Veterans Day

What would a Phillies off-season be if they weren’t constantly linked to old, expensive free agents? MLB Trade Rumors, citing ESPN’s Buster Olney, reports that the Phillies have expressed interest in outfielders Josh Hamilton and Cody Ross, two veteran outfielders each seeking a multi-year deal. A month ago, I examined the market for center fielders. On Hamilton, I wrote:

With Hamilton, the Phillies would likely need to commit at least five years and nine figures for a player that will be 32 years old in May and tends to miss time due to questionable health issues. […] In the past, Hamilton has also had issues with drugs, alcohol, and religion. Hamilton may lead all center fielders in wOBA since 2008 at .387, but he has plenty of other issues that should scream “somebody else’s problem” at the Phillies.

Cody Ross would come at a considerably cheaper price compared to Hamilton, but the Phillies would still need to commit a lot of money and years to a 32-year-old. MLBTR lists the asking price for Ross at three years, $25 million. Phillies fans already have incentive to dislike Ross, but he is a slightly above-average hitter with sub-par defense, spending a majority of the past two seasons in the outfield corners.

In honor of Veterans Day, let’s take a brief stroll back in time to examine how the Phillies have fared when signing free agent veterans to multi-year contracts. Note that re-signings (such as Jimmy Rollins and Jose Contreras) were excluded.

  • December 16, 2008: 37-year-old Raul Ibanez, OF (3 years, $31.5 million)

Ibanez had a white-hot first half of 2009, authoring a 1.027 OPS before suffering a groin injury on June 17 (shortly after his 37th birthday). He returned a month later on July 11, but wasn’t the same. From his return to the end of the season, his OPS was a meager .711. Regardless, he finished the season with an aggregate .378 wOBA, a career-high and the sixth consecutive time he’d posted a wOBA of .345 or better. It was downhill from there, as his wOBA declined to .343 in 2010 and .306 in 2011, the final year of his deal.

Factoring in his incredibly poor defense in left field, Baseball Reference had him barely breaking even in his three years with the Phillies, at 0.6 Wins Above Replacement. It wasn’t as if Ibanez’s failure was a shocker. Friend of the blog Eric Seidman (@EricSeidman) criticized the deal as soon as it happened, as did many others. Seidman called the contract “unequivocally poor.”

  • December 1, 2009: 33-year-old Brian Schneider, C (2 years, $2.75 million)

The Schneider signing was seemingly innocuous and he was productive in 147 PA as the back-up to Carlos Ruiz in 2010. However, things quickly soured in 2011 as he barely finished with an OPS above .500 while missing time in May and June due to a thigh injury. Despite the bad showing, the Phillies brought Schneider back on a one-year deal in 2012 with similar results. The 35-year-old catcher finished with a .637 OPS and missed a total of 65 games due to a right ankle sprain and that same thigh injury.

When Schneider went down, Erik Kratz came up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley and did for the prorated Major League minimum salary what Schneider never did: hit. Although his production was certainly an outlier for a journeyman, another organizational staple such as Dane Sardinha could have done for a fraction of the cost. The Schneider signing didn’t hamstring the Phillies, but it was more or less unnecessary. Veteran back-up catchers are nearly as overrated as veteran middle relievers.

Although the end of this contract was brutal — Polanco missed 35 percent of his games in 2011-12 with an aggregate .657 OPS — Polanco paid for himself when he was on the field as one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball. The other free agent options available to the Phillies at the time included Adrian Beltre (would’ve been nice) and Chone Figgins (phew!). Beltre was coming off of a poor season with the Seattle Mariners, so he ended up settling for a one-year, $10 million deal with the Boston Red Sox, then parlayed that into a five-year, $80 million deal with the Texas Rangers. At the time, however, Beltre was seeking a four-year deal, which was why the Phillies backed off.

Despite hitting poorly and missing a lot of time due to injuries, Polanco lived up to his relatively cheap deal. It is easy to play Monday morning quarterback and say the Phillies should have signed Beltre, but they failed for reasons other than their third baseman over the last three years.

  • December 31, 2009: 32-year-old Danys Baez, RP (2 years, $5.25 million)

The Baez signing is one of the most frustrating despite its relative cheapness. (When asking if I missed anyone for this list, Michael Baumann replied to me in an email, “I got to Danys Baez and almost threw my computer against the wall.” I’m guessing in the style of The Room.) He was awful over 47.2 innings in 2010, but the Phillies never sought to cut him or reduce his workload. He finished with a 5.48 ERA. Bound to him for another year, Baez returned in 2011 in even worse form. On July 16, Baez allowed four runs in one inning, bumping his ERA up to 6.25 and the Phillies finally cut him.

As a Phillie, Baez posted a 5.81 ERA in 83.2 innings. At -1.47, he had the fifth-worst WPA/LI (context-neutral wins) among all relievers in 2010-11, trailing only John Grabow, Chris Resop, Jeff Fulchino, and Chad Qualls. Baez is perhaps the best example of why one should never sign a veteran relief pitcher to a multi-year, multi-million-dollar contract, especially if he isn’t going to be used in high-leverage situations.

  • December 14, 2010: 32-year-old Cliff Lee, SP (5 years, $120 million)

Lee broke the Phillies’ long-standing policy of refusing to commit more than three years to any pitcher. The year prior, the Phillies had inked fellow starter Roy Halladay to a three-year, $60 million deal. If any pitcher was to have the rules broken for him, one would have thought Halladay would be the benefactor, but the right-hander willingly left money on the proverbial table to stay in Philadelphia.

With Halladay’s blessing, the Phillies broke their own rules, giving Lee a massive contract, nearly equaling the extension given to first baseman Ryan Howard. In the two seasons since signing the deal, Lee has been quite good. He finished third in NL Cy Young balloting in 2011, posting a 2.40 ERA (a career-low) while posting career-highs in innings pitched and strikeouts. This past season, Lee endured some first-half struggles that earned him widespread criticism from Phillies fans, but he finished the season as a down-ballot Cy Young dark horse with a 3.16 ERA and a league-leading 7.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The Lee deal was certainly risky, but given his track record and the Phillies’ position after the 2010 season, it was not a bad decision by any means even though the contract ends after his age-36 season. Lee still has several good years left ahead of him at the very least if he can avoid the dreaded injury bug that has plagued the Phillies’ old roster in recent years.

