Phillies Offseason Outlook

November 30th, 2009 by Johnny G | Filed under Baseball, General, Phillies.

As the Eagles make their run for the postseason, as the Flyers struggles continue, and the Sixers continue to play pitiful basketball, the Phillies’ offseason is officially underway. Tweaking a team that has already proved it is the best team in its league after reaching the World Series for a second consecutive season is not easy. By declining Pedro Feliz’ option, Ruben Amaro must now find a replacement in the free agent market. Luckily, this free agent pool is stocked with legitimate talent at the hot corner with Mark DeRosa, Adrian Beltre, Placido Polanco, and Chone Figgins. The best fit at third would be Adrian Beltre. He is an extremely slick defender at third base, who may not be as sure handed as Pedro Feliz, but has much more range. His power potential in this ballpark could bring back memories of his 45 homerun days in Los Angeles, which would trump the 12 homeruns from Feliz.

Replacing Feliz’ numbers will be much easier than expected on the offensive side as his numbers were mostly inflated due to an unusually high batting average with runners in scoring position. As a .266 hitter overall on the season, he led the team while hitting with RISP. That is an anomaly and is unlikely to be a continuous trend. His power decline over the last several years is also concerning. Figgins has been a popular pipe dream with Philly fans but in reality will most likely command a contract in the four year, 50 million dollar range. That is entirely too much money for a slap hitting leadoff man even with his extremely high on base percentage.

What is even more important to the Phillies will be solidifying their bullpen and starting rotation. At this point, the last spot in the rotation will be up for grabs between Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick, and whatever other players receive Spring Training invitations. As we have seen in the past though, it is not enough to go into a season with only five or six legitimate starting pitchers. While the Phillies can most likely not fit a top tier starting into their payroll such as John Lackey, they can pick up cheap, low risk options with high upside. Justin Duchscherer is coming off elbow surgery last season and spent the final two months of the 2009 season rehabbing in the minors. He could be an effective option if he can be had on a cheap, incentive laden contract. Brad Penny would be another similar option, who struggled mightily in the American League with more talented hitters and then proceeded to dominate the National League like the Cy Young contender we all remember from several years ago.

As we move along to the bullpen, we get to the real question mark with this club. Brad Lidge had arguably the worst season of any reliever in the history of baseball. Ryan Madson pitched well out of a set up role but largely struggled when he was asked to close in the ninth. Scott Eyre had a phenomenal season but just had off-season elbow surgery and may be retiring. Chan Ho Park was a nice surprise and performed well above expectations in a sixth and seventh inning role but he is now a free agent. J.C. Romero missed the final months of the season and the playoffs with an elbow injury and it could be a lingering injury that has yet to be corrected. It is fairly clear that the Phillies cannot bring in another high profile and expensive closer, as they have already committed a large sum of money to Brad Lidge. The only option at this point is to bring in a legitimate set up man who can step in to close if Lidge’s struggles continue. There are several free agents who fit this description, starting with Brandon Lyon. A former closer for the Diamondbacks who was then traded to the Tigers, he has an 88-91 mph fastball but has one of the best curveballs out of the bullpen you will see in the game. He would not command a long term or expensive contract and would be a nice option for the Phillies. Mike Gonzalez, from Atlanta would be another interesting option because of the fact he is left-handed and if he stays in a set up role could replace one of the open spots for a situational lefty with Eyre and Romero being question marks at this point. Although he struggles with his command at times, which can be frustrating, he has some of the best stuff in the big leagues and could be a very low risk, high reward opportunity. Finally, there is Billy Wagner….., well I guess we don’t have to waste much time speculating on that.

As this team is currently constructed the Phillies are still clearly the best team in the National League East and they are at minimum a top three team in the National League overall. If Amaro can find a legitimate replacement at a reasonable price for Pedro Feliz, patch the bullpen together with cost-effective options who can fill in for Brad Lidge if he struggles, and possibly find another starting pitcher for the back end of the rotation, there is no reason the Phillies cannot reach the World Series for a third consecutive season.

