Okay, so this has been the longest few months ever for me. The pain of being at the game five loss to Chris Carpenter still has not subsided. I moved on to losing fantasy football matchups and being out-picked by my girlfriend in NFL pools, but now, here we are again! Baseball is back on the mind and I am pumped! Forget about the early exit this year. Forget about the unfulfilled craving for another championship and focus on the positives and the promise for 2012.
In 2011, the team set a club record with 102 wins and helped give manager Charlie Manuel the franchise record for most wins. This offseason brings with it a sense of urgency. The window to win is viewed by many experts to be closing, and the talent of the other teams in the NL East is getting better and younger. The Phillies have already made their first huge move by giving Jonathan Papelbon all of the riches in the world to move down I-95 and close games for the next four years. Now, as the team says goodbye to some of the cornerstones that made Phillies baseball what it is over the last few years, it is time to transition to what Phillies baseball can become.
The starting pitching for the team is basically set baring any injury, and, just like last season, the rotation will be considered the best in baseball. Headlined by three possible Cy Young contenders and with the fourth pitcher being a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2011, it seems as though another season of the staff being the big story in Phillies baseball is ahead for us.
This year’s opening day payroll: $170MM-$180MM
Roy Halladay (age 34)
2012 salary: $20MM
Notes: Big Harry LeRoy Halladay is again the anchor for the team of aces. He is the most professional, dependable pitcher on the staff and continues to give Cliff Leeand company something to strive to match after each start. It was a shame to see him lose game five to the Cardinals at home this year, but it was not a loss due to lack of effort. He did his job and will continue to do it like the best pitcher in the game that he is in 2012.
Cliff Lee (33)
Notes: Clifton Phifer is not far behind Halladay as far as pure talent. He is a number-one pitcher on any other team in the majors. After a semi-slow start in 2011, he rebounded to be arguably the Phillies best pitcher in the second half of the season. It is easy to see Cliff have an even better year this year with the entire offseason to relax instead of dealing with the free agent hoopla that he had to last year. Get ready to see why he makes $21.5MM a year Phillies fans!
Notes: Colbert “Hollywood” Hamels looked more like the World Series MVP that he is last year then he did in 2010. Being able to pitch behind Halladay and Lee has helped take the pressure off of Hamels. In the past, Hamels would be shaken visibly when giving up home runs or when his teammates made errors. Not anymore! It would be smart for the Phils to lock him up now for a long time, but they may let his re-signing be pushed back until the end of next season.
Vance Worley (24)
Notes: The Vanimal was a pleasant surprise last season. He came out of nowhere to have a Rookie-of-the-Year-type season and filled the void left from injuries to Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton. It is likely that Worley takes a step back in his second year with the club, but his demeanor on the mound and the movement on his pitches still gives much to look forward to in 2012.
Joe Blanton (30)
Notes: Big Joe is once again the forgotten man going into this season. If he can regain the form from his Oakland days, then he may give the Phillies yet another stud to latch on to. However, if his body continues to break down, it could be another season of disappointment for Joe, who has not been healthy since the 2008 World Series.
How it’s going to unfold: After making a huge splash last year with the signing of Cliff, the Phils really don’t have much to look for as far as the rotation goes in the offseason. They have four of the five starting pitchers from last year returning, and after letting Oswalt walk this offseason, the Fightins will slide Worley (third in NL ROY voting) into the number-five spot. With these pitchers, the Phillies know what they are going to get, and a small improvement from last year can be expected.
C – Carlos Ruiz (32)
Notes: Chooooooooooch is one of the players on the team who does not get the praise he deserves. If not for Yadier Molina, Ruiz would most likely win a Gold Glove for his defensive ability every year. He is one of the most loved players of the fanbase and Halladay seems as if he has a slight man-crush on him. The guy is a solid, smart catcher and a quiet leader on the team.
1B – Ryan Howard (31).
Notes: “The Big Piece” will miss a couple of months from a leg injury he suffered on the last pitch of the season, but he is expected to make a full recovery. However, the bigger concern is that Howard struggled at the end of the season and in the playoffs, which is something that Ryan does not typically do. He seemed to lose all patience and chase pitches he would not have in the past. Hopefully this is just a case of an off year and not a preview of things to come.
2B – Chase Utley (32)
Notes: It is true that his best days are most likely behind him, but that does not mean that Chaser can’t still be a consistent number-two hitter in this lineup (most likely, Pence will take over the three-hole). He still works the count better then anyone on the team, and he can still always be counted on to do the little things in a game. Expect him to rebound and have an all-star worthy year..
