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The Interesting Phillies Offseason That Has Been

Posted by Eric Seidman, Wed, December 05, 2012 12:38 PM | Comments: 18
Acquisitions, Analysis, Offseason

The Phillies entered the offseason with a clear need at a premium position and a number of players to choose from. These weren’t just stopgaps or part-time players, either, as the list of free agent centerfielders included Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton, Angel Pagan and Shane Victorino.

Including conceivable trade targets like Denard SpanPeter Bourjos, Dexter Fowler and Chris Young (prior to the Oakland deal) the Phillies had plenty of options. Their decision was going to boil down to available resources and the way in which they decided to allocate them among other perceived needs like third base, the corner outfield spots, and the bullpen. Everything was connected.

Signing Upton to a lucrative deal would likely rule out the additional signing of a corner outfielder. Signing Hamilton would help in the interim but would cost a pretty penny for an aging player who won’t play up the middle in two years. He would also cost a first-round pick and effectively rule out spending any money at third base or the bullpen.

Acquiring a centerfielder via trade would mean parting ways with prospects. That isn’t a big deal, but if one of those prospects is a starting pitcher close to major-league ready, the Phillies wouldn’t have them should one of the Big Three get hurt, should Kyle Kendrick turn into a pumpkin, or should the league catch up with Vance Worley.

Everything is connected, but the latter point is perhaps the most interesting. Despite the aforementioned uncertainties surrounding the starting rotation, none of myself, Corey, Pat or Ian discussed any related moves in our offseason plans. No starting pitchers were even mentioned, because the rotation is still quite strong, and there were more pressing needs elsewhere. We weren’t advocating a complete disregard of the rotation, but rather hoping that the front office solved the outfield issues, first and foremost.

Now that several players are off of the board, the entire landscape of the Phillies’ offseason has changed, and it seems that they may have missed out on some good opportunities as a result. The offseason is far from over, and the Phillies can still make improvements in various areas, but it’s hard to spin what has happened so far in a positive way.

Let’s recap what has happened. The Phillies reportedly made an offer to Upton for five years and $55 million. In no universe was that ever going to be enough, and he ended up signing with the Braves for five years and over $75 million. The Phillies were serious about signing Pagan but he re-upped with the Giants for four years and $40 million. Span was dealt to the Nationals for a return the Phillies easily could have competed with.

Though he still has value to provide, the Phillies apparently had no interest in Victorino, who signed for $39 million over three years with the Red Sox. My spidey sense tells me it would have taken a bit less for the Phillies to bring him back.

The Phillies reportedly worked out a trade to acquire Wilton Lopez from the Astros, only to see it fall apart and watch as the underrated reliever was dealt to the Rockies. In the process of almost acquiring him, it was revealed that one of the Phillies’ catching prospects — most likely Sebastian Valle — was included in the deal.

While Lopez certainly has value and would have helped stabilize the bullpen, the revelation that Valle was likely included somewhat deflates his value in future trades. If the Phils were fine sending Valle to acquire a 60-IP reliever, how could he possibly be the centerpiece of a bigger deal?

Simply put, the aforementioned centerfielders all signed for reasonable deals that the Phillies could have outbid to solve the situation, and the Lopez situation backfired in more ways than one. There is virtue in waiting the market out, as it seems Amaro is aptly doing, but the underlying idea there is that he would sign someone when the price was right.

The prices for Upton and Pagan qualified as ‘right’. This becomes problematic because of the interconnectedness of various moves. Because the Phillies missed out on Upton and Pagan and paid little interest to Victorino, they are left with the likely over-priced Bourn and the wild card splash that is Hamilton on the market.

A trade for Fowler or Bourjos would almost certainly include Worley, and that opens up a spot in the starting rotation that could have been filled by Dan Haren. Maybe Haren would not have considered the Phils but there was no evidence that the Phils were even remotely interested in him. Which is a shame considering he’s the best pitcher available on a short-term deal.

It would have made more sense to sign him to a pillow-contract and actively shop Worley than to end up forced to include Worley in potential deals and have to choose between Edwin Jackson or Ryan Dempster on a multi-year deal or one of Tyler Cloyd, Trevor May or Brody Colvin to fill the spot.

As Corey wrote at Beerleaguer earlier today, the Phillies can still salvage the offseason with a series of complementary moves. Moves that, on their own, don’t seem all that great, but put together with the returned health of Roy Halladay, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, could help the Phillies legitimately compete.

The Phils are, as usual, in pursuit of Josh Willingham. Acquiring the very affordable right-handed power bat would leave him, Domonic Brown and John Mayberry in the corner spots. A Brown/Mayberry platoon in rightfield — or Brown alone if he can establish himself as an everyday player — with Willingham in left is a pretty enticing corner outfield combo.

Signing Michael Bourn to play center is probably the best bet at this point as well, assuming that his asking price is forced down into that Upton range. While I have my reservations about paying Bourn $15 million per year, his skills would help the Phillies, especially in conjunction to what Willingham brings to the table. These moves work well together.

