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.

Year BF K% BB%
2010 240 10.4 6.3
2011 211 13.7 7.6
2012 362 24.3 6.6
2013 149 16.9 14.9

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:

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.

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31 comments

  1. nik

    December 03, 2013 11:19 PM

    Good move to get Lincoln, he was legitimately excellent in 2012.

  2. Ryan

    December 04, 2013 08:20 AM

    *YAWN*

  3. Bob

    December 04, 2013 09:31 AM

    You get a relief pitcher who can throw in the 90s and is a good chance to make the team and is under 30 for a backup catcher and a minor leaguer? Not a bad deal.

  4. Will

    December 04, 2013 10:06 AM

    Lincoln failed as a starter moved to the pen and had a good year there in 2012. Last year he was about as bad as you can get including a 50% fly ball rate. That won’t play well here. 2012 appears to be an outlier. AAA bound before July assuming he makes the opening day roster.

    Nieves is good defensively. Wake me the next time he hits a HR or draws a walk. Pray that Ruiz stays healthy. If Nieves has to play we’ll be pinch hitting for him with pitchers and that will deplete the bullpen

    Nice moves Ruben

  5. Pencilfish

    December 04, 2013 12:31 PM

    The lateral moves you speak of may be a prelude to a big splash on a SP and a late-inning RP. Tanaka, Santana, Garza, Jimenez and Mujica are still out there. It seems RAJ still has north of ~$20M to spend before hitting the luxury-tax threshold, and the moves so far this off-season seem to be setting up something big.

  6. SteveH

    December 04, 2013 12:49 PM

    Can anyone tell me why we went with Byrd instead of looking into Corey Hart? I can’t imagine he will get much more then a one year deal with incentives. Seems like a very high reward kind of move.
    I also hope if we are going to make a pitching splash that it’s not Ubaldo Jimenez. I trust him as far as I can throw a truck.

  7. Bubba0101

    December 04, 2013 12:57 PM

    Please, no Ubaldez. Garza and Santana are good but will both require >3 year deals which Id like to see the phillies stay away from. And nothing more than 2 years for a reliever, please. Im begging you ruben.

  8. hk

    December 04, 2013 01:10 PM

    I’m with Bubba. I would hate to see this team commit to anyone who requires a deal beyond 2016 (except Tanaka). I don’t see the wisdom in overpaying for Santana, Garza, Jimenez or Mujica when this team seemingly has to have many things go right and very few, if any, things go wrong for them to be a contender. Tanaka is a different story because he’s young and because a lot of his cost – the posting fee – will not count against the luxury tax, so the team will have payroll flexibility when it is ready to contend again.

  9. Pencilfish

    December 04, 2013 01:25 PM

    hk,

    RAJ may well be waiting for the posting system to be settled before going after Tanaka. Trouble is, teams with deep pockets (Yanks, Red Sox, Dodgers, etc) probably are waiting too. The cost of signing Garza, Jimenez or Santana will not be determined until we know what happens with Tanaka.

    I’m not very optimistic we can sign ANY SP to a reasonable contract, because of the contracts handed out to Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Jason Vargas, Tim Hudson, etc, so far.

  10. hk

    December 04, 2013 01:53 PM

    Pencilfish,

    Based on the amounts given to those that you mention plus Tim Lincecum, I believe that Garza, Jimenez and Santana will most likely get unreasonable amounts as well. In that case, I hope the Phils don’t settle for Bronson Arroyo. The market inefficiency so far this off-season seems to be the trade market in which teams that have been willing to take on salaries (the Nats with Fister, the A’s with Johnson) have added talent without giving up much in return. If the market for Brett Anderson is anything like the market for Fister, I hope that the Phils are in on him.

    Concerning Tanaka, I have read rumors that the new posting system might have a maximum bid and that the tie-breaker for those teams that do bid the maximum will be worst record. If that is the new system and the Phils bid the max, they will have to hope that the six teams that finished below them in the standings all pass. Unfortunately, I would expect at least one (the Cubs) and maybe another (the Mariners) to be involved.

