Phillies Should Shake Up Bench

With the offense slumping, many Phillies fans are begging for changes to be made. Demote Raul Ibanez, call up Domonic Brown; designate Greg Dobbs for assignment; give Ben Francisco more playing time; trade for Mike Lowell. Some of the suggestions are quite large in magnitude; others are nit-pick alterations.

As we found out at the end of May, the culprits for the Phillies’ offensive slump are Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jayson Werth. Aside from trading Werth — something that won’t happen unless the Phillies fall completely out of the playoff picture — there isn’t much that can be done to reduce the impact the three hitters have besides changing their position in the lineup. So any major changes that are made, such as demoting Ibanez and promoting Brown, are unlikely to have a meaningful impact on the offense and there is the chance that any such moves could backfire both in terms of performance and in terms of money.

However, the Phillies can make a change, just for show, and it doesn’t have to have any real impact.

Charlie Manuel relies very heavily on his starting eight and as such, bench players are less meaningful to the Phillies. This is something free agents take into mind when deciding if they should sign with the Phillies — Ross Gload did so in the off-season when he decided to leave the Florida Marlins. He realized he would have less at-bats with the Phillies despite having the same exact role as he had in Florida, but he valued the opportunity to win a championship highly.

Since bench players are nearly invisible in Philadelphia, GM Ruben Amaro can kick Greg Dobbs, Juan Castro, and even Ross Gload to the curb and replace them with similarly cheap bench bats. Dobbs is owed $1.35 in 2010 before hitting his third year of arbitration. Gload earns $1 million this year and $1.6 million in ’11. Castro will make $750,000 and the Phillies can buy out the last year of his deal for $50,000 in ’11. These are not expensive players and the Phillies have a history of paying players to simply go away, see: Geoff Jenkins and Adam Eaton. The Phillies are paying $1.25 million and $500,000 respectively to keep them away.

After eliminating three players, we need some replacements. Who could they be?

  • Andy Tracy, 1B/3B (AAA): 36-year-old career Minor Leaguer who never got a real opportunity at the Major League level despite compiling good numbers in the Minors. Currently hitting for an .834 OPS for Lehigh Valley with a good walk rate. Has played first base exclusively while in the Phillies’ system, but has had experience at third base. Could easily replace Greg Dobbs.
  • John Mayberry, OF (AAA): Decent hitter with some power, but poor strike zone judgment has been his downfall. Had some Major League experience last year with the Phillies, but did not drop any jaws. OPS’ing just over .800 for Lehigh Valley. After Ben Francisco, the Phillies don’t have a reliable right-handed bat off the bench as Juan Castro is impotent offensively.
  • Cody Ransom, 3B/SS (AAA): Minor League numbers have been in decline since 2007 but he has consistently shown decent power with slugging percentages in the high .400’s from 2006-08. Has played mostly on the left side of the infield throughout his Minor League career but has played at third base almost exclusively for the Phillies this year, where he plays above-average defense according to Baseball Reference’s Total Zone fielding metric. Since Juan Castro has been poor with his glove as well as his bat, Ransom would likely out-produce him if given an opportunity.
  • Tagg Bozied, 1B (AA): Has bounced around in the farm systems of five teams before landing with the Phillies. Bozied has compiled some impressive power numbers, mostly in AAA. In AA Reading, he has a .909 OPS including a .535 SLG with 9 HR. Over 91 percent of his defensive innings have come at first base. As a right-hander he could spell Ryan Howard against a tough left-handed starting pitcher and otherwise replace Ross Gload. Bozied has a .933 OPS against southpaws over his Minor League career. The soon-to-be 31-year-old has never gotten the call to the Majors despite the prodigious power numbers.

Besides the obvious benefit of potentially striking lightning in a bottle with one of these replacements, the Phillies also send a positive message to fans — “Hey, we are just as frustrated about the offense as you are, and we’re doing something about it” — without making too much of an impact on the team. And if you believe in the “sending messages” theory in the clubhouse (I don’t), kicking Dobbs, Castro, and Gload to the curb could tell the rest of the squad that no one’s job is guaranteed.

