A Few Offseason Questions
I’ve gotten plenty of questions about the Phillies’ offseason since their season ended. I’ll try to answer some of those questions the best I can.
Question: Are the Phillies going to resign Jayson Werth?
Answer: No, I don’t think they will. Somebody is going to give Werth a big contract. I don’t think he’ll get the seven-year, $120 million contract Matt Holliday got from the Cardinals, but he’ll get paid. The only way I see Werth returning is if the market simply isn’t there for him and he surpisingly accepts salary arbitration from the Phillies (Kevin Millwood surprised the Phillies when he accepted salary arbitration in 2003) or the Phillies get him at a team-friendly price. I don’t see either scenario happening.
Question: Are they going to do something big?
Answer: The Phillies are going to try to resign Cliff Lee, although I don’t see how they can beat the Yankees and Rangers in a bidding war. But the Phillies have been creative in the recent past — they have traded for Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt and signed Pedro Martinez in the last 15-plus months — and they could get creative with Lee. If they don’t get Lee, I think it could be a relatively quiet offseason.
Question: But they’ve got to shakeup this roster in some way, right?
Answer: I’m in the minority on this one, but I don’t think the Phillies need a dramatic shake up to return to the World Series in 2011. The Phillies had the best record in baseball this season. In the past 13 seasons, just eight of the 26 best teams (the 13 best teams in each league) have reached the World Series. That’s just 30.8 percent. That means there is nearly no advantage to the teams that play the best baseball over six months once the postseason begins. The playoffs are a crapshoot. The Phillies simply played the hot team at the wrong time. That’s all. Don’t forget the Phillies had the second-best record in the NL in 2008 and 2009, but they got hot at the right time and went to the World Series. The Cardinals had the 13th best record in baseball in 2006, but got hot at the right time and won the World Series. The Phillies are a good team. I think Halladay, Oswalt and Cole Hamels will win a lot of games next season. I think the lineup should rebound a bit, too. If the Phillies do nothing other than tweak their bullpen, on paper they’re still one of the four best teams in the National League in 2011. And if they get into the playoffs, anything can happen. Recent history proves it.
Question: But the offense is going to take a hit if Werth isn’t back, right?
Answer: Werth is going to be tough, if not impossible, to replace. As much as he struggled with runners in scoring position this season, he is a very productive right-handed bat. I think his RISP numbers will rebound next season, too. But five everyday players had poor seasons this year, and I think some of them will bounce back. Ryan Howard had the lowest OPS of his career this year. Chase Utley and Shane Victorino had their lowest OPS’ since they became everyday players. Jimmy Rollins had his lowest OPS since 2002. Raul Ibanez had his lowest OPS since 2005. If you truly believe those five players have hit the downsides of their careers at the same time then bringing back Werth seems almost pointless to me. Because if those five players continue their declines in 2011, the Phillies are in major trouble with or without Werth. But if you believe like me at least a few of those players will put up better numbers next season, then the Phillies should be more productive offensively — provided Werth’s replacement does a decent job.
Question: Who will be in right field next season?
Answer: I think it’ll be Domonic Brown and Ben Francisco. Just a gut feeling. I know the Phillies will look outside the organization for help, but Francisco has hit left-handed pitching pretty well in his career. And the Phillies think Brown is going to be a star. They should hope he can handle right-handed pitching.
Side note: Pat Burrell picked up his second World Series ring this year. He has hit just .037 (1 for 27) with seven walks and 16 strikeouts in his World Series career. Of the 503 players with 30 or more plate appearances in World Series history, Burrell ranks 503rd in batting, tied for 441st in on-base percentage (.235) and tied for 501st in slugging percentage (.074). Chase Utley ranks third in slugging (.795), Carlos Ruiz ranks 10th (.706) and Werth ranks 13th (.676).