It’s no secret that the window for the Phillies to continue dominating the National League East is closing rapidly. Looking at their roster, age and contracts, there were concerns before the news that they intend to go with Ty Wigginton as their regular first baseman and a platoon of John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix in left field to replace Raul Ibanez.
(Domonic Brown? What’s a Domonic Brown?)
A left field platoon of Nix and Mayberry should be productive enough. Nix’s good defense and pop will counteract—to a point—his lack of on-base skills. Mayberry deserves the chance to play every day, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said there will likely be a platoon.
Wigginton can’t field, Jim Thome can barely move, and Chase Utley’s range is compromised by his physical breakdown. The Phillies strength on the mound will be damaged by porous defense on the right side of the infield.
The National League East no longer automatically belongs to the Phillies. The Marlins have made major free agent acquisitions; the Nationals are improved; and the Braves are being ignored because of their lack of movement, but are still very good.
The Phillies are old, expensive and trapped by a payroll that’s at its limit. Despite assertions to the contrary, Roy Halladay is human and can’t keep up his excellence forever. They can rely on their top three starters for 2012 as Halladay and Cliff Lee are still at the top of their games and Cole Hamels is singing for his free agent supper. Vance Worley is entering his second go-round through the league and, much like Jason Isringhausen proved with the Mets from 1995-1996, it’s not as easy as Worley made it look in 2011 by blasting fastballs and swagger.
The Phillies offense was a problem last season in spite of the pitching carrying them to 102 wins. They didn’t hit in the playoffs and it was the main reason they got bounced in the first round.
They’ve done nothing to improve that offense and will be without Ryan Howard for at least the first two months of the season.
Have they repaired the problems that contributed to their playoff losses in 2010-2011? An upgrade was made by replacing their on-again/off-again closer Ryan Madson with one of baseball’s best in Jonathan Papelbon, but it’s not an upgrade so significant that it will account for worsening offense and defense.
Considering their payroll issues and that their farm system is largely gutted, they won’t be able to do anything drastic at mid-season to fix their issues as they have in the past.
Flashing warning signs are everywhere and teams that have had five year runs as the Phillies have tend to come apart quickly. Due to reality, circumstance, personnel errors, desperation trades, overpriced contracts and compromises to the present, the Phillies fall might come a year or two early.
That fall will be rapid. Don’t be stunned if it begins in earnest in 2012.