Papelbon was very, very good for the Phillies in 2012 despite some memorable failures (Jordany Valdespin, anyone?). However, the four-year, $50 million deal was the richest ever for a reliever and it came on the heels of the end of the Brad Lidge era. After Lidge’s perfect season in 2008, the Phillies signed him to a three-year, $37.5 million deal, betting on more of the same in the future. In those three years, Lidge pitched a grand total of 123.2 innings with a 4.73 ERA, missing time at various points due to a knee, elbow, and shoulder injuries.

The Papelbon contract is incredibly risky because the Phillies ante so much for so little reward — Papelbon’s 70 innings pitched in 2012 represented less than five percent of the Phillies’ total innings pitched. By comparison, his $11 million salary put him in the same echelon as Jimmy Rollins, whose 699 PA represented more than 11 percent of the team’s total PA taken. Like Lidge, Papelbon has a clean bill of health through his age-31 season, but even that is no guarantee.

  • December 9, 2011: 31-year-old Laynce Nix, OF (2 years, $2.5 million)

The Nix deal is relatively innocuous. At the time, I wrote, “it’s hard to react to this signing with anything more than a shoulder shrug.” Nix posted a .727 OPS in 127 PA, mostly filling in at first base for the injured Ryan Howard. Later in the season, he started some games in the outfield after Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence had been traded, but was not very productive. Nix will earn $1.35 million in the final year of his deal in 2013, which isn’t too bad as he provides the Phillies a left-handed power bat off the bench.

Overall, the Phillies broke even more or less, but the bulk of the success or failure still hinges on the remainder of Lee and Papelbon’s deals. The Phillies missed on most of the non-mammoth contracts aside from Polanco, and even some would argue to label the Polanco era a failure. It illustrates why hitching your wagon to an old player for more than one year isn’t always the best idea. Hopefully, the Phillies are more cautious in their endeavors and learn from their past mistakes.

The Pros and Cons of Kevin Youkilis‘s Jon Heyman thinks free agent third baseman Kevin Youkilis could be a fit for the Phillies:

As the saying goes, “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Youkilis looks incredible with the beer goggles of the barren third base market, despite posting the worst offensive numbers of his career at the age of 33. Once a fixture of the successful Boston Red Sox teams of the mid- and late-aughts, Youkilis has been a shell of his former self, playing in 122 or fewer games in each of the last three seasons while in an offensive freefall, his weighted on-base average going from an elite .419 in 2010 to .366 and .328 in the last two seasons.

Even a .328 wOBA, though, is above the league average for third basemen and would represent a significant offensive upgrade over what the Phillies have had dating back to the Scott Rolen years.

2003 .279 .317
2004 .329 .333
2005 .285 .330
2006 .292 .347
2007 .303 .338
2008 .306 .338
2009 .302 .331
2010 .305 .323
2011 .283 .304
2012 .309 .327

However, Youkilis presents the same risk to the Phillies as Polanco did. Both players have played in exactly 344 games since 2010 and their injury histories, if printed out, could become the leading cause of deforestation. Since 2010, Youkilis has had issues with: his right knee, groin, lower back, right elbow, right ankle, right thumb, left ankle, left hip, left thumb, left foot, left thigh, abdomen, and his left forearm. Many of those were recurring issues as well. The veteran, who turns 34 in March, is the living, breathing, baseball version of Home Improvement’s Tim Taylor — at least as much as Polanco is.

When the Phillies consider bringing in Youkilis, they have to account for the very real possibility that he will miss 30 percent of the season or more as he has done in the last three seasons. Even if we are really optimistic and give Youkilis credit for still being an average player on an everyday basis, the Phillies would be forced to use a replacement-level player in his absence.

Youkilis earned $12 million and was set to earn $13 million in 2013 if the Chicago White Sox hadn’t bought out the remainder of his contract, while the Phillies declined Polanco’s $5.5 million option. If the Phillies were to sign Youkilis for at or around what Polanco was set to earn, they would be implicitly saying that Youkilis is a better bet to be an average-ish player and that his cratering in 2012 was more a fluke than anything else.

When he was on the field in 2012, Youkilis was a shadow of his former self. His walk rate plummeted to a career-low ten percent (which is still relatively good, however), his strikeout rate nearly tied a career high at just over 21 percent, and his .174 isolated power was his lowest since 2007. Throughout his career, Youkilis had been a BABIP-reliant player, posting an aggregate .336 mark between 2006-10, the 25th-highest among all qualified MLB hitters in that span of time. His BABIP dropped to .296 and .268 in the last two seasons, an indication that he is making worse contact with pitches.

In particular, his performance against fastballs has waned, especially on inside pitches. The following heat maps illustrate his transformation into a predator of the outer-third of the strike zone.

This is indicative of a player whose bat speed has hit the skids. You don’t have to think very hard to remember a player in the same shoes recently — Scott Rolen in Cincinnati. He finished 2010 with a .369 wOBA, but injuries and old age relegated him to a .294 wOBA in 269 plate appearances in 2011, and a .314 wOBA in 330 plate appearances in 2012. Specifically, Rolen’s performance against “hard” pitches went from .362 in 2010 to .291 in 2011 and .311 in 2012. This is the fate that awaits Youkilis.

If Youkilis can be had for a few millions of dollars on a one- or two-year deal, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but the bearded warrior is in the free agent market looking for what could be the last contract of his career. GM Ruben Amaro did give Raul Ibanez an ill-advised, three-year $31.5 million contract after the 2008 season, so there is precedent for this kind of overvaluation of free agent veterans. Realistically, the Phillies are as likely to get equivalent production out of a third base platoon involving Kevin Frandsen and, say, Eric Chavez, without tying themselves up to an unmovable contract.

There are plenty of sirens in the free agent sea, beckoning wayward GM’s with their songs of clubhouse presence and experience. Youkilis is one of them, along with Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn. A disciplined GM can guide his ship dutifully past the allure, avoiding the inevitable shipwreck that will define future seasons.

The Pros and Cons of B.J. Upton

By far the most frequent question I have been asked on the ol’ Interwebs lately pertains to free agent center fielder B.J. Upton. He has been linked prominently to the Phillies already this early in the off-season, and it makes sense. The Phillies need a center fielder, have some money to spend, and B.J. Upton is a center fielder who would like to receive money. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports shone some light on some of the recent hires the Phillies have made and their relationship to the potential signing of Upton:

Bart Braun, previously a special assignment scout with the Rays, joined the Phillies last month as a special assistant to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

Steve Henderson, the Rays’ hitting coach from 2006 to ’09, will fill the same role for the Phillies after spending the past three years with the club as a minor-league coordinator.

