While the tension built on the home front, the majority of fans and writers alike speculated about Carlos Ruiz of the Philadelphia Phillies. What new hurlers will let him call the game 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.
This review is an updated posting: See Pocket Change at the end.
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 baseball, 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 re-singing of Carlos Ruiz, 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 was drawing heavy scrutiny. Even though the red pinstripes have a left-heavy lineup, some journalists favored LH Brian McCann over RH Ruiz. On an annual basis, McCann will cost $16 million to Ruiz’s $8.67 million, and $7.33 million buys two bullpen arms. If you have young catching in the pipeline, McCann would also have blocked 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 had 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 would not have waited for Ruiz to fully explore free agency. He didn’t have the same leeway Jimmy Rollins had, and the scribe felt it was more like Ryan Madson’s market testing. But Jonathan Papelbon provided the brain trust with a solid substitute, which wasn’t the case this time.
With, however, Rollins in 2012, management didn’t have an equal alternative; but other catchers were currently available. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was a switch hitter, while AJ Pierzynski was a left-handed batter. Unfortunately, the Boston receiver–was asking for four years–hit .215, two homers and 16 RBI from the right side (28 percent). As a defender, he would also have been 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.
The red pinstripes re-inked Ruiz to handle the aces, the green fireballers and the other vets on the pitching staff.
$189 Million Maximum Before the Luxury Tax Ceiling:
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How much does $26.43 million buy?
Baring a generous offer, the front-office goal is to pick up pitching by mid-December. After spending $2 million on a left-side bench stick, that would leave $24.43 million for a starter, a setup man and a veteran reliever. Ergo, a return to health by Mike Adams would have the opposite effect from last season, which would result in a dominate pen.
Unless Amaro signs a left-hitting reserve catcher, Erik Kratz or Cameron Rupp will make the squad. Kevin Frandson, Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez will compete for two infield spots. John Mayberry Jr. provides a warning-track glove and right-handed pop, while Ruf is a better bat and can play first base. However, Galvis and Hernandez are switch hitters who are not known for power, which is why the decision-maker may look for a lefty with pop.
The higher-ups find $189 million acceptable for the 25-player roster, which breaks down to a rotation arm ($10 million), a setup hurler ($5 million), a bullpen piece ($3 million) and a left-handed pinch hitter ($2 million) for a total of $20 million.
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