Before Major League Baseball's winter meetings took place, the Philadelphia Phillies were without any major offseason moves to their name, which came as a big surprise given their tendency in years past for GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. to strike the market and swoop up one of the top available free agents.
Even after the meetings ended, the Phillies left with only one addition by subtraction from the rotation. Ben Revere, who will be their center fielder of the future and potentially their leadoff man, was acquired from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for starting pitcher Vance Worley and top Phillies prospect Trevor May.
Just a few days later, the Phillies made another move that landed them their third baseman for the 2013 season. After discussing a possible trade near the conclusion of the winter meetings, the Phillies and Rangers struck a deal that weekend, sending Michael Young to Philadelphia in exchange for reliever Josh Lindblom and prospect Lisalverto Bonilla.
Young will enter the final season of his current contract and is expected to serve solely as a stopgap for the Phillies until third base prospect Cody Asche is ready for the majors, presumably by 2014. Asche recently came in as the Phillies' seventh-best prospect heading into 2013 according to Baseball America.
Following the winter meetings and the wind down afterwards, the Phillies were still expected to make a major move at some point. However, that next move did not come until this past Saturday, when the Phillies made not one but two moves.
After acquiring Revere and Young via trade, the Phils made their first splash into free agency this offseason when they signed veteran setup man Mike Adams to a two-year, $12 million deal. Later that day, they inked non-tendered starting pitcher John Lannan to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. Adams will conceivably serve as the team's primary eighth inning option and setup man, while Lannan will pitch as the Phillies' fifth starter behind a combination of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick.
Considering that the Phillies traded Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence at the July 31 trade deadline and Joe Blanton via waivers just a few days later, the Phils were primed to make a big splash this offseason, if not two.
With more payroll flexibility available to them than in recent years, the Phillies could have signed Josh Hamilton and B.J. Upton if they really wanted to. Fortunately, they didn't, and it allowed for Amaro to be more creative than ever in his reign as Phillies GM.
All of Amaro's moves thus far are commendable. He has not overpaid for a free agent, and it can be argued that his offerings in trades this offseason have been justifiable. He's filled holes with practical players who are either young or affordable (or in Michael Young's case, both—yes, pun intended), and while he may not have struck on one of the top free agents of the year, he didn't strike out on his compromises, either.
Having said that, there are some drawbacks to each of the Phillies' four major transactions this offseason.
Revere was acquired for two young pitchers, one of which had demonstrated some success at the major league level (Worley) and one who could have amounted to even more (May). Although Michael Young is a great clubhouse presence, he's not a guarantee with the bat aside from his right handedness, and his defense is a black hole most anywhere he plays.
As for Adams, his only real drawback is that he's coming off surgery to correct Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Though, unless some sort of setback occurs, he's expected to be ready for spring training. And until John Lannan had been signed, the Revere trade could have been dubbed the Phillies' most controversial of the offseason because the Phils created a hole in the rotation while filling another in center field.
Lannan should serve as a serviceable fifth starter, but his previous outings in the City of Brotherly Love have not been kind to him. In eight previous starts at Citizens Bank Park, Lannan has posted a 2-5 record with a 6.49 ERA, 1.96 WHIP and has surrendered eight home runs in 34.2 innings pitched.
Those aren't great numbers for Lannan, whose career ERA of 4.01 suggests he's slightly better. That, and those numbers were against the Phillies as opposed to being a part of the team.
However, I'm going to anoint Lannan as the offseason's most controversial signing so far not solely because of his stats. As a left-hander on a cheap one-year deal, you could do much worse; then again, you could do much better, starting pitching-wise.
But even with that said, until the Phillies sign Cody Ross (and I do believe they will), Lannan is my choice for most controversial offseason signing so far because of July 26, 2007.
And I'll tell you why: On July 26, 2007, Lannan made his major league debut that Thursday afternoon against...the Philadelphia Phillies. Opposing Adam Eaton (cringe) at Citizens Bank Park, the Nationals got out to a 2-0 lead before Lannan surrendered a series of hits in the bottom of the first, giving the Phillies a run of their own.
In the third inning, Lannan served up a go-ahead home run to Ryan Howard, scoring Chase Utley as well and turning the tables to a Phillies 3-2 lead.
Entering the fifth inning, the score remained 3-2 in the Phils' favor. After Victorino grounded out to second base for the first out, Chase Utley came up to the plate.
Utley, as is often the case, was hit by a pitch and awarded first base. But this wasn't any typical Utley beaning. Utley was hit in the hand by Lannan's pitch, and though he finished out the game, X-rays afterwards showed a break that sidelined him for just over a month.
However, the fun didn't stop there: Ryan Howard then came up to the plate, and Lannan beaned him as well, which resulted in his ejection in the midst of his MLB debut. The Phillies ended up losing the game to Washington, 7-6.
Is there some bad blood between Utley and Lannan? Perhaps. Prior to his hand injury, Utley was batting .336 with 17 home runs and 82 RBI, setting himself up for possible MVP considerations and giving eventual teammate and 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins a run for his money.
Had Utley not been beaned by Lannan, he could have finished out the season with better numbers than Rollins and may have won MVP himself. Unfortunately for Utley, we'll never know.
Is this injury comparable to the feud between Utley and then-San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez in 2010 NLCS Game 6? No.
Does it compare to Victorino's priceless reaction to Hiroki Kuroda's pitch near his head in Game 3 of the 2008 NLCS? Not a chance.
Even the possible lack of sportsmanship when Brandon Phillips dropped his bat to prevent Roy Halladay's postseason no-hitter in Game 1 of the 2011 NLDS on the final play? Not even close.
But it's a part of Phillies lore; one that still remains fresh in the minds of many a fan.
Maybe I'm attaching more significance to this this. Maybe not.
If Lannan shakes Utley's once-broken right hand and apologizes for his prior injury, maybe the bad blood, if there is any, will subside.
Maybe there will be some tension between the two throughout the 2013 season, and maybe Utley was upset at the signing when Amaro and the Phils brought Lannan to town.
But because of his subpar stats at Citizens Bank Park and his previous altercation with Utley, I'm giving Lannan the honor of most controversial move so far for the 2012-2013 Phillies offseason.
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