After the Philadelphia Phillies fell just short of repeating as World Series Champions, GM Ruben Amaro spent the offseason actively reshaping the club.
Of course, the biggest news involved the tandem trades of Cy Young hurlers Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Beyond that, Amaro used the free agent talent pool to land a new regular third baseman and essentially perform a makeover on both his bullpen and bench.
The Phillies GM wasted little time when he inked Placido Polanco to replace Pedro Feliz at the hot corner. The deal came with some fanfare as it brought back a player who had been traded away when the team made a commitment to build around Chase Utley at second base.
Polanco remained in Phillies fans' consciousness during his five seasons in Detroit by hitting .311 and winning a pair of Gold Gloves at second base. This time around, Amaro decided that they could make room for baseball's best second sacker in Utley and Polanco by sliding the free agent over to third.
The move appears to be a winner. Polanco has quickly settled into his new position and looks right at home. He has also generated the additional offensive production Amaro was seeking—hitting .274 with four HR and 16 RBI after 28 games.
The other signings were not front page worthy news, but overall appear to have been astute decisions. And, with the wide array of injuries the Phillies have experienced thus far in 2010, the improved depth is making a positive impact.
Before pulling up lame with a strained hamstring last evening, Juan Castro had ample opportunity to show why Amaro wanted him. He is a clear improvement at the plate and in the field over Eric Bruntlett.
Castro has filled in nicely for the injured Jimmy Rollins, displaying some flashy leather work and surprising pop in his bat. Amaro even had the foresight to stockpile talent by signing Wilson Valdez, who has proven to be a capable backup as well.
Ross Gload is one of the better left-handed pinch hitters in baseball. And Brian Schneider is one of the league's top backup backstops.
From a financial perspective, the biggest free agent acquisition in the pitching department was right handed reliever Danys Baez. Thus far, the former closer has displayed closer stuff with journeyman command.
The most impactful bullpen addition, though, appears to be veteran Jose Contreras. After several mediocre years as a starter, the Colorado Rockies moved him into a relief role late last season.
Apparently Contreras caught the Phillies' attention enough for them to take a shot with him—and it appears they nailed it. The big righty still throws gas and has a truly nasty splitter. In 14.2 innings of work, Contreras has a 1.04 ERA with 14 Ks and zero walks.
The performance of Brad Lidge since returning to the big club has been encouraging. Should he falter, however, Contreras and his high 90s splitter appear to be a great backup plan.
During the winter, news of signing players such as Castro, Gload, Schneider, Valdez, and Contreras didn't exactly light up the sports radio airwaves or blogoshere.
But, a month into the season, it sure looks like kudos are in order for Ruben Amaro. Oh, yeah, and although it wasn't via free agency, the acquisition of Roy Halladay looks pretty special, too.
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