Inbox: Is Amaro done making offseason moves?
Phillies beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers questions from fans
Is general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. finished making moves this offseason?
-- Austin B., Durham, N.C.
Amaro said last week the Phillies are still working on a few things, but if anything happens, expect it to be more minor than major. In other words, don't get your Masahiro Tanaka jersey just yet.
"These are guys coming off tough years, injuries or surgeries, and are recovering or something of that nature," Amaro said. "Mostly guys we'd probably bring in on Minor League deals, but we've probably talked to between 10 and 20 guys that may be decent fits for us."
That will not get the fan base excited, but everything remains predicated on the hundreds of millions of dollars they have committed to their veteran core. If the core doesn't do its job, it really doesn't matter who they sign in the coming weeks.
How about former Phillies pitchers Brett Myers and Ryan Madson? Any chance of a reunion with the "aging" core? They could help out the bullpen possibly.
-- Ed N., Lancaster, Pa.
The Phillies have watched Madson throw recently. Keep an eye on him. Madson would be interesting if he is willing to come back on a Minor League deal. He has missed the past two seasons because of elbow problems. The Phils don't seem interested in bringing back Myers.
Can manager Ryne Sandberg have the same success head coach Chip Kelly had with the Eagles in his first year? Both teams have a veteran core with young talent, and the Eagles' turnaround was quicker than anyone expected.
-- David H., Warminster, Pa.
It's difficult to draw any comparisons. A baseball manager can employ some in-game strategy, make the lineup, make pitching changes, etc., but his impact is less on a game than a football coach. A football coach calls every play. He can put the ball in his best player's hands as often as possible. If Nick Foles throws an incomplete pass on first down, he can throw two more passes to get a first down. But a manager can only send his hitters to the plate in order. If Chase Utley strikes out in the first inning, he might not hit again until the fourth. Phillies players seemed to respond well to Sandberg in the final few weeks of last season, but in the end, it comes down to talent.
If Roy Halladay had won a championship with the Phillies, would he have retired a Phillie?
-- George N., Brookhaven, Pa.
Halladay would have had a more difficult decision to make, but he spent the majority of his career with the Blue Jays. He made the right call.
Should the Phillies solidify their bench more?
-- Jonathan H., Frazer, Pa.
They could use a left-handed bat. They could use a true center fielder to back up Ben Revere. Right now, the bench includes catcher Wil Nieves and infielder Kevin Frandsen. Freddy Galvis is a favorite for the other utility infield job. Darin Ruf is a favorite to come off the bench. John Mayberry is in the mix. But there are decisions to be made here. It sounds like Amaro wants to find somebody before camp opens next month.
"I think we're focused on a left-handed bat, possibly an outfielder or somebody who can play center field, give us more depth out there," Amaro said. "It doesn't necessarily have to be a left-handed-hitting center fielder, but we're also looking at trying to upgrade from the left side. That's mostly what our focus is right now."
Bobby Abreu is getting a lot of attention lately. He is playing well in winter ball. Abreu isn't anything defensively, but the guy can work an at-bat. He knows how to get on base. And we know the Phillies like to bring back former Phils players.
What surprises might fans see going in and coming out of Spring Training?
-- Ed G., Greensboro, N.C.
I'm not sure about any major surprises, but there are position battles to watch. I'm sure a battle between Cody Asche and Maikel Franco at third base will be trumpeted, although I believe Asche is the heavy favorite. Keep a close eye on right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Can this guy pitch? Amaro has really downplayed expectations for Gonzalez, which is a bit concerning considering the Phillies paid him $12 million. And then we must see who steps up in the bullpen.
What are your biggest obstacles facing this team in 2014?
-- Rusty P., Vineland, N.J.
My biggest obstacle? I'd say getting as many interviews finished as quickly as possible postgame. The sooner we get our interviews, the sooner I can write and the sooner the players can have the clubhouse to themselves. But if you want to know about the team's biggest obstacles in 2014, I'd say the high-priced core needing to play like they are paid. If they do, the supporting cast could be good enough to make things more interesting this summer.