Philadelphia Phillies' 5 Biggest Offseason Disappointments
It’s difficult to label any aspect of the Philadelphia Phillies’ offseason as a disappointment, seeing as how the season hasn’t started yet and no results have been produced on the field.
But that doesn’t mean that certain moments and decisions were not disappointing on paper this offseason.
While there’s a chance that a double platoon at the corner outfield spots will be successful, there’s also a chance that the Phillies could regret not having landed a veteran free agent to fill the need.
On the trade front, should the Phillies have held on to Trevor May rather than causing their minor league system to continue to thin, especially with Buster Olney tweeting that Justin Upton is back on the trade market?
And a team will usually be disappointed to find out that it won’t have its best hitter from last season for the first 25 games of the following year.
These areas may only seem disappointing until the regular season begins and performances can change things. However, these areas, on paper, have led to some disappointment this offseason, regardless of how long the feeling will last.
Here are the five biggest offseason disappointments for the Phillies.
Carlos Ruiz's 25-Game Suspension
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Before the Phillies began acquiring new pieces for the 2013 season, the team was dealt a blow when All-Star catcher Carlos Ruiz was suspended for the first 25 games of the upcoming season.
Ruiz’s suspension means that this is the second time that he has tested positive for a stimulant. Ruiz can gain permission from MLB to take Adderall if a physician determines he requires it, so moving on from the suspension is not a problem.
What is a problem, however, is that the Phils will be without their best hitter from last season for 25 games to start the year.
In a National League East division in which the Phillies recently learned how difficult it is to mount a comeback after a slow start, the team will now be without arguably their best right-handed hitter through most of April.
Ruiz batted .325 with 16 home runs and 68 RBI last season, including a .313 average in April. Among National League batters with at least 400 plate appearances, Ruiz had the fifth highest batting average.
Filling in for Ruiz in the starting lineup will be Erik Kratz, who had a .333 batting average through July, but did not have a strong finish to the season.
The 32-year-old batted just .213 in August and September while receiving regular playing time while Ruiz battled plantar fasciitis.
After Kratz, the team's backups will be Humberto Quintero, Steven Lerud or Sebastian Valle for the first 25 games.
With Ruiz out of the lineup, Kratz, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Young and Darin Ruf are the potential starters who bat from the right side.
Between losing his defense behind the plate and his ability to handle the pitching staff and his offense from the right side, learning of Ruiz’s 25-game suspension was one of the Phillies biggest disappointments this offseason.
Not Adding a Proven Corner Outfielder
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The Phillies began the offseason with a long list of free agent outfielders who fit the team’s needs in various ways.
After the dust settled, the Phils instead looked to the trade market to acquire center fielder Ben Revere.
However, Revere is a left-handed batter who has yet to hit a home run at the major league level. He is still a great upgrade to the Phils’ lineup, as he batted .294 last season, but his addition left room for a proven, right-handed hitting corner outfielder to still be acquired.
The Phils, as of now, have decided against adding another outfielder.
In an article by Todd Zolecki on the Phillies’ website, general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. said that the team will continue to look for outfield help, although the article points to Darin Ruf, Laynce Nix, John Mayberry, Jr. and Domonic Brown as fallback options.
Amaro has already acquired a center fielder, third baseman, eighth inning reliever and fifth starter while keeping the team’s payroll close to where it was last season.
But a proven corner outfielder still would be a welcome addition.
The Phillies either passed on or were unable to sign outfielders such as Josh Hamilton, Cody Ross, Nick Swisher, Shane Victorino, Melky Cabrera and Ichiro Suzuki. The team has also yet to land other options such as Scott Hairston, Jeff Baker, Alfonso Soriano or Vernon Wells.
There’s a chance that players such as Darin Ruf and Domonic Brown could turn into solid starters and add power to the lineup, but finding a proven outfielder for the corner spots would have created a little less uncertainty heading into next season.
Amaro filled each of the Phillies needs besides finding another outfielder, but this could be an area that changes from one that is disappointing to one that features productive young talent once the season starts.
