Phillies Sign Chad Billingsley to a One-Year Deal

The Phillies announced on Twitter that they’ve signed pitcher Chad Billingsley to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Billingsley’s contract includes performance incentives which can bring his salary all the way up to $8 million. To make room for Billingsley on the 40-man roster, they designated Cesar Jimenez for assignment.

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Keith Law Loves J.P. Crawford

I love J.P. Crawford, too, but it was still a pleasant (if not major) surprise to see one of our guys in the Top 10 of a major Top Prospect list for the first time since Dom Brown was rated #1 in BA’s mid-season just before his initial call-up to the big leagues. Law ranked Crawford #7 overall today, when he released his Top 100 prospects list, (FYI – it’s behind the paywall at ESPN). He cites what many have been listing as excellent reasons for ranking Crawford so high – his bat and power showing a little more than most expected when he was drafted, and his continuing abilities in the field.

I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see Crawford in someone else’s Top 10, but Law has been high man on J.P. for a while, including immediately after the 2013 draft, when he praised the Phils’ draft and Crawford in particular. Figure the 20-year-old shortstop is pretty easily a consensus Top 20 prospect when all the major publications are done ranking for the year. He’s earned it in games as well as in the eyes of scouts, after putting up wOBAs of .378 and .352 in Lakewood (A-) and Clearwater (A+), with wRC+ of 132 and 119, respectively. All this while being one of the younger position players in the Sally League, and the youngest qualified bat in the Florida State League after his promotion.

For good measure, Law also ranked Aaron Nola #57 on his 51-100 list, citing his high floor and excellent command, but he left Maikel Franco off entirely. If you’ve been paying attention to sentiment around the game, the latter should not be a huge surprise. I expect Nola to make every Top 100 list this off-season, and Franco to make many of the other major lists. The only other Phillie I could see sneaking onto a Top 100 list would be Roman Quinn, based on his stellar Arizona Fall League, but don’t hold your breath.

Photo credit to Ken Inness/MiLB.com

Phillies Still Talking to the Brewers and Blue Jays about Jonathan Papelbon

Last week, we learned that the Phillies were in serious trade talks with the Milwaukee Brewers regarding closer Jonathan Papelbon. The conversation eventually stalled as it couldn’t be agreed upon exactly how much money the Phillies would send along with Papelbon for his 2016 vesting option in such a deal, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

The Toronto Blue Jays were also reportedly in the mix, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki says both teams are still talking to the Phillies about a potential deal. Rosenthal added today that the Jays’ interest is “extremely limited”.

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The Pros and Cons of Trading Papelbon

There are reports that Jonathan Papelbon could be on the move soon. A closer making $13M a year is a luxury item that a team without reasonable postseason hopes like the Phillies has no business employing. Unfortunately, the Phillies didn’t foresee the rapidity of their decline into irrelevance when they signed Papelbon to a 4-year/$50M contract in 2011 — the largest contract ever for a relief pitcher — which has left them unwittingly stuck with a player and contract that doesn’t mesh with their rebuilding goals.

The decision to trade Papelbon should be an easy one then, right? The Phillies don’t need him, he engages in inappropriate crotch grabs, and at age 34 with decreasing velo, his decline could arrive like a baby to a 9-month pregnant woman — any day now. Of course, if GM’ing were that simple anyone could do it. *insert Amaro joke here* *think to self, “gosh, self, that was a good one”* *wait for the laughter to die down*  In reality, there are actual drawbacks to moving Papelbon. Do the cons outweigh the pros? Maybe not, but let’s at least think about the move from all angles before asserting it’s a no-brainer

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Phillies, Brewers in “Serious” Talks Involving Jonathan Papelbon

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports is reporting that the Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers have had “serious discussions” about a trade involving closer Jonathan Papelbon. Specifics of the discussions, such as which players areinvolved, isn’t known. At the very least, it’s nice to hear there may be at least one potential taker when there were none reported earlier this off-season.

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Domonic Brown’s Path to Success

In a roundtable discussion last week, my fellow Crashburn writers and I were given the task of answering this question: “Does Domonic Brown rebound from his horrid 2014? If so, to what degree?” I think I came up with a reasonable enough answer at the time, but the question stumped me and has been rattling around in my head ever since. This summer will see the 5th anniversary of Brown’s Major League debut and in those five years every aspect of his baseball career has been analyzed under a Philadelphia-sized microscope from his May 2013 breakout to his awful 2014 to management’s controversial handling of his early MLB career to his Dallas Cowboys fandom. For this reason, it caught me off guard to realize that the reason I struggled with the roundtable question about Brown’s future was this absurd fact: I no longer knew who Domonic Brown was as a baseball player. Maybe it was the fault of information overload or simply lazy recent analysis on my end, but I set out to update both my understanding of and expectations for Domonic Brown.

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Another Defense of Ruben Amaro, Jr.

One of my pet causes over the last two years or so has been to push back against the wave of overwhelmingly negative invective hurled at GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. for the Phillies’ failures since the end of the 2011 NLDS. Amaro has certainly made some mistakes, but fans and pundits have been quick to write off any decision he has made as foolish before all of the facts are in or the results are known.

The Phillies have been on one of the most obvious downward trends a team could possibly be on: winning the World Series in 2008, losing the World Series in ’09, losing the NLCS in ’10, losing the NLDS in ’11, finishing at .500 in third place in the NL East in ’12, finishing in fourth place in ’13 with 73 wins, and finishing in the cellar last season with 73 wins. The immediate future isn’t much brighter: FanGraphs projects the Phillies to be baseball’s worst team, and they face long odds of winning the World Series. It’s a frustrating time to be a Phillies fan. Oftentimes, that frustration comes out in the form of knee-jerk negativity and cynicism.

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