The Major League minimum salary is $400,000 so calling on three of the above four players would cost roughly $1.2 million prorated over the remaining 105 games (about $1 million). That would put them a hairline over the $140 million payroll mark the organization set in the off-season. Essentially, swapping bench bats is a low-risk, medium-reward move with ancillary P.R. benefits. And personally, I would rather pay six guys (three of whom become unemployed) $4 million to OPS .700-ish than three guys $3 million to OPS .400-ish.

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25 comments

  1. Kevin Wilson

    June 10, 2010 07:35 AM

    Should have signed Burrell when they had the chance.

  2. john

    June 10, 2010 08:57 AM

    This article is crap! Yeah dump ibaneaz who is now hitting good and play a guy who doesn’t hit very much. Bring up guys whose sats are declining?? WTF!! Are you trying to make us better or have us tank!?!?

  3. Ryan

    June 10, 2010 10:30 AM

    John – where in “ditch Dobbs, Gload, and Castro” do you see “dump Ibanez”?

    I just reread the article to make sure I didn’t miss something, but the title of the article saying “shake up the bench” and the focus of the article being what it would take to cut ties with Dobbs, Gload, and Castro, and who could replace those three leads me to believe that umm… dump Ibanez wasn’t any part of the sentiment he was passing along.

    We’ve been shooting this around the Phillies message board, and especially heading into 2 interleague road series where the DH is being used, now would be the ideal time to make some moves. If you are going to DH Dobbs and Gload 3 or 4 times this weekend, you are essentially putting a sub .200 hitter in the line up and giving up outs. I’d at least like to see some creativity to create a more productive line up in these sure to be tough series.

  4. Steve

    June 10, 2010 12:39 PM

    Bill –
    Somewhat unrelated question to you, but you made me think of a question when you mentioned you don’t believe in “sending messages in the clubhouse”.
    My question surrounds Jayson Werth, and the days off he’s gotten from Charlie recently. I personally believe Jayson has to swing his way out of his slump, much like Charlie has asked Howard and Utley to do. As a stats guy, do you believe that days off can “clear” a guys head and help him hit better? Just a random question.
    Also, another random thought. Can you guys imagine if the Phils really did fall out of the race, and traded Jayson to the Yanks for Montero and a pitching prospect? Yikes.

  5. Bill Baer

    June 10, 2010 01:19 PM

    I haven’t seen any evidence that days off have any significant effect on a player, so by default I don’t buy into that theory.

    Yeah, it was weird typing the words “unless the Phillies fall completely out of the playoff picture” — it’s a thought that hasn’t really crept into my mind in a long time.

    *snubs nose at the Pittsburgh Pirates*

  6. Sean Cunningham

    June 10, 2010 05:29 PM

    Totally agree. I don’t think the Phils should throw Ibanez to the wolves, but they certainly should get rid of Dobbs. The man is just terrible. Anytime he comes to the plate we might as well as just add the out and not waste the pitchers or our time.

    I’m ready to see Brown play, but I’m not ready to just toss Ibanez aside. Even though he is slumping.

  7. Mark

    June 10, 2010 05:56 PM

    I see the value of keeping Ibanez around and that he’s a proven commodity, but I guess my question is why was Domonic Brown essentially untouchable in the trades for Lee and Halladay? If Werth is resigned next year that means that the Phillies will either cut ties with Ibanez next year or let Brown wait around in the minors for another season.

    I agree though that if they can shake up a minor part of the team first and get results that’s the way to do it. Assuming that doesn’t work and Ibanez continues to play at the level he has for a year I think they would have to call up Brown for an even more radical shake up.

  8. Shamus

    June 10, 2010 08:15 PM

    I don’t think the offense is slumping anymore. Did anybody watch the game the other night when the won the game 10 to 8?

  9. Richard

    June 10, 2010 08:17 PM

    Bill, this is off topic, but I have a question.

    How do I find out how WAR is calculated? I realize there are different methods, but I can’t find anything that will give me an idea how to figure it out. I Google it, and a couple of sites come up, but they tell me nothing that I can make sense of. Any pointers would be helpful, thanks.

  10. Sean Cunningham

    June 10, 2010 09:31 PM

    Shamus, did you see tonight’s game?