The other centerfield options aren’t all that enticing. Fowler hits like Rajai Davis away from Coors Field, and while Davis is an adequate player capable of a .280/.320/.380 with solid fielding, he isn’t all that exciting. Bourjos is a favorite of mine but he is now slated to start with Torii Hunter‘s departure. It’s tough to envision the Angels trading him at all and it would certainly cost more if he’s going to start.

Hamilton is a sexy name, but do you really want to pay him $25 million per year and lose a first-round pick to field poorly and keep fans wondering if he’ll even stay on the field, for one reason or another? Plus, that still doesn’t solve the corner outfield issues, and that $25 million is better if allocated between Bourn and Willingham.

However, even the Bourn/Willingham plan has flaws or drawbacks. Acquiring Willingham would likely mean parting ways with Worley and May, meaning a spot opens up in the rotation. It wouldn’t be prudent to waste that spot with Cloyd when there is still a question mark regarding Kendrick’s abilities. The Phillies can’t have two questionable starters at the back-end of the rotation if Halladay’s health is still a potential concern. And the available starters — with guys like Haren and Scott Baker off the board — would require multi-year deals and material salaries in the $10-$13 million range.

There is still plenty of time to improve for the upcoming season and beyond, but the Phillies haven’t seemed to implement a concrete plan so far. It doesn’t mean they don’t have one, but rather that nothing we have heard about has tied together or made any type of cohesive sense. The offseason is long and there is clearly still time for the Phillies to make improvements, but this offseason has largely lacked direction, which isn’t indicative of the Amaro era, and which makes this perhaps the most interesting offseason of this recent Phillies run.

Avatar of Eric Seidman

About Eric Seidman

Eric Seidman has written 64 articles on Phillies Nation.

Eric offers his unique analytical perspective to Phillies Nation and is a regular contributor on FanGraphs.com.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 The Red McNertney

    I predict that the Phils and us fans will get nothing but frustration from these winter meetings. We will end up with nothing to get excited about. I hope I am wrong.

     
  • Posts: 0 gmo709

    You’ll get nothing and like it. No, seriously, let’s see what happens here. I hope that Haren burns out early for the Nats and I hope Wilton Lopez isnt awesome. Damn Freddy Garcia deal ruined it. I wouldnt mind Ellsbury in CF. Can we deal Vanimal and maybe another young arm for him? we need arms for the future though. The 3 aces ain’t gonna last forever.

     
  • Posts: 0 The Banker

    The draft pick is of extreme importance, and due to new CBA rules with it moving up if teams in front of you sign certain players, I can’t help but think it’s effecting the way certain teams (including us) are operating. Signing Hamilton means losing the #16 (which could easily become #13) to Texas but signing Bourn means losing that pick to most hated divisional foe in Atlanta. Not 100% positive but I’m pretty sure signing Upton would have meant losing the pick to TB.

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    Jeff Keppinger to sign a 3 year deal with the White Sox worth $12 M. . .

    One less team to compete with for Youkilis.. and if Keppinger gets $4 per year, I think that $7 M per year is about what Youkilis gets

     
    • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

      Propoised gentkeman’s bet for ya. You project Youk at 7 off Keppinger getting 4. I’ll say he gets 9 mil for 2 years off that. He might take 7 for 3 years, which it’s hard to see him getting, but in the likely 2 year situation, I’ll say 9.

      I wouldn’t have said that a few months back, but 3B is so scarce of supply, and salaries are not dropping.

      Hell, Boras, at this rate might find a way to get Soriano the 14 mil he opted out of with NYY.

      Bet?

       
      • Posts: 0 Don M

        Bet ….

        winner has to post:
        “Ken Bland/Don M is the coolest person on Phillies Nation” ?

         
      • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

        Many people over the years have enjoyed interfaciing with me and you could just feel them wanting to wrap the communication with the old adage “you’re a gentleman, and a scolar.”
        It is AMAZING how often they lose the second part of that to a sudden cough. I may not be a scholar (but I also might be, anything is possible), but I know that’s not a very good bet on your part. If you lose, and have to pay that price, you will get sued up the yin yang for false advertising. And hung in effigy. You are gonna look SO foolish if you lose. Gawd, I would hate to have my byline attached to writing something like that. Man, I hope Youk signs tonight.
        I don’t even care anymore if he signs for 10 or 11 mil, or whoever pays for it.

        YOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUK!

        Sportsman of the Year, 2013 edition. A bargain at 20 mil. Hand him the pen.

         
  • Posts: 0 George

    Victorino is now overpaid, Pagan was almost certain to re-sign with SF (and if he hadn’t the Phils would have been out more than the 4yrs/$40 million SF paid) and I’m not all that certain that Upton is worth what he’s being paid, either. Haren at $13 million is probably not a great bargain. The Lopez deal fell apart becuase of medical concerns, so he might turn out to be a disaster.

    If you can’t get the guy you want at the right price, it seems better to me NOT to get him. Really, I think your assessment of the Phils offseason so far is way too far toward the negative. There are still options out there, and some may prove better than the (in my opinion) “meh” players already signed by other teams.

