Report: Phillies Offered Scott Feldman A Two-Year Deal Before He Signed with Houston

From Buster Olney:

Since 2008, Scott Feldman is one of eight starting pitchers to throw at least 750 innings (~125 innings per season) and post an ERA of 4.60 or worse:

Player ERA IP From To Age
Kevin Correia 4.62 963.1 2008 2013 27-32
Barry Zito 4.64 942.2 2008 2013 30-35
Scott Feldman 4.64 819.2 2008 2013 25-30
Joe Blanton 4.79 933.2 2008 2013 27-32
Nick Blackburn 4.81 807.0 2008 2012 26-30
Livan Hernandez 4.98 818.0 2008 2012 33-37
Roberto Hernandez 5.03 810.1 2008 2013 27-32
Luke Hochevar 5.15 828.2 2008 2013 24-29
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/8/2013.

Feldman looks a bit better once you adjust for league and park effects (he spent almost his entire career in the American League, and in the hitter-friendly Ballpark in Arlington) but he’s essentially Joe Blanton. He has decent strikeout and walk rates but he struggles from the stretch and he is victimized by the occasional home run.

Free agent starters to have earned a two-year contract this off-season include Tim Lincecum ($35 million), Tim Hudson ($23 million), and Scott Kazmir ($22 million). Pitchers to earn a salary in the neighborhood of $7.5 million (the average annual value of the Phillies’ offer to Feldman) on a one-year deal include Dan Haren ($10 million), Josh Johnson ($8 million), and Ryan Vogelsong ($5 million). Comparatively, paying Feldman two years over $15 million wouldn’t have been a tremendous blunder.

However, the Phillies’ interest in him doesn’t make a whole lot of sense since he’s expected to produce at the league average or worse. Adding one or two wins with him could take the Phillies from 75 wins to 77, effectively meaningless. If you’re the Phillies, you either need to let your young talent have a chance to contribute (Pettibone, Adam Morgan if he’s healthy enough) or you need to go for high upside (e.g. Johnson, Kazmir). In other words, as the Phillies are presently constructed, the marginal value of a win is low. Once you have about an 85-win team, the marginal value of a win increases tremendously:

(via Phil Birnbaum’s post on the marginal value of a win; click to enlarge)

With the exception of Marlon Byrd, the Phillies haven’t added anyone that will add a significant amount of positive value to the team — and that’s only if you don’t view Byrd’s 2013 production as fluky. If you start with the assumption that the Phillies are a 75-win team (they won 73 last year and had an expected record of 66-96), then they need to add about 8-10 wins of talent before fringe signings like Feldman start to make sense. And unless the Phillies consider themselves in the running for Matt Garza and Shin-Soo Choo (or trading for David Price), it’s hard to see them adding the requisite talent. Realistically, the Phillies should be looking to sign players on cheap one-year deals and trading for players with multiple years of team control remaining. If you luck into some success in 2014, awesome; if not, you’ve set the team up well going forward.

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6 comments

  1. JRVJ

    December 08, 2013 10:54 AM

    I don’t agree with this rationale: “If you start with the assumption that the Phillies are a 75-win team (they won 73 last year and had an expected record of 66-96), then they need to add about 8-10 wins of talent before fringe signings like Feldman start to make sense.”

    One of the ways to get to 85 wins is to improve in a bunch of positions, a win here and a win there. Also, no team controls who gets signed when.

    Obviously a team has to sign players as they come available and “bank” those players, because otherwise (e.g., if they wait to get Tanaka before going after minor improvements), the remaining pieces may not be there when you are ready to go after them.

  2. Larry

    December 08, 2013 10:59 AM

    “However, the Phillies’ interest in him doesn’t make a whole lot of sense since he’s expected to produce at the league average or worse. Adding one or two wins with him could take the Phillies from 75 wins to 77, effectively meaningless. If you’re the Phillies, you either need to let your young talent have a chance to contribute (Pettibone, Adam Morgan if he’s healthy enough) or you need to go for high upside (e.g. Johnson, Kazmir)”

    Exactly Bill. They have to stop overpaying for mediocre players. Upside guys like Johnson for 8 mil on a 1 year contract is a great gamble/bargain. They need to save the money and not even think about a guy like Feldman. That’s a waste of 15 mil. Use that money for David Price. Go for that trade. It would be like getting Cliff Lee talent at age 28. That’s a guy you sign and trade for. That’s how the Phillies could start to get back to a 90 win team.

  3. LTG

    December 08, 2013 12:02 PM

    JRVJ,

    I agree with you that it is possible signing Feldman would have been one piece in a large puzzle wherein the marginal value of his 1-2 wins is large. But the scuttlebutt seems to be that the Phils are not looking to make the big acquisitions but rather small ones (a back-end starter and some relievers). This is why I ultimately agree with BB’s analysis and have even advanced it in favor of trading Papelbon for the best deal possible right now.

    On the “a win here, a win there” strategy: where are those wins going to go? They have to gain 8-10 wins at least to become a real contender and not a prayer contender. Let’s say that’s 6 players who average 1.5 wins each. How will these players accumulate those wins? The starting lineup has at most 2 open spots, if Asche and Revere are relegated to the bench or traded away. And removing Revere from the starting lineup removes some of the wins you are trying to add (jury’s out on Asche in this respect). So, let’s say you can add 2 of these “win here, win there” players to the starting lineup with a net gain of 2 wins. That leaves 6-8 wins to add through the rotation and the bullpen. If we’re adding a league average starter, it will shift KK or Pettibone to the bullpen. Since KK and Pettibone are essentially league average starters themselves, this move just improves the bullpen and provides some rotation depth. As a bullpen upgrade it’s probably worth at most 1 win due to the reduction in IPs for whoever moves to the pen. So adding to the starting rotation adds 1 win. That’s 3 added and 5-7 left to go. Those will have come through bullpen upgrades. 2 3-win relievers won’t happen. 3 2-win relievers is pretty difficult as well. On top of this, reliever’s performances are pretty volatile. So, it’s not at all certain what they would be paying for and undoubtedly they would have to overpay because everyone wants bullpen security. There just isn’t room on the roster for the “win here, win there” strategy to work.

    tl;dr – “a win here, a win there” won’t work because the Phils have too many roster commitments already in place.

  4. sweatingisnormal

    December 08, 2013 12:47 PM

    Thank God. If the team is going to suck, at least bring in players that are interesting to watch – much rather see a Zambrano over the likezzzzzz of Felmans not named Marty.

  5. Mark

    December 08, 2013 12:54 PM

    The front office needs to be realistic if they expect to compete year after year and stop acting like they are living in a fantasy world. The smart ones compete and the rest fall by the wayside.

  6. Just Bob

    December 09, 2013 11:16 AM

    The reason they would sign Feldman is that because MAG isn’t a ‘sure-fire’ option as a starter, Morgan is a massive question-mark due to shoulder issues, and even Pettibone’s shoulder injury had prevented him from throwing off the mound even in early Oct.

    Phils need another starter. Just a matter of what they are willing to pay for one of the secondary guys (non Garza, Tanaka) types and more importantly how long a contract.

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