In a roundtable discussion last week, my fellow Crashburn writers and I were given the task of answering this question: “Does Domonic Brown rebound from his horrid 2014? If so, to what degree?” I think I came up with a reasonable enough answer at the time, but the question stumped me and has been rattling around in my head ever since. This summer will see the 5th anniversary of Brown’s Major League debut and in those five years every aspect of his baseball career has been analyzed under a Philadelphia-sized microscope from his May 2013 breakout to his awful 2014 to management’s controversial handling of his early MLB career to his Dallas Cowboys fandom. For this reason, it caught me off guard to realize that the reason I struggled with the roundtable question about Brown’s future was this absurd fact: I no longer knew who Domonic Brown was as a baseball player. Maybe it was the fault of information overload or simply lazy recent analysis on my end, but I set out to update both my understanding of and expectations for Domonic Brown.
Over at HardballTalk, I argued that the Washington Nationals’ starting rotation — now with Max Scherzer in the mix — could challenge the 2011 Phillies as the best modern starting rotation. The 2011 Phillies’ (2.86) and 1992 Braves’ (2.95) rotations are the only ones to post a sub-3.00 ERA since 1990.
In a column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal argues that the Phillies really shouldn’t be having much difficulty moving first baseman Ryan Howard. He quotes an American League executive, who discredit’s Howard’s ability to hit for power by citing his slugging percentage. Rosenthal counters by comparing Howard’s SLG to a selection of other players. It didn’t get to the root of the matter, however.
Update (1/13/15, 4:10 PM EST: Rodriguez failed his physical with the Phillies and has signed with the Braves, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Update (12/27/14, 5:50 PM EST): A source for CSN Philly confirms that the Phillies and Rodriguez have agreed to a minor league deal.
Per Phillies Spanish play-by-play broadcaster Angel Ibo Castillo, free agent pitcher Wandy Rodriguez is on his way to Philadelphia to take a physical. If all goes well, he’ll presumably ink a minor league deal with the Phillies. Castillo adds that Rodriguez is expected to compete for a spot in the starting rotation.
Update (1/5/15): Salisbury reports the Phillies have signed Harang to a one-year, $5 million deal.
(Posted 12/31/14): After confirming the Marlon Byrd trade to the Cincinnati Reds, CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury added that the Phillies were “poking around” free agent starter Aaron Harang. The Phillies’ interest in adding another starter, even after recently signing Wandy Rodriguez, makes sense as they are thin on rotation depth.
As the Phillies won’t jump head-first into the free agent pool once again this winter, it seems we fans are destined for a quiet December and January. We’ll unwrap our new Phillies 2015 desk calendars and count down the days until pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Florida. There, the Phillies will embark on yet another journey into the bottom of the NL East, biding the time until the young players mature and blossom into the next generation of marketable stars. This has all of the excitement of a library.
One understated aspect of both last year’s and this coming year’s Phillies squads are the cast-offs who can reestablish their image and become valuable assets to the Phillies. We saw this with Roberto Hernandez (formerly Fausto Carmona), who signed with the Phillies on a one-year, $4.5 million deal. The club’s new analytics department saw a potential bounce-back candidate in Hernandez despite a horrific performance with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013. With marked improvements in his strikeout and walk rates, combined with an expected regression in his home runs allowed rate, Hernandez seemed like a solid bet to become a trade chip for the Phillies come summer.