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Running down the rosters: Philadelphia Phillies

Feb 27, 2012, 7:05 PM EDT

Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay AP

The Phillies still look like the class of the NL, but while their win totals have increased five years running, it hasn’t resulted in playoff success the last couple of years.

Roy Halladay – R
Cliff Lee – L
Cole Hamels – L
Vance Worley – R
Joe Blanton – R

Jonathan Papelbon – R
Antonio Bastardo – L
Jose Contreras – R
Kyle Kendrick – R
Chad Qualls – R
Michael Stutes – R
Dontrelle Willis – L

SP next in line: Joel Pineiro (R), Kendrick (R), Dave Bush (R) Pat Misch (L)
RP next in line: David Herndon (R), Brian Sanches (R), Michael Schwimer (R), David Purcey (L), Phillippe Aumont (R), Justin De Fratus (R)

The rotation doesn’t look quite so impressive on paper with Worley plugged into Roy Oswalt‘s old spot, but then, Worley was quite a bit better than Oswalt last season. The Phillies also have some nice insurance in case Blanton’s arm lets him down again. Pineiro would have been a decent bet as a $3 million-$4 million fourth starter somewhere, so he was a phenomenal pickup on a minor league deal. Kendrick had a 3.14 ERA in his 15 starts last season.

In the bullpen, the Phillies overpaid for Papelbon, but he should be terrific at the end of games. If Contreras is healthy, then there will be just one spot for Willis or Herndon. Herndon had a 3.32 ERA in 57 innings last year, but the Phillies are looking to Willis to give them a second lefty in the pen.

SS Jimmy Rollins – S
3B Placido Polanco – R
2B Chase Utley – L
RF Hunter Pence – R
CF Shane Victorino – S
LF John Mayberry Jr. – R
1B Ty Wigginton – R
C Carlos Ruiz – R

C Brian Schneider – L
1B Jim Thome – L
INF-OF Michael Martinez – S
OF Laynce Nix – L
OF Juan Pierre – L

Disabled list: 1B Ryan Howard (L)
Next in line: C Erik Kratz (R), SS Freddy Galviz (S), INF Kevin Frandsen (R), INF Hector Luna (R), INF Pete Orr (L), OF Domonic Brown (L), OF Scott Podsednik (L), OF Lou Montanez (R)

So much for that typically lefty-heavy Phillies lineup: with Raul Ibanez gone and Howard set to miss the first month or two rehabbing a torn Achilles’ tendon, Utley will be the only lefty playing regularly initially.

The bench, on the other hand, will be dominated by lefties. Nix figures to start against some righties in left field and perhaps at first base. It’s unclear whether it will be Mayberry or Nix who slides between left field and first. Mayberry is the better outfielder of the two, so it’d be best if he’s out there pretty regularly. However, he’s also quite a bit more familiar with first base than Nix is.

Even with Howard out of the mix initially, this year’s offense should be a bit better than last year’s. A full season of Pence will help. Utley and Polanco could be healthier and more productive, though at their ages, it’s far from assured. Mayberry will top Ibanez’s numbers.

The pitching can’t be quite so good again. While none of the trio seems due for a deep decline, Halladay, Lee and Hamels won’t all rate among the NL’s top five starters. No, the Phillies will probably have to settle for just two or the top five or maybe even one. Papelbon may prove to be the NL’s best closer, but he’s replacing a guy in Ryan Madson who had a 2.37 ERA in 60 2/3 innings last year.

It seems safe to pencil the Phillies back into the postseason. Unfortunately, though, that simply isn’t enough. The Phillies are turning into the NL’s version of the Yankees, at least so far as in each year can be summed up as World Series or bust. And I can’t help but get the feeling that one more “bust” might cost Charlie Manuel his job.

  1. sdelmonte - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:21 PM

    The Phillies’ window for another title is closing. The core is getting older, and the Nats and Braves and Marlins are not that far back. I wouldn’t predict an upset in the division, but another season of questionable offense, combined with one of the others getting it together ahead of schedule, and the Phils might be in for a fight this year.

