Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
I understand that yesterday’s moves by the Phillies weren’t especially exciting. Signing Wil Nieves to serve as a backup catcher and then trading for Blue Jays reliever Brad Lincoln aren’t the type of Earth-shattering moves that will get Phillies fans talking.
The move looks especially insignificant when compared to the big baseball deal of the day: The Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury to a massive free agent contract. The former Red Sox outfielder will receive $153 million over seven years with an eighth year option.
Because Phillies fans react negatively to anything that Ruben Amaro does (or in this case, doesn’t do), there was no shortage of Phillies fans complaining yesterday:
As I pointed out yesterday, one of the more frequent criticisms of Ruben Amaro is that he signs players in their thirties to expensive long-term contracts. So of course people rip him for not signing another 30-year-old to a long-term contract. And you wonder why I think the criticism of Amaro is much more severe than merited?
Let’s take a look at the situation:
Ellsbury would have undoubtedly been an upgrade for the Phillies. While Ben Revere is adequate as a starter in centerfield, he is clearly not as good as Ellsbury. But would a switch from Revere to Ellsbury be worth the considerable difference in their salaries, not to mention the inevitable dead money at the end of Ellsbury’s deal?
Some might argue that the Phillies should have signed Ellsbury instead of Marlon Byrd, saving $8 million in the process. But that would have left with Phillies with six lefties in their starting lineup as well as a switch hitter who is much better from the left side. The Phillies clearly wanted to avoid that.
Due to their already large payroll, the Phillies only have so much money to spend, and center field was not an area where the Phillies needed to make a major improvement. If the Phillies do make a big move, I’m hoping that it’s something that will improve the team more than Ellsbury would have. (And no, I don’t think Shin-Soo Choo is the answer either.) If they are still planning on spending money this offseason, I’d much rather see them upgrade their starting pitching (Matt Garza? Masahiro Tanaka?)
I realize that it’s always a bit frustrating to see other teams make splashy moves, especially when you think that the player in question could have helped the Phillies. But in this case, I think the Phillies were wise to have passed on Ellsbury.