My offseason plan looks different than Pat’s and Eric’s. They each outlined under-the-radar solutions to the Phillies’ problems, moves that could make the team younger and not put the Phils over the luxury tax.
I took a different approach. The Phillies need to improve, and I’m more concerned with upgrading the offense and bullpen than I am with getting the most bang for the buck. I see Eric’s points about what Peter Bourjos adds, but I don’t think he’s a big enough offensive upgrade. I agree that Ryan Theriot is a serviceable platoon option at third base, but he’s not much more than that and he’s very similar to Kevin Frandsen.
Here is my offseason wishlist:
B.J. Upton – five years, $78 million
Even if the elder Upton doesn’t realize his potential and has five more seasons like his previous five, he’ll be worth this type of contract. It may seem like a ton, but it’s what you pay in today’s world for a power-hitting, defensively sound everyday centerfielder.
I know about Upton’s deficiencies, his .298 OBP last season, his average of 162 strikeouts per season since 2009. But I care more about the 28 home runs he hit last season at a park that suppresses homers, the 40 steals he’s averaged over the last five years.
Upton may be a .250 hitter for the rest of his career. But this specific Phillies team needs power (17th in slugging percentage, 18th in homers), and could use some speed in the middle of the order. Upton could provide both after Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
He’s great defensively and has well above-average speed. He’s also 28 … almost two years younger than Michael Bourn and three years younger than Angel Pagan.
The possibility exists that Upton, in this park and in front of actual fans, could take his game to another level.
Kevin Youkilis – two years, $17 million
He’s the best available third baseman and would give the Phillies exactly the type of plate discipline they need. The Phils were also 17th in on-base percentage last season and haven’t had a true pitch-taker since Jayson Werth.
Signing Upton makes much more sense if you can also land Youkilis, because Upton could add power and speed while Youkilis gives you power and plate discipline. He doesn’t move well on the bases, but Youk could fit in as a second batter because of how often he gets on base. He has a .384 career OBP and figures to bounce back from last season’s career-low, which was mostly the result of a terrible April.
Youkilis is the only third baseman in this class that could improve the Phillies at the plate, so he’s the easy choice. Actually signing him figures to be tough, as the White Sox want to re-sign him and teams are interested in him as both a third baseman and first baseman.
The Phillies haven’t had a long-term option at the hot corner since Scott Rolen. Youk could be the guy for two years while Cody Asche continues to develop on the farm.
Mike Adams – two years, $15 million
He had surgery several weeks ago for thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition shared by Antonio Bastardo.
Adams’ injury limited him a bit in 2012, when he pitched to a 3.27 ERA in 61 appearances for the Rangers. From 2009-11, he was the best setup man in the game. He had a 1.42 ERA and a microscopic 0.85 WHIP.
Adams has a devastating cutter and doesn’t get lucky in his results. He is a bona fide filthy late reliever who was still effective in an extreme hitter’s park last season. You put him on last year’s Phillies – who had the second-worst eighth inning ERA in baseball and had 27 relief losses – and they might have won four or five more games. I’m not talking in abstract WAR terms, either, I’m talking in “games blown by Chad Qualls, Michael Schwimer, Bastardo and Phillippe Aumont” terms.
The Phils have been linked to Adams at recent trade deadlines (2010 and 2011) but made bigger moves each July, trading for Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence.
This might be the perfect time to bring him in, and his injury may have decreased his pricetag enough to make it possible.
Koji Uehara – two years, $12 million
Whether you get Adams or not, I’d also pursue his Texas teammate from last year.
Ordinarily, I’d never condone spending this much money on the bullpen. If the Phillies were to sign both Adams and Uehara to these proposed deals, they would have more than $25 million next season to those two and Jonathan Papelbon.
But you know what? This team needs a very strong bullpen. If you’re going to build a team on pitching, you need to be able to protect leads in the inning between the starter’s exit and Papelbon’s entrance. The Phillies didn’t come close to doing that last season and drastic measures need to be taken.
Aumont is not yet ready for everyday eighth inning duty, nor is Justin De Fratus or Bastardo or Josh Lindblom. Simply put, none of those guys have a good enough combination of stuff and control.
A back-end of Uehara (who has a 2.14 ERA the last two years and a 10.7 K/BB), Adams and Papelbon gives the Phillies so many options. Yes, they are flush with young relievers. But which of those young relievers are you actually confident in going into 2013? Potential is great. But for this specific Phillies team, I’d rather be as confident as possible in my late relievers. That relief trio inspires a ton of confidence.
These moves, for the proposed contracts, put the Phillies about $5 million over the luxury tax. The Phils have avoided exceeding the tax threshold in recent years, but it increases from $178 million to $189 million after this season and if you have to pay the price for one year, I think it’s worth it if you can fill three holes in legitimate ways.
As I said at the outset of this post, I am more concerned with the team improving than I am with it making the most efficient deals.
Easy to say, it’s not my money. But when you’re already spending this much, it becomes almost necessary to spend a little more to put yourself back into true contention. The Tigers keep on proving that.
SP: Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Kendrick, Worley
Bullpen: Papelbon, Adams, Uehara, Bastardo, Lindblom, Horst, De Fratus
C: Ruiz, Kratz
Infield: Howard, Utley, Rollins, Youkilis, Frandsen, Galvis
Outfield: Upton, Dom Brown, Darin Ruf, Laynce Nix, John Mayberry