With the offseason already beginning for the Phillies, weeks before many predicted it would have, it was inevitable that Philadelphia's sports writers would have published their own solutions and offseason game plan for the Phillies. I've read a few of them, some better than others, but a couple have particularly caught my attention. Howard Eskin's recent article is one such example.
The overall first impression is that of a high-school writing assignment where the student just has to pound out a 250-word essay. The student doesn't really care about the details, just as long as it reaches 250 words. I've seen better, more thoughtful writing on this very site, even if I do not agree with what's being said.
"The Phillies were built to win a championship this year and they failed. If I were the GM, I’d have a lot of work ahead of me.
For starters, if I were in charge, I’d blow the team up. Here’s how:"
First paragraph is simple and gets to the point, no problem with that. The second half teases you to keep reading. I'm expecting massive change. Perhaps some overly drastic trade proposals along with a splashy free agent signing.
"Resign Ryan Madson:
We have three really good starters -- Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. I’d keep them and re-sign Madson as my closer. It’ll cost $13 to 14 million, which may not be easy to squeeze out of an inflating payroll, but it has to be done.
I’d also be thinking long and hard about how I’m gonna add more depth to the bullpen."
The first step is rather ho-hum. Nothing too surprising. Madson has been the best Phillies reliever for a couple of years now, and is among the best relievers in the game. But $13 or $14 million is a bit steep, especially given the ample amount of solid relievers available this offseason. Heath Bell, Frank Francisco, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, Darren Oliver, Francisco Rodriguez(option) and Jose Valvderde(option) are all possibly on the market. If Madson is demanding that much while a Heath Bell or Papelbon are looking for a little less, I'd rather opt for one of them.
The second statement in his plan for the bullpen is a trend you will see throughout the rest of his article—very general and saying very little. Anybody can think long and hard about a position, but what exactly would your plan be? Who will you keep? Who would you look to sign?
"Beef Up the Bench:
The Phillies bench is terrible. We need power in the lineup.
I’d bite the bullet on Placido Polanco and get a better third baseman. Resign Jimmy Rollins for two years and an option year. I don’t want to get into a problem later with another guy getting too old and too costly.
I’d sign players like Detroit and St. Louis did this year that could actually help you when they come off the bench. In my book, Ben Francisco is done and Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez should never be on the same bench -- two weak links in the lineup.
I wouldn’t resign Raul Ibanez and I’m not ready to name John Mayberry, Jr. or Domonic Brown as my left fielders, so I’m going out to get somebody better."
Back when the Phillies signed their bench players in the 2009-2010 offseason, I stated that the bench would still be bad and provided no upgrade. I feel my assessment at the time proved correct.
Back to Eskin. How is he going to bite the bullet with Polanco? Trade him? Bench him? Release him!? Who are you getting that's better and how?
There aren't many better third basemen out there. Phillies aren't getting Longoria, Zimmerman, Wright, Sandoval, Alex Rodriguez, Beltre or Youkilis. Chase Headley would be a slim upgrade, but the Phillies would have to trade for him. They cannot afford giving up more top prospects. Free agent Aramis Ramirez is also a long shot, but what Polanco lacks in offense compared to Ramirez and many of his third base counterparts, he makes up with defense, and at a very reasonable price. Over the past two years, only seven third basemen attained more fWAR than Polanco. With a whole offseason to heal, Polanco should be his typical self come April.
I'd love to resign Rollins for two years guaranteed, but that is looking more and more like a pipe dream. What if you can't sign him on YOUR terms, what are your backup options?
Here's the current bench players the Tigers signed as free agents this year:
And here's the current bench players the Cardinals signed as free agents this year: Nick Punto, Gerald Laird.
The Tigers and Cardinals bench players were either homegrown or traded for. Do some research when making such statements. The Nick Punto signing was very good, though, for how much he cost ($750,000) and what he brings. He's certainly better than Valdez and Martinez.
Ben Francisco is not cooked. If you were paying attention, you'd notice he actually improved in regards to walk and strikeout rates. If it wasn't for a low .268 BABIP, his on-base percentage could have eclipsed .350, which is terrific for a backup outfielder.
Speaking of cooked, at least he's correct that they shouldn't bring back Ibanez. And if you don't want Domonic Brown (who improved his plate discipline and plate control a ton this year) or John Mayberry (third on the team in wOBA this year and higher than Howard), then who is this better player you are getting and how?
"Develop New Talent:
We sucked our minor league teams dry. We have to find and develop new talent.
And if I’m in charge, I’m seriously asking myself if this team’s too old? I think the window is closing fast if it’s not already closed. Don’t change a thing and they’ll go on to be a good team next year. Maybe even make the playoffs, but they can’t win a World Series and that’s really what it’s all about."
One word comes to mind when reading that first paragraph, especially the second sentence. That word is DUH. You think that is a novel concept the Phillies are not trying? Finding and developing new talent is easier said than done. Why do you think most draft picks fail? Have you heard of Carlos Tocci or the number of players they paid over the slot for in this year's draft?
With all of his "blowing the team up" talk, the only changes he made were a new third baseman and a new left fielder, which was almost a certainty anyway, and a new bench, which is almost certain also. If you didn't know who the author was, you'd quicker presume it was by a random Joe Schmo, and not "the King."