With less than three weeks to go until spring training begins, the Philadelphia Phillies are putting the finishing touches on an offseason that saw its share of moves and non-moves.
The Phillies essentially began creating holes that needed to be filled following their moves at the July non-waiver trade deadline, and entered this offseason with plenty of options but few courses of action that guaranteed success.
Even with this in mind, some of their decisions may still have come as surprises.
Despite several free agent center fielders available, the Phillies looked to the trade market to acquire Ben Revere from the Minnesota Twins, creating a hole in their starting rotation in the process. Although Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis remain on the roster, the Phillies acquired Michael Young from the Texas Rangers to take over at third base.
And, according to CSNPhilly.com, the Phillies recently signed Delmon Young, proving that they weren’t finished making moves just yet.
However, for each player that the Phils acquired, multiple other options existed in players who either signed elsewhere or priced themselves out of the Phillies price range.
Here is a timeline of the moves and non-moves from this offseason that have led to the 2013 Phillies squad that will soon take the field in spring training.
Carlos Ruiz was arguably the Phillies best hitter and biggest contributor last season. Jose Contreras, Ty Wigginton and Placido Polanco? Not so much.
All four players had options in their respective contracts that required the Phillies to make a decision soon after the completion of the World Series and, not surprisingly, Ruiz was the only player whose option was exercised.
In a season in which two key offensive contributors missed a significant number of games and others picked bad times for slumps, Ruiz had the best season of his major league career.
In 114 games, Ruiz batted .325 with 16 home runs and 68 RBI, all career highs. However, his 25-game suspension to start this season following a positive test for a stimulant could make for a difficult challenge, as the Phillies will be without their best right-handed batter from last season.
At $5 million, however, picking up Ruiz’s option should have been an easy decision.
Declining the other three options were also decisions that shouldn’t have featured too much wavering.
Contreras missed 117 games while on the disabled list, and had a 5.27 ERA in 17 appearances. Wigginton batted just .235 in 125 games and proved to be a liability at third base, limiting his options on defense. His option would have cost the Phillies $4 million. Polanco missed 51 games during two stints on the disabled list, and would’ve made $5.5 million this season.
In total, the Phillies paid $2 million to buy out the three players, rather than having to pay $12 million to them in 2013.
The Phillies began the offseason with center field as their top area of need, and B.J. Upton may have been at the top of their list.
Todd Zolecki wrote on the Phillies’ website that Upton was the team’s top offseason target. However, Mark Bowman tweeted that the Phils offered $55 million to Upton, nearly $20 million less than the $75.25 million, five-year deal he signed with the Atlanta Braves.
If that’s the case, it’s difficult to determine just how interested the Phillies were in Upton o r if the Phils simply felt that they had more needs to fill an didn’t want to risk over spending on one player.
Either way, Upton’s signing took a right-handed batter who hit .246 with 28 home runs, 78 RBI and 31 stolen bases off the market.
Upton would have fit nicely into the Phillies lineup, although his 169 strikeouts and low batting average from last season would have added some risk to the signing.
At $55 million, Upton would have been a major addition at a great value, but at $75.25 million, considering the other moves that were made, this turned into a solid non-move for the Phillies.
Nate Schierholtz played 37 games for the Phillies after being acquired as part of the trade that sent Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants.
Despite not having acquired a center fielder yet and having no sure starters in the outfield, the Phillies non-tendered Schierholtz on November 30th, making him a free agent.
The move likely saved the Phillies an additional $2 million or so, but may have seemed questionable considering that Schierholtz is 28 years old and would have given the team another outfield option.
However, when compared to Laynce Nix, both players are left-handed batters with similar overall batting averages and averages against right-handed pitchers during the past three seasons combined. Nix is under contract for this season.
At $1.35 million, Nix will make slightly less than the $2.25 million that Schierholtz will make through his new deal with the Chicago Cubs this season, making the move seem like a minor, yet solid decision.
Angel Pagan was able to use last season, where his batting average, number of runs scored and number of hits were all career highs, to earn a four-year, $40 million contract from the San Francisco Giants.
