Ever since Ryan Howard’s ground ball rolled harmlessly to Nick Punto to end game 5 of the NLDS, and ended all hope of another Phillies world championship, there has been a lot of speculation on how to “fix” the Phillies. It’s amazing that a team that not only set its own franchise record for wins in a season, but also had the MLB’s best record over that past two years needs to be fixed.
Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson, Roy Oswalt, and Raul Ibanez are all free agents. Howard is most likely out until mid-June at the earliest, and may never be the same. Chase Utley and Placido Polanco are shells of their former selves due to injuries. How is this team going to get back to its elite level?
The biggest issue this team has going into next year; who will play shortstop? The answer has to be Jimmy Rollins. I don’t care if he wants 7 years. They have to sign him. He is our Jeter. It’s no coincidence how good they are when he scores a run. With Freddy Galvis not quite ready in the minors, they must do everything possible to keep Rollins in red pinstripes.
Possible outside replacements could be Rafael Furcal or Jose Reyes. With the way Furcal played since being traded to St. Louis, I expect him to be re-signed. As for Reyes, all I have to do is point to the final game of the season, when he bunted for a single then took himself out of the game. Do you really want that guy on this team? I don’t.
Next up is closer. Ryan Madson is a free agent after a big year. His agent is Scott Boras. Later! By the time Scott Boras is finished, he is going to make Madson’s change up look better than a Mariano Rivera cutter, and he’ll squeeze every penny out of whatever team signs him. Odds are it won’t be the Phillies. Ruben Amaro Jr. has said the team is not comfortable going forward with what they have if Madson isn’t re-signed, so Antonio Bastardo, who struggled with his command down the stretch, is out.
Joe Nathan will be a free agent who could come cheap. Heath Bell could be a more expensive, long-term solution. The Phillies have somewhat of a history of paying for a good, bigger named closer. From Jose Mesa to Billy Wagner to Tom Gordon to Brad Lidge, the Phillies seem more comfortable with an established guy rather than a young, up-and-coming kid. I look for the Phils to go after Joe Nathan.
Barring a Flyers-like franchise changing trade, there isn’t really much room to improve the lineup. All but two positions, if healthy, are set today for next opening day. They’ll need a left fielder and a short term first baseman. Charlie Manuel and Amaro Jr. have said that John Mayberry Jr. will have every opportunity to become an everyday player, as he should. He earned it with his play this past season. His position is going to depend on which way the Philies decide they want to go.
If they go after a first baseman, he’ll play left field and vice-versa. Dom Brown could have a lot to do with the direction they go. If he can prove he’s gotten his confidence back and can play at the major league level, the replacement doesn’t have to come from outside the organization. Personally, I would like to see them sign a player who hits for average, more than power. Every year at the trade deadline, Michael Cuddyers name comes up. Pitchers aren’t scare of Ryan Howard anymore. You saw that in game 5 of the NLDS when La Russa intentionally walked Hunter Pence to get to him. They need someone behind him who will make them pay, and not necessarily with a home run.
When you have Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, there’s no need for a major overhaul of your roster, just some tweaking here and there. Amaro Jr. and Manuel have their work cut out for them this offseason. Take this past season as an example. This fan base will not accept anything less than a championship anymore. Not with this pitching staff. Not with all the all-stars. Not after the money they’ve spent to get to 204 consecutive sell outs.