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What Are the Phillies Doing?

Summing up the winter so far for the defending World Series champions:

*Signed OF Raul Ibanez to a three-year, $31.5 million contract (replacing Pat Burrell).

*Signed RHP Chan Ho Park to a one-year, $2.5 million contract.

*Re-signed 46-year-old Jamie Moyer to a two-year, $13 million contract.

And that, apparently, is going to do it for the Phillies. Good night, everyone. See you in spring training.

My, my. There are so many problems with this. Let's take it from the top:

*Ibanez. The Phillies' management must really hate Burrell, because in essentially swapping him for Ibanez, the team just got older (Ibanez is 36, Burrell 32) and more left-handed, while improving themselves only slightly (if at all) defensively and not at all offensively. In the process, they may have saved themselves only $5 million or so per year (assuming Burrell actually gets the $16 million per season he is seeking).

Burrell was a terrible fielder and a streaky hitter (and, I must add, a nightmare for the media), but he was beloved in the clubhouse (read Chase Utley's comments here) and served an important purpose, because of his right-handed bat -- counter-acting the extreme left-handedness of the heart of the Phillies' order, namely Utley and Howard.

Now, unless Manager Charlie Manuel gets really creative, he will have Utley, Howard and Ibanez all hitting within a spot or two of each other in the order, making it laughingly easy for opposing managers to neutralize them with lefty relievers late in games. For their careers, Howard's OPS against lefties is 279 points lower than it is against right-handers; Utley's is 57 points lower, and Ibanez's is 116 points lower.

Why not just bring Burrell back at a slightly higher cost, or else get somebody cheaper (and right-handed) to play left field instead?

*Signing Park is fine, as long as you don't guarantee him money, and as long as you don't expect him to be in your rotation. Oops. The Phillies fail on both counts. Despite somehow winning a World Series with a rotation of Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Moyer, Joe Blanton and an assortment of fifth starters, the Phillies desperately needed to make a rotation upgrade. It is their weakest area. Derek Lowe would have qualified as an upgrade. Chan Ho Park does not.

*Nothing against Moyer. Amazing pitcher, great human being. But do you really want to be guaranteeing him $6.5 million in a season in which he will turn 48, as he will in 2010? Ruben Amaro Jr., be honest here.

"There's no question it's a concern," Amaro, the Phillies' new GM told reporters yesterday. "For us to go two years guaranteed, I think shows our commitment to him."

Well, it certainly shows something.

By Dave Sheinin  |  December 16, 2008; 8:49 AM ET
 
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Comments

The Phils are just having their "I'm Keith Hernandez" moment.

"improving themselves only slightly (if at all) defensively and not at all defensively" - hunh?

Posted by: ilikeike | December 16, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

It's not exactly a big splash, but it's not as you depict it.

Burrell isn't good defensively, or on the basepaths, and is only going to get worse. Ibanez is pretty much where he's going to be. We'll see about the South Philly Southpaw lineup, that does leave them vulnerable.

As for Chan Ho Park. They've got 4 young guys competing for the 5th spot in their rotation, Park will be in that mix and then likely be their long reliever.

For Moyer, see the statement about all the young pitchers. Moyer is a huge reason why Cole Hamels settled down, signing Moyer is like getting a starter and an assistant coach. And it's not like he ran out of gas in October.

Posted by: kolbkl | December 16, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Well said, kolbkl.

Chan Ho Park will not be a starter unless there is some kind of major meltdown and major injuries to the staff. He had a great year for LA in their bullpen. He really impressed in the NLCS and clearly made an impression on the Phils.

Re-signing Jaime Moyer was #1 on the Phils' to-do list this off season. This guy can pitch as long as he has the desire. His finesse approach to pitching does not make him a strong candidate for injury. As long as he wants to play, he will and he will be effective. He is worth his weight in gold.

I don't think the Phils are done. They still might make a move for a starting pitcher, but don't expect them to add a big name or someone expensive. That is not the Philly philosophy.

Yes, the Phils front office hates Pat Burrell and his crazy asking price. If he was smart, he would have taken whatever the Phils thought he was worth. A six pack of beer, a better parking space, whatever. He is not going to get a big contract in this market. He will regret leaving Philly.

You can expect Jason Werth, Pedro Feliz, or Victorino in the heart of the order this season to break up the lefty bats in front of Ibanez. I like the move. Ibanez can hit and could do big things at Citizens Bank Park, coming from pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | December 16, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

The Ibanez signing by the Phillies made no sense. I'm a big Ibanez fan, but he is arugably worse than Burrell in left. You point out the batting order problems. He's a good hitter, and at this point in his career (maybe 3 years ago), he should be a DH. If he came to the NL, I kind of expected a team to look at him for 1st. He's played nearly a season there over his career, although not inrecent years due to the presence of Sexson and other immobile objects in Seattle.

Ibanez has always been clear he wanted 3 years, $10 m per year. Seattle balked and let him walk. I expected the money would come from Arte Moreno, but Reagins may have been holding back and trying to go fewer years (2 plus an option). I think the Phillies gave him what he wanted, so he took it, rather than wait for Reagins to raise his offer.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | December 17, 2008 9:27 AM | Report abuse

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