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Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia Phillies’

Well, the defending world champions got their man.  No it is not Roy Halladay, but it is a second ace they can pair with Cole Hamels for a strong 1-2 punch.  The big win in this deal is that the Phillies kept their top two pitching prospects, Happ and Drabek, the former who is having a strong season with the big club.  If they had traded for Halladay, one or both of these guys would have been on their way north of the border.  The difference between Halladay and Lee is not big enough that it would warrant the Phillies giving up one of these two elite pitching prospects.  

Here is what the Phillies gave up (Baseball America Prospect Rank in parentheses):

Carlos Carrasco, RHP (2) – Carrasco topped the Phillies prospect rankings in 2007 and 2008, and has been in the top 10 since 2003.  He is still just 22 years old, but has not really put it together.  In 2007 and 2008, he put up ERA’s of 4.86 and 4.32 at AA Reading.  This year, he has a 5.18 ERA at AAA Lehigh Valley compared to 3.06 for Drabek, who has supplanted him as the organizations top pitching prospect.

Lou Marson, Catcher (3) – While Marson has a solid bat and excellent plate discipline for a catcher, his arm is not as strong as you would want, and he threw out 37% of base runners in 2008.  If his arm strength slips at all, he will no longer be able to play catcher, and his bat will no longer be nearly as impressive.

Jason Donald, Shortstop (4) – Another guy on the list who does not really have a position.  He has an excellent bat for a shortstop, but is below average defensively.  Scouts also say he barely has the skill to play second.  This leaves third base as his other option, but like Marson, his bat suddenly does not seem like such a weapon at a premiere power position.  Many scouts project him as a super utility player; valuable, but not a difference maker like Lee.   

Jason Knapp, RHP (10) – Knapp is a power pitcher who can hit the high 90’s on the radar gone.  Like many young power pitchers, he also has trouble staying consistent.  His command is sub-par, and he is certainly a work in progress.  While the Phillies used him as a starter, it is projected that he will be a power bullpen arm.  Like Donald, valuable, but not irreplaceable. 

Overall, the Phillies did well in this trade.  They traded some solid prospects but no “can’t miss” guys, and got a reigning Cy Young winner.  Lee’s low HR/9 will play well in Citizens Bank Ballpark, and he will also benefit from a move to the weaker National League.  While I do not know if this move pushes the Phillies ahead of the Dodgers as favourites in the NL, it certainly moves them closer.  Considering that 4/5 of the current Phillies rotation is now left-handed, and the Dodgers feast on left-handed pitching (290/.375/.444), this could pose a matchup problem against the Dodgers..    

Almost unmentioned is the fact the Phillies are also adding OF Ben Francisco.  Current 4th OF Matt Stairs hits exclusively against right-handed pitchers.  This year, he has 66 AB’s and a .879 OPS against righties, and only 3 AB’s and a .250 OPS against lefties.  Francisco, on the other hand, owns a .845 OPS against lefties, over 100 points higher than against righties.  This addition will give the Phillies a potent platoon off the bench, capable of hitting left-handed and right-handed pitching. 

While the Phillies did well in this trade, so did the Indians.  They received four legitimate prospects for a pitcher with a limited track record of success in the major leagues.  I would say it is even more impressive than the haul they received last year for CC Sabathia, although he was only a half-season rental.  The Indians have done well to restock their farm system, and within a couple of years have an excellent core of young players to support star Grady Sizemore.

This trade was the definition of win-win, and was well played by both sides.  The real losers are the Toronto Blue Jays, who played hardball with the Phillies and may be left with nothing at the deadline.

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The top story in baseball over the last couple of weeks has been the potential destination of trade block member Roy Halladay.  Doc is by far the best player currently available, and the suitors are many.  I would like to comment on some of the rumors and trade proposals thrown around in the media.  These are not necessarily reflective of what is going on behind closed doors, simply what I have read on the Internet.

