The Phillies and Brett Myers avoided arbitration today by agreeing to a 1-year, $3.3 million contract. The new deal is a far cry from the $445,000 he made last season but he deserves it. He was the Phils best pitcher statistically and this year has a chance to prove he’s the team’s ace (that is, unless Pat Gillick can make good on his quest to find a real #1). It’s interesting to note that even though the Phils and Myers came to terms on a deal, it was still for the arbitration length 1-year term. All the speculation as to when the Phils will resign him (again) is still valid.
Archive for January, 2006
As we’re piecing together next season’s lineup and debating whether or not Abreu should leadoff or how to break up all the lefties, one thing remains certain, the bottom of the order is set in stone: David Bell and Mike Lieberthal will be playing nearly everyday in 2006. Many people have talked about picking up one of the several better catchers available this off-season, including Ramon Hernandez (before the Orioles gobbled him up), Paul LoDuca (before the Mets got him), Bengie Molina (who’s still available), or Javier Valentin (looking for a full-time gig) to name a few. However, it seems that the Phillies are content to play out the season with Mike Lieberthal. Both Lieberthal and his partner in crime David Bell have one year remaining on their contracts, so while their jobs are secure for 2006, they likely will not be for much time after.
Now, as we all remember - despite our best efforts to forget - the Phils did make a move at catcher recently. That is, they let Todd Pratt go to the Braves and signed another veteran, Sal Fasano, to fulfill the backup duties. But if Lieberthal gets hurt, or happens to need another knee surgery, it’s unlikely that Fasano will be able to fill in effectively as an everyday starter. So, with the predicted demise Lieberthal era fast approaching, I thought it would be a good time to start looking to the future of Phillies backstops.
You may have already heard of Carlos Ruiz, who is currently number three on the Phillies depth chart. The 26-year-old has yet to make his MLB debut but put up decent numbers last season with Scranton batting .300/.354/.458 with 25 doubles. He doesn’t have much power, but that not something the Phillies particularly need right now. What they do need is a catcher for the future. Therefore it is surprising that Fasano is scheduled to be the backup and not Ruiz. Next season (2007) the Phils will essentially be left without a catcher so now would be the perfect opportunity to give Ruiz a shot in the big leagues.
In fact, the Phillies farm system is chock full of decent catchers. Close on the heels of Ruiz is Jason Jaramillo, the Phils 2nd round pick in 2004. After spending last season in Lakewood, he will likely be fast-tracked to Reading this year setting up an eventual title fight with Ruiz to be the first Phillies catcher in the post-Lieberthal era. Although Ruiz is already on the 40-man roster and currently has the inside track, Jaramillo earlier this week received a non-roster invitation to Spring Training. His bat is his biggest asset so while in Clearwater he will have the perfect opportunity to impress special hitting instructor Michael Jack Schmidt.
Even further down the line, the Phils have three more catching prospects: Louis Marson, Charles Cresswell, and Tuffy Gosewisch. They selected Marson and Cresswell in the summer 2004 draft and along with Jaramillo gave the Phils three catchers within the first ten rounds. Gosewisch was drafted last June after an impressive showing in the College World Series. So if Ruiz or Jaramillo don’t pan out or the Phils need a young catcher to complete a mid-season trade, they should still be alright.
Thus the point here seems to be patience. Whether Mike Lieberthal has a bit of a resurgence in 2006 or stinks to high heaven, it’s unlikely he’ll be back in the starting role in 2007. But the Phils should be sufficiently prepared for his departure as long as one of these youngsters gets his shot at the big leagues this season. I’m not sure how Manuel plans on using Fasano but Ruiz at least should get at least an opportunity to make his case for being the Phillies catcher of the future.
Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, January 11, 2006 08:16 PM Comments: 0
What: Cory Lidle Celebrity Poker Tournament
Where: Palms Casino, Las Vegas
When: This weekend
Buy In: $1200
Yes, that’s right. This weekend is Cory Lidle’s Second Annual Celebrity Poker Tournament with the proceeds benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Players who’ve already anted up include: Jermaine Dye, Jason Giambi, David Wells, Eric Chavez, Adam Dunn, Bret Saberhagen and Phillies Mike Lieberthal, Jimmy Rollins, and Randy Wolf. The inaugural tournament was a huge success and this one should be too. I wonder if Pat Gillick is participating. For a guy who can’t turn up aces, I don’t think he’d have a shot at winning.
The message boards at PhilliesPhans.com have been all a flutter the past 12 hours. User ‘ilovekruk‘ who has predicted several previous Phillies trades, included the Milton, Wagner and Thome deals, claims unequivocally that Manny Ramirez will be a Phillie. According to him (or her) Abreu will be involved and that we should all expect a press conference later this week. If you have some time, I would suggest reading the 26+ pages of commentary this statement has already generated in such short time. The sheer possibility of the trade and the excitement it brings is worth plugging into.
Last night Jeff Weaver and the Dodgers failed to reach an agreement to keep the right-hander in LA. Since he can’t resign with his former club until May 1, he will most likely be pitching for someone else next season. Could this someone else be the Phillies?
