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The Passing of the Torch at Catcher

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Thu, February 04, 2016 09:00 AM Comments: 9

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Ruiz celebrates the 2008 World Series title, AP photo

The Phillies are in an organizational transition. They’ve moved on from leaders that helped the organization see its best days in Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels.  The Phils will look toward new players to lead them to another stretch of glory days at shortstop, second base as well as in the starting rotation and are probably close to doing so at other positions also.  When all such changeover is done with, there’s one position that will have an almost tangible “passing of the torch” from old to new, and that is at catcher.

We all know how much Carlos Ruiz has quantitatively contributed to the Phillies. He’s played 1021 games in a Phillies uniform. He’s had 3691 plate appearances, of which 855 have resulted in a hit, and 65 that have resulted in a home run. He has the third most WAR among catchers in franchise history. But what’s unique about the man known as “Chooch” is that a good portion of his contribution isn’t even quantifiable like a common statistic.  Sure, he’s caught 8,102 innings for the Phillies, but that barely scratches the surface on what he’s meant to his team behind the plate.

Ruiz has been able to manage an entire game as an on-field chief.  I remember times when Ruiz would call a timeout to go talk to a pitcher that was on the verge of a meltdown. Sure, that’s common–but Ruiz always seemed to be good at it. It almost felt like he could channel his inner Dr. Phil in the middle of a stadium packed with over 40,000 people.

Another thing he’s been remarkable at is being a mentor for his pitchers. He’s been outstandingly helpful to younger pitchers–and even a few older ones. Roy Halladay gave a large portion of credit for his perfect game in May of 2010 to Ruiz.  Other pitchers have historically done the same.  And who is better for the Phils’ pitchers of the future to learn from before his days are through in City of Brotherly Love? Continue reading The Passing of the Torch at Catcher

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The Groundhog Effect: Ryan Howard Contract

Posted by Matthew Gephart, Wed, February 03, 2016 05:45 PM Comments: 3

20160203_165238After watching the 1993 cult classic Groundhog Day yesterday, over, and over again, I couldn’t help but thinking that the movie was a bit of foreshadowing on the life we Phillies fans live today.  Especially, when it comes to Ryan Howard.

Ryan Howard has officially played 1,460 regular season games in a Phillies uniform over 12 years.  After doing my share of research on the subject, that’s longer than Bill Murray spends in purgatory Groundhog hell.

That’s 6,169 plate appearances, 5,376 at bats, 1,729 strikeouts, 1,410 hits, 357 home runs, a sustained Achilles injury, and all while still not being able to learn to stay off pitches thrown outside the strike zone.

Now, I know we are all sick and tired of hearing about his unbearable contract deal, and how he hasn’t produced for the last couple of years.  Well we have bared the repetitiveness of the past Phillies for long enough.  Before you drive your car off a cliff, drop a toaster in your bath tub, jump in front of a car or off a building…I’m here to tell you that this will be our year.  We can finally get ourselves out of the Groundhog Day rut, and lift that Big Piece of weight off our shoulders.  With the final year in contract for Ryan Howard, the days are numbered to 162 with the Phillies.  And there’s always the chance it could be less.

Some people will look at the glass as half empty, if not you’ll look at the glass as half full, I bet you’re a glass empty kind of person.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-15-20-39

The fact of the matter is Ryan Howard has had those many days to get back to being an average baseball player just like Phil Connors in the movie.  On top of that, Ryan Howard still has some value.  He hit 23 home runs last year and 29 doubles on 107 hits.  Sure, his batting average was dismal, but that puts him tied for 5th in home runs among American League DH’s with 500 plate appearances.  He would be 4th in doubles which puts him one spot above Prince Fielder, and 8th in hits.

Perhaps we will see some news of Ryan digging himself a new hole in the AL come all-star break.  I would doubt that showing his shadow at spring training would interest enough teams to venture a whole year on him, but we can hope.  The Yankees, heck, even the Orioles, are hurting at first base which could even leave the possibility of him finding a platoon job somewhere else, but that doesn’t leave the Phillies with much to play with at first either.

No matter what the case turns out to be, Phillies fans are looking at the final year of the biggest contract mistake that left us in this day of repeat since.  And although the Phillies organization will not be able to fix everything in one day to keep us from waking up to the same thing tomorrow, at least we will be rid of the repeat that was Ryan Howard at the end of this season, and can look forward to the future at last.

