Welcome to the sixth Phillies Nation mailbag! Because nobody asked for it, and everybody else is doing it, here are some of my picks of my favorite things that happened this year. Just hit “Page Down” a few times to get to the baseball stuff. Or just click on “Read More” – it’s after that jump. I promise I answer Phillies’ related questions eventually.
Favorite Album of 2012: Here – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Favorite Pop Single of 2012: “Some Nights” – fun.
Hardest Pop Song to Get Out of My Head in 2012: Three-way tie – “Want U Back” by Cher Lloyd, “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, and “Domino” by Jessie J.
Most Disappointing Album of 2012: Wrecking Ball – Bruce Springsteen
and finally, the coveted:
Album from 2012 That I Am Most Likely To Confuse for Something by T. Rex (and that’s a good thing) Award: Be the Void – Dr. Dog
Was it me or was this a weak year for pop and rock music or what? If not for Bruno Mars, this might have been the weakest year for music since 2006. That year, Rihanna hit the scene with “S.O.S.” and the Raconteurs put out their album but the well was pretty dry then like it is now. The big singles were easy to digest but nothing memorable musically like the subtle key change in 2007′s “Umbrella”
Movie with the Most Bootleg Looking Commercial: Life of Pi
Movie with Commercials That Set Impossibly High Expectations: The Dark Knight Rises
Worst Sequel: With apologies to The Expendables 2, Madagascar 3, Twilight Breaking Dawn 2, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Journey 2, The Bourne Legacy, Taken 2, Resident Evil: Retribution, and Paranormal Activity 4, all of which I have not, and likely will not, see, this award goes to the mailed-in Men in Black 3. It wasn’t particularly bad, it wasn’t particularly good – it was there. Sadly, it had very few funny moments and the nostalgia just wasn’t there to keep me interested the whole time.
Was this the year for sequels, though, or what?
Best Movie Where the Parents Suddenly Realize They Have a Half-Boy, Half-Plant hybrid for a Child: The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Worst Execution of Digging Something Wayyyyyy Out of the Archives and Trying to Sell It To 18-49 Year Olds: The Three Stooges
The “We Can Finally Stop Talking About This” Award 2012: LeBron Wins a Championship
The “I’d Like Everyone To Talk About This More” Award 2012: The NHL Stoppage
The “Everyone Here Would Have Gotten Kicked Out of High School, College, or Both if We Did This”, Non-Steroids Award 2012: ESPN repeatedly plagiarizes
The “Everyone Here Would Have Gotten Kicked Out of High School, College, or Both if We Did This”, Steroids Award 2012: Tie: Took steroids and broke our back or Took steroids and were still super out of shape
Alright, now that that is over and forcefully imposed my views on non-baseball related things on everyone, let’s get to some questions!
Russell V. on our Facebook FanPage asks: “so when are we gonna sign a right handed power bat….”
Well Russell, there just isn’t anybody who fits that description for the Phillies to sign, really. Here are some of the triple-slash lines from 2012 of some of the “top” righty outfielders available, see if you like them:
Player A: .245/.366/.367 v. all, .196/.304/.299 v. LHP in 2012
Player B: .263/.299/.504 v. all, .286/.317/.550 v. LHP in 2012
Player C: .264/.332/.365 v. all, .206/.261/.298 v. LHP in 2012
Player A is Austin Kearns, Player B is the much discussed Scott Hairston, and Player C is Carlos Lee. That’s what is left from the right-handed side in the outfield. Thankfully, the Phillies passed on Cody Ross and I have a feeling they will do the same with this crop of players. More and more, it is feeling like what you see is what you get with this team for 2013. To officially answer your question: not this year.
Thomas G. on our Facebook Fan Page asks: Does it seem like Ruben Amaro is kind of “punting” on 2013 and already looking at who’s available next year?
Nick O. on our Facebook Fan Page asks: Since Christmas is over and Ruben didnt provide as he has done in yrs past, whats the next move if any? Is it a Right Handed Power Bat That could happen to play the outfield defensively as well, if so who do you think it will be. What if anything does he have up his sleeve, I know id like to see a magic trick!
That’s a tremendous question, Thomas. A few folks thought that may have been the case last off-season with the bounty that would be available this off-season. I can remember the mock line-ups being posted at our FB page that included Josh Hamilton in the outfield and Zach Greinke in the rotation. How these folks thought the Phillies could afford them, I don’t know.
Last year’s off-season was a lot quieter than this off-season. Remember, last year’s big thrills were making essentially a lateral move or slight upgrade from Ryan Madson to Jonathan Papelbon, trading for Ty Wigginton, and signing Laynce Nix and Jim Thome. This year already provided way more improvement and useful pieces than that: the Phillies picked up a center fielder for the next four years at the least, they signed a legitimate and proven eight inning man, a fifth starter with a pretty under appreciated track record, and a guy who stands at third base who can still hit the ball pretty well. Those upgrades are already bigger than anything they did last off-season.
Let’s take a quick look, though, at who is available next year, with their ages for 2014 in parenthesis. Since Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, Michael Young, and Roy Halladay may be gone after 2013, I’ll only list some of the highlights from catcher, second base, third base, and the starting pitching crop. Big thanks to MLB Trade Rumors for compiling these lists, which can be found here.
