Tagged: Ruben Amaro Jr.

Looking Ahead: Phillies impending Free Agents and the 2011 Season.

I do realize that we are only two weeks into the season and that this is way early to want to think about, but the truth is, it may have an impact on this season as well. RAJ has already been on record that for as much as he is a “win-now” GM, he is also a “win-down-the-road” one too. So, I thought I would take a look at what MIGHT happen during the course of this year and the offseason.

The Phillies Opening Day Payroll for 2010 was a record high $138,178,379.00. 2011 projected opening day payroll? $134,728,000.00. And that is for only 19 under contract. An additional 2 players have options that would increase that 134 number even more. Romero’s club option is 4.5 Million and Castro’s club option is 750k. That would bring the number to 140 million for 21 of 25 players. As of now, even though Castro is filling in nicely, I don’t see them retaining him for next year unless he has a career year and actually hits over the Mendoza line. But that is a contract worth less than a million dollars.

Contracts coming off the books include RF Jayson Werth, RP Chad Durbin, SP Jamie Moyer, and RP Jose Contreras. The only two that are really significant losses are Werth and Durbin. Werth because he is the only right handed power threat the Phillies have. Could Francisco or Mayberry turn into someone that could take over for Werth? Yes,I believe so, but neither one is really proven. The two of them combined have hit 37 career HRs, or exactly one more than Werth hit by himself in 2009. Both could be options to play a platoon in right next year and cheap, but are you gonna bat both of them 5th?

Durbin, when healthy, is a really effective reliever. He proved in 2008 and is showing the beginnings of a solid season through 4 appearances. Durbin will be no where near a type A free agent, but he may be resignable. It would have to be a max contract of around 2-3 years and 7-10 million to be feasible.

Between the options the Phillies are developing in the minors and the nearly four dozen free agent starting pitchers projected to be available, losing the Ageless Wonder (Jamie Moyer) would not be a bitter pill to swallow. I would love to retain him as an advisor to Rich Dubee, but I think if anywhere a coaching job in Seattle would be made available for him. Even if Moyer is the Moyer of 2008, I would not hesitate to pass on him for the 2011 campaign.

Contreras just seems like a mercenary to me. With the uncertainty of both Lidge and Romero, Contreras was just a veteran arm to fill a spot. If healthy, a guy like Scott Mathieson could easily fill his spot in the pen.

Granted all four free agents could be filled internally, but that would create major question marks at key positions. The only way possible to assure high levels of success may be to trade away some players, either at the deadline or in the offseason. I know some will kill me for this, but the list of trade candidates should include:1B Ryan Howard, RF Jayson Werth, LF Raul Ibanez, RP Chad Durbin, and RP J.C. Romero.

You won’t get much value in return from Durbin or Romero and if the Phillies plan to go all the way, there is no way you trade both if not one, unless you are already receiving a quality reliever in return. Right now, if Ibanez didn’t have negative trade value, he wouldn’t have any value. He is barely hitting over the Mendoza line and has yet to hit a homerun. Ibanez is probably the player the Phillies would like to move most if they had to. Between the 12+ million per year contract he has through 2011 and the assumption that Ibanez may have hit a wall is what is giving all of us heartburn. So your two realistic trade chips are Howard and Werth.

Werth could be very valuable to a team close to contention at the trade deadline. In no way, shape, or form should he be moved any where but an American League team. Even if you are getting completely bowled over. You don’t want to help your competition. Let me worry about seeing him again in the World Series, not before. Teams with OF concerns early like Boston, New York, or just about any team in the AL West outside of Texas could have a need for an outfielder. Werth’s two greatest strengths are the fact that at mid season an acquiring team would only be responsible for roughly 3.5-4.0 Million of his contract and the fact that Werth can play all three outfield positions. Three useful pieces in return should be expected for the rental. If the Phillies decide to stick with him and let him walk, you can atleast bank on two high draft picks to stock the farm, but that doesn’t help us in 2011. The Phillies will very much be looking to sign Werth long term, atleast they should be.

The only problem would be the fact that Ryan Howard is sucking up 20.0 Million next season by himself. Realistically, we would have to shed Howard and Ibanez to sign any marquee names for 2011. Ryan Howard would bring a truck load of talent in return, even more if RAJ is willing to pay part of that 20.0 million. I would see where paying nothing gets you first. Trading Howard would require bringing back a stud 3B or 1B MLB ready player plus a stud pitching prospect I would hope.

When Ibanez does indeed find his stroke, he may gain some value. Then the question becomes do you have faith in a combination of Mayberry, Francisco, and Domonic Brown fighting it out for the outfield positions. If for some chance of random luck the Phillies moved  Howard and Ibanez, Werth would instantly become resignable.

