Quick Overview of Early Rumors

Jayson Stark published perhaps the most thorough list of names related to the Phillies so what better time to examine the off-season than now?

Clubs that checked in on [Zack] Greinke have also come away with the impression he wouldn’t approve a deal to ANY major-market East Coast team (Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets).

One can appreciate Greinke’s reluctance to go into a major media market having been hampered by social anxiety and depression earlier in his career. It doesn’t seem like the Phillies would have legitimately been part of any discussions involving Greinke, but imagining the starting rotation with him included induces nearly as much drool as Cliff Lee.

Here’s one Phillies source on the odds of his team finding a way to keep Jayson Werth: “No chance. None. Zero.” In the end, it might not even be the annual dollars that will force the Phillies to move on. It’s their unwillingness to go beyond three or four years for a player who will turn 32 next May.

Goodbye, Jayson. It was nice knowing you.

So where might the Phillies turn? Reports of their interest in guys like Magglio Ordonez, Pat Burrell and Andruw Jones appear highly exaggerated. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. continues to talk up Ben Francisco, at least in a potential platoon with Domonic Brown — or with Ross Gload if they decide Brown isn’t ready. But the Phillies would still shop for another right-handed-hitting outfield bat. One name we’ve heard a lot: Jeff Francoeur, who has told friends he’d love to play for Charlie Manuel.

Let’s start from the top. Ordonez demolishes left-handed pitching (career .411 wOBA) and would be great in a platoon with Raul Ibanez but Patrick Berkery of PhillyBurbs.com suggests that a one-year deal for the former Detroit Tiger could cost about $10 million. While Ordonez is still quite potent with the bat, that price is too high for the cash-strapped Phillies.

Burrell could accept something more team-friendly and also hits well against lefties (career .381 wOBA). However, the Phillies already have someone who can handle left-handers in Francisco (albeit not quite as well) and will assuredly earn a salary in the vicinity of $1 million as the Phillies will likely avoid going to arbitration with the outfielder. Unless Burrell is willing to sign for a lot less money than he’s used to making, the better option is Francisco.

Jones hits lefties about as well as Francisco (career .355 wOBA), but he has the baggage of being a severely declining 34-year-old outfielder. Why sign a Francisco clone when you already have Francisco?

Francoeur. I think the letters “ROFL” sum up the thought. He does not hit lefties as well as perceived (.346 wOBA). Frenchy is actually so below-average against right-handers that his production against lefties seems great by comparison. And again, Francisco is at least an equivalent player still under team control for three more years. Why not give him the shot to platoon with Ibanez?

The snippet above talks about platooning with Brown, but I’m assuming GM Ruben Amaro isn’t into sabotaging the progression of his organization’s top prospects.

The free agent the Phillies have been most aggressive about trying to re-sign isn’t Werth. It’s right-hander Jose Contreras, who struck out 57 in 56 2/3 innings in his first full season in the bullpen.

The issue with Contreras is his price, of course. The Phillies took a $1.5 million flier on him last year and it worked out quite well for both sides. The problem with fliers is that, if the players succeed, their price jumps considerably. While relievers with a 9.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 are not plentiful, the Phillies should look elsewhere unless Contreras accepts a salary close to what he earned last year — very unlikely.

The Phillies have a limited budget. Overpaying for relief pitching is not smart with these constraints.

Amaro wouldn’t confirm that, but did say: “We’ve made contact with 40 free agents, predominantly bullpen guys.” He also said: “Left-handed relief is a priority for us.”

Two names that could top that shopping list: Mets escapees Pedro Feliciano and Hisanori Takahashi.

Feliciano would be a great addition to the Phillies’ lefty-empty bullpen. Over the course of his career, Feliciano has a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against fellow lefties, good for a 2.88 xFIP. Feliciano made $2.9 million last year. As a 34-year-old who led the league in appearances in each of the last three seasons, the wear-and-tear on his arm is a concern. However, he has not showed any signs of slowing down as his second-half production last year was better than the first-half, and his overall stats match those of seasons past, for the most part.

Takahashi has slightly better strikeout and walk numbers against lefties compared to Feliciano, and has the added benefit of being able to start in a pinch having started 12 games for the New York Mets in 2010. Takahashi would likely come at a cheaper price than Feliciano, making him the more attractive option to the Phillies.

