Philadelphia Phillies: 10 Big Questions Facing the Phillies This Offseason
The Philadelphia Phillies face many questions heading into this offseason. The biggest among them deals with the expiring contract of right fielder Jayson Werth. But the questions do not stop there for Ruben Amaro Jr., a man who has had all the answers thus far in his short time as Phillies' general manager.
Many controversial moves have helped define Amaro's gutsy persona in Philadelphia. He's become one of the top GMs in the sport and he is no stranger to taking chances. This 2010 team appeared to have it all for the Phillies, though its abrupt exit proved otherwise.
The 2011 season presents its share of challenges and another chance to continue what has become the Philadelphia dynasty. The Phillies are one of the best teams in the league and boast a stellar 1-2-3 punch in their rotation.
In the end though, injuries and inconsistency plagued this team and got the best of them. Here are 10 questions for the Phillies to ponder this winter.
10. Will H2O Need to Be Rehydrated?
The Phillies boast one of the best rotations in all of baseball thanks to their "H2O" combination and their dominance. They may have over-extended their rotation in 2010 though.
Their three main starters each pitched over 200 innings this season. This was for various reasons and it is something that can be controlled, while still allowing them to remain effective.
The bullpen played a major part in just how many innings these guys pitched. Charlie Manuel didn't always feel that his bullpen was reliable in crucial situations, so he kept starters in games longer.
At one point, many questioned Roy Halladay's endurance and, even more so, why Manuel continuously opted to keep Halladay in to finish his starts. This was because he's just that good. But don't kid yourselves, Manuel also had little confidence in his bullpen and it showed.
These starters were a key part of the Phillies' success, with Halladay likely taking home NL Cy Young Award honors. Also, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt proved to be reliable starters for the Phillies in completing this trio.
9. What Can Be Done to Upgrade the Bench?
As it has been in each of the past few offseasons for the Phillies, they will look to upgrade their bench.
The Phillies' bench has character, no doubt, but in terms of production, they've lacked drastically. Their personnel on the bench is very talented but hasn't been able to get the job done.
Certain players haven't delivered as the Phillies have wished, and it has hurt the team's offense to a degree. Greg Dobbs and Ben Francisco have not put up numbers that the Phillies had expected, which made Manuel's job more difficult.
They have been unable to provide that cushion of assistance to the everyday players. Again, Ruben Amaro Jr., will need to go out and improve the bench.
A number of players are available and present interesting backgrounds for the Phillies. Many believe that the Phillies need to add an infielder and, definitely, another right-handed outfielder to their bench. The moves may not stop there, as the bench could undergo heavy renovation.
8. Is Domonic Brown Ready For PrimeTime?
Domonic Brown showed flashes of brilliance during his time in the bigs last season, and he is now about to be thrown into the fire. He will most likely become the Phillies' regular right fielder, albeit while platooning. Brown will be the focal point. His development could be a very crucial aspect of the Phillies' 2011 season.
It's no secret that the omission of Jayson Werth will affect this team no matter how much it tries to downplay it. Brown and the committee of outfielders may not equal Werth's productivity, but for a cheaper price, they will most likely suffice.
Also, a lot depends on this lineup as a whole. The Phillies will be banking on many of their hitters to have bounce-back seasons in 2011 after a poor 2010 showing.
7. Who After H2O?
Yes, the Phillies may boast their H2O rotation at the top-of-the-order, but what about at the back end of the rotation? Do names like Joe Blanton, Vance Worley or Kyle Kendrick make any of you feel better about the situation? They make me feel worse in fact.
The Phillies must go out and acquire someone that can shore up the back of this rotation. Blanton is steady, but he hasn't lived up to his hefty contract thus far and he needs to have a strong 2011 or else. Other than Blanton though, the No. 5 starter is still a major question mark for this team. They will need to develop a fifth starter somehow, whether it's through free-agency, trade or in-house promotion. It should be interesting to see what comes after H2O.