No matter what happens, this 2010 calendar year will probably be RAJ’s most important.

The Number 5.

Philadelphia is surrounded by fives. Philadelphia is the 5th largest market in America. Soon to be former Eagle Quarterback Donovan McNabb wore number five. So did Phillies “legend” Pat “the Bat” Burrell. Today I am writing about the only number five of concern. The fifth spot in the Phillies rotation. The season starts in roughly a week, but in all acutality, the Phillies can get away with a four man rotation until April 24th barring any injuries or weather issues. Currently, there are only two in house options: Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer.

Both are having spectacular springs. Kendrick, who has been picking newly added ace Roy Halladay’s brain, is pitching to the tune of a 1.37 ERA in five (yes 5) games and four starts. He is currently second on the team in innings pitched behind Hamels at 19.2 innings pitched. While Kendrick’s ERA is very nice for spring training, his numbers in general are not as impressive. His Strikeout to Walk Ratio is 7 to 4. Groundout to Fly Ball Ratio is just over 1. He leads the team with SB allowed with 3. So where I think Kendrick can still develop into a quality starting pitcher, 2010 may not be his time.

Moyer, on the other hand, has a miniscule 0.77 ERA in two starts for the fightins. He also has a amazing 12 Ks. Neither of which should really estimate what Moyer could do during the regular season consider the majority of batters faced in spring training are all young kids trying to make a roster and are used to seeing 91-99 MPH heaters, not the devastating 80 MPH BBs that Moyer has in his aresnal. We all know that Moyers success hinges primarily on the umpire behind the plate. If Moyer gets that extra inch or two, he will have a good outing.

Right now the only free agent options to sign are Chad Gaudin and Noah Lowry. Both would be relatively cheap and could be signed to MiLB contracts. I imagine both wouldn’t be ready to start until the end of April, but as we already know, that is not much of a problem. Yes, there are a lot of starting pitchers available that could be signed with better resmues, i.e. Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and so on, but of those options, which would sign for as cheaply as either of those two would.

Of course RAJ (Ruben Amaro Jr.) could also trade for a fifth starter, but there are only so many pitchers that would be available for trade. Outside of bad contracts or players who are out of options and won;t make their roster, who else is available? Who out there could be better than Moyer and make it worth it for the Phillies to pay Jamie Moyer eight million dollars to pitch in relief or worse, not at all? Not much in my opinion.

So ultimately, I agree with Todd Zolecki over at The Zo Zone (http://zozone.mlblogs.com/). The Phillies have their number 5. And he wears number 50. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I would expect Jamie Moyer to be the Phillies fifth starting pitcher to open 2010. Whether he finishes 2010 there is a question for another day, but yes the ageless wonder will be our fifth starter. I wonder if Moyer’s jersey number is prophetic to how long he plans to pitch until. 50?

The 2010 Philadelphia Phillies

2010 is already shaping up for the Phillies to be the class of the National League. After losing the World Series in 2009, the Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. (RAJ) reloaded this squad with the intent of listening to co-owner John Middleton. To paraphrase, “I want my *%$!#@! trophy back.” I guess Mr. Middleton was a little upset at now repeating as World Champs. So were the rest of us, John, so were the rest of us.

RAJ did not hesitate lasting only a few weeks before acquiring arguably the best starting pitcher in baseball today, Roy Halladay. Fans drooled over the thought of a rotation with Halladay, Lee, and Hamels at the top. The fans were printing World Series Champs shirts weeks after the heart break of letting one slip away. Then the other shoe dropped. Cliff Lee, in a deal that prevented the two from being on the team at the same time, was dealt to the Seattle Mariners for a handful of AA prospects. The media raged. The fans in an uproar. The masses pressed the commitment of the ownership for nine million dollars for the best rotation in baseball. At the jump, I understood the complexity of the deal.

The Phillies knew that Cliff Lee wasn’t going to take a low ball offer. Lee was going to be a premier free agent after the 2010 season and he was intent on setting up his family for life with one good payday. On the other side, Roy Halladay made his money in Toronto. Now it was about winning. He saw the Phillies as a winning team and the best chance at the two things he covets most: A playoff appearance and more importantly, a World Series Championship Ring.

So with Cliff Lee not willing to give a discount, Halladay signed on and Lee was sent packing to Seattle for two quality pitchers and a speedy outfielder. Again the fans and media alike questioned the deal. None of these players are of the ilk of the players we gave up. But they did have two things going for them.