St. Louis Cardinals

At first glance, this seems like it is a match made in heaven.  Halladay is a very private player, I think his wife gets more camera time than he does, and would fit perfectly in St. Louis.  It is a baseball crazy city, but the media is not overpowering like in New York or Boston.  The Cardinals are also currently leading the NL Central, and Halladay would push them over the top.  Imagine a rotation of Halladay, Carpenter, Wainwright, Pineiro and Lohse.  However, that is where the dream ends.

The most common rumor I have heard is a package headlined by Colby Rasmus and Brett Wallace headed to Toronto.  First of all, giving up Rasmus would leave an enormous hole in the Cardinals outfield THIS year.  They would be forced to start Ludwick, Ankiel and then Duncan or Glaus, if they do indeed decide to move him into the outfield.  I am sorry but that is not a championship calibre outfield.  I also think Rasmus’ value has increased exponentially over the last four months.  He has gone from top prospect to bona fide MLB player.  It is a big thing for a prospect to prove he can handle major league pitching, and Rasmus has made the transition almost seamlessly. 

Second, a year and a half of Doc is not worth six and a half years of Rasmus and seven years of Wallace, not by a long shot.  It does not make sense in terms of finances or on-field product.  I do not see this deal happening in a million years.

Los Angeles Dodgers  

This seems like another great fit for Halladay.  The Dodgers have the best record in the Majors, and are the odds on favourite in the National League, even without Halladay.  However, the Dodgers would most likely have to give up either Clayton Kershaw or Matt Kemp. 

Let’s start with Kershaw.  In his second season, he has a 2.95 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in nineteen starts to go along with a 3.42 FIP.  Halladay’s numbers, on the other hand, are 2.73, 1.07 and 2.75.  Granted, Halladay pitches in a much more difficult division, but Kershaw is an excellent pitcher in his own right.  Teams are winning with young, cheap star players, and Kershaw fits that description perfectly.  The Dodgers have his rights for the next five and a half years, and will probably not pay him much more over that time frame than they would Halladay over the remaining year and a half on his contract.

Kemp has an OPS of .885 and is leading NL center fielders with a VORP of 34.7.  He also has a very respectable UZR/150 of 15.8.  While he would be easier to replace than Kershaw because they have Juan Pierre on the bench, I still do not think it is a smart move by the Dodgers.  Kemp is a star in the making, and will be an important part of the Dodgers core over the next 3-4 years.  He brings almost as much to the table as Halladay.  I also do not know if the Blue Jays are in the market for another outfielder.  They have much more pressing needs at first base, catcher, and shortstop if they lose Scutaro this off-season. 

Philadelphia Phillies

This is actually the consensus landing spot if Halladay does get traded.  While Philadelphia needs him the most, I do not think that this is the best package for the Jays considering that the Phillies do not have a top prospect ranked in the top 50 by Baseball America.  They Jays need to get at least one impact player for Halladay, and these Phillies players, other than Happ, just do not seem like they are those type of guys.  I am sure many people disagree with this statement but that is my opinion.

San Francisco Giants

I know it is a bit of a darkhorse pick, but I think this is where Halladay will end up if he does indeed get traded.  The Giants have surprised a lot of people this year, and I believe there window is in the next two years, which is exactly the same as the Halladay window.  Lincecum and Cain are healthy and dominant, Zito seems to have regained a bit of his former ability, Sandoval has emerged as a superstar, and Buster Posey could be ready to replace Bengie Molina behind the player next year.  Even though the Giants have scored the third least runs in the National League, they would have to be favourites with a rotation consisting of Lincecum, Cain and Halladay.

The Giants also have the prospects to appease JP Ricciardi’s appetite.  Madison Bumgarner was ranked as the ninth best prospect by Baseball America this year, giving the Blue Jays the impact pitcher they need to replace Halladay.  He would also probably be ready to go for 2010.  This is very important for Toronto as Ricciardi is running out of time, and the Blue Jays are only giving up on this year, not next.

Conclusion

I honestly do not know if Halladay will even be traded.  Teams are holding on to their prospects tighter than ever, and it is not the end of the world if JP does not get the package he wants and decides to hold on to Halladay.  He still has another year to trade him.