  11. Josh G

    December 04, 2013 04:41 PM

    I doubt the market for Anderson will be like Fister. Oakland seems to have a good sense on buying low/selling high unlike Detroit.

  12. hk

    December 04, 2013 05:01 PM

    Dombrowski’s been a pretty good GM over the years. Between the limited returns that Detroit got for Fister, Baltimore got for Johnson and Colorado got for Fowler, it does not look like the salary dump trade market is bringing back much return. Maybe you’ll be right and Billy Beane will buck that trend.

  13. Pencilfish

    December 04, 2013 06:04 PM

    hk,

    News report says the Japanese Baseball League has accepted the $20M max posting limit. The report says details available soon.

    The Mariners need to add power to their lineup, and it has been *rumored* (emphasis here) they are talking to Cano. Not sure if Tanaka makes sense for them, but the Cubs are definitely a team looking for front-line pitching.

  14. hk

    December 04, 2013 06:20 PM

    I saw that. Tanaka’s team is getting screwed. It will be interesting to see what the tie-breaker is. At $20M, Houston could get into the mix, even if they did so solely to eventually trade him.

  15. Just Bob

    December 05, 2013 10:21 AM

    Lincoln has % K of 23.6% (8.9 K/9) as a reliever which is just fine. Bigger issue is how his % FB due to his stuff will play especially at CBP and his ability to not get behind in the count so much this year due to his erratic fastball control.

    Lincoln is out of options too so he will make the Opening Day roster which hurts the likes of De Fratus and Rosenberg a bit.

    Still don’t understand why he is basically panned. He certainly is an upgrade over the likes of some of the bums that Phils trotted out the past few seasons in the 6th-7th innings including last year (Robles, Garcia, JC Ramirez).

  16. Phillie697

    December 05, 2013 11:11 AM

    A max posting fee means nothing; it just means now multiple teams will submit max fees, and the real negotiation is now with the player. In the end, it’s actually a detriment because more cap space will now be used to sign the player, as opposed to be able to tell the player, “we can’t give that fat contract because your previous team got all the money.” It’s bad for both Tanaka’s team and any team that signs him, but it’s certainly good for Tanaka.

  17. joecatz

    December 05, 2013 11:19 AM

    what the new posting system does is essentially make Tanaka NO WHERE NEAR the “bargain” he was for high payroll teams competing against the luxury tax.

  18. Beez Nutz

    December 05, 2013 11:23 AM

    Anyone think they can move Rollins (if he approves), Revere or Mayberry and maybe a prospect if they have to (I doubt they do) for Kemp?

    This would allow the dodgers to sign Cano and put Dee Gordon on the bench / utility position for a year

  19. JM

    December 05, 2013 11:40 AM

    Rollins won’t go anywhere until he owns those franchise records he so covets

  20. Beez Nutz

    December 05, 2013 12:44 PM

    LOL yeah i know, that’s why I said if he approves.

    I’d have to think he’d be willing to go to LAD. What player wouldn’t given his situation.

    I also wonder if the phils are dumb enough to let him hit 500 AB’s thus initiating his 2015 option at 11mm

  21. Pencilfish

    December 05, 2013 12:52 PM

    Phillie687, hk, joecatz,

    If rumors are correct, teams tied for the highest posting can negotiate with Tanaka, essentially making him a FA. It was said small market teams complained they were shut out of the old system because of the high postings. They will now be shut out by the large contracts handed to these players.

    If this is true, Tanaka won’t be cheap at all. Then again, his Japanese team may decide not to post him, given the “low” cap on the maximum posting value. If this happens, Tanaka and many others won’t be available until they hit FA, essentially killing the whole mechanism.

  22. Bob

    December 05, 2013 01:09 PM

    Accord to Fangraphs, Lincoln had FIP of around 5.5, 4.0, 4.0, and 5.5 over the last four years. So, he ranges from average to awful on that scale.

