The 2011 season was a complete and utter failure for the Philadelphia Phillies, and there will be no two ways about it. Sure, you could point to obvious (and trivial) facts like, for instance, the team had the best record in all of baseball, home field advantage throughout the duration of their postseason, and one of the greatest pitching rotations ever assembled, but in the end, they failed.
The Phillies were build to do one thing, and one thing only: Win the World Series.
Over the last few seasons, they've traded about a dozen top prospects. They've increased the payroll year by year, adding millions of dollars and acquiring prime-time athletes to push the team over the top, but in the long run, they've been no better than they were in 2008.
There is an argument to be made that the Phils' season wasn't a complete failure, but it's just that—an argument. It's time to face the facts. Roy Halladay approved a trade to come to the Phillies because he wants to win a World Series. Ditto for Roy Oswalt. Cliff Lee came back to Philly as a free agent for the same reason.
If you're an honest believer that guys like Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard and Ryan Madson have grown complacent with one ring, it's time to think again. No player that comes to Philadelphia gets away with being complacent, and the Phils' roster houses some of the most competitive guys in all of baseball.
So it's time to stop making excuses, Philly. The 2011 season was a failure.
But the greatest part about baseball, and however dried up and shriveled the old cliche might be, there is always next season. Just days away from free agency's opening salvo, the Phillies already have their eye on the ultimate prize in 2012.
In this slideshow, we'll attempt to take an educated guess at the Phillies' Opening Day roster for the 2012 season, and rank each player's value to the club if it wants to capture its third World Series title. We'll take a few creative leaps—predicting a few free agent signings, perhaps—but all in all, this slide show offers a realistic prediction at the 2012 squad.
On this slide, I'll list some of the players who didn't quite make the predicted 25-man roster, but could wind up on the Philadelphia Phillies' Opening Day roster in some way, shape or form.
Kyle Kendrick: Kendrick's chances of returning to the Phillies truly are 50 / 50. On one hand, paying him nearly $4 million to be the long reliever/spot starter is insane, and money better spent on other areas. On the other hand, he was quite valuable to the 2011 squad in that role. If I had to make a guess, I'm betting the Phillies non-tender him.
Justin De Fratus: De Fratus is ready for the MLB. The only question is whether or not there will be room for him on the 25-man roster—an answer that will become clearer later in the offseason.
Phillipe Aumont: There are probably some executives that would like to see Aumont spend at least another half-season in AAA. He was great last season, but still has some control issues. In terms of those young relievers, I'd say he is the least likely to break camp with the Phils.
Wilson Valdez: Do the Phillies really want to go to arbitration with Valdez? That answer likely depends on the direction they decide to go in at third base. There are more attractive, efficient utility-men on the market.
Michael Martinez: What is the prize for keeping a Rule 5 pick like Martinez for an entire season? Sending him to AAA a year later!
Domonic Brown: A lot of people believe that Ruben Amaro Jr. was simply posturing by recommending that Brown spend another full season in AAA, and I tend to agree. However, depending on the health of Ryan Howard, he could open the season with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. For the sake of projecting a 25-man roster, I'm going to assume that Howard is healthy on Opening Day, though that may not be the case.
Backup catchers are a dime a dozen. Brian Schneider's complete lack of offensive productive over the last couple of seasons may be a concern for the Philadelphia Phillies, who will certainly look to upgrade their bench, but bigger offensive names like Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Doumit may not be in the cards. Their expensive options, and that money can be spent more efficiently.
Recent history has shown that the Phillies will bring someone aboard who is better known for defense. They prefer a catcher who has a reputation of calling a good game, and with the pitching staff in Philadelphia, why wouldn't they?
They'll need to add some offense, but it's just not a necessity here. Should the advance to the World Series, the backup catcher won't see a lick of action anyhow.
Honestly, you can insert a number of different names into this spot and the results wouldn't change. Michael Schwimer gets the nod because the Philadelphia Phillies believed he was the furthest along in terms of development in 2011, but 2012 is an entirely different ball game.
