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A Different Mentality

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Sun, October 20, 2013 07:00 AM | Comments: 27
Analysis, Opinion, Posts

In the last handful of offseasons, the Phillies have tried to build for now. Trades and signings were made with the hope that this team could compete for a World Series appearance that year.

Included in those moves were Brad Lidge (Bard 4 life!), Raul Ibañez, Cliff Lee (twice), Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, and plenty of other moves involving lesser known guys. Heck, even last year GM Ruben Amaro Jr. added Delmon Young and Michael Young, hoping that they could bring the offense to life.

And, in fairness to Amaro, most of those moves did help the Phillies get closer to a World Series.

Joe Blanton — a midseason pickup — was important to the Phillies’ World Series win in 2008.

Lee and Ibañez in 2009 were huge parts of the team that lost to the Yankees in the Fall Classic. If it wasn’t for an unreal A.J. Burnett start, the Phillies might’ve had another ring. But I digress.

Roy Halladay was the staple of the rotation that helped the Phillies reach the NLCS in 2010. But they ran into the magic dust of the Giants.

Lee (the second time around), Pence, and Oswalt were big factors to the 2011 Phillies team that won a franchise-best 102 games. They lost in the NLDS to the Cardinals, but I personally think that was just baseball bein’ baseball. The Phillies were the best team in MLB; and that’s all you can hope for going into the playoffs.

In 2012, Amaro again made some “win-now” moves. He added arguably the best closer in baseball in Jonathan Papelbon, hit machine Juan Pierre, former star Dontrelle Willis to be a lefty specialist, and role players Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton.

The hope was this: Papelbon would be lights-out like Lidge in 2008, Pierre could create a spark in a severely declining offense, and Nix and Wigginton could replace the injured Ryan Howard‘s production until Howard was healthy.

None of that seemed too far-fetched at the time. But, nearly all of that did not happen. Papelbon was good, but not completely lights-out. Willis never even made it to Opening Day. Pierre had a fantastic season, but the offense still wasn’t good enough, in part because Nix and Wigginton failed to live up to Amaro’s (probably unrealistic) expectations.

Amaro went into sell-mode at the deadline, trading Pence, Blanton, and Shane Victorino. Phillies fans thought it was the end of an era.

But Amaro did not. In the next offseason, he signed both Youngs and John Lannan, and traded for Ben Revere. He hoped that these moves, along with others, would make the Phillies a contending team.

In hindsight, that was laughable. But at the time, the idea of the Phillies making a run at the Wild Card didn’t seem unrealistic.

(Apologies for the history lesson)

We all know how 2013 went. Which brings me to this offseason. For the first time in a while, I think Amaro will have to make moves with the future in mind, rather than now.

It might not be prudent for Amaro to make a deal for a big-name pitcher or position player. He will likely not say things like “I think we can compete, and the goal is a World Series.”

He should make moves such as signing mediocre-to-below-average players to fill needs and to save money, while developing his own players. I think we’ll see a lot of Cody Asche, Darin Ruf and maybe even Jesse Biddle.

If he goes chooses this route, it’ll be a whole new ballgame for Amaro. Since he’s been the Phillies’ GM, he’s done nothing but spend and spend and spend. This would force him to manage his money better for the future.

So, in short, the Phillies could become a lot less exciting during the offseason — unless they do make a mega-deal for a Giancarlo Stanton-type in an attempt to make one final push–a very real possibility. There’s already been internet rage over the Mini-Mart signing, and that could be the theme to this offseason.

I think we, as fans, should migrate from excitement over big-name acquisitions to excitement over smart, valuable moves–regardless of what this offseason brings. It’s not lowering expectations, it’s changing the way you look at things.

Avatar of Jonathan Nisula

About Jonathan Nisula

Jonathan Nisula has written 198 articles on Phillies Nation.

Just a regular guy writing his thoughts for Phillies Nation. Grew up in Yardley, PA and current student.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 hk

    “The hope was this: Papelbon would be lights-out like Lidge in 2008, Pierre could create a spark in a severely declining offense, and Nix and Wigginton could replace the injured Ryan Howard‘s production until Howard was healthy….None of that seemed too far-fetched at the time.”

    The already declining Wigginton was coming off a .320 wOBA season (in Colorado of all places) and Nix had a career wOBA of ~.305 when they signed him. Expecting them to replace Howard’s production was beyond far-fetched, it was delusional. As far as Papelbon is concerned, it was reasonable to expect him to be very good in 2012, but they significantly overpaid to get him (surrendering their 1st round pick and giving him $12M+ per year for 4 or 5 years).

