Amaro said the Phils are built to win. Acquiring a 25-year old starting pitcher with genuine number two capabilities would only help them win now and in the future, when the next core comes along. The consensus among baseball analysts is Tanaka is better than any of the free agent starting pitchers on the market. Better than Garza, Santana or Jimenez, the top three starting pitchers still available.
Talent aside, the biggest differences between the aforementioned pitchers and Tanaka, and they’re huge, is Tanaka is only 25 and won’t cost the Phils a second round draft choice like Santana or Jimenez would. There was no qualifying offer made to Garza so he wouldn’t cost a pick. These three pitchers will all be 30 or 31 when the 2014 season begins. Contracts on older free agents almost always include dead money on the back end of the contract. If Tanaka is signed to a six or seven year deal he’d be a Phillie throughout his prime, not the tail end of his prime and the beginning of the end.
Amaro has said time and again his philosophy is to build around starting pitching. Well here’s a young starting pitcher just entering his prime that can be a difference maker, so why not go after him? How often does a team have the opportunity to get an excellent, young starting pitcher without giving anything up? The answer is almost never. Now the chance to sign a 25 year-old number two pitcher has emerged, but the Phils have decided to sit out this rarest of opportunities.
This is the mentality of a team steeped in losing ways, not accustomed to the recent years of success they and the city reveled in. David Montgomery has no idea how to handle the accomplishments the Phils enjoyed and parlay those winning years into a new Phillie mentality…the expectation of winning.
Tanaka could be had and not put the Phils over the luxury tax. There’s no reason not to aggressively pursue him except they don’t want to spend the money. I can’t believe a Wharton graduate like Montgomery can’t see the correlation between winning and attendance. When the Phils were winning they led the league in attendance four straight seasons.
Last year attendance dropped to 4th in the NL after a .500 season in 2012 was followed by the mind numbing, boring, disastrous 73-89 2013 season. Last year was as bad, if not worse than their record indicated. Many of their wins were ugly and many of the losses were downright fugly. It was that bad.
Start winning again and the fans will fill the park. It was proven in the Phils 2007-2011 run. Montgomery would rather run the team into the ground and likely guarantee the team hits it’s profit goals. There’s comfort there…and God forbid Monty should venture outside his comfort level. The other option is spend the money on Tanaka and take a chance the Phils still won’t be competitive. That’s too much exposure to vulnerability for the risk averse Montgomery.
How bad does Montgomery & Amaro think the current roster is? As constructed I think last years 73-win season is 2014’s ceiling. Keep in mind the Phils Pythagorean W-L last year was 66-96. Is good health (never a given on an older, injury plagued team), Marlon Byrd and Roberto Hernandez going to add the 24 wins that would be necessary to get to 90 total? That’s what’s needed if the team record matches it’s Pythagorean record next year and the Phils expect to make the playoffs?
By not pursuing Tanaka the Montgomery/Amaro tandem are acknowledging they don’t believe what they’ve been telling us about how good the Phils will be if they stay healthy. Either that, or they don’t believe the Phillies will stay healthy. What else could it be? If they’re going to be as good as Amaro tells us, adding a pitcher of Tanaka’s talent could be the difference between being a genuine contender for a title or the wannabe contender Amaro’s trying to pass this team off as. It’s a disgrace.