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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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The Starting Rotation Conundrum

Posted by Eric Seidman, Mon, December 10, 2012 11:15 AM Comments: 51

The Phillies pulled off a solid yet risky deal last week to solve their centerfield dilemma but simultaneously created another area of need. By including Vance Worley in the Ben Revere trade the Phillies current rotation would feature Kyle Kendrick and likely one of Tyler Cloyd or Jonathan Pettibone behind The Big Three. That isn’t the most appetizing back-end of a rotation, especially not for a team with hopes of contending.

While Kendrick is a capable #5 starter, he shouldn’t be relied on for more than that, and Cloyd showed little last year that would make one suspect he can perform at a league average level over 30+ starts. Pettibone and other top pitching prospects — Jesse Biddle, Adam Morgan, Brody Colvin, Ethan Martin, etc — could thrive if given the opportunity but they all carry significant risk since their major league talent level is unknown.  The Phillies are in a position to minimize risk in the rotation so a Kendrick-Cloyd back-end is suboptimal.

The Phillies, plain and simple, have to do something with the rotation.

They don’t have to sign Anibal Sanchez for 4-5 years at $14-$15 million per year, but they no longer have the luxury of waiting until next year to bolster the rotation, when the free agent market looks abundant with good, reliable starters. Luckily, there are still several intriguing names on the market that could help the 2013 Phillies without requiring much of a commitment beyond next season. The Phillies could make a short-term move right now and look to make a bigger splash next offseason, or they could forego next year’s market and look to sign a better starter right now.

The Phillies are faced with a very interesting decision that really boils down to their thoughts, both in the short- and long-term, on Roy Halladay.

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Phillies Offseason Plan – Eric’s Version

Posted by Eric Seidman, Tue, November 13, 2012 12:50 PM Comments: 37

The Phillies are in an interesting spot heading into 2013, as there are legitimate holes to fill and a number of solid players they could pursue. The outfield has garnered plenty of attention, as the roster currently features five players either unproven, or who’ve proven that they are best utilized in a part-time role. Third base is a position of interest, with questionable internal options and an ugly free agent class. Bullpens are also always scrutinized and the Phils’ relief corps — which had the second worst eighth inning ERA in baseball last season — is no different

Ryan Madson would be a low-risk, high-reward signing. (PHOTO: NJ.com)

When discussing moves, however, it’s important to remember that everything is connected. Signing B.J. Upton means that another player is released, non-tendered or demoted. It would also mean that the team has less money to spend in other areas. A trade for Peter Bourjos might include one or two players currently on the major-league roster. Moves are often discussed in the abstract, without regard for the trickle-down effects on the rest of the roster.

It’s best to discuss an offseason plan holistically to ensure that all bases are covered, that funds aren’t over- or under-allocated to certain areas, and on a more basic level, to make sure that the roster doesn’t have more than 25 players.

To that end, Pat, Corey and I decided to put together our own offseason plans, playing Fantasy GM and building a 2013 roster based on our opinions on the specific needs of the team and which players are the best investments for those needs.

We tried to build our teams irrespective of current rumors or players to which the Phils have been connected (i.e. Josh Hamilton on Monday). The goal isn’t to predict what the Phillies will do, but rather to suggest what moves we would pursue if, to borrow a phrase from Amaro himself, we had our druthers.

Payroll was a major consideration. We were cognizant of the luxury tax calculable payroll, which is the average annual value of long-term contracts and not the specific salary for the 2013 season.

With the introductions and disclaimers out of the way, here is my offseason plan.

Bullpen: Sign Ryan Madson for 1 yr/$5 mil
I speculated earlier in the year that Madson could likely be had on a one-year, $2-$3 million contract. He injured his elbow, underwent reconstructive surgery, is set to return sometime towards the end of April or beginning of May 2013 and will probably have trouble finding a closing gig, regardless of his desires.

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The National League Designated Hitter

Posted by Eric Seidman, Fri, November 09, 2012 01:23 PM Comments: 15

Interleague play has been around since 1997, and while there are very real problems related to scheduling inequities, it isn’t going anywhere. It’s only getting more firmly entrenched in the game, with year-round interleague action on tap for the upcoming season. In fact, the Reds will open the 2013 season against the Angels, marking the first-ever interleague opener.

The American League has dominated the National League during the regular season, especially over the last decade, in part because those teams are simply better-equipped for games featuring the designated hitter.

While AL teams have certainly fared well in NL parks, and the use of a designated hitter is far from the only reason they have dominated interleague play, NL squads are less prepared for games in AL stadiums.

An NL contender should consider Hafner.

It’s tough to allocate one of few precious bench spots to a non-fielder limited to pinch-hitting duty in all but nine road interleague games and the World Series. Bench spots are important in the NL in the case of injuries, if a poor fielder is replaced late in a game, or when a manager decides to make a double-switch.

Most teams can’t really “waste” a spot.

