BDD: Mets All Bark, No Bite

At Baseball Daily Digest, I’ve questioned why the Mets’ new closer has taken it upon himself to declare the Mets “the team to beat” one season after Carlos Beltran did so with undesirable results.

Why does K-Rod feel it prudent to open his mouth with such a virulent recent history behind his team? Why does he think that his team of chokers is better than the team whose hands were around the Mets’ neck the last two seasons; the team that just won the World Series?

We may never know. But we do know that the phrase is now played out, like Stuart Scott’s “cool as the other side of the pillow” on SportsCenter. We know it’s unlikely to inspire a team that heard it all before and done nothing to back up any of the yapping they’ve done.

Sure, it’s more fuel for the fire of the rivalry, but how good is the rivalry, really? If the Mets were contestants on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? they would be this contestant. They are the Wilton Guerrero to the Phillies’ Vladimir. In the words of the Bloodhound Gang, they are the Baldwin brothers — not the good one, but the others.

Playing Pepper

I was contacted by Daniel Shoptaw of the St. Louis Cardinals blog C70 at the Bat. He’s doing a season preview of sorts, contacting a blogger for each Major League team and asking him or her five questions. I was the Phillies representative. Click here if you’d like to read my responses.

C70: Will the bullpen be as strong as it was last year?

CA: Unfortunately, no. There were a lot of things that went exactly right for the bullpen to be as strong as it was last year. Odds are Brad Lidge blows some saves next year, y’know?

J.C. Romero is going to miss about one-third of the season thanks to the unwillingness of the MLBPA and his team’s front office to stand by him.

Barring any further acquisitions, the only lefty in the ‘pen is Scott Eyre, which hampers the Phillies’ ability to find favorable pitching match-ups.

We’ll also be doing previews for each Major League team at Baseball Daily Digest starting March 1 with the Washington Nationals, and working our way down to the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies at the end of the month.

BDD: Manuel’s Three Things

At Baseball Daily Digest, I’ve come up with three things Charlie Manuel should do to ensure another successful season for his Philadelphia Phillies.

Hamels went from 183 and one-third regular season innings and 6 and two-thirds post-season innings (190 total) in 2007 to 227 and one-third regular season innings and 35 post-season innings (262 and one-third) in 2008. That’s an increase of 72 total innings — more than double Verducci’s threshold! Even if you count the regular season only, that’s a 37-inning jump, which still qualifies.

As much as you hate to choose not to utilize your best starter, it might be smart for Manuel to make Hamels skip a start or at least push him back a few days, only against non-divisional opponents and ones the Phillies should have no problem dealing with (i.e. the Pirates or the Padres).

Werth Is Cool; Howard Is Not

A nice quote from Jayson Werth per David Murphy, PDN:

You look at the guys around here – we have some high-caliber guys. We have some guys who are really good baseball players. But on top of that, they’re young. You look at Cole – he’s what, 24 [actually, 25]? We’ve got some guys that can play for a long time, so it makes sense to bring all these guys back here. And we were successful, and it just shows you the type of organization that the Phillies are. They’re first class all the way. They take care of their guys, they want to win, and they put a product on the field that is conducive to winning. And then after they win, they bring everybody back . . . It’s good to be successful, and it’s good to have an organization that wants to be successful.

Jayson WerthRead that, and then hearken back to the days of Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen, both of whom were peeved at the Phils’ inability to commit to winning. How quickly the tides can change.

One day, you’re putting Alex Gonzalez (the bad one) in the six-hole; the next day, you’ve got Shane Victorino in there.

For as much as new GM Ruben Amaro has been bashed for poorly handling the Pat Burrell situation, he does deserve kudos for how he’s handled 7 out of the 8 arbitration issues this off-season. Maybe player analysis isn’t his strength — his strength could lie in evaluating contracts. It’s a change from Pat Gillick, of course; he is arguably the opposite if you take a look at the Adam Eaton and Geoff Jenkins contracts.

