Only three questions this week but they are quite in depth – lots of graphics charts and tables – both of the Excel format and wooden. It will make sense after you read the questions.
Great question, Will. A lot of folks actually asked this in some form or another, sometimes as simple as “HAMILTON NEXT?!”, but your question was the first, and most concisely written, variation I received. Thank you for that.
No doubt about it, may Phillies fans started to connect dots that may or may not exist once Michael Young was acquired. Yes, it is true that Young and Hamilton have been teammates for the last five seasons, the last three of which, the Rangers reached the playoffs. Yes, they were reportedly off-season conditioning partners. And yes, it is true: Young was a leader in the Rangers clubhouse according to outfielder Daniel Murphy. Murphy stated in an interview with SiriusXM radio yesterday: “Mike’s the glue that holds everybody together. He’s just a guy that creates a great atmosphere in our clubhouse regardless of whether you are a rookie, whether you’ve been around a long time, whether you’re a player that has just signed as a free agent or traded for. Everybody feels welcome in our clubhouse and everybody gets along.”
Young, from all accounts, had very strong ties to his teammates and is a great leader. When the Rangers told Young, instead of asking Young or discussing with him, that he would be playing third base for the 2011 season, Young asked for a trade. Adding fuel to the speculation that Young’s acquisition would help the Phillies land Hamilton was this quote from February 7, 2011, courtesy of WFAA Dallas/Fort Worth, straight from Hamilton’s mouth: “He’s been a guy that I could go to and look to as a veteran leader and somebody I could learn from. If we lose him, it’s going to be a big loss. ”
Was it company-speak, friend-speak, or something else? I’m not sure but I’m also not sure it matters. To answer your question Will, before the Phillies acquired Young, I had put there chances at 15% of signing Hamilton, with the Rangers, Yankees, Mariners, and Orioles, in that order, slightly ahead of the Phillies, anywhere from 25% to 20%. Now? I’d put the Phillies at 20%, leap-frogging the Orioles, slightly more in the mix. I think the two factors that are working against the Phillies are: the Yankees having a lot of money and the Mariners reeking of desperation this off-season and also having a lot of money. Don’t underestimate the Rangers’ desparation, either, should they not be able to execute the deal to acquire Justin Upton.
One thing I wouldn’t put a lot of stock into is Jayson Stark’s report that the Phillies are wary of signing Hamilton. Stark is absolutely one of the finest baseball writers in the world but it feels like he is simply repeating or reporting something he is told because, to be fair, all teams should be wary of Hamilton – his age, his past, and on and off-the-field issues are all of concern.
Above is a graph showing my estimated percentages for Hamilton signing based on events that occurred which includes the cardinal rule: the Yankees always have, at worst, a 25% chance of signing anyone. From here out, a lot relies on just how desperate the Mariners get, if the Rangers can land Upton, and if the Yankees decide they are interested or not. Keep in mind, based off of our own Corey Seidman’s math, the Phillies can comfortably spend about $21 million more this off-season, even after acquiring Young, before they hit the luxury tax. If a contract was even semi-back-loaded, which they usually are, Hamilton could fit in the Phillies budget and not push them over the luxury tax cap.
One thing has been clear this off-season: nobody has any idea where Hamilton will end up, which has made this a lot of fun.
Bradley F. on our Facebook fan page asks: Would it be in the Phillies best interest to give Ruf and Brown a shot and if they don’t get the job done, go after somebody at the trade deadline with this extra money they have saved?
Bradley – very nicely posed question. I think it is absolutely in the Phillies best interest to determine as soon as possible if they believe Domonic Brown is an every day player capable of making positive contributions to this team. Brown is only entering his age 25 season and, according to Ruben Amaro on November 27, 2012, has “the inside track on a starting job” in right field. Brown certainly has the arm to play right, showed improvement in taking routes to fly balls out there, and will enter Spring Training fully-healthy for the first time since 2010. Darin Ruf is entering his age 26 season and has been a full-time first baseman for nearly the entirety of his professional career. At the same time, the Phillies need to make that decision with Ruf as well: is he capable of being an everyday player?
