worth it by the end of his deal, especially if his destiny now lies in the bullpen. If he can accept a short deal to be a reliever for, say, two years and eight-to-ten million dollars total, consider it. Even then, I think it’s an overpayment. So I let Myers go to greener pastures.
Stairs actually had a nice OBP to go with a bad batting average, but his effective days are gone. Pedro had a great run and was entertaining as all get-out, but he has extreme durability issues and almost certainly will not be able to pitch more than half a season in 2010. Bako and Cairo were minor league deals that turned into some playing time, but neither was incredibly impressive, and not worth keeping around for anything more than another minor league deal. We can find guys to fit that bill anywhere who could be more productive. They go.
As I was writing this, Myers was told he will not return in 2010.
- Sign Shane Victorino to a two-year/$11.5 million contract
The Soaring Pacific Islander made a reasonable $3.125M this year after avoiding arbitration, and will stand to see a raise in this, his second such offseason. It would be wise of the Phillies to buy out his last two arbitration years, and a figure around $11.5M seems reasonable for his level of production and defense. I would not, however, go beyond two years. With the crop of outfielders waiting in the wings – specifically, as it applies to centerfield, Anthony Gose – it would be unwise to burden the payroll with commitments to players who will be aging as a younger core is ready to emerge. He needs to have a little more face time with Davey Lopes, though, as a player with his speed should be able to steal bases more efficiently. We can agree that Shane is faster than Chase Utley, so how is Utley able to steal 23 bases without being caught once while Victorino only steals at a 75 percent clip (25-for-33)? Got to work on that.
- Sign Joe Blanton to a one-year/$6.75 million contract
Buy out his last arbitration year. Blanton had a fine second half, but found himself bounced around the postseason pitching staff. He’s certainly not going to turn into an ace-type guy who will toss a sub-three ERA for an entire season or even strike out 200 batters. No, Blanton’s thing is to try and stay low in the zone to get weak contact outs and strike out just enough guys to not run your defense ragged chasing down balls. He’ll be fine for another season; beyond that, I’m not willing to commit to a pitcher of his type.
- Re-sign Chan Ho Park to a one-year/$3.25 million contract
Park was, for all intents and purposes, one of the team’s two best relievers once he moved to the bullpen. He wanted to start prior to 2009, though, and one wonders if he’ll accept a full-time ‘pen role back here in Philly or pursue a starting job somewhere else, should some team offer him one. If he is fine with being a reliever, bring him back. Park was one of the bright spots in an otherwise dark bullpen, and his stuff looked excellent late into the year.
- Re-sign Scott Eyre to a one-year/$2.5 million contract
The man is a lefty killer. If he decides he doesn’t want to retire after all, he has a spot in my bullpen. If Romero can come back healthy, I doubt the two of them will alow more than 25 hits to left-handed batters all season. Walks, well, that’s another issue for Romero, but Eyre’s effectiveness has been proven over his time here.
- Sign Chad Durbin to a one-year/$1.8 million contract
He shows flashes of stellar stuff, but needs to get command issues in order. Still, I’ll take his numbers as a righty insurance option in a weak class of free agent relievers, more so than I would Condrey’s.
- Sign Carlos Ruiz to a two-year/$6 million contract
His emergence as a bottom-of-the-order bat not to be completely discarded has been doubly important after the departure of Lou Marson. The next-closest catcher to the Majors is now Travis D’Arnaud, and he took a step back in 2009 while not even reaching AAA. Ruiz’s first arbitration year is this year, and this deal would leave one more year of team control after its expiration. It pays Ruiz while still leaving the Phils with some flexibility both financially and with eyes toward the future.
- Release Jamie Moyer
His injury kills whatever trade value he may have had this winter. The team needs to move in another direction, and though what Moyer brought to the table for three-plus seasons was undeniable, he is no longer an effective pitcher. Hopefully, he can be retained as a coach if he can’t find work elsewhere on the mound.
- Promote John Mayberry, Jr. to the ML level.
Pair JM, Jr. with Francisco, and your outfield bench is set.
All right, you’ve made it nearly 1,500 words so far. Take a quick break, and we’ll meet with you after the jump.
Hi! Glad you’re still around. Assuming all of the moves above take place, here’s where the 25-man roster stands for the Phillies:
SP1: Cliff Lee
SP2: Cole Hamels
SP3: Joe Blanton
SP4: J.A. Happ
RP1: Brad Lidge
RP2: Ryan Madson
RP3: Chan Ho Park
RP4: Scott Eyre
RP5: J.C. Romero
RP6: Chad Durbin
C: Carlos Ruiz
1B: Ryan Howard
2B: Chase Utley
SS: Jimmy Rollins
LF: Raul Ibanez
CF: Shane Victorino
RF: Jayson Werth
B1: Ben Francisco
B2: Greg Dobbs
Let’s fill those last six spots.
- Starting Pitcher 5: Kyle Kendrick/Drew Carpenter/Kyle Drabek
It’s not glamorous, but the Phillies only need a holdover until Drabek is ready, and basically nothing on the market available via free agency or trade is appetizing. At all. Well, except that Roy Halladay fellow, of course. Do the Phils re-open talks with Toronto for their ace now that a new GM is in town? I think they’d be silly not to. If a package of, say, Happ/Michael Taylor/Michael Schwimer/Michael Cisco can get it done, why not? It couldn’t hurt to ask.
