ESPN’s Jayson Stark Lists Philadelphia Phillies As Off-Season Loser Thus Far


Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sport

The MLB winter meetings wrapped up yesterday, and despite many Phillies-connected rumors, the only thing that the Phillies did worth noting at the meetings, is sign a potential back-end of the rotation starter, in Roberto Hernandez. Couple that with the signing of  surprising signing of Marlon Byrd, questionable re-signing of Carlos Ruiz, and direction of the team, or lack there of, and you come to the conclusion that the  off-season hasn’t been too good for the Phils thus far.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark agreed with my take, as he listed the Phillies as his number two biggest loser of the off-season so far, as he broke down the winners, losers, and wait-and-sees, of the MLB off-season after the MLB winter meetings.

"What we have here is a team that can’t say the word “rebuild.” So the Phillies have signed three free-agent position players (Marlon Byrd, Carlos Ruiz and Wil Nieves) who will all begin next season at 34 or older. They signed a 33-year-old starter (Roberto “Don’t Call Me Fausto” Hernandez) whose 5.03 ERA over the past six seasons is the second-highest (behind Luke Hochevar) in baseball among pitchers with 800-plus innings."

I’ve been Ruben Amaro’s biggest critic, but I didn’t have a problem with signing Nieves, because he is a very good defensive catcher, and it really doesn’t matter how old he is, because he is a one or two year option. Getting younger doesn’t start at the backup catcher position. Certainly he is an improvement over Erik Kratz.

Along the same lines, how can you kill the Roberto Hernandez signing? When he was young in Cleveland, he was an elite pitcher behind CC Sabbathia. Since then he has struggled mightily, but the Phillies didn’t sign him to be that pitcher. The Phillies signed him to be a back end of the rotation starter, and who knows, maybe he performs at a higher level than they expected. If not, his contract is heavily incentive laden, so you won’t give up a ton if he struggles.

The Marlon Byrd deal is a wait and see I guess. I didn’t like the deal originally because I wasn’t a fan of Marlon Byrd in his first stint in Philly, and I’m not sure last season wasn’t a a complete fluke. If he is able to hit .290 and over 20 plus homeruns next season, then the deal will be a pretty decent deal. If not, then my original dislike of the deal, will only become stronger.

The Carlos Ruiz deal is bound to be a disaster, and I don’t just mean at the end of the deal. Giving a three-year deal to a catcher that is soon-to-be 35 years-old, has declining ability at the plate for numerous reasons, and wasn’t quite as sharp behind the plate as usual last year, has to be one of the worst ideas the I have ever heard. The Phillies could have signed Robinson Cano to a $240 million deal, and I don’t think I would have disliked the contract as much as I do with Ruiz’s.

Stark went on with why he has disliked the Phillies off-season so much, discussing rumors from this week’s winter meetings.

"And amid all that, they floated the names of Jonathan Papelbon, Cliff Lee and Domonic Brown as potential trade bait, to the confusion of many."

I view the idea of trading Papelbon completely different than Lee or Brown. Papelbon first off, blew seven saves last year, and has two-years and $26 million left on his contract. Papelbon has also shown signs of becoming a clubhouse malcontent and distraction, which isn’t something the Phillies want in the clubhouse.  I think moving him, even if you have to sign another closer and it ends up being more expensive, could be the best way to avoid clubhouse drama if the Phillies start slow next season.

The idea of even floating Domonic Brown’s name out there makes absolutely no sense to me. People may fear that his 2013 breakout season was a fluke, but until we see him play another full season, there’s no way to determine that.

I was never against the idea of trying to move Cliff Lee, but it just doesn’t make sense to me given the Byrd and Ruiz signings. You didn’t sign two guys that are going to be over 35 at the start of the 2014 season, to begin a rebuilding process. I was against both signings, but if you are going to make them and try to compete, then it doesn’t make sense to even listen to trade offers for the guy who was the best player on your team a year ago.

According to Stark, “an A.L. executive” (and likely the rest of the MLB) agrees with my thoughts on the Phillies lack of organizational direction.

"“I just don’t understand exactly what they’re doing,” said one AL exec. “If you’re seriously trying to win, you don’t do it this way. And if you’re trying to get younger, you don’t do it this way. At some point, they’ve got to pick a direction and go with it.”"