There is absolutely no shame in the Phillies season. But, it was not a World Series championship. That means that there is room for improvement. Hell, there is always room for improvement. Last year, they won the World Series and then their goal became to repeat. This year, they will try and win a fourth straight division title, a third straight pennant, and a second World Series in three years. And, that quest starts now.
The players got some much-needed rest, probably playing some golf and hopefully NOT filming any more stupid commercials (that was directed at you, Cole Clooney).
The fans get to sit back and get some sleep, finally (not that we mind late-night October heart failure).
Even us BSB’ers took about a week off (it wasn’t easy “moonlighting” as an actual journalist–wait, we aren’t accredited? We don’t have press passes? We make a living doing something else? Well, that sucks, I kind of enjoyed writing about sports all day every day).
But, the GM and his staff started right back up Thursday morning with laying the groundwork for another run in 2010. And, thankfully, we have a dedicated, experienced, and incredibly competent group of people making these decisions. But, for the sake of fandom, let’s try and go through, position-by-position, what we can look for in this offseason. (Oh, and then we can dive headfirst into the Eagles, since it is mid-November already).
Catcher – Carlos Ruiz has proven, despite some doubters, that he is an every day catcher in this league, and just in time, both for him and the Phils. He is now arbitration-eligible, so he is due a nice little raise. I don’t think there was ever real danger in the Phils non-tendering him, but even that remote possibility has obviously been erased. The only question in its place is whether to go for the one-year arbitration, sign a one-year deal before getting to the courts, or sign him to a long-term contract. If it were me, I would go with that last option and lock him up, but that would depend on a lot of things, most importantly, what he is thinking, in terms of contract specifics. There are a lot of salary questions coming up for the Phils (we’ll definitely get to them later in this post), so it’s not like they can just throw him whatever he asks for. Ruiz can look at his postseason numbers and the team’s success and ask for a pretty hefty contract. Or, he can look at the regular season numbers and the probably lack of big-time suitors and ask for marginal money. The answer probably lies somewhere in between, which is reasonable. My guess is that when the Phils traded away Lou Marson in the Cliff Lee deal, they basically resigned themselves to signing Ruiz long-term, at a decent price. And, if you ask me, that’s a great decision because he should be relatively affordable, and he brings a TON to the table.
Firstbase – Obviously, the big guy is coming back (and has his salary go from $15 mil to $19 mil, which is no problem). His struggles in the World Series were VERY well-documented, but I am not concerned. He was dominant in the first two rounds, and, for all of his production, you have to know that he’s going to struggle a bit against left-handed pitching. And, the Yanks threw him a healthy dose of left-handers. Howard is getting paid hansomely and his offseason weight loss a year ago has lessened my fears of his slippery slope after age 30. That concern is still there, but I’m no longer thinking that he’s a “must-go” after the current contract.
Secondbase – I should be well into my “middle-ages” before the Phillies ever have a concern at secondbase again. We will be telling our grandkids about how lucky we were to get to see Chase Utley play every day. Do not ever take that for granted, folks, as we are potentially watching one of the all-time greats. Utley does get a $4 million raise this year, from $11.3 mil to $15.3 mil.
Shortstop – Obviously, there is concern about the offensive season that our gold glove shortstop put up, but if any of the other 29 teams read that sentence, they wouldn’t have quite the same reaction as we do in Philly. Yes, we expect more from the former MVP, but let us not forget that he does play the best defense in the league at the most important position in the game. Maybe we need to consider making Victorino a full-time leadoff hitter and dropping Rollins to 5 (with Utley 2 and Werth 3, to completely split up the lefties), but either way, shortstop is covered–and covered well–by the guy they call J-Roll.
Thirdbase – The biggest news of the Phillies first week of the 2009 offseason came the other day when they declined the $5.5 million option on Pedro Feliz. Pedro, as a person, has been phenomenal. Pedro, as a defensive 3B, has been EVEN BETTER than advertised. Pedro, the hitter, has been infuriating (at least to me). He had a couple incredibly memorable home runs in ’09 (the game-tying HR off Joba in Game 4, and the grand slam in the division-clincher), but all in all, he was a hole in the lineup, and whomever is brought in to replace him should be an offensive upgrade. Fortunately for the Phils (and this may have influenced the decision to decline the option), the 3B free agent class is relatively deep. Chone Figgins is probably the best guy out there, but he is also the most expensive, as he is asking upwards of $50 million. Adrian Beltre would also be a really nice option, but he, like Figgins, is a Type A free agent, so it would cost the Phils a draft pick. Mark DeRosa is not a Type A and might actually make the most sense for the Phils because of his versatility. Miguel Tejada and Placido Polanco are both out there, who can also provide versatility and proven production as an every-day thirdbaseman. There are even rumors that the Phils may want to talk to the Red Sox about acquiring the old, expensive, and oft-injured, yet productive Mike Lowell. Personally, I think the Phils should stay as far from Lowell as possible. I also cringe at the thought of Miguel Tejada because you never know how many games you’d get, even if it’s only a 3-year deal. I LOVE Placido Polanco–always have–and think that Mark DeRosa might be just as great a fit. In fact, there is even talk that the Phils may take a shot at two of the guys listed above, if one of them were the versatile DeRosa and/or Polanco. Figgins is probably too expensive. Beltre would be a nice fit, but might hamstring other potential additions because of his relative price tag. Though, he would be really nice to throw into that 7-spot. Personally, in a vacuum, Beltre is probably the guy, but depending on the price tags and the other moneys to be spent, I wouldn’t mind either DeRosa or Polanco, or both, to provide versatility around the diamond. Oh, and as much as I’m going to miss the 5-4-3 double plays, I am not going to miss all the swings and misses from Pedro Feliz. And, a guy like Polanco or DeRosa might be the perfect #2 hitter, if they are serious about giving Victorino the leadoff spot and moving J-Roll to #5 or #6.
