Evaluating Phillies offseason moves
Evaluating Phillies offseason moves
With the Phillies roster filling up and Spring Training around the corner, it seemed like a nice time to evaluate the Phillies offseason. After wowing us with one big move after another since taking over for Pat Gillick, Ruben Amaro does not appear to be hiding any more tricks up his sleeve. He may not have performed major offseason surgery, but Ruben conducted a few minor cosmetic procedures. Let’s go through the Phillies’ offseason moves.
Declining options on Lidge and Oswalt
The Phillies had no choice but to decline the $12.5 million option on Brad Lidge (with a $1.5 million buyout) and $16 million option on Roy Oswalt (with a $2 million buyout). Price tags, health, age, and declining stuff made for easy decisions. The Phillies starting rotation will be fine, as they still have three aces and Vance Worley, Joe Blanton, and Kyle Kendrick. And a bullpen full of young, cheap, talent and a quality closer in Papelbon made Lidge expendable. Which brings us to the biggest move of the offseason…
Signing Jonathan Papelbon
Barely a day after they reportedly made an offer to Ryan Madson, the Phillies signed free agent Jonathan Papelbon for $6 million more than what they offered to Madson, showing exactly how they felt. The Phillies may regret taking Papelbon over Madson in three or four years when Papelbon’s arm falls off and he’s still making $12.5 million per year (like Brad Lidge). Not that Madson was high on other teams' lists, either, considering he went from a possible 4 year/$44 million deal with the Phils to a 1 year/$8.5 million deal with Reds. Bottom line for now is this: we had a good closer last year and have a good closer this year.
Signing Jim Thome
Thome was one of those “low risk, high reward” decisions. For $1.25 million, Thome essentially replaces Ross Gload. Thome has only dusted off his first baseman’s glove four times since 2005, so don’t expect to see him wearing leather much with the Phillies. What Thome represents is the power threat off the bench they’ve been lacking since Matt Stairs. Thome hit 15 home runs in 93 games in 2011 and managed a somewhat respectable .256 average. Not bad for the money.
Signing Ty Wigginton
With all of Placido Polanco’s injury problems, the Phillies needed a utility player who could play third. The Phillies eyed Michael Cuddyer as their first choice, but his asking price was too steep (he eventually signed with Colorado for 3 years/$31.5 million). So, they went with Ty Wigginton for $8 million over two years. His power (15 HR in 2011) and versatility (150+ games at three different positions) is nice, but Ruben admitted himself that the Phillies needed better approaches at the plate and Wigginton’s high strikeout/walk rate does not fit the bill. Which leads us into Ruben’s next move…
Signing Laynce Nix
Laynce Nix signifies a complete 180 from Amaro’s talk of better approaches in October, since roughly a month later he signed three “all or nothing” guys. It may be a slight change in philosophy, but Nix is still only a bench piece, and in that regard he offers an upgrade over Ben Francisco. Overall, the Phillies bench is improved with Wigginton, Thome, and Nix essentially replacing Wilson Valdez, Ross Gload, and Ben Francisco. Speaking of Benny Fresh…
Trading Ben Francisco
With the emergence of John Mayberry and signings of two outfielders in Wigginton and Nix, the Phillies didn’t cause much of a stir when they traded Ben Francisco for a minor league reliever. Pretty easy move considering Francisco was due to receive a raise over his $1.5 million salary in arbitration.
After hitting just .245 in 2011, there was no way the Phillies were going to keep Ibanez around. Oddly enough, the Phillies still offered arbitration to Ibanez with the understanding that he would not accept (how the Phillies worked that deal is beyond me). Anyway, with a young option available in left field with Mayberry, Ibanez has no place on an aging Phillies roster.
Domonic Brown in the minors
The fact that it isn’t big news that Domonic Brown will likely spend the year at Lehigh Valley says it all. The Dom Brown experiment at this point has failed. The former “untouchable” draft pick had a tough 2011. Not only did he hit just .245 with the Phillies, but he was caught not running out a ball, forgot to touch second base, and played the outfield like a blind newborn giraffe. Then he returned to the minors and hit .261 with zero homers in 41 games. Maybe it was just too much, too quickly for Dom. Grabbing Hunter Pence hopefully takes the pressure off and Brown can get some necessary work done in the shop.
No Rule 5 pick
The Phils decided not to take a player in the Rule 5 Draft for the first time since 2005. I think this is a mistake. It only costs $50,000 to grab a Rule 5 player, and if you return him you get half the money back. A payroll approaching $200 million and they don’t want to risk 50 grand? The Rule 5 Draft is filled with Victorinos and Werths waiting to make an impact in the majors. They may have missed out on a better version of Michael Martinez or a lefty reliever. Why not give a guy a shot and see what happens?
Trading Wilson Valdez
After filling a valuable bench role and playing 210 games for the Phillies over the last two seasons, the Phils decided to part ways with Wilson Valdez. It was most likely a cost saving measure since Michael Martinez can fill the same role for half the price, but that price becomes much higher if history repeats itself with more injuries to Rollins, Utley, and Polanco.
Signing Chad Qualls
Having just saved about $500,000 by moving Valdez, the Phillies soon spent it when they acquired reliever Chad Qualls for $1.15 million. With plenty of veteran and young arms in the bullpen and several more quality pitchers in the minors, it seems to me that using that money on Valdez was the wiser choice.
Signing Juan Pierre to minor league deal
This was a really nice move for the Phillies. Juan Pierre provides a jolt of speed to a team lacking in that area. Pierre won’t steal 68 bags like he did in 2010, but he offers some late inning speed and another option in left field if the John Mayberry experiment fails.
Signing Dontrelle Willis
And finally there is Dontrelle Willis. Dontrelle’s career took a nosedive after a couple great seasons with the Marlins, but his funky delivery keeps teams like the Phillies hoping he can find that magic once again. For a million bucks, the former Marlins star is a good investment. Rather than try Dontrelle as a starter where he has a 5.65 ERA since 2006, the Phillies will take Dontrelle’s .127 average against lefties in 2011 and throw him in the bullpen. If pitching doesn’t work out, the Phillies can always use him as another bat off the bench. The other perk? He’s good friends with Rollins, so maybe he can keep Jimmy in line.
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