According to Jayson Stark, the Phillies have been trying to deal Geoff Jenkins, who lost his job to Jayson Werth last season and was hurt even more by the acquisition of Matt Stairs.
According to Jayson Stark, the Phillies have been trying to deal Geoff Jenkins, who lost his job to Jayson Werth last season and was hurt even more by the acquisition of Matt Stairs.
We're in the dead of winter, yet this has been the busiest time of my writing and editing life. I just wrapped up a complicated A1 news piece that's taken most of the week to assemble. Then last night, I finished my end of the 128-page 2009 Phillies annual I've been working on since October. It hits stands February. Details on that later. So I'm finally in the clear to take a quick breather and post, but I have no idea what's happening in the world of Phillies baseball. So I'll throw out the name "Feliz" and let you talk amongst yourselves. Back to breaking minor league transaction news tomorrow.
Last night before bed, I jotted down some ideas for future posts and never got around to fleshing them out. Here they are in bullet form.
-- I read a piece in ESPN magazine recently on how one-time pitching gurus Leo Mazzone and Rick Peterson are out of work and I got to thinking whether Rich Dubee has raised his status into one of the premiere pitching coaches in the league. Breakout seasons and career bests abounded in 2008 and it’s a safe guess that past failures had more to do with staffing issues on the part of the Phillies' front office. So is Dubee hot pitching coach property these days?
-- What should one expect from Joe Blanton next season? We can all agree he was one of the unheralded heroes of the postseason and his brief time in Philadephia is generally regarded as a success, but he came to town with some baggage, including a lot of miles on his arm from his time in Oakland. Will he continue to post cavernous home/away splits? Will his K-rate improve? Can his weird delivery hold up?
-- Scott Eyre has something to prove; I talked to him at the winter tour and he made it clear that serving as a club’s lone situational lefthander is nothing new to him. We continue to expect the Phils to pick up additional help, but there’s a strong chance it isn’t coming, and even if it does, Eyre will still serve a major role. He might be just fine at it. In fact, even when Romero returns, by then, the job of top situational lefty could be Eyre's to lose. Remember: Eyre has been a model of consistency over his career and basically had one bad stretch with Chicago, where Romero has fluctuated a couple times from outstanding to terrible.
The second in our series of fireside chats features Phillies manager Charlie Manuel sparing 12 minutes of his time to compare Pat Burrell with Raul Ibanez, offer his take on Ryan Howard's situation, preview the catching situation and explain the challenges facing a manager asked to lead his team following the emotional high of a world championship, plus more. The interview picks up partway through Manuel's take on last season's pitching staff due to technical difficulties, and by that I mean I forgot to turn on the recorder. Other than that, it's an informative and enjoyable interview with the likable and candid skipper. [Listen]
If the farm system is your cup of tea, Beerleaguer's fireside chat with Phillies assistant GM Chuck Lamar should be bookmarked for future use.
The former Tampa Bay GM and current overseer of Phillies player development dishes the dirt on the state of the minor leagues, offers his take on the team’s top prospects and explains what the front office targets most when evaluating young talent. Lamar also reveals some surprises as to which prospects are asked about most by other clubs, and which players have the best shot of breaking into the Majors this season. [Listen]
READING, Pa. -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has watched Chase Utley work out and told Beerleaguer that he looks for his second baseman to be ready by the regular season.
Manuel: "I like for Utley to answer for himself; you can get more out of him that way. But when the season starts, he’s going to be wanting to play. If he can’t play, that tells me that he’s definitely not ready. I’m not worried about it, because if he don’t start the first game of the season, I think he’s going to be very close. Actually, I look for him to start."
The 34-year-old outfielder is guaranteed $65,000 and can opt out if he's not on the 25-man roster by July 1. Hollins, an ex-Ray who last appeared in the Majors in 2006 and bats from the right side, spent all of 2008 with Kansas City's AAA affiliate and patrolled the outfield for the Yomiuri Giants of Japan a year earlier. His contract also contains a clause allowing him to sign with Asian teams. In parts of four seasons, he's a 242/.284/.417 (82 OPS+) hitter with 28 lifetime homers. Beerleaguer: Triple-A depth. If not for the Rays of a few years ago being so wretched, Hollins is your basic Triple-A lifer, stuck in that level since 1996. According to my calculations, he's appeared in 1,655 Triple-A games. That's a helluva lot. Add that to his season in Japan (I actually saw him play live in the TokyoDome), Hollins instantly becomes a new Beerleaguer favorite.
Phillies assistant GM Scott Proefrock said the team remains optimistic that arbitration with Phillies slugger Ryan Howard can be avoided, and that a long-term deal isn't off the table.
Last night, the Phillies caravan consisting of manager Charlie Manuel, pitchers Ryan Madson and Scott Eyre, broadcaster Harry Kalas and assistant general managers Chuck Lamar and Proefrock met with members of the media before the annual King of Baseballtown banquet. As usual, I filled the recorder with about an hour of interviews to be split into smaller vignettes over the next few days. I’ve been snowed under with work and other projects, so look for those this weekend. It's great Beerleaguer stuff you'll appreciate, I can promise you that.
For now, my colleagues at the Reading Eagle, Mike Drago and Brian Smith, filed their reports on where the Phillies stand with Howard. Proefrock, who assists GM Ruben Amaro Jr. had this to say:
"You always hold out hope," Proefrock said. "The process is designed where to provide certain points where - I don't want to call them pressure points, but I guess that's what they are - up to the hearing. You've got some opportunities. We're still optimistic."
Proefrock said the two sides came close to reaching a long-term deal last season and that different thoughts and ideas along those lines continue to be discussed openly.
Beerleaguer take: I was with Brian during his interview with Proefrock and I also talked about Howard in my one-on-one with Chuck Lamar and Manuel. The Phillies are making it abundantly clear that it isn’t a contentious situation even as the two sides remain $4 million apart. I’m taking what they say at face value. Howard won his arbitration case last season, and by all accounts, remained professional about it and understood that it was part of the business. In the meantime, Lamar said Howard is getting ready for the season by working out with third base coach and infield instructor Sam Perlozzo in Florida.
Right-handed bat remains priority, report suggests: Most of you have already read Jim Salisbury’s piece on the how the Phils are considering Moises Alou, along with Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Millar, Rich Aurilia and Mark Grudzielanek. If you haven’t, well, there you have it. The Phillies are considering Moises Alou, Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Millar, Rich Aurilia and Mark Grudzielanek. I'm heavily against signing Grudzielank because there's just no way I would be able to tolerate a season of spelling out his name.
Making a career-high 71 appearances in his first dedicated season as a reliever, the Phillies rewarded Chad Durbin with a one-year, $1.635 million deal yesterday. What does 2009 hold in store?
People tend to forget how vitally important Durbin was to the bullpen, particularly at the beginning of the season. As late as May 20, Beerleaguer rated him fifth in our individual player power rankings, just behind Brad Lidge. Durbin proved to be the missing piece to a certain extent in the early months, and there’s something to be said about performing well in a largely undefined and unfamiliar role.
