Power Ranking Philadelphia Phillies' Biggest Needs Heading into Free Agency
After the Philadelphia Phillies finished 81-81 in 2012, the signs of trouble around the team were plentiful and ominous. But there were still rationalizations and wishes lingering.
It does not take all that much, so goes the dreamer's logic, to go from 81 wins to, say, 88 wins.
Phillies fans hoped that Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard could come back healthy in 2013. They crossed their fingers on the possibility that Ben Revere could steal 40 bases and score 100 runs.
While they were ruminating on those wishes, they never could have guessed that Cole Hamels would go 8-14 or that Jimmy Rollins would hit .252 and slug .348.
There will be no such dreaming about the 2014 Phillies after this past season's group lost 89 times.
Very few 73-89 teams have lacked for roster holes. The Phillies are no exception.
1. Right-Handed Power Bat
The first order of business for the Phillies in free agency is a right-handed hitter who can drive the ball over fences and play some outfield.
The Phillies lineup has been too left-handed for a long time. The emergence of Domonic Brown did nothing to alleviate that imbalance.
Even when Ryan Howard is healthy, having Chase Utley, Howard and Brown hit in some sequence makes the Phillies vulnerable to even subpar left-handed pitching.
Neither Darin Ruf nor John Mayberry, Jr. can be counted on to break up that trio and produce runs.
Nelson Cruz, Corey Hart and Michael Morse will all be available in free agency. All three have warts, be they injury troubles or, in the case of Cruz, PED issues.
But the Phillies are in a position where they have to gamble on this type of player and hope for a resurgence in a small home park.
2. Starting Pitcher
The Phillies still boast one of the best starting pitching tandems in all of baseball with Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
After those two, though, it gets ugly fast and stays that way.
The 2013 Phillies proved conclusively that two starting pitchers in a five-man rotation just are not enough. The inconsistent and insufficient efforts of Jonathan Pettibone, Ethan Martin, John Lannan, Tyler Cloyd and others exposed the Phillies to big, early deficits too often.
Ervin Santana is probably the best fit for the Phillies. He will not come cheap, but a power right-handed arm to slot in between Lee and Hamels would be a great fit for the Phillies.
3. Relief Pitcher
The Phillies thought they had fixed their problems holding leads in the eighth inning with their acquisition of Mike Adams last winter.
After Adams got hurt, though, the Phillies were back to hoping that unproven pitchers like Jake Diekman and B.J. Rosenberg would get the outs needed to give Jonathan Papelbon opportunities to close games.
Too often, it just did not work.
Your guess is as good as mine as to who from this free agent list would be a good fit in the Phillies bullpen.
But the Phillies cannot leave Clearwater in March 2014 with the same bullpen that failed so often in 2013.
As of this writing, there is no telling who will be catching for the Phillies in 2014.
Carlos Ruiz's contract is up. He wants to stay, pretty badly it seems. But it is hard to know whether the Phillies think keeping him around helps them.
Even if they re-sign Ruiz, though, the Phillies will need to back that signing up with a competent second catcher, particularly since Sebastian Valle may never be ready and Cameron Rupp could use more time in the minors himself.
Ruiz has missed more than 30 games due to injury in each of the last two seasons. That does not count the 25 games he missed due to a banned substance-based suspension at the start of 2013.
The Phillies cannot keep faking it with the likes of Erik Kratz when the starter, whoever he is, goes down.
5. Third Base
The Phillies entered 2013 knowing that Michael Young was a stopgap at third base. Their hope was that Young had one last .300 season in him.
He didn't, and by the end of the season Cody Asche had been summoned (rushed?) from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to man the hot corner.
Asche did not play poorly, but he did not exactly light it up, either. He hit .235 with five home runs in a bit less than two months of action.
And as you can see from the action shot above, he's as left-handed as Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Domonic Brown and Ben Revere are.
It is too bad Mark Reynolds cannot hit much more than his weight. A player like him (but without the miserable average and poor defense) would be a nice counterpoint to Asche's good glove and only decent bat.
Truth be told, I might sign Reynolds anyway.
He'll strike out a ton and hit a few home runs, same as Ryan Howard. Just for a lot less money.