The bullpen is one place that the Phillies can conceivably "get younger" in 2012, but there is no guarantee that the team will go in that direction. It certainly is a cheap, attractive option with young right handed relievers like Schwimer, Justin De Fratus, and Phillipe Aumont ready to take over, but manager Charlie Manuel has preferred veteran relievers in the past.
That said, it wouldn't be strange for the Phils to take at least one of those three young relievers with them on Opening Day, but which one is still anyone's guess. Whoever that guy may be, he won't see many innings should the Phillies still be playing baseball in October.
The Philadelphia Phillies are going to look to upgrade the bench in a major way this offseason, so it certainly wouldn't be unreasonable to believe that they could non-tender Ben Francisco and sign a more effective right handed bat for the bench, especially if, as seems to be the case in early November, John Mayberry Jr. is the starting left fielder next season.
Francisco had arguably his worst season as a Major League player in 2011, posting an OPS of .611 against left handed pitching. That's not going to cut it moving forward. The problem is that there are a lack of options on the free agent market, and unless the Phils swing a minor trade, tendering Francisco a contract may be the best option.
Assuming that there will be better offensive threats off of the bench for the 2012 season, Francisco isn't going to play a large role in the outcome.
You can make the argument that Joe Savery needs to spend more time at AAA Lehigh Valley. You can also make the argument that this bullpen spot is better served by one of those young right handed relievers, like Justin De Fratus or Phillipe Aumont. This slide is somewhat of a leap of faith and you wouldn't get much of an argument out of me.
One thing that the Philadelphia Phillies' bullpen was severely lacking in 2011 was a second left handed reliever. After cutting JC Romero, Antonio Bastardo was the sole lefty available out of the pen, and he was also serving as a late-innings pitcher.
For a team worried about offensive production, the Phils haven't done a great job at maximizing their run support. Sure, they are going to need to add some offense somewhere, but adding a lefty specialist like Savery could go a long way in making the runs their offense does score count.
Maybe this slide should be titled, "Left-Handed Specialist," but with Javier Lopez signing an extension with the San Francisco Giants and few other attractive lefty options remaining, it may just be Savery or a right handed reliever.
Joe Blanton has rubbed more than a few fans the wrong way with his ineffective pitching in recent years, but once again, it's time to face the facts. He is a 30-year-old reliever who spent most of the 2011 season collecting a check on the disabled list with a serious elbow issue, due to make another $8.5 million next season.
No one is going to ask for him in a trade, even in a weak starting pitching market.
The Philadelphia Phillies are stuck with him, and the bright side is that may not be such a bad thing. When he returned from injury at the end of last season, Blanton was solid. Whether or not he is able to throw the innings required to be a starting pitcher is yet to be seen, but the fifth starter's job will more than likely be his heading into spring training. Come the postseason, he'll once again head to the bullpen.
I'm certainly not closing the door on a return of Roy Oswalt (I actually am one of the few believers who think he will return,) but if the Phils are going to pinch pennies, they may decide to go in a different direction.
Many people seem to assume that the Philadelphia Phillies are done with Brad Lidge, but I'm not as certain that is the case. As he is soon to find out on the open market, his days as a closer are finished, and there may not exist many teams willing to give him the role of setup man either.
With that having been said, Lidge can still be a valuable reliever. His control was as poor as ever after he returned from the disabled list in 2011, but one thing that was more evident than ever—the opposition simply can't touch his slider, assuming he can throw quality pitches with it.
Lidge has gone on the record saying that he enjoyed his time in Philadelphia and would love to return, but he's going to have to accept a small base salary, maybe with the opportunity for incentives. When you have a bunch of unattractive offers, I think you're most likely to return to the place you're most comfortable and frankly, having a great clubhouse guy like Lidge wouldn't be a bad thing for a bullpen that has the potential to be very inexperienced.
The role that Mike Stutes eventually plays in the Philadelphia Phillies' bullpen is fairly uncertain. Upon arriving with the Major League club last season, Stutes was great up until the month of July, where he hit somewhat of a wall. After struggling in the month of August, he experienced a slight rebound in the month of September, but his 4.07 FIP could trouble some.
