Playing Fact or Fiction with the Latest Philadelphia Phillies Rumors

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Playing Fact or Fiction with the Latest Philadelphia Phillies Rumors
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The Phillies just could not go another day without overpaying a free agent.

Ordinarily the opening paragraph to a piece like this would have some pithy, breezy prose commenting on the quality and quantity of the rumors swirling around the Philadelphia Phillies this offseason.

You are going to have to do without that, though. Within hours of this writing, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer posted this tidbit to his Twitter feed:

It is officially white flag time for Phillies fans.

Read the comments under my posts on this page and the raging undercurrent is some version of "you're too negative."

But how, exactly, am I supposed to react when the first two major Phillies signings of this offseason are Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz? Are these really causes for optimism?

Here is how Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com recapped Byrd's 2012 season

Byrd started 3 for 43 (.070) for the Cubs before being traded to the Red Sox. He was released by the Red Sox June 12 and later had to serve a 50-game suspension for violating the league's Joint Drug Agreement.

At the end of the 2012 season, Byrd's career looked to be all but over. Did he have a good season in 2013? Definitely.291/.336/.511 with 35 doubles, 24 homers, 88 RBI and 75 runs is no joke. 

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
If Marlon Byrd is worth $8 million a year, what does that make Jacoby Ellsbury worth? About $50 million a year?

Byrd's 2013 season was also a grotesque outlier for a player with a slugging percentage of .425 and 106 home runs in a 12-year career.

Byrd made $700,000 as a 36-year-old journeyman outfielder in 2013. He will get $8 million in 2014 from the Phillies, and will do so again in 2015.

ESPN.com's Keith Law put the absurdity of the Byrd deal best:

The Phillies are paying (Byrd) more than part-time money and seem to think he's an everyday player who'll stay healthy for two years and whose history of PED usage isn't relevant...paying him as if he'll be more than a .270/.315/.450 guy...assumes his legs will stay healthy enough for him to get to 20-odd homers each year.

You know what the worst part of the Byrd contract is? As of now, it is the second-stupidest of the two Phillies signings in the past week.

According to Gelb's report, the Phillies will pay Ruiz "$8.5 million per season from 2014-16" despite the fact that Ruiz "has required a trip to the disabled list in each of the last five seasons and averaged 97 games started over the last three seasons."

Law, again: "(G)iving Carlos Ruiz, a 34-year-old catcher with platoon problems who's coming off a PED suspension a three-year deal is absolute lunacy."

Law, continued: "Right-handed pitchers blew him up in 2013 (.257/.301/.335 line against), and he didn't hit any kind of velocity as his bat had clearly started to slow."

So much negativity. Why can't anyone write anything upbeat about the Phillies?

Could it be that the starting nine on Opening Day 2014 could look like this (including the ages they will be on Opening Day)?

  • Cliff Lee, 35
  • Carlos Ruiz, 35
  • Ryan Howard, 33
  • Chase Utley, 35
  • Jimmy Rollins, 35
  • Cody Asche, 23
  • Domonic Brown, 26
  • Ben Revere, 25
  • Marlon Byrd, 36

Five of those players are closer to 40 than 30. Howard moves like he's 50. Asche, Revere and Brown will need to steer clear of the Geritol-spiked Muscle Milk in the Phillies clubhouse for the foreseeable future.

Right, I am supposed to talk about the latest Phillies rumors now. That's actually crazy easy after the Byrd and Ruiz signings.

The Phillies' reported interest in the following players is now most likely FICTION: Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Brian McCann. Having paid Byrd and Ruiz everyday money, the Phillies quite literally cannot afford to bring in higher-priced options at those positions.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
It is nearly impossible to imagine Nelson Cruz coming to Philadelphia now.

Almost certainly the Phillies' reported willingness to give a quality setup reliever a three-year contract is a FACT. Whether that arm ends up being Edward Mujica, Joaquin Benoit, Joe Smith or someone else is basically immaterial, since any of these pitchers would be an upgrade over what the Phillies have in the bullpen.

Also residing in the FICTION file is the idea that the Phillies can now afford to spend the outsized dollars a marquee player like Jacoby Ellsbury might command.

And it is not money that will keep the Phillies from prying David Price away from the Tampa Bay Rays—it is the dearth of quality prospects in the Phillies minor league system.

Mark Zuckerman of natsinsider.com speculated that the Washington Nationals would need to give up their two best prospects (Anthony Rendon and Lucas Giolito) plus two more good ones to get Price out of Tampa.

The Phillies do not have four prospects of that quality in their system, much less four they can afford to trade for one player.

So the FACT is that the Phillies might have one more big signing left in them this offseason.

From what we have seen so far, though, "big" and "good" are not necessarily the same thing.

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