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Phillies Fans: Get Excited About Chad Qualls

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Fri, February 03, 2012 07:30 AM | Comments: 26
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The signing of Chad Qualls means the Phillies are staring down the barrell of a loaded Luxury Tax gun. Photo: AP

The signing of Chad Qualls wasn’t one of the bargain basement signings like Juan Pierre or Joel Pineiro where a Phillies fan can argue if it doesn’t work out, we can stash the journeyman 33 year-old reliever in Triple-A. Instead, the signing of Qualls for $1.15 million was a little puzzling, perplexing, and pushed them right to the threshold of the dreaded luxury tax. And while my colleague Corey Seidman did a fantastic job illustrating why it wasn’t the best signing, I’d like to argue it was a good signing for reasons you may have and may not have anticipated.

In Jonah Keri’s piece on Albert Pujols’s contract, Keri says the going rate for 1 win is about $5 million. Corey praised Qualls for a nasty sinker-slider combo that induces groundballs and projected him as a .3 to .7 win reliever for 2012, which would be a bargain. Bill James has predicted Qualls somewhere between his very good 2009 and serviceable 2010, making Corey’s prediction spot on. Where I differ with Corey is how Qualls place on the team effects the young arms around him and how this signing reflects on the Phillies.

Injuries Happen, Call-Ups are Used

In 2011, the Phillies used 22 pitchers, 18 from the bullpen at some point. In 2010, those numbers were 21 and 16, 2009 saw 22 and 18, 2008’s numbers were 18 and 14, and 2007 saw 28 pitchers take the mound for the Phillies with 23 of them seeing relief duty. 2007 is unquestionably the outlier, but consider this: 16 pitchers appeared for the Phillies out of the ‘pen for 10 or more appearances in 2007 in a worst case scenario, everybody-got-injured-or-is-horrible year. In 2011, with a relatively stable ‘pen? 10 pitchers had at least 10 appearances, with 8 with 24 or more.

Qualls is a serviceable pitcher that was had at the right price. Admittedly, I am intrigued by seeing Michael Schwimer, Justin DeFratus, Phillippe Aumont, and Joe Savery receive an extended shot at the Majors, but signing Qualls will not reduce their chances. Other circumstances that happened at the end of this year and in the off-season have dramatically increased their chances, if anything.

Every year, it felt like the Phillies would trot out a combination of Andrew Carpenter, Scott Mathieson, and Mike Zagurski to varying degrees of effectiveness any time there was an injury. One was traded to Toronto, Mathieson left for Japan, and Zagurski was traded to Arizona. Those road blocks are gone. And the difference with Schwimer, DeFratus, and Aumont? They’re younger and fresher than the previous trio was when they were receiving their shots. If any of those three, along with Savery, does get an extended look due to injury, the Phillies have no problem retaining those players on the roster if their performance remains at a high level, examples being Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo.

Injury candidates that may land young arms a spot: Bastardo, Joe Blanton (either from the ‘pen or an injury that gives Kendrick a starting spot instead of the swing-man role) and Jose Contreras.

The Reality that Stutes and Bastardo May Have Caught Lightning in a Bottle

For the first half of the year, Stutes looked like the missing link in the bullpen. The 24-year old was fantastic but hit two distinct walls: in June and in September. And it wasn’t all that crazy to suggest Bastardo was one of the best set-up men in all of baseball midway through the season. Like Stutes, however, Bastardo ran into a wall and lost effectiveness late in the season. There is a real possibility that at some point for either one of these pitchers, the wheels may fall off again, leaving an opportunity for one of the young arms to get their opportunity.

What Luxury Tax?

And perhaps the most exciting, and abstract interpretation, of the Chad Qualls signing is the possibility that the Phillies are willing to go above and beyond the Luxury Tax threshold to acquire the players they need to win a World Series. Philadelphia fans, myself included, long loathed the Yankees and Red Sox, and sometimes the Cubs and Mets, for being big pocketed bullies who did whatever it took monetarily to build a championship team. The Phillies haven’t entered that realm; they’re already in it.

Does the Chad Qualls signing mean they’re going to be able to re-sign Cole Hamels for whatever his price tag may be after the season? Not at all. But what it may suggested is with the added revenue of selling out every night, increased ticket prices, and the very real new TV deal that is around the corner, the Phillies will go straight up to the Luxury Tax and sometimes cross it to acquire the right players.

Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

About Ian Riccaboni

Ian Riccaboni has written 839 articles on Phillies Nation.

Ian's athletic achievements include getting stuffed by NBA center Aaron Gray in high school and hitting .179 over four years for NYU against D-III, NAIA, JuCo, and NCBA schools. Ian hopes his athletic successes will help him achieve his dream of becoming the underground Bob Uecker.

 
 
  • Posts: 3073 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    I’m not exited. Curious. Hopeful. …… But not exited.