Nevertheless, the prevailing wisdom seems to be that he depleted his mojo, that he wore down, or that the league caught on, because he didn’t have nearly the same success in the second half. He posted a 4.32 ERA/1.56 WHIP in August and it got even worse in September, a brutal 6.94/1.89, with opponents hitting a robust .340 off him.
My skepticism stems from the fact that his peripherals weren’t particularly strong, even in his best months. Add that to a rapidly climbing workload, and the concerns being expressed on Beerleaguer are justifiable. Including 2006, he’s tallied over 406 innings as a starter and reliever in the Majors and Minors, which makes Ryan Madson’s 273 innings look like chump change.
The Phillies reward outfielder Jayson Werth with a taste of long-term security, but also leave the door open.
Beerleaguer: For Werth, there must be a sense of relief to finally achieve a financial windfall at age 29, nearly seven years after breaking into the league. Because of injuries, inconsistencies and holes in his all-around game, he’s never managed to stick in a starting role until last season, and thus, never climbed the ladder financially during his arbitration years. Werth will reportedly earn $3 million next season, nearly double the $1.7 million he received in 2008, which is a pretty fair raise in terms of sticking to the pay grade in his final year of eligibility. In actuality, he’s worth closer to the $7 million he’ll earn in 2010. His .273/.363/.498 (121 OPS+) line, along with his blend of speed (20 SB), defense and power (24 homers), compares favorably with outfielders throughout the league and he was one of the unsung heroes from the championship season. With Pat Burrell gone, his importance is magnified even more; he’s now the big right-handed threat in the Phillies’ lineup.
Still, two years suggests only guarded optimism on the part of the Phillies. Health-wise, he appears to be in the clear, but there could be lingering doubts that he can go wire-to-wire as an everyday player. He isn’t a lost cause against right-handed pitching, but it can get ugly, and you think about some of the upgrades a team like Atlanta made – adding Derek Lowe, Javier Vasquez and Kenshin Kawakami – he’s going fall into slumps. Also, two years is just enough time to determine whether top prospects Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor are Major League material.
Durbin signs: According to reports, the Phillies have avoided arbitration with reliever Chad Durbin and have agreed to a one-year, $1.635 million deal, leaving Ryan Howard as the lone arbitration-eligible player.
Outfielder Jayson Werth becomes the latest player to make a long-term commitment to the Phillies, avoiding arbitration and coming to terms on a contract extension that will take him into his free agent years, according to the Comcast Web site. Details to come.
Even as we’re hit with a tidal wave of arbitration-related reports, Beerleaguer stands firm with the news you care about, and by that I mean Matt Smith news.
Smith, the man who would have been the Phillies' top situational lefthander and possible eighth-inning answer under Pat Gillick’s 2007 blueprint, has signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs. Part of the two-for-four deal that sent Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle to the Yankees, the 29-year-old showed promise at the tail end of 2006, but made just nine ineffective appearances at the beginning of '07 before he was demoted and shut down with Tommy John surgery. He rehabbed in Clearwater last season.
Sticking with the Cubs, outfielder So Taguchi has agreed on a minor league deal that would pay him $900,000 if he makes the club out of spring training. Taguchi, a .220/.283/.297 hitter in 99 plate appearances with the Phils, would need to beat out Joey Gathright and Reed Johnson for a backup position, which is unlikely. According to a Chicago Tribune blog, his best bet is if Kosuke Fukudome has a bad spring and gets sent to Triple-A Iowa to start the season.
In related news, second baseman Tadahito Iguchi is bowing out of American baseball and will return to Japan, signing a three-year deal with Bobby Valentine's Chiba Lotte Marines. Iguchi was acquired after last season’s non-waiver deadline and was a non-factor. Iguchi has a place in Phillies history for the work he did filling in for Chase Utley in '07.
Finally - as we scrape the bottom of the barrel of this report - lefthanded reliever Stephen Randolph, who posted some sick strikeout totals at Lehigh Valley last season (75 in 47 1-3 innings), has signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers. The 34-year-old veteran has never parlayed his minor league success into a big-league career because he has no control whatsoever.
Just over the AP wire, here you have it - the figure exchange we've been waiting for. Howard and the Phillies settled last season’s contract at the arbitration table with Howard emerging victorious in his bid for $10 million, $3 million more than the Phillies were offering. Howard finished the season second in NL MVP voting and led all of baseball in homers (48) and RBIs (146). Beerleaguer: Obviously, it looks like they're heading to the table again for a second-straight year. I think the Phils have more ammunition than a year ago. He didn't exhibit improved defense or plate discipline, areas I'm sure the Phillies focused on last hearing. His OPS fell almost .100 points. Last season, I thought Howard was worth the $10M he wanted, and so did the arbiter. This year, I think $18M is stretching it, even if the homers and RBIs are there.
Blanton a done deal: The Phillies also came to terms with righthander Joe Blanton on a one-year deal worth $5.475 million, according to the Inquirer. The Phillies have three arbitration-eligible players remaining: Howard, Chad Durbin and Jayson Werth.
The Phillies have avoided arbitration with outfielder Shane Victorino and have come to terms on a one-year contract, it was announced on Tuesday and reported on Comcast’s Web site. According to the report, terms of the deal have not been disclosed. The 28-year-old outfielder was arbitration eligible for the first time.
The Phillies have avoided arbitration with outfielder Shane Victorino and have come to terms on a one-year contract, it was announced on Tuesday and reported on Comcast’s Web site. According to the report, terms of the deal have not been disclosed. The 28-year-old outfielder was arbitration eligible for the first time.
Our Tuesday open thread topic focuses on the World Series MVP.
Summary: Cole Hamels’ three-year extension signified commitment to the team and city. Coupled with his postseason dominance and regular-season endurance, the California kid – considered ‘soft’ by some just months ago – is a proven winner, a characteristic that will take you very far in the city of Philadelphia. Publicly, he’s cultivating a likeable persona, blending honesty with a certain bravado that we like. Compare him with Chase Utley, who definitely oozes toughness, but isn’t nearly as approachable. He also didn't shine quite as bright as Hamels in October and might have hurt his image with his outburst during the championship celebration.
Beerleaguer: I pitched this story to a friend and he offered one clear distinction: Public appeal doesn’t necessarily put you on top, and it’s especially hard to be the man when you don’t take the field every day. By all accounts, Jimmy Rollins sets clubhouse policy, while Utley leads the troops to battle on the field. Nevertheless, Hamels is clearly the man of the hour right now, winning World Series and Championship Series MVP and signing his deal. Plus, he's saying all the right things.
According to the Inquirer’s Jim Salisbury, the Phillies have signed reliever Ryan Madson to a three-year extension worth $12 million plus incentives. The deal buys out the 28-year-old’s final arbitration year and takes him two years deep in free agency. The setup man and Scott Boras client reportedly turned down the Phils’ three-year, $12 million offer last week. Details on the incentives have not been reported. Beerleaguer: The only downside here is that Mad Dog won’t have the added motivation of pitching for a lucrative new deal. As I wrote on Thursday, Madson made a wise decision to accept the long-term commitment considering the economic climate and cash in on his exceptional performance in 2008. Like Cole Hamels, this is another fair deal. The reliever, who's set to become one of the longest-tenured athletes in Philadelphia with this new deal, stepped on the gas and became an integral part of the September stretch run and postseason. From the Phillies' perspective, it's a vote of confidence that Madson can bridge the gap to Brad Lidge for the next few seasons.
