The Phillies may yet be the class of the National League, but it’s no thanks to GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s moves so far this winter.
Already Amaro has committed $50 million to a closer and now at least $7 million and three roster spots to two on-base challenged role players and a future Hall of Famer who hasn’t played an inning in the field in five years.
Now, Jonathan Papelbon should be pretty great in 2012. But Ryan Madson was pretty great in 2011, finishing with a 2.37 ERA and 32 saves in 34 chances. How much better can Papelbon really be?
The new position players are Laynce Nix, Ty Wigginton and Jim Thome. Nix and Wigginton may be just good enough to start on bad teams, but it’s questionable whether either has anything to offer a contender. The left-handed-hitting Nix is 31 with a career .288 OBP. He’s barely any better against righties at .296 lifetime. He has legitimate 25-homer power, but he’s also struck out twice for every one run he’s driven in as a major leaguer.
Wigginton has always gotten points for versatility, but he’s dreadful at second base and well below average at third base these days. At least he is consistent: he’s finished with OBPs from .312-.315 and slugging percentages from .400-.416 the last three years. Wigginton will probably end up logging the bulk of the time at first base while Ryan Howard’s torn Achilles’ mends. He won’t embarrass himself, but he won’t be a real asset either.
And then there’s Thome, who is hoping to go out a winner. Everyone is rooting for him, and it’s likely that he’ll produce when he’s able to play. Still, even if the Phillies only ask him to take the field once or twice a week, it’s far from guaranteed that he’ll stay healthy.
The Phillies’ rivals should be smiling about the way the winter has gone to date. Amaro has thrown away a great deal of his budget room without doing much to improve his team’s chances. An old team is getting older, and now it’s pretty much guaranteed that Dominic Brown will start in Triple-A. John Mayberry Jr., who looks like a potential breakthrough candidate, should still have a chance to win a starting job in left field or at first base, but a poor spring may find him buried behind one of the newcomers. These Phillies are the definite favorites to win the NL East anyway, but the team looked stronger a year ago than it does now.