Offseason In Review: Philadelphia Phillies

Ruben Amaro Jr.'s aggressive offseason approach landed him an elite but expensive closer and enabled the Phillies to lock Jimmy Rollins up for three more years.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades and Claims


Notable Losses

Draft Picks Gained or Lost

  • Lost 31st overall selection to Red Sox for Papelbon.
  • Obtained 40th overall selection for losing Madson. 
  • Obtained 54th overall selection for losing Ibanez.
  • Obtained 77th overall selection for losing Madson.

It’s easy and maybe a little hip to criticize the Phillies’ offseason moves, but you’ve got to admit this club does a lot of things right. They have appeared in two of the past four World Series, and they won it all in 2008. They’ve won their division five consecutive times, most recently with an MLB-best 102-60 mark for 2011. Their pitching staff, which allowed just 3.25 runs per game last year, returns for more of the same in 2012.

Admittedly, Jonathan Papelbon’s contract already looks like a mistake. The Phillies signed him for $50MM after engaging longtime reliever Ryan Madson in talks about a similar deal. Piles of sabermetric evidence suggest it’s imprudent to invest heavily in relievers, since their performance is volatile and you’re likely paying a premium for saves. Papelbon’s a tremendous pitcher and he was going to require a multiyear commitment. But he signed for more than Heath Bell, Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero, Takashi Saito and Francisco Rodriguez combined. The Phillies overpaid, though they're better off in 2012 because of it.

The Phillies and longtime shortstop Jimmy Rollins worked out a three-year, $38MM contract that makes sense for both sides. Rollins’ asking price of five years wouldn’t have worked for the Phillies, but he can still play short while adding value on offense. For a team whose window for contention is now, and not necessarily later, this deal was advisable. Signing a second-tier free agent or starting prospect Freddy Galvis wouldn’t have been enough.

GM Ruben Amaro Jr. didn’t stop tinkering with his bullpen after finalizing the Papelbon signing. He added Dontrelle Willis and Chad Qualls on Major League deals that have promise as long as Willis doesn’t face too many right-handed hitters and Qualls’ 2011 success translates from spacious Petco Park to Philadelphia’s cozy home field. 

Amaro bolstered his bench, adding Thome, Nix and Schneider for a total of $4.55MM, and making a few significant trades. Gone are Ben Francisco and Wilson Valdez, both fixtures in Philly for the past couple of seasons. The Phillies reportedly pursued Michael Cuddyer before acquiring an older, less productive version of Cuddyer: his predecessor in Colorado Ty Wigginton

Given the injuries currently sidelining Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, Placido Polanco's recent troubles staying healthy for an entire season and the group of players in left field, the Wigginton trade made sense for the Phillies. For $2MM, nearly $30MM less than Cuddyer’s eventual price tag, the Phillies get a versatile player with a history of success against left-handed pitching. There's no sense acting as though Utley and Howard are the fixtures they once were, which makes infield depth particularly important for the Phillies.

They boast the best rotation in MLB, even after losing Roy Oswalt to free agency. Vance Worley, Joe Blanton and the newly-extended Kyle Kendrick round out a rotation that includes three of the sport’s elite arms, so starting pitching depth likely ranked relatively low on the team’s offseason to-do list. Amaro added Joel Pineiro and Dave Bush on sensible minor league deals that provide the club with some options just in case.

Hamels and Shane Victorino are poised to hit free agency after the 2012 season, so it won’t be a surprise if Amaro looks to lock one or both players up within the next month or so. Retaining Hamels will require a nine-figure commitment, but the expense would be justifiable for a team that spends, draws and wins like a superpower. Victorino sounds willing to consider a discount to remain in Philadelphia, and it would be wise for the Phillies to take advantage of their status as a desirable destination for elite players and strike a deal if a discount's actually within reach.

The National League East is tougher than ever now that the Marlins are spending big and the Nationals have deepened their rotation. Meanwhile, the Phillies are a little older, a little more banged up and, let's face it, far less intimidating on offense than they once were. Don’t let it fool you. The Phillies’ elite run prevention should send them to a sixth consecutive postseason berth in 2012 and no one will want to face this team’s pitching staff in October.

36 Responses to Offseason In Review: Philadelphia Phillies Leave a Reply

  1. start_wearing_purple 3 years ago

    Gotta wonder. How much is Amaro kicking himself for the Papelbon deal? For that matter, how much is Papelbon congratulating himself for signing right away.