Most people project that he'll eventually be a guy that pitches in the middle innings, but Charlie Manuel has used him in higher leverage situations in the past. Add to that the fact that he truly was not good against left handed hitters in 2011, despite holding them to a .206 average.
Health permitting, the Phils will turn to more experienced relievers in the later innings next season, especially during the postseason. However, as last season showed, the bullpen is like a set of dominoes. When one reliever goes down, everyone's role can change.
In that scenario, the Phils would need Stutes to step up in a big way.
The success of the Philadelphia Phillies' bullpen in 2012 may depend on a healthy Jose Contreras. Injured for most of the 2011 season, the "Big Truck" struggled with arm injuries that ultimately resulted in exploratory surgery. With the surgery performed at the end of last season, he should be ready to go by Opening Day, and if not, shouldn't be out long.
His presence at the back end of the bullpen changes its landscape entirely. Firstly, it takes the pressure off of Antonio Bastardo, who clearly struggled through the month of September after a long season. On the same token, it gives Charlie Manuel the opportunity to play with match-ups, something he couldn't do with Bastardo as the sole setup man.
If Contreras is forced to miss significant time yet again, young (or inefficient) arms will once again be forced into later-inning roles—something the Phillies ultimately will try to avoid.
I mentioned two players in the title of this slide because, essentially, they serve the same purpose but have a different handedness. As weak as the bench was in 2011, the Philadelphia Phillies would be wise to invest in players who have excelled in bench roles during their career. Jerry Hairston Jr. has spent a lot of time in the NL East, and would be an excellent addition.
A right handed utility player, Hairston split last season with the Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers, playing in the infield and in the outfield. With an aging infield and health concerns up and down the roster, the Phillies desperately need versatile players with the ability to take on multiple roles.
While with the Brewers, Hairston likely squared off with Reed Johnson, formerly of the Chicago Cubs. A left handed outfielder, Johnson mashed right handed pitching in 2011, but was also effective against lefties.
If the club does intend to keep Ben Francisco aboard as the fourth outfielder, either Hairston or Johnson would be an excellent option to not only play multiple positions, but serve as a quality offensive option late in games.
Vance Worley is such an interesting case. He broke onto the Philadelphia Phillies' roster full time in 2011 and with the way he performed, it would be hard to deny him a rotation spot next season. What makes him such an interesting case? Well, all of the advanced metrics and some scouts tell us to expect him to come back to earth after a stellar start, but he never did.
Why? I'm willing to attribute much of his success to the fact that he was able to flat out fool hitters in 2011. After establishing his fastball, he has several different effective options to turn to, including a good slider and that ridiculous two-seam fastball.
Can he contribute in the same manner next season as he did last? Will the league begin to figure him out? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain—if the Phillies are going to have any kind of success in 2012, Worley will contribute in some way, shape or form.
Even after a few years in the league, Carlos Ruiz is vastly underrated. Would the Philadelphia Phillies' starting rotation be able to succeed without him? Absolutely. After all, we're talking about at least three of the best starters in all of baseball. However, his work ethic and ability to relate to the staff in its entirety makes them even better. Defensively, he is an integral part of the team, without a doubt.
For that reason alone, any offense that he provides is an added bonus. He took a lot of flack during the postseason for being a virtual black hole at the plate, but the team should never come across a scenario where Ruiz is the offense's last hope. He is a catcher first and a hitter second. With that being said, I don't think it's any secret that he's better behind the plate than at it.
Will the Phillies need Ruiz if they're going to win the World Series? Yes. Can they get by without him if need be? I'd imagine so.
This is one of those spots where I'm taking a "creative leap of faith."
The Philadelphia Phillies are going to upgrade the depth of their bench, some way, some how. Their options took a significant over the weekend when both Jason Giambi and the Colorado Rockies exercised their ends of a mutual contract option. In desperate need of left handed power on the bench, two options stood above the others—Giambi and Jim Thome.