Werth’s comments were pleasing to read, since players usually don’t make the effort to offer compliments — it’s easy to take the contracts for granted.

On the flipside, you have Ryan Howard, the only Phillie whose contract issues haven’t been quelled yet. With the advice of his family and agent Casey Close, Howard has expressed that he thinks he should be one of the highest-paid players in baseball given his incredible power numbers. Officially, Howard and his agent submitted an $18 million request to the Phillies, who countered with $14 million.

Unless they settle prior to arbitration, either Howard will get $18 million or $14 million; there is no compromise. Unlike last year, the Phillies are highly likely to win because their offer is a substantial raise and one of the highest arbitration offers ever, and Howard is coming off of yet another season that saw a decline in offensive numbers across the board. An 80% raise for declining production is absurd, and not even a Sabermetrics-avoiding panel of arbitrators could justify that.

Howard isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2011 season, but it’s fairly obvious that if he thinks he should be that well-compensated, his time in Philly is winding down.

He’s 29, so the Phillies will control him in his final “prime years” (and that may have passed already, as players of Howard’s build do not age well) and thus can confidently go year-to-year in arbitration with him. They will be slightly overpaying for his services, but will not be bound to a contract that can potentially hamstring the organization.

Trading Howard after the 2009 season would probably be the best route to capitalize on his value, assuming he does not have a disastrous season. Other teams will get two full seasons with the slugger, and can either trade him again, or recoup draft picks when Howard becomes a free agent. Additionally, with Howard’s aging concerns, the sooner the Phillies can get back a healthy return for the slugger, the better. The Phillies wouldn’t want to get stuck trying to trade a player with $20 million requests whose OPS struggles to reach .825.

Further, a few of the Phillies’ contracts are backloaded, so having payroll space to accommodate for this is important. The list:

  • Chase Utley: $11M in ’09 | $15M in ’10-’13.
  • Raul Ibanez: $6.5M in ’09 | $11.5M in ’10 and ’11.
  • Cole Hamels: $4.35M in ’09 | $6.65M in ’10, and $9.5M in ’11.
  • Jayson Werth: $2M in ’09 | $7M in ’10.
  • Ryan Madson: $2M in ’09 | $4.5M in ’10 and ’11.
  • TOTAL: $25.85M in ’09 | $44.65M in ’10 ($18.8M difference) .

That’s a 72.7% increase in salary for those five players alone from ’09 to ’10, or about 15% of a $130M payroll.

Amaro, who has shown excellent judgment when it comes to the business side of baseball, will have to deal with all of this and will have the burden of trading a very popular player. Ultimately, trading Howard — for a handsome assortment of players and prospects — after the ’09 season would be a positive step for the team.

If the Phillies don’t get a first baseman in the package for Howard, it becomes an intriguing conundrum as to how to plug that hole. Moving Utley — who has some limited time at first base in his career as a Phillie — over a few feet would be neutralizing his amazing defense at second base. Other than that, the Phillies really have no realistic options for first base. Pat Burrell would have been a logical option … oops.

Aubrey Huff will be a free agent after the ’09 season. Just saying.

Credit Where Credit Is Due [Updated!]

If you’ve kept up with this blog with any frequency, it’s no secret to you that I do not have a warm place in my heart for new Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, and that’s justifiable given the head-scratching deals he’s made. You know, like losing two first-round draft picks, not upgrading defensively, and downgrading offensively by replacing Pat Burrell with Raul Ibanez.

Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

However, I have to give the man props. Heading into arbitration with eight players, he could have been taken to the cleaners, but, being proactive, he wouldn’t let that happen… at least not yet.

Greg Dobbs signed a two-year deal worth $2.25 million. According to FanGraphs player valuations, Dobbs has been worth nearly $9.5 million the last two seasons combined. As a left-handed hitter who can play all four corner infield and outfield positions, he is a critical piece of the Phillies’ puzzle.