    • nm344 3 years ago

      He’d get the highest closer salary regardless.  Amaro overpaid by 2-3 mil/year.  Not a huge deal considering the team has the highest payroll in the league.

  2. nm344 3 years ago

    Couple nit-picks: Phillies get 2 draft picks for Madson, and Willis’ contract is non-guaranteed, so I dont think that qualifies as a ‘major league’ deal.

  3. Phillies_Aces35 3 years ago

    While Willis’s contract is a MLB deal, it’s non-guaranteed and he’s more than likely going to be released before opening day if he keeps pitching the way he has.

    I think they had a solid offseason. Minus giving Papelbon a year too many, they read the market for Jimmy well and added some much needed power to their bench.

  4. Considering that they spent almost $95 million this offseason, to come away with a relief pitcher, a 34 year old shortstop, and a whole lot of ben-gay for the bench, Its curious to me how this can be considered even a moderately successful offseason.

    • ColonelTom 3 years ago

      The bench is what worries me this year.  They have much better pinch-hitting options, but an aging team has to plan for injuries, and with Utley, Polanco, and Howard all recovering from serious health issues, the Phils need everyday options coming off the bench.  They’ll probably need 60+ starts, and maybe a lot more, at 2B/3B from their bench, in addition to half a season or more of 1B starts. 

      Manuel’s current 2B/3B options are Ty Wigginton (who is willing to put on a glove and walk out to those positions, but can’t actually play them) and either Michael Martinez or Freddy Galvis (both of whom need another season in the minors).  They’ve maxed out their payroll if they want to stay away from the luxury tax.  Unless Ruben pulls a rabbit out of his hat and swaps Blanton for a legitimate infielder (I’m looking at you, Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis), they’re looking at losing several wins to injuries that are almost certain to happen, but for which the Phillies have done nothing to plan.

      • nm344 3 years ago

        Bench is much improved over last year.  And remember they gave 500 ABs to Valdez/Martinez last year and the team still won 102 while taking a week off in September.

        • ColonelTom 3 years ago

          Pinch-hitting is much improved, but they still need an infielder.  Also remember that Wigginton is likely to play a lot of 1B until Howard returns, so if they need him elsewhere, they’ll be playing Thome (who hasn’t played 1B regularly since 2005), Mayberry (primarily an OF), or Nix (9 games at 1B last season after 8 years exclusively as an OF) there instead.  That means you’re taking a defensive hit wherever Wigginton is playing plus at 1B – and yes, those guys are likely to be worse than Howard in the field.

          Worley’s also likely to regress some this year, and we’ll be replacing Oswalt with Kyle Kendrick.  They should still win 93+ games and make the playoffs as long as their big 3 pitchers stay healthy, but it’s not going to be smooth sailing.

          • nm344 3 years ago

            Oswalt will be replaced by Blanton, who if healthy is really not much worse than Oswalt was in 2011.

          • ColonelTom 3 years ago

            Right – I keep figuring they’ll trade Blanton.  I have to stop reading so many trade rumors. 😉

        • The bench last year was what?  Schneider, Valdez, Martinez, Francisco, and Mayberry.

          Worst case scenario, Martinez starts at 3B, probably Orr at 2B, and Wigginton at 1B with Mayberry in LF.

          That leaves Schneider, Thome, Nix, and i suppose Pierre and Podsednik on the bench?  And Nix is already banged up, so that might become Dom Brown? I am struggling to come up with more infield names than Thome should they need one. If things get really bad, do you ask Thome to play 1B everyday? And Wigginton becomes another utility guy? Scary stuff.

          Personally, Ben Francisco is the most established back up out of any of these names at this point in their respective careers, and he just got traded to Toronto for a pouch of Red Man.

          Also, for all of the reasons listed by Tom Parker.  If you are going to count on a 33 year old catcher, why bring back a 37 year old backup?  Jake Fox, Chris Gimenez, and Chris Snyder are all examples of players who bring more to the table, at a lower price, than Brian Schneider.  I can not tell if Amaro resigned him just because of his work with Worley, or flat-out laziness.  Neither would surprise me.

      • You hit the nail on the head right there IMO.  Great post.