However, according to Ken Rosenthal on FOXSports.com, the Phillies also made a four-year offer to Pagan.
Pagan batted .288 with eight home runs, 56 RBI and 29 stolen bases for the Giants last season. As a switch-hitter, Pagan would have given the Phillies a player capable of batting from the right-side while filling the need in center field.
However, like B.J. Upton’s deal with the Atlanta Braves, Pagan may have received a generous deal from the Giants, from the Phillies perspective. With multiple holes to fill, giving a player who last offseason was acquired as part of a deal for Andres Torres an AAV of $10 million might not have been the most efficient way of spending for the Phillies.
Going off of their spending habits in the past, chances are high that the Phillies could have afforded either Upton or Pagan based on the contracts they eventually signed. But neither player was likely to make significant contributions without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the lineup, so over spending would have made little sense.
The Phillies instead made what they likely felt were fair offers, before turning their attention to the trade market to nab their center fielder.
This isn’t a direct move or non-move, but it had an effect on the Phillies search for a third baseman.
This meant that the New York Yankees were officially in the market for a third baseman on a short-term deal, likely for one year; similar to how the Phillies were also looking for a one year stop gap at third base until Cody Asche advances to the major league level.
Among free agents, Kevin Youkilis was the only player available who could contribute significantly to a team’s lineup.
The Yankees eventually signed Youkilis to a one-year, $12 million deal.
Earlier in the offseason, Dan Hayes on CSNChicago.com wrote that the Phillies were interested in Youkilis. However, the news of Rodriguez’s injury essentially put the Yankees in the same market for filling the same need at third base as the Phillies. The Phils then had competition from one of the few teams capable of exceeding any dollar amount offered on a one-year deal.
Chances are high that $12 million for one year was well outside of the Phillies price range, but who knows if the price would have gotten that high if the Yankees were not involved.
Regardless, the Phillies exited the market well before Youkilis signed, and looked to the trade market to fill their need. However, their exit from the free agent market for third basemen may have been impacted by the Yankees emergence.
Despite several free agent center fielders available, the Phillies decided their best move was to look to the trade market to fill their biggest need.
The Phillies sent Vance Worley and prospect Trevor May to the Minnesota Twins for Ben Revere, creating a hole in the starting rotation while acquiring a player under team control through the 2017 season.
Revere may not have been one of the players initially thought to be sought after by the Phils, but as a 24-year-old who made just $492,520 last season, he fits the description as to the type of player that was needed.
Revere batted .294 with 150 hits and 40 stolen bases last season. Despite having yet to hit a major league home run, Revere gives the Phillies’ lineup a few additional options.
Although he is another left-handed batter, Revere gives the Phillies a contact hitter who will hopefully provide a great deal of RBI opportunities. Revere’s .333 OBP last season would have ranked third on the Phillies’ roster among players who played in more than 110 games, while his hit total would have only trailed Jimmy Rollins’ 158.
Speaking of Rollins, Revere can also provide a one-two punch at the top of the lineup, or bat from the seventh- or eighth-spot.
He may not have been the obvious choice, and was not a cheap acquisition in terms of which players went to the Twins, but Revere has a chance to lead the Phillies next generation of younger players.
It took a few days for him to decide, but Michael Young eventually agreed to waive his 10-5 rights in order to become the Phillies new third baseman.
After the market for Kevin Youkilis grew, the Phillies struck for their second trade of the offseason, sending reliever Josh Lindblom and prospect Lisalverto Bonilla to the Texas Rangers for Young.
Young batted .277 with eight home runs and 67 RBI last season, and is just one season removed from batting .338 with 106 RBI.
Young could turn out to be one of the Phillies best moves of the offseason. For $6 million, the Phils now have a right-handed batter and another veteran presence, while gaining depth by being able to move Kevin Frandsen and Freddy Galvis to reserve roles.
If Young can remain healthy while playing regularly in the field for the first time since 2010, the Phillies will also potentially have protection for Ryan Howard in the lineup, and a player capable of playing first base.
At a low cost and on essentially a one-year deal, the Phillies were able to find a great addition while filling their third base need with Young.