The moves did not go unnoticed by the Upton camp, and in the words of one player agent, “there are no coincidences in baseball.”

It just makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? It’s hard to ignore all of the signs, but in the end, it does come down to Upton’s expectations and the Phillies’ willingness to meet them. Would Upton forgo a fifth guaranteed year to come to Philadelphia and be around some familiar faces? Would the Phillies guarantee that fifth year and go up to around $80 million total to bring in a top-tier free agent? Obviously, we will find out as the off-season progresses as a lot will depend on which teams jump out first and which players budge from their expectations the most.

Should the Phillies snag Upton, they would be getting an enigma of a baseball player. He started his career on fire, posting a .384 on-base percentage and a .166 isolated power in 2007-08 combined. He cratered in 2009, and since then, he has been sub-par in the batting average and on-base departments. In 2012, his walk rate plummeted to a career-low seven percent, down from 11 percent in the previous two seasons. He became overly aggressive at the plate in attempt to hit for power, and it worked somewhat — he finished the year with a career-high 28 home runs and a .208 ISO, nearly a career-best. However, overall, it was the second-worst offensive season of his career going by weighted on-base average (wOBA).

David Golebiewski highlighted Upton’s struggles at Baseball Analytics in August:

His in-zone swing rate against soft pitches has declined to 61%. Upton’s chase rate, meanwhile, has climbed to 34%. With such poor pitch recognition, Upton’s slugging just .238 against soft stuff. Jordan Schafer, Michael Bourn, Jemile Weeks, Carlos Pena and Brandon Crawford are the only qualified batters to show less punch against breaking and off-speed offerings.

The good news is that Upton’s decision-making at the plate is a fixable problem. The Phillies brought in batting coach Steve Henderson from the Rays along with Wally Joyner and Ryne Sandberg, two guys who know a thing or two about a thing or two. The Phillies as an organization seem to have stressed good strike zone judgment as their 17.7 percent strikeout rate in 2012 was tied for the fourth-lowest in the Majors. They had the fifth-lowest rate in 2011 and the sixth-lowest rate in 2010 as well.

Upton, like shortstop Jimmy Rollins, has been chided for his perceived lack of hustle, earning scorn from manager Joe Maddon and third baseman Evan Longoria. The latter incident escalated into a heated dugout argument. While it’s obvious that the complaints about hustle have racist undertones, it is still something to consider. Would Upton have the ability to stay calm, cool, and collected when beat writers, radio loudmouths, and irate fans call for his head when he doesn’t run out a ground ball in a meaningless May game? Would Upton even want to come to a city that so vociferously reacts to anything but constant max effort?

The last negative thing to consider about an Upton signing would be the pick the Phillies surrender. The Rays, as expected, extended a $13.3 million qualifying offer to the center fielder, which means that the Phillies surrender their first round pick according to the new collective bargaining agreement. Giving up draft picks certainly hasn’t stopped the Phillies in the past, but with a mediocre Minor League system, they may become reticent to strip it any further, especially when similar, cheaper options that won’t force the Phillies to surrender a pick — such as Angel Pagan — will be available.

With the negatives out of the way, let’s look at the positives. Upton is 28 years old. That fact alone is huge. For obvious reasons, it is way less risky to sign a player in his late 20’s to a long-term contract. Consider the five-year deal the Phillies gave Ryan Howard. They agreed to the deal two years before he was eligible for free agency and the first year of the deal started in his age-32 season. A five-year deal between the Phillies and Upton would end in his age-32 season. I don’t need to tell you that the expected performances of age 28-32 players is significantly better than age 32-36 players, nor that the former set of players suffers debilitating injuries at a lower rate. Signing any player to a long-term deal is a gamble, but it is much less so for younger players.

On the field, Upton has all the tools to be a premier player. Below is a list of all of the players who hit at least 100 home runs and stole at least 200 bases dating back to 2007 (min. 3,000 plate appearances).

Rk Player HR SB PA From To Age
1 B.J. Upton 113 217 3697 2007 2012 22-27
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/5/2012.

Yup. That’s it. If we lower the stolen base threshold to 150, Rollins and Hanley Ramirez enter the picture. Players who can hit for power and run extremely well are few and far between, and Upton does both very, very well. According to Baseball Prospectus, the only players to have been more productive stealing bases in 2012 were Everth Cabrera, Mike Trout, Ben Revere, and Coco Crisp. Additionally, Upton’s .206 ISO last season was seventh-best among all MLB outfielders, just ahead of Bryce Harper.

Defensively, Upton can obviously cover some ground. Defensive metrics disagree on his value as Baseball Reference’s Total Zone grades him as a below-average defender in each of the last three seasons, while FanGraphs UZR grades him as an above-average defender in every season except 2007 and ’12. I caught up with ubiquitous writer and Rays fan Jason Collette (@JasonCollette), who has watched Upton up close and personal lo these many years. His scouting report on Upton’s defense:

[He is] much better going back on balls than he is coming up on them. Tends to play more of them on a bounce than he does to dive forward on them. Side to side, he’s above average. His biggest problem out there are his throws. His arm is not terribly accurate but he takes unrealistic chances at runners from time to time allowing the trail runner to advance an extra base. Off the top of my head, I want to say he did that at least 10 times this season. He’s better than “Gold Glove winner” Adam Jones in everything except playing balls in front of him.

R.J. Anderson (@r_j_anderson), a Rays fan and writer for Baseball Prospectus like Collette, passed along this blog post with a quote on a scout’s take on fielding range:

“I look at who has the best range in the game and I count down from there. BJ Upton has the best range in center in the majors. His reads are flawless, speed incredible. When I see a guy going after a ball, I say, ‘is he as good as BJ Upton?’ Nope. He ain’t an 80 then.”

Upton’s athleticism covers up for some of his decision-making shortcomings, but the gap between the two will have to close as Upton ages and his physical prowess wanes. If Upton doesn’t improve in that area, he would eventually have to move to a corner.