According to the Inquirer’s Jim Salisbury, the Phillies have signed reliever Ryan Madson to a three-year extension worth $12 million plus incentives.
The deal buys out the 28-year-old’s final arbitration year and takes him two years deep in free agency. The setup man and Scott Boras client reportedly turned down the Phils’ three-year, $12 million offer last week. Details on the incentives have not been reported. Beerleaguer: The only downside here is that Mad Dog won’t have the added motivation of pitching for a lucrative new deal. As I wrote on Thursday, Madson made a wise decision to accept the long-term commitment considering the economic climate and cash in on his exceptional performance in 2008. Like Cole Hamels, this is another fair deal. The reliever, who's set to become one of the longest-tenured athletes in Philadelphia with this new deal, stepped on the gas and became an integral part of the September stretch run and postseason. From the Phillies' perspective, it's a vote of confidence that Madson can bridge the gap to Brad Lidge for the next few seasons.
It’s getting late and quality starters remain unemployed. The Phillies, who were in the hunt for Derek Lowe, could still walk away with formidable arm, in which case, the table is set for even more maneuvering.
I hate it when the Phillies surprise me, so let's keep our eye on the ball and shift our focus from the gridiron back to the diamond. A couple of speculative reports came out over the weekend and if nothing else they open the door to the possibility of the Phils adding another free agent to the starting rotation. With Lowe off the board, Ben Sheets, Oliver Perez, Randy Wolf, Andy Pettitte, Tom Glavine and Jon Garland are out there, among others, all guys who’ve generally stayed off Beerleaguer’s radar. A recent story in the Boston Globe suggested the Phillies could have interest in Sheets.
Then, in a separate story on MLB.com, the writer suggests that the Phils may be looking into trading Brett Myers. Let’s suppose the Phillies sign a starter, which would supply the rotation with five proven arms. They could do a number of things. They could shop J.A. Happ, Kyle Kendrick or Carlos Carrasco, names that surfaced in trade rumors more than once over the last six months. Or, there’s the concept of flipping Myers, who’s owed $12 million this season, for something useful, perhaps help at third base or an extra arm for the bullpen, or even prospects.
I don’t know that we should assume the Phillies - buyers in a buyers market - are done. They could still have money budgeted, plus, they’re sitting on some rather valuable chips that could be attractive to certain clubs.
And that is, it’s tough to run the table, and what the Phillies did was extraordinary. Led by Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald, the Arizona Cardinals’ duo gouged the Eagles’ defense for three first-half touchdowns en route to a 32-25 victory in the NFC Championship. Down 24-6 at the half, the Eagles roared back to take a 25-24 lead, but the defense couldn’t hold and Donovan McNabb and the offense couldn’t rally in their final possession. Watching the Eagles fall painfully short makes everything the Phillies achieved even more precious.
Cole Hamels has officially signed a three-year, $20.5 million contract with the Phillies, avoiding his first three years of arbitration.
(From the official release) Hamels, 25, went 14-10 last year with two shutouts and a 3.09 ERA in 33 starts for the Phillies during the regular season. He then went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five playoff starts, en route to being named MVP of both the National League Championship Series and the World Series. Combined, Hamels posted an 18-10 record with a 2.92 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .222 average in 262 1/3 total innings pitched.
"Cole has been an integral part of our club," said GM Ruben Amaro Jr. "Based on his 2008 and postseason performance, he has established himself as a true No. 1 starter."
Among National League pitchers over the past two seasons, Hamels has the second-lowest walks per nine innings pitched (2.10), ranks fourth in strikeouts (373) and opponents' batting average (.231), fifth in ERA (3.22), sixth in strikeouts per 9.0 innings (8.17) and tied for sixth in wins (29) and innings (410.2). Hamels is 38-23 for his career with two shutouts and a 3.43 ERA in 84 starts.
“If you look at similar deals (Kazmir, Cain, and a few others), the Phils paid a bit more in 2009 in hopes that they get a little break in 2011.” – MG
“The best part of this deal is keeping a managable price for Cole the next three years. The flexibility this offers the Phillies won't be seen this year, but next (assuming Cole's success train continues.) It's the kind of deal they wish they could have gotten from Howard. The Howard arbitration loss last year was a significant problem for the Phillies. Not only it was their first every loss, but the number was far out of the range they had budgeted. Locking up Cole now... reduces the risks that arbitration now brings.” – Mike Cunningham
“Barring injury, I would expect that Hamels could have made more through arbitration. Still, I can understand why he'd take this deal. $20.5M means he's set for life even if he blows out his arm tomorrow. From the Phillies' standpoint, the best part about the deal is that it keeps their star pitcher happy, avoids the bad blood of an arbitration hearing, and affords them certainty in terms of future salary/payroll planning. It's definitely a very good deal for the Phillies, but "Deal of the Century" is rather extreme hyperbole.” – bay_area_phan
The New York Post reported the story first and it was confirmed by a Phillies source. The 25-year-old World Series and Championship Series MVP, who was arbitration eligible for the first time, will receive $4.35 million in 2009, $6.65 million in 2010 and $9.5 million in 2011, taking him through his first three arbitration years and leaving one more until he hits free agency (correction from my earlier post). More details to come once the signing is made official.
The 2008 Phillies restored order among their pitching staff following a season of chaos.
Here’s a number that jumped off the page when I was reviewing stats the other day: Brett Myers – 190 IP. That’s more than I thought. When you consider his early struggles and midseason demotion, it seems like it should be much less. Suppose he stayed up with the club, he might have made 33 starts instead of 30. Conservatively, let’s suppose he lasted 6, 5, and 6 innings. It would have given him 208 total innings, which would have placed him just outside the National League top 10 for innings pitched. Cole Hamels rated second (227 1-3). Jamie Moyer was 22nd (196 1-3).
Phillies starters logged 966 2-3 innings last season, which is quite good, plus, they only needed seven guys to do it – Hamels, Myers, Moyer, Joe Blanton, Adam Eaton, Kyle Kendrick and J.A. Happ. When Myers was demoted July 1, they became the last team in baseball to break up their original starting five.
Compare that with the hot mess of 2007 when they used 12 starters and 28 pitchers total, which set a Phillies record. Yanked from the rotation and reassigned to the closer role, Myers took the mound in just 68 2-3 innings, only a tick more than J.D. Durbin (64 2-3 IP).
There’s something to be said about reliable starting pitching, and the decision to reinsert Myers into the rotation and get Brad Lidge for the ninth inning turned out to be the best tactical decision any team made last season, even if it took Myers months to get it going.
But even at his worst, Myers ate innings, as did Kendrick, as did Eaton, contributing to an NL second-best 88 quality starts. Credit Charlie Manuel, who was noticeably more patient, almost to fault. Longer leashes allowed the bullpen to fall in line and assume comfortable, predictable roles. That’s when the Phillies’ bullpen has been at its best, not just in 2008, but in previous seasons. The other difference - there was little tolerance for failure. A guy like Eaton, for example, was yanked at the first major sign of trouble. The same for Myers and Kendrick.
