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Grading the Phillies Offseason on a Curve: The 2014 Effect

Much has been made about the Phillies' off-season acquisitions in regards to the team that will take the field for 2013. But how about in 2014 and beyond? A closer look may explain just why Ruben Amaro did what he did.

Wait a minute, Like, which ones the black guy? Michael? Del-Man? Del-man? But he's the jewish one right?  No? I thought like, he was Jewish? .....Oh....Heh...really? Like, he really did THAT?... So... which one's the white one again?
Wait a minute, Like, which ones the black guy? Michael? Del-Man? Del-man? But he's the jewish one right? No? I thought like, he was Jewish? .....Oh....Heh...really? Like, he really did THAT?... So... which one's the white one again?

A few months ago, the TGP staff put together our predictions for the 2013 off-season. Man were we wrong! (Seriously Joe, Alex Gordon and David Price??) Unless Wet Luzinski (who didn't get his predictions in in time) had Delmon Young, Michael Young, Ben Revere, or John Lannan written down, I don't believe a single member of the staff made one correct pick, unless you consider those of us who saw Worley being traded as a correct prediction.

And really, can you blame us? When you think about it, with the money that this team has shelled out over the past few years, the end of the sellout streak, the sub par 81-81 season, the looming cable deal, etc., even the most critical pundits expected the Phillies to be in on SOMEONE. Seriously. Who could have predicted that, in an off-season ripe with free agent outfield talent, Ruben would trade for Ben Revere and sign Delmon Young? That, after trading Vance Worley, with a plethora of Rubenporn starting pitching available (headlined by Zack Greinke), the team would opt for a one year deal with John "Please don't punch me when I walk into the clubhouse Mr. Utley" Lannan. For many, the notion that the Phillies would end up with the rogues' gallery of talent that will assemble (well, hopefully assemble -- we are assuming everyone makes weight and there are enough electric scooters to rent at the Tampa airport kiosk to make it through baggage to the bus...) at Brighthouse Field in exactly two weeks, is not only head scratching, it's downright embarrassing and somewhat offensive to many fans.

People are calling for Ruben's job. Hell, I myself lobbied for him to let me take a crack at helping him. (Still waiting by the way!). The dynasty is finished! Why bother watching this train wreck unfold in front of your eyes? (The answer By the way, is who wouldn't stop to watch a train wreck? If anything, the train wreck is something I'm looking forward to parodying all season long.)

There were definitely options on the market that could have helped the team in 2013 more than what is to be expected from the Young and Young defense factory. (I think it should be mandatory to play THIS SONG immediately after one of the Youngs makes an error in the field, and replace the lyrics with "Everyone Advance Now! E-6, E-9, E-6, E-9...")

There were certainly similar free agent options that were better choices "on paper" and maybe even some, internally, at a lower cost. (By the way, last time I checked those internal options didn't GO ANYWHERE. They're still here, should plan A falter, assuming you believe Delmon Young really is plan A...). That said, going into the off-season, there were holes to plug for 2013 at third base, two outfield spots and depending on how you feel about Charlie Manuel's ability to manage a young bullpen, in the 8th inning, with roughly 30 million dollars in annual value to add before hitting the luxury cap.

Basically Josh Hamilton OR Zack Greinke and a few complimentary pieces, OR B.J. Upton (non-factor, since he wasn't signing here), Michael Young and a few pieces, plus the Revere trade.

And unless you really believe the plan was to go with a double platoon (and if it was, why non tender Nate Schierholtz?) the Revere trade, or something similar happens regardless.

Ruben managed to fill all those holes, and add some complimentary pieces with (depending on how you add it up) about $8-10 million to spare.

He did it by buying a bunch of lottery tickets, but he did it. So when I look at the offseason, To grade it properly, I had to keep that in mind. I also had to look at the off-season as a part of the bigger picture, and to accurately grade it, I want to point out a few things the Phillies did not do.

