On The Edge Blog

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Phillies hot stove heating up

It has been two weeks since the Phillies’ roster holes were exposed by the New York Yankees, so now begins the part of the year that keeps us glued to the Internet and sports-talk radio stations, because the hot stove is burning white hot around the winners of the National League pennant.

At this point, the Phillies could head in two possible directions with their offseason moves, because their core group of players is guaranteed to be here through 2011, with only Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Brad Lidge and Carlos Ruiz extended through 2012 or beyond.

With that in mind, General Manager Ruben Amaro could make a flurry of one-year signings, designed to win in 2010, or he could make one or two big moves designed to start a new core group, which would eventually include Domonic Brown, Michael Taylor and Kyle Drabek, who are all tearing up the minors.

Looking at the roster as it currently stands, the Phillies’ starters are set basically everywhere except third base, but they will need to fill in at least one starting pitcher, two relievers, and probably two or three bench spots.

Here are my predictions for the Phillies’ moves this offseason:

Third Base: After saying goodbye, at least temporarily, to Pedro Feliz because his equipment bag includes only a glove, everyone is clamoring for the Phillies to sign Angels’ third baseman Chone Figgins. I would love to see Figgins’ 101 walks and .395 on-base percentage leading off for the Phillies, but unless they find an extra $50 million in a hidden account, he’s not coming here.

The most likely candidate to replace Feliz is former Penn quarterback Mark DeRosa, who could probably be signed for a maximum of three years/$18 million. The only problem with DeRosa is that he struggled last year, hitting just .250 after three consecutive years of .285 or better. If the Phillies sign DeRosa, they will be hoping that he can bring his batting average back up toward .300, and that his power sticks around, because despite hitting 44 homers in the last two years, he only smashed 48 bombs in the previous seven seasons combined.

Wish List: Figgins. Best Guess: DeRosa, with the slight chance that the Phillies believe that Adrian Beltre’s stunning drop-off in power is not a chemical issue.

Starting pitching: With Cliff Lee, Hamels, Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ occupying four spots in the rotation, the Phillies need to decide whether Jamie Moyer can be trusted in the final slot, or if they should release the suddenly not-so-ageless wonder.

Moyer was dumped from the rotation in August, after seeing his ERA, hits per nine innings and home runs allowed all skyrocket compared to his 2008 revival. He succeeded in 2008 by giving up his fewest home runs since 2003, but in 2009, Moyer gave up seven more homers in 34 fewer innings, and saw his ERA jump from 3.71 to 4.94.

It would be great if the Phillies made a big splash and signed Ben Sheets or Rich Harden, because despite their injury history, those are the best bang-for-your-buck guys available. However, the most likely option remains Moyer, or even Kyle Kendrick, who, with new pitches at his disposal, posted a 3.42 ERA in 26 1/3 innings last year.

Wish List: Harden or Sheets. Best Guess: Moyer or Kendrick. Wild Cards: Kyle Drabek and Antonio Bastardo.

Bullpen: The Phillies usually carry either seven or eight relievers, with one or two more stashed on the disabled list or in Lehigh Valley, so after accounting for Lidge, Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin and J.C. Romero, there are four spots open in the bullpen. Scott Eyre and Chan Ho Park, who are both Type B free agents, should return, meaning Clay Condrey will be back with the Phillies only if two relievers aren’t signed.

If the Phillies open up the check book this offseason, they could find themselves with Jose Valverde or Rafael Soriano to play setup man for Brad Lidge, but more importantly prepare for another disaster season from “Lights On” Lidge. Both Soriano and Valverde are proven closers, who posted ERAs under 3.00, while striking out more than one batter per inning in 2009, and would look great mowing down hitters at Citizens Bank Park.

Wish List: Soriano. Best Guess: Fernando Rodney. Wild Card: Scott Mathieson.

Bench: To steal a phrase from Dr. Seuss, the three words that best describe the Phillies’ bench in 2009 are: “stink, stank, stunk.” Matt Stairs will probably take his seemingly 0-for-2009 elsewhere, and Eric Bruntlett will not be offered arbitration. That leaves Ben Francisco for defense, Greg Dobbs as the lefty, and Paul Bako or some other nondescript catcher.

For the final two spots, the Phillies should bring up John Mayberry, Jr., for right-handed power, and sign Mark Loretta to give Ryan Howard a break against tough lefties. Last season, Howard hit .320 against righties, with 39 homers and 108 RBIs, but against lefties, he hit, and I use that term loosely, .207 with 6 homers and 33 RBIs, while striking out 83 times in 222 at-bats.

Wouldn’t it be great to see Howard hit well for a few days against righties, and then get a quick rest so that a four-strikeout night against a lefty doesn’t cause him to go into a three-week slump?

Loretta is a .306 hitter against lefties in his career, and could easily hit seventh in the lineup, allowing Jayson Werth, who hit 46 points higher and homers nearly twice as often against lefties, to bat cleanup once or twice per week.

Wish List: Loretta. Best Guess: Jerry Hairston, Jr.

It would be great if the Phillies added guys like Figgins and Soriano this offseason to make sure that they stay strong when the contracts of Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez expire after the 2011 season, but that would mean a huge jump in payroll for the next two years. I think they will opt for the lesser options in each scenario, while relying on Utley, Howard, and Rollins to get them another parade before 2012.

EDITOR'S NOTE: As the author of this article, I sincerely apologize if I offended Domonic Brown. The NFP (Not For Print) note was obviously not meant for publication, but was inserted so the editor would not change the spelling of his name. Nevertheless, it was a bad joke made worse by the poor judgment of placing the note in the run of the story. The only idiot in this case is me.


Like the “On the Edge” blog? Hear more of my opinions about Philadelphia sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show. This week, we will talk about whether Brian Westbrook should be shut down for the season, and discuss the very latest hot stove rumors and reports.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure Domonic will be speaking with you shortly for calling his mother an idiot..


November 19, 2009 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hope you enjoy the attention...Cause it wont be positive.

November 19, 2009 10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh, JRC newspapers. You guys are the greatest.

December 10, 2009 2:12 AM  

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