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Is This Chase Utley’s Last Hurrah?

Posted by Ryan Dinger, Fri, March 29, 2013 09:00 AM Comments: 25

Is 2013 the last time we’ll see Chase Utley in a Phillies uniform?

Last week, I was having a discussion with an old friend about the upcoming Phillies season when he posed a question to me: Do you re-sign Chase Utley after 2013?

“Ask me in six months,” was my concise, detached response.

This type of exchange is not exclusive to my friend and me. All over the Delaware Valley, people are asking the very same question about Utley. Most Phillies fans have had the same uncertain response I did about whether to bring the long-time second baseman back.

There’s still time to decide and no reason to rush it.

But the common uncertainty surrounding Utley forces everyone to ask themselves the uncomfortable question: Is 2013 the last time we’ll see Utley in red pinstripes?

The thought causes a stir in me. It makes me reflect on the last decade watching Phillies baseball. Continue reading Is This Chase Utley’s Last Hurrah?

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Phillies Nation Endorses Domonic Brown for Right Field

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Mon, March 04, 2013 02:00 PM Comments: 0

http://philliesnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Dom-Brown-ST-2012.jpg

We, Phillies Nation, endorse Domonic Brown as our choice for 2013 starting right fielder.

The offense is slowly recovering from the 2011 meltdown, and the Phillies could suffer another regression if the wrong policies take hold. The Phillies are embroiled in unstable alignments that could easily explode into full-blown disaster. An ideological assault from the undereducated talk box, from Philadelphians who, because the results are not instantaneous, are not willing to continue the progress that started in 2010. Those forces are eroding even the most well-versed Phillies’ fans’ faith in a 25-year old. Nearly 40 years after a horrible start for Mike Schmidt and nearly ten after the horrible start for Chase Utley, all Phillies’ fans’ ability to cheer for a winner are cheapened by the front office bringing in two of 2012′s worst players in Major League Baseball to compete for an outfield position: Delmon Young and Joe Mather. Astonishingly, even the very right to suit up on the active 25-man roster is being challenged.

That is the context for one of the Opening Day outfield spots, and as stark as it is, the choice is just as clear.

The boxed and quoted text above comes in part from the 2012 New York Times endorsement of President Barack Obama. But the rest of it, the parts about Schmidt, Utley, Young, and Mather? That’s from our collective hearts and minds at Phillies Nation.

Before we wrote this and put it together, we went back and forth. Can a blog do this? Has any other blog done this? Did everyone on staff agree? We had one conscientious objector: our CEO Brian Michael. While we don’t want to disrupt the engine that drives our traffic and our TV show, we saw this as an opportunity to convince not only Brian but also the fans that may feel like Brian does.

So, for the first time ever, we are making an official endorsement: we are endorsing Domonic Brown to be the Philadelphia Phillies everyday right fielder.

Continue reading Phillies Nation Endorses Domonic Brown for Right Field

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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?

Continue reading Reconsidering Michael Bourn

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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.

Continue reading Steer Completely Clear of Vernon Wells

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Does Kubel Fit the Phillies?

Posted by Eric Seidman, Tue, December 25, 2012 10:05 AM Comments: 34

The Diamondbacks signed Cody Ross to a three-year, $26 million deal over the weekend, giving them five starting outfielders for just three spots. With Adam Eaton set to start in centerfield and both Kubel and Ross signed to free agent deals, the Diamondbacks are more likely to trade one of their outfielders than use expensive platoons. Gerardo Parra‘s name was frequently mentioned as a possible trade target last year, when the Diamondbacks similarly signed Kubel to an outfield already including Parra, Chris Young and Justin Upton, but now it seems even more likely they make a move.

While Kevin Towers hasn’t officially put Kubel on the block, he noted that his phone didn’t stop ringing with requests for his outfielders after news of the Ross signing broke.

The Phillies were strong suitors for Ross but sources suggest they never really wanted to go beyond one or two years on a deal. If the Phils were seeking Ross’s level of productivity on a short-term and less lucrative contract, they could potentially find that in the form of the now expendable Kubel, whose numbers are quite similar over the last two seasons.

Continue reading Does Kubel Fit the Phillies?

  • 34 Comments
 

Effectively Using Young, Galvis & Howard

Posted by Eric Seidman, Thu, December 20, 2012 11:56 AM Comments: 51

Last week, Bill Baer wrote up a terrific idea he had at Crashburn Alley: the Phillies should play Freddy Galvis at third base whenever John Lannan starts. The thought makes perfect sense and represents the type of minor adjustment that could benefit the team and maximize the utilities of different rostered players.

As Baer outlined, about 78% Lannan’s batters faced put the ball in play, 53% of those balls in play are grounders, and over half of those grounders are pulled. Having shaky defense at shortstop and third base would hurt the Phillies run prevention with Lannan on the mound. Jimmy Rollins remains an elite defensive shortstop but the Phils are set to start Michael Young at the hot corner. Young hasn’t played third base regularly since 2010 and was a poor defender even then.