In the big picture, Upton represents an interesting issue to the Phillies. Where would he fit in the lineup? His low average and on-base percentage should preclude him from hitting higher in the batting order, but he hit in the upper-third of the Rays’ lineup in 119 of his 146 games in 2012. Hitting Upton lower in the order, particularly fourth to break up the left-handed Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, would cause the Phillies to lose the value of his speed. Hitting him lower than fifth would cause him to lose too many plate appearances — Phillies #6 hitters took 75 fewer trips to the plate than #1 hitters last season.

Unless the clamor for Upton quiets down significantly, Upton is expected to take home a hefty, lengthy contract that would pay him like an All-Star-caliber player. The Phillies would be hoping that the 28-year-old still has a ceiling to ascend to, rather than having already plateaued. Upton is enough of an enigma that he could realistically do either, and as a result, the Phillies would be taking a bigger leap of faith with him than they have with any of their previous free agent signings in recent times. But for a team that saw its five-year reign atop the NL East ended in 2012, it may be a necessity to exact revenge against the Washington Nationals, who will not enter the 2013 season any worse for the wear.

Does the Future Include Carlos Ruiz?

Elite catchers are hard to come by these days. Teams that manage to find one hold on to them for dear life, as the Minnesota Twins did with Joe Mauer, the St. Louis Cardinals with Yadier Molina, and the San Francisco Giants will with Buster Posey. The Phillies have one of their own in Carlos Ruiz and yesterday chose to pick up his $5 million club option for 2013, meaning that he could potentially be playing out his final year in Philadelphia.

According to FanGraphs, Ruiz was the third-most valuable catcher in baseball at 5.5 WAR. Baseball Reference was less flattering, putting him at 4.4, but still in third place. Going by offense only, Ruiz had the second-highest wOBA at .398, just a hair behind Posey and well ahead of Mauer in third place. It was quite clearly a career year as Ruiz hurdled his previous career-high in isolated power, finishing at .215. For the offensively-lacking Phillies, Ruiz was their backbone for most of the year until he succumbed to plantar fasciitis. Among Phillies with at least 300 trips to the plate, Ruiz was by far the most productive. Utley, with his .342 wOBA, was the second-most productive hitter, a far cry.

Ruiz has become an integral part of the roster, but where does he fit in for the future? He turns 34 in January and will be 35 if the Phillies choose to bring him back after next season. Expectations for the Panamanian should be centered around 2009 or 2011 levels, not 2012 levels. But even so, 35-year-old catchers rarely put up above-average offensive numbers. Since 1950, only six catchers have qualified for the batting title and posted an adjusted OPS (OPS+) of 100 (average) or better:

Player OPS+ Year Age Tm
Elston Howard 127 1964 35 NYY
Carlton Fisk 134 1983 35 CHW
Carlton Fisk 115 1985 37 CHW
Carlton Fisk 103 1987 39 CHW
Carlton Fisk 134 1990 42 CHW
Benito Santiago 103 2002 37 SFG
Jason Varitek 103 2007 35 BOS
Jorge Posada 153 2007 35 NYY
A.J. Pierzynski 118 2012 35 CHW
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/30/2012.

Even if you clamp the range down to 1991-2012, only four catchers qualify — an average of one every five years. There may be a few reasons for this. My hypotheses include:

  • Older catchers tend to get injured more often
  • Older catchers are on the decline, thus are not given enough playing time to qualify for the batting title
  • Older catchers retire earlier, or shift positions

The Phillies saw the rise and fall of a homegrown catcher in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s in Mike Lieberthal. His last full season was in 2004 at the age of 32. He took 529 trips to the plate. At 33, he logged 443 PA, then followed it up with just 230 in 2006. The Phillies finally parted ways with Lieby, and he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for his final season at 35.

Even when they are able to stay on the field, catchers in their mid- and late-30’s just haven’t been all that productive. The following list shows all catchers 34 years old or older that logged at least 200 plate appearances and started 75 percent of their games at catcher since 2010.

Player OPS+ PA Year Age Tm
A.J. Pierzynski 118 520 2012 35 CHW
Ramon Hernandez 113 328 2011 35 CIN
Ramon Hernandez 112 352 2010 34 CIN
Rod Barajas 97 337 2011 35 LAD
A.J. Pierzynski 97 500 2011 34 CHW
Rod Barajas 97 339 2010 34 TOT
Jason Varitek 92 250 2011 39 BOS
Jose Molina 80 274 2012 37 TBR
Rod Barajas 75 361 2012 36 PIT
Matt Treanor 75 242 2011 35 TOT
Ivan Rodriguez 73 421 2010 38 WSN
Jason Kendall 71 490 2010 36 KCR
Bengie Molina 68 416 2010 35 TOT
Matt Treanor 57 272 2010 34 TEX
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/30/2012.

The curve is skewed very much to the left in terms of OPS+. While there are three within 20 points to the right and four within 20 points to the left of 100, there are seven others further left than that. If you’re a betting man, the odds are higher that Ruiz goes the way of Matt Treanor rather than Ramon Hernandez.

This doesn’t mean that the Phillies should just kick Chooch to the curb after 2013. It just means that they shouldn’t rush to sign Ruiz to a multi-year extension because he has been so good in recent years. Six catchers have been signed to a multi-year contract in the last two years:

  • Victor Martinez, DET (4/$50M): 131 OPS+ in 2011 (age 31), missed all of 2012 due to injury
  • John Buck, MIA (3/$18M): 87 OPS+ in 2011 (age 30), 75 OPS+ in 2012
  • Miguel Olivo, SEA (2/$7M): 81 OPS+ in 2011 (age 32), 75 OPS+ in 2012
  • A.J. Pierzynski, CHW (2/$8M): 94 OPS+ in 2011 (age 34), 118 OPS+ in 2012
  • Yorvit Torrealba, TEX (2/$6.25M): 86 OPS+ in 2011 (age 32), released in August 2012 with a 69 OPS+
  • Ramon Hernandez, COL (2/$6.4M): 49 OPS+ in 2012 (age 36)

Of the six, only Pierzynski has been a good value. The rest declined or suffered an injury. If the Phillies are interested in having Carlos Ruiz around for just a little while longer, it should be on a year-by-year basis. Doing so would also allow them to bring along prospects Tommy Joseph, Sebastian Valle, and Cameron Rupp at a more comfortable pace. While Ruiz has gone far above and beyond anything we could have ever hoped for when he made his Major League debut in 2006, the Phillies have to be prepared to turn the page if necessary after the 2013 season.