There's never been a Phillies team with better pitching balance than the defending champions.
While one arbitration-eligible player, Ryan Madson, wants no part in a multi-year commitment, the club agreed on a two-year deal with Greg Dobbs, marking the first true payday for the game's premier pinch hitter.
Dobbs, whose career has taken off since escaping the American League in 2007, hit .301/.333/.491 with nine homers, setting the Phillies single-season mark for pinch hits in a season with 22 of them. The 30-year-old becomes the first of eight arbitration-eligible Phillies to come to terms on a new deal (Eric Bruntlett, Clay Condrey and Scott Mathieson were taken care of weeks before Thursday's filing). Earlier in the day, it was reported that Madson, a year removed from free agency and represented by Scott Boras, turned down a three-year, $12M offer that would have kept him with the club through 2011.
Beerleaguer: Two-years, $2.5M is a fair deal for Dobbers, and there's room to expand his role if Pedro Feliz needs more time to recover from back surgery. If Dobbs was in the NBA, he's a perennial sixth man of the year candidate. As it is, he's a poster boy for the National League. It takes a special player to handle his line of work, and it wouldn't have been possible in Seattle.
As for Madson, he's taking a risk. Boras thinks he can sell Madson as a closer after the season, but forgets there's no chance to build a portfolio as long as Brad Lidge is a member of the Phillies. Madson also had ample opportunity to prove he could handle the 9th inning in previous seasons and never produced a shred of evidence that he could do it. In fact, he was a borderline setup man at best until the last half of '08. He's walking away from good money and a lot of years at a time when better relievers are settling for less out on the open market. Career year. Considerable wear with little maintenance. Guaranteed years. Sign on the dotted line, bro.
The 34-year-old utility man specializes in second and third and split 2008 between the White Sox and Dodgers. The signing suggests the Phillies doubt the April readiness of Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz.
Beerleaguer: Adding Marcus Giles is one thing, but Ozuna means they have a stockpile of cheap, experienced infielders. That’s the story behind the story here. They’re not taking any chances at second or third, but they don’t have the funds to set aside for a surefire upgrade and they're hesitant to see if Jason Donald can handle it. So it’s Eric Bruntlett, Giles and Ozuna, and they’re basically the same guy at this stage of their careers. They also announced the signing of journeyman infielder Jorge Velandia today, another guy with Major League experience who can play second and third, but can’t hit.
Ozuna was once in the Phillies organization; in 2004 he was Scranton’s second baseman and also played short. That turned out to be his last season in the minors. Since 2005, he’s been on the White Sox bench and – get this – earned a fat $1.25M contract extension w/2009 option last season. I don’t get that. How much could an older, no-hit utility man like Ozuna possibly add to an American League club? His previous season’s OPS+ was 47. He must have been the south side's version of Tomas Perez, just nice to have around I guess. Like Perez, Ozuna basically plays wherever he’s needed.
He’s brings some versatility and speed, but offers little to no offensive value. A fractured right fibula and a torn ligament in his ankle ruined his 2007 season, and in 2008, he became a roster casualty and was designated for assignment, picked up by the Dodgers, then dumped again. In seven seasons, he’s a .282/.318/.359 hitter (76 OPS+) with three homers and 29 stolen bases with the Marlins, Rockies, White Sox and Dodgers, his best seasons coming in '05 and '06. He's staying sharp in the Dominican League this winter.
Velandia, 34, split last season between Triple-A Syracuse and Triple-A Buffalo and also appeared in seven games with the Cleveland Indians. In parts of eight seasons, he has appeared in 174 major league games for the Padres (1997), A's (1998-2000), Mets (2000-01, 2003), Rays (2007) and Indians (2008), spending most of his time at second and short and hitting .189/.274/.270 with a 45 OPS+.
Obviously, the hope is that Utley is ready to go and that Ozuna, and others like Giles, won't be needed. But I think one of them breaks camp with the final spot off the bench, and just the fact that all these veteran infielders have agreed to audition here tells me there's a problem.
Matt Stairs taking Jonathan Broxton into the night. Jimmy Rollins homering to lead off Game 5 of the NLCS. Discuss your 2008 premonitions here.
Yesterday, I browsed the comments section of another Phillies blog and they were complaining about the constant negativity on Beerleaguer. They liked the articles, but hated the whining. I feel partially responsible for this; the aftermath of a World Series victory is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set a positive tone and reflect on some rather wonderful moments. I’m guilty of dropping the ball; who needs another post on how our third basemen can’t hit?
We’re running out of time before pitchers and catchers report, so let’s do this. One of my favorite games was the Friday, Sept. 26 throttling of the visiting Nationals in the first game of the season’s final series. My wife made plans for us to attend an apartment party with some of her artist friends, none of whom are baseball fans, and none of whom would understand the magnitude of the situation. As you can imagine, this was causing a great deal of stress. The playoff race was down to the wire and my only way to check scores was through an outdated cell phone.
I was instructed to meet my wife in the parking lot of her place of employment at 7 p.m., then we’d go to the party together. I’d miss everything.
But then fortune intervened. My wife called and said she was running very, very late, which meant I got to listen to the beginning of the game in the car. “Take your time,” I said. “No rush. Safety first, pumpkin.”
So I’m thinking “Okay, Phils. Time to send Collin Balester a message before I need to listen to a 30 minute discussion on the history of Helvetica.” The Phillies answered. Powered by a three-run first-inning homer by Ryan Howard, the Phillies ambushed Balester with seven runs in two innings en route to an 8-4 win. Howard drove in four runs on the night. It was, in my opinion, the highlight of his season, and his three-run homer is my entry into the “I called it” moment of 2008.
Meanwhile in Queens, the Marlins jumped Mike Pelfrey and the Mets early and eased to a 6-1 win, setting up the Saturday clincher.
As it turned out, my wife’s friends were so wrapped up in gossip that I was able to slip away and watch much of the game on television. What a great night. What a great team.
The 27-year-old reliever appeared in 15 games for the Seattle Mariners last season, going 0-0 with a 9/11 K/BB ratio in 15 relief appearances. He spent the rest of the season with Triple-A Tacoma.
Summary: A former third-round pick of the Angels, Woods has pitched in parts of four Major League seasons, including eight starts with the Mariners in 2006. For his career, he’s 8-5 with a 4.60 ERA and 99/79 K/BB ratio in 84 games (162 1-3 innings), including eight starts. The signing was reported in the latest edition of Baseball America’s minor league transactions, along with three other unreported signings: RHP William Jackel, RHP Jason Anderson, who returns to the club, and RHP Steve Shepard. The rest were previously mentioned on Beerleaguer.
Critics of the Raul Ibanez signing argue that Ruben Amaro Jr. overreached before the market for corner outfielders came down. Can he make up for it by hanging back for bullpen help at a discount rate?
It’s different this winter. Relievers haven’t been earning big bucks, and they definitely haven’t been getting the guaranteed years. Last year, two relievers – Scott Linebrink and Francisco Cordero – earned four-year deals. This year, demand isn't there among the top spenders. Not a signal four-year pact was extended for relief help. Hell, even Francisco Rodriguez only received three years from the Mets, and Brian Fuentes, considered the next best, only got two from the Angels.