They did not:

  • Give up the 16th pick in the draft, along with the roughly $2,125,000 in slot money allotted to the pick.
  • Sign any deals for older free agents, or pay big dollars for one name. Not a handcuff deal in the bunch.
  • Give a contract longer than one year guaranteed to anyone other than Mike Adams, in a year where Jeremy Affeldt got more guaranteed years and dollars, and three years seemed to be the norm for a reliever of Adams' pedigree.
  • Trade away the farm, deal a catching prospect, Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, Cody Asche, Jesse Biddle, Roman Quinn, Adam Morgan, Ethan Martin, Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus, or any of the 6 left handed relief pitchers currently on the 40-man roster with major league experience.
  • Max out their payroll before opening day, which, they've done or come close to doing every year in recent memory, which has, in turn, forced them to overpay in prospects at the deadline to stay under the luxury tax limit when they made a trade.
  • Give up a prospect below the AA level. This may be a bigger deal than anyone realizes. If you take the time to examine Ruben's trades, if you look at who he's dealt, and at what level they played when they were dealt, in any transaction in Rubens tenure, I challenge you to find a single player in the organization that we traded that was playing at or above AA at the time that you regret not having in the organization today over the player we got in return. Say what you want about this guy, but someone in this organization is either extremely lucky, or extremely good at evaluating who to include, and who NOT to include in trades, Especially when it comes to pitchers. So call me skeptical on whether Trevor May ever pans out, and you know my feelings on Vance Worley and his career as a long reliever.
  • Lose Cole Hamels to free agency and overpay for Zack Greinke or a lesser caliber pitcher to fill his slot. Say what you want but if Hamels had hit the market, and they signed him in December to the same kind of deal they signed this summer, you'd feel a LOT better about the off-season, no? And when you compare the deal Greinke got to the one Hamels agreed to, It looks pretty darn good.

Call me an optimist, but for years, we've been preaching cost control around these parts. We've universally panned the long term deals for Jonathan Papelbon, and the Ryan Howard extension, and screamed from the rooftops to stop doing those things, mainly for fear of getting where we are now.

And that's kind of what they did.

And now we're screaming because they didn't spend.

Am I missing something here?

If you look at the money coming off the books after this season, by AAV as it applies to the Phillies:

  • Roy Halladay $20 mm
  • Chase Utley $12.2 mm
  • Carlos Ruiz $3.34 mm
  • Michael Young $6 mm
  • Kyle Kendrick $3.75 mm
  • John Lannan $2.5 mm
  • Delmon Young $3.5 mm* (assuming he cuts down on the burgers and stays on the team and plays)
  • Laynce Nix $1.25 mm

By my count that's $52,540,000 coming off the books. For the sake of arbitration raises, lets call it an even fifty. The Phillies payroll as it stands, is projected to be about $165,000,000 for 2013. The luxury tax threshold is $189,000,000 in 2014. That means that the team will have about $74,000,000 in payroll flexibility going into the 2014 off-season.

$74,000,000 for a third baseman, an outfielder, a second baseman, a catcher, three starting pitchers and a bench bat.

In a perfect world, Cody Asche is ready at third, and a combination of Morgan, Biddle, Martin, Cloyd and Pettibone fill two rotation spots for league minimum. One of Joseph or Valle is ready to catch, or Chooch signs a below market deal. Halladay is back to form and signs a 2-year $30mm deal, and Utley defies the odds, wins the National League MVP, plays 160 games, puts up 8 fWAR and gets a 4-year $80mm deal to finish his career here. We're left wondering why we didn't just give Josh Hamilton the money, or BJ Upton the money, or whoever, when we miss the playoffs by one game.

The world, however, isn't perfect. Asche can just as easily bust at Lehigh Valley as he can succeed. Morgan can blow an elbow. Martin can revert to erratic form. Biddle could implode at AA. Halladay can be last year's version less a few miles an hour, and last time I checked, Chase Utley still hadn't played a spring training game since 2010.

If you look at the rosters in the National League on paper, and replace Delmon Young with Josh Hamilton or BJ Upton, and Michael Young with Kevin Frandsen, do you really see a scenario where the Phillies are THAT MUCH BETTER in 2013 if Halladay, Utley, Rollins and Howard arent all 100% on point?

I don't. If those guys are up to snuff, I see a team that's in it at the all star break, with money to spend.

