5 Ways to Fix the Philadelphia Phillies
Major League Baseball teams are like ocean liners.
They are big and powerful but not especially nimble. It takes a long time to get them going in the right direction; it usually takes just as long to correct diversions from course.
And so here are your Philadelphia Phillies, trying to bounce back from a .500 season after ripping off five straight division titles. Things in motion tend to stay in motion, and the Phillies momentum is decidedly downward. But throwing his hands in the air and saying, "Well, it was quite a run" is not going to save Ruben Amaro, Jr.'s job or keep people buying tickets to see games at Citizens Bank Park.
Were I him, here is what I would do.
Convince the San Diego Padres to Trade Chase Headley
The San Diego Padres are by and large playing coy with their biggest asset.
As they should.
Chase Headley emerged from a series of solid but unspectacular seasons to post a slash line of .286/31/115 in 2012. At 28 years of age, Headley's trade value is never ever going to be higher. Will they trade him? Will they sign him to an extension?
If you are running the Phillies, you hope they will trade him to you.
Third base has been a problem area for the club since Scott Rolen slithered out of town. Placido Polanco had a serviceable season or two, but let's face facts: when the answer at third base for the past decade has included David Bell, Pedro Feliz and now Kevin Frandsen, well, that is just not good enough.
The Padres are kidding themselves if they think they can contend in the near future for the National League West title with the recent two-time world champion San Francisco Giants and the big-dollar, big-expectation Los Angeles Dodgers in the division.
So the Phillies should be willing to overpay the Padres for Headley. He would fill a huge hole in the field and in the lineup.
Fire Charlie Manuel
"Fire Charlie?" you ask. "For what?"
We can agree that the mediocre 2012 season was not all his fault. When you are managing a team with injured eight-figure salary starters and no bullpen in front of the closer, you are going to lose games.
No, this is not so much a punishment for one off year as it is an acknowledgment that there is no Phillies future in which Manuel figures prominently. He has seemed ambivalent about managing beyond this season. Ryne Sandberg is already on board.
Sign B.J. Upton
B.J. Upton will cost the Phillies a first-round draft pick and a small Brinks truck full of cash.
For this team, at this time, though, he is probably worth it.
Upton is one of those players who carries his potential around his neck like an anchor. Fans see the strikeouts (1,020 of them in 3,568 at-bats) and the iffy batting average (.255 career) and lament the unrealized potential.
The Phillies are better served this offseason focusing on what Upton is: a legitimate power/speed threat at a premium position. At 28, Upton is coming into his prime right now, and his 28 home runs and 31 steals in 2012 suggest that his best days are ahead of him.
Upton is going to cost some team a lot—a lot—of money. But he figures to cost less than Josh Hamilton or Michael Bourn, and the Phillies cannot survive any longer with John Mayberry Jr. faking it in center.
The Phillies should take a serious look at Upton.
Keep Ryan Howard and Chase Utley Healthy at All Costs
Chase Utley's first game of the 2012 season came on June 27, 2012.
By the time Howard returned to live action this year, the Phillies were 37-47 and buried in the National League East basement, 13 games behind the Washington Nationals. That they rebounded to 81-81 is a testament to what these two bring to the Phillies offense, even if their numbers will never return to the levels that made them MVP candidates.
So the Phillies have to do whatever they can to keep these two in the lineup.
Sit them against tough lefthanders? Yes. Day games after night games off? You bet. Late inning substitutions in games that are out of hand? Absolutely. And don't pinch hit them on the days they sit, either. Just let them sit.
The Phillies have reached a point with these two where they will probably draw as much production from them playing them five days a week against favorable matchups as they will playing them seven days a week against everyone.
Fix the Eighth Inning Bullpen Problem
Apparently, the plan for 2012 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 had hoped.
Specifically, they need someone with closing experience who is willing to pitch the eighth inning. The way the New York Yankees deployed David Robertson and Rafael Soriano before Mariano Rivera was injured gives you an idea of what they need.
As long as Jonathan Papelbon is going to be reserved for ninth inning work only, the Phillies are going to need great—not just good—arms to bridge the starters to Papelbon.