Phillies Don’t Offer Arb. to Burrell and Moyer

David Murphy/Paul Hagen:

National League sources confirmed to the Daily News that the midnight deadline to offer arbitration passed with the Phillies passing on all four of their players eligible for free agency: Moyer, leftfielder Pat Burrell and righthanders Tom Gordon and Rudy Seanez.

As expected, Gordon and Seanez didn’t get arbitration offers. Almost as if to maintain some sort of equilibrium, the non-offers to Burrell and Moyer are equally as unexpected. Most people will react as if GM Ruben Amaro is crazy, and he very well may be, but let me be the first to defend his decisions here.

Burrell made $14 million last season and already declined a two-year, $22 million offer (an avg. annual salary cut of $3 million) from the Phillies. In arbitration, he was likely to make slightly more than the $14 million he made in 2008.

Moyer made $3.5 million last season and $10.5 million over his two-year deal with the Phillies. Because of his uniqueness as a 46-year-old pitcher, it’s hard to put an estimate on what he’d have been awarded in arbitration, but I’d say around $8 million.

Both Burrell and Moyer are Type A free agents, which means that if the Phillies had offered one or both arbitration and either declined, they would have been given two draft picks as compensation. The risk is that a panel of arbitrators will decide how much of payroll is dedicated to one or two players if they accept, and the Phillies’ front office may think they can do better than Burrell and Moyer at their likely prices.

Amaro and Co. felt that Burrell wasn’t worth two draft picks or $15-17 million, and Moyer two picks and $6-10 million. He’s not wrong.

There is an abundance of good-hitting corner outfielders in the free agent market, and the Phillies have strongly pursued two: Raul Ibanez formerly of the Seattle Mariners, and Rocco Baldelli, formerly of the Tampa Bay Rays. It makes sense to decline arbitration to Burrell if there’s been any indication of interest on either Ibanez or Baldelli’s part to accept a contract that is shorter in length and/or lower in salary.

Putting aside intangible arguments — Burrell is part of a winning clubhouse atmosphere, he enjoys playing in Philly and is used to the fans, etc. — for a moment, the only downsides to Ibanez over Burrell is that Ibanez would be another left-hander in a LH-heavy Phillies lineup, and he’ll be 37 in June. And the downside to Baldelli would be that he’d have to be part of a platoon considering his health condition.

Neither player has the on-base skills that Burrell has, particularly in drawing walks, and neither player has quite the power that Burrell has, either. Obviously, losing Burrell is a downgrade with either player offensively.

According to the Fielding Bible, Ibanez (-18) is about as poor a defender as Burrell (-20), and in the few defensive innings Baldelli has played in his career, he’s been about average as a CF according to RZR.

Putting it all together, how many wins is each player worth? Sky Kalkman puts both Burrell and Ibanez at just over two wins above replacement (WAR), and doesn’t have a listing for Baldelli. Considering that he’d be primarily facing left-handed pitchers (34.5% of the Phillies’ PA came against LHP)  if he joined the Phillies, he might be worth just over one WAR. Kalkman uses $4.84 million as the cost of one win from a replacement-level free agent, thus concluding that both Burrell and Ibanez are worth about $11 million per season. Again assuming, we might say that Baldelli would be worth $6-8 million.

What about Jamie Moyer? He was awesome last season and has been good for 190+ IP every season after 2000.

Don’t expect 2008 Moyer. His 3.71 ERA is much lower than his 4.32 FIP. That’s not surprising considering that the Phillies were the best defensive team in baseball (+74 according to John Dewan in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2009). Can we expect the Phillies to be that good defensively in 2009? Don’t count on it. Using statistics from Dewan in the Annual, look at how much of a jump in defensive production occurs between 2007 and ’08.

Area: 2007 | 2008

Middle Infield: +25 | +71

Corner Infield: -2 | +7

Outfield: -5 | -4

Total: +18 | +74

Obviously, the middle infield — Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins — jumps out at you. Utley was, by far, the best defensive second baseman in baseball (his +47 was well ahead of second-place Mark Ellis at +26). Rollins led all shortstops at +23, just ahead of Yunel Escobar at +21. This, of course, according to the Fielding Bible.

Given Utley’s recent hip surgery, it’s reasonable to expect that Utley won’t be quite the defender he was in ’08.

The subtraction of Burrell (-20) might offset any regression to the mean by the rest of the gang, but not if he’s replaced by someone like Ibanez, who is nearly as poor a defender.

The point is that Moyer, whose batted balls were ground balls 44% of the time last season, benefited greatly from an overachieving middle infield that is bound to regress next season.

There’s also the fact that Moyer doesn’t have great numbers at Citizens Bank Park. In his career, he has a 4.60 ERA there.

The Phillies already have three of their rotation spots set with Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, and Joe Blanton. The other two can be filled internally with Kyle Kendrick, J.A. Happ, Adam Eaton (please don’t), Carlos Carrasco, etc. Or, now that the Phillies are not obligated to pay Burrell and Moyer about $25 million, they have the flexibility to go after a big name free agent starter like A.J. Burnett or Derek Lowe.

In the end, not offering arbitration to Burrell and Moyer is a good move, but only if Amaro has considerable fallback options so that the Phillies don’t start the season with both Kendrick and Eaton in the rotation and Geoff Jenkins as the everyday starter in left field.

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1 comment

  1. ShooterB

    December 02, 2008 04:34 PM

    Maybe they can do a little better than Burrell’s price tag, but I don’t see very many impressive names on that free agent list. Ibanez or Baldelli would be OK (kinda), but won’t the prices be driven up on them as well?

    Milton Bradley, Juan Rivera? Personally, I’d like to see what happens when you put 2 kinds of crazy (Bradley & Brett Myers) in the same clubhouse.

    Or it could be a sentimental homecoming for the Yankees’ bastard child Bobby Abreu.

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