Laynce Nix. Can’t hit lefties. Can’t pinch-hit. Welcome to the Phillies bench. I haven’t heard of any spike in ticket sales, and I just breezed through Modell’s and there were not any “NIX ?” jerseys on the racks among the Papelbon paraphernalia. Since it’s getting a bit close to Christmas that is where my mind is headed when looking for apt comparisons, and since the Phillies fan is mostly a spoiled creature at this point anyway, why not just draw the straight line to Christmas morning? Depending on how big of a brat you were as a child, there might have been a Christmas where you were upset you didn’t get what you wanted. You tore open that shiny first present expecting a Playstation and it turned out to be a Game Genie for the Nintendo you already had. Then, it became a numbers game. How many more presents do I have? And, what if they all are socks and sweaters?
The Jonathon Papelbon signing was nice, but it wasn’t what people wanted. Since that quick flash of excitement the Phillies seem to be trying to bore everyone to death with the likes of Wigginton and now Nix. There’s still hope for that big present (maybe it didn’t even fit under the tree!), but time isn’t on the side of the fans. There’s a pretty good chance we’ll be stuffing wrapping paper into trash bags while some fans are still frantically looking around for Michael Cuddyer or David Wright. This is what happens when you become conditioned to the blockbuster.
If the Phillies were going to make a big splash at this point, it would almost certainly have to involve a trade. Michael Cuddyer seems like a very expensive, modest upgrade at this point. And, for the record, I think the Phillies and Cuddyer are better off without each other. Jose Reyes has signed with the Marlins–so there goes that pipe dream. So now, unless you are talking about bringing Rollins back, the big move would have to involve shipping pieces. There were Cole Hamels trade rumors popping up a while back. Shane Victorino is always a popular name among armchair GMs, but if the Phillies mortgaged off another chunk of talent for David Wright or sent Hamels packing for a young bat, they’re just weakening themselves in other areas. If Shane leaves, who’s playing center? If Hamels goes, or Worley goes, suddenly you’re down to a very top-heavy rotation.
The Phillies have made their commitments and there’s no way they can shift from a pitching team back to an offensive juggernaut again with this group of players. They might be able to marginally improve the offense, but it would likely come at the expense of the pitching staff. The result would be a wash. And, wouldn’t you rather go with the proven commodity? You know Hamels, Halladay and Lee are rocks. They’re much safer bets than David Wright or Hanley Ramirez, or whatever other name you might have conjured up.
I could certainly be wrong, and this could all be part of Ruben’s ruse, but things are shaping up as if Mayberry will be in a platoon in left-field with Nix, first base will be covered by some combination of Nix/Wiggington/Mayberry until Howard comes back, the Phillies and Rollins will find each other by default, and that will be the club. You’ve shipped out Gload for Thome. Martinez for Wigginton. Ibanez for Nix and Madson for Papelbon. If that’s better or worse, you can decide for yourself, but it’s obviously very similar. Right now, I don’t see how that isn’t the most likely scenario. Anything else would take a ton of moving pieces.
On the Reyes deal…I’m happy for the 28 baseball fans in Miami. I was a little worried Florida was going to kick the tires on everyone and sign no one, but they’re bringing the fire now with Heath Bell and Jose Reyes. Reyes falls just short of a Werth contract, but wasn’t humbled to the tune of 90 million, which some people were speculating last week. The lack of a brisk market was most likely due to Jose’s inability to stay on the field. And, the possibilities for his combination with Hanley Ramirez are endless. There’s a chance that Reyes/Ramirez/Stanton could become the most feared offensive trio in the NL. There’s also a chance that Reyes plays 90 games a year, Ramirez continues his trek to Soriano-ville and Stanton develops a giant hole in his swing.
It’s a risk the Marlins had to take, because baseball is on life-support down there and this move to the new stadium is probably their last chance to create any kind of permanent fan base. The Reyes signing they hope becomes what the Thome signing was for the Phillies. I don’t think Miami is set up to adopt baseball like it was re-adopted here in Philly over the last decade, but they’ve got to at least take a shot. Short of Pujols, Reyes was their best option. They’ve got plenty of young talent, but they also been here before. They’ve won. They’ve got to make a long-term commitment to success and hope that they can dig up at least a stadium full of die-hards.
I think Reyes will be decent in Miami. I’m not pushing the Carl Crawford button, but the Marlins are still on the periphery of the NL East. They’ll be improved, and they’ll be tough, but the NL East is stacking up to be a very serious division (minus the Mets), and they won’t be ready to make a huge leap in 2012, though I expect they’ll be a bit of a trendy sleeper pick to slip by Atlanta and Philly.