  11. Nickinpa04

    June 11, 2010 08:46 AM

    I like the idea of replacing Dobbs, Ibanez,and Fransisco with Tracy, Mayberry and Ransom…..Ransom should have beaten out Dobbs anyway,,,actually he did but Phillies went with Dobbs anyway,,,Tracy is a wiley old vet,,,gets alot of walks, can homer, but, cant hit a curve ball,,,,Mayberry is either a strike out or homer
    I would switch them in a minute,,,then move Brown up to the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs for a month, then to Philly

  12. Spree75

    June 11, 2010 09:40 AM

    If we’re talking about replacements how about finding ANYONE else to play SS. Castro’s numbers as pointed above aren’t the greatest but Valdez isn’t really lighting up the charts either and he has hit into FIVE double plays in the last 10 games. From what I’ve seen he seems to be able to get on base if there isn’t someone there but if there is someone on first it always seems to be 2 outs…

    Maybe the easiest thing would be actually shake up the line-up until some of the hitters actually start hitting? After Victorino and Polanco the entire lineup is set up to fail. Utley isn’t doing much so by the time you get to Howard it’s 2 outs and you’re asking the big to guy to deliver (50/50 proposition imho). Werth and Ibanez haven’t been able to do anything in this slump. Chooch actually gets on base alot but Valdez is right behind to DP him off…

    Has there been any thought of teaming the 4 players that are actually doing things offensively to hit in a row? Something like Victorino, Ruiz, Polanco, Howard? Victorino is the only one of the 4 to have enough speed to be lead off. Ruiz for the season has a 4/10 chance of at least moving Victorino to second and has not been DP prone (although this may be because there hasn’t been an opportunity). Polanco doesn’t strike out and can generally at least Sac-Fly in Victorino. Then let Howard do what Howard does. Rearrange the other 4 hitters however you want. This way at least every other inning you’d have a shot of scoring a run.

  13. mike

    June 11, 2010 03:24 PM

    I say trade Ibanez and Baez they both stink.I hate to say this but I think we need to trade Ibanez,Baez,a bench player(Dobbs),Blanton, and a prospect such as Flande,Basterdo,or Hyatt for Oswalt,Haren,Lee or a good type A pitcher.Then bring up Dom Brown.And they need to sign Jayson Werth even though he is in a funk!

  14. jacqueline

    June 12, 2010 04:40 AM

    Bringing up Ransom, Tracy, and Bozied = season over. Ransom an above average defender? I’d be laughing were it not so painful to watch him at third. He’s already got 15 errors there. He’s also just as likely to swing and miss as he is to connect. Sure Tracy could replace Dobbs, but why pay Tracy to do what Dobbs does? I’m a fan of Tracy’s, but he’s no spark off the bench. As for Bozied, he’s now putting those numbers up in double-A. John Mayberry is still hurt. Juan Castro is on the team for his defense.

  15. hk

    June 13, 2010 07:25 AM

    “And personally, I would rather pay six guys (three of whom become unemployed) $4 million to OPS .700-ish than three guys $3 million to OPS .400-ish.”

    Bill, if you could guarantee me that Tracy, Bozied and Ransom can OPS .700-ish in the bigs, I’d say do it in a second. The money’s irrelevant. However, it seems to me that the Phillies bench needs more of a boost than that which could be provided by a career minor leaguer, much less three of them. That’s just swapping deck chairs on the Titanic. I also think it would be a negative PR move with the fans if they call up a career minor leaguer to address their offensive woes. If they really want to improve the bench, they have to start giving at least 1/2 of the OF starts to Dom Brown, thereby making Ibanez the #1 pinch hitter in at least 1/2 of the games.

    Move #1 is call up Dom and release Dobbs. Move #2, since Dobbs is their only backup 3B – if you call what Dobbs does in the field “playing 3B” – is to replace Castro or Valdez with Tracy or Ransom. Move #3, is to release Gload when Rollins returns.

  16. Bill Baer

    June 13, 2010 07:49 AM

    The Phillies won’t call up Brown unless they are playing him full-time. They feel it’s more efficient for him to get a full slate of at-bats in the Minors than two or three starts a week at the Major League level.

