This last Friday was a usual day in the sense that I woke up, poured myself a cup of good coffee, and prepared for MLB Inside the Numbers as I usually do. The show was going as it usually does when my good friend Bryan Yates threw me a curve ball (no pun).
He asked me how I felt about this year's version of the Philadelphia Phillies, and whether or not I felt like they were good enough to be the third best team in the N.L. East. My initial reaction was no.
Why would I think that?
The Phillies needed a late-season blitz to finish at .500 and when it came to improvements, the Phillies only managed to put lipstick on their outdated pig of a roster. There were too many question marks surrounding injuries heading into spring training 2013 for me to feel comfortable with this team moving forward.
As I usually do, I took a deeper look at this team. Not just the roster, but also the front-office. As it turned out, I saw something very much in common with these Philadelphia Phillies and many other losing teams across Major League Baseball. They have entrusted baseball operations to a complete moron.
Let's start from the top shall we?
#1. Injury Concerns. As I stated many times over the last two seasons, GM Ruben Amaro Jr has banked much of his Phillies' teams success on a core of aging veterans (the projected 25-man roster averages an age 30.6). His starting 2B, 1B, C, #1 starter, and #2 starter all missed significant time in 2012 due to various injuries (260 games to be exact). With that core of five on the wrong side of their prime, the injury concerns increase. The question then gets asked; can you trust Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to be able to give this lineup 120 games this season without any DL stint longer than 15 days? If I were a betting man, I would be laying my money down on the over.
#2. Barely Marginal Upgrades. Alright, so Ben Revere was a nice pick up. When you factor in what the Phillies gave up for Revere, one comes away thinking the Twins sold very low on a guy who be around for at least seven seasons. Add one into the Phillies plus column. Outside of Revere though, that is where the Phillies waters muddy considerably. Amaro should've headed into this off-season with the understanding that his franchise was old and lacked the depth to sustain multiple injuries. So naturally reacting the way he always does, Amaro ignored better judgment and got older.
Worse though, he got older in areas he couldn't afford to. Trading for 36 year-old 3B Michael Young (.312 OBP, .682 OPS, wRC+ 78, and a -1.4 WAR) and signing 29 year-old journeyman #5 starter John Lannan, who spent most of his 2012 at AAA Syracuse (9-11, 4.30 ERA, 1.439 WHIP in 148.2 IP).
Add two checks in the minus column. Amaro then figured it maybe a good idea to saddle his defense and lineup with an overweight (and terrible) Delmon Young, (add another minus check), as well as sign a questionable bullpen piece in Mike Adams (questionable to start the season recovering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery).
I'll give Mike Adams a half point because no one knows how Adams will bounce back. I'd like to think the benefit of the doubt is in order here. So let's tally this up, 1.5 points to the good, and 3 points to the negative. Not a bad off-season Ruben. Not bad at all (sarcasm).
#3. Lack of Minor League Depth. It goes without saying that an organization with a rich minor league system will be able to withstand a barrage of different issues. Unfortunately for the Philadelphia Phillies, they lack a good system (ranked #27 in 2012 by Baseball America) for that saying to be true. I will give Amaro some credit here, he did try to bring in an influx of minor league talent with the mid-season dealings of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence (they also dealt Joe Blanton this off-season). But quantity doesn't overshadow the lack of quality the Phillies received in return.
Only one player (Tommy Joseph) cracked their organizational top 10, while most ended up being AA or AAA filler (which is actually important). It's far cry from just four years earlier when former GM Pat Gillick boasted baseball's #12th best minor league system.
My point is, this has been a downward trending Phillies team ever since Ruben Amaro Jr took over for Pat Gillick in 2009. Not only has he entrusted his team to aging veterans, but he's also neglected the minor league system to the point it can't sustain multiple injuries. The 2013 Philadelphia Phillies have not only got older, but it also may have gotten worse in the process. Sure it has the star power, but that is only goes so far as the ticket revenue. A lot of stars and moons will have to align for this Phillies team to stay healthy enough to contend when it matters. Unfortunately, this is baseball and something always happens along the way to September. With this team, that would be age and attrition catching up with them. And I'm not just talking about on the field either.