Thursday, January 29, 2009

Beimel on Phils' Radar

Joe Beimel has popped up on the Phillies' radar as a potential left-handed reliever. He went 5-1 for Los Angeles last season with a 2.02 ERA. In his three years with the Dodgers, Beimel went a combined 11-4 with a solid 2.95 ERA.

Beimel would be a great addition to the bullpen, and would complement Scott Eyre nicely as two solid left-handed relief pitchers. Over the last two seasons, he has allowed just one home run. His strikeout to walk ratio is nothing to write home about, 32-21 in 2008, but although he is not a strikeout pitcher, he retires batters when he needs to.

He is certainly one of the better options on the market for the Phils. It would be great to see them aggressively pursue Beimel, and improve this already dominant bullpen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bring in the Kids

It sounds a bit strange, being that this team is just three months removed from winning the World Series, but a youth movement could do them some good. I'm not saying they should become the Florida Marlins are try to put high school kids out there, but promoting some of the prospects now could pay off largely, especially down the line.

Ryan Howard is the best home run hitter in Major League Baseball. He is the type of player a team wants to have as long as possible. When Ryan Howard won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2005, he was 26 years old. Imagine how many home runs he may have hit, or games he could have won, had he been promoted at 21 or 22. We were fortunate to watch Jim Thome don a Phillies' uniform for a few years; he was truly a class act during his time in Philadelphia. But Ryan Howard was a budding star, with his path to the Majors blocked for a few years that he could have been smashing home runs over the walls at Veteran's Stadium.

Let's see what Carlos Carrasco has in that "million dollar arm." While Carlos Ruiz has more than earned the right to be the number one catcher, Lou Marson is likely the catcher of the future, and looks as though he may have tremendous potential and talent. Chris Coste has been another class act throughout his career, but is also 36 years old and his numbers have declined since his breakout rookie season in 2006 when he hit .328 with seven home runs. He followed by hitting .279 in 2007 with five home runs, and .263 with nine home runs in 2008. His average has severely declined, and while he hit a career high nine home runs in 2008, two more than his previous high, he had 76 more at bats in 2008 than he did in 2006.

Coste has been a good back-up catcher, and a great teammate. Unfortunately, his skills appear to be declining a bit, and not that many people are interested in reading a sequel titled the 37 year old veteran. The novelty of his story has worn off, and Marson is just 22 years old and ready to start his big-league career. A few years of Major League experience serving as Ruiz's back-up would further his development and likely improve the team at the same time.

There are several other options in the Phillies' farm system that could help this team immediately. They have a few speedsters, like John Mayberry. Brad Harman hit only .100 in his ten at bats in 2008, but he showed potential during his time on the roster. He hit into some bad luck; a few outs he made where hard hit balls. Jason Donald could be a tremendous second baseman, so much so that if Howard leaves in a few years, rumors are Utley would move to first and Donald would play second. Some Major League grooming would do Donald a ton of good, and could help the team, especially is Utley is unable to go on opening day.

None of these prospects should have the opportunity to become regular starters, with the exception of maybe Carrasco, but getting them to contribute and develop into big-league ballplayers in 2009 could pay large dividends to the Phillies moving forward.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fifth Spot in Rotation

Want the good news or the bad news first? The bad? Well yes, Adam Eaton is still a member of the Phillies, and even more astoundingly, is due to make $8.5 million in 2009. Mercifully, the good news is that he has thrown his last pitch for this team. While it's a shame for the team to throw that money down the drain, it'd be even more of a shame to justify sending him to the hill again just because of the salary he is "earning."

Ruben Amaro all but confirmed Eaton's situation saying, "It's a four man competition, and [Eaton] is not involved in that," while commenting on the team's opening for a fifth starter.

The four competing pitchers will be, Kyle Kendrick, J.A. Happ, Chan Ho Park and Carlos Carrasco.

Here's to hoping it goes to anyone but Park. I can justify giving it to anyone but him. Kendrick went an impressive 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA in 2007. He had a sophomore slump in 2008, struggling down the stretch and ultimately losing his rotation spot. He is still a young and promising player, and could certainly bounce back to his poised 2007 form.

The lefthanded Happ is another young and promising player, and he proved that he belongs in the big leagues with four solid starts at the end of 2008. Having Happ at the bottom of the rotation also lets the Phils set up their rotation in an interesting way, varying between left and righthanded starters; Hamels (left), Myers (right), Moyer (left), Blanton (right) and Happ (left).

