We last remember the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans devastated as Ryan Howard weakly grounded out to end the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. That horrid image has been permanently etched in their memories as Ryan Howard limped off the field with help from his teammates, only later revealing his ruptured left Achilles tendon. Ruben Amaro Jr., Phillies General Manager, and the front office appear to be on the right track to bringing the Phillies back to championship glory, as shown by their off-season progress.
Heading into the 2012 campaign, Amaro immediately targeted his depth as an area of weakness and acquired the services of future hall of famer Jim Thome as a power bat off the bench. Amaro later signed prize free agent relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon, one of the top closers in baseball. In addition, outfielder Laynce Nix and journeyman pitcher Dontrelle Willis were added via free agency; multi-position infielder/outfielder Ty Wigginton was acquired through a trade with the Colorado Rockies; and the front office re-signed backup catcher Brian Schneider and former MVP shortstop Jimmy Rollins. The Phillies are also encouraged to bring back arbitration eligible players including ace pitcher Cole Hamels, off-starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick, and Hunter Pence, who signed a one year $10.4 million contract on January 27, 2012. After re-signing utility infielder Wilson Valdez earlier this month, he was shipped to the Cincinnati Reds for reliever Jeremy Horst.
The free agency wheels haven’t come to a complete stop yet, as former Chicago White Sox outfielder Juan Pierre was signed to a minor league deal on January 27, 2012. He will compete for the Phillies fifth outfield bench spot and could provide some much needed speed off the bench, despite his declining stolen base numbers. Pierre is one season removed from leading the American League in stolen bases with 68 in 2010. As Amaro has shown time and time again that he has a knack for putting the best product on the field, he has maintained a clear objective this off-season by boosting the bench depth. Baseball is truly a long season, filled with streaks, slumps, and injuries, but the Phillies are prepared to endure the season with their improved bench and key role contributors. One thing that most Phillies fans want to see is the October performances they enjoyed in 2008 en route to a World Series championship over the Tampa Bay Rays. It is now time to restore the glory of that magical season by carrying another World Series trophy down Broad Street. All the pieces are there, but it is up to the team to make it happen.
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