The big news is that Amaro got Cole Hamels to agree to a three-year deal. Hamels was a concern given that he was insulted last off-season. With this extension, he’ll earn $20.5 million through 2011.

FanGraphs player valuations cite Hamels as being worth $9.5 million in ’06, $15.5 million in ’07, and $20.6 million in ’08.

Both deals, relative to the valuations, show Amaro significantly benefiting from both deals.

Bravo, Ruben.

UPDATE, 1/19/09: Phils, Madson agree to three-year extension.

The deal, which is pending a physical exam, is believed to be for $12 million, with incentives.

FanGraphs values Madson the past three seasons at about $11 million. Mad Dog made huge strides last season, increasing his velocity (and subsequently his strikeout rate) and lowering his walk rate. With a 3.05 ERA the past two seasons, he’s become the Phillies’ go-to guy before Brad Lidge.

Amaro strikes again. Three-for-three with his attempts to avoid arbitration, and he’s taken care of three of the eight arbitration-eligible Phillies.

UPDATE (just for consistency):

  • Jayson Werth, Chad Durbin avoid arbitration [Delco Times]
  • So does Joe Blanton [MLB.com]
  • And Shane Victorino [KHNL]

The Phillies’ Off-Season Gets Worse

The Tampa Bay Rays have signed Pat Burrell to a two-year, $16 million deal. [Ken Rosenthal]

This is after Pat Burrell had declined a two-year, $22 million offer from the Phillies back in October. And after the Phillies wasted $31.5 million over three years for Raul Ibanez in mid-December.

Both Burrell and the Phillies screwed themselves. Burrell held out for more money and/or more years and instead lost (in the figurative sense) money and never got the three-year deal he was seeking.

The Phillies lowballed — it was lowballing at the time — Burrell with that $22 million offer, thinking that if he accepted, they would get him for just about at market value, if not less. If he declined, they could take him to arbitration unless their estimates put Burrell at a higher value. Those figures did indeed peg Burrell as a $15 million-ish player, so the Phillies declined arbitration, a defensible move at the time that would pay off only if the Phillies didn’t sign a player like Raul Ibanez.

They signed Raul Ibanez, not only setting the market — an indefensible decision given what was available (Adam Dunn) — but attaching themselves for three years to a player who will turn 37 in early June and is just as bad defensively as Burrell and a step down offensively.

You have to be steaming if you’re a Phillies fan.

But you still have to pull for Pat Burrell. The guy has been nothing short of awesome in his tenure in Philadelphia and I for one wish him all the luck and success in the world, as long as it doesn’t directly affect the Phillies’ chances of repeating as World F*cking Champions. On behalf of the Phillies’ front office, I formally apologize to him for getting screwed over by the team he busted his ass for since 1998.

More bad news: J.C. Romero to be suspended for the first 50 games of 2009. [Phillies.com]

There’s a good discussion at Baseball Think Factory regarding this issue, and the general consensus is that Romero got screwed. But the likelihood of this decision getting overturned is about as small as the Pirates reaching .500 within the next ten seasons. In other words, the decision is final. The Phillies will be without their best left-handed reliever, thus praying for the 2005-06 versions of Scott Eyre. Hey, Joe Beimel is available too.

To recap, here’s the Phillies’ off-season thus far:

– One of the best general managers in baseball history resigns and is replaced by Ruben Amaro, who has absolutely no G.M. experience.

– Utley’s bum hip requires surgery. He may miss the first 33 or 50% of the 2009 season. He will more than likely be replaced not by Jason Donald, but by Eric Bruntlett. Donald has to have an amazing spring training to win Utley’s job.