Waiting While Atlanta and Washington Filled Their Center Field Need
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This was more disappointing for fans than for the Phillies as a team, but watching two division rivals fill the same need that the Phils had nearly a month after the offseason started certainly didn’t lead to a lot of smiles.
The Phillies essentially were in need of a center fielder ever since trading Shane Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline. Once the offseason began, filling the need was either near the top of the to-do list, or the No. 1 priority.
However, optimism slowly faded once free agent B.J. Upton signed with the Atlanta Braves.
The Phillies met with Upton, as Ken Rosenthal tweeted, although their interest may not have been too strong since their offer was nearly $20 million less than what the Braves offered. Mark Bowman tweeted that the Phils offered $55 million.
Regardless, Upton would have added power from the right side of the plate to the Phillies lineup.
Two days, two center fielders acquired by two division rivals.
Of course, the disappointment was alleviated the following week when the Phillies traded for Ben Revere.
However, the slow start to the offseason combined with quick moves by division rivals to fill an identical need led to early disappointment, especially from a fan’s perspective.
Fortunately, Revere’s acquisition got the ball rolling on the Phillies offseason and erased the disappointment felt towards the need in center field.
Trading Trevor May for Ben Revere
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Trades in recent seasons have continued to thin the Phillies minor-league system, although few prospects that the team has traded have found big-league success.
However, the trades that sent Shane Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants helped add minor-league talent. Following these trades, the Phillies had at least some depth at catcher and among starting pitchers.
This is likely a reason why the Phillies were willing to part with Double-A pitcher Trevor May in the deal that also sent Vance Worley to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Ben Revere.
But was this the best deal that could have included May?
May went 10-13 with 151 strikeouts and a 4.87 ERA at Double-A this season. The former fourth-round draft pick saw his ERA and walk total rise and his strikeout total decline from the previous year.
With prospects such as Jesse Biddle, Jonathan Pettibone, Ethan Martin and Adam Morgan still in the minor-league system, it made sense to make May available, in the right deal.
But was the Revere deal the right one?
As previously mentioned, Buster Olney recently tweeted that the Arizona Diamondbacks are willing to trade Justin Upton. Paul Hoynes on Cleveland.com wrote that the Phillies and Cleveland Indians talked about a deal involving Asdrubal Cabrera, Vance Worley and prospects before the winter meetings.
There’s no telling just how much interest the Phillies had or will have in some of these players, but trading May essentially takes them out of the running for another major trade.
In order to make a major deal, the Phillies will have to be willing to deplete their farm system even further. In Stanton’s case, the Phillies' best talent might not even be enough to get a deal done at some point.
On the other hand, the Phillies now have an above-average defender in Revere, who did not make any errors last season, and a player under team control through 2017.
Trading May as part of the deal for Revere could turn out to be a great move, but it’s a little disappointing wondering whether the Phillies have enough minor-league talent to acquire any future players who may become available.
Not Adding a Left-Handed Reliever
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The addition of Mike Adams gives the Phillies a right-handed pitcher for the eighth inning and solidifies the bullpen.
But the Phillies were also rumored to have had interest in at least two left-handed relievers, making it seem like the team isn’t completely confident in their current options.
Matt Gelb wrote on philly.com following the additions of Adams and John Lannan that the Phillies have room for a player with an AAV of about $7 million before hitting the luxury tax threshold.
The Phillies could have afforded one of these players, or even Mike Gonzalez, but have not added a left-handed reliever this offseason.
Relievers such as Antonio Bastardo, Jake Diekman, Jeremy Horst and Raul Valdes are the left-handers who will be competing for bullpen spots. However, none of these players are guaranteed to give the Phillies consistency next season.
Meanwhile, Buster Olney tweeted that Howell’s recent deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers is for $2.85 million for one year.
The Phillies could have added a pitcher such as Howell to further solidify their bullpen and add a veteran right- and left-handed reliever alongside Jonathan Papelbon.
There’s a chance that Bastardo can return to his 2011 form and that Diekman will improve in his second year in the major leagues. But with solid options available and the payroll room to make a move, the Phils had a chance to greatly improve and solidify one of their weakest areas from last season.