Thirty front offices, dozens of agents and scores of media descend upon Orlando today to begin four days of face-to-face offseason discussion. The Winter Meetings are here.
The Phillies, as presently constructed, look like a deeply flawed team.
They're relying on five regulars who'll start the season having already celebrated their 35th birthday.
They have only two proven, above-average starting pitchers in Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
They have only one consistently dominant reliever in Jonathan Papelbon, and he produced career-lows last season in strikeouts and velocity.
They have zero left-handed power off the bench.
What can we expect this week?
Boring starting pitchers
Jim Salisbury wrote this morning at CSNPhilly.com that the Phils are expected to look to fill out the rotation with a mid-tier starting pitcher rather than Matt Garza or Ervin Santana. He mentions that they pursued Ryan Vogelsong and Scott Feldman. (Vogelsong would have been interesting. Feldman ... thanks to the Astros for taking that option away from RAJ.)
If a mid-rotation starter is what they desire, they can look to lefties Paul Maholm, Clayton Richard, Bruce Chen or Joe Saunders; or right-handers Bronson Arroyo, Roberto Hernandez, or Jake Westbrook.
All are uninspiring options, and it's confusing why the Phils would even waste their time offering one a multi-year deal. Each of them will give you innings, but they'll be borderline 2-WAR innings. That list is filled with BABIP-y sinkerballers. You don't put Kyle Kendrick in the rotation spot behind Kyle Kendrick a year after doing it with John Lannan.
The Phillies need difference-makers. If Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez don't require five-year deals, why not explore a deal in an attempt to fortify the top-third of the rotation and at least attempt to compete with the NL elite? (Which right now looks like the Cardinals, Nationals and Dodgers, then everyone else.)
Papelbon trade could go down
Ironically, the Phils are shopping one of their only difference-makers in Papelbon, who still does have value. He was criticized heavily in 2013, but he still finished with an ERA-plus of 131 and his lowest line-drive rate in six years. Most act like he fell off a cliff; he didn't.
Papelbon is owed $26 million the next two seasons and has an easily attainable vesting option for $13 million in 2016. It's really not as terrible a remaining contract as it might appear.
If the Phillies pick up $6 million in a trade, the acquiring team is taking on Papelbon for two guaranteed years at $20 million, which is the exact contract Joe Nathan just received from the Tigers. Most GMs would give Papelbon that deal on the open market.
Shoot for the moon
The less likely scenario this week is that the Phillies go into the Winter Meetings trying to upgrade their outfield. Maybe they try for Matt Kemp. Maybe Jose Bautista or Yoenis Cespedes.
Domonic Brown would likely be included in those talks. There appears to be a belief in the organization that Brown isn't a budding star, that his defense will offset too much of his power.
Money would have to move in any deal, though, for it to make sense for the Phillies to deal away a young, team-controlled 26-year-old coming off a 27-homer season. The Phils would need at least as much as the Angels have ever asked for Mark Trumbo.