It’s no secret that Ruben Amaro loves winning.  The Phillies don’t ever want to rebuild, and to this end, Amaro seems to demand the moon for any of his major league talent.  So, for fun, I’m going to engage in a fun hypothetical.  In this nega-earth,  I’m no longer Andy the A’s fan.  I’m now Amaro’s right hand man.  It’s a good life; we bet on everything, and have long arguments where nobody ever admits they’re wrong.  We’re two peas in a pod, except he still thinks that the Gin Blossoms weren’t that good (what a fool).

Too bad though for me; he’s just found out he was so busy being a respected GM that he forgot to cure his Terminal Boneitis.  The doctors tell me his only hope is for the Phillies to make the playoffs in 2015.  Remember that in this pretend scenario, Amaro is my friend and tutor, and I want to do everything I can to please the spirit of my proverbial senpai.  Obviously, making the Phillies a playoff team in 2015 is no small feat though.  How do we do it?

Let’s start with a few assumptions.  PECOTA has the Phillies dead last in 2015 with 69 wins.  The Nationals are predicted to win the NL East with 92 wins, while the Padres and Giants squeak in as the Wild Card teams at 84 wins.  That means I need to add at least 16 WARP to the Phillies as currently constructed, or 24 WARP if I want them to win the division.  I’m going to look at this offseason, with all the moves and signings made, and see if the Phillies could have had a magical offseason that makes them that good.  Here’s what I’m assuming along the way:

1) PECOTA is gospel for this exercise.  All players will play exactly as PECOTA projects.  I know that real baseball doesn’t work this way, but it gives me a guideline within reason.

2) Opening day rosters are finalized, and no players will get hurt throughout the year.  It’s impossible to predict what will happen midseason, but at the very least I can assume that the Phillies could try and keep up midseason as much as anyone.

3) The Phillies have the same standing as any other team in trade negotiations.  I know that certain GM’s have special best friend relationships with other GM’s or agents that make deals possible, but I don’t have any insight there, so I’m assuming that everyone in the league likes me and will make any deal with me that they would make with another team (assuming the price is right).  You people all think I’m cool, right? Right.

4) I’m assuming ownership is backing me on this.  The Phillies currently have a payroll of $136 million, but that’s down from $177 million the previous year.  I’m going to be optimistic and assume that the Phillies want to win as much as my bestie who is stuck in hospice, and will give me a budget of $180 million to work with.

So how is the roster currently constructed?  I take all this data from PECOTA and Baseball Prospectus, but I’ll just use projected playing time and WARP for this article.  By the way, go subscribe to Baseball Prospectus and buy the 2015 annual; they’re both mandatory for the upcoming season.

Pos Name PT% WARP
C Carlos Ruiz 80 2.7
Cameron Rupp 15 0
Tommy Joseph 5 0
1B Ryan Howard 70 0.4
Darin Ruf 20 1.4
Maikel Franco 10 0.4
2B Chase Utley 85 3.9
Cesar Hernandez 10 0.1
Chase d’Arnaud 5 0.1
3B Cody Asche 70 1
Maikel Franco 25 0.4
Cesar Hernandez 5 0.1
SS Freddy Galvis 80 1.1
Cesar Hernandez 15 0.1
Chase d’Arnaud 5 0.1
LF Domonic Brown 75 0.9
Darin Ruf 15 1.4
Odubel Herrera 10 -0.3
CF Ben Revere 85 1.8
Aaron Altherr 10 -0.3
Grady Sizemore 5 -0.4
RF Grady Sizemore 65 -0.4
Aaron Altherr 15 -0.3
Odubel Herrera 10 -0.3
Cesar Hernandez 5 0.1
Darin Ruf 5 1.4
PH Darin Ruf 35 1.4
Maikel Franco 30 0.4
Aaron Altherr 15 -0.3
Odubel Herrera 10 -0.3
Tommy Joseph 10 0

 

So this lineup is not that good.  How about the pitching staff?