In other news, Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that the Phillies have signed former Atlanta Brave and Washington National Pete Orr. Offensively, Orr is around the same level as Eric Bruntlett and has experience playing both second and third base. The hot stove is burning!

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44 comments

  1. Cole Handsome

    November 11, 2010 11:22 AM

    I wonder if the Nationals would consider trading Josh Willingham, who will become a free agent at the end of the year. He’s always hit very well against lefties, though he has injury problems. I know the Phillies have coveted him in the past. He’s great in a platoon with Ibanez or Brown, plus he can take over the position in a pinch

  2. Bill Baer

    November 11, 2010 11:27 AM

    Willingham has hit lefties well (career .383 wOBA) but with Burrell freely available — and not a Type A — I think signing the free agent is better than making the trade, unless the Nationals are willing to take absolute garbage.

    Dane Sardinha for Willingham. Make it happen, Rube!

  3. Phylan

    November 11, 2010 11:51 AM

    They’re not actually going to platoon Dom Brown next year, right? Right????

  4. Cole Handsome

    November 11, 2010 12:13 PM

    @ Bill Baer

    Burrell’s fielding aside…don’t you feel that Burrell is one off-season (whiskey) away from a terrible collapse? His penchant for long slumps with little contact doesn’t complement the core of this lineup (ahem, Howard). The same goes for Jones, who has already failed in Chi. as a platoon player. Francoeur can’t work an at bat, and that will only be exaggerated in limited play.

    What’s your take on Diaz? He can hit the ball to right, too and he’s filled this role before. I agree that Magglio would be the ideal candidate, but desire to start everyday may even trump money. Can’t under-estimate pride.

  5. Jake

    November 11, 2010 12:20 PM

    Maggs would be an expensive injury prone option. I’d like young and on the field as the motto for 2011. Give francisco and Brown at bats, make Jimmy, Chase, and Ryan perform up to standards and win with pitching a defense.

    Love the aggressive moves to sure up the bullpen.

  6. Bill Baer

    November 11, 2010 12:36 PM

    @CH

    I’d rather save a few million and go with Francisco.

    I don’t read much into the Burrell rumors. They’re fun to read about but he’s almost always been that way, dating back to his time at the University of Miami. And he’s been productive in the vast majority of his seasons.

    Business-wise, it’s probably better to bring back Burrell over Diaz since fans would welcome him back. Both hit lefties about the same though Diaz plays better defense with a weaker arm.

    But again, I’m looking for a Francisco-Ibanez platoon in left.

  7. Phillies Red

    November 11, 2010 12:46 PM

    So I know this is not a popular (or perhaps even sane) thing to say, but would Frenchy really be the end of the world as a 5th outfielder? I’m in full agreement with Bill on this: don’t platoon Brown, except every now and again. Instead use a Francisco and Ibanez platoon in left, which, btw, has the benefit of improving the defense in that corner. And if that’s your approach, why not have a fastball hitting, decent outfielder as your last gut off the bench? Signing Frenchy to play on a regular basis is criminal, but signing him to be a cheap 5th outfielder who bats 5 times a week seems fine to me.

  8. Scott G

    November 11, 2010 12:47 PM

    Jeez, Bill. You sure know how to get my blood boiling. Saying things like “cash-strapped Phillies” is absurd.

    If the Phillies sign Burrell, after they didn’t sign him two years younger instead of a 37 year old man, I will be absolutely furious. RE-SIGN WERTH! It’s the best move. I’d rather the Phillies lose 20 million a year on Werth than 10 million on Ordonez. Werth is good for ~5.0 WAR or 4 mill/WAR compared to Ordonez (~2.0 WAR) who would be 5 mill/WAR. This is seriously outrageous. The Phillies could absolutely afford re-signing Werth if they really wanted to. They should want to.

  9. Bill Baer

    November 11, 2010 12:50 PM

    Yeah, Scott, they could re-sign Werth but they’re not going to give themselves the payroll space to do so. Whether we like it or not, they set a payroll ceiling — based on a percentage of revenue as far as I can tell, and based on what I’ve heard — and stick to it.