Last Year’s Reliever Market As A Cautionary Tale

There has been some talk about the Phillies signing a veteran reliever to bolster what was a lackluster bullpen for much of the 2012 season. After marquee signing Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies relied on a corps of young arms and seemed to always have the revolving door to the bullpen spinning. Although the contract given to Papelbon was, from every perspective, too rich and too lengthy — the largest contract ever given to a closer — they still got the performance they expected. Papelbon finished the year with a 2.44 ERA in 70 innings, continuing to be one of baseball’s best and most reliable closers.

Talk of the Phillies’ off-season plans tend to take on an open-and-closed tone. Many urge that the Phillies should add a “veteran eighth-inning guy” as if it is A) easy to pick out the ones who will give you what you pay for; and B) a wise allocation of resources. Last year’s reliever market is a great illustration of why the relief pitcher market is more or less a roulette wheel.

25 relievers signed deals with an average annual value greater than $1 million. Five of them signed multi-year deals. The results were… mixed. First, the multi-year deals:

  • Jonathan Papelbon, PHI (4/$50M): 2.44 ERA, 70 IP, 38 SV
  • Heath Bell, MIA (3/$27M): 5.09 ERA, 63.2 IP, 19 SV
  • Joe Nathan, TEX (2/$14.5M): 2.80 ERA, 64.1 IP, 37 SV
  • Frank Francisco, NYM (2/$12M): 5.53 ERA, 42.1 IP, 23 SV
  • Javier Lopez, SFG (2/$8.5M): 2.50 ERA, 36 IP, 7 SV

Three were quite good, two were very bad, and one did not even play in the Majors. In total, the six relievers combined to earn in $120.4 million over 15 total years, an average annual value exceeding $8 million. Of course, that is a bit top-heavy towards Papelbon, but a 50 percent success rate is less than impressive.

Here is a look at how the other relievers fared on one-year deals:

Player Team Amount ($M) ERA
Jose Valverde Tigers $9.00 3.78
Ryan Madson Reds $8.25
Francisco Rodriguez Brewers $8.00 4.38
Jeremy Affeldt Giants $5.00 2.70
Matt Capps Twins $4.75 3.68
Francisco Cordero Blue Jays $4.50 7.55
Darren Oliver Blue Jays $4.50 2.06
Jonathan Broxton Royals $4.00 2.48
Jason Frasor White Sox $3.75 4.12
Octavio Dotel Tigers $3.50 3.57
Jon Rauch Mets $3.50 3.59
Kyle Farnsworth Rays $3.30 4.00
LaTroy Hawkins Angels $3.00 3.64
Kerry Wood Cubs $3.00 8.31
Fernando Rodney Rays $2.00 0.60
Takashi Saito Diamondbacks $1.75 6.75
Todd Coffey Dodgers $1.30 4.66
Chad Qualls Phillies $1.15 5.33
George Sherrill Mariners $1.10 27.00

Of the 19 relievers listed, only four can be considered to have had great seasons: Affeldt, Oliver, Broxton, and Rodney. Eight finished with an ERA in the 3.50-4.50 range. As with the multi-year deals, it was more or less a coin flip with the expensive one-year deals — not much better than if GM’s had randomly picked names from a hat.

To look at it from another perspective, look at the 2012 ERA leaderboard for relievers and count the number of names that weren’t acquired via free agency. In particular, pay attention to the young players like Craig Kimbrel, Wilton Lopez, Jake McGee, Ryan Cook, Kenley Jansen, and so forth. Why gamble millions of dollars on players when your rate of success doesn’t significantly improve compared to relying on younger, cost-controlled players? Recently, I explained why the Phillies should rely on their young bullpen again, and this is part of the reason.

Veteran players such as Jeremy Affeldt, Octavio Dotel, and Ryan Madson are being cited as potential targets for the Phillies, but they can take a similar gamble for significantly less money and without unnecessarily taking on a multi-year contract. Four Phillies relievers posted a SIERA (Skill Interactive ERA) below 2.80 in 2012: Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Jeremy Horst, and Raul Valdes. Dotel and Affeldt had a 2.65 and 3.06 SIERA, respectively. SIERA has been shown to be an accurate predictive tool. Probabilistically, you likely will not be getting significantly better performance out of either veteran compared to the youngsters either.

In other words, the upside of relying on the younger players is that they pitch well and they help you save money, which you can then allocate elsewhere. The downside is that they fail — as they did in 2012 — but at least you aren’t stuck with expensive, lengthy, unmovable contracts. Why would a team that opened 2012 with a $172 million payroll care about a few million here or there? They may not reach the luxury tax threshold in the off-season, but the extra financial flexibility could allow GM Ruben Amaro to make another one of his typical mid-season trades to bring in a quality player (the utility of which is an entirely separate discussion).

To sum it up briefly, signing relief pitchers to multi-year and/or multi-million-dollar contracts is just about the most inefficient, ineffective way for a team to spend money, and it can effectively hamstring them in other areas. The Phillies, who brazenly backed up an armored truck full of money in front of Papelbon’s house last off-season, would do well to recognize this and focus their attention and resources in other, more important areas. A veteran reliever would be nice, but such an asset is far down on the list of priorities.

The Bullpen Youth Movement

Despite being led by 31-year-old veteran Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies’ bullpen featured a plethora of fresh, young arms in 2012:

The bullpen was unarguably the Phillies’ Achilles heel throughout the season. For a while, they were among the bottom quartile in the National League going by bullpen ERA. A great September (2.05 ERA) has them closer to the league average and gave us a glimpse into what the future may hold.

Relievers are notoriously volatile from one year to another which is why many Saberists suggest spending as little money as possible on the bullpen. Outside of the always-reliable Papelbon, the Phillies used a very Saber-friendly bullpen as most of the above are young, under team control for a long time, and have the ability to miss bats at a frequent rate. Now that the young relievers have some Major League seasoning, Amaro shouldn’t change a thing. Charlie Manuel recently said about the bullpen:

I think we have some real good pieces there. But I think we need at least one good piece. And when I talk about pieces, I mean someone that’s very, very good. First-class good. That’s what it takes to be a first-class team.

