Not too long ago, it seemed as though the Philadelphia Phillies' offseason had drawn to a close. They had filled most of their needs, acquiring center fielder Ben Revere and third baseman Michael Young in trades at the end of the offseason's baseball winter meetings. A few weeks later, the Phils then signed setup man Mike Adams and non-tendered starting pitcher John Lannan.
With the exception of a handful of other insignificant minor league signings, it appeared as though the Phillies were going into spring training with the team they had. There had been a need for a corner outfielder as well, but after weeks went by with no results, it didn't look as though the Phillies were going to make any more moves.
Sure enough, though, that proved to be false sooner than expected.
Just over a week ago, the Phils inked outfielder Delmon Young to a one-year deal worth $750,000 with incentives that could push it up to $3.25 million. In addition, there are some interesting weight clauses in the contract; meaning that depending on how much weight Young loses and keeps off throughout the season, he'll receive $100,000 at each of six weigh-ins which will be held periodically.
Then this past Monday, the Phillies made two rather significant deals, one more so than the other. After hanging on with the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves, Phillies reliever Chad Durbin found his way back to the team on a one-year, $1.1 million contract with a club option for 2014. And only a couple hours later, the Phils signed infielder Yuniesky Betancourt, albeit to a minor league deal.
Considering free-agent signings as opposed to trade acquisitions, the Phils have quite the short list. With Adams, Lannan, Delmon Young, Durbin and Betancourt, the list may not be the most eye-popping, but it is nothing short of fascinating, to say the least. Pitchers Rodrigo Lopez, Aaron Cook and Juan Cruz all received minor league deals with invites to spring training as well, but their chances of cracking the Opening Day roster aren't in their favor.
Since Betancourt is in the same boat as the three aforementioned pitchers, that leaves us with Adams, Lannan, Delmon Young and Durbin.
The way I'm seeing this is that in terms of top performance, Adams will hands-down have the biggest impact on the Phillies in 2013. However, I'm choosing to go about this in a different way, and that's how each player will impact the the shape of the Opening Day roster.
In this scenario, Adams does fit, as his veteran setup presence erases an opportunity for one of the Phillies' younger relievers to break camp with the team. However, a veteran presence in the bullpen was necessary in addition to Papelbon, so considering that a bullpen signing of some sort was almost inevitable, its impact is not that massive in this sense.
Lannan, on the other hand, was brought to the City of Brotherly Love in order to fill the void left by Vance Worley after he was traded for Revere. His roster impact is not very significant otherwise, for aside from an unreliable (in the majors, at least) Tyler Cloyd and possibly even Jonathan Pettibone, the Phils didn't have any other options for that rotation spot.
Ironically enough, that leaves us with Delmon Young and Durbin—the two players signed at a point when it looked as though the Phillies were done exploring the major league free-agent market. Both have an immense impact on shaping the 2013 roster as they both prevent other players from likely breaking the roster, but let's take a look at each of them before making a decision.
At the beginning of the offseason, it was clear that the Phillies needed some outfield help. An outfield of some combination of Domonic Brown, John Mayberry, Jr., Darin Ruf and Laynce Nix simply would not do.
With the Phillies' highest priority entering the offseason being center field, eyes were on B.J. Upton and then Angel Pagan becoming the team's long-term center fielder. Each of the two signed elsewhere, however, leaving the Phillies with fewer options.
That's when Revere came into play.
With Revere taking over in center, the bigger question was then: Would a corner outfield spot be filled?There was speculation that Josh Hamilton or Alfonso Soriano were possibilities, but nothing materialized on those fronts. Since no signing was imminent, the thought was that Domonic Brown would take right field duties and Darin Ruf would man left field.
While that wasn't the most proven outfield setup, it was high time both Brown and Ruf got the chance to start. The only way to see what these two players' true potential is, is to let them play, and this opportunity was going to do just that.
Now that Young is a Phillie, GM Ruben Amaro, Jr.'s plan is evidently to have him be the starting right fielder (according to Yahoo! Sports). Not only is this strange, but it's not smart, as Young has not played in right field since 2007. Amaro's moving a player who should not even be playing in the outfield over to an outfield position where he has less experience. It doesn't make sense.
But perhaps the biggest impact from the Young signing is that Darin Ruf will likely have to pay the price as a result. With no starting job up for grabs unless Brown is somehow optioned to Triple-A instead (or traded), Ruf will likely have to begin 2013 at Lehigh Valley.
As for Durbin, his return to the Phillies brings along a similar effect.
Adams had already been signed as the setup man, and with Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo also both having more than one year of major league experience, that seemed to suffice. However, bringing back a now-35-year-old Durbin, while giving the Phillies bullpen slightly more stability, is ultimately an unnecessary move on a major league contract.
Since leaving the Phillies after the 2010 season, Durbin's career has been up and down. He latched on with the Cleveland Indians for 2011 and was horrendous, posting a 5.53 ERA in 56 games, though his advanced stats suggested he was better than that. I use the term "better" very loosely, though, as his FIP was still 4.85 and his xFIP was 4.26.
In 2012, Durbin started spring training with the Washington Nationals before being cut and working his way to the Atlanta Braves. After a bumpy start, Durbin settled down for most of the year, ending up with a 3.10 ERA in 76 games. Although his ERA was once again satisfactory, his advanced metrics were still through the roof. His FIP last year was 4.71 and his xFIP was actually higher than in 2011 at 4.41. Much of his success last year can be attributed to his BABIP of .251; though, don't expect a number that low again.
But the bigger impact Durbin has is that his signing leaves only three bullpen jobs up for grabs.
With solid talent in Mike Stutes, Justin De Fratus, Phillippe Aumont, Jeremy Horst, Jake Diekman and Michael Schwimer all capable of being in the majors, only half of them will make the roster while the remaining two or three are forced to pitch in Triple-A where they are too good to keep playing.
Both the Young and Durbin signings impact the 2013 roster out of spring training. Young affects the outfield while Durbin takes a bullpen spot. But because the Phillies are preventing more significant minor league talent from making its mark by starting Young every day, I'm going with him as the biggest impact signing heading into 2013 for the Phillies.
Of course, if Young is cut during spring training, this honor will then be relegated to Durbin, but preventing a player from playing every day in Ruf as opposed to some bullpen pitchers a couple of days a week gives Young the edge.