– Amaro declines to offer arbitration to Burrell and Jamie Moyer. Moyer, a 46-year-old (who I will wager will put up a 4.50 ERA or worse in ’09) is given a two-year deal. The average annual value ($6.5 million) is only slightly cheaper than what Moyer likely would have been awarded in arbitration — a one-year only deal. Meanwhile, Burrell ends up signing elsewhere for relatively dirt cheap while the Phillies will be trotting out a left-handed Burrell Lite in ’09 for twice the money over one extra year.

– The Mets address their glaring weakness by acquiring two Grade A+ relief pitchers in Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz.

– Romero, the Phillies’ #1 left-handed arm in the bullpen tests positive for a drug, the illegality of which is entirely ambiguous. Romero will miss the first 50 games, or 31% of the ’09 season.

I know I should be relishing the Phillies’ WFC, but this is getting to be one of the more embarrassing off-seasons of a World Series winner, Florida Marlins aside.

Chipper Jones Has A Room Temperature IQ?

Larry “Chipper” Jones has been my favorite non-Phillie since he burst onto the scene with the Atlanta Braves in 1995. So it is with great remorse that I bring you news that Jones might, in fact, be a few watts short of a light bulb. Over at The Sporting News, Ken Bradley got Jones’ take on the goings-on in baseball, and a lot of Jones’ thoughts evoke this response:

Chipper Jones: Moron.

You may recall Braves’ players and even their manager in need of the whaambulance back in August and September of ’07. This is becoming a trend.

Without further ado, let’s read and respond to Larry.

Chipper on the Mets acquiring relievers Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz

The rich get richer. It’s becoming more and more apparent that the bigger markets are crushing the smaller markets with these signings.

Larry, you’ve averaged just about $13 million per season over the past eight seasons. You complaining about the rich is like Paris Hilton complaining about people with chlamydia (PH jokes are just too easy).

Only the signing of Rodriguez represented a market inequality, since Putz was acquired in a trade — almost any team could have jumped out and paid for his services with players. Further, Rodriguez can be considered to have been slightly underpaid at $37 million over the next three seasons. For instance, the Yankees signed Mariano Rivera to a three-year $45 million contract in December of ’07. Joe Nathan and Brad Lidge have similar contracts to Rodriguez.

It’s not like the Mets just reached into their pockets, pulled out as much money as they could grab on to, and said to Rodriguez, “Here, just take this, we don’t need to bother counting.” The Mets offered a market-savvy contract to Rodriguez and he bit. There’s nothing unfair about that.

We won for 14 consecutive years, and you never, ever saw any bulletin board material. And now that these two teams are on top of the division, they can’t keep their mouths shut. Just go play baseball. It’s Cole Hamels now. It was Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Beltran the past couple of springs. These two teams are constantly going at each other verbally. You know, win with class, lose with class. Just keep your mouth shut and go play your game. 

David Pinto had a great response to this nugget:

For 14 years, Atlanta was the most boring champion around. When I was at the World Series in 1999, the Yankees fans at Turner Field, greatly outnumbered, still managed to be louder than the Braves fans. Let the Mets and Phillies talk trash, and let them go down to the wire every year. Fans love this.

I’d hate to see the MLB turn into the No Fun League, or the NFL, especially if it’s driven by the players.

Chipper on the Braves pulling out of the Jake Peavy trade talks

[The Atlanta Braves are] not going to give any player who comes through here a no-trade clause. I don’t care if it’s Hank Aaron. I don’t care if it’s Mickey Mantle.

Then Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle will head to New York where they’re at least going to get paid better without a no-trade clause. The NTC actually helps teams, believe it or not, by finding another method through which to attract players. If you’re not going to offer a lot of money, and you’re not making the playoffs, AND you’re not going to provide other incentives, then why would anyone play for your team?

Chipper on the Yankees’ offseason spending

The downside to trading is that it weakens your minor league system. But the only way that we are going to win now is through trades. We just don’t have enough money to compete with the New York, Los Angeles and Chicago teams.

