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Acquisitions

Report: Phillies, Gonzalez “Hit Snag”

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Wed, August 07, 2013 12:57 PM Comments: 4

http://www.obstructedview.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/miguel-alfredo-gonzalez.jpgIf you are wondering where the big introductory press conference for Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is or when it is coming, it may be wise to not hold your breath. According to Todd Zolecki, the Phillies and the Cuban righty may have “hit a snag” in the process of bringing Gonzalez to Philadelphia.

Some scouts view Gonzalez as a potential number three Major League caliber starter while others believe he could be a solid middle reliever. The discrepancy in scouting likely is baked with hesitation from the reported two surgeries he has had to remove spurs in his elbow. Zolecki reports: “Scouts that have seen him pitch recently consider him a No. 3 starter in the big leagues.”

Even if the deal does not go through, there are many positives to take from this: the Phillies have become much more aggressive in the international market, signing slugging German teenager Julsan Kamara and are the favorite to sign 15-year old Dominican third baseman Luis Encarnacion according to MLB Trade Rumors.

If this door closes for the Phillies, one assuredly opens for a player like Ethan Martin, who made his debut against the Braves last weekend, the recovering Adam Morgan, who pitched five strong innings last night for Lehigh Valley, or of course Jesse Biddle.

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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.

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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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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.

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Giving Kendrick His Due

Posted by Eric Seidman, Wed, April 24, 2013 07:00 AM Comments: 5

One of the toughest aspects of both being a fan and providing accurate analysis is separating perception from reality. Fans tend to anchor their opinions of a player early on, holding steadfastly to that perception even after the player improves or declines. This holds especially true for fans of a specific team, who watch the same players routinely and have difficulty acknowledging legitimate changes in their games.

It’s hard to suddenly feel confident in a player you once saw struggle mightily, just like it’s tough to remove your supreme confidence in a formerly elite player whose skills and numbers more closely resemble the middle of the pack. It takes time for these perception shifts to occur and this tends to lead to fans under- or overrating players throughout the transition.

Regardless of what we once thought about Kyle Kendrick the time has come to change that perception. Kendrick is a flat out different pitcher than he was from 2007-11, and it isn’t merely a small sample size fluke this season.

Kendrick ’07-’11: 4.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 45.6% GB, 4.41 ERA, 4.95 FIP
Kendrick ’12-’13: 6.6 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 46.9% GB, 3.82 ERA, 4.27 FIP

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kendrick’s results improved as he started missing more bats. However, his results started to improve in 2011, when he spent half the season in the rotation and the other half in the bullpen. As a reliever, he had a 3.7 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 over 31 2/3 innings, compared to his 5.0 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 over 83 innings as a starter.

In isolating his numbers as a starter in 2011 and adding them to his 2012-13 numbers, we get the following pitching line: 6.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 46.2% GB, 3.60 ERA. Without knowing who those numbers were attached to, a fan would likely get excited at the prospect of that pitcher occupying the middle of the rotation. Yet, the perception of Kendrick is disconnected from his actual performance as a starting pitcher from 2011-13, and the time has come to give the man his due. This is a different Kyle Kendrick and that’s exactly the point.

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Phils Add Corey Young

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Sun, February 17, 2013 01:00 PM Comments: 9

Young will likely help round out the Clearwater or Reading relief corps. Photo by: Scott Lucas

According to Matt Eddy of Baseball America, the Phillies signed left-handed pitcher Corey Young, 26, last week to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Minor League camp. Young, a Seton Hall alum, comes to the Phillies organization after being released by the Rangers in June 2012. Young spent most of the last four seasons in Double-A Frisco where a dip in velocity from his low 3/4 arm slot contributed to him failing to maintain high strikeout rates that put him on the map as a potential Major League reliever. Young struggled to keep runners off base in Double-A (1.613 WHIP, 4.4 BB/9 IP). Young is likely to start the year in either High-A Clearwater or Double-A Reading.

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2013 Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Outfielders

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Sun, February 03, 2013 02:02 PM Comments: 5

Mitchell has a shot, albeit a very small one, to make the Phillies out of camp in 2013. Photo: MLB.com

Unlike 2012, the Phillies enter Spring Training in 2013 with a surplus of depth in the outfield. Yet, what 2012 lacked in depth, it made up for it with talent at the top, including the now-departed Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino. The Phillies enter Spring Training with nine outfielders on their 40-man roster and two non-roster invitees competing for five spots. When the dust settles, the outfield run-off won’t be quite as exciting as last year’s battle between Juan Pierre and Scott Podsednik, which was very clearly for the 25th roster spot, but of the two names invited, one may have a chance help the Phillies out.

