Philadelphia Phillies: 10 Ways Ruben Amaro Jr. Can Fix the Phillies for 2013
Vance Worley is finished for the season. The better question is why Worley was not shut down long before now. In his last five starts, Worley got out of the sixth inning just once. He went 0-3 in those turns. Something clearly was not right; Now, he's finally going to have the surgery he should have had a month ago.
With the 2012 season rotting slowly like tomato left out in the August sun, a fan's attention turns to 2013. If you were Ruben Amaro Jr., how would you fix this team?
Let us count the ways.
Apparently, the plan this season was to have the starting pitching go eight innings every night, use Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth every night, and go 162-0.
The plan did not work.
Roy Halladay did not pitch nearly as many innings as the Phillies figured he would. Neither did Cliff Lee. Conversely, Kyle Kendrick pitched many, many more innings than anyone hoped.
Saying something as trite as "they need a seventh inning guy and an eighth inning guy" is insufficient. The Phillies need a near-complete overhaul of the bullpen.
When the answer is "B.J. Rosenberg," you do not want to know the question.
For too long, the Phillies have had stopgaps playing third base. Placido Polanco has not been bad in his second stint as a Phillie, but he was never elite. Before him... Pedro Feliz, David Bell, etc. Not inspiring.
The position has been neglected too long. And the idea of Chase Utley moving over there is insane—Utley was not a viable option at third base when he was young and healthy.
Plus, it is not as though the Phillies have an elite defensive first baseman in place to save Utley from throwing errors.
Free agent options are limited, so filling this slot by trade in the offseason seems more likely.
"But wait," you say, "they're paying Ryan Howard $25M next year to drive in runs and hit home runs, they don't need another basher."
As of this writing, would you care to guess who leads the Phillies in batting average, home runs, runs batted in and on-base percentage?
Hunter Pence, that's who. He left four weeks ago. No Phillie has caught him. Wow.
If Howard and Chase Utley have proven anything in the recent past, it is that assuming they will play 150+ productive games is foolish.
Right-Handed Power Bat
In the interest of both preserving Howard's health and shielding him from tough left-handed pitching, the Phillies need a right-handed power hitter who can spell Howard at first base and provide some of the pop Howard is supposed to give.
The Phillies thought John Mayberry, Jr. was the answer to this problem. But he is hitting .240, and his .683 OPS is in line with that of Mike Fontenot.
Trading Shane Victorino made a great deal of sense. Unfortunately, it has led to more playing time for John Mayberry, Jr., who is as much a center-fielder as Chase Utley is a third baseman.
The Phillies have had it pretty good in center field, with Victorino, and before him, Aaron Rowand patrolling that part of the field and producing at the plate.
There is chatter about making a run at Michael Bourn. The smarter move, though, might be to just bring Victorino back after he tests free agency and finds out that no one wants to give him a seven-year, nine-figure deal.
After all, that is effectively what happened with Jimmy Rollins this past offseason.
Hunter Pence was supposed to be here through at least next season. But it did not work out that way.
This is a position where the Phillies will probably have to scrimp a bit. Whether the fans want them to or not, the Phillies cannot realistically have every starting position player making $15M/year.
Some names that could fit here are Delmon Young or Luke Scott. It will likely be someone like this, a just-above-replacement level player who will not cost a ton.
Backup Shortstop/Second Baseman
In April, Freddy Galvis had played well enough for the Phillies to think that this need had been filled. At this point, though, between the significant injury Galvis sustained and his PED suspension, no one can say what Galvis' value is going forward.
You can be sure that Utley is going to miss time next season, and Jimmy Rollins is unlikely to play 160 games at age 34.
These sorts of players are plentiful in free agency. But the Phillies will have to do better than Fontenot and Michael Martinez.
Even if Halladay, Lee and Hamels make all their starts next season, that leaves 60 times where other starters will have to take the ball.
The Phillies could conceivably hope that some combination of Worley, Kendrick and Tyler Cloyd can cover these starts. They would be better off, though, having those three compete for the final rotation spot and bringing in a moderately-priced innings-eater.
Brian Schneider's deal is up at the end of this season, and Carlos Ruiz is probably not going to be able to play every day going forward. In fact, he has only played more than 130 games in a season once in his career.
Erik Kratz has been a nice story, but it is hard to foresee him as a contributing player on a contending team.
Charlie Manuel deserves to begin next season as the manager. But if the team starts slowly again, he may not deserve the opportunity to finish it.
The 2012 Phillies are either an anomaly or a sign of things to come. Manuel is not the man to preside over a rebuild if that is what it comes to.
The team needs to start looking for Manuel's potential replacement now.