|Strasburg vs. Utley|
Regardless of whether you believe they can contend or not, the behavior of the club over the last several months suggests they think so. They re-signed Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz. They did not trade Cliff Lee. They signed Marlon Byrd. Sure, there have been rumors (some very bogus) of them looking to move Ryan Howard or Jonathan Papelbon, but I'm not sure many people would consider those moves that kill 2014 right now.
If you accept that the Phillies *think* they can contend, then you go into the Winter Meetings looking to do several things. As I see it, they are:
- Pick up a starting pitcher, preferably one that could slot in the 1-3 spots in the rotation. This is likely to be costly, maybe the most costly move. There are the free agents- Jimenez, Colon, Garza, Santana, or hopefully Tanaka (if posted)- and there are the potential trades out there, almost all of which include a Domonic Brown rumor. To pick up a big difference maker, which I think this team would need to contend, they'd have to give something, either money or players.
- Pick up a lefty bat off the bench with some pop. Unless you think that Maikel Franco will start opening day, and Cody Asche will fill this role, you probably can't name a good left-handed option with pop on this bench for this season. Mayberry, Frandsen, and Ruf are righties, and Galvis and Hernandez hit switch. In other words, there is no one to come in and face a righty late in the game off the bench.
- They will all-to-likely pick another Rule 5 pick, or two. Michael Martinez, David Herndon, and Fabio Castro have all been recent picks, and Shane Victorino may stand as the best Rule 5 pick ever. The Phillies received the Cubs #4 pick over a past Cubs pick from our system that did not spend enough time active, and the Phils also have the 7th pick in this draft. I would be very shocked if the Phillies, with their flaws right now, don't make at least one pick here.
- Pick up a reliever. The Phillies have been linked to Eric O'Flaherty, the Braves lefty who had Tommy John surgery this past season, and will be out til May. I like the idea of O'Flaherty, but am also very open to the Phillies going and getting someone who will cost a bit less, could be a higher reward, and probably won't require as much risk. In other words, bargain shop here, unless you can get an absolute quality deal that isn't beyond two years. Don't go big here. In fact, try and divest yourself of Papelbon's big money deal, if at all possible, even if it requires eating $8-10 million. Freeing up $16-18 million is still big for this team.
- Replace what you trade. If you trade Dom Brown, now you consider some more elite outfield bats (aka- Choo and Cruz, or others), if you move Papelbon, look at some of the free agent options, and if you move a Ruf or Hernandez, re-stock the bench.