Pos Name IP WARP
Sta-1 Cole Hamels 217 2.5
Sta-2 Cliff Lee 203 2.9
Sta-3 David Buchanan 165 -1
Sta-4 Jerome Williams 160 -0.7
Sta-5 Aaron Harang 114 -0.8
Spot Chad Billingsley 25 0.1
Spot Jonathan Pettibone 68 0
Spot Jesse Biddle 16 -0.1
Spot Adam Morgan 25 0
Spot Aaron Nola 26 -0.1
Closer Jonathan Papelbon 54 1.2
Setup Jake Diekman 54 0.3
Setup Ken Giles 54 0.7
Mid Luis Garcia 36 -0.1
Mid Justin De Fratus 45 0.4
Mid Phillippe Aumont 31 -0.2
Mid Ethan Martin 31 0
Mid Andy Oliver 31 0.1
Mid Mario Hollands 9 -0.1
Mid Hector Neris 27 -0.1
Long Cesar Jimenez 9 0.1
Long Miguel Gonzalez 45 0.1

 

This staff isn’t much better.  So my goal is to add 16 WARP to have a decent shot at the Wild Card game.  16 WARP is the difference between the cellar and the playoffs.  Here we go!

 

Move #1: Send David Buchanan to AAA, and sign Max Scherzer.

I know I’m going out on a limb for the first one, but man this is a 4.2 WARP swing in one swoop.  Per the contract signed with the Nats, the Phillies would owe Scherzer $10 million in 2015, with a $5 million signing bonus.  That bumps my payroll up to $151 million.  I know the Phillies will have to pay for this contract down the road, but we’re going all in here for our beloved Ruben.  Scherzer at the top does wonders.

 

Move #2: Don’t sign Aaron Harang, and sign Jake Peavy instead.

Aaron Harang is owed $5 million by the Phillies, all just to lose them nearly a win.  On the other hand, Peavy’s backloaded contract means that he’s only owed $7 million + a $4 million signing bonus, and the difference is 2.2 wins.  Our payroll is now at $157 million, but our rotation looks better.

 

Move #3: Don’t sign Jerome Williams, sign Kevin Correia to a $500,000 contract

I’m assuming Correia will take any major league deal at this point, since he’s still a free agent.  This deal gets Williams’ $2.5 million off the books, and replaces it with Correia’s 0.1 WARP at just half a million.  Correia is nothing sexy, but at least he saves money and doesn’t cost us wins.  After these three rotation moves, our 3-5 starters gain us 4.7 wins instead of losing 2.5, so that’s 7.2 wins right there, which means we have 8.8 to go, and $25 million this year to gain it.

 

Move #4: Don’t sign Grady Sizemore, and instead trade Jimmy Rollins to the A’s for Brandon Moss

Sizemore is making $2 million this year to lose the Phillies four-tenths of a run; that’s gotta go.  The A’s traded Moss for a 24 year old guy named Joey Wendle.  At one point they were willing to stomach the salary of Yunel Escobar, and I think it’s safe to assume they would do the same for Rollins, who is a cut above, and will be a big upgrade in their middle infield.  In return, the Phillies get Moss, who projects for 24 home runs and 1.7 WAR.  We lose $6 million net in our budget, but we gain more than 2 wins, putting us 6.7 short with almost $19 million to use.

 

Move #5: Send Philippe Aumont to AAA and J.P. Crawford to the Nationals for Tyler Clippard

The Nationals were looking to get Clippard’s money off the books, so they’ll move him for any decent prospect, really.  There aren’t a whole lot of pitchers that project for 1.7 WAR like Clippard does, and taking Aumont’s -0.2 WARP off the table is nearly a 2 win swing.  The downside is that Clippard is making $8.3 million this year.  So we need 4.8 WARP more, and we’ve got $10.3 million more to spend.

 

Move #6: Send Aaron Altherr to AAA, and sign Chris Young.

Altherr is going to lose the Phillies a third of a win in 206 plate appearances, while Chris Young projects to bounce back and earn 1.2 wins in just 262 plate appearances.  Young is making just $2.5 million, so that 1.5 win swing leaves us 3.3 wins short with 7.8 million to spend.

 

Move #7: Trade Ryan Howard to the Yankees for Alex Rodriguez.