    And they will surely be in for one by ’14.

    • The Baseball Gods - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:59 PM

      Window is not closing as long as they can keep this payroll in the top 3-5 in the league. The other teams in the division are definitely getting better and could give them a run for their money, but that does not mean that their window of opportunity is closing.

      As crazy as it might sound, saying the Phillies window is closing is like saying the Yankees window is closing (which nobody would ever say since they basically print money in New York)

      • Ari Collins - Feb 27, 2012 at 8:16 PM

        The Yankees can outspend their mistakes. The Phillies can’t. Due to the Papelbon and Howard contracts, they’re looking like they won’t keep both Victorino and Hamels next year (and perhaps they’ll have neither), and that’s another 3-5 wins off their ledger. Plus they have almost no farm system currently.

        If they keep both Victorino and Hamels, then I think we can say they have unlimited funds, and their ability to outspend their mistakes will reach Yankee levels.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:41 PM

        Ari, I think you are confusing the “old” Yankees ownership with the “new” Yankees ownership. Yes the Yankees do have the ability to outspend their mistakes. But it seems as though the ownership of Hal and his brother seems less willing to go overboard as their father had.

        BTW, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the Red Sox have the ability to outspend their mistakes John Henry and the rest of the ownership group of the Fenway Sports Group aside from owning the Red Sox also won the Liverpool F.C., an 80% stock in NESN and are co-owners of NASCAR’s Roush Fenway Racing.

        So the Yankees organization is not the only one capable of outspending their mistakes.

      • Ari Collins - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:21 PM

        There’s a huge difference between spending $160MM on your payroll, as the Phillies, Sox, and now Angels do, with maybe $3MM-$5MM in luxury tax, and spending $205MM with an extra $15MM in luxury tax. $50MM extra to spend means that you don’t have to have very much in the way of cheap players in order to field a star at every position.

        Boston and Philly and now L.A. of A. are almost there, but they still need to give regular playing time to the Ty Wiggintons and Ryan Sweeneys and LaTroy Hawkins of the world to make up for the occasional contract-gone-bad. But if New York gives out a bad contract (and they’ve given out plenty since King George stopped calling the shots in 2006: A-Rod’s second deal, the opt-out in Sabathia’s deal, Soriano, Texieira, Burnett, Jeter, Posada), no biggie, because they can afford to have a $10MM+ player at every position. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to spend MORE than the Yankees spend, simply due to the limited number of free agents available every year.

        TL;DR: $50MM more than your next closest competitor gives you a pretty huge extra margin for error to absorb costly mistakes.

        I’m not sure why you want to minimize the difference between New York and the second-tier payrolls, anyway. The point I made was that the Yankees never have to worry about whether they’ll be able to keep being a great team, because their payroll gives them a perpetual window of contention. Isn’t that a good thing? I mean, I enjoy the fact that Boston has stayed competitive despite a $50MM gap between them and the #1 payroll in their division (and admire the hell out of the Rays, who do it with a $150MM gap!), but I wouldn’t mind if instead they weren’t up against their spending limits. Maybe Yu Darvish would be on the team, or Cliff Lee, or Jose Reyes.

        Anyway, back to the Phillies, who are ostensibly the team we’re discussing here. I believe in the next couple of years we’ll see them start to prove that unless you’re spending $200MM or have a constant influx of young talent, you can’t stay a consistent 90-win team simply through free agency, especially if mistakes like Howard and Papelbon keep you from more cost-efficient deals for Hamels and Victorino.

        Recent teams that have tried to buy their way to consistent contention without spending as much as the Yankees have failed, for sure. Bavasi’s Mariners, Hendry’s Cubs, Minaya’s Mets. We’ll see if Amaro’s Phillies can buck that trend.

      • uyf1950 - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:57 PM

        Ari, my comment made no reference to team payrolls.any teams payrolls. I only addressed your comment about the Yankees and their ability to “outspend” their mistakes. I merely pointed out that they are not the only team that has the ability to “outspend” their mistakes.