If you’re a Brewers fan, you have to like the one-year, $6M deal they just extended to career saves leader Trevor Hoffman, filling a huge area of need for a Milwaukee team looking to build on last season’s playoff berth. With a healthy Hoffman off the board, back-end relief is slowly drying up, but only at glacial speeds. The going rate seems to be two years or less for quality arms. The market is just right for the Phillies, who could look into a left-handed replacement for J.C. Romero; Joe Beimel, Brian Shouse, Will Ohman and Dennys Reyes are lefties who’re still without homes. Better still, early winter target Juan Cruz, along with Arizona teammate Brandon Lyon, are unemployed, representing perhaps the two best all-purpose relievers remaining on the market. I'd endorse that strategy; once Romero returned, they would be loaded.
Nothing to report this morning, but I wanted to pass along links to a pair of sites. Erik and Philliesflow remains astonished that the Phils are consistently among baseball’s weakest offensive clubs at the hot corner and draws some jaw-dropping comparisons between Pedro Feliz and Abraham Nunez. Grissom also factors in the performance of Feliz and Greg Dobbs as pinch hitters and notes that while Dobbs earns respect as one of the game’s best, Feliz modestly went 7-for-16 (.438/.471/.688). As for fangraphs.com, I tried digging through their stats to find something to report this morning, but all I came up with was that Jimmy Rollins sees fewer sliders (8.7 percent) than any National League player, if I’m reading that correctly. Resident statisticians sophist and ae, you may step in at any time.
The deal for Derek Lowe, 35, is contingent on a Wednesday physical, according to sources for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Beerleaguer: The Braves continue to revamp their starting rotation, and good for them. This was a Braves team that was desperate to do something like this, and had it not been for Lowe, along with the dice-roll acquisition of Kenshin Kawakami, they were heading back to the bottom rung for sure. I still don’t know if it’s enough to push the Phils, and at the same time, the Mets will need to go with their plan B, likely Oliver Perez. Lowe was really the Braves’ fourth option after Jake Peavy, Ryan Dempster and A.J. Burnett, but I think it makes them considerably tougher in head-to-head contests. He's a horse, and a stabilizing force.
The Phillies prefer hitting big home runs with one or two elite prospects. Instead, they’re making solid contact with a handful of next-tier prospects. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
There’s probably a way to determine if World Series winners experience Minor League improvement the following season. If you’re up to challenge of gathering the data, more power to you. In theory, you’d think they would. Baseball execs believe strongly that winning is a part of development, and what better way to motivate than having the cream of the crop up top. The electricity must travel down the chain, right?
Record-wise, there’s nowhere to go but up for Leigh Valley (55-89), Reading (53-89) and even Clearwater (64-76). I look at the group potentially ticketed for Triple-A: Lou Marson, Jason Donald, and one or all of the following: Carlos Carrasco, J.A. Happ, Kyle Kendrick. Toss in some veteran depth (Marcus Giles, Mike Koplove, Gary Majewski, Jason Ellison, Terry Tiffee), and I think fans in the Leigh Valley will get more bang for their entertainment buck than last year’s inaugural season. In addition, Double-A Reading will be the destination for Michael Taylor, Joe Savery and possibly Kyle Drabek later in the season. This will be an important year for each of those individuals.
Scanning the latest Baseball America, which rated the farm systems of the National League East, I was stuck by the nice things opposing scouts are saying about Dominic Brown, but I was equally struck by the labels they’re assigning to Carlos Carrasco. “Soft” was used. Each of their top seven choices - termed "interchangeable" by John Manuel, who wrote the piece - seems to have a major hook. Donald isn’t skilled enough to be a Major League shortstop. Marson doesn’t have the greatest arm. Drabek doesn’t have the maturity, etc.
Still, there’s always something. Cole Hamels was made of matchsticks.
Rickey Henderson, baseball’s all-time leader in stolen bases (1,406) and runs (2,295), highlights a group of first-time Hall of Fame candidates. Meanwhile, Jim Rice, on the ballot for a 15th and final time, is generating most of the attention among rollover candidates.
Beerleaguer: A colleague wondered what Henderson’s acceptance speech would be like. “I’m sure humility will be in no short supply,” he joked. Henderson, who's a lock, joins Jay Bell, Ron Gant, Mark Grace, Greg Vaughn, Mo Vaughn, Matt Williams, David Cone, Jesse Orosco and Dan Plesac as first-time candidates. Among them, I like Grace and Cone best, but not enough to make a snap judgment this season. The Rice vote could set an important benchmark. There are many more “very goods” than “greats” in the running now and further down the trough, and Rice is right on that cusp. I advocated for Lee Smith before, but relief pitching is a little like yesterday's news now that Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage made it. It’s funny how fashionable all this becomes. I wonder if Bert Blyleven’s time has come. As for Rice, absolutely not.
All eyes are on the Eagles today. Meanwhile, we offer a fresh topic on former MVP Jimmy Rollins.
Of all the differences between his 2007 and 2008 seasons (19 fewer home runs, a .100-point drop in slugging percentage, 63 fewer runs) the most striking, to me, was that J-Roll became uncool. Throughout his career, the 30-year-old always kept it within reach, but in 2008, the year after winning the National League’s top honor, he let it slip away. Physically, his body betrayed him, suffering a high ankle sprain that forced him out of 24 games and assuredly lingered longer. Then, of course, there were the comments made on national television that caused the fans to turn. Offensively, he looked twisted.
At the same token, ’08 was the most proficient base-stealing season of his career (47 SB, 3 CS) and several metrics, like RZR (Revised Zone Rating) suggest it was his best season with the glove (I thought it was).
The Phillies are extremely fortunate to have a shortstop of J-Roll’s quality, so even if he never touches the 30-homer, 118 OPS+ peak of two years ago, his overall value is immeasurable. But imagine if he could get close to that level again, and what those extra runs would mean. His drop in production was the No. 1 reason why the Phils’ midseason struggles were so pronounced.
Other news: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves and Kenshin Kawakami have agreed to terms. Clout weighs in:
“Kawakami, 32, is a veteran righty, went 9-5 2.30 with Chunichi last season. He was the best player posting from Japan this off-season. He's considered at least as good as Kuroda. His best pitch is a cut fastball, but he also throws a changeup/curve that is not unlike Swindle's 60 mph offerings. His command is superb. His K/BB ratio last season was 4.5/1. In 2007 it was 6/1, which is sick.”
Photo: Finally, Austrian Beerleaguer Matthias Friedl sends his Phillies support from a small town with a funny name. [Photo].
Gabe Kapler and Nomar Garciaparra are on the Phillies’ radar, according to a Ken Rosenthal source.
Beereleaguer: Either one would give the Phils a well-rounded bench. How much more could they possibly want/need considering the resources they have left to tinker with before arbitration? Kapler makes sense. Nomar makes sense. It would be a great bench.