I am always one for sentimental things.   I still enjoy watching the Big Piece smash a home run over the left-center wall in Citizens Bank like it was 2008 all over again.  I would live those days over, and over if I could.  Ryan Howard will always have a place in my heart, and on the wall of fame in Philadelphia.  Along with Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Brad Lidge, Carlos Ruiz, and the rest of the 2008 World Series Champions, the glory days will always be remembered with Ryan Howard as the Big Piece, and not the Big Contract.

Today is tomorrow, it happened.

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Phils deal former top prospect Biddle to Pirates

Posted by Jay Floyd, Wed, February 03, 2016 12:13 PM Comments: 4

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Jesse Biddle, image- Jay Floyd

Multiple reports confirm that the Phillies have traded left-handed pitcher Jesse Biddle to Pittsburgh in a deal with an undisclosed return at the time of this writing.

Biddle, 24, underwent off-season Tommy John surgery and will miss the entirety of the 2016 season.

The move seemed to be something that has been in the works from the Phillies side since they designated him for assignment, removing him from their 40-man roster last week.  With his extended injury time, placing him on the 60-day disabled list would have allowed the Phils to keep Biddle on their roster without having him take up valuable space there, as there are exceptions for ailing players.

The Philadelphia native has missed considerable time with injuries in recent years, including a concussion, elbow soreness as well as a knee issue and dealing with whooping cough for an extended stretch.

Pittsburgh could be an ideal place for Biddle to rebound, once healthy.  It’s become a popular destination for pitchers looking for a career resurgence under pitching coach Ray Searage.

In 2010, the Phillies made Biddle, a Germantown Friends School product, their top draft pick, taking him 27th overall on the 1st round.

Splitting his 2015 campaign between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Biddle tallied a 9-6 record with a 4.95 ERA and a .295 batting average against in 24 starts last season.  In 133 career games over eight seasons, the six-foot-five 235-pounder posted a 40-45 record with a 3.81 ERA and a .240 BAA.

Recently, the Phils have begun to acquire a collection of other left-handed talent, including Bobby LaFromboise who was selected off waivers from the Angels, signing minor league free agents Edgar Ibarra and Jeremy Bleich along with undrafted free agent Evan Crower, who played quarterback at Stanford.

*UPDATE*- The Phillies announced the deal this afternoon, confirming that they’ve received righty pitcher Yoervis Medina in the swap for Biddle.  Medina, a 27-year-old Venezuela native, sports a 10-9 record with a 3.08 ERA and a .222 batting average against in 146 big league relief appearances.  He pitched in 17 combined games with the Cubs and Mariners last season.

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Prospect Nation 2016: #4 RHP Mark Appel

Posted by Jay Floyd, Wed, February 03, 2016 09:05 AM Comments: 2

appel milbThe Astros’ decision to give up on the number one overall draft pick from 2013 could be a terrific blessing for the Phillies as righty hurler Mark Appel lands firmly among his new club’s top prospect rankings following this off-season’s trade that sent reliever Kenny Giles to Houston.

There is no question that there would be extremely high expectations of a guy selected number one in the MLB draft.  As such, some critics have already grown impatient with Appel’s progress.  Sporting a career 5.12 ERA in 2 1/2 professional seasons, the Stanford product will hope a change of scenery will assist with his efforts to show and prove that he is worthy of the high regard that made him the first player taken.

A tremendous college career in which he was honored as a multi-time All-American was topped off with a 4-0 record, three saves, a 0.90 ERA, a .203 batting average against and a 13.06 K/9 mark in nine games pitched in his senior season.

Following the 2013 draft, Appel made his minor league debut with Class A short-season Tri-City in the New York-Penn League.  In two starts there, he struck out six and walked none, allowing two earned runs in five innings pitched. Continue reading Prospect Nation 2016: #4 RHP Mark Appel

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Prospect Nation 2016: #5 Catcher Andrew Knapp

Posted by Jay Floyd, Tue, February 02, 2016 12:00 PM Comments: 3

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Andrew Knapp, image- Jay Floyd

Catcher Andrew Knapp really put himself on the map last year with a breakout season.  Notching an All-Star bid while posting terrific offensive numbers and obtaining organizational honors, the 24-year-old now looks primed to make an impact at the highest levels of the sport.

