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John Mayberry and Wasted Resources

Posted by Eric Seidman, Sun, March 30, 2014 02:29 PM Comments: 26

Back in December, I argued against tendering a contract to John Mayberry, suggesting that his salary outweighed his projected contributions. Mayberry was worth rostering when he made the league minimum and exhibited upside, but he was well past both points. There was no risk to letting him go, because despite his athleticism and versatility, he had been a replacement-level player for two straight seasons. Replacement-level players should not be guaranteed $1.5 million on a salary-strapped team.

Over 2012-13, Mayberry logged 863 PA and hit .237/.294/.393, with a -1 baserunning mark and a -14 fielding rating. He was worth -0.3 WAR in that span. While injuries unfairly forced him into a larger role — a good chunk of his negative fielding rating is attributable to his playing out of place in CF and only 288 of those 863 PA were against lefties — he is ill-equipped for long-term duty. His .337 wOBA against lefties since 2012 wasn’t all that special either.

Adding fuel to the fire is that the Phillies stumbled upon a clear-cut replacement for Mayberry in a player who also happens to be the son a famous outfielder: Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Gwynn lacks power but literally does everything else better than Mayberry at a fraction of the price. Even if the Phils were unsure of whether Gwynn — who wasn’t in the majors in 2013 and had a few weak offensive seasons before that — would be an upgrade over Mayberry, they had enough of a book on Mayberry to know that a replacement-level outfielder would be as good or better than Mayberry for much less money.

Continue reading John Mayberry and Wasted Resources

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Tender Frustration and Finding Upside

Posted by Eric Seidman, Wed, December 04, 2013 08:56 AM Comments: 33

The deadline for tendering contracts has passed and the Phillies have elected to bring back John Mayberry, Kevin Frandsen and Kyle Kendrick. Both Mayberry and Frandsen were solid bets to get non-tendered. Their salaries were likely to outweigh their contributions and there were better uses for Frandsen’s $900K and Mayberry’s $1-$1.5 million.

The Phillies should have non-tendered Mayberry.

That adds up to $2-$2.5 million for two 30+ year old reserves who hit something like .230/.285/.370 last season. Amaro defended his decision by citing their versatility and said there was never any thought to non-tendering either player. There should have been plenty of thought to that effect as Frandsen defined the replacement level while Mayberry fell below.

Mayberry was serviceable when he made the league minimum and showed flashes of being able to hold down a semi-regular role. Those days are gone. He has no upside. He is not going to break out a la Jayson Werth.

Frandsen had a terrific 2012 season driven by a .366 BABIP and he was worth bringing back last year to see if he really had improved. He ended up posting very similar walk, strikeout and isolated power rates but his BABIP fell closer to his career average. His offensive production predictably plummeted. He has no upside. His 2012 campaign was a fluke.

While both players may be versatile, there was absolutely no reason for the Phillies to bring them back. For a team with so much money concentrated in select spots, finding value players with upside is integral to short- and long-term success.

For this Phillies team, two of the spots to use on value players with upside are the ones that Mayberry and Frandsen will once again occupy.

Some have questioned the Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz deals but this is the headscratching decision of the Phillies’ offseason so far.

By bringing back Mayberry and Frandsen the Phillies are exhibiting zero creativity and further illustrating their faulty means of evaluating talent. Whether to retain Kendrick is more complicated but committing to Mayberry and Frandsen is problematic.

Continue reading Tender Frustration and Finding Upside

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Phillies Offseason Plans: Eric’s Version

Posted by Eric Seidman, Tue, November 12, 2013 08:00 AM Comments: 18

It’s time to roll out the offseason plans, where a few members of the PN writing team build their ideal 2014 Phillies Roster, taking into account team needs as well as payroll and luxury tax ramifications. 

None of us put together solid offseason plans last year. Through a combination of the financial restraints the team faced, and several targeted players producing poorly, not one of our plans beat the Phillies’ plan. It went to show how tough it was for the Phillies to build a winner. I was financially conservative and my moves followed a pattern: cheap productivity.

The story is different this year. The Phillies are in a tough spot as a franchise. They have enough talent to succeed if everything breaks right, but very little has broken right over the last two seasons. There are several youngsters deserving of extended looks, regardless of team success, but there’s also a strong desire to win now. There are question marks at numerous spots. Injuries are always a concern these days. To avoid that dead zone of 77-84 wins, the Phils will need to spend some money this winter.

My plan involves five free-agent signings that could put the team in a better spot to succeed.

Move #1: Sign Ubaldo Jimenez (4 yrs, $50 million)
Let’s play everyone’s favorite game — Guess That Player! From 2011-13, here are three different pitching lines.

