— A. Winning multiple titles is rare; it hasn't been done since the Yankees' 1996-2000 run. But I wouldn't expect Lee to say anything else, and you have to believe the Phillies have a good shot at at least one title in the next two seasons.
Rotations like this haven't come along very often; we're talking four No. 1 starters here, ages 33, 33, 32 and 27. Health permitting — obviously the key for 30-plus guys like Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Lee — this group is poised to win it all now.
Werth's right-handed power, speed and defense will be missed. But remember that Utley (47 games) and Jimmy Rollins (74 games) missed so much time last season, so they could make up for some of that lost production just by being in the lineup 130-140 times. Utley has been slowed this spring by patella tendinitis in his right knee, so that is a red flag. But it's only March 1, and Opening Day is a month away.
The other concerns are bullpen depth, and how playing time in right field will be divided. The rotation will lessen the need for middle relief, as it could combine for up to 1,100 innings (1,059 combined last season, when Lee and No. 5 starter Joe Blanton both spent time on the disabled list).
Kyle Kendrick (180 innings as a starter in 2010) can pick up many of those middle-relief innings, and there are solid young candidates in David Herndon, Antonio Bastardo, Scott Mathiesen and Vance Worley. The back five bullpen spots seem secure: Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras, Danys Baez and J.C. Romero.
As for replacing Werth, manager Charlie Manuel will figure out the best way to go with Domonic Brown, Ben Francisco and John Mayberry Jr. Brown is a consensus top-5 prospect, and Francisco is a solid platoon/fourth outfielder.
The payroll situation is fascinating. With seven players making $11 million-plus this season — Halladay ($20M), Ryan Howard ($20M), Oswalt ($16M), Utley ($15M), Lidge ($11.5M), Raul Ibanez ($11.5M) and Lee ($11M) — the 2011 payroll will be around $170 million.
By comparison, the Phils won the World Series in 2008 with a payroll just under $100 million (all numbers from the excellent Cots Baseball Contracts site).
But the long-term obligations aren't as limiting as you might think. Contracts expiring after this season include Ibanez, Hamels ($9.5M), Rollins ($8.5M), Oswalt (club option for 2012), Lidge (club option for 2012), Madson ($4.5M) and Baez ($2.75M).
And the only players locked up beyond 2012 are Howard (through 2016 with 2017 club option); Lee (2015 with 2016 option); Halladay (2013 with 2014 club option) and Utley (2013). So the Phils clearly are set up for a two-year, spend-to-win-it-all run.
A. Interrupting a Japanese player's contract mid-season just isn't done. The logistics would make it all but impossible, anyway. Elite-level Japanese players who want to play in our Major Leagues require a posting fee paid to their Japan League teams for negotiation rights. After an American major-league team wins those rights (as the Red Sox did with Matsuzaka, for example), they have to sign the player to a long-term major-league deal.
Incidentally, the next high-profile player expected to jump is right-handed starting pitcher Yu Darvish.
A. Corked bats give you the best pop, Connor. Too bad they're illegal. Just kidding. It really just depends on who you ask. Many big-league players stick to the old-school ash bats; others have opted for some of the newer types and brands, mostly maple.
Some think maple bats produce a bit more pop -- when solid contact is made. But as has become painfully obvious, they shatter more frequently and more violently than ash bats. So much so that at some point in the near future, you could see some new MLB regulation and standardization of bats.