Knapp was the Phillies’ 2nd round draft choice out of the University of California and made his professional debut that year, tallying a .253 batting average with four home runs, 23 RBI and seven steals in 62 games for the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters.

That off-season, the righty throwing Knapp required Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged elbow.  He was back on the field by the following May, getting at bats, but sitting out on defense for some time to allow additional recovery for his elbow.  He joined the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers during the fifth week of the season.  It was mid-June by the time he would play on the defensive side of the game.

Upon joining the Threshers, Knapp struggled with the bat, posting a .157 average with a home run and seven RBI in 23 games. After a 5-for-48 (.104 avg) stretch that wrapped up on June 1st, Knapp was demoted to Class A Lakewood, where he would rebound offensively. In 75 games as a member of the BlueClaws, he posted a .290 batting average along with five homers and 25 RBI. Continue reading Prospect Nation 2016: #5 Catcher Andrew Knapp

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Phillies To Wear Red Jerseys In 2016

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, February 01, 2016 09:42 PM Comments: 1

The Phillies on Monday made an interesting announcement about the upcoming 2016 regular season:

Oh yeah. The Phillies have a new alternate jersey. It’s red. It’ll be worn six times – all home weekday games (Businessperson Specials) – and will pair with the home pinstripe pants. Here are the games where you can watch the boys don red shirts:

  • April 14 vs San Diego
  • May 18 vs Miami
  • June 8 vs Chicago Cubs
  • June 20 vs Arizona
  • July 6 vs Atlanta
  • Aug. 4 vs San Francisco

The jerseys are part of Majestic’s Flex Base uniform system, which feature “lighter weight twill technology and mesh panels on the sides of the jerseys, which reduce the overall weight of jerseys by 10-20 percent and enhance freedom of movement,” according to a press release. In fact, says the release, all of the Phillies jerseys will be Flex Base jerseys.

So apparently Aaron Altherr and Peter Bourjos can soar to catch fly balls at an even faster rate.

This will be the second time the Phillies will ever wear red jerseys. The first time was May 19, 1979. That night the Phils wore burgundy jerseys *and* pants, and called the ensemble the “Saturday Night Special” uniform, which was planned to be the alternate uniform starting in 1979. They were extremely special: public outcry was loud and strong, and the Phils dumped the jammies after one game.

As for these things? I’m not a fan of bright red (maybe the Reds can get away with it, but that’s it), but I can understand the urge to introduce a new look for an entirely new, youthful crop of ballplayers. I’d rather them try something totally different than the simple “Phillies” branding in a new color, or instead, just bring back the classic burgundy-era home pinstripe jerseys for special games.

The good news is the Phils will be retaining their sweet cream-colored alternates, which they introduced in 2008 and wear at home on weekend afternoons.

Although it is unlikely the Phillies will make the playoffs this season, the young team has talent and fans have a few things to get excited about.  If you think other teams have a good chance to win it all, consider placing a bet on the World Series winner.  The NL East was represented last year in the Fall Classic, will another team from the Phillies’ division make it back?

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Prospect Nation 2016: #6 OF Roman Quinn

Posted by Jay Floyd, Mon, February 01, 2016 03:35 PM Comments: 0

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Roman Quinn, image- Jay Floyd

Dating back to when he was selected by the Phillies as their second round draft choice out of Port St. Joe High School (FL)  in 2011, Roman Quinn has been a promising prospect that the team has high expectations for.  Now, as he reaches the upper levels of the pro ranks, the switch-hitting center fielder has become a buzz name to potentially take over a role in the big league outfield in the near future.

Quinn would make his pro debut as a 19-year-old with short-season Class A Williamsport in 2012, posting a .281 average with nine doubles, a league-leading 11 triples, one home run and 23 RBI while swiping 30 bases in 36 opportunities.

Those excellent offensive efforts came while learning to switch hit and adapting to a defensive switch to shortstop, after playing mostly outfield prior to signing his first pro deal.

Comfort was a big factor for Quinn in 2013, according to his Class A Lakewood coaches, who saw things get easier for the talented youngster at the plate as the season went on.  He got off to a rough start, batting .202 with a .556 OPS in 22 April games. In May, things began to look up, offensively, for Quinn, as he tallied a .304 average with an .874 OPS in 26 contests that month.  His season would not last much longer, as the Florida resident was hit by a pitch that resulted in a broken left wrist in June, ending his campaign with .238 average with seven doubles, three triples, five home runs and 32 stolen bases in 41 chances through 67 games.

