Checking in on the Remaining 2008 Phillies
With the long-awaited expiration of Ryan Howard‘s notorious contract extension this offseason, the last remaining member of the 2008 World Series Champions departed the organization. Though none are still Phillies, some of the heroes of that age are still out there attempting to trade their baseball-playing abilities for money in the upcoming season. Let’s take a quick look at where they all stand in those efforts.
Will Play in the Majors
Hamels is the only player here who is still within the confines of the prime of his career. He has two more guarantees seasons under contract with the Rangers and, once again, figures to be one of the top pitchers in their rotation and in baseball as a whole. Steamer projects him to throw over 200 innings with a 3.91 ERA in 2017, which won’t garner him many Cy Young votes, but should inch him closer to borderline Hall of Fame candidacy.
Entering the final year of the massive contract the Nationals dangled in front of him to lure him away from Philadelphia, Werth projects as the team’s starting left fielder. His defense has fallen off since his days in right field for the Phillies, but Werth was roughly a league-average hitter in a full-time role in Washington last season. Steamer projects a .257/.343/.415 line in 2017, which is easily the best projection among hitters on this list and good for slightly above league average offensive production.
Madson is slotted as the closer for the Oakland Athletics in 2017 with two years remaining on the three-year deal he signed with the team last offseason. After three years not pitching in the majors due to injuries, Madson’s return has been nothing short of remarkable. It’s disappointing that he’ll largely be forgotten on a woeful A’s team. Steamer likes him for a 3.86 ERA, 26 saves, and a 20.3 percent strikeout rate next season. Here’s hoping he gets traded to a contender.
Happ did not appear in the World Series for the Phillies in 2008, but he did pitch in the regular season for them and remains in the league. He’s listed as the No. 3 starter in Toronto’s rotation (although he’s listed ahead of Marcus Stroman, so that that for what you will) so he will at least have amply opportunity to continue his odd late-career run of success.
Ruiz is perhaps the only other lock on this list to appear in the major leagues. After playing a non-trivial role in the Dodgers postseason run in 2016, they traded him to the Seattle Mariners. He is listed behind Mike Zunino as the backup catcher on the team’s depth chart and should hold onto that spot. Steamer projects a .251/.327/.361 line in a backup role.
Might Play in the Majors
News has been relatively quiet around free agent Chase Utley, which is honestly a bit surprising after he played full time for the Dodgers in 2016 at a roughly league-average level. I guess it’s fair to be concerned about a 38-year old with a chronic knee condition, but, why are the only rumors around him that the Dodgers have kept in touch with his agent? Steamer projects a decline–he’s 38 after all–with a .248/.314/.378 line in 2017. I’m a little surprised that he appears to be on a path to only a minor league contract, but an injury to a starting second baseman could easily get him in the majors in 2017.
In December, Rollins signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants that includes an invitation to major league Spring Training. With Brandon Crawford and shortstop and Joe Panik at second base firmly entrenched as starters, J-Roll will only be realistically seeking a bench role. In 41 games with the White Sox last season, Rollins hit .221/.295/.329. Steamer projects him to bounce back slightly as a 38-year old with a .230/.301/.351 line. Competing against Kelby Tomlinson and Ehire Adrianza for a bench spot, Rollins certainly has a chance to play in the majors again.
There doesn’t seem to be much interest in the former MVP and for good reason. He’s old, (still) can’t hit lefties, and can’t play in the field. In other words, he’s a platoon DH. That’s not a thing, so unless a team gets really desperate, we’ve probably seen the last of The Big Piece in the majors.
Blanton shined in a full-time relief role for the Dodgers last season. He posted a 2.48 ERA and peripherals (25.4 percent K-rate, 3.33 FIP) that suggest it wasn’t the big of a fluke performance. He’s a free agent and has not yet signed with a team. In a game that may be moving more toward relievers who can be effective for multiple innings, Country Joe will find a home and pitch in a major league bullpen in 2017.
Despite not playing in 2016 after failing to make the Cubs team out of Spring Training, The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported over the weekend that a Mystery Team (TM) has offered the Flyin’ Hawaiian a contract. He played in nine games for the Iowa Cubs (AAA) last season with underwhelming results before calling it quits. If the Mystery Team rumor is true, it is likely no more than a minor league contract and Spring Training invitation, which doesn’t move the needle much on his chances to play major league baseball in 2017 either.
No, God No!
Kendrick is a free agent after spending most of 2016 with the Angels AAA affiliate. That he didn’t pitch in the majors for the Angels tells you all you need to know. Kendrick is even a stretch as organizational depth at this point.
Between Hamels, Werth, Madson, and Happ, that’s a pretty solid collection of current major league contributors who won a World Series nearly a decade ago. While players like Rollins, Victorino, and Howard are likely to fade into the sunset sooner rather than later, it’s impressive that both core and fringe contributors to that 2008 championship team are still impacting real-life major league baseball games.