Young’s acquisition also leaves Galvis without a clear role. The Phillies could insert him at second base to give Chase Utley a rest and play him alongside Ryan Howard. They could also move Utley to first and play both he and Galvis on the right side of the infield. Rollins might need a day off every now and then as well. Where Galvis could really help the team in a more consistent manner is, as Baer suggested, by playing third base whenever Lannan starts.

I want to take that idea one step further. Not only should Galvis start at third base whenever Lannan pitches, but when Lannan is opposed by a fellow southpaw starter, the Phillies should sit Ryan Howard and play Young at first base. This alignment improves the offense by using Young against the lefties he crushes instead of Howard, who is quite poor against same-handed pitching, and clearly improves the infield defense.

Continue reading Effectively Using Young, Galvis & Howard

  • 51 Comments
 

John Lannan Minimizes Risk

Posted by Eric Seidman, Wed, December 19, 2012 09:00 AM Comments: 47

The Phillies opened up a spot in their rotation when they traded Vance Worley for Ben Revere. They were looking to fill that spot with a low-risk free agent instead of relying on farmhands Tyler Cloyd and Jonathan Pettibone.

Definitions of risk vary but it seemed that the Phillies were looking for cheap and durable starters, valuing those attributes over pure talent and upside.

While several pitchers were available on reasonable short-term deals — Brandon McCarthy (pre-signing), Shaun Marcum, Kevin Millwood and Carlos Villanueva, to name a few — the Phillies signed Nationals castoff John Lannan to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. The deal could be worth upwards of $5 million through incentives. However, the deal is designed in a way that Lannan would most likely be worth $5+ million if those incentives were triggered.

The move was met with mixed reviews. Some gravitated towards the idea of having a durable pitcher with a stellar groundball rate at a minimal commitment. Others trashed it because they felt Lannan’s numbers were bad, occasionally conflating his numbers against the Phillies with his overall stats. Some were against it because they wanted the Phillies to spend more money and bring in a Marcum or McCarthy. And, of course, many people still couldn’t get past his propensity for beaning Phillies players.

I fell into the first group — those in favor of the deal.

What the Phillies did with Lannan was minimize risk at the back-end of the starting rotation. He isn’t flashy but he has been eerily consistent over the last several seasons. He is very much a known commodity and, from an expected value standpoint, there is far greater certainty in what he will provide than there is with Marcum or McCarthy.

Both of those pitchers have the potential to outperform Lannan but they are also big injury risks. They are question marks for a team that needs no more.

When judging the Phillies move along those lines, too many fans are comparing Lannan to the best case scenario of Marcum. Hearkening back to expected value, there is far more uncertainty as to what Marcum would provide, and that wasn’t worth a potential $4-$6 million premium for a team looking to minimize risk.

Continue reading John Lannan Minimizes Risk

  • 47 Comments
 

Hairston or Nix Makes More Sense Than Ross

Posted by Eric Seidman, Mon, December 17, 2012 09:00 AM Comments: 64

The Phillies have long held an interest in Cody Ross and have amped up their efforts to sign him in the wake of Josh Hamilton‘s deal with the Angels. We discussed Ross’s numbers last week and found that he is really little more than a marginal upgrade over the inexpensive John Mayberry and Nate Schierholtz platoon the Phillies could have used.

Ross has some value but the advantages of using him over that platoon — saving a roster spot and adding perhaps a smidgen more consistency at the position — were not worth the additional $7-$10 million per year the Phillies would pay.

Ross could help the Phillies on a reasonable contract but he simply is not worth a three-year deal in the $24-$36 million range he is seeking.

If the Phillies are not going to make a major move, like signing Nick Swisher or trading for Mark Trumbo, they are better off sticking with some combo of Mayberry, Darin Ruf and Laynce Nix than spending what they figure to spend on Ross.

If they are dead-set on Ross, or the idea of Ross and what he brings to the table, there are cheaper alternatives: Scott Hairston, who is currently a free agent, and the aforementioned Nix, who is already on the Phillies 2013 roster at less than $2 million. Both Hairston and Nix have similar skill-sets to Ross and have been similarly valuable over the last three seasons.

Both would also enable the Phillies to utilize what they like about Ross without sacrificing financial flexibility now and into the future.

Continue reading Hairston or Nix Makes More Sense Than Ross

  • 64 Comments
 

Phillies Sign Mike Adams

Posted by Eric Seidman, Sat, December 15, 2012 09:31 AM Comments: 32

The Phillies have signed reliever Mike Adams to a two-year, $12 million contract, with a third-year vesting option at preusmably the same annual rate.

Adams underwent surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome in October — a literal rib-removal procedure — but expects to be ready for opening day. He has had his fair share of health issues over the years but is still very much worth the risk at $12 million over two guaranteed years. As with most vesting contracts, its design will likely mean that Adams is very much worth that extra year and $6 million if the option is triggered.

Adams, from 2008-11, was an elite major league reliever. He had videogame numbers in that span. He made 237 appearances in a setup capacity and posted the following numbers: 1.71 ERA, .235 BABIP, 2.52 SIERA, 28.3% K-rate, 6.8% BB-rate, 0.90 WHIP.

