5 Crucial Moves the Philadelphia Phillies Must Make to Stay Atop the NL

Bleacher ReportContributor IDecember 30, 2011

5 Crucial Moves the Philadelphia Phillies Must Make to Stay Atop the NL

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    Over the last five years, it's been business as usual for the Philadelphia Phillies. Five straight NL East titles, a World Series Win in 2008 and a bevy of high profile acquisitions have labeled this team a serious threat every October.

    On paper, the Phillies are a well-rounded team with dominant pitching and veteran sluggers. But erratic offensive production has been the Achilles heel for a team trying to make it back to the Fall Classic since its magnificent run in 2008. Last season's heartbreaking loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Divisional Playoffs exposed some major flaws with the Phillies that need to be addressed this offseason.

    Here's a look at five imperative moves—within the current team and by acquisition—the Phillies must make to be a legitimate contender in the 2012 season.

The Acquisition of a Stud Third Basemen

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    Placido Polanco has been a solid third baseman over the years. He's a career .300 hitter and arguably the most consistent hitter in a potent Phillies lineup. But he's 36 years old. Injuries have plagued him the last few years, and his 2011 numbers were less than pedestrian. 

    The Phillies need to make a move for a young, stud third baseman. They simply can't rely on Polanco to limp his way through another long season. David Wright or Aramis Ramirez would be excellent additions to the Phillies organization, but a trade is the only way to facilitate this.

    Ruben Amaro has delighted the Philadelphia fanbase with his glamorous acquisitions and trading for Wright is not out of the realm of possibility. He only has two years left on his current contract, and the Mets are strapped for cash.

    It would take a ton to obtain Wright and the Phils would have to find a suitor for Polanco, but if anyone can do it, it's Amaro.

Sign Roy Oswalt To A Short Term Deal

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    This will be no small feat. Oswalt is 34 years old and a highly touted free agent entering the 2012 season. He's coming off a five-year, $71 million contract, and odds are he'll probably be looking for some security in a multi-year deal. 

    But this Phillies rotation is arguably the most dominant staff ever assembled. Barring injury, it's undoubtedly the strongest rotation in the majors if Oswalt remains the fourth starter. He could no doubt be a first or second starter on another team, but if he stays, he could chase glory with a storied franchise going for it's second title in five years.

    If Oswalt is willing to forgo a long-term commitment, the Phillies shouldn't think twice about locking him up.

Do Not Sign Jorge Posada

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    Hopefully, the rumors swirling around the Phillies signing Jorge Posada are not true. There is no need to acquire a 40-year-old catcher who is clearly on the downswing of his career.

    The Phillies also locked up 41-year-old Jim Thome to a one-year deal in the event Ryan Howard is not ready to play by the start of the 2012 season.

    Posada may have a few years left in him, but it makes no sense for the Phillies to sign him.

Keep Dontrelle Willis On A Short Leash

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    I'm not exactly sure what the thought process was in signing Dontrelle Willis to the Phillies. Willis is going to be surrounded by proven aces. The Philadelphia fanbase has been spoiled. With Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, a complete game shutout is par for the course.

    In a city that is not shy about voicing their disgust, Willis is going to face some serious pressure. Aside from a 22-win season in 2005, Willis has struggled to regain his dominance. If his struggles continue, the Phillies should not hesitate to pull the plug on him.

Let "The Vanimal" Loose

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    If the Phillies can come to terms with Roy Oswalt, there should be no question as to who the fifth starter should be. It's without a doubt Vance Worley.

    In his 11 wins last year, the 24-year-old rookie maintained a 3.01 ERA and struck out 119 batters. But while his stats are impressive, his intangibles are what makes this kid a powerhouse.

    Worley was brought up after Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton went down with injuries last season. He did more than just fill in. He brought intensity and power to each and every one of his starts. He electrified a Philadelphia fanbase who promptly deemed him "The Vanimal," and rightfully so.

    His numbers are too good to keep him out of the rotation. With Worley as the fifth starter, the Phillies will boast an even better pitching staff going into the 2012 season.