Next Season’s Best Lineup                         Rotation
1. Rollins                                                            1. Cliff Lee
2. Victorino                                                      2. Cole Hamels
3. Utley                                                               3. Justin Duchscherer
4. Howard                                                          4. Joe Blanton
5. Werth                                                              5. JA Happ
6. Ibanez
7. Beltre
8. Ruiz

Closer: Brad Lidge
Set up: Ryan Madson, Brandon Lyon
Lefties : Damaso Marte, JC Romero

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33 Responses to “Phillies Offseason Outlook”

  1. Johnny G says:

    Adrian Beltre is now hitting .337 with 20 homeruns and 75 RBI’s with a .570 slugging percentage. According to UZR (ultimate zone rating), beltre has saved 12.5 runs defensively on the season.

    Placido Polanco is hitting .322 with 6 homeruns and 34 RBI’s. According to UZR Polanco has saved 7.8 runs.

    Not much of a comparison here.

  2. RyanReynolds says:

    I love this article!! I have been reading this blog for quite sometime now, and this is my first comment. I would like to tell you that I enjoy reading this blog, and that I love thought provoking articles like this!

  3. Christian says:

    [to Johnny G]
    I’m not really familiar with Beltre so I looked up his numbers.

    In 2004, Beltre hit .344 with 48 HRs. Since then, he’s hit .255, .268, .276, .266 and .265, with 19, 25, 26, 25 & 8 HRs. Uhhh, think he was on steroids in 2004??? Since that ‘roid year, he’s averaging .266, with 20.6 HRs.

    Since 2005, Polanco has hit .331, .295, .341, .307, .285. That’s an average of .312. In the last three years he has 200, 178 & 176 hits. I’ll take a .312 hitter averaging 185 hits a year at the top of a lineup featuring Utley, Howard & Werth any day over Beltre.

    Another key stat is strikeouts. Over the same years, Beltre struck out 118, 108, 104, 90 & 74 times. He’s averaging 100 strikeouts a year! 100 strikeouts for .266 and 20 homers? To be honest, when you factor in the strikeouts, Beltre kind of stinks. Polanco, in contrast, is one of baseball’s hardest players in the league to strike out. In fact I think I saw a stat that showed him as THE hardest in baseball to strikeout. Over the same years, he’s only struck out 25, 27, 30, 43 & 46 times. He’s averaging just 34 strikeouts per year.

    Then on top of the numbers, Polanco’s intelligence and understanding of the game make him the right choice for this lineup. We don’t need another strikeout machine. We need a smart, skilled hitter, like Polanco.

    • Johnny G says:

      Why are strikeouts a key stat? Who are the league leaders in strikeouts every year? Mark Reynolds and Ryan Howard. Ill take them on my team any day of the week. It comes down to a fundamental difference. 265 and between 20-30 hrs with very good defense is much more valuable to me than a 285 hitter with 10 hrs and has a terrible on base percentage. Polanco doesnt strike out, youre right, but he also never walks. Set as ide the fact that polanco is also 34 yrs old and his numbers are declining, I like beltre in this lineup.

      • Christian says:

        John– good post and great take on the Phils situation. Like I said, they’ll probably sign DeRosa!

        • Johnny G says:

          thank you sir. youre probably right

          • jimmy says:

            I agree, good post and I as well think the first priority for this team is pitching. But we we’ll have to agree to disagree on who we feel is the better fit at third base for this team overall.

          • Johnny G says:

            thanks. yea i dont have a problem with polanco either. Just a beltre fan.

  4. BRONXDUDE says:

    lee was a great addition and ibanez seemed like a nice addition, but he stunk the second half and was invisible in the playoff…..but if i remeber correctly…..niether of the two were on the phils champ team…… wade and gillick put that team together……not amaro….get a new hat hatman…..maybe stienbrenner will buy u one

    • jimmy says:

