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Archive for November, 2005

Signings, Signings and More Signings

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, November 30, 2005 04:02 PM Comments: 0

Wow, when will it end?  Today Pat Gillick announced the signing of Julio Santana, a right-handed reliever from Milwaukee, to a one year $800,000 deal.  In 42.0 innings last season, Santana allowed 34 hits, walked 19 and struck out 49; opponents batted .221 against him.  Santana has played for 5 major league teams, as well as one in Japan and in the minors for the Fightins’ in Scranton.  It appears he will be playing some sort of middle reliever role, nothing too crucial at the moment.

Going back a day to a whole ‘nother signing, we’ve received a scouting report on Abraham Nunez.  This comes from our friends over at Viva el Birdos: A St. Louis Cardinals Blog:

He had never produced offensively before last season – a strongly net-negative offensive player, but he was a godsend for stl when Rolen went out.  Outstanding in the field and much better than expected with the bat.  Another card blogger showed that Nunez significantly increased his walks and cut down on his strikeouts last year, as opposed to prior years. So he either has improved his strike-zone discipline, or he had a fluky year.  One caveat — he cooled down considerably in August / September; I don’t have the splits in front of me, but you can find ‘em at ESPN if you want [It's true].  But he hit very well in the playoffs.  Another caveat: La Russa has a sterling record with players of this type: utility guys with poor hitting records who inexplicably have career years under his management. but many of them revert once they leave the Cards — examples include Tom Paquette, Joe McEwing, Tony Womack.  Last year, Eckstein and Nunez both had career years.

I hope he plays well for the Phils — likeable player, great in the field, good smarts, etc.

Well, sounds good enough for me as long as he avoids that post-St. Louis drop off. 

In other news, nothing new on the Bobby Abreu trade front - it may have all been a hoax.  Not likely, though, the way Pat Gillick’s been moving.  He might blow out a hip before Spring Training even gets here.  That’d be fine with me, who else can hardly wait to see how this team performs?  I’m afraid there will be even more pressure on the 2006 Phils than the past couple years.  But hey, that’s why they get paid the big bucks, right?

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Public Enema Number 1

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, November 30, 2005 06:17 AM Comments: 0

Throughout the season I certainly got fed up with Billy Wagner running his mouth.  Then in blowing those two saves against Houston, I really started to dislike the guy.  Of course his departure for the cesspool of the National League only fuels the fire.  But if that wasn’t enough, now listen to what he’s been saying:

"There’s a difference between winning and being competitive.  In the end, I thought [the Phillies] were more interested in being competitive than winning.

 "While the Phillies were getting rid of one guy, the Mets were buying up talent, and that’s hard to overlook."

"I’m sure I’ll be treated the same way everyone else is," Wagner said. "I’ll be heckled. The fans there are passionate. They’re going to think I ran to the money – which I guess they would have passed up – but I get heckled in every park. It’s part of the game."

Heckled isn’t the word, country boy – try lambasted, degraded, or threatened.  You just signed yourself onto the list next to J.D. Drew and Todd Jones.  It’s funny, by saying "which I guess they would have passed up" he pretty much confirms the fact that he indeed ran to the money.

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Phillies Sign Bell’s Platoon

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, November 29, 2005 04:10 PM Comments: 0

It’s on now!  Not one to let the loss of Wagner get him down, today Pat Gillick announced the signing of free agent infielder Abraham Nunez.  The former Pirate and Cardinal and replacement for the injured Scott Rolen last year agreed to a two-year, $3,350,000 deal with a club option for 2008 and performance bonuses.

At first thought, Nunez reminds me a lot of Placido Polanco, whom I think everyone can agree was a rather large asset to the Phils.  He can play third base, shortstop and second base; he’s even pitched in a game in 2004.  He’s a switch-hitter so he’ll be able to hit righties unlike David Bell.  You argue too much with Bell’s defensive abilities (except for that one error against Houston late in the year), but in filling in for Rolen, Nunez did a decent job.  He committed 10 errors in 98 games at third and had a .963 fielding percentage compared to Bell’s .951 FP.

So will Charlie Manuel acquiesce to Gillick’s move and insert a third base platoon into his starting lineup?  While it might be a simple decision for us, I feel it would be a daft challenge to David Bell for the likes of Uncle Charlie.  As for Pat Gillick, it’s clear he’s not afraid to shake up the establishment – Wade and Montgomery’s ‘championship caliber team.’  Next up on the chopping block hopefully – Mike Lieberthal. BUT:

It seems there are rumors flying around about a Bobby Abreu trade in the works.  Slow down Pat, let’s not be hasty.  One I’ve heard involves Lieberthal and Abreu for the Yankees’ Carl Pavano, Jorge Posada, and minor league pitcher Eric Duncan.  Another one sounds like Jason Marquis might be part of a deal.  If that’s the case, I might have to boycott every 5th Phillies game.  I hate Jason Marquis and his entire family; I boycotted almost an entire Phillies season because of an incident involving him while on the Braves.  If he’s signed, I’ll explain the entire story in detail.  But besides my personal vendetta, I do not think he’s a number 1 starter – not even on the Phils – and certainly not worth losing Abreu over.  When truth to the Abreu rumors surfaces, we’ll let you know.  Until then, revel in the good move in signing Nunez.