He had a K/BB ratio over 4.0, an above average groundball rate, and what looked like a legitimate skill at inducing weak contact and keeping runs off the board.

The Padres had Trevor Hoffman and Heath Bell closing games out in San Diego, while the Rangers went with Neftali Feliz, but Adams was better than all of them in this span.

Last season, Adams saw his strikeout and walk rates decline, while injuries slightly limited his action. He threw 52.1 innings and had very good numbers but it was his worst season since becoming the Adams we know and love with the 2008 Padres.

That isn’t to say he will continue to decline, or that he has lost that Mike Adams mojo, but rather that it’s important to remember that the Phillies signed the age 34-36 Adams and not the younger, peak version. He could get back to somewhere in between last year and the preceding span, but he doesn’t have to in order to justify this contract.

And that’s what makes this move solid: the Phillies didn’t, as frequently happens with relievers, pay Adams current dollars for past performance.

They didn’t sign him to the eight-figure annual salary his peak numbers likely merited. They didn’t even guarantee  three years as an enticement to accept a lower annual value. Unless doctors accidentally removed his entire ribcage, or every other team has access to detailed medical data the Phillies don’t, it’s hard to find a reason to really dislike this move.

Even the watered-down version of Adams that pitched for the Rangers last season was worth $6 million, $ per WAR be damned, since I’m not really a fan of using WAR for relievers. Now, one could argue that this is $6 million spent in an area that didn’t really need an investment, but the front office clearly wanted more stability in the bullpen. Wouldn’t you rather this than an $11 million Rafael Soriano?

The Phillies may have missed out on some big-time talent this offseason, but signing Adams to this reasonable contract was a very subtle way of improving the team in a more pronounced manner. The Phillies bullpen pitched very well after the all-star break last season, as some pitchers regressed (in the good direction) while others succeeded after being given a chance to replace dead weight. Adding Adams to that mix is exciting.

Having said that, the Phillies bullpen was pretty great after the all-star break and there are more significant needs elsewhere. If this move precludes them from upgrading in the corner outfield or rotation, then its value is reduced. However, as it currently stands, I’m choosing to evaluate it from the best case scenario standpoint as the start of more moves to come. Though if the Phillies really just signed John Lannan to be their 4th or 5th starter, then perhaps I spoke too soon with that best case scenario talk.

  • 32 Comments
 

Angels Sign Hamilton To Five-Year Deal

Posted by Eric Seidman, Thu, December 13, 2012 03:01 PM Comments: 93

The Phillies reportedly offered Josh Hamilton a three-year contract worth upwards of $80 million, but their interest in the former MVP was gauged as lukewarm by various sources. They may have pursued him further, if push came to shove, but it never really seemed like the Phils were in on him or hellbent on signing him.

Well, it’s all moot, as Ken Rosenthal has reported that Hamilton and the Angels have agreed on a five-year contract that ESPNDallas reports is worth $125 million. In other words, at the same age, Hamilton signed the Ryan Howard contract.

The deal is for more years and more dollars than most anticipated. It appeared that Hamilton was receiving a slew of shorter-term offers with high annual figures, or longer deals with lower annual salaries, but nothing with both.

Several teams seemed content to sign Hamilton for something similar to the Phillies’ offer, but there was very little evidence to suggest that he would sign the max-level contract he just signed.

This is the second straight year when the Angels swooped in to sign the top available free agent out of nowhere. While we could debate the merits of signing him at that price, the fact remains that the Phillies are now out of the Hamilton sweepstakes. Which means they still need to fill a corner outfield spot and have one fewer player to consider.

The next best option is Nick Swisher who, given his relative asking price, may have already been the best option to consider. Swisher combines solid power with a great eye, decent defense and that valuable combination of durability and consistency. The Indians are “hard after him” and figure to amp up their efforts now that other teams, like the Phillies perhaps, will shift their focus in Swisher’s direction. Aside from Swisher, the corner outfield market is weak, and trading a prospect like Domonic Brown for the right to pay Alfonso Soriano $5 million per year doesn’t seem all that prudent.

Unfortunately, the Phillies used a couple of their best trade chips in the Ben Revere and Michael Young deals — Worley, May and Bonilla — meaning it’s tougher to improve the corner outfield via trade. It isn’t impossible but it’s tougher.

Ironically, this move figures to push Peter Bourjos back onto the trading block at a time when the Phillies no longer need a centerfielder. It could also push Mark Trumbo onto the market as well  as a potential Phils target.

Acquiring Revere and Young at a combined cost of ~$6.5 million meant the Phils had money to spend and a clear area — corner outfield — where that money could be allocated.

With Hamilton off the market and Swisher the only remaining viable free agent, the Phillies are in a tough spot. They may have to overpay Swisher or trade even more prospects to upgrade.

Given his asking price and attributes, an argument could be successfully made — hey, I made it in my offseason plan — that Swisher was always the best and most feasible option. However, the Phillies haven’t been linked to him at all this offseason. Losing out on Hamilton hurts, as he would have seriously improved the lineup in the short-term, but if there is a silver lining it’s that the Phillies are now essentially forced to focus on Swisher.

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