There will be quite a few decent relievers available, such as Mike Adams or Jeremy Affeldt, just to name a couple starting in the A’s. But would the Phillies be significantly better off paying Adams $5 million to set up for Papelbon than paying Aumont $500,000 to do the same job? Would several million for Affeldt leave the Phillies in a better place as opposed to utilizing Bastardo at $750,000? It was only two years ago that Affeldt finished with a 4.14 ERA and it was only last year that Bastardo finished with a 2.64 ERA. With relievers, you are guaranteed nothing, no matter how much money you toss around.

For 2013, the Phillies should grab Papelbon, Bastardo, Aumont, and Horst, then open up the final three spots to spring training competition. It’s the best of all possible worlds.

As you can see, the Phillies have a number of tough decisions to make between the end of the post-season and the end of spring training. It will be the most arduous time of Amaro’s career as GM of the Phillies, the author of an aging, expensive, injury-prone roster. Adept handling of the risks and rewards of the upcoming off-season will leave the Phillies ready to reclaim their throne atop the NL East; stepping on the various traps that lay beneath the surface will effectively end the Phillies’ reign as a superpower.

Check out past and future offseason coverage with the “offseason” category.

Filling Out the Starting Rotation

The image to your right was the cover of Sports Illustrated in March 2011. Depicted were the Phillies’ four aces — Roy Halladay, Cliff LeeCole Hamels, Roy Oswalt — and Joe Blanton. It was a glorious time for the Phillies, still riding the rush of sell-out after sell-out and playoff appearance after playoff appearance. Going on two years later, a lot has changed. Once with quad aces, the Phillies now have just a pair of aces in Hamels and Lee. Halladay’s 2012 season was a disaster while Oswalt and Blanton are long gone. Meanwhile, Vance Worley suffered an elbow injury, Kyle Kendrick had immense success flirting with the league average, and Tyler Cloyd has struggled to keep his ERA under 5.00.

We assume Halladay and Worley will be ready to go by spring training, but there are no guarantees and the Phillies, more than almost anyone, know the value of having too much starting pitching as opposed to too little. Unfortunately, there won’t be many reasonable, cheap starters available in free agency after the top shelf (Zack GreinkeRyan DempsterEdwin JacksonKyle LohseShaun Marcum) is harvested, a shelf the Phillies likely won’t be standing on their tips of their toes to reach.

One name to consider is Scott Baker. The Twins have a $9.5 million option on his contract that will likely be declined. In the event Baker doesn’t take a more team-friendly contract with them, the Phillies could make a play for the 31-year-old on a cheap one- or two-year deal. Before succumbing to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery on April 17, Baker arguably had his best two years in 2010-11, posting a 3.63 SIERA with a 3.93 ERA with a slightly above-average strikeout rate and a strikeout-to-walk ratio approaching four to one.

Carlos Villanueva is another name to keep an eye on, as the right-hander looked good after moving to the Toronto Blue Jays’ rotation at the end of June. From June 29 to August 30, the soon-to-be 29-year-old posted a 3.03 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 17 walks in 65 and one-third innings. His production declined precipitously in September, however, allowing 24 runs in 26 and two-thirds innings, thanks in large part to 10 home runs allowed. Villanueva earned less than $2.3 million in 2012 in his final year of arbitration, so he would come at a relatively cheap price if the Phillies were to pursue him.

No matter who they target, the Phillies should feel uneasy going into 2013 with a rotation that includes a 35-year-old Halladay coming off of the worst season of his career since becoming an every-fifth-day starter, Worley returning from elbow surgery, and one of Kendrick or Cloyd, both needing massive amounts of magic just to post a 4.00 ERA.

The Center Field Mine Field

Having traded away both Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence at the end of July, the Phillies now have a need for a center fielder going into 2013. The outfielders currently on the roster include Domonic BrownJohn Mayberry, Juan PierreLaynce Nix, and Nate Schierholtz. None of them are legitimate center fielders, so the Phillies are heading into the off-season thinking about one of the many free agents. In particular, six names stick out: Josh HamiltonMichael BournB.J. UptonMelky CabreraAngel Pagan, and Victorino.

Hamilton and Bourn are expected to be the most highly-sought after, and there are some very good reasons the Phillies should avoid them. They will likely be the first two to be signed, which means that if Ruben Amaro wants to sign either, he will have to set the market. It is better from a GM’s perspective to display patience because the more you wait, the more options close for the players, reducing their leverage in negotiations.

Player fWAR rWAR
Michael Bourn 6.1 5.8
Melky Cabrera 4.6 4.6
Angel Pagan 4.3 3.9
Josh Hamilton 4.9 3.7
B.J. Upton 3.2 2.1
Shane Victorino 2.9 2.1

With Hamilton, the Phillies would likely need to commit at least five years and nine figures for a player that will be 32 years old in May and tends to miss time due to questionable health issues. This table, via Baseball Prospectus, lists Hamilton’s injuries since the start of 2011:

Date On Date Off Days Games Side Body Part Injury Severity
2012-09-19 2012-09-24 5 5 General Medical Illness Sinus
2012-09-13 2012-09-14 1 1 Left Knee Soreness
2012-07-06 2012-07-06 0 0 Low Back Soreness
2012-06-15 2012-06-19 4 4 General Medical Illness Intestinal
2012-05-28 2012-05-29 1 1 General Medical Illness
2012-05-25 2012-05-25 0 0 General Medical Illness
2012-04-30 2012-05-04 4 3 Low Back Stiffness
2012-04-03 2012-04-03 0 0 Head Migraine
2012-03-31 2012-04-04 4 0 Left Groin Tightness
2012-03-14 2012-03-14 0 0 Right Foot Contusion Heel
2011-11-11 2011-11-11 0 0 Left Surgery Sports Hernia
2011-04-13 2011-05-22 39 35 Right Upper Arm Fracture Humerus
2011-01-10 2011-01-10 0 0 General Medical Respiratory Pneumonia

In the past, Hamilton has also had issues with drugsalcohol, and religion. Hamilton may lead all center fielders in wOBA since 2008 at .387, but he has plenty of other issues that should scream “somebody else’s problem” at the Phillies.

Once a top prospect in the Phillies’ system, Michael Bourn could become the Phillies’ new center fielder. Most of his value, though, comes from his legs and he turns 30 in December. His .329 wOBA in 2012 is just a hair above the league average for center fielders at .320, so the Phillies would be gambling on Bourn’s legs staying in tact over the next four or five years at a steep price. The Phillies have taken risks on old players not getting injured or slowing down before and it hasn’t worked out well (Ryan HowardRoy Halladay, Chase Utley).