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Wagner Signs with Mets

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, November 28, 2005 04:37 PM Comments: 0

Fox Sports is reporting that Billy Wagner has signed with the New York Mets.  Our free spending rivals in NY offered a four-year deal worth $43 million and it was accepted.  If you thought 3 years was too much to give Wagner, you’ll be real disappointed to know that the Mets deal also includes a team option 5th year worth $10 million or a $3 million buyout.  According to WFAN Billy-boy is on his way to NY to hammer out the deal as we speak.

The Phils are now faced with that ominous Plan C we spoke of earlier (Plan B, B.J. Ryan signed with Toronto last week).  Free-agent right-hander Tom Gordon now becomes the most likely option for the Phils next choice.  With the closer free agent market being driven by high demand, the 38 year old Gordon may hold out for a 3 year deal.  Several commenters have suggested the potential to use Vicente Padilla as a closer; though, I would rank that around Plan H.  In fact, Mr. Gillick said earlier that he will look outside the organization to fulfill the role of closer and that Trevor Hoffman might also be an option – we’ll say Plan D. 

I do wonder now how the Phillies off season priorities have shifted.  Resigning Wagner was number 1, but now that he’s walked is replacing him just as important?

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I Hope Pat Gillick’s Been Nice This Year

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, November 28, 2005 12:12 PM Comments: 0

To expound on the final item of Jim’s Christmas list, there are some catchers out there, but it would take some pretty creative moves by Gillick to land one and it might not be worth it considering some more gaping holes on the squad.  Benjie Molina, Ramon Hernandez and Brad Ausmus are all free agents on the market and Toby Hall and Paul Lo Duca on the trading block.  The Mets have offered similar three-year contracts worth between $5 million to $7 million per season to both Hernandez and Molina.  The D’Backs and Orioles are reportedly interested in Hernandez, as well.  Still, why does it seem like the Mets and Overspending Omar are always one step ahead of the Phils?  At least Gillick and the Phils still have the waiver wire, the nontenders after Dec. 20, and the Rule Five draft to try to find some overlooked talent.

On the Billy Wagner front, it seems as if 2 more teams are jumping into the ring of death – the Braves and Red Sox.  The NY Daily News reported in its usual city mouse-country mouse spin, that since Wagner lives in Virginia, the Braves could offer the kind of Southern lifestyle he’s more accustomed to.  It’s funny because in another article, Bill Madden claims that New York is becoming less of an appealing destination for free agents.  Let’s hope so.  Meanwhile, the Boston Globe claimed the Red Sox hope to get into the hunt for the free agent closer and have invited him to Boston this week.  Billy said he couldn’t make it, but I’m sure he’ll find the time to make it to Beantown before the end of the year.  It actually works in his favor as the Phils will be forced to continue to mull over their offer in the context of the Mets’ 3 year/$30 million with an incentive option for a 4th year.

Finally, in case you haven’t heard, the Dodgers have interviewed Jim Fregosi for their managerial vacancy.  Personally, I would love to see Jimbo back in uniform and smoking in the dugout.

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Christmas Wish List

Posted by Brian Michael, Sat, November 26, 2005 09:26 AM Comments: 0

Dear Santa,

Now that the Thome-Rowand deal is official after both passed their physicals, I am here on the day after Black Friday to propose my Christmas wish list for the Phils.  I like the first step that Gillick has made, but this is only the first step in what should be a long and hopefully rewarding journey coming into the season. 

Number one on my wish list in a top notch starting pitcher.  Now I know that they do not grow on trees, and more likely than not the Phillies would have to aquire one through a trade.  The free agent market is like a baren wasteland this off season when it comes to starters, but ultimatly this must be done.  What has held us back these past two or three years?  The lack of a stopper.  A top notch guy that you can feel confident can stop a three or four game slide.  Rumors have been swirling involving the Phils and getting a starter.  Lately I have seen credible sources report two possibilities.  Number one includes the Phils shipping Abreu and J-Mike to the Red Sox for Matt Clement and Trot Nixon.  Secenario number two involves Abreu and Corey Lidle going to Oakland for Barry Zito and an outfielder.  Personally I think I would rather do the trade with Oakland.  Even though Zito had a down year last year, he is a former Cy Young winner, and his ex-mates Mulder and Hudson made a pretty smooth transition to the NL with the Cardinals and Braves respectively. 

