So where do the Phillies start this offseason?
-- Joe S., Philadelphia
That's the multi-million dollar question. The Phillies have plenty of places to improve. Ryne Sandberg said several times in the closing weeks the rotation is a top priority. It is easy to see why. Remove Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee from the equation and Phillies starters had a 5.41 ERA. It's near impossible to win consistently with poor performances three out of every five days.
Yes, the rotation would be a good place to start, but the Phillies offense tied for 26th in MLB with 610 runs, or 3.77 runs per game. They can hope Ryan Howard will be healthy and productive, Jimmy Rollins will bounce back from the worst year of his career, Chase Utley's knees will stay healthy, Domonic Brown is for real, Cody Asche is the answer at third base, etc., but it would be dangerous thinking. It would behoove them to find a productive right-handed bat to hit fifth behind Utley and Howard.
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Of course, the options are slim. Ruben Amaro Jr. said he might need to get creative. It might take something incredibly creative to improve the offense.
Are the Phillies going to bring back Roy Halladay?
-- Jeff S., Media, Pa.
Publicly, the organization said it believes an offseason of rest and normal preparation for Spring Training will add zip to Halladay's fastball and improve his command. But it has been two seasons of general ineffectiveness for Doc, whose 5.15 ERA the past two seasons ranks 161st out of 169 qualifying pitchers in baseball.
The Phillies enter next season with uncertainty nearly everywhere on the roster. Bringing back Halladay, even at a club-friendly price, would only add to that. Maybe Halladay bounces back and has a great year. But history suggests pitchers his age coming off shoulder injuries continue to struggle.
Fangraphs.com found pitchers over 35 -- Halladay turns 37 in May -- who went on the DL for any sort of shoulder injury only averaged 59 innings the rest of their career. Halladay pitched 27 2/3 innings following right shoulder surgery in May, so maybe he is ahead of the game. Maybe he is the one that beats the odds. But next season is a big one for the Phillies. Can they risk giving Halladay a chance to prove himself? It might be time to move on and invest their dollars into a safer bet.
The Phillies spent $12 million on Mike Adams and then he had shoulder surgery. Is he going to pitch next season?
-- Brendan C., Lansdale, Pa.
Here is what Amaro said about Adams the final weekend of the season in Atlanta: "We really don't have any idea. We hope that we get something out of him, obviously. We can't necessarily expect him to come in and be an eighth-inning guy." Amaro indicated left-hander Antonio Bastardo could be the team's eighth-inning guy, although nobody knows what he will be like following his 50-game suspension for using a performance enhancing substance.
The bullpen could use a veteran reliever or two to stabilize things, but the Phillies' track record of signing free-agent relievers has not been good in recent years. They need to change that.
Say the Phillies re-sign Carlos Ruiz at catcher, acquire a corner outfielder and Asche is the Opening Day third baseman. Who are the internal candidates to be on the bench?
-- Matt S., Boston
Cameron Rupp and Erik Kratz could battle for the backup catcher spot. Sandberg gushed over Rupp late in the season. He liked the way he handled himself behind the plate. It seems very likely the Phillies offer infielder Kevin Frandsen salary arbitration. If so, he will be one of the utility infielders, which makes Freddy Galvis the favorite for the other.
Amaro said in Atlanta he doesn't think Darin Ruf is an everyday right fielder. But it seems he could be a valuable bat off the bench, somebody who could give Howard a break at first, Brown a break in left and start the occasional game in right.