Is a big move coming?
-- Roy V., Wayne, Pa.
I've heard from frustrated Phillies fans because the team's offseason moves have not reassured anybody following an 89-loss season. They want to know why the Phillies haven't signed a marquee name to a big-time contract, or made a big trade like they have in the past when they made deals for Roy Halladay, Hunter Pence, Roy Oswalt, etc.
The simple answer is this: They haven't made those moves because they already made those moves.
The Phillies have committed $525 million to a core that includes Cole Hamels ($144 million), Ryan Howard ($125 million), Cliff Lee ($120 million), Jonathan Papelbon ($50 million), Jimmy Rollins ($33 million), Chase Utley ($27 million) and Carlos Ruiz ($26 million), so rightly or wrongly, they must stick with that group. Either these guys stay healthy an entire season and produce like they have in the past, or they don't. But after committing $525 million to seven players, they are not going to spend crazy money on Shin-Soo Choo, Ubaldo Jimenez and others because the crazy money already has been spent.
What should we expect from Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez?
-- Rob S., Philadelphia
Nobody knows, which is kind of scary. The Phillies and Gonzalez originally agreed in July to a $48 million deal, which indicates Phillies scouts touted him as a certified No. 3 starter or better.
But something happened during Gonzalez's physical, and he ultimately signed in August for just $12 million. Losing $36 million in guaranteed money following a physical is a red flag.
The Phillies then dampened expectations for him during the Winter Meetings. In fact, just this week, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Gonzalez would be competing with Jonathan Pettibone and others for the fifth spot in the rotation. (Hamels, Lee, Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez are locks.)
I understand part of that, because Gonzalez has not pitched competitively in quite some time, but scouts liked him so much this summer they recommended the Phillies pay him $48 million. Watching Gonzalez go from $48 Million Man to $12 Million Man to Bubble Boy in the rotation is one reason fans are anxious about 2014.
What will the bench look like?
-- Matt M., Princeton, N.J.
There are a couple certainties on the bench: catcher Wil Nieves and infielder Kevin Frandsen. Freddy Galvis and Darin Ruf are strong possibilities, too, but they aren't included with Nieves and Frandsen, because they have options remaining and are not signed to guaranteed big league contracts.
But the Phillies love Galvis' glove, and they need a right-handed bat with pop, which Ruf can provide. Don't forget the Phillies tendered a contract to John Mayberry Jr. He also has pop and remains in the mix. Amaro reiterated this week they are still looking for a true defensive center fielder and a left-handed bat. That could happen in the coming weeks.
Thoughts on Hernandez?
-- Matt H., Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Phillies felt they needed a guy that can eat up some innings. Hernandez can do that, but how effective will he be? He has a 5.19 ERA over the past three seasons with the Indians and Rays, and the Rays moved him to the bullpen the final month of last season because he had been ineffective as a starter.
But the Phillies are touting Hernandez's career splits against the National League (3.69 ERA in 23 appearances in the NL) and impressive ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio (2.41) and groundball percentage (70.6) as reasons they like him. He is a No. 5 starter, even though he is guaranteed one of four rotation jobs entering Spring Training. Don't expect much. Hope he can make 30 starts, pitch a bunch of innings and keep his ERA in the 4.50 range.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com.