Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Reasons They Will Win the NL East
The Philadelphia Phillies have one agenda next year: win. Last season was a disappointment and the club spent the offseason executing calculated moves to position the club as contenders in the NL East.
Ruben Amaro Jr. may a have a trick or two still up his sleeve, but the nucleus of the team is finally forming.
The club must also maintain pace with the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves, who each made the playoffs last season. Both teams have been extremely busy this offseason and are ready to battle in 2013.
Here are five reasons why the Phillies should overcome adversity and win the NL East.
The Phillies understood their bullpen had to improve or potentially suffer another letdown season. Ruben Amaro Jr. had many holes to fill this winter and upgrading the pen was at the top of his list.
The club brought back relief pitcher Antonio Bastardo for a much needed lefty presence in the pen. Bastardo rejoins a young pen with incredible promise and upside. Justin De Fratus and Phillipe Aumont are a few names in the Phillies’ deep middle-relief core with the potential for big seasons.
The Phillies then made a splash in the pen, signing setup man and free-agent Mike Adams. Adams will be the perfect complement to closer Jonathan Papelbon at the end of many games.
This should be a rejuvenated bullpen with a ton of depth primed for next season.
Nationals' Sophomore Slump
The Washington Nationals are a really good baseball team. This is a fact. Unfortunately, the “sophomore slump” curses even the best of teams.
There have been numerous seasons where a club is the "Cinderella" team one year and a disappointment the very next. It happened to the Cleveland Indians in the 2007 to 2008 seasons and even the mighty San Francisco Giants fell victim during the 2010, 2011 seasons.
The Nationals are a young team who enjoyed a wild ride from winning the division to a devastating loss in the playoffs. The Nats could very well be hungry for more success, or be at the mercy of the baseball gods.
The Phillies struggled scoring runs and supporting their starting pitchers. Per ESPN, Cliff Lee didn't earn his first victory until three months into the season. The problem was apparent and needed to be addressed.
Ruben Amaro Jr. acted.
The Phillies traded away pitching to the Minnesota Twins for the speedy, youngster Ben Revere. In essence, the club was acquiring a "run creator." With the ability to get on base and swipe a bag, Revere could potentially provide Chase Utley and Ryan Howard more RBI opportunities. He also has the ability to bunt—a lost art among many teams. Small ball along with power in the lineup is a deadly combination.
Philadelphia also made a trade with the Texas Rangers to acquire Michael Young. Young is not the player of old, but should still have some gas left in the tank. He is an incredible hitter for average with spurts of pop, and might fit nicely in the Phillies’ hitter-friendly park.
Amaro is still pursuing a corner outfielder who might add additional power to the lineup and the ability to drive in runs.
The game is simple—score more runs than your opponent and win. The Phils are adding the right pieces to do that.
The Fountain of Youth
The Phillies' infield is old.
Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and the newly-acquired Michael Young should be the club's Opening Day starters next season. Four years ago this would have been an All-Star lineup, but now there are serious questions about this veteran group.
The good news is all players should be healthy entering spring training and aim to stay that way throughout the season. Now, wear and tear will happen during the long 162-game slate, and the Phils need to protect their players by shuffling Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis to spell the older vets.
But these veterans are no slouches and should still produce at high levels for the team. All are capable of driving in runs and hitting for power. If they can remain healthy throughout the season and revive their already successful careers, the Phils will increase their chances of regaining the title in the NL East.
Hopefully the team finds the confines of Citizens Bank Park to be their own "Fountain of Youth."
Blend of Veterans and Youth
Along with the veterans in the infield, the Phillies outfielders have very little experience in the big leagues. The Phillies' newest outfielder, Ben Revere, has the most experience with two full seasons under his belt.
The Phillies may pursue a veteran, corner outfielder before the spring, but currently the team is flooded with unproven players in the outfield. Darin Ruf and Domonic Brown are two youngsters with a promising future and need to take their game to the next level.
The combination of youthful promise and proven veteran leadership could blend nicely on and off the field. How the young players will produce will be the largest question mark for the Phillies next season. If they can compete at their respective, potential levels, this team will be a force for many seasons.