The most interesting selection would be Carrasco, one of the Phillies' top prospects and possibly the future stud of the rotation. It will be interesting to see if the Carrasco era starts in 2009, and if so, how it plays out. If he lives up to the hype, he could be a dominant force that could solidify this rotation into one of the best in baseball.

Park is a solid option out of the bullpen, but likely not much more. He is a veteran arm that teams like to have, but he puts up rather mediocre numbers every year. It would benefit the team more to go with a young arm with some life and potential in it.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out over the course of Spring Training and throughout the season. Thankfully, Eaton will not be involved in that battle, but in a perfect world, the team would be spending that $8.5 million on something useful. Like maybe a new ball-boy, a few new ball-girls, a bigger jersey for Charlie Manuel and a motorized wheelchair for Jamie Moyer.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Phils' search for righthanded bat continues

General Manager Ruben Amaro's search for a righthanded bat to come off the bench continues. Aside from Nomar Garciaparra, Amaro has also been in contact with free agents Moises Alou, Kevin Millar, Ty Wigginton, Rich Aurilia and Mark Grudzielanek, Jim Salisbury of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Money should be a huge factor. The Phillies need to be frugal, as their payroll is 2009 is already exceeding that of last year's, which does not yet include Ryan Howard's salary.

The team seems to need an outfielder more than an infielder, due to lack to depth. Geoff Jenkins remains the fourth outfielder, but struggled to produce and find any sort of consistency last season. If Jenkins does not improve in 2009, they are currently without a solid back-up in the outfield.

Meanwhile, the infield is stacked with options including Greg Dobbs, Eric Bruntlett, Jason Donald and Marcus Giles.

The majority free agents on the list above are infielders, with the exception of Millar and Alou. Either of those two could provide a solid option for the Phils, even though players like Grudzielanek and Aurilia would likely post better numbers.

There seems to be a greater need for a righthanded outfielder, especially with Jason Werth being the only true righthanded batter currently in the outfield. Rual Ibanez, Geoff Jenkins and Matt Stairs all bat left, while Shane Victorino is a switch-hitter.

Given Alou's injury problems of late, Millar seems to be the best option. He is a solid veteran, playing for the World Champion Boston Red Sox in 2004. Millar has played more games at first base, but has been a solid outfielder as well throughout his career.

Hopefully the Phils find a nice righthanded compliment to the lefthanded pinch-hit extraordinaire Greg Dobbs off the bench, and someone who could fill in nicely in the outfield.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Werth, Blanton and Durbin sign

The team is making every effort to avoid arbitration, coming to terms with Joe Blanton, Jason Werth and Chad Durbin.

Blanton signed a one-year, $5.475 million deal. Durbin also signed a one-year deal worth $1.635 million; and Werth will make $10 million over the next two seasons.

All great deals, locking up important players while avoiding the difficult situations arbitration can cause. Werth developed nicely into a full-time player last season, and the $10 million is well deserved. Blanton may well have been last year's unsung hero, and he truly developed into a big-game pitcher.

The only arbitration eligible, unsigned player is Ryan Howard. Howard is looking for a one-year deal worth about $18 million, while the Phils are offering $14 million.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Victorino and Phils avoid arbitration

Shane Victorino and the Phillies avoid arbitration, coming to terms on a one year, $3.125 million deal for 2009. After making $480,000 in 2008, Victorino received a great raise after his breakout season last year.

Now only Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Joe Blanton and Chad Durbin remain as arbitration eligible players for 2009.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Team not budging; Madson does

After an initial rejection, Ryan Madson has accepted a three year deal, worth a reported $12 million. He will receive a substantial raise from the $1.4 million he earned in 2008.

Madson is an important part of the bullpen, and developed into a very solid set-up man. Hopefully the "Bridge to Lidge" will avoid his past inconsistency and continue to bridge the gap between the eight and ninth innings.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hamels signs 3 year deal

The Phillies made a great move today, signing ace Cole Hamels to a three year, $20.5 million dollar contract. Hamels showed just how valuable he is to this team during last season's playoffs, and not going to arbitration for the next three years is a great step.

While it would have been nice to see them lock him up long term, this is a step in the right direction as Hamels is clearly more satisfied with the team's offer now than he was heading into the 2008 season. He is a player that the Phillies can not afford to lose. A dominant staff ace is one of the most important things for a baseball team, especially come playoff time. Hamels has proved to be that ace, and it is good to know he is locked up through 2011.