Sure, this is a goofy one, but hear me out.  The Phillies actually save $4 million this year, and the Yankees don’t have to deal with A-Rod.  A-Rod takes on a part time role at third and a pinch hitter, and it frees up first base for somebody a little more useful.  With $4 million extra in the bank, we’re at $11.8 million, with 2.9 wins needed after A-Rod’s addition gains us 0.4 wins.

 

Move #8: Sign Michael Morse, return Odubel Herrera to the Rangers.

Herrera is expendable with A-Rod’s addition, and he’s already projected to lose us 0.3 wins.  In his place, we add Morse, who will get us 1.6 wins in full time duty at first.  He costs us $7 million this year though with a $1 million dollar signing bonus, so we need 1.3 wins with $3.8 million to spend.

 

Move #9: Sign Jose Valverde, send Luis Garcia to AAA.

Valverde is projected to be worth half a win, and he’s on a minor league deal!  No brainer.  Great little pickup by the Padres, and now a great little pickup for the Phillies.  Still at $3.8 million, and now we just need 0.8 wins.

 

Move #10: Send Miguel Gonzalez to AAA, sign Casey Janssen

Hey, what do you know, Janssen is on a $3.5 million dollar deal, and he’s worth 0.7 wins.  Well, Miguel Gonzalez is worth a tenth of a win…so that still leaves us a tenth of a win short with just $300,000 to spend.  So…

 

Move #11: Send Cameron Rupp to AAA, sign JP Arencibia to a minor league contract.

Arencibia makes no money and is earning 0.6 wins in just 294 plate appearances!  I know Rupp is only projected to have 90 plate appearances, but I only need 0.1 wins, so I think I’m OK with assuming Arencibia here gets me two-tenths of a win.

 

So, after sending Diekman to AAA, I’m left with what I believe are the following before and after rosters, with WARP totals at the bottom, and with a slightly better table format for your viewing pleasure:

Pos Name WARP  Pos Name WARP
C Carlos Ruiz 2.7 C Carlos Ruiz 2.7
Cameron Rupp 0 JP Arencibia 0.2
1B Ryan Howard 0.4 1B Michael Morse 1.5
Maikel Franco 0.4 Maikel Franco 0.4
2B Chase Utley 3.9 2B Chase Utley 3.9
Cesar Hernandez 0.1 Cesar Hernandez 0.1
3B Cody Asche 1 3B Cody Asche 1
Cesar Hernandez 0.1 Alex Rodriguez 0.8
SS Freddy Galvis 1.1 SS Freddy Galvis 1.1
LF Domonic Brown 0.9 LF Domonic Brown 0.9
Odubel Herrera -0.3 CF Ben Revere 1.8
CF Ben Revere 1.8 Chris Young 1.2
Aaron Altherr -0.3 RF Brandon Moss 1.7
RF Grady Sizemore -0.4 Darin Ruf 1.4
Sta-1 Cole Hamels 2.5 Sta-1 Max Scherzer 3.2
Sta-2 Cliff Lee 2.9 Sta-2 Cole Hamels 2.5
Sta-3 David Buchanan -1 Sta-3 Cliff Lee 2.9
Sta-4 Jerome Williams -0.7 Sta-4 Jake Peavy 1.4
Sta-5 Aaron Harang -0.8 Sta-5 Kevin Correia 0.1
Closer Jonathan Papelbon 1.2 Closer Jonathan Papelbon 1.2
Setup Ken Giles 0.7 Setup Tyler Clippard 1.7
Mid Luis Garcia -0.1 Setup Ken Giles 0.7
Mid Justin De Fratus 0.4 Mid Casey Janssen 0.7
Mid Phillippe Aumont -0.2 Mid Jose Valverde 0.5
Long Miguel Gonzalez 0.1 Mid Justin De Fratus 0.4
16.4 34

 

Goodness, we actually gained even more than we needed!  If PECOTA thinks the team on the left is a 69 win team, and we’ve gained 17.6 wins on the right, that makes the 2015 Philadelphia Phillies an 86 win team, which should be good enough to make the Wild Card Game.  All we had to do was sign the best free agent, trade Ryan Howard, and add $30 million in payroll while not caring one bit about contractual obligations for 2016 and beyond.  Let’s just hope that the not-actually-dead Ruben Amaro approves of this, wherever he is, and decides to never give up hope.

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