Would the Phillies offer Thome a contract to come back to the City of Brotherly Love? Would Thome be interested in serving primarily as a pinch hitter? Who knows. What we do know is that it was rumored that Thome had some interest in coming back to Philadelphia during the August trade waiver period, but was claimed by the Cleveland Indians.
He and Charlie Manuel are said to have an excellent relationship. The Phillies are in desperate need of a hitter in Thome's mold, and as the slugger himself said, how many teams are going to be interested in a 40-something designated hitter full time?
I'm sure the Phils will call about him, and it makes some amount of sense for both sides to hammer out an agreement.
Are Placido Polanco's days as the starting third baseman over? That hasn't been confirmed one way or another by the Philadelphia Phillies, but general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. certainly made it sound as though he didn't have much confidence in Polanco to play every day, and his concerns are justified. The third baseman just had surgery on a double sports hernia, has missed time because of back problems, and his elbow tends to flare up from time to time.
After an incredible start to the season, injuries sapped Polanco's effectiveness, and the team was forced to rely on players like Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez for significant amounts of time. That can't happen in 2012.
Instead, we're going to assume that the Phillies decided to go with a younger, more effective full time third baseman and move Polanco to a utility role. Though it's technically a demotion, that move does not mean that he is any less important.
A utility player of Polanco's caliber is a great thing for an aging club that has been prone to injuries. At the very least is a Gold Glove caliber upgrade defensively, when healthy, and if you're interested in "professional at-bats," Polly is known for those.
The fact of the matter is that the Phillies need to add some offense; a little pop. Signing a third baseman allows the Phils to shoot two birds with one stone—adding offense and upgrading the bench.
Shane Victorino's offensive versatility makes him an integral part of the Philadelphia Phillies, especially if the team is unable to work out a deal with Jimmy Rollins, in which case Victorino would be the leadoff hitter and climb even higher up this list.
Entering a contract year, both the Phillies and Victorino would benefit from a great offensive season. If they're going to be playing in the World Series, Victorino's importance will be twofold. The first, more obvious reason is that the Phils are going to need him to hit. The second is that he is one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball, and great defense makes great pitching even better.
The Philadelphia Phillies traded the top two prospects in their farm system for Hunter Pence's services at last year's trade deadline, and the need was obvious—a right handed bat with pop. When Jayson Werth signed with the Washington Nationals, he created an obvious void in the Phillies lineup that the likes of Ben Francisco and Domonic Brown could not fill.
Primarily left handed and seeking balance, the Phils struck a deal with their favored trading partner, the Houston Astros, and brought Pence to Philadelphia. He was an instant hit and a fan-favorite.
More than that, he took his offense to an entirely different level, fueling the Phillies march towards the postseason and hitting as many home runs with the Phillies as he did with the Astros, despite playing in about half as many games.
The Phils are going to need that offensive production once again to reach their lofty World Series goal, and I'm sure all parties involved are excited about Pence spending a full season in red pinstripes.
Cole Hamels is an immensely important piece to the puzzle that is the Philadelphia Phillies, so his being ranked 10th on this list just goes to show how important it is that this group work in unison. However obvious it may be, the Phillies proved that baseball is a team sport. Without a few timely hits, good pitching is spoiled.
With the level of offense currently on the roster, the Phillies need Hamels to continue to be an "ace." Eligible for arbitration this winter, one of a few things can happen. The sides can agree to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration, or go to arbitration. The preferred route, at least from a Phils' perspective, is to sign Hamels to a multi-year deal. Things can get messy if he hits the free agent market next winter.
Whatever happens and regardless of what his contract looks like, if the Phillies want to win the World Series next year, Hamels will have to be as-advertised once again.
The Philadelphia Phillies have the potential to be a great offensive team in 2012. There, I said it. Just how good they are, however, may depend on the production they receive out of their new left fielder, and as it stands right now, that man is slated to be John Mayberry Jr., who slugged is way into the lead for the position last season.