Of all the arbitration or free agency eligible players, Hamels is the most valuable, and that includes Ryan Howard. Hopefully Cole can add another World Series MVP to his mantle and maybe even a Cy Young award during his time as a member of the Phillies.

Madson rejects offer

Ryan Madson rejected a three year, $12 million deal from the Phillies yesterday. After a career year last season, Madson is clearly looking for more. This could be another case of agent Scott Boras advising a client to expect an unreasonable offer. Madson was terrific last year, and the team should make every effort to bring him back as the set-up man.

Only problem is, he's not worth elite closer money. History has shown inconsistency from Madson, and he has failed to lock down the ninth inning several times during his career when given the opportunity. He will never be a closer on this team, and other teams will hesitate to offer Madson a large deal after what was one dominant half-season. The Phillies have shown Madson a great deal of support as he struggled to find a role on this team over the years. After finally finding one, and receiving a fair offer from the team to stay in that role, he decided to either look for more money or to go to another team.

The Phillies could raise the offer to about $15 million, but beyond that, let Madson make his choice. He was important to the team last year, but not crucial. No one knows if his blazing velocity from the postseason will continue into next season, or if he will continue down an inconsistent path. Offering more money is simply a risk, and it appears unlikely the team will raise their offer by much. Sign the contract Ryan, and get ready for 2009.

Dobbs signs two-year extension

The Phillies locked up the league's best pinch hitter, signing Greg Dobbs to a two-year contract extention worth $2.5 million. Dobbs was tremendous last year in the clutch and coming off the bench, an art few people can perfect.

"I'm ecstatic about this," Dobbs said by telephone from California. "When you're part of something special like we have going with the Phillies, you want to be part of it for as long as possible. This allows me to be here for at least the next two years. I can't wait to get to spring training and try to win another World Series."

This is a great signing. Dobbs really proved valuable to the team last year, solidifying the bench core. His defense, while not spectacular, improved last year as well and he played at admirably at third base. Phils' fans should be excited to have Dobbs in Philadelphia for at least another two years, and Dobbs is clearly excited to be here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kapler signs with Tampa

The Phils must remove Gabe Kapler from their radar, as he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays today, in a one year deal worth $1 million. This is certainly a bargain for the depth Kapler can provide as a fourth outfielder or even in platoon duty. There is no doubt Kapler would have proved more valuable than So Taguchi did last year.

The team will look to step up their efforts to pick up Nomar Garciaparra after missing out on Kapler.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Phils looking at Garciaparra, Kapler

Continuing their search for a right-handed hitter to come off the bench, the Phils have shown interest in infielder Nomar Garciaparra and outfielder Gabe Kapler. Each player was eliminated by the Phillies during the 2008 postseason, as Nomar played for the Dodgers and Kapler for the Brewers.

Kapler is coming off a season in which he hit .301, with eight home runs and 38 runs batted in. Garciaparra, who can play shortstop, first and third base, hit .264 with eight home runs and 28 RBIs last season.

Kapler would be a better signing for the Phils, as they lack depth in the outfield. Nomar is a solid player, but he is aging and has seen his share of injury problems over the years. Kapler is more likely to stay healthy, and could even get a few starts in the outfield against some tough left-handed pitchers.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Mets not Built for Success

It is difficult to ignore; the Mets improved during the off-season. They are certainly going to be a better team going into 2009. Unfortunately for them, they are still the Mets.

Cole Hamels called them choke artists, and no one can argue with him. The management remains intact, and the core players that could not come through in the clutch or down the stretch are also coming back for more.

New York made a big splash in last year’s free agent pool as well, plucking the best pitcher on Earth from Minnesota’s organization and bringing Johan Santana to Queens. The Mets, who actually played very well against the Phillies last year, went only 3-2 against Philadelphia in games that Santana toed the rubber. The Mets collapsed down the stretch again, and failed to make the playoffs as the Phils went on to win a world championship.

This off-season, New York made significant improvements to their weakest area, the bullpen. Arch-nemesis Billy Wagner is out, and last year’s saves leader, Francisco Rodriguez, or “K-Rod,” will anchor the back end of the Mets’ bullpen.

They also acquired J.J. Putz as their set-up man, which is no small feat. Before having a shaky 2008 in which he converted only 15 of 23 save opportunities, Putz was a rock solid closer for Seattle. In 2006, he saved 36 games with a 2.30 ERA, and 40 games in 2007 with a miniscule 1.38 ERA. Putz’s 2008 ERA, 3.88, was still very solid, but if he can return to his dominant form of two years ago, New York will have found the perfect bridge to K-Rod.