But what if an NL team was more prepared for these games and could allocate a bench spot like this? A healthy National League contender with a strong starting rotation, and less of a need for a 7-8 man bullpen, could conceivably sign Travis Hafner this offseason and put themselves on more of a level playing field for interleague action.

And in a World Series where the AL team gets to DH David Ortiz, Edwin Encarnacion, Alex Rodriguez or Paul Konerko, the NL team wouldn’t be stuck relying on John Mayberry, Matt Diaz or Ryan Theriot. There are certainly downsides to this type of strategy, but it’s an interesting, discussion-worthy thought experiment.

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Phils Considered Frontrunners For B.J. Upton

Posted by Eric Seidman, Sat, November 03, 2012 12:15 PM Comments: 86

Early Friday morning, Jon Heyman reported that the Phillies were early frontrunners to land B.J. Upton. The former #1 pick is a first-time free agent, and is generally considered the perfect fallback plan for teams that either miss out on, or don’t want to pay the hefty price tags of, Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn.

Upton has spent his entire career with Tampa Bay and combines solid centerfield defense with athletic baserunning ability and 20+ home run power. He is the youngest centerfield free agent, at 28 years old, and is expected to sign for $11-$13 million per season over four or five years. He is a very talented and valuable baseball player in his prime. The Rays made Upton a qualifying offer late Friday afternoon, but he isn’t likely to accept it.

Given how Ruben Amaro tends to operate, if the Phillies are serious about Upton, his signing could be imminent. Amaro’s modus operandi in his brief general managership has involved identifying a target and making the deal happen quickly. He let the market play out with Jimmy Rollins last offseason, but that was an exception, far from the rule.

While I extolled the virtues of one Peter Bourjos yesterday as a legitimate trade target for the Phillies, the situation is starting to have that ‘feel’ that Upton will be our starting centerfielder for the next several seasons. He was always a prime candidate for the Phillies, who love raw athleticism, and if these early reports are any indication Amaro has found his man.

There really isn’t a wrong answer when discussing Upton, Bourjos, Angel Pagan or Shane Victorino for the centerfield post, but Upton represents the best solution among those on the free agent market. His numbers have been deflated by the Trop, he still has untapped potential, and he is worth ~$12 million/yr even without developing further.

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Phillies Should Trade For Peter Bourjos

Posted by Eric Seidman, Fri, November 02, 2012 01:35 PM Comments: 43

The Phillies have a few glaring holes heading into the 2013 season, the most important of which is centerfield. After trading Shane Victorino this summer, the team permanently installed John Mayberry up the middle, and the experiment didn’t work out. Mayberry proved that he was a platoon player in a corner outfield spot, not a regular centerfielder. Unfortunately, he was the closest thing to a longer-term solution on the Phillies roster.

Juan Pierre and Laynce Nix could have faked it, but the former was only signed for one season and the latter is a pinch-hitter. Neither saw any time in centerfield and for good reason. Tyson Gillies just completed his first season at Double-A and is at least a year away from seeing the big leagues. The Phillies currently lack a solution. Fortunately, this year’s free agent class and trade market are flush with competent centerfielders.

It isn’t often that a position as important as centerfield sees so much turnover — teams usually tend to lock these players up before they hit the market — but the Phillies enter the offseason with selectivity at their disposal. There are a number of players they could acquire, but Peter Bourjos of the Angels makes too much sense to not seriously pursue. He would provide the team with elite defense and baserunning, offensive potential, cost-certainty and team-control, all of which are extremely important for a team in the Phillies position.

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Get A-Rod’s Backup Instead

Posted by Eric Seidman, Thu, October 25, 2012 08:05 AM Comments: 15

Polly is likely on his way out. Would Chavez be a better fit? (AP)

The Phillies will decline Placido Polanco‘s $5.5 million option for 2013, buying him out for $1 million. The formal decision hasn’t come down the pipeline, but it’s essentially a foregone conclusion. This opens up a spot at third base that the Phillies will need to fill internally, via trade or through the free agent market. Internal options exist, and the team may well choose to mix-and-match utility players and defensive specialists until the de facto 2014 starter — Cody Asche — is ready.

Kevin Frandsen played very well in Polanco’s absence this season and likely enters the season as the positional frontrunner. Freddy Galvis is a superlative defender at a tougher position and should also see time at third base.  Ty Wigginton is, well, just a human being currently on the roster, and we’ll simply leave it at that.

While it’s sexier to discuss long-term solutions like Chase Headley or external stopgaps like Wilson Betemit or any of those Angels infielders, the Phillies can solve their third base dilemma by pairing their internal options with a talented and inexpensive free agent.

Eric Chavez cannot play everyday anymore, but he still hits righties. Formerly a gold glove defender, he remains passable at the position. The Yankees may make Alex Rodriguez available, and may offer to pick up most of the tab. In that case, he will surely be linked to the Phillies, a big-spending team with a clear need at third base. However, the Phillies are better off pursuing Chavez, A-Rod’s backup, as the righty meat in a platoon sandwich.

