Ten questions facing the Phils in 2010
Zolecki breaks down the club's key issues entering the year
PHILADELPHIA -- It once again has been a short, but busy offseason for the Phillies.
Playing in two consecutive World Series can do that.
Let's see, so far this offseason the Phillies have acquired a Cy Young winner, traded a Cy Young winner, signed a new third baseman, replaced 60 percent of their bench and had a few players in the hospital for surgeries.
That leave you with a lot of questions?
Here are 10 questions on the minds of Phillies fans as 2010 approaches:
10. Could the Phillies have had Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in the rotation?
Ruben Amaro Jr. said they could have, but he said they needed to restock the farm system. And he said he needed to trade a talent like Lee to make it happen. I've been asked a lot about this being a simple salary dump, but it wasn't. If Amaro were told, "You can get Halladay just as long as you clear $9 million from the payroll," he could have found other ways to trim the budget. He could have traded Joe Blanton, who could make $7 million or more, and somebody like Greg Dobbs, who will make $1.35 million. There's almost $9 million right there, and you still have Lee on the roster. But Amaro chose prospects over a 2010 super rotation with Halladay, Lee and Cole Hamels. Was that the right call? In the short term, we won't know until we see how Hamels bounces back from a disappointing 2009. In the long term, we won't know until we see what happens with Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez. If the three prospects contribute -- really, truly contribute at the big league level -- in a few years, then maybe it was. But if they don't, fans always will be wondering what if? But if the Phillies had to choose between getting Halladay, whom they could sign to a three-year extension, or keeping Lee and watching him walk after the season, they made the right call. Halladay is arguably one of the top two pitchers in baseball, and they have him through 2013.
9. What should fans expect from Roy Halladay?
A whole lot. Halladay has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for years, and he achieved his success pitching in the American League East against the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. Those are tough lineups. He should have an easier time in the National League. Since the beginning of the 2002 season, Halladay is 15-6 with a 2.71 ERA in 28 appearances (27 starts) against the NL. I would expect him to put up similar numbers next season and be a top three finisher for the NL Cy Young Award.
8. Will Cole Hamels bounce back?
I think he will. Nothing seemed to go right for him in 2009. He acknowledged he did not have the best offseason preparation as he made the World Series MVP circuit. He suffered an elbow injury in Spring Training, which set him back. He got hit in the back with a line drive in April and sprained his ankle in his next start. Things started to snowball, and he seemed to lose his focus and poise on the mound. I remember his first big league start in Cincinnati in 2006. Veterans like Rheal Cormier were amazed at his poise. He seemed to lose that last season. Things bothered him more. If he comes to Spring Training in good shape and in the right frame of mind -- and he develops a third pitch -- he should be fine.
7. Will Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero be ready to start the season?
Both are recovering from elbow surgeries, so Amaro has said there is a chance they won't. But Amaro also said if they aren't ready to start the season, they should be ready a short time after the season starts. The Phillies better hope so.
6. How concerned should fans be about the bullpen?
It remains to be seen. If Lidge and Romero come back healthy, and if Amaro does a good job filling the remaining holes, they should be OK. But right now, I think the bullpen is the team's biggest concern. It went 0-1 with a 5.74 ERA and one blown save in the World Series. It needs to be better than that.
5. Who is going to be the fifth starter?
Jamie Moyer is the guy, but who knows? He has been in and out of the hospital since October and is scheduled to have a minor knee surgery next month. He also struggled last season to the point that Amaro signed Pedro Martinez to take his job in the rotation. If Moyer isn't the man, Kyle Kendrick appears to be next in line.
4. Which Raul Ibanez will show up to play?
Ibanez was one of the best hitters in baseball the first half of the season. He hit .340 (67-for-197) with 19 home runs, 51 RBIs, a .399 on-base percentage and a .716 slugging percentage in 50 games through June 2, but just .228 (69-for-303) with 15 homers, 42 RBIs, a .313 on-base and a .446 slugging in his final 84 games. He had sports-hernia surgery after the season. The injury could have affected his play in the second half, but there is no question the Phillies need a more productive Ibanez than the one that played the second half of the season. They don't need first-half Ibanez, although they would take it. They just need a happy medium between the two.
3. Can the Phillies sign Jayson Werth to a contract extension?
Jason Bay could sign a four-year, $64 million contract with the Mets. You've got to think Werth will be able to command a similar contract once he becomes a free agent after next season. And I'm not sure if the Phillies can match that. They've got a ton of free agents coming after the 2011 season, so they will have to determine who they can keep and for how much. The Phillies also have top prospect Domonic Brown coming through the system, but it is unclear if he will he be ready to play every day at the big league level by 2011. But Werth is a rare talent: he can hit for power, he can run, he plays good defense. He would be tough to replace, which is why it would be good to have him around for a while longer.
2. How good will Placido Polanco be at third base?
It's funny. A few years ago every Phillies fan in the world criticized the Phillies because they traded Polanco to Detroit instead of keeping him as their third baseman. But now that they brought him back to be their third baseman, some fans are wondering how well he will play defensively I think he should be fine. He has played there before. He has good hands. He can make the throw to first. Will he be as good as Pedro Feliz? Probably not, but I think Polanco is a major upgrade offensively. Polanco is a career .300 hitter who is nearly impossible to strike out. I think the Phillies need a guy like that in the lineup.
1. Is the team better?
Halladay is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Polanco is an upgrade over Feliz. And I think the bench is much improved with Ross Gload, Brian Schneider and Juan Castro. Of course, the Phillies still need to improve the bullpen, but if Amaro finds the right piece I think it is possible to say the team is stronger than the one that cleaned out their lockers following Game 6 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.