    Signing Werth at $15-20MM AAV handicaps them from filling out the rest of the roster adequately, and leaves them no flexibility to make in-season moves such as trades, call-ups, etc.

    I’d love to see them increase payroll by more than they are going to, but it’s not realistic.

  10. Phylan

    November 11, 2010 12:55 PM

    You can’t have Francoeur as a 5th outfielder because he will bitch and moan about how deserves to start every day, because he is convinced by his idiotic acolytes in the media that he is something more than a replacement level outfielder who should’ve offed himself in some cheap hotel room on an AAA road trip years ago

  11. Phillies Red

    November 11, 2010 01:01 PM

    @Phylan, well, if that’s really true, then no thanks, obviously. And I’ve certainly read the rumors that he wants to play everyday, something he will not do on the Phils, I’m assuming. But if he could keep his mouth shut and just bat against lefties, well, worse things have been done to the Phils roster than Frenchy.

    I guess another perspective is that Mayberry is likely just as good again lefties as Francoeur; he’s also cheaper, plays better D, and likely wouldn’t be the idiotic distraction that Franc would be. The problem is that the Phils love veteran guys, and I have a hard time seeing them go with a Vic, Raul, Brown, BenFran, and Mayberry outfield.

  12. Steve Kusheloff

    November 11, 2010 02:12 PM

    Pat Burrell??? Give me a break. Mr. Rally Killer. Mr. Strike Out when you need a hit. Mr. Weak Pop-up to second base three times a night. Do not Do not Do not be fooled by his numbers. Except for a couple of brief periods, he was of little to no use to the Phillies when he was here.

  13. Paul Boye

    November 11, 2010 02:38 PM

    Pat Burrell is the best, I won’t stand for this!

  14. Danny

    November 11, 2010 02:38 PM

    whaddup steve “the troll” kusheloff?

  15. dafonze

    November 11, 2010 02:49 PM

    I like the idea to platoon Fransisco and Gload in right field. Send Brown down to the minors to get more experience and more at-bats. Brown can’t stay up with the Phillies and sit on the bench or share time with someone. He needs some everyday play. So he can develop some more. He also needs someone to show him how to hit a breaking ball.

    Spend money on the bullpen and use Fransisco and Gload in right. Bat them eighth and move Chooch up a spot in the line up.

  16. Dave

    November 11, 2010 02:56 PM

    Bill,

    Where do you think Russell Branyan ends up? He’s some what of a folk hero in my family.

    Will he land a starting DH gig in the AL? Can I try and pass him off as a “passable” utility corner infielder? He’s country strong, dontchaknow.

    Back on topic:

    I hope we land Feliciano. I’m tired of watching him pitch to Utley and Howard.

  17. bill

    November 11, 2010 03:00 PM

    Above comment nailed it. I’d be happy to see Feliciano on the Phillies just so I don’t have to see Howard and Utley strike out against him.

  18. Drew

    November 11, 2010 03:02 PM

    I just really hope the Francouer rumors are smoke and mirrors. Please god keep Frenchy far from Philly!! The only FA that intrigues me is Maggs. If we can afford him I’d be happy with that.

  19. sean

    November 11, 2010 03:22 PM

    dafonze, what more experience is brown going to learn in AAA. he needs to play everyday in the major leagues and learn to hit major league pitching. the platoon thing reminds me of geoff jenkins/jayson werth platoon that was going on in 2008. the platoon mate is just a backup plan in case of failure

  20. KH

    November 12, 2010 12:12 PM

    This whole Werth thing is really disappointing. To be honest I can see this whole thing blowing up in the Phillies faces terribly. The team is starting to get older and older players almost always decline. If the Phillies let Werth walk and Rollins, Utley, and Howard don’t all have big bounce back years they are going to be leaning even more heavily on the starting pitching this year then they did last year. I just don’t understand all the talk of budgets. I can’t believe for a year or two the Phillies couldn’t go significantly over budge. Middleton is a billionaire!

  21. KH

    November 12, 2010 12:19 PM

    Im tired of hearing about Francisco/Gload as a platoon replace for Werth too. That will be a disaster replacing an all-star with two career bench players. Congratulations on making the Phillies 3-4 games worse right there. Isn’t there a way we could foist Ibanez on another team by offering to like 75% of his salary lol. We give the 25% we saved to Werth in a back loaded deal. Lol, Im going crazy here!

