5 Offseason Moves Philadelphia Phillies Should Have Made
At this point in the offseason, the Philadelphia Phillies, like all teams, are finalizing their roster and checking to see whether more competition can be added to create position battles in spring training.
With the exception of an additional corner outfielder, the Phillies hit all of their needs this offseason, although just how well they filled each hole cannot be determined until the season begins.
In the meantime, however, we can review an offseason’s worth of transactions to see which moves the Phillies could have made, but decided to go in a different direction.
These players did not receive an offer from the Phils, chose a different deal instead or were dealt to another team. Regardless, each player fills a need that could have helped to further improve the team heading into next season.
Here are five offseason moves the Phillies should have made.
Sign Torii Hunter
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Torii Hunter is 37 years old, but is coming off a season in which he batted .313 in 140 games and hit at least 16 home runs for the seventh straight season.
Yes, there’s risk involved in giving an average annual value of $13 million to a player who will turn 38 years old this season, after his home run total decreased and his strikeout total increased last season.
However, Hunter is also a right-handed batter who can play right field and is just two seasons removed from starting 97 games in center field.
Hunter also had the second-highest WAR value among qualified American League right fielders last season, according to Fangraphs, and had the third-highest UZR under the same criteria, also according to Fangraphs.
Hunter batted .340 against left-handed pitching last season and had a higher average in the second half, posting a .350 average following the All-Star break.
Although he signed with the Tigers pretty quickly once the offseason began, Dylan Hernandez and Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the Phillies spoke to Hunter’s agent.
Signing Hunter for a similar deal would have forced the Phillies to likely either exceed the luxury tax threshold in order to sign Mike Adams or look elsewhere for eighth-inning help.
But a right-handed hitting right fielder capable of batting .300 with 20 home runs and 90 RBI while playing above-average defense would have been a nice addition.
Sign Nick Swisher
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Yes, the Phillies would have had to give up their first-round draft pick, and an AAV of nearly $14 million, for Nick Swisher.
But Swisher also would have given the Phillies another option at all three outfield spots, as well as in different spots in the batting order.
Swisher is a switch-hitter, meaning the Phils would have had another player capable of batting from the right side and also someone with good plate discipline. The 32-year-old has finished in the top 10 in the American League in walks in six of the last seven seasons.
Last season saw Swisher bat .272 with 24 home runs and 93 RBI. This marked the eighth straight season that he hit more than 20 home runs and the seventh time in eight years that he drove in more than 70 runs.
Swisher ranked fifth among qualified AL right fielders in WAR value last season, according to Fangraphs, just ahead of the newly acquired Ben Revere.
His four-year, $56 million deal with the Cleveland Indians would have been difficult for the Phillies to match without exceeding the luxury tax threshold, but he certainly would have given manager Charlie Manuel some more lineup options.
Although he batted in every spot from the two- through seven-hole last season, he has primarily batted either second, fifth or sixth during the past three seasons.
The Phillies could have used Jimmy Rollins, Revere, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Swisher, while still having players such as Carlos Ruiz, Michael Young and possibly Darin Ruf to fill out the lineup.
It would have cost more, but signing Swisher could have given the Phillies power from the right side and a few more options this season.
Sign Dan Haren
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The starting rotation was the one area at the beginning of the offseason that the Phillies could have left alone and entered the 2013 season with the same pieces in place.
Even after trading Vance Worley to the Minnesota Twins as part of the deal that helped acquire Ben Revere, the Phillies still had internal options for the rotation, although young and unproven.
However, signing Dan Haren could have made for a buy-low, high-reward acquisition for the Phillies on a one-year deal.
Haren became a free agent after the Los Angeles Angels declined his contract option and eventually signed with the Washington Nationals on a one-year, $13 million deal.
The 32-year-old went 12-13 with 142 strikeouts and a 4.33 ERA last season, possibly costing him more money and a longer deal this offseason.
The 2011 season was a different story. In 238.1 innings, Haren went 16-10 with 192 strikeouts and a 3.17 ERA. From 2007 to 2011, Haren went 73-49 with a combined 3.32 ERA.
Matt Gelb on philly.com recently wrote that the Phillies have about $7 million to go before the payroll reaches the luxury tax threshold.
If the Phillies had signed Haren, they would have had no need to also sign John Lannan for $2.5 million. The Phillies then would have been over the luxury tax threshold by approximately $3.5 million if Haren had signed the same deal with the team. At that point, the Phils either would have had to find a cheaper eighth-inning option or move another player.
However, one year of Haren instead of one year of Lannan could have pushed the Phillies back to having four above-average starters, all of whom are either currently at or have previously pitched at Cy Young Award-type levels.
Trade for Jordan Walden
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The Phillies filled their need for a right-handed pitcher for the eighth inning by signing Mike Adams to a two-year, $12 million deal.
Adams has been one of the best setup pitchers in the major leagues in recent seasons, meaning that he should give the Phillies one of the best late-inning duos in the league along with Jonathan Papelbon.
However, he will also combine with Papelbon to give the Phillies two relievers with a combined AAV of $18.5 million.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves were able to acquire right-hander Jordan Walden this offseason, after the Los Angeles Angels signed former Phillie Ryan Madson.
Walden was taken out of the closer’s role last season while he went 3-2 with 48 strikeouts and a 3.46 ERA. In 2011, however, Walden found himself in the All-Star Game while racking up 32 saves, 67 strikeouts and a 2.98 ERA. Walden struggled a bit against right-handed batters last season, but held left-handers to a .171 average.
As previously mentioned, Adams fits the mold for what the Phillies need in an eighth-inning reliever, but Walden comes in at nearly nine years younger and $6 million cheaper this year.
The Phillies were rumored to have been close to a deal for another cheap, young pitcher in Wilton Lopez of the Houston Astros, before turning their attention fully to Adams. However, the deal fell through earlier in the offseason, as Todd Zolecki wrote.
Walden made $495,000 last season at 24 years old and is not eligible for arbitration until 2014.
The Phillies may not have been able to acquire Walden in a one-for-one deal like the Braves were able to, but a trade including a young pitcher and another lesser prospect may have been enough.
Adams is a great addition, but Walden could have been a nice fit and allowed for even more payroll flexibility for an offseason or midseason acquisition.
Sign Jeff Keppinger
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Jeff Keppinger used a tremendous second half to earn a three-year, $12 million deal from the Chicago White Sox this offseason.
With the starting infield set following the acquisition of Michael Young, signing Keppinger to a similar three-year deal may have been a stretch for the Phillies, especially with young talent progressing through the minor leagues.
However, age and injuries have made having infield depth and players capable of starting for extended periods of time valuable assets for the Phils.
Keppinger batted .325 with 40 RBI and just 31 strikeouts in 115 games. This includes a .332 average following the All-Star break that was among the best in the major leagues.
Defensively, Keppinger has played every infield position besides pitcher and catcher during the past three seasons and has also made a start at both of the corner outfield spots.
The Phillies could have afforded to pay him an AAV of $4 million, although that’s a high amount for a reserve infielder.
However, Keppinger would have given the Phillies one of the strongest benches in the major leagues and helped fill in if any of the team’s injury-prone or aging infielders landed on the disabled list.
A right-handed batter, Keppinger has posted combined averages during the past three seasons of .378 from the three-hole and .346 from the six-hole.
As mentioned before, Keppinger would not have filled a crucial need as a backup, but his presence would have been a huge addition if a starter went down with injury, or simply in place of a player such as Michael Martinez, Pete Orr or Andres Blanco as a reserve.