With all of their needs, it may seem surprising that the Phillies did not sign a free agent until December 18th. Even more surprising may be that the signing involved a starting pitcher.
After trading Vance Worley to the Minnesota Twins as part of the deal for Ben Revere, the Phillies found themselves with few solid options for the fifth spot in their rotation.
It’s risky enough having Kyle Kendrick serve as the fourth starter, but relying on Tyler Cloyd, Jonathan Pettibone or Ethan Martin for the fifth spot would have made for uncertainty towards 40 percent of the starting rotation.
However, John Lannan’s addition on a one-year, $2.5 million deal will help alleviate at least some concern.
The left-hander was booted from the Washington Nationals starting rotation last season, but did go 4-1 with a 4.13 ERA in 32.2 innings, mostly in late season starts in place of Stephen Strasburg.
In 2011, Lannan went 10-13 with 106 strikeouts and a 3.70 ERA in 184.2 innings.
Lannan’s career numbers, including a 42-52 record and 4.01 ERA, do not generate a great deal of excitement, but as a veteran fifth starter at a low cost, the 28-year-old could provide consistency to the back end of the rotation.
The Phillies bullpen struggled for a majority of last season, and lacked a proven right-hander to setup closer Jonathan Papelbon in the eighth inning.
Mike Adams should make sure that this area is not a problem again this season.
Adams, one of the best setup relievers in the major leagues in recent seasons, signed a two-year, $12 million contract with the Phillies. Combined with Papelbon, Adams should help give the Phillies one of the best late inning duos in the league.
Adams saw his ERA increase to 3.27 last season, his first away from Petco Park in a few years, but still struck out 45 batters in 52.1 innings. From 2008-2011, Adams had a combined ERA of 1.61.
The Phillies bullpen is a difficult area to project. With several young relievers, there’s a chance that more experience will lead to improved results. But giving Adams an AAV of $6 million, especially after Brandon League received an AAV of $7.5 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers, is justifiable.
The Phillies have a lot of money going to two relievers but, as last season proved, late inning headaches can be the most frustrating of all.
Finding a corner outfielder has remained as the last offseason to-do box left unchecked (until possibly recently), although internal options exist.
The free agent market continued to dry up until Cody Ross and Nick Swisher remained as the only two starting caliber corner outfielders remaining, although the Phillies were only linked to one of these players consistently.
Jon Heyman on CBSSports.com wrote that the Phillies had been connected to Ross for awhile, and that the outfielder was on their shopping list. Ross, however, eventually signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Ross’ deal is for three-years, $26 million, making this one of the Phillies best non-moves of the offseason.
Ross batted .267 with 22 home runs and 81 RBI during a tremendous 2012 season, but his career averages point to this type of season not being the norm going forward.
Signing Ross would have improved the Phillies outfield, but also just barely pushed the team’s payroll over the luxury tax threshold, limiting any future moves.
They weren’t done just yet.
Delmon Young has had his share of issues off the field, and is coming off a season in which he primarily served as the DH for the Detroit Tigers.
However, the Phillies still just signed the 2012 ALCS MVP for $750,000.
Young signed a one-year deal with the Phillies yesterday, simultaneously giving the team a potential huge bargain and crowded outfield.
In an article by Jake Kaplan on CSNPhilly.com, general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. said that Young could become the starter in right field, a position he hasn’t played since 2007.
Young batted .267 with 18 home runs and 74 RBI last season, but had 112 strikeouts and just 20 walks. He also had a .313 batting average during the postseason.
As a 27-year-old right-handed batter, Young fits what the Phillies were looking for in an outfielder. As a player with concerns both off the field and in regards to his conditioning, $750,000 seems like a solid price.
The Phillies must now also make a decision on another outfielder by the end of spring training. If Young makes the roster, either Darin Ruf or Domonic Brown could be sent to Triple-A, or the Phillies could attempt to move Laynce Nix’s contract.
However, an outfield featuring Ruf and Brown in platoon roles in left field, Ben Revere in center and Young in right field is intriguing.
The Phillies found a .300 hitter in a late-January move last offseason. Young appears to be this offseason’s candidate for a similar late offseason minor move that pays major dividends.