Philadelphia Phillies: Winter Meetings' Storylines
Although the Philadelphia Phillies really didn't make many key moves, they still set the foundation for moves to be made in the future.
The big story of the 2011 winter meetings was the signing of Albert Pujols to the Angels. If anything, this helps out the Phillies greatly because they won't have to see Prince Albert until the World Series.
Also, some may criticize Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. for not making any block-buster deals, but I think he knew exactly what he was doing during the winter meetings.
Read on to see why the winter meetings were so crucial to the future success of the Phillies.
No. 5: Making a Run at Gio Gonzalez
There's no denying the fact that the Phillies desperately need left-handed help in the bullpen.
Gio Gonzalez has been primarily a starter for the early part of his MLB career with the Oakland Athletics, but when the Phillies threw their hat in the ring for the lefty, many wondered if he would be a bullpen guy.
Although the Phillies ended up not trading for the 26 year-old, they still made noise by showing their interest. They showed the rest of the league they are in the market for some left-handed help and are willing to trade for it.
The only reliable left-hander in the Phillies bullpen was Antonio Bastardo. Now, the Phillies just signed Dontrelle Willis to help Bastardo out of the pen.
Also, the Phillies traded Ben Francisco to the Blue Jays for minor-league south-paw Frank Gailey, who could see some time on the big league club at some point during the season.
So even though the Phillies were not successful in trading for Gio Gonzalez, their interest opened the door to the world of left-handed pitchers. This resulted in the club signing a previous National League rookie of the year. Plus, the Phillies would have had to given up an arm and a leg for Gonzalez, depleting the already desolate minor league system.
No. 4: Shopping Placido Polanco
This is a tough one because Polanco is one of those tough, hard-nose players who will give 100 percent every time he steps foot onto the diamond.
However, he is getting old and his offensive production has been on a steep decline.
Although he ended the 2011 season batting .277, he was basically invisible at the plate during the playoffs. In 19 at bats, he mustered just two hits. That's not necessarily the production you want out of your third baseman.
By offering Polanco up for trade at the winter meetings, it did two things—it showed the league the Phillies are trying to get younger, and it served as a wake up call to Polanco.
One thing that has not been waning is his defense. Polanco is arguably one of the top five active defensive third baseman. That being said, he is worth keeping around because he is a wall at the hot corner.
The Phillies could not afford a big time slugger like Aramis Ramírez to replace Polanco, so keeping him around makes sense.
Plus, if he ends up having a solid offensive year, he could be good trade-bait for teams at the trade deadline.
No. 3: Signing Laynce Nix
The one move the Phillies did make ended up being an extremely smart and advantageous one.
Laynce Nix will platoon for time in left field now that Raul Ibanez is gone.
However, John Mayberry Jr. will most likely be the every day starter after his most recent break out season. Nonetheless, Nix will supply the solid bat off the bench the Phillies have been missing the past few years. Nix spent the past season with division rival Washington Nationals, so he knows the NL East pretty well.
The Phillies have certainly improved their bench this year adding Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton and now Nix. That certainly presents a prettier sight than Ross Gload, Michael Martinez and Ben Francisco.
This may be considered a "lesser" move for the Phillies, but it was definitely an improvement.
No. 2: Multiple Meetings with Rollin's Agent, Dan Lozano
Numerous reports surfaced that the first meeting between Ruben Amaro Jr. and Dan Lozano (Jimmy Rollins' agent) did not go well at all.
Amaro did not let this discourage him though and kept pursuing, trying to get a fair deal.
Lozano also represents Albert Pujols, so maybe his mind wasn't completely focused on Rollins during the winter meetings. Maybe he was too focused on his super-star first baseman's $254-million deal so he put Rollins on the back burner.
At any rate, these initial meetings set up a foundation for what was to come. Rollins recently admitted that a five-year deal seemed to be pushing it a little too much, and knew he was in the range of a three- or four-year deal.
If the Phillies didn't resign Rollins, they were going to go with minor-leaguer Freddy Galvis as their starting shortstop. Although Galvis is MLB-ready defensively, the Phillies would have lost a significant amount of offensive production.
The Phils and Rollins were able to reach a three-year, $33 million contract, and part of that is due to the early negotiations that took place between Amaro and Lozano at the winter meetings.
No. 1: Not Making the Block-Buster Deal
The Phillies have been known in recent years for acquiring big-time names. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence and most recently Jonathan Papelbon are all super-stars in today's game and are all going to be apart of the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies (minus Oswalt).
Having these players is not a bad thing at all, but sometimes it's the little moves or the moves that go under the radar that have the most impact on a team. If you take a look at all the moves made at the trade deadline in recent years, it's the little ones that make the huge difference.
Trading for a relief pitcher or a bat off the bench will do more good for the Phils at this point rather than signing another All Star.
That's why I think the best move the Phillies made at the 2011 winter meetings was the move they didn't make. By not signing any so called "studs" they now have money to invest in their own "stud" Cole Hamels and were able to reach an agreement with Jimmy Rollins.
The off-season is not over yet, and it's very likely that Ruben Amaro Jr. has a few more tricks up his sleeve. But as for the winter meetings, I'd say Ruben knew exactly what he was doing all along.