On Wednesday, the Phillies officially welcomed Roy Halladay to the “City of Brotherly Love.” That’s a severely questionable motto considering Philadelphia has murders in the stadium parking lot over lost girls and spilled beer while other fans are shooting lasers in the eyes of Albert Pujols. Murdering is a bit extreme but who doesn’t get a little heated over losing $7.00 of spilled alcohol. The welcoming of Roy Halladay is great and will undeniably make the Phillies better over the length of his contract, but with his addition the Phillies have definitely complicated their future decision making. In no way am I insinuating that this will present future problems and make the Phillies worse in the future, more that they need to rethink their future offseason plans.
The issue that I am addressing is the retention of current players during the 2011 offseason. It is clear to everyone that a significant reason behind the Cliff Lee trade was to save money. This can be perceived as ownership being cheap, but in all reality, saving money this offseason is very crucial to the future success of the Phillies organization. Next year, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth, will all become free agent eligible. Because of this, the Phillies will need a significant amount of money to keep these players as none of them will come cheap. In a perfect world, we would resign all three of these players and keep the Phillies roster completely intact. Unfortunately, unless recent billionaire Elin Woods buys the Phillies, the Phillies will only be able to resign 2 of those players due to financial constraints.
Before last year, the Phillies rarely made blockbuster type trades to impact their major league roster. Due to this, the farm system has been particularly strong in recent years, as the Phillies minorleague system was ranked #4 at the end of 2009. This allows the Phillies some flexibility with their major league roster. A loss of an impact player on the major league squad wouldn’t necessarily affect the team too much when they have good young talent to replace them with. Due to the Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee trades, the Phillies farm system doesn’t appear as it did a week ago. This isn’t necessarily bad as they lost a few elite prospects to Toronto, but at the same time, brought in a few elite prospects from Seattle. The Phillies made an attempt to replace the players lost in the Halladay trade, but they brought in a collection of prospects that differ in style to the ones departing. This relates mostly to the departing right fielder, Michael Taylor, as he was the most major league ready and the Phillies replaced him with a younger, smaller, centerfielder, in Tyson Gillies.
As I previously stated, the Phillies are looking to retain Rollins, Victorino, and Werth after next season, but it remains unrealistic that they will be able to resign all 3. Due to this, the Phillies will have to decide on whom to let go. It is obvious that they will resign Rollins. This makes it clear that the Phillies will either lose Victorino or Werth to free agency in 2011. The decision on resigning a player comes down to multiple factors; total value brought to a team, financial demands, and the ability to be replaced.
Previous to the Lee and Halladay trades, it appeared inevitable that Werth would no longer be the Phillies starting right fielder after next season. This would in turn lead to the resigning of Victorino. The key factor in allowing Werth to walk was his ability to be replaced. The Phillies had Michael Taylor who is already major league ready, and is waiting to take over Werth’s position in 2011. It would have been an incredibly easy transition for the Phillies, as Taylor is right handed and is expected to be a great fielder while being a monster at the plate. Assuming that Taylor is as good as expected, the Phillies would lose little to nothing in terms of on field production, and they would continue with their current lineup balance in the middle of the batting order.
That was before the Phillies included Michael Taylor in the Roy Halladay deal. The departure of Taylor means that top prospect, Domonic Brown, will be expected to fill that 3rd outfield position. Brown is currently in Reading but is expected to be major league ready by next season. Brown is an incredible athlete and can play all 3 outfield positions very successfully while being able to hit anywhere in the lineup. Brown started his professional career as a leadoff centerfielder but as his power and arm have developed, the Phillies have moved him to right field and in the middle of the lineup. The most unfortunate part of losing Taylor is that he was a right handed batter that fit right into the middle of the Phillies lineup. Even though Brown is viewed as the better prospect, he is a left-handed batter. The Phillies lineup is already lefty heavy, and replacing the right handed Werth with the left handed Brown would not be an intelligent move. Phillies management is smart enough to realize this, which makes Werth’s ability to be replaced go down, and in turn increases his value to the team. Due to the ability of both Werth and Brown to play centerfield successfully, the ability to replace Victorino increases dramatically. The signing of Placido Polanco adds to that effect, as Polanco is already expected to take Victorino’s spot in the batting lineup.
The minor league player that the Phillies are theoretically replacing Taylor with is centerfielder Tyson Gillies. If you have read my previous posts, you know that I believe Gillies is going to be an incredible player and is about as good as Taylor in terms of overall prospect value. Even though Gillies is an elite prospect, he is very far from Taylor in terms of the type of player he is and his current distance from the major leagues. Taylor is a middle of the lineup type player as he is a great overall hitter and projects as someone with legitimate power, where Gillies is a leadoff type hitter who will probably never develop much power at all. As I previously stated, Taylor is major league ready right now as he finished the 2008 season in Lehigh Valley, he is likely to start for the Oakland Athletics out of spring training. Gillies, on the other hand, is only 20 years old and finished the 2009 season at high A-ball. He does appear to be a very mature baseball player for his age as he was very young for his league and performed exceptionally well. Another thing to note on Gillies is that he also is left handed so he should fit right into the left handed hitting fraternity that is the Philadelphia Phillies offense. Gillies is expected to start the season at Reading and will probably stay there the entire season. With the resigning of one of our outfielders and Brown starting his major league career, an outfield spot will not need to be filled until Ibanez leaves after the 2011 season. Assuming Gillies develops like he is expected to, he should be major league ready at that time and can take over centerfield responsibilities.
With how these trades affected the Phillies minorleague system, it appears that Werth’s value has increased whereas Victorino’s value has decreased. If the Phillies lose Werth, they will have to replace him with another right handed bat, and they would have to find that bat through free agency as no options exist internally. If you go past Domonic Brown in the Phillies farm system, the next group of outfield prospects are all centerfielders. If you line up all the key factors, Victorino appears to be the odd man out, not Werth. When it comes down to it though, money will probably hold the most weight in resigning either of these two players. Both players present great value to the Phillies but if Werth continues be bombsquad material, the Phillies may find Werth a bit too expensive.
On second thought, I don't know if I want my right fielder looking like that. Now that was a questionable decision and I immediately want Michael Taylor back in the Phillies organization.