Mayberry is going to see playing time one way or another. He is the lead candidate to take over for Raul Ibanez in left field, and if Ryan Howard misses time at first base while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, a likely scenario, he'll see some playing time at first base as well.
With Howard in the lineup, the Phillies have suddenly found themselves a productive sixth or seventh hitter. According to WAR, Mayberry was more valuable to the Phillies than Howard in 2011, a likely result of the former's well-rounded game. He posted an OPS of .854, slugged 15 home runs and even swiped eight bases.
If Mayberry is able to stretch that production over an entire season, the Phils' lineup suddenly has incredible depth. If he fails, the Phillies will once again find themselves struggling to replace an outfielder.
As it stands now, the only link between Michael Cuddyer and the Philadelphia Phillies is pure speculation. Why has that speculation been so intense early in the offseason? For no reason other than it makes so much sense. Earlier in the slideshow, I alluded to the fact that Placido Polanco may no longer be the every day third baseman. Well, here is his replacement.
What makes Cuddyer such an appealing option to the Phillies is his versatility. At the Major League level, he has played every position outside of shortstop and catcher. Yes, you read that correctly. Cuddyer also threw an inning of relief for the Minnesota Twins during a blowout in 2011.
While he would technically assume the role of the starting third baseman, manager Charlie Manuel would be able to filter both he and Polanco into the lineup all over the diamond, giving aging stars like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard a breather without losing offensive production. After all, Cuddyer hit 20 home runs and posted an OPS of .805 with the Twins in 2011.
Will he leave Minnesota? Well, his true intentions aren't entirely clear. Cuddyer has spent his entire career as a Twin and there is mutual interest from both sides. However, he will draw a ton of interest on the open market, and if the Phillies were going to toss a few extra dollars at a free agent, this would be the guy.
Cuddyer would be a huge part of the 2012 team and their hopes of winning the World Series, and at least in my eyes, is a must sign.
One could argue that the Philadelphia Phillies' bullpen was just fine with one left handed reliever in 2012, but that argument would be bases solely on the fact that Antonio Bastardo was flat out unhittable for most of the season. Even after struggling through the month of September, where numerous excuses were given, he finished the season with an ERA of just 2.64.
When the bullpen was dealt blow after blow by the injury bug, Bastardo came up huge for the Phillies in 2011. If the pen is going to experience the same kind of success in 2012, they'll need another strong showing from the only lefty currently guaranteed a spot.
Bastardo's struggles carrying over into the 2012 season would be devastating for the back-end of the Phillies' bullpen, especially considering the fact that he may very well be the only left out there once again next season.
It has been proven time and again—good pitching wins championships, and if the Phillies want to celebrate in 2012, they'll need a significant contribution from Bastardo.
The Philadelphia Phillies have made it clear that they're not interested in handing the closer's role over to a young reliever, and for good reason. While they've made it known that they'll go out and sign a veteran to fill that hole, it is painfully clear that Ryan Madson is at the top of that list.
The nine-year veteran was drafted and developed by the Phillies, climbing his way through the bullpen's depth chart and obliterating questions of whether or not he had the "mental make-up" to close games in 2011. A near master of the fastball / change-up combination, Madson saved 32 games after taking over the role full time from Brad Lidge to the tune of a 2.37 ERA.
Hitting the open market as one of the top closers available with notorious agent Scott Boras in tow, someone is going to sign Madson to a lucrative contract, but in all reality, he deserves it. He has been one of the best relievers in all of baseball over the last few seasons, and it would be silly of the Phillies to let him walk.
Regardless of that, whoever takes over the closer's job is going to play a huge role for the Phillies. If 2012 is similar to the past few seasons, the Phils will play in a lot of close games, making the need for a veteran closer ever the more apparent.
According to all available reports, Ryan Howard is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon nicely. With that being said though, the prospect of him being ready by Opening Day is still very grim. The injury normally takes a minimum of sixth months to recover from, and a more realistic goal appears to be early May.
