BDD: WBC Prospect Primer

At Baseball Daily Digest (notice the name change), I’ve highlighted the twelve prospects that show up on their respective teams’ top-ten lists (according to Baseball America).

Phillies #2 prospect Carlos Carrasco will be pitching for Venezuela.

  •  Carlos Carrasco (#2), RHP, Venezuela
  • he’s already got three solid big-league ready pitches, he’s shown durability and endurance needed to be a front-line starter, and he’s got the brains to outsmart sluggers from outing to outing and at-bat to at-bat. If Philly gives the kid a shot, expect some highlight-reel performances. [Scouting Book]

Lend A Helping Hand

If you’ve been following news in the Philadelphia area lately, Coatesville (a city in Chester County) has been under siege. Arsonists have been lighting the place up for about a year now.

MSNBC:

On Monday, Coatesville was under a state of emergency. The feds were called in and people were, in one woman’s words, “talking about taking up arms.

There’ve been 14 arsons this year and 15 last year. The most recent, this past weekend, spread to 15 row homes.

Many are without homes and have nothing but the clothes on their back. They are relying on the generosity of others to help them through this trying time.

With many thanks to CalvinBall, a poster at the Phillies forum Back She Goes, I am presenting pertinent information should you feel generous enough to make a donation to aid these families who have fallen victim to these senseless acts.

Click here to read all of the information in full.

If you want to give money, you can write a tax deductible check to CCGM (the ministry that is over Camp Old Mill, and partnered with the Bridge Academy and Community Center in Coatesville). Write ‘Fire Release’ in the memo. Every cent will go towards these families. It will mostly be buying gift cards, but will vary if their needs require something else. If you would rather just get a gift card and send it, you can do that as well. Anything will help!

County Corrections Gospel Mission

PO Box 1136

Coatesville, Pa 19320

BDD: Empathy for Adam Eaton

At Baseball Digest Daily, I explain why I am a charter member of the Adam Eaton fan club.

I’m not going to go out and purchase a Phillies jersey with “Eaton” and his number 23 (I’m sure he meant no offense to His Airness) on the back. But I’m the charter member of his fan club if for no other reason than that I refuse to piggyback on a guy who, most likely, could stand to carry a lighter burden.

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]

BDD: 5 Guys to Bank on in ’09

At Baseball Digest Daily, I’ve suggested five players I think will defy our expectations in the ’09 season. Here’s a snippet:

However, Rollins — who can now be referred to as a seasoned veteran — had an impressive change in his peripherals in ‘08. His walk rate increased by three percent and his strikeout rate decreased by two percent. As such, he doubled his ‘07 strikeout-to-walk ratio. This correlates well with his overall three percent dip in swings. Oddly enough, his contact with pitches outside the strike zone jumped from 68.5% in ‘07 to 78% last season. Probably an aberration, but interesting nonetheless.

Rollins’ line drive rate is back, too! His LD% was at 24%, his highest since 2003, and over a four percent increase from ’07. However, his BABIP didn’t reflect the increased line drive rate, sitting at an average .292. When Rollins had similar line drive rates previously in his career, his BABIP was around .310. Rollins was a bit unfortunate last season on balls in play.

Who do you think will surprise us?

BDD: An Irrelevant Hall of Fame

On the heels of learning that Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice were voted into the Hall of Fame, I have looked into the future to an irrelevant Hall of Fame.

“Who are these guys?” my grandson queries as we walk into a hallway separated from the rest of the exhibits.

Not even having to look at the scenery, I respond, “They are Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, Ken Caminiti…”

My grandson interrupts me. “How come they’re all by themselves over here?”

“Back in the late 1990’s, baseball was hurting from the ‘94 strike and needed something big to draw interest. McGwire and Sosa got into an historic home run race where they both shattered Roger Maris’ single-season record of 61 home runs with 70 and 66. And Barry Bonds later broke it by hitting 73 in a season. Later, it was surmised that they were all using artificial substances to improve their game. When it came time for them to get inducted into the Hall here, they were shunned by the baseball writers who knew of the problem when it was in its infancy and did nothing to shine light on it; they ignored it. Then, they righteously campaigned against those guys ex post facto.”

“Ex post facto?”

“It means ‘after the fact’. They could have come forward with pertinent information, but there was too much money to be made off it, so they didn’t say anything. Years later, when they had made all their money, they finally said something because it provided another avenue for them to make money. The guys who wrote the book Game of Shadows are a good example.”

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.