While the tension builds on the home front, the majority of fans and writers alike speculate about Carlos Ruiz of the Philadelphia Phillies. Will the local hurlers have a new battery mate behind the plate in April?
This article represents the thinking of a baseball man in my opinion. Most fans do not consider the budget, prospects on the radar, the organization’s weaknesses, the track record, the competition and the other intangibles.
There will be a published storyline each week.
Speed, Money and Time:
By December 15, many general managers will be finalizing their decisions, and those determinations will affect their Opening Day rosters.
Three elements dominate November and December of every offseason. Firstly, the plodding between events is illusory, and quick significant signings are the exception. In every organization, finances are a finite resource. And the time parameters are a boundary of weeks, not months.
When some watch a baseball game, they complain that it moves at a turtle’s pace; however, the players on the diamond experience a hectic clip. On each pitch in this drama, the infielders on their toes position themselves basing that 20-second decision on the count, the situation, the scoreboard, the batter, the defense, experience, scouting reports and the manager’s strategy. They anticipate their movements for every possibility without forgetting their backup responsibilities. That means more than balls hit directly to them: They envision liners, popups, grounders and dribblers that are also to either side.
The offseason does not move slowly for front offices and writers; the acquisition of Marlon Byrd, for example, changes the dynamics of in-progress articles without warning. Facing the daunting task of competing with 29 other clubs for top talent, franchises address their shortcomings during the holiday-interrupted months and employ January for loose ends. In many occupations, major projects narrowed to two months are rush jobs, which is why baseball holds the GM/Owners Meetings and the Winter Meetings to maximize the limited time frame.
Having a billionaire owner does not guarantee unrestrained spending, and even the Dodgers are under a monetary ceiling. Baseball’s business end wants to turn a tidy profit and win championships if they can. When only two teams out of 30 obliterated the competitive-balance threshold, it’s because the tax for that breach is 50 percent starting with the fourth year. Ergo, a $40 million overage equals $20 million, and that is only a lot of money if it’s yours, which for Steinbrenners’ Yankees currently totals almost $250 million in penalties.
The Phils will only exceed the $189 million boundary if it is a difference-maker for a third title. In other words, don’t expect it anytime soon.
Speaking of our local heroes, the backstop concern is drawing heavy scrutiny. Even though the red pinstripes have a left-heavy lineup, some journalists favor LH Brian McCann over RH Ruiz. On an annual basis, McCann will cost $16 million to Ruiz’s $10 million, and $6 million buys two bullpen arms. If you have young catching in the pipeline, McCann will also block that position for at least five summers.
Ruben Amaro Jr. would like to pencil in Tommy Joseph or perhaps Cameron Rupp behind the dish full time by 2016. Hopefully, one will excel at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in ’14 and will back up Ruiz during the following season. Presently, Rupp has been playing in Arizona and Joseph just joined a Dominican club.
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On the Clock:
According to Ryan Lawrence of Philly.com, the head honcho will not wait for Ruiz to fully explore free agency. He doesn’t have the same leeway Jimmy Rollins had, and the scribe feels it’s more like Ryan Madson’s market testing. But Jonathan Papelbon provided the brain trust with a solid substitute, which isn’t the case this time.
With, however, Rollins in 2012, management didn’t have an equal alternative; but other catchers are currently available. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a switch hitter, while AJ Pierzynski is a left-handed batter. Unfortunately, the Boston receiver–asking for four years–hit .215, two homers and 16 RBI from the right side (28 percent). As a defender, he would also be a downgrade from Ruiz.
GMs proceed in two different ways during November and December. Many organizations do the heavy lifting before January, while others act slowly and deliberately. The same is true of agents and players. Moving now, the Phils are approaching like-minded individuals.
Amaro might sign a backstop during November, but he most likely will decide in December. His limit is a month and Ruiz must quickly examine his possibilities. Preferring two campaigns with an insurance-like additional summer, the higher-ups will probably offer Chooch a third-year mutual option.
The red pinstripes will re-ink Ruiz to handle the aces, the green fireballers and the other vets on the pitching staff.
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