  22. Richard

    November 12, 2010 12:42 PM

    The problem with simply asserting that the Phillies can spend whateve they want, or that Middleton is a billionaire is you fail to consider the implications of the remark. If the Phillies simply pay whatever Werth is likely to command on the market, then what do they do next year, or two years from now, when the other core players’ are up for extension? When does it end? After all, lots of teams’ owners are exceedingly wealthy, and even the Yankees have some kind of budget. It’s about the marginal value of additional wins. I’d love to have Werth back, but on the one hand I can’t blame him for wanting more years and I can’t blame the Phillies for not wanting to give the extra years. (Now, would that they had had the same qualms about Howard’s extra years. Really, the details and timing of the Howard extension are simply bizarre.)

    At some point a team needs to turn its talent over. When and how to do it is tricky, especially with a team that appears to still have chances to win with its current group.

  23. Walter Poole

    November 12, 2010 12:57 PM

    Give me a break – “CASH STRAPPED” !!! With >100 sell-outs ???

  24. Dan

    November 12, 2010 01:36 PM

    KH, Francisco was a starer before we acquired him in the Lee trade. So calling him a career bench player is just false.

    Also, as has been said before, the best idea would be to let Dom play every game (with a couple days off), and platoon Ibanez and Francisco in left.

  25. Scott G

    November 12, 2010 02:06 PM

    I swear I did not post as KH despite the fact that we are saying the same exact thing.

    The point is, it will end here, Richard. If the Phillies keep Ibanez, he’s done after this year. Lidge is done after this year. Oswalt can be our after this year. Rollins and Utley are up soon. They are also on the decline. No reason to re-sign J-Roll after his contract is done. His offense has been putrid recently anyway. You can re-sign Utley if you want to. The point is, the team is set up to win this year. Maybe next year. Werth is a huge part of that.

    Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels.. Utley, Howard Rollins (defensively), Victorino (RHB), Ruiz, Polanco. That team is set to win. You add Werth instead of Ibanez, and that line up gets a lot better. This enormous payroll situation doesn’t last much longer.

    Soon, Lidge, Oswalt, Rollins, Utley, and Ibanez all come off the books. Why break up a great team when just one player needs a contract, when in the VERY near future 4-5 guys can be taken off the books?

  26. Bill Baer

    November 12, 2010 02:20 PM

    I think you have to extend Rollins. What better shortstops will be out there? The Phillies have none in their system.

  27. Richard

    November 12, 2010 02:57 PM

    a) as Bill says, you have to extend Rollins b) ok, Lidge, Ibanez, are off the books, but then you have Werth for, what?, 5 more years? Howard for eternity?

    let’s say they re-sign Werth and next year the team wins, either as much as this year, or as much as the WS, and they do it with bouncebacks from their key players…. then 2012 becomes the year they’re keyed to win “now”, those guys are still viable, so the pressure is on to extend Victorino? sign a big replacement? then you extend Hamels? Ok, I’m rambling.

    My point is it’s not a simple matter of “they have the money, dammit, they can and should sign Werth”, and to assert that it is is disingenuous. Maybe they do sign Werth. If so, next year will be fun (it will be anyway), but we have no idea how the following years will play out, even though we know that certain big contracts come off the books. The FO has to account for that, has to plan for a turnover.

  28. Steve

    November 12, 2010 05:30 PM

    @Richard, wouldn’t count on it being a fun year anyway without Werth next year. If you look at the Phillies record in 1 run games this year they were exceedingly lucky, if they were .500 in those games they basically would have tied the Braves for 1st. You can expect them to regress to the mean next year in the close games, and I don’t think anyone can argue they are a weaker team if they don’t sign Werth, so I would project them for 2nd place in the East, battling for the Wild Card.

    If they are unfortunate not to make the playoffs, it will be clear why they should have signed Werth. They are fielding a team with the FO mentality of the SF Giants on limited revenue, trying to squeak through regular season and hope to have dominant pitching carry them through the playoffs. The FO should consider that the Philly fan can turn on a team, and it will be a lot more expensive to build the team back to a point where they are selling out CBP, than to spend the cash to maintain a winner. It’s easier and less expensive to attract free agents to a winner, they should leverage that before they fall back to the rest of the crowd.

