Phillies off-season happenings…

Usually, I would be upset if the team that I root for needed a bat to put behind their MVP slugger, Ryan Howard. After seeing this off-season unfold, I’m somewhat happy that they have stood still, in that regard. I say somewhat because I am pretty sure that even after reading a lot about the Soriano deal, I would still take it in Philadelphia. Soriano’s deal is insane if you bat him leadoff and generally not worth it. But, the Phillies had no intentions of doing that and the Cubs will likely stop with the Soriano lead-off talk by opening day. Eight years is still too long on a contract for Soriano, but in getting Soriano you have to take some good with the bad.

When Soriano left the market, that pretty much left Carlos Lee as the only possibility in the free agent market to protect Ryan Howard. For a brief moment, I somewhat wanted the Phillies to take a serious look at bringing in Lee. Today, I’m very glad that they chose not to…Lee signed with the Houston Astros for 6 years/100mill.

The Phillies need someone in the five spot of their lineup because Pat Burrell, well, they’ve completely soured on Burrell. For those of you that haven’t watched Phillies baseball and just look at the numbers, here are some things going against Burrell: Way too many double plays, looks at the third strike way too much and is terrible when he gets on base. The worst stat about Burrell…with runners in scoring position and two outs last season he batted .167 struck out 26 times in 78 at bats.

With Burrell, you kind of have to dig deep into these stats because on the surface, 29 homeruns and 95 RBI for someone who was yanked from a lot of games and berated by the organization constantly are not that bad. His 32 homers, 117 RBI the season before aren’t bad either. Carlos Lee is the same age as Burrell, similar numbers, but in the key hitting situation stats where Burrell does poorly, Lee is good.

Scoring position, .331 last season, .300 in the last 3 years…whereas Burrell is .269 over the last three seasons and .222 last season. Lee is better in other categories like this, and I would post it, but I’m tired of clicking back and forth between their ESPN.com split stats page.

It’s an absolute no-brainer that if the Phillies replaced Burrell with Lee, that they would be a better team. Even at the money Lee got. Even if they have to eat Burrell’s salary with him on the bench or eat 4mill of it and dish him to another team. The beauty of the internet is that now fans can google words like “Phillies Forbes” and other business related terms and quickly find out what the team can afford salary wise. The problem would not be 2007, the problem is when 2010 comes around and they are desperately seeking an AL club that Lee can DH for.

The Phillies priority for this off-season was/is/should be someone in the line-up to protect Ryan Howard. However, they can’t do it at the expense of what will/could be the priority next season or a few seasons down the line. For starters, they’ll have to give a TON of money to Howard and Chase Utley soon. From there, there’s a damn good possibility that they’ll need a high priced starting pitcher in a season or two. They can pass on Schmidt or Zito, because, well, I don’t think either of those guys would want to come here and you’d have to overpay on top of overpaying to get them. Not to mention I think they had very little interest in Jason Schmidt. Why overpay that much for a guy who probably won’t be as good as Brett Myers?

Their pitching situation is not bleak. I mention that mainly because the Phillies were offensively successful last season, yet I’m sitting here saying that their top priority this off-season is to find protection for Howard. The thing is, the pitching was not the best around, but the pitching kept them in games, especially in August and September. What lost them games was when teams pitched around Howard and a couple things happened: either Howard was intentionally walked, or he swung at pitches he should not have because he knew he had to be the guy to make something happen.

The Phillies bullpen was surprisingly good last season and I think GM Pat Gillick will alter it only slightly to give protection for an aging Tom Gordon. I’ll trust him in that regard. The starting pitching is the problem. Brett Myers and Cole Hamels will be the core of that this season, as they were down the stretch last season. Both are young, Myers with several years of experience now and frankly, they need him to finally step up as somewhat of an ace. I say somewhat of an ace, because I don’t think he’ll get there in the classic sense of the term, and it would be too much to ask for. But, if Hamels continues to develop, he’s who the Phillies will look at for that role and Myers as a second starter does not bother me.

Speaking of Hamels, he had a 2.59 ERA in August and September. So the overall rookie season numbers look good, he was excellent once he got some innings under him. I’m fine with Myers-Hamels at the top.

From there, things take a nose dive. Jon Lieber and Jaime Moyer are already back. Moyer, I think he helps Myers and Hamels. I have absolutely nothing to base that on other than assumptions, random interview sound bytes and seeing them talk to Moyer in the dugout a couple times. So, uh, nothing, really, but they brought Moyer back, so that has to be it. From there, they need a fifth starter and they don’t seem too excited to bring Randy Wolf back in that role, but I’d say the hell with it and sign him back up. There’s not exactly a whole lot out there in terms of free agent pitching. Woody Williams is probably still out there, but I do not know what their chances/interest in him is. Miguel Batista is talked about a lot, and probably the best option out there for what they’re looking for.

So, pitching might not be a priority going into next season just because of what is available, but it certainly could become a priority after next season. If they spend that money on Lee, you’re tying yourself up for when you might need it down the line. They do get Lieber’s awful contract to expire at some point, but standing pat might not be bad. And if there is ANY ounce of truth to the rumors of the White Sox trading Freddy Garcia for Aaron Rowand…do it.

If they can work on their priority for this off-season from within by shuffling the line-up to get the most out of a team that was offensively productive, then that might not be the best for next season, but the best for the long term. Jimmy Rollins out of the lead-off spot for damn sure. Rollins or Utley in the 3 and 5 spots will probably be the best for this team if they stand pat. Not sure which in which spot, but I think it’s something they’ll need to look at doing. Just because they both are line drive hitters and will hit a lot of doubles.

I don’t think this blog ended up anywhere near what I wanted and just turned into rambling about the Phillies. I’m just going to end it rather than attempt to nurse it back to relevant.

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