The Phillies are a pitching based team, at least on paper, and frankly that starting pitching isn't as awe-inspiring as it was a year ago at this time. Roy Halladay is coming off one of his worst years, is over 35 years old, and had injury issues. Vance Worley struggled with health and performance issues in 2012. While Kyle Kendrick actually had reasonably good success for a second straight season as a starter, he's still Kyle Kendrick (or a fifth starter type, if you will). That leaves just Cole Hamels, who is now signed and going nowhere, and Cliff Lee, who has three years left on his mega deal. A lot of people think Cliff was disappointing in 2012, but that's only if you live in 1955 and still measure a pitcher by wins and losses. He was top ten in many statistical categories amongst starters in the National League, and remains an elite starter.
With those sobering facts in front of you, I don't see how anyone in their right-mind could have advocated for dealing him, even for a very talented player like Justin Upton. Yes, you improve a weak offense, but you turn the pitching staff into a total question mark, if not a new weakness. Sure, you could hypothetically say "go sink $160 million into Greinke," which won't happen, but that's a big if. Dealing Lee pretty much means the Phillies staff would have to have Halladay and Worley return to 2011 form to even compete with the staff down in Washington. In other words, trading Lee isn't just a bad omen for future free agents we seek, it's also bad baseball. Fortunately, Ruben Amaro also says so in this case. Oh yeah, and just to top it off- why pay money to have Lee pitch elsewhere?
If the Lee rumor wasn't enough, now there's people talking up Nick Swisher. Are you kidding me? I happen to think that every player in Yankees Stadium and Fenway gets overhyped to begin with, but Swisher? This is the height of it. I could possibly deal with him in Philly on a one year deal that isn't overly-lucreative, but for me that's not even ideal. Swisher is ok. Signing him and paying him is barely an upgrade on starting Mayberry in center, frankly, so why bother?
I know I've pretty much been a downer on everything but signing Josh Hamilton so far (he is the best player available, and we are a mega-market), but that's because most of the players signed so far are not worth anywhere near what they got. B.J. Upton getting $75 million? Shane Victorino getting $39 million for three years? Angel Pagan getting $40 million for four years actually looks like the most reasonable deal out there at this winter so far, which is scary since I'd never go four years for Pagan. Apparently Michael Bourn wants more money than Upton. Considering we offered Upton $20 million less than he got, that means Ruben probably thinks Bourn is overpricing himself too.
At this point, I see the options as fairly straight forward:
- Sign Hamilton, start him in Center for the year, and move him over to left-field late in games when Mayberry subs in. Play Dom Brown in right, Darin Ruf in left, and keep Nix and Mayberry around to sub in.
- Pony up the high price for Bourn, still start the two youngsters, and have a similar situation. Then you probably also have to put some money into a third base option that can hit in the five hole area, possibly by trade.
- Sign Ichiro, put him in right, put Brown in center, and Ruf in left. Stick with the same bench.
- Make a trade, and possibly overpay in a seller's market.