Despite them only being about a year apart in age, the expectation gap is tremendous: because, in part, Brown was untouchable in trade talks for Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay at age 21, Brown was expected to become Darryl Strawberry overnight. Because Ruf’s performance came rather unexpectedly, and is more of an unknown quantity, Phillies fans seemingly have lower expectations while simultaneously wanting to see more. Despite my hardest efforts, you can count me in with these groups.
With all of that out of the way, getting back to your question: I think both will make the team out of Spring Training and I think Brown will start for the Phillies in a corner outfield position. I’m by no means a psychologist but it’s time to give Brown the vote of confidence, I think the yo-yo’ing is getting in the way. I don’t endorse your plan only because then the Phillies risk what they did in 2011: grossly overpaying for a marginal upgrade at a time when their regular season positioning probably wouldn’t be that different anyways. In 2011, Hunter Pence was worth 2.6 wins more than Dom Brown likely would have been had Brown finished the year in right. That year, the Phillies finished 13 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves and Pence hit .211/.286/.211 in the playoffs. Hindsight is 20/20 but the Phillies would not likely be able to find a player at that stage in the game to produce a great enough difference to make the massive trade overpay worth it in 2013. If they are going to acquire a corner outfielder, now is the time to do it.
Quick aside: If for some reason Brown and Ruf platoon together in left, which isn’t a horrible idea but perhaps might be a waste of either’s development, I wonder if there is any chance Phillies fans will start to compare them to another famous South Philly duo: the Dudley Boys?
For our final question, because I spent too much time playing with Microsoft Excel this week, Patti L.P. on our Facebook fan page asks: Who are we trying to get for the pitching staff? We need a starter now, too.
This week, I only tackled three questions, but they were doosies. Patti, you absolutely hit a pressing need whether or not Vance Worley was traded. The Phillies need at least one starter to round out their rotation, and lucky for them, quite a number of above average starters are available. But, if Joe Blanton‘s two year, $15 million dollar deal with the Angels is any indication, a bargain may be particularly tough to find.
With that said, it all depends on how the Phillies choose to address the outfield. Outlined below are some options, kind of like a choose your own adventure book, separated by Ifs and Thens:
IF the Phillies sign Cody Ross to a deal worth $7-9 million annually THEN select one (1) starting pitcher from Pool A and one (1) reliever from Pool C, unless Ross + pitcher’s estimate salary > or = $21 million.
IF the Phillies sign Nick Swisher to a deal worth $15-16 million annually THEN select one (1) starting pitcher from Pool B and do not choose any relievers from Pool C.
IF the Phillies sign no outfielders, choose a player from Pool D and a reliever from Pool C, unless both players estimated salary > or = $21 million.
Ryan Dempster (estimated salary $13 million annually)
Edwin Jackson (estimated salary $12 million annually)
Kyle Lohse (estimated salary $12 million annually)
Shaun Marcum (estimated salary $11 million annually)
Francisco Liriano (estimated salary $9 million annually)
John Lannan (estimated salary $7 million annually)
Carlos Villanueva (estimated salary $7 million annually)
Mike Adams (estimated salary $8 million)
Carlos Villanueva (not a typo, estimated salary $7 million annually)
Jose Valverde (estimated salary $5 million annually)
Pool D: The Wild Cards
Rafael Soriano (estimated salary $13-14 million annually)
Anibal Sanchez (estimated salary $16 million annually)
It’s not a cop-out or the easy way out: there are just too many legitimate possibilities for the Phillies to explore in this off-season yet. Would love to hear what combos everyone else would choose!
Thank you for making Week Four of the Mailbag the most successful yet – had the most Facebook likes, most Facebook questions, and the most Twitter questions out of any week so far for those who are keeping track. We also now have an interactive portion of the mailbag where you can Tout us your question to be used in the Mailbag if that’s easier – just respond to our Tout with yours and we’ll getcha in the Mailbag. See below for example. Thanks again!