Unable to compete in that autumn’s Florida Instructional League, due to the slow healing wrist, Quinn continued to work out and suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon while running sprints. Surgery came soon afterward and Quinn missed considerable time while recovering.

Originally expected to miss the majority of the 2014 season, Quinn, who is listed at five-foot-10, 170-pounds, was back on the field by mid-May and impressed many with the strides that he took.

Playing in 88 contests, the most he’s played in any of his three pro seasons to that point, for the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, Quinn returned to post a .257 batting average along with 10 doubles, three triples, seven home runs and 36 RBI. Continue reading Prospect Nation 2016: #6 OF Roman Quinn

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Prospect Nation 2016: #7 OF Cornelius Randolph

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sun, January 31, 2016 08:05 AM Comments: 6

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Randolph, image- Baseball Betsy

Selected with the 10th overall pick in last year’s draft as a shortstop out of Griffin High School in Georgia, Cornelius Randolph quickly placed among the Phillies’ top prospect rankings across many outlets.

In his senior season, Randolph drew loads of attention from pro clubs, posting great offensive numbers with a .533 average, seven home runs, 33 RBI and a 1.631 OPS in 26 games, leading his team into the state tournament.

Listed at five-foot-11, 205-pounds, the 18-year-old had a tremendous professional debut in 2015, posting a .302/.425/.442 slash line in 53 games for the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies.

Touted by scouting director Johnny Almaraz as the top high school bat in the country last year, the Phillies were very happy with their selection.  Armed with a quick bat, the lefty batting Randolph has the ability to hit for average as well as power.  A Clemson recruit out of high school, he is described as a patient hitter that has a good approach at the plate. Continue reading Prospect Nation 2016: #7 OF Cornelius Randolph

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Biddle DFA’d to make room for new addition

Posted by Jay Floyd, Fri, January 29, 2016 03:50 PM Comments: 4

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Biddle, image- Jay Floyd

The Phillies made a move on Friday removing 2010 top draft choice Jesse Biddle from the team’s 40-man roster in favor of lefty pitcher Bobby LaFromboise, who was claimed off waivers from the Angels.

It’s not a stunning move that the Phils designated the 24-year-old for assignment, as he underwent Tommy John surgery this off-season and is expected to miss the entirety of the 2016 campaign.  With that down time in mind, it isn’t very likely that another team will claim him.

Biddle, a lefty, had a fair season last year, splitting time with Double-A Reading the Triple-A Lehigh Valley.  In 24 starts, he posted a 9-8 record with a 4.95 ERA and a .295 batting average against.  Control had been an issue for Biddle in recent seasons, issuing 4.6 free passes per nine innings for his 2014 and 2015 campaigns.

Injuries have become a concern for the Philadelphia native as well.  Aside from the elbow issue he is currently dealing with, Biddle has also been sidelined with a concussion as well as a separate elbow strain and he faced a serious battle with whooping cough all within the past couple years.

It is worth noting that players on the 60-day disabled list don’t “clog up” a spot on a team’s 40-man roster, as there are exceptions to make additions in place of such players, as the Phillies did with Cliff Lee and Jonathan Pettibone last season.  So, the Phillies could have certainly found a way for Biddle to remain untouched.  This could be a bit of evidence of the new front office’s vision going forward and that it may not include Biddle.

LaFromboise was originally an 8th round draft selection in 2008 by Seattle.  In 27 big league appearances, the 29-year-old has sported a 0-1 record with a 3.63 ERA along with a 9.3 K/9 mark.

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Mission Possible? Build A Contender For 2016

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Fri, January 29, 2016 02:00 PM Comments: 6

NolaAs it’s late January, and there isn’t a ton of Phillies news to report (okay, we hired a Google guy; also, mediocre spring training duds), we’re in the hot zone for half-baked thought experiments.

Tuesday I gave you one: Please help me predict the 2019 Phillies major league roster. Please read it, then send me an email or comment in it. I’d greatly appreciate it. When I get a few more findings, I hope to start presenting some projects using the data.