While the poorer teams are supposed to have an advantage when it comes to prospects — with the draft order based on how bad a team’s record is — if it exists, it is small. But regardless, almost any team — including the Braves — can trade for a star player. It just requires loosening the grip on your prized prospects. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. That’s why the Brewers parted with Matt LaPorta for C.C. Sabathia last year.

Bad example (if you take that analogy literally).

To look at it from another perpsective, take a glance at the Braves’ total payroll by year, with their MLB rank…

2008: $102,365,683; 10th
2007: $87,290,833; 15th
2006: $90,156,876; 9th
2005: $86,457,302; 10th
2004: $90,182,500; 8th
2003: $106,243,667; 3rd
2002: $93,470,367; 7th
2001: $91,936,166; 6th

Only once since 2001 were the Braves not in the top-third of the league in total payroll. Seems to me like the Braves had more than enough enough money to compete for free agents.

Peer at Jones’ salary in each of those years, and how much of the Braves’ payroll it takes up:

2008: $12,333,333, 10%
2007: $12,333,333, 13%
2006: $12,333,333, 15%
2005: $16,061,802, 18%
2004: $15,333,333, 18%
2003: $13,333,333, 12%
2002: $11,333,333, 12%
2001: $10,333,333, 13%

Gee, Larry… if you wanted the Braves to have more money to compete for better players, why didn’t you ever volunteer to take a pay cut? Did it ever cross your mind when you’re whining about your team’s lack of finances, “Oh yeah, I am responsible for one-fifth of it all. Oops!”

You have fun counting your money when your team is mathematically eliminated from playoff contention in mid-August, while the Phillies and Mets will continue to play meaningful games into late September.

BDD: Amaro is Phils’ Weakest Link

At Baseball Digest Daily, I rip Amaro a new one for his utter lack of logic and complete refusal to use the Phils’ WFC as leverage in the free agent market.

Instead, Jenkins’ and Eaton’s salaries will remain wholly on the books, their bodies filling up roster slots that could be taken by more productive players. Amaro is content paying $6.5 million for a downgrade in left field, $6.5 million for a 46-year-old starter in Jamie Moyer, and $2.5-5 million for a flaky, typically unproductive SP/RP hybrid in Park.

WFC’s and they’re scavenging the free agent market. WFC’s and they’re hoping some food falls off the table.

Mets GM Omar Minaya, despite his team’s embarrassingly pathetic play at the end of each of the last two seasons, is eating at the table. He’s at the back end of a three-course meal. With Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz stains on his bib, he may as well get some Derek Lowe on there, too.

I Remember This Guy

Friend of the blog (and currently On Notice) Bill Conlin has written a column lauding the Raul Ibanez signing for reasons that defy logic. It’s been a while since I FJM’ed an article, so let’s jump right in.

Ibanez may fit perfectly in leftfield

The classy veteran was introduced at the Bank yesterday.

Classy may make you feel warm and tingly inside as a journalist, but it doesn’t bring your defensive +/- from nearly -20 to even, and nor does it raise your OBP twenty points. From all reports, Ibanez is a great guy but I’d rather have Terrell Owens if he’s a better bet to help my team win ballgames. Or a similarly productive player who is younger, comparably priced, and doesn’t cost a first round draft pick (*cough*adamdunn*cough*).

This weather has been awful. My throat is all scratchy.

Both Park and Ibanez will celebrate birthdays early next season. By the All-Star break, the average age of Ponce de Ruben’s first three major league transactions will be 40.

That is what is known as “cagey veteranosity.” A favorite of former Phillies GM Ed Wade’s. Maybe the concerns were spot-on after all: Amaro is much more Wade than Pat Gillick.

Amaro warmed up for Operation Longtooth by swapping lukewarm catching prospect Jason Jaramillo for out-of-favor Pirates receiver Ronny Paulino, 27. The Phillies are playing the change-of-scenery card big time

I wouldn’t really call the swapping of two mediocre catchers a “big time change-of-scenery.” This free agent class is star-studded — Manny Ramirez, C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira to name a few — and Jake Peavy’s name has been routinely bandied about in trade rumors. But, yeah, Ronny Paulino and Jason Jaramillo are up there.