        Why are you now clouding the issue by bringing up teams payrolls, luxury taxes, The Rays, etc…?

        I could ask you the same question you raise about me. Why do you insist on minimizing the Red Sox ability to spend money? They clearly have the ability to spend more then they do.

        But I guess it’s fair game for you to bring up the Yankees in your comments when the discussion is about the Phillies or other teams. But it’s not OK for me to bring up the Red Sox in response to those comments.

        One final comment, You mention “they’ve given out plenty since King George stopped calling the shots in 2006”. Make no mistake the Boss didn’t stop calling the shots as you call it 2006. Whether or not the sons technically were in charge or not, while the Boss was alive (and that was until 2010) his presence and philosophy dictated how the Yankees were run.

      • Ari Collins - Feb 28, 2012 at 10:37 AM

        Does Boston outspend their mistakes? Sure. With $50MM less to spend, can they outspend all their mistakes, as the Yankees can? No. There’s a quite quantifiable difference here, which is why I quantified it with payroll. If that’s clouding the issue, I have no idea what explaining the issue would be.

        I brought up the Yankees to show that the Phillies don’t have the same resources the Yankees do, and that they might therefore be unable to outspend the Howard and Papelbon mistakes. I’m not sure why you took that as a criticism of the Yankees, or thought I was saying that Boston couldn’t outspend some mistakes itself. Perhaps you’re so used to me criticizing the Yankees that you can’t tell when I’m just saying that the Phillies aren’t the richest team in baseball and therefore might not be able to sustain their success as the Yankees have?

        Anyway, as to your argument, Boston fits the same mold as the Phillies, resources-wise: they can outspend some of their mistakes, but not all. If you think that Boston can spend as much as the Yankees and for some reason doesn’t, you should read up on the economics of the media markets. New York has such a huge revenue stream and such an amazing ROI on player salaries that paying 40% more on every dollar is worth it to them.

        Boston has never gone more than a few million over the luxury tax cap, because it serves as an effective cap to any team that doesn’t have New York’s revenue stream. Spending $20MM for Adrian Gonzales makes sense. Spending an extra 40 cents on the dollar for Jose Reyes and thus giving a great but injury-prone SS $25MM a year does not. Except to the Yankees, who can afford to pay their players more than anyone else, then pay 40% more on some salaries, because the players are simply worth more to them than to other teams (including Boston, LAA, and PHI).

        As a side note, I have no idea how much George was in control of the Yankees from the time he stepped down to when he died. Reports are that he was in poor mental health for that period, but if you want to believe he was in control of the Yankees, who am I to argue? Neither of us was a fly on the wall during that era. I’d rather believe the reports that it was Hank and Hal’s operation from then on, as it follows Occam’s razor, but whatever.

        As to the definitely post-George era, I’m not sure how you can argue that they’ve changed their approach. They’ve continued to give out bad contracts, most notably to Derek Jeter and Rafael Soriano, with an honorable mention for Pedro Feliciano. They’ve done some great work too, of course: extending Rivera, signing Russell Martin, getting a relatively reasonable deal out of the terrible Sabathia opt-out, getting Kuroda on a one-year deal, and while it’s early to tell, the Montero-Pineda trade looks like a net win on paper, and a better win when you consider how much better Pineda fits their roster and that they might have won the second part of the deal, Noesi for Campos. I’d say they’ve had a very good pair of offseasons overall, even with the mistakes, but I’m not sure how the two offseasons can possibly show a different approach, given their massive overpays for Soriano and Jeter.

      • professor59 - Feb 29, 2012 at 1:08 PM

        Well, of course they have a farm system. Double A is in Reading, triple A is in Lehigh Valley, and they have a AAAA team called the Houston Astros.

    • greymares - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:29 PM

      the Phillies window is as long as DOC, LEE AND HAMMELS are the top 3 of the rotation

      • dondada10 - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:36 PM

        Big question will be if they can afford Hammels after this year.