6. Is Cliff Lee Worth a Look?
Many people felt as if the Phillies made a big mistake when they traded Cliff Lee. Even in acquiring Roy Halladay in last winter's blockbuster trade, Amaro Jr. gave up another top-flight starter. This was increasingly criticized when people realized that there was a way that they could have kept both.
Though the Phillies appear to not be front-runners in the Lee Sweepstakes at the moment, never count Amaro Jr. out, as he never ceases to amaze. The Phillies now could get Lee back and boast four aces in the process. This would be an astonishing feat, one that is highly unlikely, but, nonetheless, something special. They will most likely opt not to compete with the Yankees and Rangers this winter, and look for an arm elsewhere. But still, never say never.
5. Who's On First?
The Phillies recently parted with first-base coach Davey Lopes after the two parties apparently failed to agree on contractual numbers. This was shocking for many fans and it could leave a major void for the Phillies. Lopes was among the best base-coaches in the game and his preciseness helped the Phillies' running game and made their offense even more deadly.
The spectacular job that Lopes had done was something that many took notice of. During his time in Philadelphia, the Phillies were consistently among the league leaders in steals and stealing percentage. This was because of Lopes' experience as a baserunner himself, and also the work and preparation that he does before facing opposing pitchers.
Former Phillie Juan Samuel is thought to be the leading candidate to replace Lopes at this point.
4. 3-Man Platoon In Right?
From the looks of it, barring a miracle at this point, the Phillies will be working with a platoon system in rightfield. This will consist of youngster Domonic Brown and Ben Francisco as of right now. Also, if they add another right-handed bat for their bench, he too could work his way into the platoon.
While these guys combined may not put up "Werthy" numbers, so to speak, they will need to suffice for now. Brown's ability to grow quickly will be key and Francisco will need to step it up big-time in 2011. The Jayson Werth Sweepstakes has become a hot-button issue in the baseball world, as he will likely earn top dollar from a team in need of a five-tool outfielder. At this point, the Boston Red Sox appear ready to offer Werth the money that they feel he deserves.
3. How Much Longer Is The Window Open?
It's no secret that this Phillies nucleus is aging. Though they still are all in their collective primes and they are still going to contend, the questions start to mount as to when exactly their reign will end and their window will close. More importantly, though, is the Ruben Amaro Jr. Factor. The window closes when he says it does.
Amaro Jr. has done everything in his power to this point to put people in the seats and make sure that this team contends annually. Not only have they contended, but they've gone above and beyond that and still have much more in them.
Their window may be inching closer and closer to shutting, but ultimately they remain a force to be reckoned with in the NL.
2. How Do We Upgrade The Bullpen?
Once again, this Phillies bullpen expects to go through some more changes this offseason. The jobs of several pitchers are in jeopardy. Yet for some, like left-handed specialist J.C. Romero, their Phillies careers are over. With Romero in the rear-view mirror, the Phillies turn to the future and will need to deliver with a left-handed arm for the pen in the late innings. Appealing names like Scott Downs come to mind immediately. Also, in terms of an in-house upgrade, Antonio Bastardo remains an option.
The Phillies could even add a closer to help Brad Lidge out. The only position that is safe for now is Ryan Madson's eighth inning role as the set-up man. If the Phillies are to re-gain their status as champions, they will need to improve the bullpen immediately. The pen carried them through the playoffs in 2008 and was dominant, most notably Brad Lidge.
1. What Is Jayson Worth
Right now, this is the 100-million dollar question in the baseball world, or in the Phillies' minds, the 66-million dollar question. The Phillies recently offered Jayson Werth a deal of $66 million over four years. This was the same offer that the New York Mets' Jason Bay received last winter. The only thing that these two have in common is that their names are Jason, yet even that's highly debatable as they are spelled differently. Werth is superior to Bay and he is among the best corner outfielders in the game.
The Phillies gambled on an injury-filled Werth back in 2007 and it paid off ten-fold as he now hits the 2010 free-agent market as the top participant. He's already drawn a lot of attention and with the help of super-agent Scott Boras, Jayson is seeing dollar signs now and he will be paid exactly what he is "Werth."