  29. Scott G

    November 13, 2010 10:46 AM

    Why does the FO have to begin the turnover with their 2nd best (or arguably best) positional player?

  30. Kevin H

    November 13, 2010 11:33 AM

    My prediction with Werth is that he will pull a Chan Ho Park and not receive the type of money the Phillies have already offered him, but they will have moved on. I don’t see him close to being 50% better than other OFs making $10 million and I don’t see a lot of big market teams in the race.

    But why, oh why, would the Phillies want to extend Rollins? In 2010 the only regular players with lower OPS in the NL were: Bourn, Y. Molina, M. Cabrera, Schumaker, O. Cabrera, Theriot, Morgan & Escobar. In 2009 the only regular players in the NL with a lower OBP were: Clint Barmes and Benji Molina. So, for the last 2 years he has been one of the worst, non-pitcher, batters in the NL and he isn’t getting any younger or better. You can get a lot of guys who can field and be one of the worst hitters for minimum salary. If they actually work with the hitting coach and improve its a big bonus. Rollins says he doesn’t need a hitting coach despite his horrible hitting.

  31. Bill Baer

    November 13, 2010 02:13 PM

    Rollins’ OPS+ the last two seasons were 87 and 86. Not great, but also not bad. He plays good defense at a premium position, and also runs the bases well.

    Over the last two seasons, Rollins ranked 11th in WAR at 5, and that includes missing half of last season. He is hardly one of the worst players in baseball and the Phillies really have no other options regardless.

  32. Richard

    November 13, 2010 03:13 PM

    It’s funny you mention the Phillies record in 1-run games, Steve. Indeed, it was outstanding, and usually that’s a sign of a team winning more games than it ought to, according to pythags, true talent level, etc. Often when a team performs so well above the norm in 1-run games, we do indeed see a regression the next year; the team overall falls back, doesn’t win so much, and so on. It could certainly happen with the Phillies next year. On the other hand, we could see bounceback from players like Utley and Rollins (I think we will, in both cases), and stay more or less even offensively, compared to this year, but with a better distribution of runs.

    Oddly enough, I found myself watching a replay of game 1 of the 1970 World Series between the Orioles and the Reds. The announcers noted that both teams were excellent in 1-run games, but the Orioles were otherwordly. They went 40-16 in 1-run games that year. Of course, they are famous for having had great pitching, a great top of the rotation. They won the WS that year and went back to the Series in 1971. I think a full year of H2O + healthy Blanton will mean a lot on this point.

    Long-run, the Phillies were amazingly stupid to extend Howard. Everything else they have to do will be circumscribed by that decision, whether we think they should have an unlimited budget or not. (If they’d offered Werth the deal he reportedly turned down before they extended Howard, I wonder if he’d taken it.)

  33. Scott G

    November 13, 2010 03:43 PM

    Bill,

    I get that Rollins plays a premium position. I understand that having a good defensive shortstop is MUCH more important than having a good defensive RF. However, Werth is MUCH better offensively than Rollins. I think it’s also safe to say that Werth is as good in RF as Rollins is at SS (acknowledging that it’s not as important position to fill), when comparing them to other players at their position.

    Why is it okay with you to replace one of the best offensive weapons in the league with crap for lack of a better word (probably will be worse defensively as well), but it’s not okay with you to replace Rollins with a comparable offensive shortstop. I mean while there are extraordinary SS and mediocre SS, SS tend to be pretty good and not tremendously variable once they reach the ML level.

    The replacement doesn’t need to come from in-house, and I don’t understand why you have been insisting that it does.

    reasonable FA SS this year:
    Uribe, Renteria, Jeter, Orlando Cabrera

    2012: Reyes, Betancourt, Rollins, Infante

    You wouldn’t rather have Uribe/Renteria/Cabrera and Werth instead of

    Rollins and Francisco/Francoeur/Gload?

    Again I’m not including Brown because I’ve been insisting lately that the whole key to this Werth thing is to do whatever it takes to trade Ibanez and some portion of his contract.