Meanwhile, I came across this terrific thought experiment from Grant Brisbee over at SBNation. His idea was to build the Phillies into a contender for 2016, solely using free agency. He came up likely short of a playoff team, but it’s a great concept. Why? Because everyone seems to think the Phillies are “tanking” this year.

So here we go. I’m lovingly taking Brisbee’s concept and trying it for myself. Let’s imagine the Phillies hired me, Tim Malcolm, as general manager, and my strategy was to build through free agency and minimal trades. You know, I’m basically Ruben Amaro Jr.

My goal is to build a team that can compete for a 2016 postseason berth, while also remaining competitive for 2017 and beyond. By the way, this is a long read. Hang on …

Going into the offseason, the Phillies 25-man payroll looked like this (arbitration and projected rookie salaries added):

Pos – Player – 2016 / 2017 / 2018 (opt)
C – Carlos Ruiz – $8.5M / $4.5M (club or $500K buyout)
C – Cameron Rupp – $550K
1B – Ryan Howard – $25M / $23M (club or $10M buyout)
1B – Darin Ruf – $600K
2B – Cesar Hernandez – $600K
SS – Freddy Galvis – $2M (arb)
3B – Maikel Franco – $550K
3B – Cody Asche – $600K
IF – Andres Blanco – $1.45M (arb)
OF – Odubel Herrera – $550K
OF – Aaron Altherr – $500K
OF – Darnell Sweeney – $500K
SP – David Buchanan – $600K
SP – Aaron Nola – $550K
SP – Jerad Eickhoff – $525K
SP – Adam Morgan – $500K
SP – Alec Asher – $500K
RP – Jeanmar Gomez – $1.4M
RP – Ken Giles – $550K
RP – Mario Hollands – $550K
RP – Luis Garcia – $525K
RP – Elvis Araujo – $500K
RP – Dalier Hinojosa – $500K
RP – Colton Murray – $500K
RP – Hector Neris – $500K

Plus:
SP – Matt Harrison – $13M / $13M / $13.25M (club)
RP – Miguel Gonzalez – $4.6M
XX – Cliff Lee – $12.5M

So that’s approximately $78.7 million tied up in those salaries. Considering the Phillies were approaching $200 million in payroll during the glory years, we can assume we have about $100 million to play with this offseason. So let’s play.

Assessment

I see many obvious holes. First, the starting rotation has a few promising arms (Nola, Eickhoff, Morgan, Asher) but no standout ace, and no true depth. It needs plenty of work.

The offense is in similar shape. Other than Franco and Herrera, I’m not sure there’s a certain everyday player in the bunch. I need a bigger sample from Altherr and Rupp, and Hernandez and Galvis are below-average offensive players with potentially overrated defensive skills. I need to be smart to upgrade the offense.

The good news is the payroll is astoundingly low. With that, I have a cachet of prospects ready to blend into the roster either this year or next year (J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, Jorge Alfaro, Andrew Knapp). I don’t want to block every prospect, but I also may want to move a prospect or two for immediate need.

November-December

The pitching market heats up first. I’d like to slot Nola in the rotation and let Eickhoff continue his progression in the back of the line this April, but I’m not sold yet on Morgan or Asher (or Buchanan or Severino Gonzalez) in a playoff rotation. So I need three proven arms. David Price is the big prize, but I’m wary. Price was worth around 5.5-6 WAR. I can pay $30 million per year for him, then grab another one or two pitchers worth 3 WAR total, but I’m probably paying $20-$30 million on those arms, slashing half my budget. I need to spread out the value here.

I like Jordan Zimmermann, who’s 29, is worth an average of 4 WAR over the last four seasons, and has solid strikeout numbers (172 per 162 games). His asking price is a shade more than $20 million per year, which is my cap for a pitcher. His five years is probably one too many for me, but he’s proven himself over five durable seasons already.

Signed: Jordan Zimmermann (5Y/$110M — $18M / $18M / $24M / $25M / $25M)

Getting Zimmermann for a $21 million AAV works for me.

Another name I watch is veteran Scott Kazmir, a lefty who put up solid numbers in 2015, including a 7.6 K/9. He’d be a decent No. 2 or 3 starter; I get him for three years and $48 million, front-loading the deal.