They were going to be closer to MLB ready faster than any player(s) the Phillies would acquire for Lee in draft compensation and were the players given up really going to be that missed. Drabek, yes. Taylor, yes. But of the remaining players given (Donald, Marson, Knapp, Carrasco, and D’Arnaud), I would say no. D’Arnaud and Knapp are both top 100 prospects by Baseball America but both are still 2-3 years away. Carrasco, while ready, seems to be a younger version of Oliver Perez. A guy who has a lot of talent, but has problems between the ears. Donald and Marson would have filled needs this year on the team in the same capacity as they will probably be used in Cleveland, a super sub and a back up catcher repsectively. Keep in mind though that we did acquire Ben Francisco in the deal was a contributing player in 2009.

Goodbye Feliz, Stairs, E-Brunt, and Bako. Hello Polanco, Gload, Schneider, and Castro. With Polanco, a more natural number two hitter, the Phillies gave Manuel the freedom to play with his lineup a little more and put Victorino down in the seven hole. All were definite upgrades at hitting. The Phillies learned a valuable lesson from teams that won before them. If you want to beat an AL team, you need to be built like an AL team

Fast forward to the present and the only story lines left for spring are: Will Jamie Moyer fend off Kyle Kendrick for the number 5 spot in the rotation and who will be the LHP out of the pen until JC Romero returns?

As far as the fifth spot in the rotation goes, I believe it is Moyer’s to lose. Moyer was a valuable starting pitcher for this organization in the 2008 championship season. He had a string of 14 consecutive quality starts. He was the team leader in wins even with Cole Hamels on the staff.

Kendrick looks to be the odd man out for two reasons. One, Moyer makes a base salary of eight million dollars, whereas Kendrick would be making less than ten percent of that. The second reason is simply about what to do with Moyer if he is not in the rotation.

Moyer is definitely not a suitable LHer out of the pen for a full season. If he didn’t have negative trade value, he wouldn’t have any value at all. The other option is to cut Moyer. That would bring the total for monies owed to players not on the roster to about ten million dollars. That includes money owed to Geoff Jenkins, Pedro Feliz, and Adam Eaton.

So with Kendrick having an option to the minors available, I’d prefer to see him remain a starter at AAA to keep getting steady work. If Moyer can keep Kendrick at bay, he is doing his job and there is nothing to worry about.

As far as the left handed reliever is concerned, Antonio Bastardo is the guy with the shot right now. Charlie like him so much last season, he actually got into the playoffs. The Phillies also have options internally if it seems like Bastardo is ineffective in Zagurski and Escalona. To be honest, I’d prefer that Bastardo return to AA or AAA and work on being a starter as opposed to a reliever.I’ve read and heard multiple comparisons of Bastardos and Santanas stuff. They could also acquire or sign for a lefty.

With the additions that RAJ made this offseason, I have no reason to believe, that, if healthy, the Phillies shouldn’t win 95+ games this season easily. That the Phillies four-peat as National League East Champions and the Phillies head to the World Series for the third straight season. 

Phillies not waiting for Winter Meetings

The GM Winter Meetings start less than a week away and the Phillies are already picking up the supporting cast to what should be anonther All-Star lineup in 2010. On Nov. 24th, the Phillies agreed to terms with utility infielder Juan Castro. The only thing holding up that deal is Castro’s physical. Castro was on a family vacation at the time of announcement. The terms of that deal have yet to be announced. On Dec 1st, the Phillies signed veteran catcher Brian Schneider to a 2 year/ 2.75 million dollar deal. Schneider, who was bothered by a sprained back in 2009 while playing for the Mets, is primed to be Carlos Ruiz’ back up.

Of the offseason needs, a backup catcher, a right handed hitting infielder, a left handed hitting outfielder, third base and bullpen help, 40% is taken care of. With Ruben Amaro, Jr. stating his projected payroll be around 140 million dollars in 2010, it is looking more and more like a bigger fish could be on the way.

Update: Phillies did not offer arbitration to Chan Ho Park or Scott Eyre. Reports have the Phillies getting a feeling on John Smoltz. I assume it would be in a relief capacity. Jamie Moyer to undergo arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus in January

Offseason Report: Third Base

As Ruben Amaro leads the Phils into his sophomore season as GM, he looks to improve several areas. We definitely know that there is a strong urge to upgrade at third base with Pedro Feliz’s option being declined. Now that does not mean that Feliz will not be back. It just means the Phils are willing to look elsewhere first. As previously stated by Amaro, “there are more third baseman this year in free agency than positions available.” That is a good sign. That means the price should not, and hopefully will not, be driven up. I’d like to take a look at some of the options available via trade or free agency.