John Buck (33)
Jesus Flores (29)
Ramon Hernandez (38)
Gerald Laird (34)
Brian McCann (30)
Jose Molina (38)
Dioner Navarro (30)
Wil Nieves (36)
Brayan Pena (32)
A.J. Pierzynski (37)
Humberto Quintero (34)
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (29)
Geovany Soto (31)
Kurt Suzuki (30) – $8.5MM club option with a $650K buyout
Robinson Cano (31)
Alexi Casilla (29)
Mark Ellis (37) – $5.75MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Mike Fontenot (34)
Aaron Hill (32)
Omar Infante (32)
Nick Punto (36)
Omar Quintanilla (31)
Ryan Raburn (33)
Brian Roberts (36)
Ramon Santiago (34)
Skip Schumaker (34)
Ben Zobrist (33) – $7MM club option with a $2.5MM buyout
Wilson Betemit (32) – $3.2MM vesting option
Alberto Callaspo (31)
Eric Chavez (36)
Mike Fontenot (34)
Jerry Hairston Jr. (38)
Placido Polanco (38)
Martin Prado (30)
Mark Reynolds (30)
Juan Uribe (34)
Kevin Youkilis (35)
Michael Young (37)
Bronson Arroyo (37)
Scott Baker (32)
Nick Blackburn (32) – $8MM club option
A.J. Burnett (37)
Chris Capuano (35) – $8MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout
Chris Carpenter (39)
Bruce Chen (37)
Bartolo Colon (41)
Jorge De La Rosa (33)
Scott Feldman (30)
Gavin Floyd (31)
Jeff Francis (33)
Matt Garza (30)
Roy Halladay (37) – $20MM vesting option
Jason Hammel (31)
Aaron Harang (36) – $7MM+ mutual option with a $2MM buyout
Rich Harden (32)
Dan Haren (33)
Roberto Hernandez (33)
Tim Hudson (38)
Phil Hughes (28)
Ubaldo Jimenez (30) – may void $8MM option for 2014
Josh Johnson (30)
Hiroki Kuroda (39)
John Lannan (29)
Jon Lester (30) – $13MM club option with a $250K buyout
Colby Lewis (34)
Ted Lilly (38)
Tim Lincecum (30)
Paul Maholm (32)
Jason Marquis (35)
Ricky Nolasco (31)
Mike Pelfrey (30)
Andy Pettitte (42)
Wandy Rodriguez (35) – $13MM club option with a $2.5MM buyout
Ervin Santana (31)
Johan Santana (34) – $25MM club option with a $5.5MM buyout
James Shields (32) – $12MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Jason Vargas (31)
Ryan Vogelsong (36) – $6.5MM club option with a $300K buyout
Edinson Volquez (30)
Tsuyoshi Wada (33) – $5MM club option
Adam Wainwright (32)
Suk-min Yoon (27)
Barry Zito (36) – $18MM vesting option with a $7MM buyout
A couple quick observations on those lists. Zito’s contract is FINALLY over, maybe. Cano and Wainwright will likely be the biggest, and most expensive, prizes of the 2014 Free Agent class but I honestly think the Phillies have no chance at either. And wow, does that third base list familiar. It’s almost identical to this year’s.
Let’s pretend the Phillies let Chooch, Utley, and Young walk and Halladay’s option vests next year. That combined with Nix’s expiring contract gives the Phillies about $27 million to work with for next off-season. There are going to be a number of raises for the young players, including Revere and some of the bullpen. So, the Phillies will have probably around $22-24 million next off-season under the luxury tax to make a splash. And if you’re thinking “sign a corner outfielder then!”, those pickings are slim, too. A then-31-year old Hunter Pence might be the best corner outfielder available at that point and probably expects $14-16 million a year.
Sometimes, I quietly wonder if Amaro knew the free agent crops would be pretty thin in 2013 and 2014 so that’s why he just went gung-ho and locked up Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee with the aggression he did. I like two of those contracts a lot, too. I’ll let you guess which one I don’t like. There’s almost nobody who is “splash-worthy” next year aside from Wainwright or Cano although fliers on Hudson or Santana are interesting.
Nick – I think you may be underestimating the upgrades made this year. While Amaro did prove pretty crafty in acquiring Halladay and signing Lee a year after trading him in the 2009 and 2010 off-seasons respectively, there just wasn’t an unequivocal, no-doubt-about it, pull-out-all-the-stops free agent or trade target this year. Hamilton came with his well documented risks, Greinke struggles with anxiety issues which might have been a nightmare with the two sports talk radio stations and 100+ dedicated Phillies blogs, and Michael Bourn‘s skill set does not age well. Bourn is still out there, though, and will likely have to take a pillow contract. Which brings me to…
Jordan W. asks on our Facebook Fan Page: What do you think about the idea of giving Michael Bourn a pillow contract?
Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely. Bourn averaged just over five fWAR per season in the last four seasons -adding Bourn, in theory, gives you an immediate 3-4 win upgrade over what the Phillies had last year. I would absolutely avoid Bourn on a long-term commitment but if he’s still available and he says either a one-year, $16 million deal or a five-year, $80 million deal, which, it is not in his best interests to sign anything in the middle, I would love to give him that pillow contract.
Adding Bourn comes with its advantages: Ben Revere instantly becomes a more valuable defender by moving him to a corner and there is less pressure on Domonic Brown to carry the outfield and less pressure for Darin Ruf to mash.
That being said, there are clear disadvantages: if Ruf tears the cover off of the ball in Spring Training, Brown doesn’t get the 550-600 ABs to see if he really can do what a lot of folks think he can do, the Phillies are then over the luxury tax threshold, and Ender Inciarte, possibly the coolest named player the Phillies have ever acquired, is all but guaranteed to be headed back to Arizona. As much as I would love to see Brown and Ruf play every day, and to keep Inciarte, who I really, really like as a speedster and defender, Bourn would instantly upgrade the outfield and probably put the Phillies firmly back in the contender pool for 2013.
My colleague Eric Seidman wrote a pretty fine and way more comprehensive piece about this right here.
One last one…