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Run Support Likely Costs Lee Cy Young

Posted by Eric Seidman, Tue, October 09, 2012 08:05 AM Comments: 51

Cliff Lee‘s season seemed to follow the same narrative from month to month: he pitched very well, received no run support, and picked up very few decisions, let alone wins. It became something of a running joke to wonder when Lee would, in fact, “win” his first game of the season. His lack of wins also spurred my own research into finding out if any starter has ever finished a season with more WAR than wins.*

He sported an 0-5 record through June in perhaps the perfect invalidation of the win statistic. If W-L record was truly intended to measure the number of good games pitched vs. the number of bad games pitched — and really, what the hell else purpose would it even serve — then Lee’s 0-5 mark was absurd. It was largely indicative of the level of run support he received and not his actual performance.

*Yes, Jerry Koosman finished with 3.3 WAR while going 3-15 for the 1978 Mets.

The absurdity continued as Lee began to heat up. After a very good July that saw him post a 2.75 ERA with 30 strikeouts against a mere five walks, Lee was virtually unhittable over the season’s final two months. He made 12 starts in August and September and threw 85.2 innings. In slightly over 7 IP/GS, Lee put up a 2.31 ERA with a 22.0 K/BB ratio. Yes, he struck out 88 batters over those 12 starts while walking four.

In the end, Lee had another great season. Sure, it was down by his own elite standards from the last four years, but he finished 3rd among senior circuit pitchers in WAR even after missing three starts with an oblique injury. He led the league, or was among the league leaders, in a number of important and meaningful statistics both traditional and advanced.

However, the most traditional of traditional stats, and the one that unfortunately lacks real meaning — W-L record — is absolutely going to prevent Lee from winning his second Cy Young Award. It’s also probably going to prevent him from even placing in the voting.

Despite finishing 6-9 in 30 starts, Lee was arguably the best starting pitcher in the National League this season, whether we realized it or not.

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Leave Utley At Second Base

Posted by Eric Seidman, Wed, September 26, 2012 09:00 AM Comments: 25

There are three key facts that must be understood before properly analyzing the potential position switch of Chase Utley:

1) Neither Chase Utley nor Freddy Galvis has third base experience at the major league level
2) There is no tangible proof that moving to third base will allow Utley to stay on the field
3) Utley still rates as one of the best defensive second baseman in the game

Since the idea of moving Utley to third base next season is really picking up steam it’s worth exploring these three facts to get a better understanding of why the Phillies are even considering the idea. These facts also suggest that the team is better off leaving Utley at his natural position. The concept of playing Utley at the hot corner was certainly intriguing, and an example of out-of-the-box thinking on the Phillies part, but for now it should get shelved as an interesting idea ultimately not worth exploring at this juncture.

Based on our current knowledge of the situation and the particulars associated with the facts above, it doesn’t seem prudent to make him learn a new position while he still excels defensively in his current diamond spot. It doesn’t seem prudent to make him learn a new position when the only readily available study on position-switches — by friend and injury expert Will Carroll — indicates that these moves carry a greater injury risk than if the player simply stayed put. It just doesn’t seem prudent to move Utley to third base no matter how poor the free agent class looks.

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Not the Astros… Not Now

Posted by Eric Seidman, Thu, September 13, 2012 08:00 AM Comments: 36

With a 35-21 record since the All-Star break, the Phillies have finally gotten over the .500 mark at 72-71. With 19 games left to play, they are a mere three games behind the Cardinals for the elusive second wild-card berth in the National League.

With Jimmy Rollins playing like a superhero, Kyle Kendrick pitching like a fourth ace, and the lineup and bullpen rounding into form, the Phillies are at their strongest at the most important time of the year. And with a fairly easy upcoming schedule pitting them against the Astros and Mets, the Phils could realistically enter the stretch-run on very solid footing.

Yet… there is something unsettling about this weekend’s four-game set with the Astros.

I don’t usually lend much credence to stats against a specific team, because “team” is an evolving term. The Astros of 2005 are not the Astros of 2009. David Bell‘s numbers against Brandon Backe have no bearing on how Chase Utley and the rest of this current Phillies squad will fare against Bud Norris.

Having said that, allow me to briefly throw numbers out of the window and admit that I am completely and utterly terrified of the Astros heading into this crucial series, whether or not they’re 12-45 since the All-Star break.

Late-season meetings with the Astros conjure up horrific memories of yesteryear, when the playoff-hopeful Phillies hurt their cause by losing, often in dramatic fashion, to Houston teams. On paper, the Phillies should throttle Houston. But the Astros shouldn’t be slept on, and the Phils have played so poorly against the Astros late in recent years that splitting the series or losing it probably won’t come as a surprise to most fans.

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