SS –Jimmy Rollins (32)
2012: Free Agent
Notes: J-Roll has been the face of the franchise since before it was even worth talking about. He is a vocal leader on the team and is also a manager favorite, however, Jimmy is said to be asking for a five-year deal, and I do not believe the Phillies will offer that. This does not mean Jimmy signs somewhere else, though, because I believe no team will offer Rollins a five-year deal. The Phillies will offer four with an option for five and bring the big guy back for another run.
3B – Placido Polanco (36)
Notes: Polanco is a great fielder, but it is definitely noticeable that his body is in every way a 36-year-old body. He has broke down the past two seasons, and I do not believe you can rely on him at this point to be a starter for most of the year. He will try, but, hopefully, the Phils have a good option available to fill in when Polanco does go down again … which he will.
CF – Shane Victorino (30)
Notes: Rumors have been circulating already that the Phillies are looking to move the Flyin’ Hawaiian, but I don’t believe them. He is younger than most of the core of the team and is still one of the best-fielding outfielders in the league. He struggles sometimes on the base paths but often is the spark that gets the Phillies engine going.
LF — Raul Ibanez (39)
2012: free agent
RF – Hunter Pence (28)
Notes: The fun-loving goofball is going to be the bridge from this team to the Phillies of 2016. He was everything the Phils expected plus more when they aquired him at the trade deadline. HP3 is the perfect energy boost for a team of veterans that has been complacent in recent years.
Others on the payroll that impact next year
C — Brian Schneider (34)
Notes: Schneider is an inexpensive player who gives the Phillies exactly what they ask of him. He is a sub-par hitter but manages games well, and he did a great job platooning when Worley pitched last year. Expect the same type of performance in the same role again in 2012.
3B/1B – Ty Wigginton (34)
Notes: After years of flirting and blowing kisses to Ty, the Phils have finally made there move and landed him for a player to be named later. Wigginton is basically the Kmart version of Michael Cuddyer, who everyone thought the Phils would get, at a much cheaper price. He fills all position needs for Philly and should be a decent, but not great, addition to the team.
1B – Jim Thome (41)
Notes: Big Jim is back! He is determined! He will be … a nice left-handed bat off of the bench. Great signing for morale reasons, but do not expect too much from the one-time Phillies great.
INF – Michael Martinez (29)
Notes: Mighty Mike played surprisingly well last year and was a huge help filling in for Utley and J-Roll, at times. He has nice speed off of the bench and plays multiple positions. Hopefully, he is not asked to fill in this year as much as he did last year, but, then again, the starters are up there in age.
INF – John Mayberry Jr. (27)
Notes: Mayberry went from not being on the big-league roster to playing a huge role on the 2011 team. It appears he finally started to reach the potential Phil’s scouts have seen in him for years. Expect some starts at first base and in the outfield. He will be looked at as a source for right-handed power along with Pence.
OF – Ben Francisco (30)
Notes: Marla Hooch … what a hitter. Just as they kept the Marla character out of the promo for the Peaches in “A League of Their Own,” I would like to keep Francisco out of Phillies talk. I really don’t want to waste my time writing about him. He does not belong on the team and is a huge disappointment.
How it’s going to unfold: The core of the lineup is still there, but they are getting old fast. I see Rollins coming back, but I am only 85 percent sure of it. If Milwaukee does not get Jose Reyes, the Phillies may have some competition in their way for him, though. The big bat of Raul Ibanez will be missed, but it is easy to see Mayberry Jr. improving with more play. The Phillies have made moves already by bringing in Thome and Wigginton that will directly effect the atmosphere in the locker room for the better.
After signing Thome and Wigginton, the only thing left is to sign Rollins and the lineup is set. Rollins will not likely sign until after Reyes signs and sets the market for shortstops. I can see a three-year deal for J-Roll with a fourth-year option and then it is done. There is still an outside chance that they bring Ibanez back at a discounted price, but I doubt it. They could even still grab Michael Cuddyer and start him in left field if the asking price is not to high. Also, there is a small chance that GM Ruben Amaro makes another huge move and moves Brown and a starter for an all-star caliber player. If that does occur, Victorino is the veteran that is most likely sent packing.
That’s my field for the 2012 season. It looks a lot like the 102-win team from last year.