The report suggests a couple of things: First, one of the left-handed bats, either Geoff Jenkins or Matt Stairs, does not fit into their plans. All along, I’ve pictured Stairs getting dealt back to the AL during spring training. Second, Chris Coste has even more reason to worry. Believe it or not, I think the non-roster invite of catch-and-throw veteran Paul Hoover, along with the acquisition of Ronny Paulino, who’s set to improve, hurts Coste, because all the Phils really need from their third catcher is someone to tutor Lou Marson in Allentown. If Kapler or Nomar sign, Coste has almost no shot of sticking around just to pinch hit, and if they can get value in a trade, then Ruben Amaro Jr. will have played the catching situation well. Third, I think these guys, Nomar in particular, could push some players to perform better.
The signing of Raul Ibanez has been the off-season’s most divisive issue on Beerleaguer, especially considering the deal Pat Burrell received from Tampa Bay. No matter which side we butter our bread, there’s nothing we can do but wish Ibanez success and hope he can bring positive change to an offense that battled through a share of problems. The consensus here seems to be that Ibanez will bring little or no change defensively over Burrell, while the bat could be better or worse, depending on the measurement. The one area where Ibanez and Burrell separate is in the runs created (RC) category when the formula involves clutch hitting. Invented by Bill James, the basic formula for RC is OBP x TB, but it has evolved into over fourteen different versions. The Hardball Times uses the most complicated version, which includes the impact of hitting well with runners in scoring position. Looking at RC, Ibanez’s 112 rated seventh highest in the American League, compared to Burrell, who registered a 94. Ibanez has always hit well with RISP, an area of fluctuation for most players, so there's a good chance he'll continue to rake with ducks on the pond. I think clutch hitting and making better contact are the two big reasons why the Phils targeted Ibanez, and those traits make him somewhat unique inside the Phillies' lineup. My sense is he’ll be a more feared hitter than Burrell would have been playing another season in the NL. It’s everything beyond 2009 that gets a little hairy because of Ibanez's age.
The signing of Raul Ibanez has been the off-season’s most divisive issue on Beerleaguer, especially considering the deal Pat Burrell received from Tampa Bay.
No matter which side we butter our bread, there’s nothing we can do but wish Ibanez success and hope he can bring positive change to an offense that battled through a share of problems. The consensus here seems to be that Ibanez will bring little or no change defensively over Burrell, while the bat could be better or worse, depending on the measurement. The one area where Ibanez and Burrell separate is in the runs created (RC) category when the formula involves clutch hitting. Invented by Bill James, the basic formula for RC is OBP x TB, but it has evolved into over fourteen different versions. The Hardball Times uses the most complicated version, which includes the impact of hitting well with runners in scoring position. Looking at RC, Ibanez’s 112 rated seventh highest in the American League, compared to Burrell, who registered a 94. Ibanez has always hit well with RISP, an area of fluctuation for most players, so there's a good chance he'll continue to rake with ducks on the pond.
I think clutch hitting and making better contact are the two big reasons why the Phils targeted Ibanez, and those traits make him somewhat unique inside the Phillies' lineup. My sense is he’ll be a more feared hitter than Burrell would have been playing another season in the NL. It’s everything beyond 2009 that gets a little hairy because of Ibanez's age.
In a surprise move, Baseball America named outfielder Dominic Brown as the top prospect in a steadily improving farm system. [Link]
Although John Manuel, who compiled the rankings, believes the top 7 prospects are somewhat interchangeable, Brown’s tools, notably his swing, power potential, speed and outfield arm, set him apart despite strong 2008 showings by Carlos Carrasco, Michael Taylor and Lou Marson, among others. Brown, 21, spent the season in Low-A Lakewood, where he hit .291/.382/.417 with nine homers and 22 stolen bases, impressing scouts with a solid showing in the fall Hawaiian League. Brown, repeatedly compared to Darryl Strawberry, heads a group that made long strides last season, and with an ’08 draft class considered the Phillies’ strongest in years, BA considers the farm system to be in good standing among the rest of baseball.
Summary: Relievers Ryan Madson and Scott Eyre, manager Charlie Manuel, assistant GMs Chuck
Lamar and Scott
Proefrock and director of Minor League operations Steve Noworyta will appear at the Phillies' winter tour stop in Reading on Jan. 22. Harry
Kalas will emcee the sold-out event, which will feature the presence of the Holy Grail of baseball, the World Series trophy.
Beerleaguer: Always a great event to benefit the Reading Phillies Baseballtown Charities. The R-Phils are the best in the biz at what they do and I speak for all Berks Countians in extending our gratitude for having such a great organization in our backyard. Local professor emeritus and noted baseball historian Dr. David Q. Voigt, Ph.D. will also be crowned King of Baseballtown for 2009 this night. I'm looking forward to speaking with Lamar and Proefrock, Proefrock being the one at Ruben Amaro's side when handling contracts. That's obviously a big issue this year. Noworyta usually offers a rough draft of where the prospects are expected to start the season. Many times, a prospect or two make a surprise visit. In 2007, I got some face time with Greg Jacobs. I had an excellent conversation with Ryan Madson before 2007 and look forward to speaking with him again, especially now that he's emerged as a lights-out set-up man.
Man, Madson was good. Close your eyes and picture those flames in the Fox 96 mph overlay. Who's the best? We're the best. Ah yeah.