What was Amaro thinking, many have asked, adding another lefthanded, middle-of-the-order hitter to a lineup where Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are already entrenched? Add Ibanez to the engine room and lefthanded hitters will be lined up like shooting-gallery ducks waiting for the league’s managers to mow them down with a parade of lefthanders.

Woe is us . . .

The reason why the handedness really matters is because Charlie Manuel has shown limited dedication to changing his lineup around to maximize production. I will be pleasantly surprised if Manuel’s righty/lefty lineups look like this:

vs. RHP

Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Ibanez, Werth, Feliz, Ruiz

vs. LHP

Victorino, Utley, Rollins, Howard, Werth, Ibanez, Feliz, Ruiz

There are variations that would yield similar results, but I think these would be the most effective lineups. I’d bet money that Manuel’s LHP lineup is Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Ibanez, Werth or at least some combination where he has the three lefties 3-4-5.

It just begs for teams to abuse the left-handers in their bullpens.

It’s true that both Chase Utley and Ibanez hit lefties much better than most left-handed hitters do, but it’s not just about individual production. Their handedness will mean that Ryan Howard will also be facing southpaws. Howard’s the #4 hitter, so presumably he will be up in a lot of situations where he needs to drive in runners. Ensuring that he will be facing a left-hander late in the game will minimize the probability of him driving in those runners.

Never mind that righty-swinging Pat Burrell averaged 141 strikeouts during his nine seasons here and never struck out fewer than 120 times. Is that the kind of consistency you’re happy to have?

Pat Burrell and the word “inconsistent” are mutually exclusive. From 2004-08, his OBP ranged from .365 to .400 and his SLG .455 to .507, including .502 to .507 the last four seasons, all above-average numbers.

Raul Ibanez has averaged 103 strikeouts over the past three seasons. He’s not that much more contact-prone than Burrell.

In seven seasons as a regular player, the late-blooming Ibanez has averaged 93 strikeouts.

Conlin went back four more seasons than I did. Is Ibanez the same hitter he was in 2002 with the Kansas City Royals? I doubt it. As Ibanez has gotten older, he’s developed more power, and — surprise, surprise — he has increased his swing-and-miss percentage as well.

His ISO his first four seasons as a regular (2002-05): .243, .160, .168, .156.

  • Average strikeouts per 500 AB in this span: 74.5.

His ISO his past three seasons as a regular (2006-08): .227, .188, .186

  • Average strikeouts per 500 AB in this span: 87.8.

His .305 average against lefties last season appears to be a statistical anomaly and should be discounted.

I wouldn’t exactly call it an anomaly. He had an .865 OPS against lefties last season, by far the highest of his career, but he also OPS’ed .780 and .769 in 2004 and ’05. For his career, he has a .733 OPS against ’em.

Unsurprisingly, his OPS against lefties is highly correlated with his BABIP against lefties: there’s a .44 R-squared, using his 2002-08 numbers (there’s a bit of double-counting involved that can’t be avoided, so it’s probably a bit lower). Despite its reputation, Citizens Bank Park’s outfield walls are at about normal depth in all areas (if the measurements are accurate), so Ibanez will have an average amount of area for his hits to drop in, as opposed to the spacious outfield of Safeco. So, you might see a lower-than-usual BABIP across the board from Ibanez because he’s moving to a smaller ballpark.

The best news? He has faced Mets ace Johan Santana 34 times and has a .353 average.

That’s awesome. So, he’s going to have 550 at-bats against Johan Santana?

Manuel will be juggling his lineups at a time when the National League is a little short of quality lefthanders. Santana has been something less than advertised – very good, but not exceptional

Johan Santana had only one season in his career from 2002-07 where he posted a higher ERA+ than he did in ’08 for the Mets. In ’04, he posted a 182 ERA+, 16 points higher than the 166 ERA+ he had last season.

