Phillies Aging Roster Perfect for Throwback Thursday

Carlos Ruiz’s new contract could hurt the Phillies (via 42ball)

We live in a technological age where most of us know the social media fad of #tbt, which means Throwback Thursday. While it’s usually a good time to post an embarrassing toddler picture, well, the Philadelphia Phillies have posted an old roster for today’s Throwback Thursday.

There’s plenty of analysts and fans bashing the Phillies for their moves this offseason because their general manager has compiled a very “veteran” roster. This coming a year after finishing fourth in the division, a game behind the New York Mets, and staying out of the basement of the NL East only due to the debacle in Miami. It’s safe to say that the Phillies are in an above average division with the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, who both have talented teams, with young nucleus’.  Philadelphia is anything but. 

The Braves, who won the division pretty easily last season, have names like Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons. The Nationals have Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon. Philadelphia is relying on bounce back seasons from their aging veterans.

The direction the organization has taken this winter has been a very confusing one. Ruben Amaro Jr. seems to still believe that the team is only one or two key pieces away from making a pennant run in the National League. The Phillies young core six or seven years ago are now running on empty and have evolved into a bunch of question marks heading into Spring Training.

Just as recent as yesterday, the Phillies stole headlines when they signed 37-year old righty AJ Burnett. With the Pittsburgh Pirates, Burnett, 37, was solid last year with a 3.30 ERA and a 10-11 record, but he was looked at as more of a piece to be added to a team that was supposed to be in a pennant race. That, as of right now, is not projected to be the Phillies. The Burnett signing came in the shadow of the announcement yesterday that ace lefty Cole Hamels will not be ready for the start of the season due to shoulder tendinitis. That could be part of the reason why Burnett was grossly overpaid by the Phillies. Paul Maholm, six years younger, posted the same exact record as Burnett last year, but only signed for 1.5 million dollars with the Dodgers whereas Burnett picked up a $16 million paycheck.

The Phillies brought back Marlon Byrd, 36, who got a little more than a $7 million pay raise than what he was getting paid last year. In 2013, Byrd posted improved numbers, compilin a .291 average with 24 homers and 88 RBI’s, but that doesn’t necessarily warrant a multi-year deal which will keep him in red pinstripes until he is at least  39. With the acquisition of Byrd, Darin Ruf is now riding the pine for the season and becomes nothing more than a bat off the bench. Ruf, who is nine years younger and a much cheaper option in rightfield, has never played more than 47 games in one season in the majors.

Philadelphia is also welcoming back Bobby Abreu. Sadly, this is not a joke. If he makes the club, which is likely a long shot, he will make under a million dollars. Abreu hasn’t played in the majors since 2012 when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers and hasn’t hit over .300 since 2004 when he was in Philly. John Mayberry Jr. and Ruf are the fourth and fifth outfielders so even if the 40-year old has a great Spring, I’m not quite sure where he fits on the roster.

Carlos Ruiz also inked a new three-year deal, with a club option for the fourth year. Ruiz, 35, will make $8.5 million every year of his new contract. Ruiz is as smart as they come behind the plate, but lacks consistency with the bat. The Phillies gave him quite a bit of money and he will be a 38-year-old catcher making 8.5 million. Only time will tell if his body can take the brunt of being a catcher, but this contract may prove to be too long.

The projected starting infield, Ryan Howard-Chase Utley-Jimmy Rollins-Cody Asche, have an average age of just under 32. Howard, Utley, and Rollins are certainly good players to have around younger guys in order to help groom them, but the problem with the Phillies organization is that there is not much young talent on the horizon. There is hype around  pitcher Jesse Biddle, infielder JP Crawford, and infielder Mikel Franco. Outside of those three, though, the Phillies farm system is picked over. That’s due to a few big deadline trades in years past trying to make another run at a World Series after 2008. The Phillies traded big prospects such as Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton to the Astros for Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence, neither player resigned in Philadelphia. Now, giving credit where credit is due, both the trade for Oswalt and Pence were popular at the time, but in hindsight was very close-sighted.

The Phillies didn’t stop the welcome back campaign on the field, they brought back former player and manager Larry Bowa as a bench coach. The team also added two members from the 2008 World Series team to the broadcast booth, Matt Stairs and Jamie Moyer, both key cogs in their World Series run, will be helping call the games this season. After the news with Hamels yesterday and team’s recent moves, lets not rule out a spot start in 2014 for Jamie Moyer.

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