That said, I don’t see that deal getting done in any capacity. Cliff Lee was this team’s big acquisition for the foreseeable future. Someone like Josh Fogg may get a minor league deal from this team, but I wouldn’t expect much else.
- Relief Pitcher 7: Scott Mathieson
Again, the only external additions here are likely to be very cheap or minor league deals. If Eyre and Romero return, there’s a less pressing need for a lefty. Plus, Sergio Escalona is available in the system. Mathieson, according to some hearsay, has a fastball sitting around 94 and a sinker/slider around 83; this, of course, coming after two Tommy John surgeries. Mathieson, once a top prospect, is now relegated to relief work for the balance of his career. With reports of stuff of that caliber, though, I see no reason why he can’t be a productive pitcher for this team almost immediately in 2010. Oh, and he’s still only 26, too.
- Third Base: Adrian Beltre
Ah, yes, now things get interesting. If the Phillies are to make a big move this offseason, this is where they make it. Beltre is coming off an injury-plagues year that hit his production rather hard. But Beltre’s loss is Philadelphia’s gain. Beltre will be cheaper than fellow free agent third baseman Chone Figgins, both in terms of annual value and length of contract, and that’s exactly what this team could use. Figgins, as I said when discussing this plan with Mike on Thursday, is a guy you sign to supplement a younger core of position players in need of a top-of-the-order bat for the maturation years of your prospects. The Phillies aren’t in such a situation. They have an established core and, at this point, need nothing more than a supplement.
Beltre is just that type of player. His OBP isn’t as great as Figgins’s, but his defense is far better – perhaps the best in all of baseball – and he packs a considerably more powerful punch with the bat. The only way Figgins fits into the lineup is if Jimmy Rollins is moved down the lineup, and I just don’t see Manuel bending nor Rollins being complicit with a move like that for an extended period, even though Jimmy’s days as an effective leadoff hitter are all but over.
Beltre could probably be had for two years and about $18-20 million total value. He played in 2009 for about $13.4 million, and with his injury setbacks and correlative dip in production, his price comes down. He’s still not cheap, but he spares the Phillies the likely long-term commitment they would have with Figgins, when the club is, for all intents and purposes, set for reinvention by the time 2011 rolls around. Beltre seems to make the most sense of any option.
- Bench spots: John Mayberry, Jr., Gregg Zaun, Adam Kennedy
Promoting Mayberry to full-time power bench bat will likely be a showcase for a potential trade, as there’s just no room for him outside of giving another outfielder a spell or filling in as an injury replacement. For now, though, he’s a good option for power alongside Francisco. Zaun would be the backup catcher, being a switch-hitter with a pretty good bat and a killer website. Honestly, though, he’d be a far, FAR more palatable backup at catcher than Paul Bako or Paul Hoover. Kennedy is a versatile fielder, but he hasn’t played any shortstop since 2007. Personally, I’d reintroduce him to the position in spring training, as his bat would be a more reliable one, both off the bench as a lefty and as a spell guy, like Mayberry. He plays second and third base, primarily.
My lineup would be as follows on a typical game day vs. RHP:
1. Shane Victorino, CF
2. Chase Utley, 2B
3. Jayson Werth, RF
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Raul Ibanez, LF
6. Adrian Beltre, 3B
7. Jimmy Rollins, SS
8. Carlos Ruiz, C
And, against LHP:
1. Shane Victorino, CF
2. Jimmy Rollins, SS
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Jayson Werth, RF
5. Raul Ibanez, LF
6. Ryan Howard, 1B
7. Adrian Beltre, 3B
8. Carlos Ruiz, C
Howard hit .207/.298/.356 against lefties in 2009, and for his career only has a .226/.310/.444 line against southpaws with 371 strikeouts in 1,060 plate appearances, or once every 2.86 times he faces a lefty. I don’t think it requires any more than a look at those numbers to make a drop in the order against lefties rational.
If I could make a trade, there would be one I would consider making above all others:
- Michael Taylor, Michael Cisco, Kyle Kendrick and Sebastian Valle to Minnesota for RP Joe Nathan and SS Steve Singleton
There may yet be a fit for Taylor to get a starting job in 2010, though probably not until the summer. The Twins traded Carlos Gomez to Milwaukee for J.J. Hardy. That replaces Orlando Cabrera, but leaves a hole in the outfield. The big problem here is that the Hardy trade is not a move to get younger; it’s a move to try and win. If that’s the Minnesota attitude, Nathan won’t be available until July, and only if the Twins are out of it in the Central, something you can never count out.
Similarly, if Kansas City’s Joakim Soria can be had, knock on the door. Those two guys would immediately make the bullpen menacing and extremely tough to bat against.
So, that’s my 20 cents. Agree or disagree with specific moves, the general perception is true: this Phillies team should be right back in the mix in 2010. There is room for improvement, and opportunities to make said improvements are now before GM Ruben Amaro.
Here’s to a productive winter. We’ll be with you all through the offseason to talk transactions. Thanks for toughing this one out, and go Phils.