In tomorrow’s Inquirer, we’ll look at a lengthy list of the questions general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and his staff must quickly discuss, as they plot a strategy for 2010. Here is a preview of a few:
Is it a good idea to pursue a contract extension with Cliff Lee?
The lefthander became the Phils ace after he arrived from Cleveland in late July, and enjoyed a dominant postseason. Those very factors make this a risky time to award Lee with a long-term contract. Rather than paying a pitcher for what he did this summer and fall, the Phils will have to consider what the 31-year-old Lee will be worth as he climbs into his mid-thirties. The pitcher will likely seek a deal comparable to the seven-year, $161 million contract the New York Yankees offered his friend CC Sabathia last year.
The Phils will almost certainly exercise the $9 million option on Lee for 2010. The pitcher would become a free agent after the season, if he and the club do not reach an agreement before then. As good as Lee has been, the Phils might be better off enjoying an affordable year, then deciding what the pitcher is worth to them going forward.
Can Pedro Martinez pitch effectively for an entire season?
The old goat entertained Philadelphia fans this summer, and surprised some skeptics with his professionalism, mentoring of younger players, and deep intelligence. But he did not prove that he could remain healthy for even half a season.
One start after throwing 130 pitches on Sept. 13, Martinez injured his neck or rib swinging at a curveball. He then missed most of the next month. During the postseason, he re-asserted his ability to outthink hitters, but the 38-year-old did not address questions about his durability. The Phils would likely be wary of any deal with the veteran that was not heavily laden with incentives based on performance and appearances.
What to do about Brett Myers?
Myers and the Phillies could use one another next season. The 29-year-old pitcher is a free agent, but his value dropped because he missed most of this season with hip surgery and a muscle tear in his upper back. The Phils enter the season with questions about their bullpen and closer, Brad Lidge. A one-year contract for Myers, allowing the pitcher to prove he can be healthy and effective before becoming a free agent at 30, and giving the Phils a Plan B to close games, would make sense for both parties.
Is Matt Stairs worth one more season?
Stairs’ .194 batting average this season indicated that, at 41, he was no longer an effective player. Right? Not exactly. The pinch-hitter was a tough out for good relief pitchers all season, maintaining a .357 on-base percentage.
Stairs hopes to return for a final season, and would be willing to sign a bargain-rate contract. With bench help hard to find, why not at least bring him to spring training?
Can they lure a super utility player to provide rest for Utley and Rollins?
You know that talented young core of players the Phils have? Well, they are still talented, but it’s time to stop calling them young. Infielders Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are in their early 30s, and need more rest than manager has Charlie Manuel has provided in the past.
Manuel has been hesitant to remove either player from the lineup, he said recently, because he does not have a capable backup. That was a tacit indictment of Eric Bruntlett, the versatile defender who struggles offensively.
Two members of this winter's free agent class would fit the need for an upgrade over Bruntlett, who will likely not return: Mark DeRosa of the St. Louis Cardinals and Marco Scutaro of the Toronto Blue Jays. DeRosa could also spell Raul Ibanez in left field.
It is challenging, though, to sign free agents without promising a starting job, and the Phils would have to pay well lure a top role player.
Does Pedro Feliz’s defense and affordability make up for his offense?
Pedro Feliz is a defensive master and offensive liability. His .720 OPS in 2009 was 18th among 20 qualifying third basemen, but his athleticism in the field provided rare value. The Phils hold an affordable $5 million option on Feliz, and must decide within the next four days whether to exercise it. One more season of Feliz appears the most likely outcome.
More for ya tomorrow.