Here's a look at the 2014 free agent class. Add in the plethora of trade options out there and the additional year of development of our prospects, and it's not a bleak picture. The point here, for me at least, is that the one thing Ruben Amaro did not do this off-season was mortgage the future, either by trading a ton of prospects or committing long dollars with a cloud of uncertainty around an aging core. As fans, no matter how level headed we are, we want them to sign the Hamiltons and the Greinkes and the Uptons, but that's because we as human beings are a "now" species.

Quite simply, this was not the year to spend, from a long term perspective, and hoestly, it probably wasn't the way to go from a short term perspective either. Not with 30mm to spend. Not unless you overpay in prospects in a trade and go two years longer than you should for Josh Hamilton. 2014 is the year to spend, when you have $74,000,000 at your disposal, a better idea of what your core can do, and a much better gauge on your prospects.

Simply put, this team, going into the offseason any oves were secondary to the Core succeeding. That hasn't changed. The Phillies chance to compete in 2013 still lives and dies by the Big Three. The winds of success ride on (literally) their shoulders. In 2013, the offense is still controlled by Utley, Howard, and Rollins. The success is theirs to determine.

As for the rest? There a bajillion questions. Should Brown and Ruf be given a shot over Delmon? Absolutely. Will it happen? Who knows. But Delmon Young over one of those guys doesn't define this season. Its a negligible part. Frandsen over Young is the same thing. Galvis vs. Betancourt, Durbin over Stutes or Cloyd, in the grand scheme of things are very, very minor, compared to Utley playing 150 games, Howard hitting LHP, Doc making 30 starts, or Hamels and Lee staying healthy.

The real question we should be asking is would you prefer Kevin Youkilis and no cap space, or Youkilis on a 2-year deal to Michael Young?

Would you rather have to deal with one year (or lets be real here, 1/2 a season cause you know he's gonna do something to get released by July) of Delmon Young, or Josh Hamilton AND Ryan Howard taking up $50mm of salary in 2015 and 2016 combined to MAYBE be a little closer to the wild card this year, if it handcuffs you next year, and Forces you to make Freddy Galvis your second baseman, if Utley's knees go out, when Robbie Cano is on the market, and so is Jacoby Elsbury.

For me, that's the real question. I'm 50/50 as a fan,cause I really wanna see this team win. I'm 100% for the future. In a vacuum, the off-season sucks. In reality, provided they stay this course and actually SPEND the money? it may be a blessing in disguise.

When I look at the moves this off-season in a vacuum, for 2013? The grade is a C at best. And to be honest, if they had the foresight to have tendered Nate Schierholtz a contract, and not signed Delmon Young, I might have given them a B-. For THIS YEAR. For improving the team and competing for a world championship in 2013.

For the future? I may get ribbed here but I give em a solid B+. they gave up a replaceable starter in Worley and a questionable AA prospect in Trevor May for a young Juan Pierre in Ben Revere who at 24 has put up the same fWAR as Angel Pagan or Dexter Fowler the past two years in 30 fewer games. He has already become a favorite among fans. He's going to be fun to watch, and has the potential to be a cost controlled center fielder for many years. They also gave Charlie a pretty darn good set up guy, which he needs. He does, guys. I know what the deal is with cost controlled relief pitchers and I'm telling you Mike Adams saves Cliff Lee's Elbow and Cole Hamels' shoulder and what's left of Doc's shoulder too.

The rest of the moves are non factors past this season, and the fact that they kept the farm mostly intact, and kept the draft pick is huge, in my opinion. But most important to me is that by not handcuffing themselves to a big ticket item they left flexibility to spend, either at the deadline, or in the offseason. And mark my words, when they're in it at the deadline (and barring catastrophy, they'll be in it) they'll spend.

The one that won it all in 2008? It was built. It wasn't bought.

That said, longterm, its just a B+

Cause at the end of the day, I can't give anyone an A for signing Michael Young AND Delmon Young in the same off season. Even I'm not that optimistic.

If anything, 2013 is going to be interesting. But so will the next decade. One way or the other.

Catz Out.