Does anyone care though? This team finds a new way to lose every year. David Wright didn’t hit down the stretch or with runners in scoring position. He shrunk in the spotlight about as much as Alex Rodriguez does for the Yankees. Jose Reyes throws temper tantrums on the field, and he also doesn’t hit in September. Manager Jerry Manuel called himself a gangster and said next time Reyes throws a hissy fit, he will go on the field and “cut him.” Carlos Delgado had a monster resurgence last year, but don’t expect a repeat of his numbers this year.

The Mets have problems, and adding a few players is not going to fix them. They didn’t subtract players, and that is their problem. They needed a shake-up, and it didn’t happen. All the regular problems remain, except for a few members from the bullpen. They may have a few new big names, but they are still the Mets, and that spells trouble for New York.

Sure, Santana for seven innings, and Putz and Rodriguez for one each will win them some ballgames, but they still don’t have the make-up of a winner. They have no true clubhouse leaders, and no backbone. This team is not built for success. They are a bunch of individuals, not a team. The Phillies laid the blueprint for winning as a team, which is something New York does not understand.

You will see an improvement in the Mets’ bullpen this season. But when all is said and done, there is no reason to expect the end result to be any different for the men up the Turnpike.

Pitchers and Catchers report in....

36 days!!!!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Phils invite nine players to Spring Training

The Phillies' website is reporting that the team has extended an invitation to nine players to attend spring training with the team. Left-hander Antonio Bastardo, righties Yorman Bazardo and Gary Majewski, infielders Jason Donald and Marcus Giles, outfielders Jason Ellison and Jeremy Slayden, and catchers Tuffy Gosewisch and Paul Hoover will all be in attendance attempting to make the opening day, 25-man roster.

Bastardo could see his chance to fill the void left by J.C. Romero's suspension. Majewski was a good reliever in Washington for a few years, and both Donald and Giles could fill in nicely at second base if Utley is not ready by opening day.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Romero, Giles and Chan Ho Park

The team made several announcements yesterday, the biggest being that J.C. Romero has been suspended 50 games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. This is a particularly strange case, as Romero bought it over the counter, at a GNC store in Cherry Hill, NJ. Romero felt the supplement he was taking had been approved by the players’ union, and there was even mention that Phillies strength and conditioning coach Dong Lien approved it after Romero presented it to him.

The league has gone from one extreme to the other. Cracking down on performance enhancing drugs is crucial to maintain the balance of Major League Baseball. But while known substance users, such as Jason Giambi, continue to play, (Giambi just signed a deal to return to Oakland,) players taking over the counter supplements they felt were approved are being disciplined. Where does the problem lie? There seems to be a communication breakdown. Maybe the warden from Cool Hand Luke should have been present at the hearing to deliver some insight, “what we’ve got here is… a failure to communicate.”

There are conflicting reports and accounts of exactly where the misunderstanding comes from. It could be directly from the league, not providing a clear understanding of what is allowed and what is not, either to the players’ union or the players themselves. If the league is clearly issuing the dos and don’ts, then it could be the players’ union not giving a clear enough explanation to the players it represents. The teams bare some responsibility as well, as the physicians and trainers should closely monitor what each player is taking.

Someone dropped the ball here. Sure, Romero has some responsibility too. But he adamantly denies having any knowledge that the substance was banned. He also claims he was told there was nothing available for purchase over the counter containing any of the alleged illegal substance, and that they later reneged that, saying two or three things may contain it.

This type of thing should not happen. Everything not allowed by the league should be more clearly outlined so that this does not happen again. Former Florida Marlins’ pitcher Sergio Mitre was also suspended yesterday for 50 games for the exact same thing. The players seem to be confused about this ruling, and someone needs to step in and clear things up. It’s not like Romero and Mitre were taking HGH; supplements of that nature need to be taken very seriously and dealt with as strictly as possibly. The 50 game suspension applies to players found guilty of HGH use for a first offense as well, and the punishment Romero received clearly should not be as strict as that for someone taking HGH, a clear violation of league rules and tactic to gain an unfair advantage over opponents.

Ruben Amaro Jr. stated he plans to fill the void in the bullpen left by Romero’s suspension. Be sure to buy your “Free J.C.” t-shirts being sold by other Phils' blogs!

