Last November, Pat Gallen, Corey Seidman, Ian Riccaboni and I separately presented our roster plans for the 2013 Phillies. None of us truly believed the Phillies were a contender, but with our suggested acquisitions and some positive breaks, they might have a shot. With only a few weeks left in the season it seems as good a time as any to review our plans.
It’s interesting to note that the four of us agreed on an awful lot — we collectively selected 17 of the 25 roster spots. This was indicative of the few areas the Phillies could toy with. On one hand, agreement on 68% of the roster could suggest that the Phillies didn’t need to alter chunks of the roster or dole out even more lucrative deals. On the other hand, several of those 17 players were already signed to lucrative deals that could have prevented the team from properly filling the remaining spots.
Our starting rotations were identical across the board: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley. These plans were published prior to Worley’s trade to Minnesota, but, at that time, we all felt the Phillies rotation was set. They didn’t need to go out and sign a Dan Haren or Ryan Dempster. If the big three were healthy, and Kendrick continued improving, the rotation was solid.
We also agreed on Carlos Ruiz as the primary catcher with Erik Kratz backing him up. Chooch was coming off of his best season and it was a no-brainer to exercise his meager club option. Kratz, while not that solid of a defender, had hit for enough power to merit the backup role. It didn’t make sense to have one of the prospects back Ruiz up since consistent playing time is integral to their development.
Though there were question marks surrounding the infield triumvirate’s ability to remain both healthy and effective, we all agreed on Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins at their respective positions. Freddy Galvis, Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf and John Mayberry all made our teams as well, with Brown as a clear starter and Ruf getting more playing time than Galvis and Mayberry. It was also abundantly clear that Jonathan Papelbon wasn’t going anywhere, and our bullpens all included Antonio Bastardo and Jeremy Horst.
Third base, however, was the first area in which we really presented different plans.
Third Base: Youkilis, Chavez, Theriot, Keppinger, Frandsen
We agreed that Kevin Frandsen had earned a larger role on the team and “signed” our third basemen under the mindset that he would work out of a platoon. Cody Asche‘s time was coming so doling out long-term deals to third basemen didn’t seem prudent.
Corey signed Kevin Youkilis to a 2 yr/$17 mil contract to improve the Phillies on-base percentage. Youkilis tallied -0.5 WAR in an injury-plagued season with the Yankees. I signed Eric Chavez to a 2 yr/$6 million contract since he had been crushing righties in his career resurgence. His defense isn’t what it used to be, but the funds were minimal and a Chavez/Frandsen platoon figured to produce around 2 WAR for $4 million. Chavez has been knicked up of late, but in 241 PAs, he has a .290/.342/.498 batting line and 1.1 WAR.
Pat originally wanted to sign Maicer Izturis, but he literally signed with the Blue Jays halfway through the article. His attention then turned to Ryan Theriot, not as the starter, but as a member of a platoon of some sort. Theriot is not going to play for a major league team this year, so I’m sure Pat would like his 2 yr/$4 million deal back!
Ian opted to sign Jeff Keppinger for 2 yrs/$8 mil coming off of his stellar season with the Rays. It was a solid idea at the time, but Keppinger has had practically the worst season of any everyday player. In 430 PAs, he has a .244/.271/.303 line, with negative fielding and baserunning marks. All told, he has been worth two wins below replacement. The Phillies would have been better off playing Michael Martinez for 400+ PAs than signing Keppinger, and in no universe should Martinez ever come close to 400+ PAs.
Outfield: Upton, Bourjos, Swisher, Span, Ross, Hamilton, Morrison
We all knew Brown was worthy of one starting spot, but the other two were up for grabs. Ruf was worth playing in a platoon, if he could handle a corner spot defensively, but only Corey and Ian viewed him in the platoon role from the start. Ian paired him with Logan Morrison, figuring that he could be had for a young, controllable reliever, like Josh Lindblom. Morrison hasn’t had the bounceback season that many expected, as his below average fielding and baserunning have pushed him just south of the replacement level line.
