Friday, December 22, 2006

Phils add veteran catcher

The Phillies signed veteran free agent catcher Rod Barajas to a one year 2.5 million dollar contract with a club option for 2008. Barajas brings a bat and good defense to the catching position for the Phillies. He has power, hitting 11 HRs and 41 RBIs in 344 ABs for the Texas Rangers. Barajas an eight-year veteran can also help Carlos Ruiz learn how to handle the reigns of a major league pitching staff. Phillies GM Pat Gillick spoke highly of Barajas saying, “Rod brings a lot to the table both offensively and defensively. He's a proven winner who gives us added depth at that position."

Barajas and Ruiz will take the lion share of the time for the Phillies at catcher. Who the starter will be on opening day is still somewhat of a mystery. Barjas commented, "Going into [the season], myself and Carlos Ruiz are going to get the majority of the playing time. But if one of us were to step up, that one would get the majority." This leaves Chris Coste as the Phillies third catcher and the odd man out at that position. Coste for a 33-year-old rookie had an impressive season in 2006 hitting .328 for the Phillies in 198 ABs and will serve as the Phillies primary pinch hitter. He will also fill in as needed at first, third, and left field.

The Phillies don’t consider Coste, Ruiz, or Barajas as long-term options at the catcher position. Jason Jaramillo holds the vaunted title of Phillies Phuture Catcher. He had a solid season in the AFL with the Peoria Saguaros hitting .379 with 17 RBIs in 66 ABs. Jaramillo will start the season at AAA Ottawa and is a potential September call up. Assuming that Jaramillo does get called up, the Phillies will have way more than what Pat Gillick referred to as “added depth” behind the plate.

I understand Gillick’s logic in this deal. Coste and Ruiz are unproven commodities with little major league experience between them. Barajas is a veteran catcher who offers decent offensive capabilities. This signing if nothing else provides insurance for the Phillies. But, I am left thinking why did the Phillies need another catcher? The potential of a Ruiz Coste combination far exceeds what should realistically be expected from Barajas. The Phillies wasted 2.5 million dollars. Ruiz and Coste could have handled the catching responsibilities. If the Phillies felt they weren’t up to the task then they could have used Ryan Budde. Budde was one of the Phillies three Rule Five Draft picks. Budde while not a great option could have played in an emergency situation. I would have to imagine using Budde in this way was the Phils original plan or else they would have little reason for taking him in the Rule Five Draft. Now because Budde is a Rule Five Draft pick and because he won’t have a spot on the opening day roster, he will have to be offered back to the Los Angeles Angels. If all of these options fell through then they could have called up Jaramillo for a cup of coffee until they traded for a temporary replacement.

The multitude of options the Phillies have at catcher made this move unnecessary. The Phils didn’t need help behind the plate. Pat Gillick could have better spent his time finding another reliever instead of spending money for the sake of spending.

Barajas signs with Phillies
Ken Mandel /

Barajas Rejects Toronto for Phillies
Dan Gelston / Associated Press

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Werth completes the Phillies out fielding core

The Phillies signed former Dodger Outfielder Jayson Werth to a one-year $850 thousand dollar deal. Werth will join Phillies out fielders Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand, Shane Victorino, and Jeff Conine.

Werth is a valuable bench player who can play all three out field positions. A strong defensive player Werth has compiled 14 outfield assists in 216 career games. He has a good combination of power and speed racking up 23 HRs 15 SBs in his last 627 at bats. Werth selected twenty-second overall in the 1997 draft has shown a lot of offensive potential but so far has only batted .245 throughout his career. Werth has suffered through many injuries during his time in the majors. He lost all of his 2006 season with an injury to his left wrist and in five years of playing he has had only 721 at bats.

In the team’s official press release GM Pat Gillick spoke of Werth saying, “Jayson is a young outfielder with a combination of power and speed. He's had some injuries over the past couple years, but we think he has tremendous athleticism and we're very happy to have him in a Phillies uniform. He's a great addition to the club."

Werth could spell Burrell in left field in late inning situations much the way that Victorino did last year. Having a strong bench is essential to a team’s success. Werth provides power, speed, and defense off the Phillies bench and will aid them in their 07 campaign.

Phillies Sign Werth
Phillies Official Press Release

Phils Sign Werth to replace Dellucci in Outfield News Services

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A tale of two Pats

Pat Burrell’s baseball career reads like a story of two different baseball players. There is Pat the Bat. This Pat is one of the most prolific college baseball players of all time. In his time at the University of Miami he hit .442 ranked seventh all time on the NCAA list and had a .888 slugging percentage ranked second all time. This Pat won the 1998 Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur baseball player in the country and was taken first overall by the Phillies in the 1998 draft. The Pat who hit 37 HRs and 116 RBIs in 2002 and was rewarded with a six year $50 million extension. Remember that Pat? I remember lauding former Phillies GM Ed Wade for locking up the corner stone of the Phillies franchise for years to come. This Pat is now long forgotten instead replaced by the other Pat.