Hamilton and Bourn are tempting because they had great 2012 showings, but they are ticking time bombs. The Phillies would be better served sitting back while other teams fight over the two premier center fielders, then making a play for a second-tier center fielder like Cabrera, Upton, or Pagan. Due to his recognition, Upton will likely be heavily sought after as well, but the Phillies would do well to attempt to capture the 28-year-old. Pagan will likely fly under the radar, but he would be a great Plan B for the Phillies assuming a short, relatively cheap contract. Those two will likely be taken off the board after Hamilton and Bourn, meaning that fewer teams will have CF needs and thus there will be fewer teams to compete against, dropping prices of the remaining players.

The Phillies aren’t necessarily committed to signing a free agent centerfielder, but it is the easiest solution to their very obvious problem. If they get creative, the Phillies could pry Denard Span away from the Minnesota Twins, as CSN Philly and Phillies Nation’s Corey Seidman suggested:

A trade, however, would require further diminishing of an already-barren Minor League system — one that ranks among the bottom-third or worse among almost every prospect expert. At any rate, it would be foolish to be inconsiderate of any trade opportunities.

It would be extremely easy for the Phillies to latch onto Hamilton or Bourn, especially since they own the league’s largest payroll, but the past few years have provided the Phillies all the evidence they need to conclude that throwing money around indiscriminately is no panacea. In the past, Amaro has shown the tendency to burst onto the market first (see: Howard, Ryan; Ibanez, Raul; Papelbon, Jonathan), but this off-season, perhaps more than any other he has seen, would punish him for displaying such impatience.


For as good as the Oliver Stone film Platoon is, the baseball platoon is even better. The idea is to use a particular player only in situations that highlight his strengths, and use his positional partner in other situations. For instance, the 1993 Phillies famously and successfully utilized platoons as I described in this post from a year ago:

Manager Jim Fregosi squeezed additional runs out of his team by utilizing platoons in left and right field as well as second base and shortstop. As a result, the Phillies had the best OPS in the league against right-handed pitching (.765) and the second-highest OPS against lefties (.802). In left field, Pete Incaviglia handled lefties (.904 OPS) while Milt Thompson faced mostly right-handers (.745 OPS). In right field, Jim Eisenreich faced right-handers (.816) and Wes Chamberlain faced lefties (.986). Although Mariano Duncan didn’t have much of a platoon split (.721 vs. RHP/.720 vs. LHP), he spent time at both second base and shortstop. Second baseman Mickey Morandini‘s .688 OPS was more than 100 points higher than against lefties whom he faced only about 25 percent of the time. At shortstop, the switch-hitting Kevin Stocker hit lefties well (.936) but faced them at about half the rate as right-handers (.780).

The Phillies finished with the fifth-highest percentage of plate appearances with the platoon advantage (65 percent) despite having only two switch-hitters rack up 100 or more trips to the dish.

The Oakland Athletics, which surged into the post-season with a 51-25 second-half record, are yet another team using platoons and making it work. They have used platoons at four positions: catcher, first base, second base, and designated hitter. Their offensive gains aren’t nearly as pronounced as the ’93 Phillies, but the A’s would have been dreadful without smart player deployment. As a team, the A’s have the second-worst batting average and third-worst on-base percentage, but with some changes in personnel and strategy, their second-half OPS was nearly 100 points higher than their first-half OPS.

Here’s a look at how the A’s got it done:

The platoons at catcher and second base aren’t impressive, but you do what you can with your personnel. The Phillies, going into 2013, should look at what the A’s have done and strongly consider utilizing platoons at several positions if possible: third base, right field, and first base. Let’s address those in reverse order.

First Base

Yes, the Phillies should consider platooning their star first baseman to whom they owe $105 million. Howard will turn 33 years old in November and is coming off of the worst offensive showing of his excellent career. He has shown a severe platoon split over his career, but it wasn’t an issue earlier on because he hit right-handed pitching so prodigiously. As he aged and the league caught up to him, however, his performance against right-handers declined and so too did the Phillies’ tolerance for his inability to hit left-handed pitching. The following line graph illustrates the changes:

2006 1.164 .923 .241
2007 1.072 .826 .246
2008 .966 .746 .220
2009 1.088 .653 .435
2010 .876 .826 .050
2011 .921 .634 .287
2012 .784 .604 .180

Howard has earned the right to have an opportunity to redeem himself after a disappointing and injury-plagued 2012 — his torn Achilles and broken toe acted as bookends on his 71 uninspiring games. He should be the full-time first baseman to start the season, but if the Phillies observe no legitimate improvement, they should consider benching Howard against southpaws while utilizing someone like John Mayberry (.811 OPS vs. LHP in 2012), Erik Kratz (.877), or even Darin Ruf (1.325 in Double-A Reading; 1.326 OPS in 16 MLB plate appearances).

To put the situation in the context or runs above average, let us use wOBA as the run conversion is rather simple. Mayberry has hit lefties for a .370 wOBA since 2010 while Howard has mustered only a .310 mark in that same period of time. To convert the wOBA difference into runs, we divide the .060 difference by 1.15, then multiply it by the 225 plate appearances of Howard’s Mayberry would theoretically take. (.060/1.15)*225 comes out to 12 runs, or about 1.2 wins. Will an extra win likely make the difference between the Phillies reaching the post-season and sitting home in October? Probably not, but this more efficient use of personnel, coupled with the same strategy at other positions, plus more intelligent decision-making elsewhere (e.g. using Jonathan Papelbon in a tie game on the road) can give the Phillies a few extra wins in the standings just like the A’s.

Right Field

With the Phillies owing $125 million to seven players going into 2013, there is some impetus to solve some problems on the cheap when possible. As demonstrated this past regular season, the bullpen is a great and easy way to do that, but for the Phillies next season, right field could be just as simple. Some are saying the Phillies should target someone like Nick Swisher along with one of the many available center fielders, but equivalent solutions are available right now for a fraction of the cost. Nate Schierholtz, used almost exclusively against right-handed pitching while with the San Francisco Giants, could pair up with Mayberry or a cheap free agent to provide above-average production for under $5 million.

