A Look at the Phillies Offseason and 5 Moves they Should Make
As the Phillies finish their third straight losing season today, a look to the future doesn't seem so bright. The Phillies have already fired longtime scouting director and assistant GM Marti Wolever - could this be the first of many moves this offseason?
Phillies fans can only hope.
Are there things to be excited about in 2015?
Cody Asche: The third baseman is hitting .255 with 10 home runs and 46 RBI on the season. He should enter into a battle with Maikel Franco in Clearwater with the loser moving to a new position.
Maikel Franco: The time is now, there is no need to yo-yo him back-and-forth like they did with Dom Brown (more on him later), unless Franco is a monumental disaster he needs to be on the MLB roster on opening day. While Franco is hitting under .200 since his call-up he has proved to be a more-than capable fielder either at third or first base.
Ken Giles: The 24-year-old future closer has put up fantastic numbers in his first season in the big leagues, sporting a 1.18 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 64/11 K/BB ratio in 45.2 innings. Jonathan Papelbon does have another season left on his $13-million deal, that will be tough to move. If the Phillies can't move him, the assumption is that Giles will spend one more season as a set-up man to Papelbon and then be the full-time closer in 2016.
Jake Diekman: The 27-year old lefty, combined with Giles gives the Phillies two power arms at the back-end of the bullpen. His 98 strikeouts in just 70 innings makes him downright nasty, if he can work on his command, he issues 35 walks, he will be one of the best in the game.
Justin De Fratus: Now 26-years old, De Fratus finally had that breakout season in the Phillies bullpen that fans were hoping for. It looks like the injuries are behind him now, and the numbers showed. A 2.39 ERA, couple with a excellent 1.08 WHIP makes De Fratus one of the best emerging bullpen arms in the National League. With De Fratus, Diekman and Giles this finally could be a bright spot in 2015 after years of futility.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez: Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro said on Thursday that Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will be stretched back out as a starter in spring training. Even after having success as a reliever this season, the Phils still hope the Cuban defector can be an effective starter over the long haul, and there should be open spots in their rotation. Gonzalez had some arm issues earlier this year, but he thrived after moving to the bullpen in the minors, putting up a 2.19 ERA and 51/17 K/BB ratio over 37 relief innings between Double- and Triple-A.
He has not pitched very well since being called-up to the majors with a 6.75 ERA and a 2.25 WHIP in six games pitched.
So yes, there are some things to be excited about, but not enough to make Phillies fans think this can be a playoff team next season, but here are a few things they could do to expedite the process.
1. Release Ryan Howard: While I have never been a Howard hater, I think it's clearly time for the team to move on from that contract. When things go bad for this team, the first thing people bring up are Howard's strikeouts and his contract. Back in July, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro denied speculation that the team has considered releasing Howard this offseason. Howard is still owed $60 million guaranteed over the next three years, but CBS baseball insider Jon Heyman says the Phillies "would be willing to eat much or most" of the contract.
2. Find a suitor for Dom Brown: The former top overall prospect in baseball is now pretty much a platoon player. Brown went from making the all-star game in 2013 to splitting time with Darin Ruf in 2014. He hit 27 home runs a season ago and slugged only 10 dingers this season and went from 83 RBI to just 63. Brown has become a that guy who will never be able to reach the level of hype that followed him. So what exactly can you get in return for a guy like Brown? Probably a guy much like Brown who was a big prospect and struggling in his current location.
3. Trade Cliff Lee: While Lee might be healthy in 2015, the time is now to try and move him. It's not 2009 anymore and Lee isn't the same guy we all fell in love with during his first stint with the Phillies. Lee will be 36-years old in 2015 and the Phillies are hopeful Lee will be ready by spring training next year. While holding onto him until the all-star break might be the best action, I would certainly try to move forward without him. The Phillies need a culture change and Lee being here makes Phillies fans think its 2009 still. At this stage of his career, Lee is more of a No. 2 or 3 starter and if the Phillies can get some young MLB ready talent - the time is now to move him.
4. Trade Carlos Ruiz: This might be tough. Ruiz has been playing with a bad right shoulder all season long and it might require offseason surgery. The Phillies should have never given Ruiz the three-year deal they gave him in the offseason, its time to move on and see if a younger player can handle the position while the expectations are low. Possible replacements in-house for 2015 would be; Sebastian Valle, Cameron Rupp and Tommy Joseph. The Phillies could go the free agent route with a one-year stopgap like John Buck, Geovany Soto, Nick Hundley or Russell Martin.
5. Move Jonathan Papelbon: Much like some of the guys on this list, Papelbon isn't a bad player, it's just time to move on from him. The fans don't like him, I have a hard time thinking he is well liked by Ryne Sandberg and his teammates.
The problem? $13 million.
Though at times controversial, Papelbon is having an incredible season, having gone 39-for-43 in save opportunities with a 2.04 ERA. If he stays, the Phillies should have one of the best bullpens in all of baseball with Papelbon in the ninth, Giles in the eighth and De Fratus and Diekman working the sixth and seventh innings.
The free agent class is not very good, the Phillies will have to be creative if they want to get younger in 2015. Their best case scenario moving forward might be to build a starting rotation and let the young hitters gain MLB experience. The bullpen looks like it will be the strength of the team in 2015, but the Phillies can add a pitcher or two in free agency and let guys like Asche, Franco, Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez and Darin Ruf get regular playing time.
A lineup next season for the Phillies could look like this:
2b: Hernandez or Galvis
The Phillies could let Howard and Brown go and still have platoon situations in those position and be fine. Ruf and Utley could platoon at first base and you could throw Franco or Asche (whoever losses the third base battle) into the mix from time-to-time. Over at second base, Utley could be your main guy, with Hernandez and Galvis getting about 50-60 games. Moving Utley over to first from time-to-time could be a big help to keep him healthy and increase production. The Phillies can handle another year of Rollins at short, but getting Galvis and Hernandez more time there would be wise. Asche and Franco should battle it out over at third with either as clear-cut winner, let the righty and lefty platoon or move the loser to either the outfield or first base.
In the outfield, the Phillies need to decide what Ben Revere is, the batting average is great, but he is a poor defensive player, has a poor arm, doesn't walk enough and has no power at the plate. There is no free agent option or in the farm system right now, so the Phillies might have to move forward with Rever by default. Left field is interesting, Brown could be back, but if he isn't there are some interesting options. The Phillies could finally pass the keys over to Ruf, something they have been reluctant to do. They could move Asche or Franco out there or take the free agent route with a guy like Nelson Cruz, Mike Morse or Chris Young. Over in right field, it appears Marlon Byrd is safe and will be back in 2015 after a solid season in Philly.
The bullpen looks like a strength, pitching can be rebuilt somewhat in the offseason, but the offense might take a couple of years before it becomes the consistent performer it takes to be a winning franchise.