Roberto Hernandez, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Wil Nieves, Marlon Byrd, Brad Lincoln, Cesar Jiminez, Ronny Cedeno. Now, Chad Gaudin and Bobby Abreu. Yes, that Bobby Abreu. Get excited. Along with the re-signing of game changing players like Carlos Ruiz, Kevin Frandsen and John Mayberry, these names epitomize the star-studded, going-for-broke offseason compiled by Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
Looking at the roster heading into the offseason, it was clear to the Amaro and fans alike that the Phillies were only a few pieces away from becoming the class of the division and the National League once more. After the retirement of former Cy Young winner Roy Halladay (highly productive in 2013) and the unreliable performances of Kyle Kendrick and Jonathan Pettibone, Amaro set out to rebuild his starting pitching staff in the mold of the 2011 super rotation.
Mission accomplished. In late August, seeing potential holes in this season’s staff, Amaro filled one of them immediately with the signing of Cuban import Miguel ‘The Linguini’ Alfredo Gonzalez to a three-year, $12 million contract to hopefully be their No. 5 starter.
As if this wasn’t enough to shore up the pitching staff, Amaro put the Phillies’ rotation firmly back on top by bringing in 30-year-old Fausto Carm… my mistake, 33-year-old Roberto Hernandez. The top pitcher on the free agent market with a pedigree of success, Hernandez sat out 2012 but burst back onto the scene last season with an Cy Young caliber season, posting a 6-13 record and a 4.89 ERA with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Never one to stifle competition on his roster, however, Amaro out-bid a slew of other teams for the top remaining pitcher Gaudin and inked him to a lucrative minor league contract today. Gaudin, a beacon of stability and character over the course of his career, now changes teams for merely the 11th time in his 10-year career. He will be given the opportunity to usurp the fifth spot in the rotation from The Linguini and Pettibone in Spring Training. Is this the year or what?!
Not to be outdone, the bullpen, which has virtually no prospects at all coming through the pipeline to speak of that deserve a shot at the big leagues, was bolstered with the addition of Brad ‘The Abe’ Lincoln and, what’s that you say, Gaudin?! That’s right folks, Gaudin is a swingman and will also be given the opportunity to provide depth in the bullpen alongside Lincoln, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2006 draft who has clearly lived up to his draft stock and developed into a stud reliever in the majors with a 4.66 career ERA and 1.386 career WHIP. The Phillies hope, and we all know, that the signing of these four pitchers will surely transition the team into their next golden age.
The offense, on the other hand, ended the 2013 season as one of the most productive in the National League. A team propped up with perennially productive and healthy All-Stars like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Ruiz, not much was needed to bolster a lineup that is clearly as good as it was in 2008. Bringing back Chooch was a no-brainer, as he is an obvious candidate to have a career year at age 35.
However, the big splash that is going to rock the foundation and put the Phillies on top yet again needs to explanation. The first major free agent signing in the offseason, fans are fortunate to have Byrd back in the fold after his sensational first three seasons as a Phil. He is a lock to repeat his 2013 numbers in 2014.
Sensing his team was one final piece away from become the clear World Series favorites, RAJ brought back Abreu on a minor-league contract that is sure to be turned into a major league contract. A clear bounce-back candidate in his age-40 season after sitting out a year, look for Abreu to resume the production he provided from 1998-2006 and, along with Cedeno, provide depth on a bench that has virtually no alternatives or future prospects.
The Phillies are back, ladies and gentleman. Thanks in large part to the executive acumen of one Ruben Amaro Jr., the incredible patience that Philadelphia fans have always provided their sports teams, and the performances of new players like The Abe and The Linguini, look for your Phils to be everybody’s preseason World Series favorite in 2014. Get your spaghetti streamers ready!