Additions: Raul Ibanez, Chan Ho Park, Jack Taschner, Miguel Cairo, Scott Eyre (re-signed), Jamie Moyer (re-signed), John Mayberry, Rodrigo Lopez, Gustavo Chacin, Pablo Ozuna, Gary Majewski, Dave Borkowski. Midseason: Joe Blanton
Subtractions: Pat Burrell, Geoff Jenkins, Adam Eaton, So Taguchi, Rudy Seanez, Tom Gordon
Extensions: Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Jayson Werth, Ryan Madson, Greg Dobbs
I wrote in November that the Phillies "didn't win the World Series on a bunch of career years, so keeping this group intact is a reasonable strategy." That's pretty much what new GM Ruben Amaro Jr. did, locking up current players, jettisoning dead weight, and replacing Burrell with Ibanez. Let's take a closer look.
Last year the Phillies were third in the NL with 4.93 runs per game, though their .332 OBP ranked seventh. As a left-handed hitter and poor fielder, Ibanez seemed a questionable fit for the Phillies. They jumped on him in mid-December for full market price – $31.5MM. Burrell would later sign with the Rays for half the dollars. On the other hand, Ibanez is a solid bat and the Phillies project to score 4.98 runs per game according to CHONE projections and the Baseball Musings lineup analysis tool. Howard's OBP should bounce back, and Jenkins won't be eating up 322 plate appearances.
The Phillies' 2008 rotation ranked seventh in the NL with a 4.23 ERA in 966.2 innings. This time they'll have Blanton all year plus Chan Ho Park and possibly J.A. Happ filling the fifth starter role. Carlos Carrasco gives the Phillies additional depth. The front three of Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, and Moyer returns, with concerns already surfacing about Hamels' elbow. Obviously the Phils need another big year from Hamels, but otherwise I think they can weather regression from Moyer just by not trotting out Kyle Kendrick and Eaton for 49 starts again.
The vaunted Phillies bullpen posted a 3.22 ERA in 483 innings last year. The main change for '09: Eyre, Happ, and Taschner will soak up lefty innings in the first third of the year while J.C. Romero serves his suspension. Just with typical regression the '09 pen projects around 3.93, according to CHONE.
The Phillies had the best defense in baseball last year, according to The Fielding Bible II. The main differences in '09 – more Werth, no Jenkins, and the Burrell-Ibanez swap – shouldn't change much. The Phillies still have an awesome defensive infield and the fine work of Victorino in center.
In trying to match or exceed their 92 wins from last year, the Phillies deal with rotation uncertainty and regression in the bullpen. I have them around 90-91 wins, assuming 200+ innings from Hamels. You may recall I had the Braves at 90 and the Mets around 86. It should be a fierce battle for the NL East, and the Marlins can't be counted out.
Bottom line: The World Series champs didn't change much in the offseason. On paper the Phillies still look like the best team in the NL East, albeit with a very small margin for error.