    Brown does not NEED to replace Werth.

  34. Bill Baer

    November 13, 2010 03:51 PM

    I’ll be posting an article on Monday on re-signing Rollins, so let’s wait until then to have that debate.

    However, I would like to address that there is no Werth-Rollins dichotomy. One has nothing to do with the other.

  35. Scott G

    November 13, 2010 04:08 PM

    I guess I just don’t like how you’re saying the Phillies don’t have any options but to re-sign Rollins. “The Phillies have no other options”. That’s absurd because I just pointed out options. I think those options are more viable than the Werth replacements so I don’t understand why you’re not saying, “the Phillies have no options but to re-sign Werth”.

  36. Richard

    November 13, 2010 04:10 PM

    “I think it’s also safe to say that Werth is as good in RF as Rollins is at SS (acknowledging that it’s not as important position to fill), when comparing them to other players at their position.”

    No, it’s not.

  37. Scott G

    November 13, 2010 06:01 PM

    Since I don’t know many defensive stats (although I’d love to learn), I will site UZR/150 stats from 08-10. I have sorted through min inn. of 650. The number is the rank among RF and SS alike.

    Werth: 4, 8, 15
    Rollins: 2, 10, 2

    Maybe not as good, but its closer than their offensive rankings.

    Werth: 5, 7, 3
    Rollins: 4, 19, 13

    It’s hard for me to say, but Utley and Werth are very close offensively with Werth possibly getting the nod, and it boggles my mind how they think they can get acceptable production out of people in house or Francoeur.

  38. joe (SFG fan)

    November 14, 2010 04:03 AM

    what do you guys think it would take to get a Rowand for Ibanez deal done – how much extra in money or players would the Giants have to kick in? Rowand has 2 years left at about $12 per. just wondering…

  39. hk

    November 14, 2010 10:00 AM

    Ibanez is better than Rowand, hits left-handed, will make less in 2011 and is not signed for 2012. Therefore, I can’t see – or at least I hope I can’t see – the Phils even considering swapping Ibanez for Rowand unless they re-sign Werth and the Giants pay all of Rowand’s 2nd year and give up something else of value.

  40. CH Phan

    November 16, 2010 04:13 PM

    Scott G: I’m with you re: the alleged in-house production. If that’s really the case, then why did they re-sign Werth & keep him for the past 4 yrs? I guess mean Brown (rookie, whose “experience” consists of the Dominican League for 2wks in Dec) & Francisco (who was not good in the NLCS). Please, don’t get me started.

    Bill: “Signing Werth at $15-20MM AAV handicaps them” — I know what you’re saying. But the argument frustrates me. 1st, they have the money. I know in their heads, they think they’re deterring players from future bank ‘hold ups’(even though they established the financial threshhold w/the ‘infamous’ Howard contract). 2nd, it’s the many & varied other contracts they’ve signed & acquired that are handicapping them.

    Let’s add this up: So far they’ve said Werth’s ‘too old’; asking for ‘too much money’; and/or wants ‘too many yrs’. In any case, players older than & the same age as Werth, who cost more & have incl. more yrs, were acquired or signed BEFORE Werth’s contract talks. The argument doesn’t hold water (at least for me). I suppose they’re claiming Werth’s contract is the one that’ll break their back. What nonsense.

    Wow, I dislike these owners, by extension – RAJ (his Ibanez contract, & his classless talk @ press conferences), and their PR attempts to make Werth seem old & greedy — so the fans will be ‘happy’ to see him go.

    Meanwhile they raised the ticket prices in the good seats as well as the cheap seats anyway, in the middle of the worst recession since the 30′s. All things considered, they should be ashamed of themselves (or in Philadelphia? thx W.C. Fields (even tho it’s a misquote, I couldn’t resist)).

  41. Bill Baer

    November 16, 2010 07:24 PM

    I completely agree that the Raul Ibanez contract handicapped them and has espoused as much. However, that contract cannot be undone.

    Signing Werth does handicap them. If Amaro didn’t give Ibanez a third year, we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  42. Jonelle Jolls

    January 28, 2011 02:03 PM

    Caffeine has also been linked with anxiety so it might be worth attempting to do without ordinary tea coffee and coke to see if that makes a difference.

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