Originally posted on Philly Sports World  |  Last updated 2/26/12

Jim Thome is one of the players the Phillies acquired this offseason that will help solidify their bench and hopefully bolster their World Series hopes. Photo: Yardbarker.com

For the Philadelphia Phillies, this offseason has been more about tweaking than about major moves. Of course you could argue that signing closer Jonathan Papelbon to the richest deal for a closer in major league history is a major move, but it really amounts to more of a peace of mind move than a major upgrade.

Papelbon was the biggest move for the Phillies this offseason, and in him, they signed a top of the line closer with a pedigree for pitching in the postseason and in high pressure situations. I am not overlooking this move or marginalizing it, because it was a good signing. If you’re thinking about giving Ryan Madson $11 million a year, then why not give a more proven Papelbon $12.5? It makes sense. But the reality is that Madson did a solid job as the Phillies closer. How many wins are you actually going to pick up with Papelbon over Madson? A couple? Maybe. As I said, this move is more about having a closer that the team has complete confidence in. And that’s a good thing, and something we haven’t had since Brad Lidge was actually “lights out” in 2008.  The Phillies also added Chad Qualls to the bullpen, giving themselves another veteran option in the later innings.

Beyond the splashy Papelbon deal, the Phillies totally made over their bench. Adding players like Ty Wiggington, Laynce Nix and Jim Thome significantly upgrades the Phillies bench and provides a depth that the Phillies have lacked in the past couple of seasons.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much prefer to have Jim Thome pinch hitting than Ross Gload. Nothing against Gload, who bravely battled through a hip injury last year, but Thome has a little bit more pop in his bat than Gload, as evidenced by his 600+ career Home Runs. Similarly, I’ll take Wiggington over Wilson Valdez at the plate any day, though Valdez’s defense was solid.

While the Phillies have been eliminated during the past two postseasons, one thing stood out to me over everything else… The Phillies had no real options on the bench. The Phillies didn’t have a guy off the bench who could step in and contribute. More often, when a guy like Michael Martinez stepped up to the plate, you feared it was an automatic out. Teams like the Cardinals and Giants had guys coming off the bench or sometimes off of the scrap heap and putting a serious hurting on the Phillies.

Perhaps now, the Phillies will have those types of players. Guys who can step in and provide a spark instead of guys who can step in and provide an out.

In the field, the Phillies’ signings have provided them with some versatility. Ty Wiggington can play 1st, 2nd and 3rd bases. That means players like Placido Polanco and Chase Utley, who have been injury risks the last couple of years, can get a break without the steep drop off in production at the plate that we have seen in years past.

Laynce Nix will likely provide a solid platoon partner for John Mayberry Jr. in left field. Nix hits righties well, while Mayberry mashed lefties last season. I’m sure the hope is that Mayberry will step up and be the everyday left fielder, but until he proves he can effectively hit right handers consistently, I think you’ll see the platoon. That being said, Nix may see a lot of time in left to start the season while Mayberry fills in at 1st for the rehabbing Ryan Howard.

Perhaps the most intriguing signing the Phillies made was outfielder Juan Pierre. Pierre is 34, and may have lost a step in the speed department, but he’s still faster than most of the league, and provided he makes the roster, could give the Phillies a solid hitter who actually knows how to play small ball and situational hit. Pierre can also play all three outfield positions, again giving the Phillies versatility and depth.

While the list of players added pales in comparison to stealing Cliff Lee or trading for Roy Halladay, they could go a long way to stabilizing the Phillies. Whatever the result, this is the best bench the Phillies have assembled in a long time.

Similar Posts:

  • Phillies Remain Busy As Spring Training Approaches
  • Why the Phillies Signed Cole Hamels for 1 Year
  • Will Cole Hamels Stay or Go?
  • Brad Lidge – Forever a Phillie
  • Phillies Agree to Terms with Hamels and Valdez to Avoid Arbitration

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