Okay, so yesterday I broke down the Phillies trade deadline acquisitions and movement. What I want to do today is look at what the team needs and who is out there and feasible for them to bring in to make them much better in 2013. There are a lot of variables here and really, I'm going to split this piece into two different scenarios: one where players already on the team shift and one where they don't
This version of the Phillies starting lineup would need the least amount of brand new pieces. The primary part of this theory, hence the name, would be shifting SS Jimmy Rollins to 3B for the final two years of his contract and letting 2013 be the year that SS Freddy Galvis takes over the position full time. Currently, Ruben Amaro, Jr. is alluding to Galvis potentially opening next season as the potential fix at 3B and I just can't agree with that for a few reasons. Freddy has played a fantastic defensive short as well as second base, why move him again if he already excels elsewhere? Additionally, the light-hitting Galvis just doesn't have the bat to be an everyday 3B. You can live with a light-hitting shortstop that is a vacuum for the baseball, teams do it all the time. Remember Rey Ordonez, who started on the New York Mets in the late 90's? He played roughly nine seasons and was a career .246 hitter, but his glove and acrobatics kept him in the lineup and still having people talk about him as a player.
Third Base should be Rollins new home. It is the fashionable thing for all aging veteran shortstops. Cal Ripken did it. Alex Rodriguez did it. Jimmy still has a great arm and his timely power projects him to be a better three-bagger than Galvis could ever be.
"The Shift" would then require no new pieces on the infield, save backups to cover for injuries and riding the bench as pinch-hitters. Carlos Ruiz will still be catching, Ryan Howard should be that much more healthy with another off-season to work hislegs and body back into shape. Chase Utley...ugh. Chase Utley is the sole team enigma and I'll bet anyone out there that brass can't wait to have his contract come off the books as of the end of the 2013 season. The team is likely stuck in the same situation next year that it was at the beginning of this year since Utley's knees are shot and not repair-ably injured. But I have a suprise of a move here for a backup.
When this season is over, Placido Polanco becomes a free agent. I know he is pretty damned brittle at this point, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say he was so injury prone because he tried to play every day. I think it would behoove the Phillies to do what they didnot do with Raul Ibanez and attempt to bring Polanco back to the team for a low cost one-year deal (Ibanez is only making $1.1M this season). The bright side to this is that he could be not only spell days off for Chase, but he could also fill in at 3B when Rollins needs a day off too. Additionally, Polanco is still a solid contact hitter who hardly strikes out. If the decreased playing time results in less body breakdown, Poly could be a bargain of a backup.
Outfield is where focus could then be shifted to bring in new talent. Admittedly, we're not going to know until next season whether or not Domonic Brown will be in the equation. Nate Schierholtz should be seen as the solid 4th outfielder and I'll assume that Juan Pierre isn't going to be here (likely a wavier deal by the end of the season). How do you find two starting outfielders as well as someone to compete with Brown for the other spot without hitting the luxury tax? There really aren't any farm team prospects on the horizon and we already know that John Mayberry, Jr. isn't an answer for starting at any position. What I do know, is that the following outfielders of interest will be available this off-season: Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino, B.J. Upton, Melky Cabrera, Carlos Lee, Torii Hunter.
In either scenario that I'm proposing (the one above or the one coming below), it'd be wonderful to just sign those first two (Bourn, Hamilton) and call it a day but we know that isn't gonna happen. Unless one of our $20+ million dollar pitchers is traded over the winter, the Phillies aren't to be considered in the Josh Hamilton conversation. Bourn and Cabrera are interesting potential signings, each with warning signs. Bourn is having a really nice season but isn't stealing bases at the pace of the rest of his career. Do they want to offer a 30-year old declining speedster a lucrative 3-5 year contract? If Cabrera leaves the Giants for a new team, it'll be his 5th and he isn't even 30 yet. Could 2012 be the year he cashes in on a career season and then disappoints from here on out? Upton has the potential to be a real steal and is young enough to still have not touched his stat ceiling even though he is an 8-year veteran. Victorino would be welcomed back at a smaller contract than he is currently looking for...much smaller actually. Lee and Hunter are clearly in their twilight stages, but both are still solid hitters who could challenge for playing time when you don't really have ANY outfielders. I'm not in love with any of these players, personally and I think it is a pretty lackluster year for free agents which makes the Phils work that much more difficult.
