I don't hate the Marlon Byrd signing either. I would have liked to keep his two year deal to the $5-6 million range, but two years at $8 million per is not obscene, franchise killing, or bad. The Phillies get an outfielder who had a very good season, has had good years in the past, is offensively adequate at least, and defensively is the same. He's an upgrade certainly on 2/3 of a season of Delmon Young, John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix, and even for that matter, Darin Ruf's defense.
Are you seeing a pattern here?
A 73 win team last year is making decent moves. Neither is bad, but neither completely changes the team. If the offense works out, and both of these guys are decent, Ben Revere and/or Cesar Hernandez give us a complete year of what they did last year, Asche is an overall upgrade on Michael Young, Howard and Rollins bounce back, the two aces are aces, and Miguel Gonzalez pans out, you could be talking about an 85-90 win season that we'll all enjoy.
And how often does it all work out? This is more likely enough upgrade so far this off-season to get into the 80 win neighborhood, which is improvement, but still not contention. More so, an old team is liked into it's 35 year old catcher through 2016 (2017 with the option), 34 year old first baseman through 2016 (2017 with the option), 35 year old second baseman through 2015 (or possibly 2018 with the options), 35 year old shortstop through this season (but probably next season too on the vesting option), 36 year old outfielder through 2015, 35 year old ace lefty through 2015 (probably 2016 with the price of the buyout on his option), and 33 year old closer through 2015 (and maybe 2016 with his option). In other words, this team is old, and locked in for at least the next TWO seasons right now with what they have. I left off another large deal, to another ace lefty, because it was at least signed at a reasonable time, but tack on that one through 2018.
I don't hate these moves, but I'm trying to be realistic. Sure, they're better than trying to bandage an 81-81 team with Delmon and Michael Young (which I incidentally was dumb enough to believe might work). I think we just took our 73 win team back to the respectable .500 realm with these two moves, which are both slight overpays (more on that in a minute). That's fine. Doesn't this remind you of last season though? Isn't this another episode of a team that is in decline, not being fundamentally changed? Like I said, I think they're better, but they still get almost all of their power from the left side, still have a mid-rotation lull in talent, and still are old. Not much has changed a lot.
Which brings me back to both of these moves. Ruben has overpaid for both of his free agent signings this winter, both in years and dollars. Is he bidding against himself? Marlon Byrd essentially said that he knew he had to sign once he got the Phillies offer, which is like saying, that guy paid me more than I thought I'd get. Ruben's approach has been to focus in on a target, be it in free agency or trade, go ask what they want to get said-target, and then give it to them. His defenders will cite Cliff Lee's re-signing here as evidence that he can negotiate, but let's not kid ourselves here, he gave the maybe $125-152.5 MILLION dollars. He's overpaid Howard, Ruiz, Byrd, Papelbon, and Adams compared to the market, and that's not even getting into his trades. That we've heard he's willing to go three years to a new set-up man, and wants to make a "big splash" trade for a David Price or Giancarlo Stanton, and there's no reason to doubt he does that. There's no reason to doubt that he pays someone at a position that is unpredictable from year to year at a premium rate for three years. There's no reason to doubt that he'll trade everything he has in his fledgling, rebuilding minor league system for one guy who he will then have to pay $25 million a year to keep, for many, many years. This is what Ruben does.
Frustrations aside, and all of the reasonable complaints about Ruben aside, don't go jump off the Ben Franklin over the state of this team. They are better than a year ago, right now. Their starting catcher will not be suspended to start the season. They have two young third basemen that could provide them a cornerstone at the hot corner for years to come. Marlon Byrd is a big upgrade on Delmon Young. Ben Revere and Dom Brown, if either is here, could improve even more, or they will land us a very good player. Miguel Gonzalez has a talented arm, and could be a huge stabilizer in the middle of the rotation. Jake Diekman, Ethan Martin, Justin De Fratus, and other youngsters could build us a much improved bullpen. Chase Utley showed signs of life in 2013, and I would count Phillies greats, and prideful ballplayers Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins as totally dead yet. Galvis, Hernandez, and Ruf could provide a versatile and good bench. This team could be a lot better, and maybe those meaningless, awful games of last August and September provided just enough "on the job training" for some of these kids to become effective big leaguers. Maybe.
I'm just saying, nothing we've done yet should make you want to bet the house on it.