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Inbox: What does future hold for Phillies' stars?

Inbox: What does future hold for Phillies' stars?

Inbox: What does future hold for Phillies' stars?
Will the Phillies pick up Roy Oswalt's $16 million option in 2012? If not, who will replace him?
-- Brian N., Holland, Pa.

It is a mutual option, meaning Oswalt also must agree to return in 2012. I asked him last season about his future, because he has talked about retirement. He said he still could retire following the 2011 season, but you wonder if his thoughts will change if he pitches well with what could be the best rotation in baseball in years. But who would replace Oswalt if he leaves? If he leaves, I don't see the Phillies going out and making another blockbuster trade. That's why I think it makes sense to keep Joe Blanton. He is a nice insurance policy.

To help Blanton's status with the Phillies, could he defer some of his salary to reduce the overall 2011 and 2012 payroll?
-- Norman F., Augusta, Maine

I don't think the Phillies would do that, but it wouldn't matter much anyway. The Phillies have so much money sunk into payroll in 2012 and beyond, a deferral wouldn't make much of a difference. Look at Cliff Lee, for example. He will make $11 million this season, but his salary is going to jump to $21.5 million in '12 and to $25 million in '13.

Is this Jimmy Rollins' last year with the Phils?
-- Kerry B., Margate, N.J.

I don't think so. I'm predicting Rollins will have a good year and the Phillies will sign him to an extension.

Is there any way Ben Francisco can platoon with Raul Ibanez in left?
-- Nick M., Delran, N.J.

Anything is possible, but don't the Phillies have to solve the hole in right field first? Ibanez is established. He has proven he can produce. He also had a .869 OPS after the All-Star break last season, which ranked 11th out of 69 outfielders in the National League. The Phillies want to find a way to replace Jayson Werth's production in right field before they start looking elsewhere.

The Phillies have invited a lot of guys to camp. Why not give Mike Sweeney a look? He did well for us at the end of the season, and we will need insurance if Ryan Howard gets injured again.
-- Shane D., Philadelphia

They have insurance in Ross Gload, whose natural position is first base. The Phillies talked about bringing back Sweeney, but I don't see it happening unless he comes to camp as a non-roster invitee. Sweeney simply never would play, which would hurt his productivity. Look at Matt Stairs. He was great after arriving from the Blue Jays in 2008, but struggled because he never played in '09. The same could happen with Sweeney. He had some big hits in 2010, but would have trouble at the plate in '11.

What is the 2011 lineup going to look like? Is reuniting Rollins and Shane Victorino in the top two spots and Placido Polanco hitting fifth behind Howard and Chase Utley feasible? I feel like Polly is our best right-handed bat now, and even without much power, he could be enough of a threat to get Utley and Howard some pitches to hit.
-- Jay S., Drexel Hill, Pa.

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Charlie Manuel likes Rollins in the leadoff spot and Polanco in the No. 2 hole. If Rollins comes back like he expects to come back, he'll be hitting leadoff. I like Polanco hitting second. That leaves some combination of Francisco, Ibanez, Domonic Brown and Victorino hitting fifth. And like I have said in previous Inboxes, the "protection" concern is overrated. If Howard is patient, he will get good pitches to hit.

With Davey Lopes gone, what is the likelihood of the Phillies' running game being as successful? I know Rollins and Victorino are speedy, but they counted on him, too.
-- Jason M., Chambersburg, Pa.

In Lopes' first year in 2007, the Phillies set a Major League record, successfully stealing 87.9 percent (138 of 157) of their bases. Philadelphia successfully stole 84.3 percent (501 of 594) of its bases from 2007-10. Losing Lopes hurts, but it's too early to say how much it will affect the running game. The Phillies ranked second in baseball with a 77.9 stolen-base percentage (380 of 488) in the four seasons (2003-06) before Lopes arrived, so they had similar success, although they stole fewer bases.

It appears the Phillies will have six right-handers and one lefty coming out of the 'pen. Do you think the Phils may re-assign a veteran right-handed reliever to get more help from the left side?
-- Paul D., Doylestown, Pa.

The Phillies might have that left-handed help already on the roster. I'm sure Antonio Bastardo will get a great look in Spring Training to make the team. But I just don't see Philadelphia going outside for help at this point, unless somebody wants to play for the league minimum.

With Polanco, Rollins and Victorino, why doesn't Manuel learn to play small ball when needed? A single run here or there would have taken them deeper into the playoffs last year.
-- Garry H., Pitman, Pa.

If it only were that easy. Manuel can bunt all he wants, but does it matter if the players don't execute it? The Phillies had just eight bunt hits last season. Eight. That ranked 25th in baseball. I'm sure Manuel would love to see Rollins, Victorino and others bunt more. I'm sure he would like to hit-and-run more. But there are some free swingers in the lineup, so Philadelphia isn't necessarily built to do that. As an aside, I hate sacrifice bunting unless the pitcher is involved. It gives away outs.

Matt Rizzotti has been getting some well deserved attention thanks to his bat. But does his have a future with the Phillies, given that he is mainly a designated hitter? He appears to be a better fit for an American League club.
-- Rick C., Pullman, Wash.

I agree. Rizzotti is not a candidate to play anywhere but first base, which severely limits his future in Philadelphia. I could see the Phillies trading him at some point.

Is there any chance of Jamie Moyer returning in 2011 -- or ever?
-- Jack R., Huffs Church, Pa.

I doubt it. He had Tommy John surgery, which means 2011 basically is out of the question. I suppose the Phillies could give him a look next spring, but we are a long way from that.

Why isn't Manuel re-signed to a contract extension yet? It kind of worries me after they let Lopes go that Manuel could get the same treatment after this year if they don't win it all.
-- Ricky H., Barnegat, N.J.

Manuel is in the final year of his contract. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has said they'll get it done at some point, and he's not worried about it. He also said it doesn't matter if it lingers. Manuel has said the right things publicly. But I've got to think the longer it lingers, the more it becomes an issue, because I can't imagine that Manuel would want it hanging over his head during the season.

What is the deal with Matt Anderson? A first-round Draft pick, could he be a real sleeper? Where will he fit in during the spring and where do you think he'll wind up at start of season?
-- John J., Johnstown, Pa.

The Phillies basically took a flier on Anderson. If they catch lightning in a bottle, great. If not, no big loss. But I would call Anderson a real deep, deep sleeper. He has a lot of lost time to make up for.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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