Pat The Pathetic has never quite lived up to expectations. This Pat, hold your nose, hit .209 with .309 OBP in 2003. The most common explanation found in numerous newspaper columns for this piss poor performance was that the pressure of his new contract was getting to the young Burrell. Pat improved his stats in 2004 and in 2005 hit 117 RBIs, second most in the league. It looked like Pat the Bat had returned or had he? In 2006 he hit .258 with 29 HRs and 95 RBIs. However, the bulk of these numbers where put up in the first half of the season and Burrell played poorly enough to see his playing time decrease in the second half. So what’s the explanation, which Pat is an illusion and, which one is real?

Recently, Dallas Green the only Phillies manager to lead the team to World Series victory has called out Burrell. Green blamed the appearance of Pat The Pathetic on a lack of concentration. Speaking about Burrell, Green commented, “He's got to focus and get a priority. That's No. 1 on the list. He's got to become a baseball player and want to be a contributor and want to be the Pat Burrell that we all anticipated he was going to be when we signed him as a kid. He's 30 years old. Damn, time is slipping by here." Green went further to say that Burrell’s social life might be a distraction. Green said of Burrell, “It's neat to have money, it's neat to have good looks, and it's neat to have broads all over you. Every place I've managed, I've talked to kids about the same thing. It's a hell of a life. But there comes a time in every player's life when he needs to get his act together.” Dallas Green is exactly right. Burrell is at a crossroads at his career. It’s important to remember Burrell’s pedigree because he does have the talent to put of MVP numbers. He’s that good.

There are a few reasons to be optimistic about the future. Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Ryan Howard; do any of these names ring a bell? These are just some of the power swings that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has shaped during his Major League tenure. So say what you will about Manuel but he can help Burrell, if Burrell fully commits himself to baseball. Burrell also has earned the praise of baseball guru Bill James. In an interview with Todd Zolecki, James commented, “As a hitter I like him a lot. He's an underrated hitter. I know he's not Bobby Abreu. He's not really much of a base runner or a fielder or a thrower, but as a hitter, he changes the scoreboard. I like him.” On top of all this Burrell is playing injured. Burrell is still recovering from surgery on his foot, which has affected his play in the field and could be a factor in his struggles at the plate.

Finally Burrell’s not going to be traded any time soon. He has too much money left on his contract and given that Burrell would only void his no trade clause to go to a few teams, a trade doesn’t seem to be in his future. So now we Phillies Phaithful will have to hope that Burrell gets his life in order and that we have seen the last of Pat the Pathetic.

Baseball stats guru sees good in Phillies, even Burrell
by Todd Zolecki / Philadelphia Inquirer

Green Challenges Burrell
by Jim Salisbury / Philadelphia Inquirer

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Phillies have a good rotation, Hallelujah!

The Philadelphia Phillies have picked up a legitimate ace when they traded for Freddy Garcia. The deal sent Gavin Floyd and a player to be named later who White Sox GM Kenny Williams let slip is former White Sox prospect Gio Gonzalez. This is a fantastic deal for the Phillies. First Garcia’s track record tells us that the Phillies picked up a pitcher who will give 200 innings and an ERA close to 4.00. Garcia’s 2006 ERA of 4.53 is scary but his overall track record says that he is better than his 06 numbers. In addition Garcia a pitcher who has spent his entire career in the American League will get a boost facing pitchers instead of DHs in the National League. In addition as Phillies Phans we don’t have to worry a lot about how Citizens Bank Park will affect Garcia. U.S. Cellular Park while not as homer prone as CBP is comparable in terms of being a hitter’s park. Garcia solidifies the rotation making it one of the best in the NL East.

The Phillies did have to give up Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez. For an ace like Garcia Floyd and Gonzalez isn’t too high a price to pay. Gavin Floyd is very high on potential and I really hope he fulfills that potential. However, Floyd’s player dossier is filled with ugly statistics. Most recently Floyd posted a down right nasty 7.20 ERA during 11 starts in the Arizona Fall League. In any case people who know more about this than me say that Floyd someday will be a great major league pitcher. Whether or not that is true I want the Phillies to win now, not in a few seasons after Floyd develops, but now. The loss of Gonzalez hurts because you can never have to many southpaw power pitchers. Despite the loss of Gonzalez I choose to think about the other positive aspects of this trade.

