Offseason Changes: Phillies

In: Cliff Lee

Out: Jayson Werth, Jamie Moyer, Greg Dobbs, Mike Sweeney, Chad Durbin

The biggest news of the offseason in Philly, of course, was the acquisition of Cliff Lee and the departure of Jayson Werth. Not much else changed about the Philadelphia roster, and that could be considered a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective.

On the one hand, by signing Lee the Phillies have assembled the best four starters on one club since … well, since maybe forever. It’s all on paper, though — it will remain to be seen whether Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels stay healthy and take 32 starts each. If they do, and they perform reasonably as well as expected, it will be a long year for NL hitters.

However, will the Phils score enough runs now that Werth is gone? Rookie Domonic Brown is supposed to be up to the task of replacing Werth — in a platoon role with Ben Francisco — but it’s hard to imagine the youngster posting a .900+ OPS in his first year. I’m a little surprised that GM Ruben Amaro didn’t acquire a veteran bat to guard against Brown flopping and/or further decline by Raul Ibanez — though, it probably makes more sense to see what happens in the first few months of the season, and make a deal if necessary before the trading deadline.

In addition to the big gain and big loss of the winter, the Phillies made a few under-the-radar moves, signing a few intriguing players to minor-league deals with invites to spring training. Specifically, Jeff Larish, a power-hitting corner infielder who was a top prospect for the Tigers not long ago. Larish has never been given ample opportunity to prove himself at the big-league level, and may now be a “AAAA” player. He hit 20 HR in 334 AAA at-bats last year, posting a .910 OPS, so he has some pop — he could grow into the old Greg Dobbs role of pinch-hitting and filling in at 3B. The Phils also signed outfielders Brandon Moss and Delwyn Young, as well as second basemen Pete Orr and Josh Barfield — all of whom have MLB experience. I’ve always liked Young and found Barfield interesting — though they likely would have had a better chance of making the Mets rather than the Phils.

Finally, the Phillies signed LHP Dan Meyer, who had a breakout year with the Marlins in ’09 but missed most of last year due to a sword-swallowing accident … er, check that, wrong Dan Meyer … I mean, a serious calf injury. In all seriousness, the NJ native was impressive in ’09, and if he can regain that form in 2011, the Phillies may have obtained one of the best bargains of the offseason.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Izzy February 24, 2011 at 2:59 pm
    Wilson Valdez and Brian Schneider almost looked like mediocre big league hitters in CBP. I think the Phillies came to the conclusion that anybody could look pretty good there as long as they don’t face an ace. Therefore they grabbed up every ace they could and figured anybody set of batters could give them enough offense to win.
  2. CatchDog February 25, 2011 at 10:41 am
    The Phils have certainly set themselves up with an outstanding rotation, making them seem like a no brainer for representing the NL in the Fall Classic. But as mentioned, they did nothing to help bolster their offense after losing arguably their best player in Jayson Werth. Nor did they address the pen, which could come back to haunt them. They also have a major lefty-heavy hitting lineup –and players who suffer from huge R/L splits. For example, last season against lefty pitching, the Phils line was .251 / .330 / .411 / .741.

    However, it seems that the Phils biggest challenge this season will not be other teams. It will be egos, expectations, staying healthy and age related decline. Rollins, Utley, Howard and Ibanez have all regressed considerably since 2008. And Victorino’s 2010 OBP was 31 points below 2009. Injuries have started to zap production and build an All Star disabled list.

    Last season, the Phils were the oldest team in baseball. And this year, the only position player under 30 is Domonic Brown and the only starter south of 30 is Cole Hamels. And because they dredged the farm acquiring the likes of Halladay, Oswalt, Blanton and Lee (the first time), there is not much depth in case of injury.

    With payroll this season just under 165 mil and players like Howard owed 135 mil thru his 36th birthday, Lee owed 125 mil thru his 38th birthday (with vesting option) and 34 year old Halladay owed 20 mil a year thru his 37th birthday, it’s obvious the window to win is now. The eggs are all in the basket. That said, anything short of another title or two will be viewed as a complete failure for a franchise that already has the distinction of being the only 10,000 loss team with just 2 titles in 130 seasons.

    • Izzy February 25, 2011 at 11:18 am
      Yes, the Phils have some long term deals but they also have plenty of $$ coming off the books at the end of the year. Rollins, 8.5 mil; Ibanez, 11.5 mil; Lidge 11.5 (team option for 12) Oswalt 16 mil (mutual option for ’12)… plus many smaller contracts. They have as much flexibility as the Mets with a better team to start.
      With Lee being in Philly beofre, Halladay obviously happy there, Hamels happier when not the go to pitcher, where do you see ego problems. As for their horrid history I think even the most die hard Met fan would gladly take the last four years of winning 4 division titles, being in 2 WS and winning one, plus 8 straight winning seasons. Have we ever come close to accomplishing that type of streak??? I don’t think we’ll the Wilpons’ field sold out 81 times this year… Maybe 4, the first game and the Yankee games. While the Phillies have made going to games the thing to do. They have adopted the Yankees and Red Sox model of do anything to win and the fans will keep on spending. We seem to have adopted the Pirates model of go cheap and hope to make a small profit while record doesn’t matter.
      • CatchDog February 26, 2011 at 10:53 am
        As far as money off the books for the Phils next year, Cliff Lee’s salary jumps from 11 mil this season to 21.5 next year and then to 25 mil for the following 4 years. Also, Cole Hamels will be looking for a sizable raise from his 9.5 mil (last year of arb). Pitching from the #4 spot in the rotation, Cole’s likely to have lots of success this season which could mean he commands bank. And Victorino, Ruiz and Polanco receive about 5 mil more next season. That could be 20 mil of additional payroll.

        Moreover, If Oswalt doesn’t retire (which he’s hinted at) they’ll want him back and if Lidge has a decent season, I’d assume his option would vest. Especially since the Phils currently have no future closer in the pen.

        Rollins is a decent deal at 8.5 mil. His offense has slipped (OPS+ at 86 last year and posted a WAR of just 1.7) but he’s above average defensively when healthy. Either way, the Phils will need to replace his talents at short which will cost them unless they believe Wison Valdez can get the job done. Same with Ibanez. Unless two of either Brown, Mayberry and Francisco step up, they will be looking to replace Ibanez’ production.

        Add in the normal raises of the other arb eligible players and it’s possible the Phils see payroll go from 165 to 190. However, I tend to agree that the Phils will lose Ibanez salary and find similar production with Rollins salary, making payroll about 175-180 next season. Lowering payroll from there means losing Oswalt and/or Hamels or trading one of the core pieces.

        To me, this does not mean the Phils have flexibilty at all. They’ve painted themselves in a corner with an older team with lots of high priced – long term contracts. Shedding payroll means losing key pieces. The days of paying Werth 8 mil for 6 WAR of production are over. As for comparing the Mets and Phils, winning brings out the fans (except in Florida). In a few years, the only thing people will remember are World Championships. Look at the Braves, who won 14 straight divsions but only won once. You’ve got to win it all. And right now, the Phils appear to be going the other way. Who knows; maybe they run the table for a couple years. We’ll find out soon enough. And I can’t wait. 🙂