Schierholtz has taken 631 trips to the plate in the past two seasons with 495 of them (78%) coming against right-handers. Against them, Schierholtz posted a respectable .349 wOBA while playing above average defense in right field:

The Phillies could pair Schierholtz with a free agent like Matt Diaz, who is recovering from thumb surgery but is expected to make a recovery. Diaz will turn 35 in March but has long been a noted lefty-killer, with a career .370 wOBA against them over his career. That is Yoenis Cespedeslevel offense specifically against southpaws. Scott Hairston could work as well. Between Schierholtz and their right-handed hitter of choice, they could recapture and exceed the production they had with Hunter Pence for one-third of the cost.

Third Base

Yesterday’s article looked at the Phillies’ options at third base, concluding that a realistic solution would involve Kevin Frandsen despite his probable mean-regression. Some of you who commented left some creative ideas that make sense. For instance, John Stolnis of That Ball’s Outta Here suggested free agent Jeff Keppinger. Keppinger, 33 in April, has shown a drastic platoon split over his career, with an .864 OPS against left-handed pitching and .680 against right-handed pitching. The difference was even more drastic this past season alone. He earned just over $1.5 million with the Rays on a one-year deal, so he could come at a rather cheap price.

Eric Chavez would make a nice platoon partner with Keppinger. With the New York Yankees, Chavez tagged right-handers for a .908 OPS and was used almost exclusively against them. It has been a renaissance year for the soon-to-be 35-year-old Chavez, who played in a grand total of 122 games between 2008-11. The Yankees signed him to a one-year, $900,000 deal in February. With his limited usefulness and age, he is due for only a small raise if he gets one at all, so a potential Chavez-Keppinger platoon would come in well under $5 million. Such a platoon would also be infinitely more favorable than hoping that Frandsen’s 2012 showing wasn’t an illusion and/or that Freddy Galvis will acquire the ability to handle Major League pitching at an above-replacement level.

Few teams make use of platoons, but it should be standard practice when you don’t have a quality balanced player at a certain position (e.g. Chase Utley). Of course, politics and player management are issues to consider as well, as it doesn’t exactly look cool to announce to fans that your $125 million first baseman is going to sit against the Mike Minors and Paul Maholms of the baseball world. Two press releases announcing one-year deals for third basemen in their mid-30’s isn’t as sexy as “Phillies sign Mark Reynolds to three-year, $45 million deal”. But in the end, what matters is gaining those small advantages to push your team north in the standings, and the Phillies have a very high chance of doing that with platoons than hoping a big free agent signing pans out or their bottled lightning players from a year prior are legitimate.

Addressing the Third Base Situation

As you have read here ad nauseam, third base is a very shallow position across Major League Baseball. Having lived through the waning of Placido Polanco‘s career, the Phillies will likely be moving on despite his relatively cheap $5.5 million option. Polanco played in just 90 games in 2012, missing time due to injuries to his back, knee, ankle, and wrist. In moving on, however, the Phillies can pick from an uninspiring list that includes Geoff BlumMiguel CairoEric ChavezMark DeRosaMaicer IzturisKevin KouzmanoffJose Lopez, and Scott Rolen. They can also choose another go-around with Ty Wigginton. Players whose options may not be picked up by their current teams include Brandon IngeMark Reynolds, and Kevin Youkilis.

Here’s a look at how each player fared in 2012 by wOBA. “Ptn %” refers to the percentage of PA in which the player had the platoon advantage (e.g. RH hitter vs. LH pitcher or LH hitter vs. RH pitcher). Kouzmanoff was excluded because he did not play in the Majors at all in 2012.

Player wOBA PA PA Ptn% Age
Eric Chavez .356 305 88% 34
Mark Reynolds .339 520 27% 28
Kevin Youkilis .331 497 28% 33
Scott Rolen .311 316 27% 37
Ty Wigginton .301 350 41% 34
Maicer Izturis .296 304 100% 31
Brandon Inge .283 331 38% 35
Jose Lopez .269 241 39% 28
Mark DeRosa .258 93 45% 37
Miguel Cairo .213 151 29% 38
Geoff Blum .158 31 100% 39

The average third baseman posted a .320 wOBA. Of the 12 players listed, only three posted above-average offensive numbers during the regular season. The bottom of the list you can immediately cross off due to the combination of age, poor performance, and lack of playing time. Each player has a significant deficiency, and you can put them into separate groups. For instance, Chavez and Izturis are platoon-exclusive players; Youkilis and Rolen are injury-prone; Reynolds and Wigginton can’t play defense; and Izturis, Inge, and Lopez can’t hit.

Among players under contract, the obvious name is Chase Headley, but as the past trade deadline indicated, the San Diego Padres’ asking price is very, very high and the Phillies no longer have a Minor League system overflowing with attractive prospects. The Padres have prospect Jedd Gyorko, a 23-year-old who posted a .968 OPS at Triple-A Tucson, ready to take over in the event Headley is moved. Other third basemen are young, cheap, and under team control for a while, including Kyle SeagerMike MoustakasPedro Alvarez, and Chris Johnson — more or less unavailable via trade unless Ruben Amaro is willing to grossly overpay. The rest constitute a combination of old and expensive players such as Aramis RamirezAdrian Beltre, and Alex Rodriguez and their teams wouldn’t make them available save for the most lucrative of returns.

This barren third base market is the reason why Amaro considered moving Utley to third base. That idea is problematic, however, because Utley demonstrated over his entire career that his arm, weak and inaccurate, is his worst defensive attribute. Moreover, his offense (.356 wOBA) is significantly more valuable at second base (avg. wOBA .309) than at third base. The more realistic in-house solution would be to utilize Kevin Frandsen and/or Freddy Galvis at third base. Galvis (.266 wOBA) would need the world’s supply of steroids to adequately hit well enough at the hot corner, but would make up at least some of the lacking offense with great defense — he does have the arm to make cross-diamond throws. Otherwise, the Phillies will be hoping Frandsen can stave off the looming specter of regression.

Fixing third base will require some shrewd, outside-the-box thinking. Since taking over for Pat Gillick after the 2008 season, Amaro has shown the propensity to opt for the obvious home run move, such as signing Cliff Lee and trading for Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence. Though to his credit, he did pick Frandsen and Juan Pierre out of the garbage bin as well. 2013’s third base solution appears to require more striking of lightning in a bottle.