Putting out the APB
In this version of the team I'll discuss the pitching staff, as both of my scenarios mainly focus on the different needs for the batters.
If Rollins doesn't want to move to 3B or the team never even mentions it, then they're going to have to put out an all points bulletin to grab as many free agents as possible. It should be noted that, God forbid, people are mentioning Ruiz possibly taking over third next season instead.
In addition to needing two and a half outfielders the team in this scenario will also need a third baseman, as Rollins would stick at short and Galvis would become a "super" utility player, moving between 2B/SS/3B. Frankly, there isn't a single free agent 3B that I'd bring to this city. Do we really want a Mark Tehan or Scott Rolen? David Wright, Kevin Youkilis and the non-fielding Mark Reynolds all have options and will most likely be renewed, so dream on Phillies faithful who imagine Wright manning our base for the next so many years.
The non-availability of someone to sign really makes my option of Rollins sliding over pretty darned attractive, doesn't it? Why spend money on a bum when you can patch the situation in-house and put that money elsewhere?
Besides the outfield (as stated above), that "elsewhere" would be the bullpen, a place that Amaro has really neglected in his time as full-time GM. I'd still like to believe that Antonio Bastardo and Mike Stutes will be big-time contributors and that 2012 may have been just an aberration for both, but they'll still need some veteran support. Two names that come instantly to mind are Ryan Madson and David Aardsma, two hard throwers coming off major injuries. Madson still has an option but the Reds are more than likely going to buy him out. These guys could be bargains on one-year, low cost deals. Other really good additions would be Mike Adams, Shawn Marshall, Brandon League, Casey Janssen and option-folk like Rafael Betancourt, Joakim Soria (another injured dude) if they're not renewed.
So while I think the bullpen has the best chance for overhaul, my biggest worry comes from the starting rotation, believe it or not. Cole Hamels is thankfully remaining a Phillie for another six years and we've still got Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee (no matter what his season looks like) and Vance Worley. Joe Blanton thankfully will not be back and I don't care how wonderful his stats say he is in the second half of a season, watching him for full seasons for the last five years will tell you that he stinks and always has. Unfortunately there are only the likes of Kevin Correia, Kyle Lohse, Derek Lowe, Carl Pavano and other past their prime or Blanton-like people to take fat Joe's place.
Even more unfortunate, considering there have been rumors since a week or two before the trade deadline, Cliff Lee may not be here in 2013. Today he was put on waivers and he is sure to be dangled during the winter. Is this the right move? I'm asking this and I'm not even a fan of the guy - never have been (with the exception of that one post-season behind the back catch). Why trade Lee when you've got him under control for more than one year? If someone has to go, shouldn't it be Halladay since his contract is up after next season? I don't want any of them to leave the team but if we're peddling someone, it should be the guy who we have less control over. Should the Phillies trade Lee and not resign Doc, 2014 looks to be Hamels, Worley and three pitchers to be named later and that just isn't going to work for anyone.
There are many ways for the Phillies to improve themselves before 2013. What we're going to have to do as fans is trust in Ruben Amaro, Jr. and the ownership that the right pieces to the puzzle will arrive and fit in seamlessly. It sounds easy, but since the departure of Hall of Fame GM Pat Gillick at the end of 2008, Amaro's teams have incrementally taken a step backwards every season since.
Time for the former Phillie outfielder to put the owner's money where his mouth is, step up and right the ship. One thing I'd like to point out before I depart is that when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, they were second in the regular season in runs scored, first in home runs, second in RBI and third in total bases. On the pitching side, their staff was forth in ERA, fifth in complete games, eleventh in strikeouts, and fifth in WHIP. In the years since, the Phillies have migrated from a hitting team to a pitching team and though they had three pitchers in the top five for the Cy Young award last year, they just couldn't get out of the first round of the playoffs.
Why was this change enacted?