In the last handful of offseasons, the Phillies have tried to build for now. Trades and signings were made with the hope that this team could compete for a World Series appearance that year.
Included in those moves were Brad Lidge (Bard 4 life!), Raul Ibañez, Cliff Lee (twice), Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, and plenty of other moves involving lesser known guys. Heck, even last year GM Ruben Amaro Jr. added Delmon Young and Michael Young, hoping that they could bring the offense to life.
And, in fairness to Amaro, most of those moves did help the Phillies get closer to a World Series.
Joe Blanton — a midseason pickup — was important to the Phillies’ World Series win in 2008.
Lee and Ibañez in 2009 were huge parts of the team that lost to the Yankees in the Fall Classic. If it wasn’t for an unreal A.J. Burnett start, the Phillies might’ve had another ring. But I digress.
Roy Halladay was the staple of the rotation that helped the Phillies reach the NLCS in 2010. But they ran into the magic dust of the Giants.
Lee (the second time around), Pence, and Oswalt were big factors to the 2011 Phillies team that won a franchise-best 102 games. They lost in the NLDS to the Cardinals, but I personally think that was just baseball bein’ baseball. The Phillies were the best team in MLB; and that’s all you can hope for going into the playoffs.
In 2012, Amaro again made some “win-now” moves. He added arguably the best closer in baseball in Jonathan Papelbon, hit machine Juan Pierre, former star Dontrelle Willis to be a lefty specialist, and role players Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton.
The hope was this: Papelbon would be lights-out like Lidge in 2008, Pierre could create a spark in a severely declining offense, and Nix and Wigginton could replace the injured Ryan Howard‘s production until Howard was healthy.
None of that seemed too far-fetched at the time. But, nearly all of that did not happen. Papelbon was good, but not completely lights-out. Willis never even made it to Opening Day. Pierre had a fantastic season, but the offense still wasn’t good enough, in part because Nix and Wigginton failed to live up to Amaro’s (probably unrealistic) expectations.
Amaro went into sell-mode at the deadline, trading Pence, Blanton, and Shane Victorino. Phillies fans thought it was the end of an era.
In hindsight, that was laughable. But at the time, the idea of the Phillies making a run at the Wild Card didn’t seem unrealistic.
(Apologies for the history lesson)
We all know how 2013 went. Which brings me to this offseason. For the first time in a while, I think Amaro will have to make moves with the future in mind, rather than now.
It might not be prudent for Amaro to make a deal for a big-name pitcher or position player. He will likely not say things like “I think we can compete, and the goal is a World Series.”
He should make moves such as signing mediocre-to-below-average players to fill needs and to save money, while developing his own players. I think we’ll see a lot of Cody Asche, Darin Ruf and maybe even Jesse Biddle.
If he goes chooses this route, it’ll be a whole new ballgame for Amaro. Since he’s been the Phillies’ GM, he’s done nothing but spend and spend and spend. This would force him to manage his money better for the future.
So, in short, the Phillies could become a lot less exciting during the offseason — unless they do make a mega-deal for a Giancarlo Stanton-type in an attempt to make one final push–a very real possibility. There’s already been internet rage over the Mini-Mart signing, and that could be the theme to this offseason.
I think we, as fans, should migrate from excitement over big-name acquisitions to excitement over smart, valuable moves–regardless of what this offseason brings. It’s not lowering expectations, it’s changing the way you look at things.