Phillies Acquire Brad Lincoln, Wil Nieves
In the midst of some very hilarious pre-Winter-Meeting developments, the Phillies have made two negligible acquisitions. As Jim Salisbury reports, the Phillies have traded Rob Rasmussen and Erik Kratz to Toronto for reliever Brad Lincoln. The fact that this trade was officially announced by Phillies personnel prior to any rumor or leak should clue you in to its significance.
Lincoln will turn 29 this coming May, and is eligible for his first year of arbitration in the 2015 season. Beyond simple biographical data, the picture gets pretty grim. Lincoln works primarily with a fastball that sits at 93 miles per hour and a hard curveball that doesn’t exactly collapse out of the zone, but breaks in hard on left-handed hitters. This is a good approach for whiffs, but Lincoln doesn’t seem to get them.
Lincoln strikes out 17.4% of hitters in his career, a figure that bodes better for a fifth starter than someone coming out of the bullpen. It’s mildly encouraging that he hit a much more suitable mark in his biggest sample. He’s also made some spot starts and has demonstrated the ability to log 50 or more innings in a season, which is useful. Ultimately, Lincoln is probably the long man in the pen, flashing great stuff but unable to miss bats and prone to Lindblom-ian dinger issues.
Rob Rasmussen merits no real comment; he’s an organizational piece that will fill out some affiliate roster in Toronto’s system. Erik Kratz takes his very-poor-man’s J.P. Arencibia act north of the border, after getting the most plate appearances of his career in 2013, owing mostly to Carlos Ruiz‘s early season PED suspension and subsequent foot injury. Unfortunately, Kratz’s contact rate flagged, and he couldn’t exploit the decent reservoir of raw pop that he had dipped into in previous seasons.
Replacing Kratz is Wil Nieves, signed to (evidently) a one year major league deal, of an amount that has yet to be disclosed, as of 11 pm EST. The Phillies are presumably banking on Nieves’ most recent 295 plate appearances being more representative of his current talent than the 823 before that. If that’s true, he’s an apparent upgrade over Kratz, and a perfectly reasonable backup catcher option, roughly 10% below average at the plate, in terms of OPS. If one were to take Nieves’ entire career as a barometer, he’s lamentably similar to Paul Bako in productivity.
As David Murphy noted, the Phillies view Nieves as a superior defender to the Phillies’ previous backup. Kratz by no means possessed Carlos Ruiz’s acumen behind the dish, but, as our own Eric Longenhagen points out:
@ByDavidMurphy 33 wild pitches allowed in 380 innings. Every other catcher in NL with that many WPs caught at least 900 innings.
— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) December 4, 2013
This may be partially attributable to the staff that Nieves worked with in 2013. Trevor Cahill, Patrick Corbin, and Wade Miley accounted for the lion’s share of wild pitches in the Arizona rotation, and they’re all noted sinkerballers. Still, the figure is concerning, and the current regime of front office operatives have a bit of a reputation for standing by anecdotes that are entirely counter-factual.
Setting today’s moves in the context of yesterday’s tender decisions, and the more noteworthy goings-on around the league, emphasizes just how lateral the whole offseason has been for the Phillies thus far. Most of their transactions are harmless, if somewhat objectionable, but the Phillies are not in the position to have a merely inoffensive offseason. As many have pointed out, by Pythagorean expectation they were lucky to win even the 73 games that they did in 2013. For them to breach even the fringe of competition, substantial improvements are still needed. The winter meetings are 6 days away.