Placido Polanco: The 34 year old former Phil is coming off a 5 year stint with Detroit. He hit .285 in 153 games with 10 HRs and 72 RBIs. Polanco has always been a average to above average fielder. The problem is he hasn’t played the hot corner since 2005. A Type A free agent would cost us our first round pick and a salary around 5.5 – 6.0 per year and probably atleast 2-3 years.

Chone Figgins: Figgins had one of those career years for free agents. 100+ walks. 40+ SBs. 50+ RBIs. Figgins is 32 years old and also a Type A. Figgins is pretty good with the glove but has more range as a 2B or OF as opposed to 3B. Besides the pick, Figgins will probably cost somewhere in the 7-9 million category for atleast 4 years.

Adrian Beltre: Will turn 31 at the beginning of next season. Beltre, the first Type B free agent, “earned” a 5 year/64 million dollar contract after the 2004 season. A season in which he hit 48 bombs. Since then Beltre has averaged roughly 20 HRs per season in Seattle. I can’t take all of it away because it is one hell of a big park. A Scott Boras client, will he expect to get around 10 million per? Will he expect 4-5 years?

Mark DeRosa: A full time starter the last three years, DeRosa is probably looking to continue that trend. At 35, how many more years should be expected of him to hit 20+ HRs and 70+ RBIs? An interesting fact to be noted. In the last 3 years, DeRosa average drops significantly while his strikeout rate increases.  DeRosa is probably looking for one last contract at 3 years and 6-8 million per.

Personally, I do not find ANY of those options all that appealing. All are 30+ years old. That is not old, but it just makes it a stop gap. All of these guys could hit for power in CBP (Citizens Bank Park), but the real question is: why? Why do you need a guy to hit a ton of HRs when he will be hitting no higher than 6th or 7th in the lineup. All of which also make it that much harder to keep players that you already have/need.

If I were GM, I’d be looking to make a trade with Pittsburgh, San Diego, or Anaheim. Michael Taylor is this team’s biggest chip and a good one at that. You could possibly get away with Taylor by himself or centerpiece him with some lower level prospects. I also believe that Chad Durbin has some value and could be packaged as well if necessary.

Pittsburgh: Andy LaRoche – The 26 year old held his own in the Steel City this year. He hit 12 HRs for an awful Pirates team. LaRoche has barely a year of service time. Plays solid defense and most importantly will be under team control for another four years.

San Diego: Kevin Kouzmanoff – Very comprable to LaRoche. Two years older. Hits for a little more pop. Better glove just less range. Kouzmanoff has three years left before free agency.

Anaheim: Brandon Wood – If the Angels do resign Figgins, Wood would/should be extremely available and could take over immeadiately. His MLB numbers are not so nice, but I relate that to playing time. In AAA, Wood hits for power and average. In the majors. he is barely above the Mendoza line.

Starting Pitching Woes?

Everyday millions of Phillies fans scour the internet, radio, and print media to find out just exactly who the Phillies are looking to acquire before the trade deadline at the end of the month. The same fans find a name or two and then ask themselves the same question: Why hasn’t it happened yet? There are a few, but very good, reasons why Ruben Amaro, Jr. and company haven’t produced the goods. Yet.

Reason number one. The high quality type of pitcher the Phillies have stated they are interested in is either on the DL or on a team not out of it yet or is selected to be an All-Star for their respective team. Every team must be represented at the All Star Game. If you eliminate a teams only representitve, you throw the whole roster off. Some people get shipped in, some get shipped out. So don’t really expect any big names before the All Star break ends.

I think any fan of any team would want a Jake Peavy or a Brandon Webb if made available. The truth of the matter is neither will be moved before the end of the month. Both are sidelined with injury and may only have one or two rehab starts in before the end of the month.

Finally, teams, like the Astros, hold on to the slimmest margin that they can make a run in the second half and make the postseason. The only teams who are really out of it at this point are the Indians, Padres, and Nationals. There are a lot of fringe teams with great starters, but they are likely to hold on to those players until the end of the month when the have to make the decision to go for it or not.

My second reason is this. Ruben is in no hurry just purely based on the fact that there currently is no pressure. We have all read about how the Phillies starters have the worst ERA in the NL. Over the last two weeks (13 Games), Phillies starter have thrown 79.1 innings. That averages out to just over 6 innings per start. Phillies starters have only surrendered 34 runs in that span. That is under 3 runs per game with an ERA of 3.85. So the starters have taken some pressure off of Ruben & Co. for now. I have no doubt that the Phillies will be working the phones scouring the field up until the deadline has come and gone for that one starter. That is the only pressing need that HAS to be done before the end of the month. A reliever and some bench bats could be found in August.