Posts Tagged ‘leadoff man’

Phillies Offseason Outlook

November 30th, 2009 by Johnny G | 33 Comments | Filed in 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.

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