In other news, former Braves’ second baseman Marcus Giles has signed a minor league contract with the team. His numbers have steadily declined since his outstanding seasons a few years ago, and Giles did not play at all in 2008. He has a chance to make the roster if he plays well in spring training, and if Chase Utley is not ready by opening day. This is a classic low-risk, high-reward scenario. Giles does not exactly fit the high-reward category, but he could certainly fill in nicely at second base in Utley’s absence, and possibly provide a right handed bat off the bench if he can find his old stroke. Let’s hope this scenario plays out better than Kris Benson’s minor league deal last year. He never came close to making the big league roster, and I didn’t hear of any Anna Benson sightings around town. That double-negative does not make a positive.

The Phillies, to the surprise of no one, also officially announced the signing of Chan Ho Park. He could compete for the fifth spot in the rotation during spring training.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Goodbye Pat

There is no more number 5. Pat Burrell has found a home in Tampa Bay for the next two years, and he will be missed. Pat the Bat anchored the Phillies’ lineup and played a major role in the team’s success as the longest tenured player on the team, after his call-up in 2000, a distinction that now belongs to Jimmy Rollins. Burrell was a valuable asset to the team, providing consistent power numbers as a right handed batter and driving in runs in bunches. He was not fleet of foot or particularly strong with the glove. His cold streaks came and went, as did his hot streaks, and he could drive you to insanity at times by taking called third strikes one after another. Burrell always seemed to even out his numbers though, and come through in the clutch.

He hit a cold streak in the World Series, going 0 for his first 13. But Pat managed to come through in the clutch amid his recent struggles, ripping a double high off the wall in left-center field. A fitting end to his career in Philadelphia, jogging out of the box assuming a home run, and laboring into second with a double before being replaced by Eric Bruntlett as a pinch runner; a very anticlimactic way to go out. There was no standing ovation from the fans as we’ve seen Roger Clemens receive about fifteen times while he tried to decide whether or not he should retire.

The fans, give them credit, recognized Burrell’s need for encouragement. Amidst his slumps, the Philly faithful continued to give Pat their unbridled support. After a called third strike or foul pop-out, he heard the boo-birds, but the applause resumed as he strode to the plate the following time. After a home run, as he returned to left field, the fans sitting behind him never failed to give him a standing ovation. We stood behind Pat through the good times and the bad.

Raul Ibanez is a good player, and an upgrade in many ways. But Burrell laid the foundation for this team to win the World Series. He was always passionate about game and this city, and he wanted to be out there and share success with his teammates. He was a consistent force in the Phillies’ lineup, a Mets’ killer, a great teammate and a very good player. Phillies fans will have a hard time not pulling for Pat as he uses Tropicana Field in Tampa as his new launching pad. We loved Pat and appreciate everything he did for the team and city, and he will be sorely missed.

World Champions!!

What a way to start this blog! There are no stories of the team’s futility to freeze us throughout the winter. Those have become ancient history. Forget all your painful memories of seasons of disappointment and near depression. The city fell in love with this team, and forgetting a few bumps in the road, it seems as though they loved us back. This story takes the place of a chick flick any day, as it’s as much a love/hate relationship filled with conflict and plot twists as you’ll find. But in the end, we realized this is the girl for us, and the rest is history. So high-five a Phils’ fan at work tomorrow, because while it has been a few months since Brad Lidge threw yet another filthy slider to strike out Eric Hinske, the Phillies are World Champions and that lasts forever. Better yet, high-five as many Mets’ fans as you can, because all they have seen lately is their own futility, and they have nothing to hold over your head.

You’ve heard it a million times, but this team truly won as just that, a team. Look up and down the roster and you will find a player that had his hand in the World Series title one after another. From the players you expected it from, such as: Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jamie Moyer, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell and Brad Lidge, to the unsung heroes shining at the right moment, like: Carlos Ruiz, Joe Blanton, Matt Stairs, Ryan Madson, Pedro Feliz, and one of the most popular men in Philadelphia, Shane Victorino; every player stepped up and came through in the clutch. All these memorable performances and moments miraculously came together to form a World Championship.

Boy, does that feel great to say. World Champions. Chase Utley shouted it once, and realized he just had to say it again, only with a little more emphasis. It truly is what we’ve waited for, so say it again and again, but be sure to delete the colorful middle word of Utley’s expression, given with a poor sense of judgment but with understandable passion and emotion that he has rarely shown during his tenure in Philadelphia.

Let the memories of this team keep you warm throughout the winter, and remember, the Philadelphia Phillies are World Champs!