Don't you wish every day could be invitee day? The latest batch of non-roster invitees mixes familiar vets with rising talent from the farm system. (From a Phillies news release)
Jason Ellison, OF... Ellison, 30, spent the majority of last season with Triple-A Oklahoma in the Texas Rangers organization, where he hit .239 with two home runs and 45 RBI in 120 games. In a nine-game stint with the Rangers in August, he hit .231 with two RBI and scored five runs. For his Major League career, Ellison has hit .251 with eight home runs and 35 RBI in 344 games between the Giants (2003-06), Mariners (2007), Reds (2007) and Rangers (2008). [Baseball Reference]
Paul Hoover, C ... Hoover, 32, played for both Triple-A
Albuquerque and the Florida Marlins last season. He began the year on
Florida's Opening Day roster and hit .200 with two RBI in eight games
with the Marlins. At Albuquerque he hit .251 with six home runs and 19
RBI in 50 games. For his Major League career, Hoover has hit .230 with
five RBI in 28 games between Tampa Bay (2001-02) and Florida (2006-08). [Baseball Reference]
Yorman Bazardo, RHP ... Bazardo, 24, began the season on Detroit's Opening Day roster but spent the majority of the season with Triple-A Toledo where he went 4-13 with a 6.72 ERA in 25 games (22 starts). Following the season, Bazardo pitched for the Tigres de Aragua in the Venezuelan Winter League. For his career, Bazardo has gone 2-1 with a 5.72 ERA in 15 Major League games (2 starts) between Florida (2005) and Detroit (2007-08). [Baseball Reference]
Antonio Bastardo, LHP ... Bastardo, 23, combined to go 4-5 with a 2.95 ERA in 19 starts between Single-A Clearwater and Double-A Reading last season. A midseason Florida State League All-Star in 2008, Bastardo allowed two earned runs or fewer in 14 of his 19 starts. He won the Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Month Award in April (2-0, 1.17 ERA, 5 GS) and also pitched for the Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League. [Baseball Reference]
Marcus Giles, INF ... Giles, 30, did not play last season but has appeared in 792 Major League games between Atlanta (2001-06) and San Diego (2007), hitting .277 with 76 home runs and 333 RBI. A National League All-Star in 2003, Giles has played in 25 career postseason games, all with Atlanta, where he hit .217 with two home runs and six RBI. For his career, he is batting .294 with 19 home runs and 250 RBI with runners in scoring position. [Baseball Reference]
Jason Donald, INF ... Donald, 24, spent last season with Double-A Reading where he hit .307 with 14 home runs and 54 RBI in 92 games and was named both a midseason and postseason Eastern League All-Star. In addition to starting for the U.S. team at shortstop in the 2008 All-Star Futures Game at Yankee Stadium in July, Donald was also a member of Team U.S.A.'s bronze-medal-winning team at the Summer Games in Beijing, China. Donald also participated in the Arizona Fall League where he was named to the Top Prospect Team. [Baseball Reference]
Tuffy Gosewisch, C ... Also a non-roster invitee to Spring Training in 2007, Gosewisch, 25, spent the 2008 season with Single-A Clearwater where he hit .218 with three home runs and 34 RBI in a career-high 102 games. Following the season he played for Mesa in the AFL where he hit .280 with four RBI in seven games. [Baseball Reference]
Gary Majewski, RHP ... Last season, Majewski, 28, pitched for both Triple-A Louisville and the Cincinnati Reds. With Louisville, he went 2-1 with three saves and a 3.76 ERA in 22 games. In 37 appearances for Cincinnati, Majewski was 1-0 with a 6.53 ERA and posted a season-best 6.2-inning scoreless streak, spanning seven games. Over his five-year Major League career he has gone 9-13 with two saves and a 4.61 ERA in 229 games between Montreal/Washington (2004-06) and Cincinnati (2006-08). [Baseball Reference]
Jeremy Slayden, OF ... Slayden, 26, spent all of last season with double-A Reading where in 131 games he hit .298 with 17 home runs and 81 RBI. Named an EL midseason All-Star, Slayden finished fourth in the league in extra-base hits (52) and total bases (232) and tied for fourth in doubles (33). He batted .362 during a season-best 18-game hit streak which was third-longest in the EL in 2008. Slayden also played for Mesa in the AFL where he hit .286 with three home runs and 27 RBI in 26 games. [Baseball Reference]
According to reports, the Mets are close, or have possibly made, offers to two pitchers: Righthander Tim Redding and lefthander Randy Wolf. Meanwhile, GM Omar Minaya continues to meet with Scott Boras about Derek Lowe and Oliver Perez.
Beerleaguer: Redding (10-11, 4.95 ERA, 89 ERA+) completely faded in the second half of ’08 and I’m beginning to think the former reclamation project is falling back to the fringe. Opponents hit him pretty hard in the second half and I think his past dominance against the Phils was merely a fluke. He’s a command of four pitches type with a low tolerance for missing his spots. He’ll be marginal at best in 2009 and looking for work by 2010. He’s reportedly seeking two years. As for Wolf, his career, unfortunately, has amounted to that of a journeyman lefty, but I have a hunch he’s set to stabilize. He’s tough to figure out and I think he has a lot in common with Oliver Perez that way; remember how he'd drive Larry Andersen mad because he'd try to be too tricky with his breaking ball and holster his heater? The former Phil had a very good run with Houston (119 ERA+) and is back to full strength. I’d be concerned if the Mets landed Wolfie actually.
Romero: Here’s the latest on Romero, via Rotoworld, via Inquirer: “The appeal process kept MLB from making it's wish come true, so the commissioner's office offered him a deal: begin a 25-game suspension immediately or risk facing the whole 50-game suspension if the appeal is lost. Romero obviously chose to pitch in the World Series and is set to miss the first 50 games of the '09 season.” Beerleaguer: Say what you want, but you have to commend Romero for staying focused and pitching a heck of a series. It’s never easy being two places at once, especially when the two places are between a possible 50-game suspension and million-dollar loss and baseball's greatest stage.
The deal to the former All-Star second baseman is worth $600,000 and includes a July 1 opt out, according to a report in the Denver Post.
Beerleaguer: It’s fitting that this report was filed while I was having dinner with my parents. Back when my stepfather and I competed in fantasy baseball, Marcus Giles was an integral part of some winning rosters and we spent entire summer evenings discussing Giles and other stars, deciding how high we’d select each of them in the draft. As high as the second or third round for Giles in certain formats, we reasoned, because of the position. I can't remember which one of us had him last, but I recall one of us holding on to him until the bitter end in '06, hoping he'd recapture the magic. Check out the lines:
2003 – 25 - .316/.390/.526 - 136 OPS+ - 145 G
2004 – 26 - .311/.378/.443 - 111 OPS+ - 102 G
2005 – 27 - .291/.365/.461 - 114 OPS+ - 152 G
2006 – 28 - .262/.341/.387 - 87 OPS+ - 141 G
2007 – 29 - .229/.304/.317 - 68 OPS+ - 116 G
2008 – 30 - Signed by COL. Did not play.
The writing was already on the wall when the Braves said see yah with a no-nonsense non-tender after ’06. He was even worse for the Pads in ’07 and was released; that line for 2007 was actually inflated by a hot April. Then he couldn’t break camp with Colorado last March.
I don’t see much hope here; he's had crazy injury problems, but Philadelphia is a good spot for the 31- year-old to put his foot in the door. If Chase Utley isn’t fully recovered from hip surgery, there will be an opportunity, and there’s also a little room on the bench for bats from the right side. From the Phils’ end, the signing and structure suggests they like what they see from Utley’s progress, but aren't completely convinced.
Oh, and in other news, the Phillies signed Chan Ho Park again.
Major League Baseball will announce a 50-game suspension and $1.25M fine of Phillies reliever J.C. Romero for negligence in the use of a banned substance found in an over-the-counter supplement. Romero, who had the opportunity to have his sentence reduced to 25 games with the admission of guilt but refused, appears to have been caught in the middle of some misleading information over the legality of the supplement, purchased at a local retail store.
Beerleaguer: Simply put, it’s not culpability over taking this particular substance, it’s the guilt of not understanding that one can never be too careful with baseball’s drug policy, something that will cost Romero $1.25M and his pride. Which is a shame because these reports tell me Romero was somewhat diligent here, but then again, I know nothing about meticulousness in the world of professional sports. In my world, I would never go near a product called 6-OXO Extreme – with ties to the guy behind the guy behind Balco – and I definitely wouldn’t take it knowing I was subject to random piss tests. Romero may not know the exact chemical composition of this supplement, as Phil Sheridan put it in the Inquirer, but he must be aware of how close these things are to the real deal, at least in the sense that baseball is concerned. And as it turns out, it was. Bottles of 6-OXO Extreme now read "Use of this product may be banned by some athletic or government associations" according to the Peter Gammons story on ESPN.
