Commentary

Phillies may need a replacement for Burrell

Originally Published: November 11, 2008
By Bob Klapisch | Special to ESPN.com

After a stunningly successful run in October, the Phillies have every right to enjoy a last laugh on their division rivals, notably the Mets. In fact, the Phillies might as well adopt a new team motto for '09: "Take that."

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
GM: Ruben Amaro Jr.
Manager: Charle Manuel
'08 record: 92-70, 1st in NL East
Philadelphia Phillies '08 payroll: $95.5M, 13th MLB
Runs scored: 799, T-2nd NL
Runs allowed: 680, 14th NL
OPS: .770, 3rd NL
ERA: 3.88, 4th NL
Fielding percentage: .985, 5th NL

For the second year in a row, they were the NL East's best team and upped the ante, winning their first pennant since 1993 and their first World Series since 1980. That means the Phillies will go to spring training with an impenetrable sense of invincibility. They've caught and passed the Mets in two consecutive pennant races, so there's no reason for them to believe it can't be done again.

Primary needs

Will the front office let free agent-to-be Pat Burrell walk? Answer that and you'll know exactly where the Phillies will be focused this winter -- or not.

If Burrell departs, there would be an immediate need for a right-handed-hitting outfielder -- say, Magglio Ordonez, or in an even juicier plan, Manny Ramirez. A more realistic option would be to let Jayson Werth inherit left field, shift Shane Victorino to right and make Mike Cameron the new center fielder.

Free agents

LF Pat Burrell, LHP Jamie Moyer, LHP Scott Eyre, RHP Tom Gordon ($1 million buyout).

Moyer might be closing in one AARP membership, but the Phillies are convinced he can keep fooling NL hitters with his changeup. The club was equally committed to keeping Scott Eyre as protection for J.C. Romero, the only other lefty in the bullpen. Eyre would've been eligible to test the market, but chose to sign a one-year, $2 million contract on Monday.

The big question is Burrell, and how much of the postseason euphoria will impact the club's decision to reinvest in him.

Trade bait

The Phillies have a terrific overcrowding problem on their hands: too much starting pitching going into spring training. The front of the rotation is issue-free with Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Moyer. Joe Blanton appears to be a lock, too, after his critical win over the Rays in Game 4 of the World Series.

Or is he? The Phillies have to make room for Kyle Kendrick and, eventually, blue-chip prospect Carlos Carrasco. Moving Blanton would make it easy for the Phillies to fill the other holes, as few as there are.

Farm aid

Carrasco averaged almost a strikeout an inning at Double-A Reading last season, which the Phillies take to mean he's a year (or less) away from The Show. Question is, where does he fit?

Lou Marson, 22, is the organization's top catching prospect who batted .314 with a .433 on-base percentage at Double-A Reading. A late September call-up, Marson hit a two-run homer in his first major league game, on the final day of the regular season.

Outlook

What's not to like about a team that has a strong starting rotation, a perfect closer (Brad Lidge was 48-for-48 last season, including the postseason) and enough power to impress even American Leaguers?

Most of all, the Phillies have confidence, which will be the most critical asset of all in '09.

Bob Klapisch is a sports columnist for The Record (N.J.) and a regular contributor to ESPN.com.

Bob Klapisch is a sports columnist for The Record (N.J.) and a regular contributor to ESPN.com.