Jermaine Mitchell

We talked briefly about Mitchell when his December signing went under the radar. Mitchell, now 28, was ranked eighth by Baseball America among A’s prospects headed into 2012, one ahead of former Phillies prospect Michael Taylor. He earned the superlatives of Fastest Baserunner and Best Defensive Outfielder but could not impress enough in his first extended shot in Triple-A Sacramento (.252/.345/.386) to earn a stint with the A’s in 2012. A bit old for the prospect side,  Mitchell latched on with the Phillies after the A’s let him go.

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Rodrigo Lopez to Re-Join Phils

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Sat, January 12, 2013 05:00 PM Comments: 11

Lopez will join the Phillies in Spring Training on a Minor League deal in 2013. Photo: AP

Fernando Ballesteros of Puro Béisbol first reported that right-handed veteran Rodrigo Lopez has signed a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training with the Phillies. Lopez can make up to $1 million should he play with the Phillies the entire year. Lopez, 37, posted a 5.68 ERA in four games for the Cubs last year, spending most of the year in Triple-A Iowa, where he posted a 5.28 ERA in 18 games. Lopez memorably was a stopgap starter for the Phillies in 2009, earning three wins in his first four Phillies’ starts, with three quality starts.

Analysis: It never hurts to have too much pitching. Lopez fits within the budget if he gets brought to the big club, can pitch well enough to fake it in a spot start, and can clear waivers if he needs to be sent back down after a spot start. Solid but unspectacular move to bring back a cult favorite from the 2009 squad.

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Reconsidering Michael Bourn

Posted by Eric Seidman, Thu, December 27, 2012 10:34 AM Comments: 62

The Phillies made something of an effort to sign B.J. Upton and pushed hard for Angel Pagan before trading Vance Worley and Trevor May to the Twins for Ben Revere.

The move gave them a young, cost-controlled centerfielder who plays excellent defense and offers top-notch baserunning. He probably isn’t a finished product yet either, which lends credence to the belief that he could consistently produce at a 3-WAR clip as he enters his prime. The move came out of nowhere and was met with some criticism, but it was a risk worth taking if the team was opposed to doling out a lucrative, long-term contract.

One centerfielder the Phillies shied away from was Michael Bourn.

The former Phillies outfielder, who blossomed into an elite player with the Astros and Braves, was set to sign a big-time contract this offseason. Best laid plans haven’t come to fruition for Bourn, a Scott Boras client, and he remains unsigned. Granted, Boras likes to wait until late in the game, but the rumor mill has virtually dried up with respect to Bourn.

He’ll find a home somewhere but he may have to settle for a one-year deal that enables him to test the free agent market under friendlier conditions next year. If push comes to shove and that scenario plays out, should the Phillies consider him even after acquiring Revere?

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Steer Completely Clear of Vernon Wells

Posted by Eric Seidman, Wed, December 26, 2012 03:30 PM Comments: 37

The Phillies filled their centerfield void by acquiring Ben Revere, bolstered the bullpen with Mike Adams and shored up the rotation with the cost-effective and underrated John Lannan. While these moves likely represent the bulk of their offseason activity, the Phillies have been linked to a wide array of corner outfielders given the obvious uncertainties in those posts.

They went hard after Cody Ross but balked at his lofty demands. They supposedly offered Josh Hamilton a short-term deal with a high average annual value. They have previously been linked to either Jason Kubel or Gerardo Parra, and that link will only grow stronger with the Snakes’ recent signing of Ross. There were reportedly discussions between the Phils and Cubs regarding Alfonso Soriano earlier in the offseason as well.

Some of these players make more sense than others, but the available corner outfielder the Phillies should stay completely away from is Vernon Wells. Unfortunately, the Phillies have expressed interest in the former Blue Jays all-star, though the extent of their interest remains unknown. Let’s hope it is nothing more than executives tossing a name around while brainstorming, because Wells has been one of the worst players in the league over the last two seasons and is signed to the very worst contract in the sport.

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