Phillies sign Chad Qualls, offseason of irrelevance continues

The Philadelphia Phillies signed right-hander Chad Qualls to a one-year, $1.15 million contract on Tuesday, five days after former closer and setup man Brad Lidge signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Washington Nationals.  This came after the Phillies reportedly gave Lidge a lowball offer, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  While Lidge has proven to be successful in Citizens Bank Park, Qualls had a 5.05 era away from Petco Park last season, and a 7.32 era in 59 innings in 2010.

The Qualls signing marks another stubborn, insignificant move made by General Manager Ruben Amaro, whose team did not make many moves to improve from their 2011 campaign.  The Phillies made their biggest move of the offseason signing Jonathan Papelbon, the former Red Sox closer who has made four all-star teams in six seasons with Boston.

Jonathan Papelbon signed a four year, $50 million contract on November 11, which came a few days after the highly documented talks with Ryan Madson failed.  Madson’s agent Scott Boras reported that the Phils and Madson had agreed to a four year, $44 million contract, but Amaro grew stubborn that the agent wanted this much money for his client and jumped to set the closer market with Papelbon.  Madson did not sign a contract until January 20that is only paying him $6 million in 2012.  The deal includes a second year option with a $2.5 million buyout, essentially making it an $8.5 million contract.

The Phils made their biggest splash with Jonathan Papelbon, who signed a $50 million contract. Picture from Associated Press

Most of the moves the Phillies made besides signing Papelbon were re-signing players, most notable Jimmy Rollins, who signed a three year deal for $33 million.  Rollins was on the open market for over a month, but found few suitors and shortened his five year deal request.

Cole Hamels re-signed to avoid arbitration at $15 million.  Also avoiding arbitration were Hunter Pence and Kyle Kendrick, who were signed for $10.4 and $3.585 million, respectively.

The Phillies added for other free agents, utilityman Ty Wigginton, outfielder Laynce Nix, lefty Dontrelle Willis, and former-Phillie Jim Thome.  The player who will most likely make the most impact is Ty Wigginton, who can play both corner outfield spots, and third, second, and first base.

So after the Phillies were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in 2011, where they scored zero runs in their final loss of the season, why have no moves been made to improve the offense?  Ruben Amaro and the Phillies brass are apparently satisfied with Placido Polanco at third base, who at one point in the season went 115 at bats without an extra base-hit, good for one-fourth of his at bats in the season.

There were rumors swirling that the Phillies would sign Aramis Ramirez at third base if they were unable to re-sign Rollins.  Amaro is apparently wasn’t willing to spend that kind of money on both players, but was willing to give Papelbon $50 million because he was impatient with Ryan Madson.  The second best closer on the free agent market, Heath Bell, signed for three years $27 million with the Marlins.

If the Phillies had not signed Papelbon, the money saved could have easily been enough to sign Ramirez, which would have made them instant favorites to win the World Series.  Now the question remains going into 2012, will the offense produce enough to win in the playoffs?  The past two seasons this has not been the case, as they have been ousted by the eventual World Series winning San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals.  Instead of addressing the obvious problems on offense, Amaro “upgrades” at closer for a steep price that will continue to cripple this team in the future.

Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino will both be free agents after the 2012 season, and Hunter Pence will be on the open market after 2013.  The team has Halladay, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Lee, and now Papelbon locked up for most of their team’s salary cap for the next five seasons.  With none of these players under 30, the window for the team to get that next World Series is closing.

The pressure will be on GM Amaro in 2012, as the Phils have had little playoff success under his reins. Picture from AP

The most likely scenario to happen will be the Phillies trying to make another big deal at the deadline to improve their offense, which they have the past two seasons with Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence.  This year, however, they don’t have Ed Wade giftwrapping the other side of the deal.

Bottom line, the Phillies would much rather settle scores with players and agents then go out and be aggressive and make the moves necessary to ensure they are the best team.  Let’s hope the offense can magically come to life in 2011, or this team will again be in trouble come October.

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