    I do agree with your premise of what RAJ SHOULD do this off-season. However, I fear that what he WILL do is going to look similar to what he’s done in the past. One of my big problems with teams that have performed below the owners’, the front office’s and the fans’ expectations for more than one year is whether the GM will start making moves that are in his own short-term interests in a long-shot effort to out-perform expectations instead of making moves that are in the organization’s long-term best interests.

     
  • Posts: 2068 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    An off season acquisition I would get excited about – Price. Rumor has it he might be available.
    The remainder of the pieces you mentioned I agree with – Paps WAS the second best closer, dominant in fact in all of baseball for years – I did not believe his rein at the top was over, I was hopeful.
    The reality question is with the returning staff, returning ‘staples’ (Howard, Rollins, Utley, Ruiz), will the Phils be able to compete with the likes of the Dodgers, Braves, Pirates or the Cards? Most likely not.

     
  • Posts: 4566 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    As soon as the season is over, I hope Amaro takes advantage of a great opportunity to unload Papelbon on Detroit while they’re still lamenting their awful bullpen. Strike while the iron is hot. If he does nothing else, that would satisfy me.

    I doubt they’re going to compete for a title next season, they’re “pipe dreaming” if they think they are. Going after guys like Stanton would likely weaken the system further, and Jon is absolutely right, we as fans need to migrate our excitement to smart valuable moves over big name acquisitions. I honestly believe this management team ( if not all of them) reacts to and mirrors the desires of the fans.

    P.S.
    WAY TO GO SHANE!!!!!!

     
  • Posts: 0 Bart Shart

    Amaro needs to focus on rebuilding next year and develop some in-house talent. Otherwise, we will not be competitive for quite a bit longer. Young pitching would be an asset if a trade were to be made with Papelbon. Cliff Lee could bring some decent young talent and Lee should play for a genuine contender. I wonder if Amaro has the experience and tools to maser-mind a successful rebuild of this team.

     
  • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

    “He should make moves such as signing mediocre-to-below-average players to fill needs and to save money, while developing his own players. I think we’ll see a lot of Cody Asche, Darin Ruf and maybe even Jesse Biddle”

    That’s how you think if you’ve been commissioned to write a strategy to take Amaro’s reduced Q rating and insure he’s fired. Or if you wanna write a business plan for the folks running fire fire Amaro now petitions.

    Not that I’m writing off the talents of Asche, Ruf or Biddle so fast, or extremely, but are we talking the level of talent of Adams, Carpenter and Wacha here?

    And in case it’s not blatantly apparent, every nook and crannie from tv ratings to souvenir sales, to disappearance of a presence of Phillie fans at road games clearly indicate this franchise is a prime contender for a guest appearance on the would be TV series, “Whatever Happened to.”

    Au contraire, monsieur, the Phillies need to make an impact splash. They need to do it now. They need to take (I’m sure they have, and will continue) a hard look at the minor league inventory they have, and be very open and willing to deal the inventory they judge with trepidation, not hold it en masse to satisfy an approach. Club history is littered with trying to keep prospects that went nowhere. Far as I know, sure, you keep a Roman Quinn. But do you keep a Larry Greene? Whatever the answer is, they need SOMEBODY in charge who guesses right a lot more than not on those questions which nobody is saying is a small task.

    It’s just comical that people wanna keep minor league talent almost for the sake of it. No, you don’t print money on trees. But you gotta profile the aggressiveness of an Amaro, but with good judgement and intelligence. Ben Cherrington level, for example.

    It’s a hard road to find, a hard road to travel. Wrong turns can lead to disasterous detours. But at least it’s obvious that it starts in Japan at this time. Hitting the impact button is still the course you wanna take. You need balance of acquisition, but you can’t walk away from the table fantasizing about having 3 or guys as leading contenders for Comeback Player of the Year.

     
  • Posts: 0 Joe

    Tbh Ben Revere seems like he could be a great player if he moves around the outfield better. He’s short so he has some disadvantages.

     
  • Posts: 0 Joe

    Also I think it’d be worthwhile to keep halladay. No point in trading him to a contender only to bounce back and laugh at us like many other players have. Werth pence victorino, not to mention all the prospects traded away. We had Jason grilli in our system in 2011 so you wonder on judgment alone if amaro should even be a gm. We could’ve had a cheap closer in him and not bought papelbon, freed up money to buy an impact player. Too many mistakes.

     
    • Posts: 1135 EricL

      Avatar of EricL

      You can’t trade Roy Halladay. He’s no longer under contract with the Phillies. He is a free agent.

       
  • Posts: 0 Joe

    But remember, Sox went from last to first. This is baseball, anything can happen and it seems we’re shedding all of the bullshit trades amaro made. Why we had Raul valdes is beyond me….

