If you are looking for the Phillies to make a big splash in the Winter Meetings this week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., think again.
Most can agree that even though they failed to reach the World Series for the first time in three years, the Phillies still have a dangerous lineup and good starting pitching.
Ruben Amaro Jr. and the front office are always looking to add a piece here-or-there to improve the team, but there is not much out there as of now.
While there still remains a chance they could re-sign free agent Jayson Werth, look for the Phillies to find a mid-level replacement for Werth if he decides to move on. If Werth takes a more lucrative deal with the Red Sox or Angels, the Phillies will be left with no right-handed power in their lineup.
Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Dominic Brown all bat from the left side of the plate. We have seen before that teams with good situational left-handers coming out of the bull pen have given our left-handers a hard time.
What right-handed bats will the Phillies be able to bring in? Although these names are not going to get the fans overly excited, as of now the Phillies would take a strong look at Matt Diaz or Jeff Francoeur.
Diaz was non-tendered by the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, which makes him a free agent. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel likes Diaz, who lives nearby in the offseason in Winter Haven, Florida. For the past few years Diaz has been somewhat of a thorn in the side of Phillies pitchers. Diaz is a decent player that has always done well against Philadelphia.
Francoeur is also another interesting option for the Phillies. He started his career with Atlanta and was traded to the Mets over a year ago. He ended the 2010 season with the Texas Rangers who fell short in the World Series against the San Francisco Giants.
Like I said before, neither Diaz nor Francoeur are exciting alternatives to Jayson Werth, but in this lineup not a single player has to be superman.
Another area of the team that always needs improving is their bullpen. The Phillies signed right-hander Jose Contreras to a two-year, $5.5 million contract last month. He along with closer Brad Lidge, setup man Ryan Madson and right-hander Danys Baez will be holding down the bullpen for now.
The Phillies would like to find a veteran left-hander to replace J.C. Romero, but can they get one at a reasonable price?
Favorites include Pedro Feliciano, Arthur Rhodes and Brian Fuentes; however, if their asking price is too high, they may take their chances with Antonio Bastardo as their primary lefty.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have decided not to offer George Sherrill a contract for next season which makes him another left-handed reliever that will now be a free agent. Sherrill is another option that Amaro Jr. will explore over the next few weeks.
I think we are starting to see the decline in production from outfielder Raul Ibanez. If the stars aligned perfectly, the Phillies would be willing to unload the remaining $11.5 million for Ibanez or the remaining $17 million over two years for starting pitcher Joe Blanton.
Of course, it is easy to say “move some salaries around to make room for Werth.” But it’s not easy to do. I do not see the Phillies trading anybody from their 25-man roster to make the necessary room for Werth.
But then again, Amaro Jr. and the Phils are always up to something, so stay tuned.
Through 27 games, the Philadelphia Flyers overall record stands at 16-7-4 for a total of 36 points which is puts them in second place in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the entire Eastern Conference. The Pittsburgh Penguins are currently at the top of the Atlantic Division.
There have been a few pleasant surprises for the Flyers so far this season. Defensemen Sean O’Donell and Andrej Meszaros are arguably the best third defensive paring in the entire league. O’Donell came into the weekend with the second best plus minus in the NHL at plus 16. Meszaros is fifth in the NHL at plus 15.
The two of them do not receive much attention; however they keep goals off the board. In last year’s Stanley cup run, Kimmo Timonen and Chris Pronger were relied on heavily. They both were averaging almost 25 minutes a game. Eventually your players will begin to wear down if you rely on them as much as Laviolette had to last year.
With the additions of O’Donell and Meszaros, Pronger and Timonen will be able to stay fresh throughout the season.
In addition to O’Donell and Meszaros, Sergei Bobrovsky has become a household name in the city of Philadelphia. He was just named November’s rookie of the month. He was 7-1-2 in Nov. with a 2.02 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in 11 starts.
With Michael Leighton in the middle of a six-day conditioning assignment with the Adirondack Phantoms, the goaltending situation for the Flyers is going to get interesting. Although back-up goaltender Brian Boucher has played well when given the opportunity, it looks as though he will be the odd man out when Leighton is ready to return to the Flyers.
One guy who will be keeping his spot in the lineup is Andreas Nodl. In just 18 games with the Flyers Nodl has six goals and five assists. Nodl plays the wing on a line that is centered by captain Mike Richards. Both players are very good two-way players.
One area of Nodl’s game that has impressed many so far has been his play down low in the corners. He has obviously gotten stronger in the offseason and now does a good job controlling the puck in the offensive zone.
The Flyers recent struggles have stemmed from their lack of power-play production. Two weeks ago the Flyers had the third best power-play in the NHL. They have since dropped to 15th in the league. With that being said, fans should not be worried. The Flyers will get their power-play back on track. They are just too good as a unit to fall into a season long slump.
We all know about Richards, Jeff Carter, Danny Briere and Claude Giroux. The role players on this team will be the determining factor as to how far this team goes this season. Darroll Powe and Blair Betts have been very stingy when killing penalties.
Jody Shelley has been as advertised as far as his toughness goes.
If guys like Nodl, Powe, Betts and Shelley can stay consistent, the Flyers are going to be hard to beat. Star players are nice, but every team that wins a Stanley Cup has key guys who fill certain roles on the team.
(This article excludes the results of Flyers vs. Islanders on 12/5)