The Phillies have been plotting their course of action for the offseason since the final pitch of Game 5 of the National League Division Series. That pitch resulted in Ryan Howard’s crumpled figure along the first base line while all of Citizens Bank Park and Phillies Nation stared in disbelief while the St. Louis Cardinals celebrated their victory. Eventually that Cardinals team would win the NLCS and the 2011 World Series but it felt like the entire Phillies universe remained stunned in that final moment of shock and awe. It was painful on so many levels to fall short in the 2009 World Series, 2010 NLCS and 2011 NLDS.
BUMPS-N-BRUISES: One month later, Ryan Howard has undergone surgery as have Placido Polanco and Hunter Pence (hernias) and rehabililitation will rule the offseason for Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Polanco and Pence – all of whom will be ready for Opening Day. Howard’s rehabilitation will last well into May and he might not be back at the first base sack with the Phillies until after Memorial Day. The field will be silent until February’s Spring Training but the Hot Stove season has begun and the Phillies brass have a lot of important decisions to make.
FREE-FOR-ALL: 148 major league players became free agents this past Sunday and while players could begin signing with other teams as early as 12:01 a.m. ET Thursday, there is scarce movement to sign free agents quickly. The November Owners Meetings will help jump start that process after decisions are made regarding draft pick compensation for Type A vs. Type B free agents. There may also be some discussion about amending the rules governing Rule 5 Draft as well as salary arbitration proceedings in accordance with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
SHOPPING SPREE: All of these are essentially labor issues which should retard the trigger finger for most MLB general managers, but it will not prevent teams from window shopping before the holiday season. Eventually Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, Aramis Ramirez, Roy Oswalt, Mark Buerhle, CJ Wilson and Heath Bell will find homes for the 2012 season and beyond – whether familiar or new surroundings – and all will increase their financial portfolios in the process. CC Sabathia has been taken off the market by extending with the Yankees and Derek Lowe has been dealt from Atlanta to Cleveland but that leaves hundreds of questions unanswered. The real question may not be whether or not these players and teams can develop happy marriages under new contracts, rather what the repercussions may be in the divorce and settlement proceedings.
Believe it or not, the Phillies have more than just free agency to worry about:
• LUCKY 7: The Phillies have seven free agents: Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge, Raul Ibanez, Brian Schneider and Ross Gload. Rollins & Madson are the club’s top two priorities, although both will prove extrremely challenging. Rollins has a very definite idea of the type of contract he seeks (4 or 5 years @ $15M per season) while Madson joins Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell and Joe Nathan on the open market. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said they will continue to talk with both Oswalt and Lidge about coming back – already declining their mutual and player options. For Oswalt or Lidge to return it would have to be at a reduced rate and in a reduced role but it is more likely that one or both of these veterans will return in 2012 than it would be to see both Madson and Rollins in Phillies pinstripes. If the club plans to get younger – which they have stated publicly – it seems likely the team will part ways with Ibanez, Gload, Schneider and Roy Oswalt (who average 35+ years of age). Carlos Ruiz’s backup is a fairly easy job barring injury and Ross Gload’s Phillies tenure ended when the club re-signed former Phillie and future Hall of Famer Jim Thome. Veteran INF Pete Orr has been re-signed to an extended minor league contract but many decisions remain regarding Phillies free agent needs.
• RYNO MACK LOTTO: Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin is interviewing for the Red Sox’s managerial vacancy. If he leaves, Philadelphia could promote Triple-A Lehigh Valley manager Ryne Sandberg to take his place – unless Sandberg is offered a chance to fill a managerial vacancy in St. Louis or Chicago. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sandberg interview for the Red Sox and Cardinals vacancies while new Cubs President Theo Epstein has stated he is seeking someone with major league managing experience to replace Mike Quade in Wrigleyville. Some say that Sandberg was signed last season as the eventual successor for Charlie Manuel but Sandberg might have to turn down a major league managing offer for one year of tutoring as Manuel’s right hand.
• BRASS BAILOUT: Phillies big league scout Jim Fregosi Jr. left the organization to become special assistant to the GM in Kansas City. The club has elevated scout Dave Hollins to take Fregosi’s place. Hollins had been a special assignment scout. Likewise, Assistant GM Scott Proefrock is being considered for the Baltimore Orioles open GM spot and Chuck LaMarr has been rumored to join the GM group in Toronto. The Phillies presumably will need to fill each of these positions.
• TAPE JOB: Assistant athletic trainer Mark Andersen has resigned citing personal reasons. The Phillies will need to find his replacement after years of loyal service.
• DEVELOPMENTAL DO-SI-DO: Double-A Reading manager Mark Parent has left to become bench coach with the White Sox under rookie manager Robin Ventura. The Phillies hired Andy Tracy as a Minor League manager, although it’s unclear what team he will manage. Should Sandberg assume the major league bench coach role or be offered a major league managerial position there would be vacancies at both the AA (Reading) and AAA (Lehigh Valley) levels. Once everything settles, they will be able to assign those roles and source additional candidates to fill these vacancies.
Something Old, Something New http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/11/05/something-old-something-new-2/
Phillies Future Tense http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/10/28/phillies-future-tense/
Papelbon Jigs for Phillies http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/11/12/papelbon-jigs-for-phillies/
During the MLB offseason, one of PSB’s Philadelphia Phillies beat writers will offer a weekly posting regarding Phillies news. These postings will likely be on weekends unless breaking news occurs.
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