The Philadelphia Phillies are playing through their most disappointing season since the Terry Francona era. As a result, general manager Ruben Amaro Junior knows that he has a number of roster holes to fill before the 2013 season begins and many transactions to make.
Top five holes #5: One starting pitching slot
Joe Blanton has appeared in 105 games, thrown 616.33 innings, carved a 4.47 ERA, posted a 1.335 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) and has a record of 34-25 since he was acquired from the Oakland Athletics in July, 2008. He helped the Phillies to win the 2008 World Series and also performed well in his designated role as a supplementary arm in the rotation since then.
Due to the economics of baseball, Blanton's time in red pinstripes appears to be growing short. Depending upon who is obtained, signed or promoted from the minor leagues to replace him, Vance Worley could become the Phillies number four starting pitcher. But, that will still leave the team one man short.
Top five holes #4: Left field
After Pat Burrell led the Phillies' 2008 victory parade on a glorious Halloween Day, he signed to play for the Tampa Bay Rays. Raul Ibanez (currently with the New York Yankees) became a decent replacement for the three seasons that followed.
Amaro needs to give Domonic Brown a chance to play left field now. With nothing truly left to lose, the Phillies will be able to determine if their former 'can't miss' prospect is ready and able to become a major leaguer. If he's not, the offseason will allow time for a permanent adjustment to be made.
Top five holes #3: Center field
Shane Victorino was a Rule 5 Draft pick gift from baseball heaven and the Los Angeles Dodgers in December, 2004. Like Blanton, his time in Philadelphia appears to be done.
The man's .996 lifetime fielding percentage will be missed when someone else is seen playing in center field. But, whoever fills this hole needs to carry an adequate glove to the outfield and a more disciplined bat to the plate.
In consideration of how outstanding the Flyin' Hawaiian's glove work and arm have been, it will be challenging for whoever his successor is to completely replace number 8's overall game.
Top five holes #2: Third base
Placido Polanco was first obtained by the Phillies from the St. Louis Cardinals in July, 2002. Due to Chase Utley's career progress, he was traded to the Detroit Tigers in June, 2005. 'Polly' later signed a free agent contract with the Phillies in December, 2009.
Polanco sports a .990 lifetime fielding percentage and was a productive hitter until a few seasons ago. He won't be the Phillies' starting third baseman next season, even though they hold an option to retain him. He also has a $1 million buy-out clause.
Due to the enormous amount of money that Philadelphia has already committed to a number of players on the roster, it wouldn't be surprising to see someone like Freddy Galvis and a modestly-priced veteran share Polanco's position next season.
The Phillies currently have a 22-year-old third base prospect in their system whose name is Cody Asche. All hardcore baseball fans know that the term 'prospect' has been applied to countless young men over the years. But, this one has been rising through the system at a decent rate of speed. If he continues to make progress, it's fair to think that he could be ready by the start of 2014.
Top five holes #1: Set-up man
Outside of a generally good season by Jonathan Papelbon and a middle-innings scoreless streak by Kyle Kendrick, the Phillies' bullpen has been unable to perform consistently. Possibly, 'KK' can fully assume a set-up role next season.
It would be great to re-sign Ryan Madson, who agreed to a one-year contract with the Cincinnati Reds and then had 'Tommy John' surgery in April. It's a stretch to assume that he would agree to come back, assume his old role and also be healthy enough to do so. (I'm also clearly implying that if he isn't healthy, than someone similar to him needs to be obtained.)
Obviously, this area of the team needs more than a closer and one other reliable arm in it. A number of young relief 'prospects' have handled a great deal of forced work this year. That experience could enable some of them to pitch more effectively next season.
Extra Innings: In the dugout
Charlie Manuel has always had his detractors. In the midst of this losing season, all of them are hoping that he loses his job because of it.
Ryne Sandberg is the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs' manager. I would promote him to the Phillies' coaching staff in September (by that, I mean more than just a call-up) and then see how next season develops. If any further changes need to be made in 2013, 'Ryno' will be ready to take over.
Philadelphia would also prevent the past from repeating itself by keeping a great baseball man in the fold this time around.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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