It’s true that Santana’s K/9 is at its lowest point since he became a regular starting pitcher and his BB/9 is the highest since 2003, but that’s like criticizing Michael Jordan because he only scored 40 points in a game.

Only four of the 24 winningest pitchers in the National League last season were lefthanders.

Let’s use a better metric than wins and losses, but something Mr. Conlin will understand.

Top-two leaders in ERA, MLB: Johan Santana, Cliff Lee. 100% left-handed.

Top four: Santana, Lee, Lincecum, Sabathia. 75% left-handed.

To extend it to 24 pitchers is to bias the sample size because there are more right-handers than left-handers.

Does Wolfie scare you?

No, but Johan Santana does, regardless of Raul Ibanez’s presence.

Ryan Howard hit more home runs off lefthanded pitchers last year (14) than did any righthanded hitter but teammate Jayson Werth, who blasted 16. MVP Albert Pujols hit 11. Sleep easy.

Ryan Howard had 237 at-bats against left-handers. Pujols had 158. Howard’s HR rate against lefties is one HR per 17 at-bats; Pujols’ is one per 14.

And despite all those home runs, Howard still put up an OPS 220 points lower against lefties than against righties.

Chase Utley batted .277 against lefthanders last season, despite the hip injury that restricted his swing. And guess who was No. 3 behind Howard in homers off lefthanders? You’d be right if you said Utley, with 13 bombs.

Chase can hit lefties well; Howard used to be able to; Ibanez treads water. And it’s true that this trio of lefties worries you less against LHP than other lefty threesomes, but why would you intentionally increase the probability that lefty specialists are brought in? Do you honestly prefer that the trio face LHP than RHP?

Think of all the righthanded pitchers who will have to face a lefthanded gantlet when Utley is back in a lineup that will include switch-hitters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, Utley, Howard and Ibanez.

But the question is who would have been better to keep between Burrell or Ibanez. Considering that it cost three years, $30 million, and a first-round draft pick for Ibanez, and it may have cost one year, $16 million in arbitration if Burrell accepts and a first-round pick if he doesn’t… and then consider that they’re about the same in terms of production (just over two wins above replacement), it makes no sense to sign Ibanez and, in hindsight, it made no sense to not offer Burrell arbitration.

Manuel will have some flexibility. You could see a lineup

Call me ignorant, but I have no confidence in Manuel’s lineup creation abilities. Last season, it made too much sense to break up Utley and Howard in the order, but he didn’t do that. Utley was in the #3 spot for 128 games (31 games in the #2 spot) and Howard was in the #4 spot for 154 games.

The Phillies just got through paying $14 million a year for a guy who hit .257, struck out a ton, clogged the bases, hasn’t driven in 100 runs since 2005, has never scored 100 runs, and is a seven-inning player.

Conlin is actually questioning Burrell’s offensive value! Burrell’s career OPS+ is 119 and it’s ranged from 122 to 128 from 2005-08.

Raul Ibanez has a career OPS+ of 113. The last four seasons, it’s ranged from 115 to 125.

And what makes anyone think that Ibanez won’t be “a seven-inning player” as well? He’s equally as bad defensively, is older, and is playing for a manager who has a defensive substitution fetish.

I leave you with this small thought to tuck away for a snowy day. What if it’s coming up on the reporting date for pitchers and catchers and Pat Burrell still has no offer in his years and numbers ballpark?

Any port in storm, right?

Yes, one of the best right-handed hitters available will be jobless in February. The economy may be bad, and unemployment may be hitting record levels, but not in baseball. Burrell may not get an average annual value on his contract greater than what he was likely to have been awarded in arbitration, but he will be offered a contract sooner rather than later. You don’t pass up a 119 OPS+ especially if you can DH him.