Ian had the Phillies going all out and signing Josh Hamilton for 4 yrs/$104 million, with a fifth-year vesting option. Hamilton has turned it on in September, but it’s too little, too late. His 1.5 WAR isn’t awful, but when you hope for 2 WAR out of a $25 million player, it’s a bad sign. Ian’s outfield of Hamilton, Brown and Ruf/Morrison has tallied 3.9 WAR to date.
Corey figured Ruf would platoon with Mayberry and Laynce Nix, and focused his outfield efforts on B.J. Upton, signing the former #1 pick for 5 yrs/$78 million. Upton has been a disaster in his first season with the Braves and it’s a wonder how that team has played so well with a -0.4 WAR player in center field. Corey’s outfield of Upton, Brown and Ruf/Nix/Mayberry has produced 1.2 WAR to date.
I took a different route, opting to trade for a young, controllable centerfielder while spending some money in one of the corners. My offseason plan saw the Phillies trade for Peter Bourjos of the Angels while signing Nick Swisher for 4 yrs/$56 million. Bourjos, I reasoned, profiled as an average-ish hitter if completely healthy, who also offered elite fielding and baserunning. This also made him very valuable to the Angels. The Phillies did end up trading for a young, controllable centerfielder in Ben Revere, but elected against a big-ticket corner outfield signing. Bourjos, Brown and Swisher have played decently this season through health problems, combining for 4.6 WAR.
Pat assembled the most productive outfield, pairing Brown in the corners with Cody Ross on a questionable multi-year deal, and trading for Denard Span. The Phillies opted for the other Twins centerfielder after the Nationals acquired Span for arguably less than the Phils gave up. Span started out slowly but figures to finish the season at 3+ WAR. Span, Ross and Brown add up to 6.6 WAR.
Bullpen: Uehara, Madson, Adams
While we only agreed on Papelbon, Bastardo and Horst, there was a less specific agreement that the Phillies should fill at least two of the other bullpen spots with their young, cheap arms. Corey called on Justin De Fratus and Lindblom. I had Phillippe Aumont, Michael Schwimer and Lindblom. Pat had Jake Diekman, Aumont and De Fratus. Ian had Tyler Cloyd, Aumont, Diekman and De Fratus.
In fact, Ian’s bullpen was devoid of free agent relievers and has totaled 2 WAR to date. Now, 20% of that figure comes from Cloyd’s starts, but Papelbon, Bastardo and Diekman have pitched well. Both Pat and I re-signed Ryan Madson to an incentive-laden deal. That obviously looks silly in hindsight as he won’t pitch at all this season. Then again, his 0 WAR is better than the negative numbers from Horst and De Fratus. Both our bullpens have produced 1.6 WAR to date.
Corey took a different approach, signing Koji Uehara and Mike Adams to reasonable contracts. The Phillies did sign Adams and, while he looked decent through his first few outings, his health impacted his effectiveness and eventually shut him down for the season. The injury is serious enough that Adams legitimately may never throw another major league pitch. Uehara, on the other hand, has produced 3 WAR on his own, outperforming all of our bullpens by himself! Corey’s bullpen has produced 4 WAR, twice the production of Ian’s and 2.5 times more than the reliever corps Pat and I put together.
Pat’s team has produced 24 WAR to date. Mine is at 23.2. Corey’s is at 20.1. Ian’s is at 18.9.
What does this mean? Well, consider that a fully replacement-level team would win around 45-46 games in a season. A decent analog for team success is to add the team WAR of the prominent contributors to this figure. In that case, our teams should be at around 65-69 wins right now. The actual Phillies are now 68-78, which is spot on. So what does this mean? It means that none of us really assembled that great of a team. Some are better than others, but none of our rosters have produced any better than the current Phillies team.
Our big-ticket free agent signings haven’t really worked out, several notable players were hit by injuries, and others, like Rollins, simply played below their established norms. Since so much money was tied up in injured or ineffective players – Howard, Halladay, Rollins – the Phillies lacked the financial flexibility needed to truly improve. This isn’t to say that we should give Amaro some slack, as his past decisions have hamstrung the team, but rather that the actual Phillies and all of our teams utilized the lipstick-on-a-pig approach. The Phillies are standing by Ruben Amaro as GM, as they trust his work ethic and unwavering ability to make decisions, but this organization really has its work cut out for it.