Player A: 95 GS, 547 IP … 8.5 K/9 … 4.1 BB/9 … 43.1% GB … 4.10 SIERA
Player B: 93 GS, 564 IP … 7.2 K/9 … 2.9 BB/9 … 47.4% GB … 3.94 SIERA
Player C: 91 GS, 546 IP … 8.3 K/9 … 3.5 BB/9 … 42.8% GB … 3.93 SIERA

All three pitchers have very similar lines. Player B is Edwin Jackson, who signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Cubs last season based almost entirely on his age, durability and potential. Player C is Ryan Dempster, who signed a two-year, $26.5 million contract last season, despite being in his mid-30s. Both pitchers signed for an average annual value (AAV) of roughly $13 million. Jimenez falls somewhere in between.

Jimenez had a poor 2012 season but tallied 3.3 WAR in 2011 and 3.2 WAR last year. His 2013 campaign was very encouraging as he fixed issues with his mechanics and was a clear-cut ace from May 1-on. Seriously, he finished April with a 7.12 ERA, but from May 1 until his final start on September 29, he put up a 2.72 ERA and 2.6 K/BB over 160 innings. Contrary to popular belief, his success was for far more than just half of a season.

He has also proven himself a lock for 32 starts and 185+ innings. His numbers should improve even more moving back to the senior circuit. Matt Garza may be the prized starter of this year’s crop, but this is a wiser investment. Continue reading Phillies Offseason Plans: Eric’s Version

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Should the Phillies Consider Selling High On Brown?

Posted by Eric Seidman, Wed, September 18, 2013 08:00 AM Comments: 31

Domonic Brown entered the season with the promise of regular playing time and promptly delivered all-star caliber production. He hit a robust .290/.326/.613, with 18 homers, during May and June and had a .274/.321/.545 batting line at the end of that stretch. He was finally delivering on his potential and showing why he was untouchable in past deals.

He took major strides forward offensively this season and could have approached 35 home runs if not for a couple nagging injuries. He sacrificed some patience for power, walking just 6.4% of the time, compared to 11.9% in 2011 and 9.9% last season. However, that trade-off was very much necessary, as injuries depleted the Phillies lineup and left him the only serious power threat for much of the year.

Despite his offensive improvement, Brown has only produced 1.7 WAR this year. He has never rated positively in the field and his -7 fielding mark eats away at his bat’s value. Switching positions and lacking consistent playing time in the majors from 2010-12 plays a role, but it’s hard to attribute all of his fielding woes to those circumstances.

He figures to play 140 games this season at 2 WAR. That equates to league average performance over almost a full season, which has value, especially considering his meager salary. He’ll be 27 years old next year, which is the point that players typically begin their peak, so he’s no longer a young prospect finding his way. Aside from that torrid stretch in May and June, he has hit similarly to his batting lines in 2011-12. That isn’t bad, in and of itself, but it invites the question of Brown’s true talent level.

As the Phillies look to retool their roster, it’s interesting to wonder whether Brown might benefit them more as a trade chip than as a building block. He is young and cheap enough to attract suitors and is major league ready. Retooling teams don’t often trade talented and cost-controlled assets, but in Brown’s case it’s worth asking whether the team would be selling high by pursuing a trade this offseason. If the answer is yes, should the Phillies consider unloading Brown while the iron is hot?

Continue reading Should the Phillies Consider Selling High On Brown?

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Revisiting Our Offseason Plans

Posted by Eric Seidman, Fri, September 13, 2013 09:00 AM Comments: 9

Last November, Pat Gallen, Corey Seidman, Ian Riccaboni and I separately presented our roster plans for the 2013 Phillies. None of us truly believed the Phillies were a contender, but with our suggested acquisitions and some positive breaks, they might have a shot. With only a few weeks left in the season it seems as good a time as any to review our plans.

It’s interesting to note that the four of us agreed on an awful lot – we collectively selected 17 of the 25 roster spots. This was indicative of the few areas the Phillies could toy with. On one hand, agreement on 68% of the roster could suggest that the Phillies didn’t need to alter chunks of the roster or dole out even more lucrative deals. On the other hand, several of those 17 players were already signed to lucrative deals that could have prevented the team from properly filling the remaining spots.

Our starting rotations were identical across the board: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley. These plans were published prior to Worley’s trade to Minnesota, but, at that time, we all felt the Phillies rotation was set. They didn’t need to go out and sign a Dan Haren or Ryan Dempster. If the big three were healthy, and Kendrick continued improving, the rotation was solid.

We also agreed on Carlos Ruiz as the primary catcher with Erik Kratz backing him up. Chooch was coming off of his best season and it was a no-brainer to exercise his meager club option. Kratz, while not that solid of a defender, had hit for enough power to merit the backup role. It didn’t make sense to have one of the prospects back Ruiz up since consistent playing time is integral to their development.