It seems that Gillick is focusing more on trading Abreu rather than Burrell.  I can report this with a certain degree of confidence after a quote from Gillick in the Inquirer this morning.  Gillick said, "I consider Shane Victorino and Jason Michaels part of the mix in the outfield.  One possibility next season could be Michaels playing left field and Pat Burrell playing first base against lefthanded pitching."  This is of course due to Ryan Howard’s struggles with left handed pitching to the tune of .148 average with 1 HR in 61 at bats last season.  The platoon could be argued against since Howard has to learn how to hit lefties at some point, but as for now at least Gillick is showing some ability to think outside the box. 

Back to my wish list, number two would be some bullpen help.  With it looking more and more like Wagner is going to sign with the Mets and BJ Ryan just agreeing to terms with the Blue Jays I am getting concerned with who will be closing out games for the 2006 Phillies.  Dare I say it, because it scares me to even think about it, but do they finally move Padilla to the closer spot that he was originally intended to fill?  I hope there is a better option out there than that, but sometimes with the bullpen you just have to pick up a wiley vetran and hope for the best.  I have no idea who can help the Phils, but my fingers are crossed that Gillick has a plan for this area of concern.     

Number three on my wish list is for a left handed batting third baseman who can platoon with Bell.  I am one of the few who may think Bell is still a good cog to have on the team I am sure, but he does bring mental toughness and is one of the few players with playoff experience.  What was clear last year is that the man CAN NOT hit right handed pitching.  The third baseman this Phillies pick up does not have to be a stud, just someone you can plug into the seven hole in the line up that can bat .270 against righties and have a solid glove.  The majors are littered with guys like this and they often come pretty cheap.  As the Nike slogan goes, "Just Do It!"

Finally, I would be remiss to not metion the issue of catcher.  Again I am one of the few who believe this, but look around the majors at the starting catchers.  Only a few had better offensive numbers than Leiby.  Trust me I realize he never comes up with a big hit and is terrible to quite terrible at handling a pitching staff, but like with good starters, good offensive and defensive cathers are a rare breed.  Unless you can trade Lieby (which is very unlikely) I feel we are stuck with him.  It can work though, trust me!

PS  Santa, I think myself and the rest of PhilliesNation have been good people for the most part all year.  If you could find it in your bag of gooidies I know one thing we would all like more than anything else on this list.  A parade down Broad Street! 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday’s to one and all!

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Phillies Trade Thome

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, November 23, 2005 04:01 PM Comments: 0

The day has finally come: sources from ESPN and the Inquirer report that the Phillies have traded Jim Thome!  He’s going to his home state of Illinois and, barring the failure of a physical on Thursday, will be playing next year for the Chicago White Sox.  Let’s just hope all those rumors that he’s in "the best shape of his life" are true.  In return, the Phils will receive centerfielder Aaron Rowand who had a career year in 2004 hitting .310 with 38 doubles, 24 homers and 69 RBI.  The Phils will also receive two prospects, who will be named later, plus relief on half of Thome’s remaining contract.

This is great news, as I’ve said the Phils need an everyday centerfielder with speed and I wasn’t convinced Shane Victorino would be that guy.  Plus it’s another right handed bat in the lineup to complement all those lefties. 

Monetarily the Phils are net gainers and will have more money to sign a starter.  This might edge Wagner a little closer south to Philadelphia.  Oh yea and of course, this gives the NL rookie of the year Ryan Howard a guaranteed spot at first and more importantly in the lineup.

According to the Inky the next name on Gillick’s list could be the Cardinal’s free agent third baseman Abraham Nunez.  It appears "Standing Pat" is not afraid to come in and clean house.  That’s just what the doctor ordered.  Go Phils!

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Free Agent First Dates

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, November 22, 2005 07:03 PM Comments: 0

I’m sure you’ve all heard by now about Billy Wagner’s tourist trip to NYC.  In short, the Glavine family picked them up at the airport, his wife went to see Phantom on Broadway, Billy took the scenic route from Flushing to Westchester, and they all got "I Heart NY" t-shirts to remember the trip.  From what I’ve heard, all the bright lights didn’t immediately scare the country mouse.  However, the initial assessment from Wagner was certainly not as positive as that of last week’s meeting with Gillick and Co.  I think much of that had to do with the fact the Phils met him in VA because Billy complained about too much driving while in the Big Apple.  What the Mets couldn’t fire up the helicopter for Wags?  It’s expected the Mets will offer him the same money as the Phils but with the 3rd year guaranteed.  If that’s the case, I think he’ll stay with the Phils.  If Omar Minaya throws in a 4th year, then he’s a Met.  But perhaps he’d take the 3 year Met deal if they add a Kevin Brown-like clause giving him free helicopter rides to and from the stadium.  I sure Tom Glavine could tell him how useful that could be

