In order to make room on the 40-man roster for starter Bruce Chen, the Royals designated utilityman Emilio Bonifacio for assignment earlier today. Bonifacio will turn 29 years old on April 23 and has experience playing every position on the diamond except for pitcher, catcher, and first base. Over his seven-year Major League career, Bonifacio has racked up 400 or more defensive innings at second base, third base, center field, shortstop, and left field. The Phillies already have a glut of players auditioning for possible roles with the 2014 squad, but they should consider trading with the Royals to acquire Bonifacio.
The Phillies are old. It’s a narrative that both is true and has been repeated ad nauseam for the third straight year. The Phillies’ success in 2014 will depend largely on the health and performance of the five position players 34 years or older expected to accrue at least 400 plate appearances: Marlon Byrd (36), Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley (35), and Ryan Howard (34). If things start to trend positive for the first time in a while, the Phillies could improve on last year’s 73-89 record. If not, they’ll likely keep the Marlins company at the bottom of the NL East.
CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that the Phillies have avoided arbitration with reliever Antonio Bastardo, agreeing to a one-year, $2 million deal yesterday. That leaves Ben Revere as the only player who could still reach an arbitration hearing in February, but the Phillies will likely reach a solution within the next week.
The Phillies avoided arbitration with outfielder John Mayberry prior to the deadline yesterday, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.587 million, per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. It’s just shy of Matt Swartz’s projection of $1.7 million. Mayberry was eligible for arbitration for the first time and can become a free agent after the 2016 season.
The Phillies have avoided arbitration with Kyle Kendrick in his fourth and final year, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $7.675 million, per the Phillies official Twitter. The deal includes award bonuses. The two sides had previously agreed to a two-year deal worth a total of $7.5 million in February 2012. The latest deal represents a pay raise of more than $3 million over last season.
At Beerleaguer, Mike Wisniewski goes over some lineup options for the Phillies, including putting Chase Utley in the lead-off spot. We found that to be the best option last season as well, when we did the same exercise. Also of note from last year’s post was that Revere ends up being used in the #9 spot behind the pitcher.
As this will be Ryne Sandberg‘s first full season at the helm, we don’t know his quirks yet, but he doesn’t have the same relationship with the players that Charlie Manuel did. That means he might actually move Jimmy Rollins out of the lead-off spot to lower in the order where he would be more useful. Rollins himself has stated in the past that he prefers batting lead-off, so he may campaign once more for the status quo if there is talk of moving him further down.
This is complete speculation, but a likely Phillies lineup could look like this:
At Baseball Nation, Grant Brisbee searched for the next Lou Whitaker — as he put it, “the player that seems like a no-doubt Hall of Famer to us nerds right now, but who will fade from the collective memory of voters during the five-year grace period, possibly dropping off the ballot in the first year.”
Back in November, the Phillies signed catcher Carlos Ruiz to a three-year, $26 million contract with a fourth year club option for $4.5 million. Given the recent 25-year, $2.5 billion TV deal the Phillies just signed with Comcast SportsNet, the team won’t be hurt too much even if Ruiz provides little value on the contract over the duration of those three guaranteed years. Still, the Phillies should be preparing for Ruiz, soon to be 35 years old, to decline.
In fact, Ruiz has already shown signs of decline. Bothered by plantar fasciitis and a strained right hamstring, Ruiz posted an adjusted OPS of 90, his lowest mark since 2008. His walk rate dropped to a career-low five percent after being as high as 13 percent in 2010. His .100 ISO tied for his lowest mark over the last five years and his .291 BABIP was also his lowest since 2009, a result of consistently making weaker contact.
Domonic Brown was easily the most pleasant surprise for the Phillies throughout 2013. He finished with a .351 weighted on-base average, third-best on the team behind Chase Utley and Darin Ruf. He also finished with a .222 ISO, which left him in the top-20 among all Major League hitters. After years of fighting tooth and nail for playing time, he has finally secured a starting role for himself going forward.
Brown had a remarkable month of May, smashing 12 home runs en route to a .991 OPS over the 31-day period. He won Player of the Month honors and earned himself a spot on the National League All-Star roster. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to completely replicate his success in the months that followed, though he did remain fairly productive. Along with a concussion (July) and tendonitis in his right foot (September) hampering his offensive output during the second half, pitchers also became less willing to challenge him. Instead, they relied on pitching him on the outer portion of the plate.