Well, Baseball Musings provides some concise analysis regarding Weaver’s strengths and weaknesses. Two cons are his poor performance with a runner on first - which would only be exacerbated by the glass arms of Phillies catchers - and his struggles against left-handed power hitters – also not conducive to the Phillies and their park. On the plus side, he did have a career year last season with 14 wins; though that’s not saying much. Contract-wise he earned just over $9 million in the last year of his deal and is currently represented by Scott Boras. So in that case, he may be cost-prohibitive. Yet, for Gillick and almost everyone who has been complaining about the lack of starting pitchers available this off-season, this might be a bright spot.
It would cost a lot of money to sign Weaver, money the Phils don’t have going into the 2006 season but may have down the road. This is precisely why I am frustrated by Gillick’s nickel and dime acquisitions so far. That money could have been saved for a bigger name like this and would allow the Phils to keep the offensive juggernaut, Bobby Abreu. I’m not saying that Weaver is the solution to the Phillies pitching woes, or even worth $10 million a year; but finally an opportunity Gillick has been waiting for has come to the fore and he’s stuck in Diamond Club scrounging for loose change.
I thought it necessary to briefly intervene and crystallize some of this trade talk surrounding Miguel Tejada and Bobby Abreu. First of all, these rumors are no more substantial than any others that have yet to pan out, so let’s not blow it out of proportion just yet. Second, from what I’ve heard from Gillick throughout the off-season, is that he is only looking to trade Abreu if he can find a top of the rotation starter – which the Phils desperately need.
While Miguel Tejada is an awesome player he is not a huge improvement over Abreu. Tejada is two years younger, but has two more years on his contract. His reputation as a clubhouse leader has been somewhat tainted by his selfish request to be traded. But in comparison to Abreu’s lack of leadership and Manny-esque hustle, Tejada would be a plus there. Also, power hitting shortstops don’t come around too often, which makes Tejada a bit more attractive. Maybe a tiny bit more so now that the Phils signed another outfielder. Though since Miggy is unwilling to play third, this would mean something would have to be done with Rollins and his new contract.
Then there’s the idea of flipping Miggy for an ace. I doubt this will happen. If there wasn’t much interest in Abreu, there won’t be significantly more for Tejada. Plus, for the O’s to agree to this trade they would want a young pitcher like, Cole Hamels, Robinson Tejeda, Ryan Madson, Brett Myers, or Gavin Floyd (the names I’ve seen bandied around). Now that’s quite a range of talent in that mix, but I think these guys should be saved for the future (Myers, Madson) or saved for the trading deadline (Floyd, Tejeda) - though the prospects of a Tejada-Tejeda deal would be amusing. Also, it seems the Phils would pick up LaTroy Hawkins to add to their bullpen. But if there aren’t enough reasons not to make this deal, Hawkins should be it. He folded under pressure in Chicago, wasn’t much better in San Francisco, and would be no better then the arms the Phils currently have in the ‘pen.
But I think the debate surrounds an earlier the point: the fact that Gillick wants to trade Abreu for an ace. If he’s got a three team deal worked out, that’s one thing, but Miggy for Bobby plus a young arm – without a definite plan for an ace for Tejada deal – would not be a very beneficial to the Phils.
Update: More reasons the Tejada deal won’t happen: "Miguel Tejada rescinded his demand to be traded by the Orioles, telling team officials during a phone call Saturday that he’s willing to help Baltimore become a contender in the AL East."
Well, it’s finally happened, the Phillies signed a starter. Ryan Franklin, who went 8-15 with a 5.10 ERA for Seattle last year, agreed to a 1 year, $2.6 million deal. Last year he was also "one of those" who received a 10-game suspension for failing the new MLB steroid test - though he maintains his innocence. The 32 year old right-hander was plagued by a lack of run support which should hopefully be remedied by the Phils high octane offense. He’s an inning eater like Cory Lidle, as he’s averaged over 200 innings the past 3 seasons. His pitching arsenal includes a fastball, curveball, slider, changeup and split-finger but none are overpowering.
So what is Gillick’s rationale here in spending $2.6 million? Is he nickel and diming away the rest of the available salary or does he see something special in the guy? He does come from Seattle which was Pat’s old stomping ground, so maybe Gillick knows something everyone else doesn’t. I doubt it though. On the surface, this is hardly a significant pickup. Franklin will probably round out the rotation in the #5 spot with one of the youngsters holding Wolf’s place until he recovers. Still, this move hardly fulfills our expectation for Gillick to land a legitimate starter.
So we were brainstorming the potential lineup for next season, here’s what we got:
More importantly we’ve decided that no matter the order, the Phillies offense will hinge on Pat Burrell’s productivity. It all depends on which Pat Burrell shows up in 2006. I think most people are counting on a repeat of last season’s performance and not the Pat Burrell of 2003-2004. But what if Burrell does not have a 30 HR/100 RBI season? Then the lineup does not look so good.
Besides that, the Phils are relying on Howard and Utley to avoid a sophomore slump. They also expect JRoll to have another career year. On the flip side, some people feel that David Bell will improve on last season’s dismal performance and contribute his worth. Still that won’t be enough if any of the guys at the top of the lineup have an off year.