      What you’re forgetting Bronxdude is Amaro is the first GM to get a national league team to back to back World Series and Lee and Ibanez were big contributers to the team’s success. Doesn’t Amaro deserve alot of credit for that acomplishment? Yes Ibanez did not play well the second half of the season but he was hurt. Does that not play a huge part in his struggles? No, Ibanez and Lee were not on the WS team, what’s your point? Did both players not make the team better? Are you sugguesting that the Phillies had a better shot at repeating without them? Both additions allowed the Phillies to repeat as NL Champs! And Amaro was the one responsible for both additions. When the Phillies won in 2009 they did it against an inferior Tampa Bay team. They had a much more difficult road to the WS this year and I think what they acomplished says alot about the team and their GM. FYI, if you new anything about the Phillies you would know it was Arbuckle who was the Phillies head talent scout responsible for the nucleus of the team. Not Ed Wade! All Ed Wade did was keep Howard in the minors too long, did not want to give Utley a chance, and brought players like David Bell, Kevin Millwood, Uget Ubina (who is now in jail for murder) and a load of other trash players. Talk to an Astros fan, see how they feel about him! So enough with the Ed Wade talk! And by the way, YANK THEEZ!

  5. Tophat says:

    Bronx dude better look at the Phils payroll That is big bucks.Not as big as the Yanks who have been buying post season spots since the twenties They will not buy it next year.Christian is wrong to say they are getting old.They are old!Most of these guys will be playing beer barrel soft ball in a year.What will Arod do all season with no juice.I won’t have any confidence in Amaro “Yeah Right”Ibanez and Lee fell out of a tree.It amazes me that the Yanks can afford every high priced ball player on the planet but the fans can’t afford seats.Now you hippocrits are rolling out the red carpet for Stienbrenner.Wasn’t long ago you couldn’t get a Yankee fan to push his wheel chair on to the carpet. The Phillies may be in the world series again this year. The Yankees will not.

  6. Christian says:

    I’m with Jimmy on this one. The Phillies NEED a steady, situational hitter at the top of the order. Their lineup is already good, but they NEED a catalyst who can get the bunt down, move runners, put the ball in play, spray base hits, etc. Rollins is not that guy, so you need the #2 guy to have a consistently good mental approach. That’s not Victorino. This will rub off on the rest of the team, and hopefully counteract the contagiousness of Ryan Howard’s strikeouts. Polanco will make a good lineup great. No way Beltre. Go Polanco!

    • Johnny G says:

      For some reason the fact that polanco is a second basemen is left out of this debate. We are comparing a gold glove third basemen in beltre to a second basemen that we are now assuming can play third. Just doesnt make sense.

      • Christian says:

        Polanco has played third before and was pretty good there. We’re talking about baseball John, not brain surgery vs. heart surgery. I played second short and third. If your arm is strong enough to get the ball from third to first and you can catch it, it’s pretty easy. The ball pretty much comes right at you. It’s not like Beltre is Brooks Robinson. And don’t throw the Gold Gloves at me. Bobby Abreu has one of those too.

        • Johnny G says:

          Just like A-rod who was a great shortstop and struggled at third for years and is still not very good. Third base is a reaction position, you cannot just take any player and move him from 2b and put him at third. Arm strength has very little to do with it. Its not like you are dealing with a prolific hitter in Polanco where you can deal with the defensive shortcomings. Hes a 285 hitter with no power. You can say he can bunt and do this and do that but the fact of the matter is hes not a very good hitter and at this point in his career it will only get worse. He does not hit for power and does not get on base at a sufficient rate. An Obp in the low 300s is not somebody i want at the top of my order, especially if im sacrificing defense

  7. sixers09 says:

    Beltre is the perfect person for this lineup.

  8. Christian says:

    I hate to say it but Polanco vs. Beltre probably means they’ll sign DeRosa!

  9. jimmy says:

    Damon hit 25 Hr’s in Yankee stadium where right field is 315ft, I think his HR total is a bit inflated. As far as Beltre being an impact bat, he’s averaged 25 HR’s per year for the last 4 seasons. Last year he hit 8 HR’s in 111 games. If he stayed on that pace he would have ended the season with about 13 HR’s. Now I’m not completely against signing Beltre with the right price. I think he would be an upgrade defensively and put decent numbers offensively, but he’s a risk. His numbers are declining, every year he seems to have an injury nagging him all season long and he’s a very streaky hitter, something the Phillies do not need more of. The Phillies need someone who can solidify thier offence by providing some consistency. Something a situational hitter like Polanco will do. Having him batting second and Victorino batting seventh would make this offence a better more efficient line-up.