     
  • Posts: 0 Joe

    Also Revere has better numbers every year which is a good sign. Until he got hurt he was on his way to his best of all. Some are saying trade him and use Cesar Hernandez, can’t say I trust that too much. Hernandez looks like he can be good but I’d trust Revere first.

     
  • Posts: 1135 EricL

    Avatar of EricL

    “So, in short, the Phillies could become a lot less exciting during the offseason”

    Ha! Is that even possible? This was a team with the 2nd worst run differential in baseball. How much less exciting can they be?

     
  • Posts: 0 Joe

    We still have til 5 days after the WS to find that out, I think we’ll keep him.

     
  • Posts: 0 George

    You mention that Amaro has always been in “win now” mode, but I can’t really see how adding Revere or the Youings were “win now” moves. All three were pretty inexpensive alternatives to whatever else might have been available. And the one outfielder, Brown, who was already penciled in was a huge question mark. The outfield could have been made up with expensive free agents with far better “back-of-the-baseball-card” stats than those that were added, yet Amaro chose not to go that route, which would appear counter to wanting to add for the present and not the future. It could be argued that D.Young was looked at as an offensive savior, but it could just as easily be argued that he was merely a place holder until a better option became available. He was certainly dumped for a more youthful bat. The same goes for M.Young, who was dumped just as soon as a youngster was available for 3rd base.

    While I don’t disagree with your basic premise that the Phils need to change their approach, I think perhaps you haven’t seen the change in approach that began at the end of the 2012 season, and is still happening. You don’t trade a Victorino or a Pence if you’re trying to field a contender RIGHT NOW. You don’t build a bullpen mostly with unproven arms, and if you want it all, you sign a starter better than Lannan.

     
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      George — agree. The Phillies have been rebuilding since July 2012.

       
      • Posts: 0 Brass Villanueva

        Which makes guaranteeing $12 million last winter to an aging setup man even more puzzling. It never seemed like the type of move a “rebuilding” team would make. In reality, I don’t think RAJ has any sort of plan at all.

         
      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        Disagree — it’s exactly the type of move that a rebuilding team with $160 M payroll can make.

        The plan, IMO, have been to rebuild/reload/whatever without calling it that (lest you scare away season ticket holders), and while making enough moves to keep the team competitive if things go right. Things haven’t gone right, Adams being a case in point. The 8th inning cost them games in 2012, and Adams was supposed to fix that, by committing on average $6M per year for only two years.

         
      • Posts: 0 Brass Villanueva

        No way…it’s a simple case of resource allocation. Guaranteeing over $20 million a season to two guys (Papelbon & Adams) who “might” pitch 120 innings a season (if everything broke right) is not the wise choice (even without entering age and injury concerns to the equation). That’s more money on a per inning basis than what Lee, Hamels or Halladay made. As we saw last season, it leaves you with too many holes in the rest of the 25 man roster.

         
      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        Oh, I completely agree — allocating that much to two relievers was not wise.

        It doesn’t change the point that they’ve been rebuilding while trying to stay competitive.

         
    • Posts: 4566 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      Agree, they’re not going to make a formal announcement to the world, but they have definitely been in some designed form of cut back mode.

       
  • Posts: 0 Vinnie

    I think Jim Thome was signed to replace Howard’s power in 2012. I don’t think they realized how much of his defensive skills had deteriorated.

     
  • Posts: 0 Joe

    I completely disagree with your offseason plan if we see ruf starting at any position more then 2 times a week we have very serious problems. Whats funny about this article is that your basically saying lets lose for the future but if that happened I guarantee you’ll be writing an article about how RAJ is such a failure and you’d cry about how bad they suck. I personally hate a summer with losing baseball as does all of philly so rebuilding isn’t an option.

     
  • Posts: 0 Joe

    I completely disagree with your offseason plan if we see ruf starting at any position more then 2 times a week we have very serious problems. Whats funny about this article is that your basically saying lets lose for the future but if that happened I guarantee you’ll be writing an article about how RAJ is such a failure and you’d cry about how bad they stink. I personally hate a summer with losing baseball as does all of philly so rebuilding isn’t an option.

     
  • Posts: 0 Jerome

    Just for clarity’s sake, Blanton and Lidge were both Pat Gillick pickups.

     
  • Posts: 0 Dave

    If you really want an approach, follow the Cardinals. They are a prime example of how to run your organization. Amaro has made so many mistakes it’s laughable. He sucked as a player and he sucks as a GM.

     
    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      “He sucked as a player and he sucks as a GM.”

      The first is obvious (except for the thousands of college and minor league players who might disagree), and the second is probably true. I just don’t know why anyone would put these two things in the same sentence, as if one has the remotest relationship with the other.

       
  •  
  • Posts: 0 Dave

    Ok…so let me put them in separate sentences. Amaro sucked as a player. Amaro sucks as a GM.

     
 
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