Disappointing. Grotesque. Unexpected. Just about any unpleasant adjective your brain can fabricate would accurately describe the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies owned the best record in baseball over the past two seasons and sat atop the NL East for the past five—so, naturally, expectations were higher than the Comcast Center building.
However, this elevator never reached the fourth floor.
Fans turned bitter, blaming everyone from Jesus Tiamo to Ruben Amaro Jr. for the failed season, yet expectations remain high for the upcoming season.
Third base, center field and relief pitching are the glaring weaknesses on the roster, and there are plenty of talented ballplayers available to fill the gaps.
So which players will not be wearing their Sunday whites next year?
We’ll start with third base.
This should come as no surprise. The Phillies have declined Placido Polanco’s option, making him a free agent next season. Along with Polanco, the team also decided not to retain Ty Wigginton. This leaves a vacancy at third base and at reserve first base behind Ryan Howard.
The Phillies will face arbitration with Kevin Frandsen, who filled in nicely towards the end of last season. He has the potential to be an everyday starter and should compete for the spot, but he needs improvement defensively.
Philadelphia also considered moving Chase Utley from second to third so the team could have budding star Freddy Galvis start at second, but management has since squashed this project.
The team could look outside of the organization to aging-yet-productive free-agent Kevin Youkilis. This signing would make sense, covering needs for both a third base starter and reserve first baseman. He would add power to the right-handed side of the plate—which is much needed in this lineup—and provide average defensive skills.
Youk’s style of play could fit perfectly into the city’s admiration for the blue-collar, hard-nosed athlete—even if it’s only for one season.
Signing a third baseman also greatly depends on how the organization prioritizes the outfield positions.
Currently, the team has incredible promise from within, as John Mayberry Jr., Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf should all be returning next season.
But which outfielders will not make the cut for 2013?
CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury believes the Phillies should let outfielders Juan Pierre and Laynce Nix walk, leaving a hole in center field. Nate Schierholtz, the disappointing outfielder from San Francisco, is up for arbitration and is also a non-tender candidate. According to Salisbury, Schierholtz may not be around either.
The Philadelphia Inquirer believes that center field will be the team’s main focus this offseason, with a strong list of potential candidates to man the position in Citizen’s Bank Park next season.
This list includes Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton and Josh Hamilton—all of whom would add some form of depth to the lineup. The Phils must grab one of them to be a contender next season.
Finally, a team's bullpen is often overlooked each season. They are the "special teams" of baseball—but, as we all know, special teams can decide games.
Antonio Bastardo is eligible for arbitration and will return to the Phils next season, but the same cannot be said for Jose Contreras. The team has announced that they will decline to pick up his option for next season.
Philly.com looks at several players the Phillies could look at this offseason to boost the pen—Ryan Madson could even be reunited with his old team.
It’s pretty clear who the team is willing to let go, but fans are still uncertain of the team’s direction. Will they chase a World Series title in 2013, or invest for the future sans Howard, Utley and Rollins?
There is one guarantee: The Phillies Phans will not tolerate another failing season.