Assessing Phillies' Best, Worst-Case Win Totals If They Are Done Adding Players
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The offseason began with the hope that the Phillies would add an impact bat to their outfield and perhaps add a major contributor at third base as well. But reality has fallen a bit short of those expectations thus far.
Philadelphia did get the center fielder it needed, acquiring Ben Revere from the Minnesota Twins. But the price to get Revere was rather high, costing the Phillies starting pitchers Vance Worley and Trevor May.
Though the Phillies could use another outfielder—preferably a full-time right fielder—Amaro is now saying that his offseason shopping is finished, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb.
"We're likely going with what we got," said Amaro.
That means the Phillies will report to Clearwater for spring training in approximately five weeks with a projected outfield trio of Darin Ruf in left, Revere in center and Domonic Brown in left. John Mayberry, Jr. and Laynce Nix will also be in the mix, likely as platoon partners for Ruf and Brown.
However, with Michael Bourn remaining as the only free-agent outfielder that can make a difference for a lineup, Amaro doesn't have many other options to bring in.
Besides, as Gelb explains, the Phillies have around $7 million to spend, as Amaro wants to stay under the $178 million luxury tax threshold for this year. That won't be enough to sign Bourn, unless he agrees to take a deep discount on a one-year contract.
The Phillies could explore the trade market, with players such as the Arizona Diamondbacks' Justin Upton and Jason Kubel, the Chicago Cubs' Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells of the Los Angeles Angels reportedly available. But after trading Worley and May, Amaro doesn't have as many pieces to deal as he did previously.
With a largely unproven outfield, new third baseman Michael Young coming off the worst season of his career and concerns over the condition of Roy Halladay's shoulder, what sort of performance can the Phillies expect for 2013?
Is this a team that can compete with the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves in the NL East, as presently constructed? Is enough there to at least hang in the race and motivate Amaro to make some additions at midseason?
According to CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury, the Phillies want to give Ruf every chance to win the left field job. Last year, Ruf hit .317 with a 1.028 OPS, 38 home runs and 104 RBI for Double-A Reading.
Ideally, he'll bring his production from the minors last season and give Philadelphia the right-handed power hitter that can bat between Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the middle of the lineup.
At third base, Young has to improve over his .277 average and .682 OPS last season with the Texas Rangers. If the Phillies had added an impact bat in the outfield, perhaps they would settle for that kind of production from Young.
However, the Phillies need Young to approach his career numbers of a .300 average and .800 OPS, while perhaps adding 10 home runs and 90 RBI. That would be the right-handed bat Amaro hoped to add during the offseason.
On the pitching side, Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels have to be the best starting trio in MLB. That's certainly the expectation and there's no reason to think those three pitchers can't meet that standard.
Lee and Hamels are both coming off excellent seasons. But Halladay has to be healthy. The Phillies need 200 innings from him, while approaching a sub-2.00 ERA and 20 wins.
Other than Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies bullpen was a disaster last season. Adding Mike Adams—one of baseball's best setup relievers over the past five years—should improve the team's late-inning relief significantly.
Antonio Bastardo and Jeremy Horst should provide some stability in middle relief, allowing the game to progress nicely from the starting pitching to the bullpen for the Phillies. At the very least, fewer leads should be blown and Papelbon could exceed 40 saves.
If these scenarios play out in the Phillies' favor, they should approach 90 wins. But even if Philadelphia hits that total, it probably won't be enough to overtake the Nationals and Braves in the NL East.
It's not difficult to imagine this thing going south for the Phillies in 2013. The team needs many things to go right for a successful season to come together.
For instance, Revere profiles as a leadoff hitter with speed. His .333 on-base percentage last year says he should do fine in that role, but he mostly batted second for the Twins. How will he fare in being the batter who has to set the table for the rest of the order?
What if Ruf can't make the jump from Double-A to the majors this year? In 12 games with the Phillies, he hit .333 with a 1.079 OPS, three homers and 10 RBI. That seems to indicate he can handle the transition, but 12 games and 37 plate appearances isn't much to go on.
The bigger concern in the Phillies outfield is Brown. At 25 years old, he still has time to develop into a significant contributor. But Brown hasn't made a strong impression over the past three seasons, batting .236 overall with a .703 OPS.
Against left-handed pitching, Brown has a .208 average and .586 OPS. That will probably mean Mayberry plays when a lefty is on the mound.
Can the two of them together combine to provide serviceable major league production? If not, and Ruf proves not ready for prime time, the Phillies offense could conceivably be even worse than it was last year.
If Halladay struggles with diminished velocity and finds himself back on the disabled list because of his shoulder, that increases the burden on Lee and Hamels to anchor the starting rotation. Those two will probably be up to the task, but losing Halladay would obviously affect the depth of the Phillies' starting staff.
John Lannan was signed to be the team's fifth starter and should give Philadelphia suitable production in that spot. But if Lannan has to move up in the rotation, his 4.00 ERA and inability to strike out batters will take the mound more often.
Finally, Adams will be coming back from offseason thoracic outlet surgery. Some pitchers, such as the St. Louis Cardinals' Chris Carpenter, have been able to recover from that procedure nicely. Others, like Jeremy Bonderman, haven't been the same since.
The Phillies are obviously confident in Adams' chances, signing him to a two-year, $12 million contract. But if he's slow to rebuild strength in his shoulder, the bridge between the starting pitchers and Papelbon could continue to be shaky.
If these situations fall apart for the Phillies, they could easily win fewer than the 81 victories achieved last season. Perhaps the team would approach 75 wins. Unlike last year, Amaro may not have assets to deal away at the trade deadline either.
It could get ugly at Citizens Bank Park under those circumstances.
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