Signed: Scott Kazmir (3Y/$48M — $18M / $16M / $14M)

As the winter meetings approach, I start thinking about trades. I know I need to upgrade the outfield, which make Altherr, Williams and fellow prospect Roman Quinn available. My goal is to grab either a No. 2 pitcher or a premium bat in a trade, dangling two top-10 prospects and another top-30 name.

Looking across the league one name intrigues me most: Ryan Braun. He’ll be making $96 million over the next five seasons (though $18 million of the contract is deferred, to be paid from 2022-31), with a $15 million mutual option for 2021. So I’m guaranteed to pay $78 million over the length that he’s meant to be in Philadelphia. The 32-year-old had a slight return to form in 2015 (.285/.356/.498) and has always been an on-base threat. His defense is passable. His power remains, though it’s not at 2008-2012 levels. The big knocks: injuries (thumb, back) and reputation (PED suspension). Still, Braun would be more affordable than Heyward or Upton, and I’m not as bullish on Yoenis Cespedes.

The Brewers want me to eat the entire contract. Fine, but that limits the return. I offer Alfaro, Quinn, Ben Lively and a non-top-30 prospect. Braun waives his no-trade clause; deal done.

Acquired: Ryan Braun (5Y/$73M — $16M / $16M / $16M / $16M / $14M / $15M (mutual or $4M buyout)

It’s a risky move, absolutely, but it sets me up for this year with a likely 3-WAR player (and possible 4-5-WAR player) over the next three to four years each.

And since we’re at the winter meetings, one more move:

Selected: Joseph Biagini in Rule 5 Draft

Let’s say I draft Tyler Goeddel and trade him to another team for Biagini, a right-handed pitcher from the Giants. I go with Biagini to give me pitching depth.

After those moves I’ve spent just over half of my allotted budget.

But I still have a lot more to accomplish. I’d like to improve my infield by two players. First, I’m uncertain about a Howard-Ruf platoon for 2016, primarily because it’s entirely too one-dimensional, and secondarily because it provides terrible defense.

I decide to eat Howard’s contract. He provides negative value, and there’s little reason to believe he adds positive value in 2016. So I look out and see Mike Napoli, a low-risk but higher reward player with much better first base defense than both Howard and Ruf. The one drawback is his numbers against right-handed pitching, which won’t make for a solid platoon with Ruf. That’s okay, I don’t want a platoon. Ruf can go back to triple-A; if I need a platoon, lefty hitter Brock Stassi can get a shot.

I can bring in Napoli for one year, as he’s really a bounceback candidate after a down 2015 (he was improved in the second half), and keep options open for 2017 and beyond. I make the deal for $7 million.

Signed: Mike Napoli (1Y/$7M)

And I want to improve the middle infield. I’m confident that J.P. Crawford can win the starting shortstop job in 2017, but for 2016 I would like an upgrade either there or at second base. Between Hernandez and Galvis, I don’t see a middle infield worth more than 2 WAR; that has to change.

Two players are of interest: Ben Zobrist and Ian Desmond. The former is a surer thing, a solid offensive contributor with on-base skill and position flexibility. The latter played poorly to start 2015 and improved in the second half; still, there’s doubt about his 2016 ability. He does provide more power potential, and he could slide to second base. As far as salary, I’d be paying more, and for more years, for Zobrist. I’d rather a little more flexibility here, so I take a shot with Desmond for two years and $24 million, adding a club option.

Signed: Ian Desmond (2Y/$24M — $12M / $12M / $10M (club or $2M buyout)

With that I still have $29 million to spend for 2016.

January

What else do I need? One more veteran starter, pitching depth, a veteran reliever or two, and probably a couple hitters. Yikes. But these are mostly small deals. Like do them.

Signed: David Hernandez (1Y/$4M)

Hey, it’s a good deal either way.

Signed: Neal Cotts (1Y/$4M)

Banking on the lefty to provide some decent innings.

Signed: Tim Lincecum (1Y/$9M)

Oh yeah. Hoping for a bounceback here. He could be a setup man for Giles, or he can start. The possibilities … are … two!

Signed: Franklin Gutierrez (1Y/$3M)

Having a great offensive season in a short sample in 2015, the man nicknamed “Death to Flying Things” is a nice all-around talent to stick in the outfield with Braun, Herrera and Altherr.

After these moves I have $9 million to play with. I’ll make one more pitching move.

