Don't believe everything you heard, or thought, about the Phillies
Two weeks from Sunday, the Phillies' brass will descend upon Clearwater, Fla., as winter unofficially turns to spring. The offseason becomes the preseason.
Although some free agents remain unsigned, most rosters are set, including the Phillies'. After signing Delmon Young, the Phils have little else they can do to enhance their roster.
The much-debated Young signing, followed by the blockbuster trade by the Atlanta Braves 2 days later, capped an interesting week and offseason as a whole for the National League East. Before you begin to use those offseason transactions to calculate your preseason predictions, let's play Fact or Fiction.
Fact: The Phillies have the third-best roster in the National League East.
This is true, at least on paper. Pennants aren't won on paper - ask the 2012 Phillies.
The projected 25-man roster, honestly, is difficult to project because of the health issues that Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay and Chase Utley dealt with last season. If all three are healthy and productive this season, the gap among the Phils, Nationals and Braves isn't quite as big as some would lead you to believe.
If Halladay is back to the form he displayed in his first two seasons with the Phillies, it says here that the Phils' pitching is better than the Braves'.
Fiction: The Phillies have accumulated all of the Youngs.
Delmon and Michael Young are new Phils, but Chris Young was the first Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder traded this winter, to Oakland. But both of the Phillies' Young acquisitions are curious for at least one reason: the transition from designated hitter to regular defender.
Delmon Young played in 118 games as a DH in 2012 and hasn't played rightfield, the position the Phils have set aside for him, since he was with Tampa in 2007. Michael Young started 111 games as either a DH (71) or first baseman (40) in 2012 and hasn't played third base, the place the Phils have set aside for him, on a full-time basis since 2010.
The Phils tried this DH-to-the-field experiment last year with Jim Thome, and we all know how that worked out. We'll give Michael Young the benefit of the doubt, however, since he was a Gold Glove shortstop in 2008.
Fact: The Braves have accumulated all of the Uptons.
Unless you include Kate, who at last check was with Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander, this is true. Atlanta traded for the walking trade rumor that was Justin Upton, adding to an outfield of his older brother, B.J., along with rising star Jason Heyward.
It's probably the most talented outfield in the division, edging out Washington, but, for most of their careers, the brothers Upton haven't matched the Ken Griffey Jr.-like potential with Griffey-in-his-prime production. Good players - and, in Justin's case, sometimes very good - but not elite.
And a reminder: The Phils had two former All-Stars (Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino) in their outfield at the outset of 2012, and we saw how far that got them.
Fiction: Delmon Young was named the Phillies' starting rightfielder.
The Phils did sign Young with the intent to play him in right, a place he calls his natural position, but neither manager Charlie Manuel nor general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has handed him the job. Amaro said only that Young would "ideally" be the team's everyday rightfielder.
Well, in an ideal world, Halladay, Howard and Utley would also be healthy and putting up numbers as if it were 2007, not 2013. And in an ideal world, Delmon Young would match his former top-prospect potential with a breakout season.
But before he can even become a regular in the lineup, Young must get healthy (he had ankle surgery in November), show he can play the field (see above), stay out of trouble (he was suspended after being charged with making anti-Semitic remarks last April and did community service) and stay in shape (he has weight clauses in his contract).
Fiction: Domonic Brown got the shaft when the Phils signed Delmon Young. (Related: Darin Ruf got the shaft when the Phils signed Delmon Young.)
The Phillies wanted to add two outfielders all winter, so there was never a plan to go with two unproven commodities in the two corner outfield positions. The Phils broke camp with question marks in right (2011) and left (2012) in each of the last two seasons, and the results were less than favorable.
That said, Young's arrival doesn't mean Brown and Ruf won't get the opportunity to be everyday players. There is still a giant vacancy sign in leftfield, where both played in 2012. Both will get every opportunity to win that job this spring.
Brown has a chance to prove he can live up to his former high-ceiling potential. But he must stay healthy and stay on the field; some inside the organization have grown frustrated with his inability to do so.
Ruf has an opportunity to show he can take his breakout minor-league season and carry it over to the majors. But he also must prove he can play left, just as much as Young must show he can be adequate in right.