The loss of Floyd and Gonzalez is ameliorated by the fact the Jon Lieber is now resting right on top of the trading block. Lieber who is now the Phillies sixth starter will be moved before the season starts. Pat Gillick has commented that moving Lieber to the bullpen isn’t an option so logically Lieber will have to be moved to another team. In this absolutely ridiculous market were Gil Meche will get a five year 55 million dollar contract, Lieber will allow the Phillies to plug some holes. Gillick’s first priority is to pick up that illusive eighth inning setup man with closing experience. Fortunately the Cardinals, Rangers, Brewers, and Cubs are in desperate need of starting pitching and all have relievers to deal. The Phillies can be sure that Gillick won’t trade Lieber unless it fills some of the holes in the Phil’s bullpen. So when considering this deal and the loss of Gonzalez and Floyd, Phil’s Phans have to consider what a future trade of Lieber will bring to the Phillies.

Finally the icing on the cake is that Gillick managed to get this deal done without trading Aaron Rowand. Rowand could also continue to be valuable trade bait for all the teams out there who need center fielders. So three cheers for Gillick who has managed to overhaul the Phillies rotation in his short but glorious tenure.

Phils acquire Garcia form White Sox
by Ken Mandel /

Phils ride 'roller coaster'
by Ken Mandel /

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pat Gillick the magician

The Phillies GM Pat Gillick is working hard to improve the Phillies roster. The stove has been heating up at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista Florida. The newest rumor has center fielder Aaron Rowand and Gavin Floyd or another pitching prospect going to the Chicago White Sox for Freddy Garcia, Javier Vazquez, or Mark Buehrle. It is rumored that the Phillies are targeting Garcia who pitched for the Mariners when Gillick was their GM from 2000-2003. The second move would send Jon Lieber to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielders Kevin Mench and former Phillies farm hand Derrick Turnbow or Jose Capellan. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer the Brewers deal is already done pending the completion of the deal with the White Sox.

The always-guarded Pat Gillick also commented again to the Inquirer that he is more optimistic today than he was Monday that he could acquire a starting pitcher. This deal makes a lot of sense from all the angles. The White Sox have the luxury of excess starting pitching and want Aaron Rowand back badly. Brian Anderson who was supposed to be Rowand’s center field successor on the south side of Chicago didn’t work out. Anderson hit a weak .225 at the plate. The White Sox also missed Rowand’s gritty style of play and club house leadership. The Brewers like every other team not named the Angels or White Sox need starting pitching.

But if these two deals go through I see the Phillies being the biggest winners. Any of the White Sox starting pitchers would improve the Phil’s rotation. With the return of Rowand to Chicago, Shane Victorino would play center field with Pat Burrell, Jeff Conine, and Kevin Mench splitting time in the corner outfield positions. The Phillies would also hypothetically get a reliever.

Derrick Turnbow could be a solid setup man for Tom Gordon. Turnbow’s season started off well making his first all-star team. However, after that his season went off the tracks ending with (cringe) 6.87 ERA. Yikes! I prefer to look at his stats from 2005 where he racked up 39 saves with a 1.70 ERA (that feels better). In reality Turnbow is not nearly as bad as 2006 and probably not as good as 2005. Turnbow could also benefit from the change in scenery and at the end of the day Turnbow can definitely outperform Arthur Rhodes and is a viable option as a closer if Gordon goes on the disabled list. So lets all keep of fingers crossed and hope the Magician Pat Gillick gets these deals done.

Phils have a few deals in the works
by Ken Mandel /

Gillick working of deal for starting pitcher
by Jim Salisbury / Philadelphia Inquirer

Monday, December 04, 2006


Arbitration is confusing. Who gets arbitration and who doesn’t? What players are eligible and, which players aren’t? What type of free agent are you? Are you an A, a B, or a C? After reading a few articles about arbitration suddenly I feel like I want to turn to an astro-physics textbook for a little light reading

The arbitration eligible players on the Phillies are Geoff Geary, Ryan Madson, Brett Myers, Chase Utley, and Aaron Rowand. If the Phillies can’t work out a contract with any of the above then player the Phillies will go to arbitration hearings. There an arbitrator will listen to both the player’s side and the Phillies side and decide on an equitable salary. The Phillies free agents this year are David Dellucci, Randy Wolf, Rick White, Arthur Rhodes, Aaron Fultz, Mike Liberthal, Randall Simon, and Jose Hernandez. Of those David Dellucci, Aaron Fultz, and Mike Liberthal are type A free agents.

The Phillies chose to offer arbitration to only Dellucci. Due to the fact David Dellucci will likely sign with the Cleveland Indians and that he is a type A free agent, the Phillies will likely gain a supplemental pick between the first and second round in addition to the Indians second round pick. The risk involved with offering arbitration to a free agent is that a player accepts whom you don’t want to overpay or have questions about how they could contribute to the team. That’s presumably why the Phillies didn’t offer arbitration to either Fultz or Liberthal.

