The Phillies built one of the game's most imposing pitching staffs entering this season but still fell in the divisional round to the St. Louis Cardinals. They announced on October 24 they would not automatically bring back that staff when they officially declined 2012 options on starter Roy Oswalt and reliever Brad Lidge.
The Phillies said they would still pursue the pitchers, but not at the price they would have had to pay for the options.
"While we will not pick up either of their options, we will remain in contact with representatives for both players about the possibility of bringing them back for the 2012 season," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. "Brad and Roy both made significant contributions to the Phillies over the past several seasons."
Oswalt's option reportedly would have cost the Phillies $16 million, and Lidge's was valued at $12.5 million.
Oswalt, 34, initially came over in a July trade deadline deal in 2010 as a midseason replacement for Lee, who left as a free agent before that season. In his year and a half with the Phillies, Oswalt was 16-11 with a 2.96 ERA in 35 starts. But Oswalt struggled in his postseason start against St. Louis this year, allowing five runs in six innings and taking the loss. He was 1-1 with a 1.84 ERA in the 2010 postseason.
Lidge, also 34, was 0-2 with a save and a 1.40 ERA in 25 games for the Phillies last year. In his 22 postseason appearances for the Phillies, from 2008-11, he was 1-1 with 12 saves in 12 chances and a 1.77 ERA.
Before the Phillies reconvene in Clearwater, management will have to do its best to prevent a third straight underachieving postseason. With a rising payroll that was just south of $170 million on Opening Day, with only the New York Yankees ahead of them, the Phils will have the challenge of trying to stay below the luxury tax while also trying to extend their window of opportunity to win a World Series with their current starting pitching core.
Halladay, Lee and Hamels will all return in 2012. The trio made the All-Star team and led a starting staff that sported a major league-best 2.86 ERA.
But the fact that the Phillies were shut out in 32 of the final 34 innings of the NLDS was impossible to ignore and revealed that the team cannot win on superior starting pitching alone. With just one regular position player (Hunter Pence) under 30 years old, the Phils will try to walk the thin line of keeping their core together while also injecting youth into an aging, regressing lineup.
The most pivotal decision this winter will be deciding whether to bring back the longest-tenured athlete in Philadelphia - leadoff hitter and shortstop Jimmy Rollins is eligible to file for free agency for the first time in his career. With no obvious in-house replacement, the Phils will attempt to re-sign Rollins although they'll likely be lukewarm to signing the 32-year-old to a long-term commitment. He said on October 11 that he wants at least a five-year deal.
The Phils also face a decision with Madson, another potential free agent.
The 2012 season is also likely to begin without the services of arguably the most crucial piece of the lineup. Ryan Howard ruptured his left Achilles on the final play of the 2011 season and will undergo surgery. He could be out 6-9 months.
Howard will return eventually, however, and the Phillies still figure to be among the NL favorites again next season with the majority of the team's core intact.
"I'll be right back here," Halladay said. "Honestly, I don't care where you go, there is no team where you're guaranteed to win anything. We have an unbelievable team here. Winning the World Series is always going to be the goal, but when I came over here, I didn't think it was going to be easy. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew it is not something you do every year. I really enjoy the process of going after it, playing the games and getting to this point in the season. Hopefully we get to the point where we get some things going our way and we come back here and do it again."
- The Phillies hired Joe Jordan to be their director of player development. Jordan was with the Baltimore Orioles for the last seven seasons. He replaces Chuck LaMar, who resigned last month.
- Freddy Galvis, a potential replacement for Jimmy Rollins, had a cyst drained from his right wrist and will return to the lineup for Aguilas De Zulia late this week. Galvis was bothered by a sore wrist and hasn't played in over a week.
- Cole Hamels is recovering from surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow and also from having an inguinal hernia repaired. Hunter Pence and Placido Polanco both had sports hernias surgically repaired and Ryan Howard continues to recover from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon in his ankle. The prognosis is for Howard to need six to nine months to fully recover.
- Former Lehigh Valley IronPigs first baseman Andy Tracy is seriously considering retirement. "That's what I've decided, unless something really, really weird happens," Tracy told the Sentinel-Tribune in Bowling Green, Ohio recently. Tracy wants to turn his attention to managing in the minor leagues and has contacted the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Mets and Indians about the possibility of doing so in their organization.