     
    • Posts: 0 George

      Yes, it’s pretty hard to get exited about a $1.15 million dollar signing, although Corey did (in a negative way!). Qualls is an arm, just as Willis is an arm; there’s no telling how they’ll work out, and there’s no telling if all those kids will be any good when they’re ultimately called on to replace the wounded and lame.

      I think it’s a decent enough signing: cheap and experienced and only for one year. It’s not blocking anyone long-term. Exiting, no. Sensible, yes.

       
  • Posts: 0 Jobin

    Nicely done. Corey’s piece drove me insane. Glad to see a dose of reality. Can’t believe people are complaining about Qualls signing a cheap deal and that we’re not just “giving” young guys a spot automatically. You dont get anything automatically in baseball, you earn it!

     
  • Posts: 0 You're Delusional

    Qualls will prove to be an unmitigated disaster. It would be easier to get excited about contracting herpes.

     
  • Posts: 0 Don M

    I can’t comprehend how signing ANY role player to a $1.15 M deal could ever be called a disaster ….

    If Gillick made this move, fans would love it … since Amaro made it, people complain..

    My stance …….. lets wait and see, maybe he helps you, maybe he doesn’t. Lets talk in November and then judge the deals he made for the 2012 season

     
  • Posts: 1190 Manny

    Avatar of Manny

    Great piece. I’m glad we got him!

     
  • Posts: 0 Brian

    What is the current state of the Phillies’ TV contract? We all know how much the Yankees, Red Sox, and now the Angels have benefited from their own networks. I know Montgomery has said the Phillies have no plans to move away from Comcast, so I assume Comcast will have to make it worthwhile. Afterall, it is in both of their interests to field a championship level team to generate those high local ratings 150+ nights a year.

     
  • Posts: 452 Ian Riccaboni

    Avatar of Ian Riccaboni

    @Manny – thanks! How many days til pitchers and catchers? Can’t wait!

     
  • Posts: 0 Pete App

    More pitchers? Irrelevant, my friends! Where’s the consistent hitting we need? Mayberry is not a dead certain .280 average plus hitter; for that matter neither is Victorino, Utley, Polanco, etc. We need a reliable day in, day out batsman to compliment Pence! Is anybody within the Phillies organization hip to this urgent need? However, it’s good that some of the less productive players from the last few years were traded or shown the door.

     
    • Posts: 0 Don M

      Career batting averages of the 3 guys you mentioned:

      Victorino = .279
      Utley = .290
      Polanco = .301

      So they have multiple guys that have been there, and done that.. proven it multiple times … and like every other team in baseball – they need to stay healthy and try to do it again this year. The talent is there in their everyday lineup, the bench is deeper (maybe deeper than ever?), the best 1-2-3 of any starting rotation in baseball …… and now they’ve added another cheap arm to try to sure-up the bullpen

       
    • Posts: 904 schmenkman

      Avatar of schmenkman

      I don’t see hitting as an urgent need.

      Once Utley replaced Valdez/Orr/Martinez in May last year, the Phillies were the highest-scoring team in the league for the last 2/3+ of the season, with among the fewest games with 3 runs or less. It wasn’t all due to Utley of course, but despite a down year he did wind up as the 3rd best hitting second baseman in the NL. More on Utley here: http://www.thegoodphight.com/2012/2/2/2715299/chase-utley-and-50-years-of-second-basemen

      From that offense, the changes are these:
      - Howard will be out to start
      - full year of Pence
      - Ibanez and his .707 OPS will almost certainly be improved upon
      - better offense off the bench

      Could it be even better? Of course. I just don’t see the urgency.

       
  • Posts: 0 Mazinman

    Has a 1.5 mil signing ever had this much debate? Still, I am glad this article was posted as it helps to capture well the argument when put together with Corey’s.

     
  • Posts: 1190 Manny

    Avatar of Manny

    Welp. I just bought a three-pack (Opening Night vs Miami, Cliff Lee Bobblehead vs Dodgers, and July game vs Giants). I’m poor now.. but happy :)

     
  • Posts: 0 davehist

    How can you get excited over a $1.15 million signing? Wow! Short memories! I may have a few years on your other posters, but I remember back when Connie Mack wouldn’t give Sam Chapman the $10,000 contract he was asking for. $1.15 million still seems like a lot of dough, even in these times. I hope Qualls measures up.

     
    • Posts: 0 George

      Who cares about Connie Mack and Sam Chapman. Those were different times and different circumstance. Back then, owners could get away with nearly anything because there was no reserve clause.

      Also, in Chapman’s day, before decades of inflation, $10,000 was a pretty decent salary, and many fans felt like you do now over Qualls’ $1.15: “seems like a lot of dough.”

      Given what other teams have paid for lesser arms, Chad Qualls is a bargain.

       
  • Posts: 5346 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Nice job as usual Riccaboni. What I found most interesting about this acquisition was that in the press release, it stated that in the past 7 seasons, 2005-2011, Qualls has made more appearances (512) than any other major league pitcher. Considering the manner in which Charlie uses his BP, I think this is just the kind of durable reliever he needs.

