Only the oldest of Philadelphia Phillies fans remember that the NL champions of 1950 were known as the Whiz Kids, while most remember that the 1983 NL champs were known as the Wheeze Kids. If the 2014 Phillies are able to duplicate winning the league title, they will be closer to Wheeze than Whiz, so call this version the Geez Kids.
Everything GM Ruben Amaro has done in this offseason has been to add age before beauty, with the caveat of filling a number of needs at a value rather than going for the big-ticket single signing that might excite the fan base.
Nothing speaks to that more than the acquisition of Marlon Byrd to fill a gaping hole in the outfield plan. At the end of the season, Amaro was quoted as saying he would try to trade for Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins. “We’ve tried to do that about 10 times before,” Amaro said. Byrd’s signing means the Phils are done with the outfield and looking to address other needs.
The signing of free agents Byrd and the re-signing of catcher Carlos Ruiz speaks volumes about the Phils’ offseason plans. The Phillies briefly entertained the thought of going after Atlanta Braves free agent Brian McCann, and that would have saved them five years of age, as McCann is 29 and Ruiz is 34. It would have also priced them out of the market to sign a number of mid-range prospects to fill a variety of needs. Now, they are flirting with another 36-year-old free agent in pitcher Bronson Arroyo. Add those to a group that includes a middle infield of Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, and Amaro is gambling on an aging core to the return the team to contention.
Whiz Kids, after all, are more expensive than Wheez Kids or Geez Kids, but this gamble by Amaro is a big one, because it depends on a lot of old guys staying healthy, which is always a risky proposition.
Mike Gibson, an Associated Press Sports Editors’ Association and Keystone Press Association award-winner for Best Sports Story and Best Sports Feature, is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @papreps , “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.