If the Phils don’t win the Wager sweepstakes, they’re gonna need a Plan C.  Plan B, lefty free-agent B.J. Ryan, is currently being wooed by the Indians.  GM Mark Shapiro had dinner with Ryan last night in Cleveland.  So Pat Gillick better slick his hair and work on his best game because he’ll soon need to get out there and start making some dinner dates.  Sure he doesn’t want to look as if he’s cheating on Wagner, but I’d like to see him showcase the city to free agents and maybe improve our reputation.  Quick poll:  if you were Gillick, where would you take a free agent on the first date?

Today however Gillick prefered computer lovin’.  He continued the trend started by David Montgomery by sending an email to phillies.com subscribers.  (Let me say quickly that I appreciate this tactic and hope it continues and you can read the full text using the link below.)  Gillick mentioned the hiring this past week of an old buddy, Don Welke, as Special Assistant.  Welke most recently worked as the Rangers’ international scouting crosschecker last year and helped them build a foundation in Latin America.  He also served as Senior Scouting Advisor for the Dodgers, as well as an advance scout with Toronto.  It was in Toronto where Welke and Gillick became close friends.  It is also interesting to note he was a big proponent of signing Jim Abbott after seeing him pitch for his high school team in Michigan - how ’bout that for scouting.  Let’s just hope for now that he can rebuild the depleted farm system.

Finally, for finishing second in the Wild Card standings the Phillies have been awarded 1% of the player’s playoff pool which is comprised of 60% of the playoff gate receipts.  This means that the Phils players will democratically decide how to split the pot of $407,885.66.  Any chance they give it all to Wagner to keep him in Philly?

Continue reading Free Agent First Dates

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Mickey Morandini Inducted Into Hall of Fame

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, November 20, 2005 08:11 PM Comments: 0

Yes, that’s right; the triple-play man himself was elected into the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame this past week.  A stellar rookie season with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox hitting .376 and stealing 43 bases pretty much sealed the deal for the two-time Phillie second baseman.  Now if that’s not news, I don’t know what is.

Ok, let’s try this: the Phils have been rumored to be in the Josh Beckett market.  As Hurricane Gamma bears down on the state of Florida, it looks as if the Marlins still won’t get the new stadium they need to finance the salaries of their stars.  Therefore the Marlins are tossing Josh Beckett into the market; but caveat emptor, he comes with one fairly expensive string attached in Mike Lowell and the $18 million left on his contract.  Together Beckett and Lowell are set to be paid $28 million over the next two years.  There are of course a few obvious detractions to this rumor in that the Fish might not want to trade intra-division and the Phils probably won’t want to sacrifice more young talent.  Most glaringly though, this is not the kind of salary the Phils are looking to take on, but a third baseman and a starter in the same deal might be right up the Phillies’ power alley.  If they lose the Wagner sweepstakes – which will become apparent tomorrow after Billy’s trip to the big rotten apple – look for the Phils to start some discussions with Florida.  Right now the Boston, Detroit or Texas appear to be the most likely destination for the two Marlin stars.

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Vaquez Isn’t Coming to Philly

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, November 18, 2005 04:32 PM Comments: 0

The Inquirer claims that although Javier Vaquez wishes to be traded to an east coast team, there are 6 teams he definitely won’t play before - and the Phillies aren’t one of them.  I haven’t been able to get my hands on a list of the 6, but simple subtraction means that there are only 4 teams he would move to.  A Sporting News article and message board has him rumored in favor of Tampa Bay, close to his home of Puerto Rico.  Where does that leave the Phillies?  Well, with fewer options for new starting pitching.  So, they better get the checkbook out for A.J.

Also don’t hold your breath on Thome moving to the Twins.  Well at least don’t start holding it until spring training.  The Minnieapolis Star Tribune reports that the Twinkies aren’t even considering Thome until they have a look at him in spring training.  Many clubs have expressed this opinion, so realize there are a lot of factors shifting the Thome trading timeline.  For instance, the White Sox will most likely wait to see where Paul Konerko signs.  But the main factor for everyone – at least the Grapefruit League teams – will be to wait and see how Thome’s back looks in spring training.  However for the Phils, this means giving him plenty of playing time to show off the goods.  Hopefully ROY Ryan Howard will understand his reduced role during March; any later though, he (and all of us) should start worrying.

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