     
  • Posts: 276 Jeff of Nova

    Avatar of Jeff of Nova

    Nice piece Ian!

    I love that for the first time in a while going into spring training we have a load of talent vieing for the bullpen.

    I see it like this

    We have:

    Starters:

    Halladay
    Lee
    Hamels
    Worley
    Blanton/Kendrick

    Closer:

    Papelbon

    Setup:

    Bastardo/ Qualls

    Rest of the pen (3-4)

    Stutes, Kendrick/Blanton, Contreas, Willis, Pinero, Dave Bush, Schwimmer, De Fratus, Savery, Aumont, Herndon, Diekman, JC Ramirez.

    Lots of talent to pick from but since we have a such an innings eating Starting staff we will have a very rested staff and some of the older arms in the pen may be able to last longer.

     
    • Posts: 1135 EricL

      Avatar of EricL

      Pinero will not be in the pen.

       
  • Posts: 5346 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    And concerning the luxury tax, I don’t think they want to go over this season. According to Gelb’s piece it is more important that the team does not go over it this year- than in 2013. The cost is 20% this year, and goes up to 30% if they go over two years in a row. But, it would cost only 17.5% if they go over in 2013 alone, and then the ceiling goes up for 2014. And as Ian mentioned the new TV package may be in place by then.

    Maybe that’s why there has been no movement on Hamels?

     
  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    Most importantly Rube didint sign him for a 2 or 3 year deal. He seems to be getting a grip somewhat on that concept at least. Im guessing Rube isnt trusting that Contreras is/will stay healthy.

     
  • Posts: 3073 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    I’m taking the stance that this probably isn’t going to be an “unmitigated disaster” like You’re Delusional suggests (above)…..and hopefully, Qualls can be a valid contributor out of the pen.

    But I can’t real excited about it for the reasons that have been stated already concerning the young guys that might be able to help out for the MLB minimum and how this impacts their development. Hopefully, some of them get a valid shot as well.

    I agree, however, that we really have to wait til the end of the year before we judge this deal fairly.

     
  • Posts: 1135 EricL

    Avatar of EricL

    Does anyone have any links or information confirming this new “television package” I keep hearing about?

    The Yankees, Angels and Red Sox are all flush with the cash from their own proprietary networks, but the Phils just have a syndication deal as far as I can tell, and I can’t find anything that indicates that’s going to change any time soon.

    I’d love to hear that they’re about to get a massive cash injection, but I just don’t see where it’s going to come from.

     
    • Posts: 904 schmenkman

      Avatar of schmenkman

      The poster NEPP said the following on another blog — I don’t know how valid it is, but fyi…

      “1. The Phillies tv deal will be up for renewal by 2015.
      2. The Phillies play in the 5th largest market in the country and 2nd largest market in the country with just 1 MLB club.
      3. The Luxury cap will likely be a bit higher then too.

      Odds are the Phillies will have a much, much larger revenue stream by then as a result of that renegotiation. Look at what the Angels just got with their new deal ($150 million per YEAR for 20 years).
      Estimates have the Phillies currently getting $20-35 million a year from Comcast…that number could easily triple and all this whining about our contract issues becomes a moot point.”

       
    • Posts: 0 Don M

      According to Philly.com this past summer …..

      The Phillies current TV deal expires in 2015 (don’t know if it includes that season or not) …. the deal paid them $24 M

      Last year, the Texas Rangers completed a 20-year deal with FOX that was worth $75 M per year …. extra revenue that can be used directly on payroll or to pay the luxuary tax should they go over (extending Hamels, while Halladay is still here) …

      http://articles.philly.com/2011-06-05/sports/29623336_1_phillies-citizens-bank-park-dodgers-and-mets/2

       
      • Posts: 1135 EricL

        Avatar of EricL

        Thanks for the link and the quote, although, again it all seems a bit premature as the article are mainly just conjecture at this point.

        I don’t doubt that the Phils will see an increase over their current TV deal come 2015, but that’s still some ways and this team might look–and therefore draw an audience–vastly different by the time the 2015 season rolls around. It doesn’t take many ugly seasons for a fan base to wither. Further, as far as negotiations go Comcast is one of the more cutthroat negotiators when it comes to sports rights and fees (just look for CSNPhilly on DirecTV).

        I guess what I’m saying is that while I’m sure the Phils will receive some increased revenue, I’m a little bit concerned that we’re already putting them in league with the Angels, Yanks & Sox when those chickens are in no way yet hatched.

         
  • Posts: 0 Bob in Bucks

    Nice job Ian. I am not excited just satisfied that Amaro got another experienced arm. Relievers rarely put two or three great seasons together. There will be injuries and as you noted, every team uses plenty of pitchers. These kids will get a chance but none of them are TOP prospects. I also agree that we can’t count on Bastardo and Stutes repeating their performance. Remember that in the last three weeks Bastardo could not throw a strike. This was after an almost record setting WHIP performance of the earlier part of the year. As to the bullpen, more is better than less!

     
 
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