     
  • Posts: 0 bacardipr

    They all overpaid just how much is the overpaid amount. I think the Shane deal was a slight overpay. Perhaps Rube is playing a wait and see game. This can work or backfire tremendously lets hope Rube and the Phils have it worked out.

     
  • Posts: 5222 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Eric,
    I’ve been reading and enjoying your postings for a long time, but I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed with you as much as I do on this one. We are completely polar opposites on our feelings about the status of the offseason right now. I wish I had more time to go line by line with you but I don’t today. In short- just because RAJ has not been impulsively jumping (and overbidding) at everything that moves, doesn’t mean everything won’t work out fine. If he’s getting outbid, then maybe he just doesn’t value these guys that much.

     
    • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

      Avatar of Eric Seidman

      I’m completely fine with him not jumping the gun, and as I said there is still plenty of time to solve the issues. I even gave an example of how that could happen. I’m saying that there doesn’t seem to be a plan in place, as the Phils interests keep reportedly changing, and some of the best available guys are coming off of the board in the process.

       
      • Posts: 0 Cat

        I watched Derrick Mitchell Sunday and you can say what you want but this is a young man who will make it he has all the tools and great size, what a Athlete, this kid looks like he can play ayrwhene, he will defiantly help the phillies if not them someone will go after him you can see it coming. He’s the biggest sleeper the Phillies have wait watch and see.

         
    • Posts: 146 Eric Seidman

      Avatar of Eric Seidman

      And further to the point, I am more concerned with getting a good deal, regardless of the timing. If it means waiting the market out, great, but it doesn’t have to mean that. Look at the Athletics, who made the first move of the offseason and traded a fungible infielder in Pennington for friggin’ Chris Young. Usually waiting means that you put yourself in a better position to get more value, but not always, and I am of the opinion that the deals doled out to Upton and Pagan, in particular, were perfectly fair. That’s all. It’s not doom-and-gloom, and in re-reading this I still don’t think it comes off that way. I just think the Phils missed some opportunities here, especially related to Haren and Baker, if the plan involves dealing Worley to bring in a corner OF, CF or 3B. There just doesn’t seem to be that much in place right now. Sure, we don’t know everything, but that’s what this post is about. I still have confidence all problems will be resolved, but I fear that waiting this long has cost the Phillies a couple players that would have really benefited them without being overpaid.

       
  • Posts: 0 frank

    Sorry to be negative – but I think the phillies window is almost gone and the hope is that with the three aces they can still win the division. Except for Cole they are old as a core that is solid. You can look at indivigual stats and believe that last year was unusual and this upcoming year will be like the winning years. I think last year was mostly blamed on injuries. Older players get injured and next year will probably be the same. There is no way at this point they can rebuild, with the top three pitchers they have, but this is probably the best time. Yesterday, Ruben said, there is no chance we will trade cliff lee because having three aces is so Hugh. Those weren’t his exact words, but basically what he was saying. Are our top three better than the nationals. I think not. Yet look who is sorrounding them. Young players. This is the time to rebuild.

     
    • Posts: 0 Double Trouble Del

      This is not really a great free agent class. I’ve said it before and will say it again-no single piece will help this team if Utley, Howard and Halladay are not healthy. Perhaps RAJ’s failure to pull the trigger on the deal is an indication of such. Stand pat for now, see what the first months of the season bring and if it falls apart, the team hasn’t committed to any big contracts that could hinder a re-build in 2014.

       
      • Posts: 0 Double Trouble Del

        PS when it comes to Dexter Fowler, just remember Nancy Reagan’s words “JUST SAY NO.”

         
  • Posts: 0 rc

    I think the logic behind other teams signing players and the Phils not is already out there so there’s not much more to say because I disagree with most if not all of the article and it would just be a rehash. The writer presented some of it which he disagreed with obviously.

    There’s plenty of offseason left and the Phillies have a lot of kids I am interested in and this team could use an injection of youth so as bleak as it seems, there’s still going to be some interesting new guys on this team in the next couple years no matter what, worst case.

    I don’t think Phils go for Bourn at the reported contract expected though I know he’s a popular big name. He’s similar to Pagan and will cost a pick and offensively very similar to Pierre. Look for him maybe with Seattle.

    Hamilton probably not either but I think they probably have some interest there.

    Keppinger, Chavez signed and Yankees may go for Youkilis but we have options with Galvis, Frandsen, Asche, Fields.

     
  • Posts: 0 Betasigmadeltashag

    I have said before Youk is not an answer at 3rd I feel they are comfortable with Fransen there and the other guy that has not been mentioned is Ruff he will be your LFer 13 fir 3 years is one too many years and 5-6 million too much So CF is still a piece needed to address Bourne may be a fit but not for more then 3 years 15 mil per at most. The problem there is that Borne is worth more than 2 mil over Vic. I am repeating myself again but you can not complain thatRAJ moved to quickly in the past then turn around and complain that he us not acting fast enough now

     
 
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