The Philadelphia Phillies season ended in massive disappointment. Coming off of a terrible loss by the cross-parking lot Eagles, the Phillies were handled by Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter in the fifth and deciding game of the NLDS in the can’t miss season that saw the Phillies win more games than any other team in baseball.
And, to add insult to injury, Phillies slugger, and fantasy baseball star, Ryan Howard, suffered a fully torn Achilles tendon on his final swing of the 2011 campaign. Doctors say that Howard will be out for six months after the surgery is performed. Then, there’s the tune-up time. This will leave a void in the middle of the Phillies lineup, and at first base, early in the 2012 season.
Who will fill this void?
One likely choice is John Mayberry Jr. Mayberry Jr. had a solid 2011 campaign (.273/19/49/8) and impressed the coaches and fans. Many think Mayberry Jr. is already slotted in as the left fielder unless the Phillies decide to give 39-year-old Raul Ibanez a one-year deal as the fourth outfielder.
Or, will the Phillies go after one of the many free agent first basemen on the market? There’s Jorge Cantu, Derrek Lee, and Jim Thome available. Wouldn’t it be neat to see Thome in a Phillies uniform again? But, he hasn’t played a position since discarding his first baseman’s mitt a few years ago. In fact, since 2006, Thome has only played 4 games in the field!
Derrek Lee brought some veteran experience to a young and promising Pirates team this season. Lee plays great defense and he would also be a sentimental pick for the Phillies. Skipper Charlie Manuel played in Japan with his Dad and he’s known him since he was a little kid. Lee can still hit. He hit .267 with 19 homers last year with the Orioles and Pirates. A one-year deal may make sense for Lee in Philly.
But, there is also a chance that the Phillies will go with one internal option rather than signing an aging and costlier veteran. This could free up money for the many important decisions that the Phillies will have to tackle this off-season, including the high priced contracts of Ryan Madson, Cole Hamels, and Jimmy Rollins.
Minor leaguer Matt Rizzotti, 25, is a 6th round pick of the Phillies from 2007. Rizzotti has a career .292 average with a .388 on base percentage. At Double A Reading in 2011, Rizzotti hit .295 with 24 homers. One of the concerns with Rizzotti has been his glove and certainly no experience at the Triple-A level will not help his cause either.
A second choice is Cody Overbeck. Overbeck, also 25, played at Double A and Triple A in 2011 and hit .277 with 24 homers. Overbeck is more versatile and could see some action at third base or left field where the Phillies also have questions.
It will be interesting to see what the Phillies do. The Phillies may be just as well off trying Rizzotti or Overbeck and saving the money for Rollins, Hamels, and Madson. It’s just one of the many decisions that Ruben Amaro Jr. will have to face in the off-season in an effort to get the Phillies back to only the place where its fans will be satisfied–the 2012 World Series.