Thursday, November 27, 2014
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Cuddyer should be Phillies primary focus

They held a parade for the Cardinals in St. Louis on Sunday and any time a team celebrates a championship, it's quite natural to hold that team up under the light to see if there is anything to learn.

Cuddyer should be Phillies primary focus

Michael Cuddyer, a right handed hitter who can play multiple positions, is a free agent. (Jim Mone/AP)
Michael Cuddyer, a right handed hitter who can play multiple positions, is a free agent. (Jim Mone/AP)

They held a parade for the Cardinals in St. Louis on Sunday and any time a team celebrates a championship, it's quite natural to hold that team up under the light to see if there is anything to learn.

It's of no consolation here in Philadelphia that the World Series title still goes through this city. Since 2008, the Phillies have either won the World Series or lost in the postseason to the team that won the World Series. The focus here is that the Phillies have only won once and the postseason losses have come earlier in each of the last three seasons.

None of that matters now. The planning for 2012 has begun and the Cardinals did do some things that should make the Phillies and every other team take notice. The thing Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. fixated on during his team's five-game division series loss to St. Louis was that the Cardinals had a lot of guys who could grind out at-bats.

Amaro was so impressed that he has made it a mandate for the Phillies to pattern themselves more after the Cardinals next season. Scrappers like Ryan Theriot, Skip Schumaker and mostly World Series MVP David Freese were certainly impressive and part of the reason why the Cardinals were able to complete their unlikely run to the franchise's 11th World Series title.

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Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa also received a lot of credit for maneuvering his role players during the postseason, but maybe the man who made the most important move for St. Louis was little-known general manager John Mozeliak.

He was the guy who decided to take a chance on Lance Berkman even though the former Houston slugger appeared to be on the decline physically and at the plate. Add in the fact that Berkman was mostly considered a first baseman at this stage of his career and the Cardinals already had some guy named Albert Pujols at that position and it was an even more of a gamble.

As it turned out, Berkman was a sensational $8 million free-agent signing and the biggest reason the Cardinals emerged with the best offense in the National League in 2011. Berkman was even better in the postseason, hitting .313 with 17 runs scored and 11 RBIs in 18 games.

If Amaro wants his players to improve their approach, then it is his job to try to find somebody like Berkman this offseason to add to the Phillies' roster. Chances are, he won't find somebody that good or with such an established track record, but it was an uncelebrated addition like Jayson Werth that once helped push the Phillies over the top.

Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer, a free agent who may command more than the $8 million the Cardinals paid Berkman last season, seems like the best fit for the Phillies. He can play first base, second base, third base and the outfield and has the kind of bat that would make manager Charlie Manuel's lineup better.

Given the uncertain injury situations of Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard, Cuddyer should be the Phillies' most sought-after free agent from another team.

Another veteran maybe worth taking a risk on is San Francisco's Mark DeRosa. He'll be 37 in February and injuries have limited him to 73 games the last two seasons, but he should come cheap and is a great on-base guy when healthy. Other free agents who could help improve the Phillies bench are Jamey Carroll from the Dodgers, Jerry Hairston Jr. from the Brewers and Nick Punto from the Cardinals.

A celebrated addition like Roy Halladay via trade two years ago and Cliff Lee via free agency last year is not likely to happen during this offseason, but sometimes a seemingly lesser move can help a team just as much. For proof, see the Cardinals signing of Lance Berkman.

 



Bob Brookover Inquirer Columnist
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The place for up-to-the-minute Phillies coverage from The Inquirer beat writer Matt Gelb and columnist Bob Brookover.

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