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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Questions for the Phillies Next Year

Here goes:

1. Did Cole Hamels Lose The Clubhouse with His Remarks in the World Series? Don't know how big an issue this is. Despite Charlie Manuel's closing of the ranks, I'm sure that Hamels did damage with his "I can't wait for this to be over" line. Baseball players are among the most competitive people on the planet, and I can't believe that guys who push themselves hard for a long haul can be happy with Hamels diva-like behavior. Then again, he's only a young kid, kids make mistakes, and most 25 year-olds can't hold up to that type of pressure. Prediction: things will be okay by the middle of spring training.

2. Who Will Be the Phillies' Starting Pitchers Next Year? Tougher question. Cliff Lee, for starters. He's the ace. Hamels, presumably, although a friend suggested that they package him and his attitudes to Toronto for a year of Roy Halladay (and then try to sign either Lee or Halladay to a long-term deal). That's intriguing, but unlikely. After Hamels, Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ, although I think that Charlie Manuel has some patching up to do. Blanton got relegated to also-ran status at the expense of Pedro Martinez, who fizzled out like outdated fireworks on the Fourth of July. Happ pitched poorly in relief in the post-season, and despite a probable win for N.L. Rookie of the Year, his confidence may be a little down and he may be a little miffed at his manager. Both of these perceived slights are small beer -- it happens when you make a deep post-season run, but Manuel will be sensitive to the feelings of these players. So that leaves one spot for, among others, Jamie Moyer and Pedro Martinez, with Kyle Kendrick and Brett Myers long shots. I'd have the first two retire, have Kendrick in long relief and try to rehab Myers as a starting pitcher. Presumably, phenom Kyle Drabek needs half a season at AAA before being ready for the big leagues.

3. Who Will be in the Bullpen? I think that you'd need a PhD dissertation for this one. Brad Lidge is on a precipice, J.C. Romero was a non-factor, Ryan Madson was gassed, Scott Eyre will retire and iffy-winged Clay Condrey will be 34. Jack Taschner will vanish, and Antonio Bastardo and Sergio Escalona are question marks. Chan Ho Park should be back, Tyler Walker could be back, and you would think that Chad Durbin will be back. The lefty side needs fortification; look for the Phils to go after a premiere lefty reliever this off-season.

4. Who Will be on the Phillies' Bench? Matt Stairs is probably gone. So is Eric Bruntlett. So is Paul Bako. Greg Dobbs has a year left on his contract, and Ben Francisco probably is back as the fourth or fifth outfielder. The Phillies can use a better utility infielder who can spell Rollins and Utley on occasion (it's not Miguel Cairo; the Cards' Mark DeRosa has been mentioned, but he can't play SS). Because of the earlier post about non-tendered players, I would bet that the Phillies can upgrade their bench significantly for next season.

5. How Many Phillies Won't Be Back Next Season? Eyre (retiring), Stairs (probably retiring), Bruntlett (didn't hit), Bako (no compelling reason to keep him). I would bet that the pitching staff will have one or two other new faces. The big question is 3B, where Pedro Feliz fields like Brooks Robinson but has bad plate discipline and has one of the worst on-base percentages of starting players in the Majors. It's hard to see who's available right now, but Feliz will be 35, and if the Phillies can upgrade and get slighly younger, they'll do so.

6. How Much Money Will the Phillies Spend on Payroll for 2010? They have a unique nucleus that they won't be able to keep together for more than a few more seasons. They won't be contributing to Jim Thome's salary anymore, and they won't be paying either Geoff Jenkins' or Adam Eaton's salary in 2010. That's a total of about $20 million. They also won't be paying Brett Myers $10 million, but I believe that Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton are arbitration eligible. Also, Jayson Werth, Cliff Lee and (I think) Jimmy Rollins only have a year left on their deals. So, the front office will be busy again, but they should strongly consider stretching their budgets given how popular the team is and given that Ryan Howard, Rollins, Utley and Lee won't be around together forever (read: when Howard is a free agent in two years, the Phillies will have a big decision to make).

None of these are particularly troubling or awful decisions. The front office appears to be in good shape, and with the right tweaking and trading, the Phillies should be primed to win the NL East again and make a deep playoff run. But they won't win the World Series unless a) they get more pitching or b) the Yankees' suffer serious injuries to their pitching staff. So, fortifying their pitching is a must.

Can't wait for next year.


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