Leftfield – Obviously, Ibanez is signed for two more years, so he is the leftfielder in the foreseeable future. And, obviously, there is no problem with that. It might be nice to have a guy (or two) like Polanco or DeRosa, who can give the 38-year old a day off against lefties every now and then. But, all in all, Ibanez is great option in LF and the middle of the order, even though his salary is jumping from $7+ mil to $12+ mil.
Centerfield – Our all-star centerfielder is up for arbitration and should be due quite the raise. I have no idea if the Phils have any thoughts about a long-term extension, but either way, Shane will be in the lineup next year, and he will have a lot more money in his bank account.
Rightfield – I have said this time and time again, but it’s official, Jayson Werth is a bonafied star in this league. He is signed again this year (with a $5 million raise), so you can expect another superstar season from the rightfielder. And, it might not be too early to think long-term because one more season like he had this year, and he might want to “test the market” looking for big, BIG bucks. Just a thought.
Starting Pitcher #1 – We know that Cliff Lee is coming back, as the Phils would be complete fools not to pick up his $8 mil option. But, there is a lot of talk about a contract extension. It’s hard to see it fitting in the Phils long-term plans because of all the expensive contracts coming due, but maybe, just maybe…well, let’s talk about the next guy first.
Starting Pitcher #2 – Cole Hamels is coming back at a very affordable $6.3 mil. Next year, we will really see if Hamels has any testicular fortitude or if………..maybe, JUST maybe, we should turn the money that I’m sure that have slotted for Cole’s long-term deal and try and get something done for the aforementioned Lee. I don’t mean to be knee-jerk here, especially because Hamels is only 26, but isn’t it possible that he just doesn’t have what it takes to win in Philly? And, I think it’s QUITE CLEAR that Cliff Lee certainly does.
Starting Pitcher #3 – J.A. Happ, rookie of the year or not, will be in the starting rotation next year. There is just no way around that. He showed too much promise not to give him a full year in the rotation to see if he’s the big-league star that he showed flashed of last year. Personally, I’m still a bit skeptical of him being a top-of-the-rotation guy (not that he can’t do it, just that I haven’t seen it quite yet), but we already have, theoretically, two top-of-the-rotation guys, and there is absolutely nothing to say that he can’t be an exception middle-of-the-rotation guy.
Starting Pitcher #4 – Joe Blanton is up for arbitration again this year. He will probably see a small $1 million raise to $6.5 mil, which is still a nice bargain for a 170-180+ inning pitcher. I actually thought Blanton was really good in ’09 and expect more of the same in ’10.
Starting Pitcher #5 – Pedro is gone (it was a great ride that we’ll never forget, Mr. Martinez). Jamie Moyer is still “on the books,” but what can we expect from him? Kyle Drabek is at the very least a half-season away from the bigs, but probably more like a full season. Brett Myers is a free agent. It should be really interesting to see what happens to Myers this offseason. I may be the last remaining Myers fan in Philadelphia (as a player, NOT a person), but I wouldn’t mind seeing him back for a cheap, incentive-laden contract devoid of role promises. He could be a nice 5th starter or a 8th inning guy, at the right price. There are always the wily veteran, $1 million pitchers out there that will give you 140 innings. Or…there are still guys like Antonio Bastardo and Kyle Kendrick (who, if you ask me, he is clearly NOT a ML pitcher, but they don’t ask me). And, I have absolutely no idea about the contract status of Rodrigo Lopez.