Signed: Mark Buehrle (1Y/$7M)

I’m taking a one-year flier on Buehrle, talking him out of retirement.

And that’s it, sans depth signings for triple-A and beyond.

Here’s my new 2016 Phillies – with salary figures for the upcoming season and beyond:

Pos – Player – 2016 / 2017 / 2018 / 2019 / 2020 / 2021 / 2016 PROJ WAR (Steamer)
C – Cameron Rupp – $550K / 0.8 WAR
C – Carlos Ruiz – $8.5M / $500K / 0.7 WAR
1B – Mike Napoli – $7M / 0.9 WAR
2B – Cesar Hernandez – $600K / 0.4 WAR
3B – Maikel Franco – $550K / 2.5 WAR
SS – Ian Desmond – $12M / $12M / $2M / 1.5 WAR
IF – Freddy Galvis – $2M / 0.6 WAR
IF – Andres Blanco – $1.45M (arb) / 0.2 WAR
LF – Ryan Braun – $16M / $16M / $16M / $16M / $14M / $4M / 1.9 WAR
CF – Odubel Herrera – $550K / 1.6 WAR
RF – Franklin Gutierrez – $3M / 0.4 WAR
OF – Aaron Altherr – $500K / 0.5 WAR
OF – Darnell Sweeney – $500K / -0.5 WAR
SP – Jordan Zimmermann – $18M / $18M / $24M / $25M / $25M / 2.4 WAR
SP – Scott Kazmir – $18M / $16M / $14M / 2.6 WAR
SP – Aaron Nola – $550K / 2.3 WAR
SP – Mark Buehrle $7M / 1.6 WAR
SP – Jerad Eickhoff – $525K / 1.3 WAR
RP – Luis Garcia – $525K / 0.4 WAR
RP – Elvis Araujo – $500K / 0.1 WAR
RP – Jeanmar Gomez – $1.4M / 0.1 WAR
RP – David Hernandez – $4M / 0.3 WAR
RP – Neal Cotts – $4M / 0.1 WAR
RP – Tim Lincecum – $9M / 0.7 WAR
CP – Ken Giles – $550K / 0.7 WAR

Adding the contracts I’m on the hook for in 2016, I’m paying $175 million for talent in 2016. And for 2017 I’m on the hook for around $85 million, before pre-arb and arbitration deals. Let’s say I’m paying $100 million for 2017′s team – the only major holes would be catcher, first base, middle infield, outfield and one starting pitcher spot. No problem, as I introduce Knapp, Crawford, Williams and Thompson. First base may need to be a free-agent deal; no problem.

As for performance? Steamer (which is bearish on bounceback guys) says my team is worth 24.1 wins above replacement in 2016. That’s actually worse than Brisbee’s 29 WAR that he put together, before even adding bench and bullpen. That said, he spent $120 million, and he spent everything without adding bench or bullpen. Without those contracts and with an extra $20 million, I have plenty to sign Heyward, Upton or even Price. That would put me up there with Brisbee.

It’s still not enough.

In 2015, 24.1 WAR made you … the Brewers. So not much better than the Phillies. Even 29 WAR isn’t good. You’re hanging with the Diamondbacks, Athletics and Padres. So still below .500.

Even if I spend $120 million, don’t upgrade the bullpen or bench, don’t trade for Braun and simply sign Heyward and Upton … I’m at maybe 33 WAR. The Royals actually were worth 32.9 WAR in 2015, but so were the Tigers and White Sox. Can’t guarantee anything.

Now there’s one more hack. Say I can spend $120 million and simply buy the five biggest free agents (Heyward, Upton, Cespedes, Price, Greinke). I can do a Herrera, Heyward and Cespedes outfield, move Upton to first base with Hernandez, Galvis and Franco, have Rupp behind the plate, and make my rotation Price, Greinke, Nola, Eickhoff, Morgan. That may get me an extra 18-20 WAR, which would potentially put me in contention. But where’s the depth? Also, *now* we’re talking fantasy.

So here’s the point: Even if the Phillies tried to field a “formidable” team with more veterans in 2016, they wouldn’t be very good. They’d still be a low-tier team, and they’d be losing the opportunity to look at more young and high-reward players.

I’d much rather do things this way, the way they’re being done … especially when above took way too long to do.

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