Do you think the Phillies traded too much for Ben Revere (right-handers Vance Worley and Trevor May)? I would like to see some of that homegrown talent play for the Phils instead of every other Major League team.
-- John T., Warrington, Pa.
Nobody can judge the trade yet, not even the smartest scouts or general managers. So it's impossible to say if the Phillies gave up too much. But it is interesting to look back at the bigger trades the Phils have made in recent years.
To acquire Brad Lidge, Joe Blanton, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence, the Phillies surrendered the following players: Michael Bourn, Mike Costanzo, Geoff Geary, Josh Outman, Adrian Cardenas, Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Travis d'Arnaud, Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, Jonathan Villar, Anthony Gose, J.A. Happ, Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Zeid and Domingo Santana.
At one point or another, I'd say most of those players were considered big-time prospects or players Phillies fans begged the organization to call up to the big leagues (like Tyler Cloyd last season). Bourn obviously turned into an All-Star, but nobody in their right mind would not make that trade again, considering Lidge helped the Phils win the 2008 World Series.
In regards to the other trades, the Phillies would like to have d'Arnaud, although they currently have good catching depth in the organization, and they would trade d'Arnaud again to get Halladay. Drabek hasn't blossomed into a top starter, although there is time. Gose could have been the Philadelphia's center fielder, although I still have no problem with the club getting Oswalt. Either you go for it or you don't. You can't cry how it didn't work out after the fact.
But the trade I think could come back to haunt them is the Pence trade. Cosart, Singleton (just suspended 50 games for marijuana use) and Santana could be studs. But most of those can't-miss prospects haven't hurt the Phillies. Maybe the Phils know something about these players other teams don't. Or maybe that's just the nature of the prospect-trading business: it is a roll of the dice. Whatever the reason, I wouldn't lose a ton of sleep over Philadelphia trading Worley and May just yet.
Do you think Ryan Howard will be able to hit lefty pitching confidently during the 2013 season?
-- Tom U., Northampton, Pa.
Howard's struggles against lefties have been an issue the past two seasons. He hit .173 with a .604 OPS against them last season, and .224 with a .634 OPS against them in 2011. Howard hit a solid .264 with an .826 OPS against lefties in '10. If he could move toward those lines this season, the Phillies will be in much better shape offensively.
I'm not sure what Howard needs to do to get there. Maybe he needs to watch more film or spend more time in the cage. Maybe Howard just needs to relax. Only he knows the answer to that. But if Howard's numbers against lefties mirror those of the previous two seasons, you wonder if manager Charlie Manuel will have somebody like Michael Young play some first base against lefties this year.
What is the plan if Revere goes down with a long-term injury?
-- Mark M., Philadelphia
I'd say John Mayberry Jr. will be the center fielder if that happens. The Phils selected Ender Inciarte in the Rule 5 Draft. He's an option. Tyson Gillies could be, if he stays healthy. In short, they don't have anybody they consider a long-term option, which is why they sent Worley and May to the Twins for Revere in the first place.
Which Minor League prospect has the best chance of making the team out of Spring Training?
-- Ryan M., Harrisburg, Pa.
If you're talking about a prospect that has not seen a single day in the big leagues, it's tough to find one. But I'm going to say catchers Tommy Joseph or Sebastian Valle, but only if there is an injury to Erik Kratz or Humberto Quintero in Spring Training. Right-hander Jonathan Pettibone could be a candidate, but again, only if there is an injury or two to a Phillies starter.
Why does it take so long for a baseball player to get ready for the big leagues while basketball and football players jump straight to the pros from college?
-- Chris L., Carlisle, Pa.
It's a much tougher game to master. I'm not saying football or basketball is easy, but I think they're more about pure physical talent. Either you can shoot a basketball or you can't. Either you can block a lineman or run a route or you can't. You certainly need physical skills in baseball, but it takes time to learn to throw a slider across the plate for a strike or hit a big league curveball. I just don't think the learning curve is there for a football or basketball player (unless you're a quarterback).
Can the Phillies overcome the Nationals and Braves in 2013, with Rafael Soriano, Denard Span and Dan Haren joining Washington and B.J. Upton joining Atlanta?
-- John G., Norristown, Pa.
I get the feeling there are plenty of nervous Phillies fans, because I'm getting questions like this every week. Listen, I wish I could say, "Oh, absolutely." But I can't. During the Phils' run of five consecutive National League East championships, I said that until somebody beats the Phillies, they are the favorite. So, for the moment, until the Phils prove they are better than the Nationals and Braves, they are the third-best team in the division. But don't hang your head.
Halladay and Chase Utley could stay healthy and be productive. Howard could bounce back from a .718 OPS in 2012, the lowest of his career. Philadelphia's corner outfielders could surprise. This team won 81 games last season, despite numerous injuries and 13 blown leads in the eighth inning. If people stay healthy and if the Phillies do a better job of holding leads late, I don't think there's any reason why this team can't win at least a Wild Card. And that's all you want: a chance in the postseason.