Starting Pitcher #1A – I don’t really want to get my hopes up again because they are probably going to just be squashed (even though it actually turned out pretty well last year), but there is serious talk that the Phillies may STILL BE the front-runners for Roy Halladay. There is a new GM in Toronto and the Blue Jays are now less than one year from losing him for nothing, so who knows what the asking price might be now. Obviously, Kyle Drabek is not an option (and shouldn’t be, at this point), and Halladay’s salary is huge…BUT…how amazing would it be to have BOTH Halladay AND Lee to start 2010?!?!?!?!?!? And, you don’t think that Ruben Amaro has the same salivatory reaction that we all just did? We set all sorts of attendence records and it’s not going to change next year. It seems like the ownership almost has the “Why not just go for it?” kind of mentality right now. Wow, that would be incredible! And, you can justify it (sort of) by the fact that Adam Eaton and Geoff Jenkins are FINALLY off the books ($14 mil). Add the $1 mil for Matt Stairs and there is the $15 mil that it would cost for Halladay. This is not even mentioning the $12 million that they do not have to pay Brett Myers any more. Yes, I know that there are a ton of pay raises coming as well, but, come on, ownership, WE COME TO THE GAMES IN DROVES! Don’t we?
Bullpen – With the way the season ended, there isn’t even a way to break this down. There are no roles, so we have to talk about these guys in a group. And, I wish I had something to say about it. I have NO IDEA, and honestly, I bet Ruben is thinking the same thing. Will Lidge be the ’08 Lights Out or the ’09 Lights On? Can Ryan Madson close? If not, how close is he to being overpaid ($4.5 in 2010) as a setup guy? Is J.C. Romero the ’08 version or guy who never showed up, ’09 version? Is Scott Eyre retiring? Will Park come back for the same salary ($3.5 mil), which would be nice, or does he want to go elsewhere and try and start again? Will Chad Durbin and/or Clay Condrey be brought back? And, then there are all the free agents, such as Rafael Soriano (Type A), Scott Schoenweis, John Grabow (Type A), Kevin Gregg (Type A), Octavio Dotel (Type A), Joe Beimel, Rafael Betancourt (Type A), Allen Embree, Fernando Rodney, Kiko Callero, Brendan Donnelly, Doug Brocail, LaTroy Hawkins (Type A), Jose Valverde (Type A), Darrin Oliver (Type A), Guillermo Mota, Will Ohman, Braden Looper, Dave Weathers, Ron Mahay, J.J. Putz, Bob Howry, Chad Bradford, Jason Isringhausen, Troy Percival, Brian Shouse, Russ Springer, Eddie Guardado, and Ron Villone. Any of these would be interesting, in different ways, especially guys like Putz, Soriano, or Gregg, who might be closer reclamation projects a la Brad Lidge circa ’08, if they wanted to go that route.
Bench – I guess Bruntlett is going to be back, as he is under contract, though I wouldn’t mind seeing him upgraded (maybe one of the bigger understatements in BSB history). Matt Stairs should probably be replaced with either a veteran bat (Nomar?) or a guy like Mayberry. Bako is gone, so there needs to be a backup for Chooch, as interesting free agent catchers out there include Ramon Hernandez, Yorvit Torrealba, Jason Kendall, but those three will probably want to start, so there are always the Mike Redmonds or Greg Zauns or Jose Molinas of the world. From the “not going to happen, but interesting to think about category,” what about Pudge Rodriguez or Jason Varitek? But, I think the best options may be either Brian Schneider because of his left-handed bat or Miguel Olivo because of his home run pop.
All in all, it is going to be a fun, interesting offseason. A lot of things were thrown out there in the above post, but here is what I would “expect” from the Phils this offseason. Tuesday’s Twelve Predictions:
- They will sign a decent thirdbaseman. My guess is either DeRosa or Beltre, probably DeRosa.
- They will probably sign a veteran bullpen arm from the left side, but nothing press-stopping. Maybe someone like Grabow, Mahay, Villone, or Beimel.
- Chooch will sign a nice deal to stay with the Phils a very reasonable price (something in the neighborhood of 3-4 years, $10-12 million).
- They will sign a backup catcher, like Greg Zaun or, dare I say, Rod Barajas…again.
- Jamie Moyer will be the #5 starter in Clearwater. If he can’t cut it, they might sign a veteran arm off the scrap heap or give the job to Bastardo.
- They will, much to my dismay, not touch the lineup, even if they add the perfect #2 guy (like Polanco or DeRosa) and let Rollins continue to pop up the first pitches of games.
- They will wait on Myers and, if he hasn’t been signed elsewhere by Spring Training, they will offer him a very small, incentive-laden deal.
- Durbin will be retained, even though he costs more, and Condrey will be let go.
- There will be serious rumors of a contract extension for Lee, but it probably won’t happen until they know what they have in Hamels.
- There will be a lot of Halladay rumors all offseason, but he will start the season with Toronto. I can’t see the Phils pulling the trigger on that kind of contract…yet.
- The Phils will kick the tires on potential fall back closer options, like Putz or Gregg, and may even take a gander at someone like Valverde or Rodney, as 8th/9th inning options.
- If Hamels has a rough Spring Training and an equally rough April, the Phils will piece together a minor league package that includes at least one of the stud outfielders (Taylor and/or Brown) and maybe J.A. Happ (but NOT Drabek) to acquire Roy Halladay.