The offseason ahead will potentially be one of immense surprise for the Philadelphia Phillies, for a few reasons. First and foremost, the oft-mentioned television contract situation will near its climax, as the Phillies are expected to sign their new, multi-billion dollar TV deal within the next month, according to CBS Philly.
In addition, the Phillies are close to hiring a much-needed statistician, per MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. While that alone is unlikely to alter the dynamic of the Phillies front office, it should influence future contracts and trades, at least to some extent.
Third, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. always has some tricks up his sleeve. Just how he plans on utilizing them this offseason remains to be seen, and whether or not they make sense will depend just on how he restructures his philosophy of signing and acquiring players, if at all.
In the following slides, five realistic moves independent of one another will be presented. Again, this slideshow does not and will not suggest that all five moves be made; rather, any of the five moves could come to fruition this winter and at least should be considered.
Here are five realistic moves the Phillies should consider in the coming offseason.
Chances are that you weren't expecting this to be the first slide of this slideshow. Maybe you didn't expect it at all. Maybe you don't even know who Masahiro Tanaka is.
Well, for people in all walks of life, Tanaka is currently Japan's best pitcher, and while he's no Yu Darvish, he's still got tremendous upside. A potential No. 2 starter in the majors, Tanaka went 20-0 this past season in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league, posting a 1.24 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. His control is also excellent, as he registered a 1.3 BB/9 rate on the season (all preceding information courtesy of That Ball's Outta Here).
The article linked above is extremely informative concerning Tanaka, but it also highlights why the Phillies could be an ideal landing spot for this year's top Japanese import pitcher. With the looming TV deal, the Phillies would have enough money to make a posting bid for Tanaka, assuming the deal is signed beforehand. If the Phillies won the posting bid process and signed Tanaka, they would have a second right-hander in addition to Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and/or Kyle Kendrick in the 2014 rotation.
Perhaps the most fascinating point made in the article is that new third base coach and former bench coach Pete Mackanin did extensive scouting on Tanaka for the New York Yankees this past season, which could provide the Phillies with some first-hand knowledge of the Japanese phenom. Although Mackanin probably wasn't hired solely for the purpose of gaining insight on Tanaka, it's food for thought.
Tanaka would slide into a Phillies rotation in dire need of a solid right-hander, one who's young and injury-free. The 24-year-old Tanaka is all of these, and he could just be the guy the Phillies end up with this winter...if they play their cards right.
This offseason's other top Asian pitcher hails from South Korea, a 27-year-old named Suk-min Yoon. South Korea's top pitcher following Hyun-jin Ryu's transition to the majors before 2013, could be an appealing option for teams looking to spend a little bit less on a foreign import.
Yoon isn't overpowering by any means, as MLB Trade Rumors' Tim Dierkes' assessment of him shows that he topped out at 93 miles per hour two years ago, which comes from a report from Yahoo's Jeff Passan. While Passan's guess that Yoon could be in the majors before 2012 obviously turned out to be wrong, Yoon wants to play in the states now, according to the George King of the New York Post.
However, Yoon was hurt for a good chunk of the 2013 season, and he only compiled 87.2 innings as a result, per myKBO.net. When he did pitch, Yoon's ERA was 4.00, while he also racked up seven saves and two holds as a reliever.
Yoon's injury woes aren't his only drawback, though. His agent just so happens to be Scott Boras, with whom the Phillies haven't had the best of relationships over the years. That could prove to be troublesome in hypothetical negotiations.
Perhaps Yoon isn't the best fit for the Phillies, but if they're looking to dabble in the international market again without having to pay a posting fee, they could take a flier on Yoon on a short-term deal.
This time a year ago, Ervin Santana was widely regarded as one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball. His 2012 with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had been horrendous, and they consequently looked to deal him for pennies on the dollar. He ended up being traded to the Kansas City Royals for minor league pitcher Brandon Sisk.
How quickly things change.
On the contrary, Santana was one of baseball's very best pitchers in 2013. In 32 starts, he went 9-10, but his ERA was an outstanding 3.24 and his WHIP was 1.14. His 2.0 HR/9 rate of 2012 nearly halved, and his control increased, shown by his 3.16 K/BB ratio.
The only drawback with Santana is that he will likely cost draft pick compensation as the Royals will probably make him a qualifying offer after the season. Should Santana decline and the Phillies, or any other team, sign him, the signing team loses its first-round pick in next year's draft...
...except not this year, at least for the Phillies. Since they hold a top 10 pick at number seven, the Phillies' top draft pick is protected. Does that mean they'll go out and sign someone along these lines? Maybe. If they do, it should be Santana, no question.
Carlos Beltran has been a force in the major leagues for most of his career, but after a couple of injury-plagued seasons with the New York Mets, he has had somewhat of a renaissance since. While his 2012 batting average wasn't terrific, it stood at .296 for 2013, his OPS has been well over .800 each of the last two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.
And of course, Beltran continues to be a postseason legend. But for all intents and purposes of this slideshow, that's beside the point.
Beltran will be 37 years old next April, and his age is his biggest con for the Phillies. That, and his lengthy injury history, though he's been relatively healthy since 2011.
While Beltran's defense is also above-average at best, it's usually average or so these days. Beltran's bat would look great in their lineup, but whether or not his glove would stand out in the outfield is a different story.
The Phillies should at least consider Beltran, as he's one of the better right fielders in a weak crop of them. But by no means should they rush to sign him. He's the kind of guy who, if the bidding gets too expensive, leave him alone.
Nelson Cruz is also one of the better options in the 2013-14 free agent class, though he's got the biggest downsides of all. Cruz seemingly always gets hurt, his defense is atrocious, he's 33 years old yet might command a three-year deal, and most importantly, he was suspended 50 games as a result of the Biogenesis scandal.
So is Cruz really a fit for the Phillies? In many ways, yes.
The Phillies need a right-handed power bat, and Cruz fits that to a T. He's hit at least 22 home runs in every season dating back to 2009, when he slugged a career-high 33 bombs. Even in 2013, when he played just 109 games, Cruz hammered 27 home runs on the year.
Cruz's OBP has steadily declined over the last couple of seasons, too. But his slugging percentage offsets that issue to a tolerable extent. Given the suspension, Cruz could actually be cheaper this offseason as well, as his market value will likely be lower.
Although he's another one of those guys who would have to decline a likely qualifying offer, there's reason to think that he'll test the open market. If he doesn't, oh well. But if he does, the Phillies should give him some thought. On a two or three-year deal at a rate of around $10-11 million per season, they could do a whole lot worse.