Though there were question marks surrounding the infield triumvirate’s ability to remain both healthy and effective, we all agreed on Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins at their respective positions. Freddy Galvis, Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf and John Mayberry all made our teams as well, with Brown as a clear starter and Ruf getting more playing time than Galvis and Mayberry. It was also abundantly clear that Jonathan Papelbon wasn’t going anywhere, and our bullpens all included Antonio Bastardo and Jeremy Horst.

Third base, however, was the first area in which we really presented different plans.

Continue reading Revisiting Our Offseason Plans

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Chooch and the Qualifying Offer

Posted by Eric Seidman, Fri, September 06, 2013 11:14 AM Comments: 20

The Phillies have a multitude of roster-related problems to solve this offseason, as Ian Riccaboni pointed out, but the catching situation is perhaps the most interesting. Carlos Ruiz is set to become a free agent, and while his early struggles rendered his return less likely, his .330/.375/.536 line since August 1 makes him an attractive option. While prospects Tommy Joseph and Sebastian Valle have disappointed, Cameron Rupp earned a September call-up, Gabriel Lino posted decent context-neutral numbers in Low-A as a 20-year old, and the Phils are very high on second-round pick Andrew Knapp.

It’s possible that Rupp or Knapp seizes the catching reins as soon as 2015 but that still leaves next year as a question mark. While the Phillies have been major players in free agency in recent years, the upcoming catching crop is fairly thin, and is loaded with career backups. Trades for starting catchers are also fairly rare.

Everything considered, the ideal situation is to retain Carlos Ruiz on a short-term basis.

Continue reading Chooch and the Qualifying Offer

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Howard’s Contract Isn’t Going Anywhere

Posted by Eric Seidman, Fri, July 19, 2013 11:00 AM Comments: 26

A sunk cost generally refers to money that has already been committed that should not factor into the decision-making process moving forward. The monetary commitment can’t be undone and therefore should not represent any type of deterrent to other decisions that could positively impact the organization. In certain terms, however, a sunk cost can refer to an unmovable commitment, even if future cash outflows are required, if there is virtually no way of recovering the costs.

Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract is a sunk cost.

Regardless of his health or performance issues, the Phillies simply won’t be able to remove the contract from the books in a manner that actually benefits them. It’s unlikely that the severity of his injury could result in an insurance settlement down the road and it’s hard to fathom any team taking him in a trade unless the Phillies covered 95%-100% of the cost. Even at that point, Howard’s relative struggles and injury risk will prevent the Phillies from acquiring a worthwhile player or prospect in a trade. The contract is signed, the money is guaranteed, and the player isn’t going anywhere.

One idea that has been floated around recently is a restructuring of the deal that defers a chunk of the contract beyond its current expiration date. Some fans have suggested this as a mutually beneficial outcome that helps the Phillies in the short-term while honoring their commitment to a franchise face. But I’m struggling to grasp why Howard would agree to such a buyout and why the Phillies would want to commit to a relatively astronomical interest rate on deferral to make it worth Howard’s while.

The Mets famously did something similar with Bobby Bonilla over a decade ago. Bonilla had one year and $5.9 million left on his contract in 2001 and, in knowing the Mets financial difficulties, agreed to a restructuring that that resulted in a 25-yr, $29.8 million deferral. There was supposedly another part of the deal that brings the total deferred amount Bonilla will receive to $42 million long after the days that even current Mets players have retired. These cases are rare, and assuming the Phillies would have to use a high interest rate to entice Howard into this type of buyout, it would mean committing even more money on a bad contract when the team isn’t really in a bind.

Ryan Howard isn’t going anywhere. The time has come to accept this as fact and discuss ways to make the best of the situation instead of conjuring up hypothetical means of jettisoning an albatross.

Continue reading Howard’s Contract Isn’t Going Anywhere

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Pulling the Plug On Delmon Young

Posted by Eric Seidman, Wed, June 19, 2013 01:30 PM Comments: 0

The Phillies’ signing of Delmon Young was met with mostly negative reviews. It wasn’t the money as much as the notion that the front office and manager considered Young a legitimate everyday starter. Young wasn’t signed to play in a platoon. He was brought here to provide right-handed power behind Ryan Howard. The problem is that he has never really been all that powerful, and whatever power he does possess is canceled out by abysmal fielding and below average baserunning. From an overall value standpoint, Young has little to none, as is evidenced by his career -1.1 WAR.

He wasn’t even an upgrade over players already rostered, either — his numbers have been bested by John Mayberry over the last few seasons. Mayberry isn’t just an upgrade in the field and on the bases either. He has better numbers at the plate too.

Save for the 2010 season, when Young hit a career-high 21 homers and tallied 1.6 WAR — still below what’s considered the league-average threshold — he has been either replacement level or below every year. Here are his WAR totals since 2007: 0.0, -0.8, -1.1, 1.6, 0.0, -0.9, and he is currently at -0.8.