    • Johnny G says:

      If hes playing through nagging injuries every year and still putting up 25 hrs a yr thats pretty impressive. As far as last yr, he played the entire season with a torn tendon in his hand and had a burst testicle. i wouldnt exactly call thos nagging injuries. I would rather have victorino in the 2 hole, with beltre batting 7th than polanco in the 2 hole with victorino batting 7th. Nothing against polanco either but hes a 2nd basemen that youre now asking to play regularaly for a full season at third base. Not something i would think is wise.

      • jimmy says:

        I am thinking wise. Those nagging injuries have now turned into a busted testicle “ouch” and unlike being able to play through it he had to sit out 1/4 of the season last year. It just keeps getting worse for him. He hasn’t had an impact year for five years and it was the only impact year of his career. It’s the only year he’s hit more than 26 HR’s and the only year he batted over .300. He’s a career .270 hitter. I’ll give you Beltre is the better player defesively. But offensively he would not be the impact player you think he would be. I don’t see him ever being an impact player again. Polanco in thier lineup means no holes in their lineup. Victorino would give you speed and a very good hitter batting seventh. Beltre stikes out too much and is way to streaky a hitter for me. When the Phillies offence is struggling, Polanco is the type of player to turn those struggles around, Beltre will only prolong them.

        • Johnny G says:

          How is it wise to expect a 34 yr old 2nd basemen to switch to third base for the first time in his career for a full season and be effective compared to a 260-275 hitter with 20-30 hrs and a tremendous defensive third basemen hitting 7th for you How did the nagging injuries “turn into” a busted testicle? He got hit in the balls by a groundball. its a fluke injury.

          • jimmy says:

            The point is he’s hurt every year. Of course the nagging injuries didn’t result into the busted testicle,it’s an injury and one of many, come on man! But how about his hand and every other injurie he’s had. Odds are he’ll be hurt again next season. And let’s stick with him hitting around 25hr’s as he has only hit more than 25 twice in his career. Polanco is a career 303 hitter, he has and will get the job done at third. Along with providing more offensively.

  10. B.J says:

    I’ve noticed there are no mentions as to the departure of Eric Bruntlett, but rather more importantly, Eric Bruntlett’s beard…I would solely pick up the beard for cash considerations

  11. Christian says:

    Pitching should be their main focus, but at third, I’d much rather see Polanco than Beltre. This team has way too many streaky hitters. We don’t need another streaky power hitter. Polanco is a steady situational hitter. He’s a catalyst. Teams need role players, and that’s what the Phillies need. Look at what Johnny Damon did to the Phillies in the World Series by fouling off pitch after pitch, then plunking in a base hit. It drives pitchers nuts, and the only Phillie who does that now is Utley. Polanco will make a very good lineup great. No way do I want Beltre.

    • Johnny G says:

      Damon is a 270 hitter with 25 hrs. Polanco hit 280 with 10 hrs and is 35 yrs old. I dont have a problem with polanco and as long as youre signing him to a 1 or 2 yr deal i dont really have a problem with it but beltre is 30 yrs old and is a real impact bat and is a tremendous fielder. If you plug in a another 25-30 hr guy to replace feliz and dont lose much on the defensive side, this offense could be lethal.

  12. Christian says:

    [to Bronxdude]

    You’ll watch the Yankees get old over night this year. They may not even make the World Series. Arod is a juice head. Is he going to frost his hair blonde again? Go Phils!

  13. BRONXDUDE says:

    just to add, the phils champ team was actually 90% ed wade with a few key additions by gillick, and really pat gillick was a great gm…..i wouldn’t have any confidence in amaro, nor should any of u phils fans……

  14. BRONXDUDE says:

    very astute article. seems like this guy could be a gm or an assistant to the gm…like the analysis. but no matter what the phils add, they will never spend the big $$…. they may be the best coming out of the national league, but the end result will be the same….bronx bombers world champs