  23. LTG

    December 05, 2013 01:15 PM

    Pencilfish,

    I don’t think the new rules are for the Tanakas of the NPB. They are for the middle-tier talents. Small market teams now won’t be shut out of mid-tier Japanese players that happen to be desired by richer clubs. Of course, the Tanakas are out of reach, just as the Canos and Ellsburys are.

  24. Pencilfish

    December 05, 2013 01:48 PM

    LTG,

    Not sure it will help. Small market teams sometimes compete with richer teams for mid-tier NPB players, just as they do today. It will depend on supply and demand. Teams have given a few big contracts to mid-tier pitchers (ie, Kazmir’s 2yr/22M, Vargas’ 4yr/32M, Lincecum’s 2yr/35M, etc) because supply is tight.

    Unless the new posting system restricts demand by richer teams, I don’t see how small market teams can compete. In the end, developing your own players (and watching them leave in FA) seems to be their only choice.

  25. Just Bob

    December 05, 2013 01:55 PM

    Lincoln’s splits as a reliever:

    2011: 5.14 FIP, 3.51 xFIP
    2012: 3.48 FIP, 3.17 xFIP
    2013: 5.48 FIP, 5.91 xFIP

    Yeah I know it isn’t the best indicator of a reliever’s success but the Phils essentially gave up very little/nothing and added some desperately needed RHP relief depth to the organization.

    Certainly worth taking a gamble on and hoping that his fastball control is better this year and he doesn’t get snake bit by too many HRs.

  26. Jeff T

    December 05, 2013 02:37 PM

    What do I do with all this turkey bacon?

  27. Schufan

    December 05, 2013 03:54 PM

    Nieves gets $1.12 M + incentives to be a bad and old back up catcher? Lots of teams have rotten backup catchers. It’s not a big deal. They don’t pay them, however.

    Amaro’s insistence on paying through the nose for completely interchangeable roster filler may be his strangest trait of all.

  28. Bubba0101

    December 05, 2013 04:57 PM

    While I’m glad we didn’t sign mujica for 3 yrs and 24 mil, we really couldn’t entice him with a better offer than 2 years, 10 mil? Who’s making these decisions anyways?

  29. Larry

    December 05, 2013 10:42 PM

    So now they are paying more than double for a catcher with no power and actually older than Chooch? I guess Kratz at age 33 was too young for this team?

    So our catchers going into the 2014 season will be ages 35 and 36? Obvious lack of durability at that position will bite the Phils in the ass in 2014. It shouldn’t shock anyone when they both get injured at the same time, while the Phils scramble for a 3rd backup. Is RAJ trying to set the modern record of the oldest team ever assembled?

    I read about a month ago they also signed a 38 year old reliever to a minor league deal. (Shawn Camp)

    This makes me believe RAJ will try to sign Bronson Arroyo who will be 37 years old next season. He’s old enough to join this team. However, his durability is pretty damn good. Still he’s mediocre at best.

    Roy Oswalt wants to play, is he signed yet? lol Would anybody be shocked if 51 year old Jamie Moyer is signed at this point? Is this really happening?

    A mix of young talent with veterans does make sense, but now it’s basically all old veterans with just a few young guys. I never thought I’d see something like this. So far this has been a really bad offseason. Still a ton of time left, but……..ugh RAJ is the ultimate Phillie killer.

  30. Phillie697

    December 06, 2013 11:25 AM

    @Larry,

    You just hit it on the nail on something all of us frequent commentators and the blog authors have been making fun of for a few years now… There isn’t a player on the wrong side of 30 that RAJ doesn’t find attractive. Veterans yo, veterans.

    Major League players don’t need Social Security. They have RAJ for that.

  31. Larry

    December 07, 2013 02:10 AM

    @Phillie697,

    Players in their early 30′s can easily still be in their prime IMO. Now he is signing guys on the wrong side of 35. (Way too many) This is unacceptable to me. For you, it must be far worse. It just doesn’t make sense, yet so far 81 people who read this site think the offseason moves have been good according to the Crashburn alley poll……Yeah kind of crazy. I don’t get it. I’m officially just as frustrated as you.

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