Regardless of when he returns, the Philadelphia Phillies are going to need to see some production out of the "Big Piece" when he returns to the lineup. Just how productive he can be upon returning to the lineup is yet to be seen, but he hasn't been the same since injuring his ankle sliding back into second base against the Washington Nationals a couple of seasons ago.
Forced to take pressure off of his feet due to the Achilles injury, it would greatly benefit the Phillies' lineup if Howard is able to generate power from his lower body once again. It's not secret—when Howard is at his best, the Phillies are scoring runs.
Without Howard, the clean-up spot is going to look different for quite a while, not a good sign for the Phils or their World Series hopes in 2012.
It's hard to imagine Jimmy Rollins wearing another uniform, and I'm sure the Philadelphia Phillies agree. Most people expect that he'll be back in red pinstripes next season, but just what kind of contract he receives is fodder for another conversation, one that I'm sure will be much debated throughout the offseason.
There may not be any kind of statistical evidence to prove this claim, but anyone who has ever watched the Phillies knows this to be true—when Rollins is clicking offensively, the Phillies are clicking offensively. He's the spark plug that gets the motor running. When he goes, they go.
After playing in 142 games in 2011, he showed that he can stay healthy. Whether or not he can stay healthy over the duration of his next contract is a different topic, but when he's in the lineup, he is an asset to any team that he's playing for. The Phillies have witnessed this firsthand over the last 12 seasons.
In the long run, I think the Phils and Rollins work out a contract, and the longtime shortstop once again returns to the leadoff spot in the lineup. It just makes too much sense for the Phillies, who score runs when Rollins is at best.
It is almost hard to imagine the team winning the World Series in 2012 without him.
If the Philadelphia Phillies are going to win the World Series in 2012, Chase Utley will have had some effect on the outcome, that much goes without saying. Yes, every position player that has been mentioned in this slideshow is going to be an important part of the success of the Phillies in 2012, but I believe it goes without saying that a healthy Chase Utley drastically changes the landscape of the Phils' offensive attack.
Now that his knee condition has been identified and is being treated with due diligence, keeping Utley on the field should be less of a challenge. However, keeping that knee feeling healthy throughout the season's duration is an immensely daunting task.
It pains me to admit this, but the long offseason should do Utley some good. It allows him to rest that knee and more importantly, build strength in his lower body that should help to see an increase in his power totals.
Keeping Utley on the field for a whole season is a benefit for the Phillies, but running a healthy Utley out there every day completely changes the offensive output. They'll need him more than ever if they hope to win a World Series in 2012.
As mentioned in the opening slide, Cliff Lee returned to the Philadelphia Phillies for one reason—to win a World Series. That goal was not accomplished in 2011. However, there is an inverse to that statement as well. The biggest reason the Phillies signed Lee to a huge contract as a free agent was to win playoff games, and he failed to do so this season.
He'll take flack for most of the offseason and it'll be said so many times that the statement will be etched into your brain—"If Lee was able to hold that four run lead, maybe the Phillies beat the St. Louis Cardinals." In large part, that's true. Maybe they do.
One thing is certain, the Phillies will need another stellar season out of Lee, but more importantly, should they reach the postseason once again in 2012, they'll need wins. This is a team ultimately built around pitching. When the pitching comes up short, the team doesn't win. That much was proven in 2011.
So with the points in that last slide being made clear, it should be painfully obvious that the Philadelphia Phillies won't be winning anything without this guy. Yet another player who came to the Phillies for an opportunity to win the World Series, Roy Halladay has now been to the postseason twice and twice have the Phillies come up short, but by no fault of his.
In two postseason starts in 2011, Halladay was absolutely stellar, and one must imagine where they would have been without him. Would the Phillies have made the postseason without Halladay? It's a question I'm sure most people don't want to ponder.
Regardless of the kind of upgrades they make to the offense this offseason, the Phillies will once again be a team built around pitching, and that structure begins with Doc. Without him, they have the personnel to win, but with him, they have the personnel to be great.
I think it goes without saying, but if the Phillies are going to take a trip to the World Series in 2012 and win it all, Halladay will be in the driver's seat.