And so the hot stove season begins. I usually spend it reading books, watching movies, and old games to feed my rather ridiculous addiction to the great sport of baseball. It's also a time to discuss signings and possible trades. So let's look at my rather controversial shopping list.
1. Melky Cabrera
Let me start by saying I'm not a sports moralist. I want Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame, same with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. I wouldn't revoke medals from Lance Armstrong. If it makes my team better, I'd gladly see Melky Cabrera signed and if he's available trade for the services of Alex Rodriguez (we'll get to that). As I watched the World Series go to Detroit and the need for the DH opened up, I would have much sooner put Cabrera there instead of Theriot or Sanchez. It didn't cost them any in the end but what if it did?
For the past two seasons (one in San Francisco, the other in Kansas City), Cabrera has been the best bat on his team. He's hit over .300 and would have won the batting title this season had the rules not been tampered with. With all the runners left on base for the Phillies lately, it would just be foolish in my opinion to ignore the option all together of adding Cabrera. Maybe it's not the direction they go, but they need outfield help and it's clear that he's the best option available in the market.
Unless that Darin Ruf for Curtis Granderson craziness has weight.
2. Alex Rodriguez
Who knows if Rodriguez is available or not? I don't see how the Yankees can just dump the contract due to poor postseason play but I also don't see how they can't after he became such a public story. It was more public than the games themselves. So, in the event that the Yankees are willing to eat most of the contract (which they'd have to), the Phillies should absolutely entertain adding Rodriguez.
More likely they go after Eric Chavez as a platoon for Frandsen which also makes perfect sense and has been written about on here. I'd certainly think that's more realistic and a nice fit as a platoon with Kevin Frandsen.
3. Ryan Madson
Through all the issues that the '12 Phillies had, the one that bit them most was the eighth inning. Bullpen was a serious issue. Why not bring back the best 8th inning guy in the Phillies recent history? Madson is coming off a season where he did not pitch due to Tommy John. True there were some raw emotions between him and the Phillies when they decided to sign Papelbon but I think adding Madson is possible and essential.
4. Jeremy Guthrie, Joe Saunders, or Joe Blanton
Starting depth kind of came in to question at the end of the season. Roy Halladay was iffy, Vance Worley got elbow surgery, Joe Blanton was traded, and we're left with a lot of question marks in the starting rotation next season.
The three I mentioned are all plausible back end starter options, assuming Amaro doesn't go into ace mode and signs Dan Haren (who really isn't much of an ace but a decent mid rotation arm) or Greinke. I'm not seeing that happening at all so the second tier is probably where the addition would come from.
5. Derek Lowe
Since the glory days of 2009's bullpen campaign from Chan Ho Park, the Phillies have lacked a solid, veteran, multi-purpose reliever. I think to ink Lowe, you'd have to promise him a shot at the rotation in Spring Training and that's fine yet his numbers as a reliever in the Bronx were much more promising. Either way, I see him being a nice addition on a one year deal.
Health is probably the most important thing here. Last year the Phillies were missing their two best hitters for far too long. The season was almost a lost cause by the time Utley and Howard came aboard. Credit to them for making it interesting down the stretch but the injury bug bit hard with those two for the second year in a row. Getting them to stay healthy and into game shape for next season is huge, possibly more huge than anything I mentioned above.
So there's my list. It figures to be one of the more interesting off seasons of recent years so I'm very anxious to see where the team ends up when it's time to report to Clearwater. Until then, enjoy the discussion and take time to dive in to the history and the science of the sport. There's plenty to enjoy in the winter months ahead.