    • Guest 3 years ago

      when you put it that way, it does make it look a bit less glamorous

  5. vtadave 3 years ago

    Chuckled a bit seeing Danys Baez as a “notable loss”.

    • Phillibuster 3 years ago

      If any of our games go past midnight, at least.

  6. Jason Klinger 3 years ago

    Pitching will have to hold up all year, because this offense is going to struggle to plate 3 runs a game most nights. It’s still the best team in the division, but I won’t be surprised if it takes until the final week of the season to wrap it up. Florida, Atlanta and Washington are all capable of making a run at 90 wins this year. 

    • nm344 3 years ago

      This same offense scored the most runs in the league after Utley came back.  Please save your 2-3 runs nonsense for teams that actually qualify for that– like the Braves.

      • ellisburks 3 years ago

        The Phils scored a lot of runs but they were boom or bust. They would score 10 one game then score 1-2 runs for 5 games in a row. Still potent but much more streaky.

      • Clayton Wilson 3 years ago

        I’ll counter your ‘Same offense scored the most runs in the league after Utley came back’ nonsense with the Braves scored the 5th most runs in the league in 2010 with basically the same team(add Uggla, subtract Infante).

        Seriously though, don’t act like that’s sustainable. Have Howard or Utley played a single ST game yet? Is Hunter Pence not the best bet to be productive? They were a tick above average on offense last year and they still have question marks this year. The Mets actually scored more runs per game than any other team in the NL East. Florida addressed their offensive struggles in the off season, the Phillies and Braves really didn’t.

  7. ObamaDinoKiller 3 years ago

    i wanna be a bear

  8. Philley11 3 years ago

    Because of RAJ’s impatience we are the only team to lose a draft pick due to the old free agency compensation rules.

    • Phillies_Aces35 3 years ago

      That’s the only real gripe I have with the Papelbon deal. I mean, ideally, they just keep it to three years but it’s not worth getting upset about… especially since it’s in hindsight that the market was the way it ended up being.

      Jumping the gun a week early and losing a draft pick is something that the GM hasn’t even acknowledged was a mistake.

      • But isn’t having the ability to read the market a trait which a good GM  should have?  I mean I can understand an extra few million, or an extra year, but the next best reliever on the market, Heath Bell, got a year less, and almost $4m less in annual average value (AAV).

        Plus, competent relievers like Francisco and Madson got far less than that.

        And it is not even the money that bothers me as much as it is the focus.  You have injuries all over the infield, a SS that is past his prime, and a big question mark in LF, and you target “closer” as your huge need?  Where is the focus there?  Was he asleep during NLDS Game 5, or all of them for that matter?  He says they need to have better at bats and then he trots in several all-or-nothing guys like Thome, Wigginton, and Nix.  It just makes no sense.

        • Phillies_Aces35 3 years ago

          Well I don’t think anybody thought Andrew Bailey, Sergio Santos, and Huston Street would be moved. Two suitors (Boston and Toronto) who at the time of the Papelbon signing seemed like they had the money to spend on an elite reliever.

  9. Clayton Wilson 3 years ago

    I think a Marlins fan ‘liked’ it.

  10. Why does my persistence threaten you?

  11. All of these guys had .200 BA or higher, and .300 OBP or higher last year, which Schneider did not.  All of these guys threw out a higher percentage of base stealers than Schneider’s pitiful 13% (league average 28%).  All of these guys are cheaper than Schneider, and finally…all of these guys are younger than Schneider.

    If you do not like them, fine, but if you can look at my list of reasons, and still defened Amaro re-signing Schneider, than you are simply disagreeing with me for the sake of disagreeing.

    And I am not banging the drum for either of these three guys specifically, they are simply examples designed to prove a point. The point is, at Ruiz’s age, if he goes down, we are in trouble. And like the infield, instead of recognizing that age was now a factor, Amaro did nothing to address the likelyhood that the starter will need more rest than before. Schneider is as close to an automatic out as there is on this team at this point in his career. And his arm is far beyond what it was 7 years ago, when Schneider was one of the best defensive catchers in the league. Pudge would have been a better pickup over simply re-upping Schneider and moving on.

    Show me one other #5 starter in this league with his own personal catcher.  You can not.

  12. Catcher’s record?  

    I won’t even justify that with a rebuttal.  It stands on its own irrelevance.

Leave a Reply