It was a very entertaining offseason for the World Series Champions, with a pitcher being suspended 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance (J.C. Romero), two players with offseason surgery (Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz), to a pitcher having his assets frozen due to the Stanford scandal and received an undisclosed contract advance from the team (Scott Eyre).
With a pitching rotation set with 4 returning starters, the only open spot is for the 5th starter. Chan Ho Park, Kyle Kendrick, Carlos Carrasco and J.A. Happ are among the contenders for the spot. While Kendrick and Carrasco have struggled, Park and Happ appear to be the front runners. Park is the only one with MLB experience pitching in relief, which might be the best spot for him at the moment. The Phils could use another lefty in the pen while Romero is out, but Happ was terrible in relief last season.
Though Utley and Feliz are still out with injuries, there is a good chance both will be able to start on opening day. Assuming they play, the only new starter will be left fielder Raul Ibanez, who was signed to a 3 year contract worth $31.5 million. Already having Utley and Ryan Howard as left handed bats and losing Pat Burrell, I am not sure I am totally on board at the moment with his signing.
Ibanez hit .305 last year against left handed pitching, which was a lot better than his .268 career batting average against lefties. My concern is that right fielder Jayson Werth has not yet proved that he can be a full time OF. If he struggles, their only other right handed power hitter is Jimmy Rollins. Another concern is that bringing in another left handed bat causes some issues considering the 3 best players coming off of the bench all bat left (and do not hit lefties well): Greg Dobbs, Geoff Jenkins and Matt Stairs. With right handed hitting John Mayberry Jr. hitting well in the Grapefruit League, should he make the opening day roster?
Is Ibanez a better option than a Mayberry/Jenkins/Stairs platoon? Dobbs could be thrown into the mix, but it seems like he may see some more time at 3B.Â Mayberry might be better off with a full year in AAA.
Stairs has gained folk hero status in Philly due to his key HR vs the Dodgers in the playoffs, but he could be the odd man if they choose to keep more utility type players (especially if Utley is not ready on opening day). Dobbs was the best pinch hitter in baseball last year and Jenkins is owed $8 million this season (including a buyout which the team will likely exercise at the end of the year).
You cannot fault new GM Ruben Amaro in trying to quickly find a replacement for Burrell. The Braves signed LF Garrett Anderson for one year, $2.5 million. Though he was not an option, Bobby Abreu signed for one year, $5 million. If you put both Abreu and Andersonâ€™s stats next to Ibanez, I do not see much of a difference. Would Anderson have been a better option? I would have preferred they sign a right handed bat that could platoon with Stairs and Jenkins.
I had a bad feeling about when they signed Adam Eaton and Geoff Jenkins to big contracts (and even wrote about my disagreement with the Jenkins signing in my first blog here last season).
I just hope Ibanez does not turn out the same way.
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Written by Steve Quinto