      • Ari Collins - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:23 PM

        One M in Hamels, guys.

        And yeah, if that’s the Phillies window, it’ll be interesting to see if it closes after this year.

        (Of course, I think they can still be a very good team without Hamels or Victorino. Just not a great team anymore.)

  2. proudlycanadian - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:22 PM

    I suspect that Thome would be a better short term option than Wigginton.

    • wetmorepsu12 - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:41 PM

      you cant count on thome to be able to play the field more than once or twice a week at this point in his career with his back problems.

    • Jonny 5 - Feb 27, 2012 at 8:13 PM

      I think using Thome to start at first for a significant amount of games would be silly as it would probably hurt him. He’s a valuable bench player if he’s healthy.

  3. Jonny 5 - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:35 PM

    “The pitching can’t be quite so good again. While none of the trio seems due for a deep decline, Halladay, Lee and Hamels won’t all rate among the NL’s top five starters. No, the Phillies will probably have to settle for just two or the top five or maybe even one.”

    Try telling them that. Last season was a gem though for those 3, for the most part. It’s going to be mighty tough to match.

  4. The Baseball Gods - Feb 27, 2012 at 7:55 PM

    Dude, nothing is going to “cost Charlie Manuel his job.” He is beloved in Philadelphia, and as far as I’m concerned he can manage this team for as long as his heart desires.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 27, 2012 at 8:55 PM

      Ask the NY Media/Fans what they thought of Joe Torre after ’00 and I’m sure most would have said the same thing. Then the hunches start going wrong, you make some mistakes and the success dries up. Suddenly players don’t want to play for the guy anymore and they get run out of town.

  5. illcomm - Feb 27, 2012 at 8:08 PM

    The phillies need nightime hitters. Cardinels had the best nightime batting avg and guess what folks, postseason games r played at night.

    • phillyphreak - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:06 PM

      In other news….

  6. sasquash20 - Feb 27, 2012 at 8:10 PM

    The Phillies top 3 is the best in baseball by a mile. All 3 will finish in top 5 of the NL and all 3 will finish top 10 in all of MLB. World Series or bust is the way I like it, you don’t like that then your a fragaisie. Of course the other teams are getting better they have all sucked for at least 5 years, nowhere to go but up.

    • ptfu - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:16 PM

      If Doc, Lee, and Hamels slow down at all, they could easily get passed by Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner as baseball’s Top Three. Doc and Lee are older than Lincecum and Cain, and way older than Bumgarner…

    • Ari Collins - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:26 PM

      You could make a lot of money if someone gave you even odds that the three Phillies aces would all be top 5 again. Even top 10 is pretty tough.

      Still the top 3 in baseball, though. (Followed in my mind by SF and LA of A.) 2 in the top 10 and 3 in the top 20 is better than anyone else.

  7. rjostewart - Feb 27, 2012 at 8:21 PM

    Are all of these “running down the rosters” posts going to be compiled somewhere at some point?

    • phillyphreak - Feb 27, 2012 at 9:31 PM

      I like this idea.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:11 PM

        I’m kind of shocked there aren’t tags at the end of each post so you can view others in the same category. Would make it far easier finding older posts than running google searches.

  8. illbringdabeers - Feb 27, 2012 at 8:25 PM

    For some reason I think the Phillies are going to make a crazy trade dead line trade and for some reason I’m thinking 3rd base. I’m not trying to say Polonco is gonna have a bad season cause I don’t think he’s going too, I just have a feeling some trade will happen.

  9. Ari Collins - Feb 27, 2012 at 10:34 PM

    Be interesting to see if the Phillies offense will go up or down; I can honestly see it going either way. A little like Boston, you have some guys who seem to be permanent health risks now (Utley, Youkilis) and some regression candidates (Victorino, Ortiz, Ellsbury), but also some guys they hope to get more out of (Pence, Crawford) and some positions that just can’t be as abysmal as they were last year (LF in Philly, RF in Boston).

    Either way, they’ll live or die by the health of their Big Three.

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