Now, let’s look at the bull pen:
CL Jonathan Papelbon (30)
2012: $ 12.5MM
Notes: The first huge signing of the offseason! The Phils wanted the best and were willing to let the past walk with Ryan Madson in order to sign the pitcher they considered the best on the market. Papelbon is an eccentric personality and is expected to bring some life into a mostly veteran locker room (just as Hunter Pence did in 2011). Hopefully, 2012 ends with Papelbon showing off his dance moves by doing the Irish Jig on the mound at CB Park after a World Series.
SU – Jose Contreras (39?)
Notes: This guy just does not go away! I feel like he should be 60 years old by now. Maybe he is! Still throws pretty hard for a 60-year-old, though.
MR — Antonio Bastardo (26)
Notes: The lefty specialist out of the pen had a great season for most of 2011. He did, however, struggle toward the end and seemed as though he wore down. Look for Bastardo to have a huge role on the 2012 team moving forward.
MR – Michael Stutes (25)
Notes: The former college closer on a national championship team came into his own last year when used as a seventh-inning pitcher for the Phils. Look for him to continue to get opportunities and possibly play an important role again this year. At 25, Stutes might want to settle in around Philadelphia because he is going to be around for awhile.
MR – Brad Lidge (34)
2012: free agent, signs back for $1MM
Notes: Lidge did not have his option year picked up, but I think it is very likely he is brought back as a smaller piece of the bullpen. He is a far cry from where he once was, but Lidge still can contribute and still has one of the best sliders in the game.
MR – David Herndon (26)
Notes: It pains me to say this, but Herndon will be back this year, and the Phils are looking for a nice contribution from him. I have multiple conversations with fans about Herndon and the sick pain we feel when he is brought into games. But, I will admit he ended the year strong and showed “some” promise. It is highly unlikely that the workhorse starters will allow him many opportunities, so let’s just hope for the best.
MR – Kyle Kendrick (27)
Notes: The long guy out of the bullpen has performed well in spot starts, filling in for injured starters the past few years. Kendrick will never be an All-Star, but he has been a contributor and has taken tips from Halladay, as far as work ethic goes. Sometimes, talent is not everything. Kendrick’s cup of coffee has surprisingly lasted a pretty long time.
Others of interest for next year: There is much speculation that the Phils will give some of their highly touted prospects a chance to compete in spring training for one or two spots. The most talented of the “Baby Aces” is most likely Trevor May. It may be a year too early to expect him up, though. Justin De Fratus and Jesse Biddle have also received high praise but are most likely a few years away. The one conceivable prospect to make the team this year would be Joe Savery. Savery has had a roller-coaster ride so far with the Phillies. He was once a first-round draft pick and top pitching prospect until he struggled at triple-A. He then switched to playing the field and became one of the better hitting prospects for the Phils until, yep, you guessed it: He pitched relief in a long game and was, once again, looked at as a strong pitching prospect. So, here we are going into 2012 and, once again, Savery has a strong chance to make the team. This time as a left-handed bullpen arm … we think.
How it’s going to unfold: After the signing of Papelbon and the projected re-signing of Lidge, the bullpen is pretty much set for next season. Herndon, Bastardo, and Stutes will all get arbitration dollars to send the payroll up, but, overall, the team is built with strong starters and consistent relief. The team brought in a top closer just like they did a few years ago when Lidge was brought here. I would not look for too much more to happen for this part of the team in the next couple of months. Keeping Savery on the roster might be all the big news that Phillies fans get.
So, here it is baseball fans, the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies 25-man roster:
C – Ruiz
1B – Howard (Mayberry Jr , Wigginton, and Thome for first few months)
2B – Utley
SS – Rollins (If he signs elsewhere look for Wilson Valdez to be brought back or Freddy Galvis to be promoted)
3B – Polanco (Wigginton to start in spots)
CF – Victorino
RF – Pence
LF – Mayberry Jr. (Domonic Brown andFrancisco will get a shot, especially at start of year)
1B — Thome
Utility — Wigginton
SS/2B — Martinez
C — Schneider
OF — Francisco
CL – Papelbon
SU – Lidge
MR – Stutes
MR – Contreras
MR – Herndon
LR – Bastardo
Keys to the offseason
1. Sign Hamels to a long-term deal.
2. Resign Rollins to a four-year deal.
3. Give prospects a strong look during the spring.
4. Make the switch from Utley and Co. to Pence and Co. (the next generation).
5. Stay aggressive. Don’t be afraid to move a vital piece of 2008. It is 2012 now; do not live in the past, Phillies management.
Do you think they look like the 2012 World Series Champs?