It has been a relatively busy week for the Phillies. They hired Juan Samuel to replace Davey Lopes on the coaching staff. They signed or agreed to terms with a few notable Minor League free agents and searched to fill vacancies on their Minor League coaching staff – which could conclude with Ryne Sandberg and Mickey Morandini joining the organization. This is before General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. heads to Orlando for the annual general managers meetings, which run Tuesday through Thursday. The meetings coincide with quarterly owners meetings, so club president David Montgomery will be in attendance, as well. Commissioner Bud Selig will also be on hand as the game’s big wheels get together. Behind the scenes the Phillies also have been contacting free agents to fill the big league roster. No names have been released yet.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Friday the priority remains upgrading the bullpen. It is believed the Phillies would like to re-sign right-handers Jose Contreras and Chad Durbin, although Amaro said he is still making decisions on those. The Phillies will need to find a left-handed reliever. The top name on the market is Scott Downs, although he is a Type A free agent. It seems very unlikely the Phillies would forfeit their first-round Draft pick to sign a relief pitcher.
“Typically we would not, but it depends on the situation,” Amaro said. “I do not like the depth of the left-handers out there. The other 29 teams are looking for the same thing.” Other left-handers on the market include Pedro Feliciano and Brian Fuentes. Either would be an upgrade over J.C. Romero who is back on the free agent market.
Everybody remains fixed on the future of free-agent right fielder Jayson Werth, although he is not expected to return. ESPN.com quoted a Phillies source this week saying the Phillies have zero chance of resigning Werth.
“It didn’t come from anybody I know,” Amaro said. “It’s not something I authorized. It didn’t come from my mouth. That’s not how I feel about it, and I’m the GM as far as I know. We have not closed the doors.”
Amaro added the Phillies will not wait forever and confirms that they are considering “alternative realities” for 2011. Rumors already abound regarding such names as Magglio Ordonez, Carl Crawford, Jose Bautista and Xavier Nady. Amaro at this point is not precluding the possibility of any free agent but suggests that he is more likely to consider one high ticket free agent rather than a collection of secondary choices. Other names out there include Jose Guillen, Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero. Secondary choices could be players like Kevin Mench, Jeff Franceour, Brandon Moss, Gary Matthews, Jr., Jermey Hermida or Jason Kubel. Amaro has not precluded the possibility of a trade, likely for Carlos Beltran, Carlos Quentin or any other players looking to play for a contender. Trades are less likely as the Phillies farm system seems bereft of blue chip bait, but perhaps something could be worked out regarding Raul Ibanez and Ben Francisco or a combination of pitchers.
The Phillies are trying to reconstruct their bullpen and maybe find a right-handed bat to help replace Jayson Werth in right field. In the meantime, they are desperate to replenish their Minor League system. They recently signed infielder Pete Orr, who hit .260 in five seasons in the big leagues with Atlanta and Washington, to a Minor League contract. He spent 2010 with Triple-A Syracuse, hitting .264 with 32 doubles, eight triples, 12 home runs and 45 RBIs in 489 at-bats. In his career, Orr has played second base, third base, shortstop and all three outfield positions. The Phillies also re-signed catcher Dane Sardinha, who hit .205 with three homers and eight RBIs in 13 games with Philadelphia. He hit .207 with five homers and 24 RBIs in 67 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Orr should prove to be a valuable pickup, possibly serving as a utility player in the Majors while Sardinha is blocked by All-World Carlos “Me So Happy” Ruiz and veteran receiver Brian Schneider.
Phillies verbally agreed to Minor League contracts with right-handed pitcher Eddie Bonine, who spent last season in the Tigers’ bullpen, and catcher Erik Kratz, who appeared in nine games with the Pirates. Bonine, 29, went 4-1 with a 4.63 ERA in 47 appearances (one start) in 2010. He could compete for a bullpen job in Spring Training as a non-roster invitee or begin the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He is a swingman-type pitcher who could provide the Phillies versatility in a pinch.
Bonine has a fastball flirting with 90 mph, but he also throws a knuckleball. He went 7-3 with a 4.74 ERA in 62 appearances (10 starts) in three seasons in Detroit. He went 49-39 with a 4.52 ERA in 197 appearances (109 starts) in his Minor League career.
Kratz, 30, hit .118 (4-for-34) with one RBI for the Pirates. He hit .274 with nine homers and 41 RBIs in 70 games with Triple-A Indianapolis.
Phillies fans everywhere hope that this “garbage collection mentality” will not permeate the Phillies front office. Back in the days of Ed “The Collector” Wade the Phillies were famous for going to the scrap heap in free agency. Fortunately in the Pat Gillick/Ruben Amaro Era that has not been the case, bringing in the likes of Placido Polanco, Roy Halladay, Brad Lidge, Brian Schneider, Raul Ibanez, Matt Stairs, Geoff Jenkins and Jamie Moyer. Then again, reclamation projects are generally less expensive and the payroll is already ballooning.
Questions abound regarding the bullpen, starting pitching, outfield and the bench for 2011. It is likely that Domonic Brown will start the season in the majors, as could John Mayberry, Jr., Scot Matheison, Antonio Bstardo, Vance Worley and Cody Ransom. However, Amaro and Manager Charlie Manuel know that choosing the right free agent – either to replace Werth or augment the pitching staff – could be the lynchpin to another World Series run. Whether it is Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona or Rafael Soriano, the money needs to be there and the 40-man roster must be filled. Can a team with a payroll north of $145M really ake a free agent splash with Ramirez or Ordonez? Can they afford not to and hope that last year’s AAA squad fills the gaps?
“We’re not going to have these things in any deal we may or may not be able to do…” mused Amaro ” … preclude us from doing some other things we might have to do. We will explore all reasonable options.”
Charlie Manuel will turn 67 in January and though he has invoked Joe Paterno’s name in talking about his desire to manage into his 80s, it probably won’t happen.
Manuel, who is signed through 2011, should receive a contract extension in the coming weeks. The Phillies skipper is in good physical condition and it is not difficult to envision him staying on the job until he retires.
That day is likely to come sometime in the next handful of years and when it does the Phillies, in much the same way they turn an eye toward Domonic Brown as Werth moves on, want to have some options when they look for Manuel’s successor.
There seems to be a concerted effort in the organization to develop some strong manager and coaching prospects at the minor-league level. Mark Parent and Dusty Wathan have already emerged as promising skippers in the system and the pool could be deepened with the finalization of the minor-league staff.
Former Phils second baseman Mickey Morandini is expected to join the player-development staff as a manager or instructor and highly regarded Jeff Manto, who managed in the Phils’ system before becoming Pittsburgh’s hitting coach, is also being considered for a position. The list of candidates also includes Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, who we’ve discussed though he may still get a big-league opportunity elsewhere. Juan Samuel was just hired as the Phillies new third base coach and the name Larry Bowa surfaces often. Samuel and Bowa each have major league managing experience while Sandberg has been very successful for AAA Iowa.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org