Phillies Off-Season Taking Shape
The MLB Hot Stove league as started, but nothing to hot has actually happened. However, the Phillies have already shown they are going to be active , first bringing back slugging first-basemen Jim Thome back to the City of Brotherly Love and next inking closer Ryan Madson to a lucrative 4 year, $44-million deal (waiting on approval from CEO David Montgomery).
Thome, who will provide a big left-handed bat off the bench, replacing the light-hitting Ross Gload, will also play some first-base in the absence of Ryan Howard at the start of the season. Meanwhile, Madson will again be the anchor of a Phillies bullpen that needs to be re-made. The 31-year old closer nailed down 32 saves in his first season in the full-time role.
However, the Phillies showed that if Madson walked, they had a plan B, reportedly talking to Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon just in case Madson got away. Also, in town this week, was Minnesota band-aid Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer, who is a good friend of Thome could be a perfect fit for a team that needs to kill two birds with one stone - Cuddyer provides that with his ability to play multiple positions and would be a good fit in the line-up with his right-handed bat.
The 32-year old has averaged 20 homers and 82 RBI along with a .272 average while playing 1B, 2B, 3B, LF, and RF. Adding a guy like this allows you to be creative with the line-up, move guys around and keep them fresh and sets up a run at Jimmy Rollins.
By adding a guy like Cuddyer, they can use him at first until Howard comes back and then once Howard returns, Cuddyer can move around the diamond and give Chase Utley and Placido Polonco much-needed rest in the infield and help provide depth and a veteran bat in the outfield and off-the-bench.
Other areas I would like to see filled are back-up catcher, Carlos Ruiz, who will be 32 years old when the 2012 season begins. During his tenure, the Phillies have not had a viable back-up and now is the time to grab one - the Pirates Ryan Doumit fits the bill. Doumit has has injury issues, but plays multiple positions and provides another Right-handed bat off the bench. While he is lacking defensively he can catcher, play first and right-field. Injuries have been his issue, but a change of scenery could help the talented Doumit who .303 with 8 HR and 30 RBI in limited play last season in Pittsburgh.
Overall, an off-season where you already have Thome on board and if you can add Cuddyer and Doumit, you have added three offensive-minded players, two of which play multiple positions, along with great locker room presence. Furthermore, you have the anchor of your bullpen and you give yourself a chance to bring back the face of your franchise - Jimmy Rollins.