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Trimming the Fat

Posted By Paul Boye On February 6, 2013 @ 4:35 pm In MLB,Offseason,Philadelphia Phillies | 24 Comments

Instead of making that one big, impact move Ruben Amaro had come to make his trademark each offseason, the Phillies have turned to an alternative strategy of adding many players on lesser Major or Minor League deals. What that has produced, in turn, is a glut. Two gluts, if we’re being precise, in the positions of outfielder and relief pitcher.

At the close of business on Friday, here’s how the Phillies’ 40-man outfield situation shakes out:

Cut Collier and Gillies out of the mix immediately, as neither is knocking on the door of the Majors. That leaves seven players for three spots, with the following known or presumed when all are healthy: Revere is the everyday CF, and Young is the everyday RF, for some reason.

And so we’re left with five players for one starting spot and one – maybe two – bench spots. At least two players from that remaining quintet (Brown, Inciarte, Mayberry, Nix and Ruf) will not start the year with the big club. That is, of course, unless the Phillies decide to roll with six outfielders on their active roster. But we’ll presume five, tops.

Inciarte could make things even more interesting with a productive spring, but he seems the most likely to not make the cut. As a Rule 5 pick, Inciarte must clear waivers and be offered back to the Diamondbacks before he can be assigned to a Philly farm system. As he’s never had a single plate appearance above High-A, I’m not sure Inciarte has a chance, even with a good spring.

The option status of each of these players could add a wrinkle to the decision-making process. Mayberry was placed on the 40-man roster after his acquisition from Texas prior to the 2009 season, and spent 20 or more days in the minors in each of 2009, 2010 and 2011, and is therefore out of options. Brown was added to the 40-man in 2010 for his call-up and thus only has two seasons of 20-plus days in the minors while on the 40-man. He has an option year remaining. Nix, the highest-paid outfielder on the team at $1.35M, seems to have run out of options years ago. Ruf has a full complement of options. The combination of guaranteed money and zero-option status seems to ensure Nix an opening day spot, while Mayberry’s usefulness and zero-option status would also seem to preclude him from hitting the waiver wire before first pitch.

Which leaves us with Brown and Ruf. Both are making the minimum, both have an option year in 2013 and both have plenty of people questioning their usefulness or place on the team. If there is indeed a spot for a fifth outfielder on the club, one of those two would likely be the odd man out to start the year for Lehigh Valley. I wish it were easier to just say Brown stands a better chance, but I’m just not so confident in that anymore.

As for the relief corps, we find a similar logjam. These relievers all have spots on the 40-man as of Friday:

Whoa.

Let’s keep working on assumptions and say the club won’t need a fifth starter until April 10 and could open the season with an 11-man pitching staff. That means six or seven relievers, depending on construction. Adams, Bastardo, Durbin and Papelbon are all signed for more than $1M, so you know they’re in before we even talk production, and all of a sudden we’re down to two or three open spots for 10 pitchers.

Of those remaining 10, the most likely to stick are Aumont and, possibly, Horst. So, assuming Kyle Kendrick is a long relief option for the first few games until he nears his first start, that leaves one potential opening and seven players who will start in
AAA.

Some tough decisions await the club, and spring performance suddenly seems more meaningful for these guys than ever before.


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