The other side is that baseball continues to trip over itself with open-ended rulings, but I will say this. You’ve got businesses like ErgoPharm, maker of the Romero supplement, pumping out these performance enhancers all the time, and FDA oversight, let alone Bud Selig’s oversight, can only move so quickly. The only ones acting quickly with testing are the ones producing the anabolic steroid substitutes to see how far they can push it. Taking action here might have been their best shot to redraw the line. Baseball wanted admission of guilt in exchange for a reduced 25-game suspension, Romero refused, they clocked him for 50 games and $1.25M. If it's any consolation to Romero, what a terrible day it must have been for ErgoPharm!
Thing is, if this was even one or two years ago, I bet all the people advising Romero back in July, from the trainer to the union, would have done more to dissuade him, but with the passage of time from Balco, I’m sure complacency has begun to set in. And baseball knows a thing or two about what happens when you look the other way (1998, Sammy, Big Mac, greatest season ever! I’m kidding. But not really.)
Now to baseball. The Phils are totally screwed in their bullpen. Fifty games is too long to ride it out with what they have, which is Scott Eyre and J.A. Happ, who is not qualified to do it. Looking at the market, Joe Beimel is out there. Easy Eddie Guardado is out there. Ron Villone is in the bargain bin along with some others. The Phillies have trade chips. Their only hope is to band-aid this
FoxSports Ken Rosenthal cites Major League sources in his report that former Phillie Pat Burrell will go to Tampa Bay to become the team’s new designated hitter. Burrell hit .250/.367/.507 last season with 33 homers. The Phillies elected not to offer arbitration to the left fielder in December and there was a report that Burrell turned down the Phillies’ two-year, $22 million offer, which was reportedly extended during the World Series. That story was later denied by several sources. Ruben Amaro Jr. then targeted 36-year-old free agent leftfielder Raul Ibanez and signed him to a three-year, $30 million deal, close to twice the guaranteed money Burrell will reportedly get from Tampa.
Eight arbitration eligible players, including Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard, may file for salary arbitration today, a first step in negotiations that could push payroll to $125M, according to one report.
A year after fans shouted out for the Phils to lock up Howard long-term, everyone has thrown the possibility out the window and seem to be content going year-to-year, which is mildly ironic since the first basemen finished higher in MVP voting in 2008 than 2007. It’s understandable though. They’ll look at last year’s $10M payday. They’ll understand where the pay scale sits with comparable players like Mark Teixeira and acknowledge the Phils’ laundry list of other deals that must get done. And frankly, they’ll look at Howard’s season and recognize there are some legitimate gripes with his performance.
Hamels is a different case; I see a process that could unfold a lot like Howard’s did last season with a bar-setting deal that could climb to $5 million, with the Phils taking a stab on an offer to take him past the 2012 season. There are very few, if any, knocks against the 25-year-old’s career thus far, so I see the World Series MVP rewarded handsomely in the context of other pitchers who’ve gone through the process.
It’s interesting though. One has to wonder where the focus is for a young stud with a history of injury in uncertain economic times. Does Hamels look ahead to paydirt three years from now, or seek immediate security?
Aside from the Mets, the rest of the division has not improved through trades or free agency.
As many of you know, I’m hard at work on a Phillies preview mag due out closer to the start of spring training. One of the holdups has been a lethargic market, which is preventing one of my writers from digging into his NL East preview with any certainty. The Mets are actively seeking help in their rotation and are likely to land someone at or close to the upper tier, but aside from that, I haven’t seen the rest of the East connected with a buzzworthy report in weeks. So I thought it was worth taking a look at what the division has done since September. Here are the new additions, including some minor resignings. Bear in mind a club like the Marlins, for example, could improve based on their youth and improved health, but as you can see, there’s generally nothin’ doin’.
Marlins: Acquired RHP Leo Nunez from the Royals for INF Mike Jacobs. Acquired RHP Jose Ceda from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for RHP Kevin Gregg. Acquired INF Emilio Bonifacio, RHP P.J. Dean and INF Jake Smolinski from the Washington Nationals in exchange for LHP Scott Olsen and OF Josh Willingham. Claimed LHP Dan Meyer off waivers from the Oakland Athletics. Signed INF Andy Gonzalez to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
Braves: Claimed RHP Jairo Cuevas off waivers from the Kansas City Royals. Claimed LHP Eric O'Flaherty off waivers from the Seattle Mariners. Signed C David Ross on a two-year contract. Acquired RHP Javier Vazquez and LHP Boone Logan from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for C Tyler Flowers, INFs Jonathan Gilmore and Brent Lillibridge and LHP Santos Rodriguez.
Nationals: Signed 1B Matthew Whitney to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Signed INF Pete Orr to a Minor League contract. Acquired LHP Scott Olsen and OF Josh Willingham from the Marlins in exchange for INF Emilio Bonifacio, RHP P.J. Dean and INF Jake Smolinski. Signed RHP Daniel Cabrera to a one-year contact. Signed INF Freddie Bynum, INF Brad Eldred, INF Joel Guzman, INF Pete Orr, INF Matt Whitney, OF Ryan Langerhans, OF Jorge Padilla, OF Mike Vento, RHP Bobby Brownlie, RHP Preston Larrison, RHP J.D. Martin, RHP Ryan Wagner and LHP Justin Jones to Minor League contracts with invitations to Spring Training.
Mets: Acquired RHP Connor Robertson from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for LHP Scott Schoeneweis. Signed RHP Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year contract. Acquired RHP J.J. Putz, RHP Sean Green and OF Jeremy Reed from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for RHP Aaron Heilman, OF Endy Chavez, LHP Jason Vargas, INF Mike Carp, OF Ezequiel Carrera and RHP Maikel Cleto. Signed C Rene Rivera to a Minor League contract and invited him to Spring Training.
The Triple-A stalwart led the International League in ERA (2.03) in 2006 and started 60 high-minor games for the Phils over the past three seasons. The 32-year-old lefthander also spent time in Korea during that span.
Beerleaguer: If you're a longtime Beerleaguer, Mazone is a household name. He was the topic of much debate during that 2006 season when his ERA and record made him almost too good for a pitching-thin Phillies team to ignore. Like R.J. Swindle, who's now a Brewer, I would have liked to see Mazone pitch at Citizens Bank Park just once, but it will have to come at Chavez Ravine. A pitcher of the junkball/deception variety, he went 9-12 in 28 starts (164 2-3 IP) with a 4.10 ERA and 116/36 K/BB last season with Lehigh Valley. In 10 minor league seasons, including stops in the independent leagues, he’s 81-55 with a 3.61 ERA, nearly earning a Major League cup of coffee once in September of ’06 until weather pushed Randy Wolf’s start back to Mazone’s scheduled turn. The Phils took a peek at him in during spring training the following season, but he failed to impress and his contract was soon sold to Korea, an option he had wisely considered once before, I was told. Inked to a minor league deal, Albuquerque, part of the high-octane Pacific Coast League, is a likely destination. That should be interesting.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said earlier this off-season that the chances Adam Eaton will remain with the Phillies through the life of his $24 million contract were less than 50-50. The beleaguered pitcher’s situation represents one of several minor story lines yet to develop involving underperforming or redundant veteran players, like Eaton or outfielder Geoff Jenkins. Look for those issues and rumors of bundled salary dump deals to begin picking up steam now that the calendar has flipped to 2009, with pitchers and catchers now just a month-and-a-half out and marquee free agents beginning to drop off the board.