    Eric Bruntlett has a career .633 OPS in the Majors. I’m pretty sure Andy Tracy, Bozied, and Ransom could top that.

  17. hk

    June 13, 2010 09:06 AM

    Yes, Bruntlett does, but we are comparing the minor league trio to Dobbs and Gload, not Bruntlett. Dobbs has a career .722 OPS while Gload’s is .732. This year’s small sample size for Dobbs and Gload aside, do you really think replacing Dobbs and/or Gload with one or two of the minor league trio is more than shuffling deck chairs?

    Personally, I could not care less about PR nor do I care about the panic-stricken fans calling into local talk radio shows, but I do think this move would result in more negative PR than positive. Do you really think fans would respond positively to a move like you suggest?

  18. Bill Baer

    June 13, 2010 10:28 AM

    I think so. Perhaps I’m hearing a segment of the population that is not truly representative, but I’m hearing everything from ‘drop Ibanez off at the corner and never look back’ to ‘trade Werth and call up Brown’ to ‘Old Yeller Greg Dobbs’. From what I can tell, the fans just want something to be done.

    I’m not advocating that bringing up Tracy, Mayberry (who’s a little banged up at the moment), et. al. will turn the Phillies into the 1928 New York Yankees. What I’m saying is that regardless of what happens, the bench is going to start hitting better (regression to the mean), but calling up the Minor Leaguers has ancillary P.R. benefits that standing pat does not.

    I could be completely wrong about that, but if the Howard contract extension shows us anything, it’s that the Phillies’ front office pays attention to what the fans want.

  19. bureaucratist

    June 13, 2010 10:56 AM

    Bill, what team are you watching? The Phils ARE out of contention. It is time to trade Werth, Polanco, too, if he has any value. Even–I am not sure if he has a no-trade clause–Halladay, while he has max value. Is there any indication that the Phils will finish above .500 this year, and not lose 100 games next year? This has gone on too long to be called “a slump.” This is now the state of affairs. It is a bad team. Chase Utley’s career, for whatever reason, appears. Look at the stats; they remained good, but have been on marked decline for three years, and the decline has accelerated this year, for whatever reason.

  20. hk

    June 13, 2010 12:39 PM

    Bill,

    I think the fanbase is calling for something more substantial than Tracy, Bozied or Ransom for Dobbs or Gload. If they’re not going to call up Dom Brown until they’re ready commit to him as a regular, they should pursue a trade for a bench player / part-time or platoon starter. If Alex Gordon can play a passable LF, I’d like to see them take a stab at getting him from KC for 50 cents on the dollar. They could start him a few games a week at 3B, a few games a week at LF (vs. LHP’s) and have him as the top PH the remaining games. If not Gordon, players like Ty Wigginton or Austin Kearns could be part-time starters, part-time improvements on the bench.

  21. hk

    June 13, 2010 12:52 PM

    Bill,

    Slightly off-topic, is there a way to find out the Phillies team BABIP prior to, and during, this most recent slump? While they clearly are not hitting a lot of HR’s, it seems like they are also hitting into some bad luck (i.e. Werth’s smash that turned into a 5-4-3 DP in the 1st inning). Thanks.

  22. bureaucratist

    June 13, 2010 01:15 PM

    hk,

    Phils have a .278 BABIP since May 23, the day of the Wakefield game (135 H – 6 HR) / (591 AB – 6 HR – 121 K), if anyone wants to check my numbers. Prior to that, (389 H – 49 HR) / (1439 AB – 49 HR – 279 K) = .306 . Take it for what you will. Doesn’t seem like horribly bad luck to me. Seems like a bad team. This is the first time I’m really admitting this to myself.

    Got the info from baesballmusings.com‘s Day by Day database.

  23. hk

    June 13, 2010 01:35 PM

    bureaucratist,

    Thanks for the stats and the info that baseballmusings.com has a day by day database. If the stats are correct, I agree that the problems have less to do with luck and more to do with 6 HR’s in 591 AB’s during the stretch following 49 HR’s in 1,439 AB’s.

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