The other and final way arbitration can affect the Phillies is if other teams who offer their type A free agents arbitration. If the Phillies signed any of these players they would loose their first round pick. This is not something the Phillies are willing to do given the lack luster state of their farm system. One case where this could be important is with the Phillies pursuit of David Weathers. If the Cincinnati Reds offer Weathers arbitration the Phillies probably won’t touch him.

Phillies offer Dellucci Arbitration
by Ken Mandel /

Phillies Winter Meeting Checklist
by Ken Mandel /

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Where’s the relief?

At the beginning of the off season Pat Gillick knew the Phils could use another starter, protection for Ryan Howard, and a reliable eighth inning set-up man with closing experience. That final piece remains elusive for Gillick and essential for the Phillies success.

The Phillies do have a few solid bullpen pieces with Tom Gordon, Ryan Madson, Geoff Geary, and Matt Smith who will all be back next year. The main weakness of the pen was exposed when Gordon went on the DL last year leaving the Phillies without a closer. The Phillies have had trouble finding a reliable set-up man in recent years. Ranging from the enigmatic Tim Worrell, to the troubled Ugueth Urbina, to the ineffective Arthur Rhodes, the Phillies have not found any good solutions.

The free agent market is not full of good options for Gillick. Justin Speier and Danys Baez got crazy big contracts setting the stage for teams to overpay for relief pitching this off-season. The Phillies had shown interest Joe Borowski but backed out of contract talks after a recommendation from a team doctor. The Phillies have also sought in free agents David Weathers and Eddie Guardado. While both have closing experience both are closer to the twilight than the prime of their careers. Gillick might try to test the trade waters like he did last year when he acquired Arthur Rhodes for Jason Michaels. Whatever he does it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of relief coming next year for the Phillies.

Phillies back out of deal with Borowski after physical
by Jerry Crasnick /

The prodigal son returns

The Phillies have reached a agreement with free agent pitcher Adam Eaton. The three-year deal worth $24.5 million includes a club option that could bring the value of the deal to $33 million dollars. The Phils originally drafted Eaton with the eleventh pick in the 1996 draft. Eaton never made it to the majors with the Phillies due to a four-player trade with the San Diego Padres. Assuming the Phillies don’t trade Jon Lieber, Eaton completes the Phillies rotation that also includes Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, and Jamie Moyer.

After this signing I feel rather under whelmed. I understand that the Phillies were never realistically going to attempt to sign big ticket pitchers like Jason Schmidt or Barry Zito, but Adam Eaton, seriously.

Eaton is considered to have a lot of “potential”. He has spent time on the DL with a finger injury, but when healthy has the ability to be a strong contributor to the Phillies pitching staff. His up side is a player who will have a sub 4.30 ERA while striking out about a batter an inning. His down side is that he is an injury risk that could be $24 million dollar bench warmer.

This signing could be a feather in Pat Gillick’s cap or a complete disaster. To me Eaton’s current situation is comparable to the St. Louis Cardinals signing of Chris Carpenter before the 2004 season. Carpenter was recovering from an injury and had previously displayed a lot of “potential” with the Blue Jays. That signing worked out great for the Cards who got a legitimate ace for a reasonable price. As for whether Eaton will follow in the steps of Carpenter or take another trip to the trainer’s room keep your fingers crossed.

Phillies make it official, sign Eaton
by Ken Mandel /

New man in the hot corner

Wes Helms will be the Phillies new starting third baseman in 2007. Helms signed a two-year $5.45 million dollar contract with an option for a third year that could bring the value of the contract to $8 million.

My first reaction to this news was that the Phillies were overpaying a player whose numbers were motivated by wanting to perform well in the last year of his contract. Last year Helms hit .329 with 10 HRs, and 47 RBIs, in 240 at bats. Factoring in Citizens Bank Park and increased playing time Helms up side is 20 HRs with 90 RBIs. That type of offense would be a huge upgrade over the poor offensive numbers put up by Abraham Nunez. In addition Helms a right-handed hitter could be one option for Charlie Manuel to protect Ryan Howard.

Helms says he has changed his approach at the plate trying to stay back on more balls and then drive them to right field. His numbers back up his talk. Over the past three seasons his average is .294 well over his career average of .268. Helms never really had an opportunity to get a lot of playing time. He was a top prospect at third base but mostly played first because he played with superstars Chipper Jones in Atlanta and Miguel Cabrera in Florida. A return to his roots at the hot corner and ample playing time could prove to aid his production at the plate. His glove isn’t golden but it’s not wooden either. In late inning situations the Phillies could bring Nunez for a defensive boost.

Lastly the contract isn’t a burden to the Phillies pay role. If he puts up Nunez like offensive numbers or worse the Phillies could swallow the contract, which is worth a maximum of 8 million dollars. Helms isn’t without some risk but for his price he provides good value.

Phils ink free agent Helms
by Ken Mandel /