Approaching the midpoint of the season it is time for the Phillies to cut ties with Young as an everyday player. If the team wants to use him against lefties in a platoon role, or as a designated hitter in a road interleague series, fine, but he should not be viewed any more favorably than Mayberry, Laynce Nix or Kevin Frandsen. And while I know some are tired of hearing Nate Schierholtz‘s name around these parts, Young is also vastly worse than the player the Phillies simply non-tendered; the player who makes slightly more than Young this season and currently leads the Cubs in WAR.

It’s time to either get rid of Young or permanently relegate him to part-time duty. The Phillies have too many holes in this lineup to consistently allocate playing time to a player whose perception far outweighs his contributions.

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Mayberry, Revere and the Starting CF Post

Posted by Eric Seidman, Thu, June 06, 2013 08:27 AM Comments: 56

The Phillies trade of Shane Victorino last season left a gaping hole in centerfield heading into the 2013 campaign. With a bevy of free agent centerfielders available, and even more available via trade, the Phillies stood to shore up the position for years to come. While I argued for the likes of Peter Bourjos, Angel Pagan or Denard Span, the Phillies opted to acquire Ben Revere, a young, speedy, team-controlled outfielder still approaching his prime. The move was met with mixed reviews. Some were scared off by his utter lack of power while others were fans of his defense, baserunning and potential.

By the end of April, most fans were ready to throw in the towel on the Revere experiment, as his weaknesses were magnified and his strengths didn’t look that strong. He was hitting .200 with a .234 on-base percentage in an everyday role. He hit into more double plays than are typically associated with a speedster and failed to beat out dribblers and infield grounders. While his range proved solid up the middle, it wasn’t exemplary, and was at least partly canceled out by his arm. Revere simply wasn’t playing good baseball and was a big reason for the Phillies slow start.

John Mayberry, Jr got off to a much better start, hitting .242/.324/.470 in April, while playing adequate defense at the most important outfield post. As fans grew tired of Revere’s struggles, and the general approach that led to his lack of productivity, many gravitated towards Mayberry as the everyday starter.

But then something funny happened – Revere gradually started hitting well while Mayberry’s power was sapped. From May 1-June 3 — prior to Tuesday night’s dramatic walkoff win — Revere hit .300/.344/.344 while Mayberry hit .280/.308/.300. Yes, Revere actually outslugged Mayberry for over a month. Two extra inning home runs for Mayberry, coupled with Revere’s 0-5 on Tuesday, shifted the paradigm but this comparison offers yet another reminder of why decisions shouldn’t be based on small sample sizes when much more tangible evidence about true talent levels exist.

Who the Phillies should start in centerfield isn’t a cut and dried decision, as listeners of 94.1 WIP felt Wednesday morning, when 69% voted for Mayberry. Rather, it depends upon the organization’s goals and a realistic team projection, which may prove difficult for a front office that may undergo significant changes moving forward.

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Lackey’s Contractual Quirk and Phillies Deals

Posted by Eric Seidman, Thu, May 30, 2013 10:13 AM Comments: 10

John Lackey wasn’t at his best Wednesday night but he has pitched effectively for the Red Sox this season. Lackey, signed to a five-year, $82.5 million contract prior to the 2010 season, had a rocky start to his Boston tenure. After posting solid peripherals with poor run prevention marks in 2010, he posted a 6.41 ERA in 2011 before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire 2012 campaign and is now finally combining the solid peripherals and run prevention the Red Sox expected when doling out the lucrative contract.

However, the Red Sox understood that Lackey, like all pitchers for that matter, represented an injury risk. In order to hedge against that risk the Sox included a clause in Lackey’s contract that, if he underwent Tommy John surgery, an option for 2015 would automatically trigger at the league-minimum salary. With five years and $82.5 million on the table, that clause might not have seemed all that important to Lackey’s camp, as he is guaranteed that money regardless of his health status. But now, with the surgery on the backburner, that 5-yr/$82.5 million deal effectively became a 6 yr/$83 million deal.

There are two implications here that impact, or could have impacted the Phillies in their subsequent big-ticket free agent signings.

First, if Lackey remains effective beyond next season, the Red Sox could have a league-average or better pitcher at a pittance. Second, the automatic triggering of the option reduced the average annual value of the contract. Most option years are not included in the average annual value calculation for luxury tax purposes, but if a future vesting option is triggered before the existing deal expires, the contract itself changes.

The original contract carried a $16.5 million AAV while the “new” deal has a $13.8 million average annual value. That reduction would prove significant if the Sox were up against the luxury tax threshold.

It’s impossible to know how contract negotiations with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels went down without having first-hand knowledge, so we’ll never know if similar clauses were discussed. But for a team consistently concerned about the luxury tax because of large annual sums paid to players at an inherently risky position, that type of creative clause could have gone a long way towards hedging risk.

Continue reading Lackey’s Contractual Quirk and Phillies Deals

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