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So far, I have prided myself on keeping a professional site free of grammatical errors (to the best of my ability) and bad language.  That almost changed when I read this article explaining that several agents were pushing the Players Association to file a grievance against the teams for colluding against the free agents this past off-season.  I was not happy about this, but am happy that Bud Selig had such a dismissive attitude towards the accusations.   

The first reason this ticked me off is because the game is changing.  Teams are winning with cost-effective young superstars, not bloated free agent contracts.  This in turn is changing the free agent landscape.  Last year, the World Champions Phillies paid ace Cole Hamels $500k, Chase Utley $7.85 MM, Shane Victorino 480k, Jimmy Rollins $ 8 MM, and Ryan Howard $10 MM, all who produced way better numbers than what the franchise would get for similar money on the open market.

The AL champion Rays were even more cost effective:

Carl Crawford – $5.75 MM

Scott Kazmir – $3.79 MM

Evan Longoria – $500k

BJ Upton – $412k

Matt Garza – $405k

In today’s game, it is not worth losing your first round pick unless you are getting a franchise player like Mark Teixeira.  Why on earth would a team want to give up the opportunity to draft the next Troy Tulowitzki to sign Type A free agent Orlando Cabrera?  No one was colluding against Cabrera, they just understood that he was the lesser of two possible options.  A first round pick who pans out will give you better numbers and you control him for seven years, the first three of which will probably be for half a million dollars per year. It is a no-brainer.  

The second reason I am upset is the economy.  Total Opening Day payrolls fell less than 2% from 2008 to 2009.  Boo hoo.  The S&P 500 dropped almost 40% during the same time span, as did the Dow Jones.  Despite this, agents have the gall to complain that average player compensation dropped by $50,000.  If it was the guys making the major league minimum losing this money I would have a little more sympathy, as that represents about 12.5% of their total compensation.  However it is not.  It is hitting the multi-million dollar players.  $50,000 is a drop in the bucket for them.    

This particular quote from Seth Levinson, who represented almost a dozen free agents this past off-season, really irked me.

There are too many things that need to be explained.  In my experience, there are no coincidences in a monopoly.

Baseball is not a monopoly.  Not sure if you have noticed Seth, but baseball teams are being run by businessmen now, and these men are running their teams like businesses.  They are making decisions based on which players will give them the best production for their resources, both in terms of dollars and draft picks. 

The current free agent system with the Type A and B criteria is no longer appropriate for today’s game, and unless we see some changes in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, we will see more of the same in the future.

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Yes, I still have a job.  Why do you ask?

Yes, I still have a job. Why do you ask?

A few weeks ago Joe Morgan told a story on Sunday Night Baseball about a Don Wilson no-hitter that was true in almost no way, shape or form.  After last year’s Banks Boulevard fiasco, it is well known that Morgan is prone to telling a stretcher now and again. 

Tonight, while the crew was talking about Ian Kinsler’s prolonged slump, Joe chimed in that he had a story that Nolan Ryan hates for him to tell.  I got excited at this point.  The story was about how in 1983 with the Phillies, he was going through a terrible slump, 0 for 32 or 37, he could not remember.  He said that his manager told him he was still being pencilled into the lineup because he was getting walks and scoring runs so he was still contributing.  Either way, he broke out of the slump by taking a Nolan Ryan curveball out of the park to win the game 1-0.  As with anything that comes out of Joe Morgan’s mouth, I was a little sceptical, so I decided to look up the facts.

On July 26th, 1983, the Phillies did in fact defeat Ryan’s Astros 1-0 on a Joe Morgan home run.  From June 29th until July 24th, Morgan also went 0 for 36.  I do not know in which at-bat he hit the home run, or during which at-bat he got his last hit before the slump, but 0 for 37 is pretty accurate.  At this point you are probably saying, wait a minute, those numbers do not add up.  37 AB’s in almost a month is not playing regularly.  You would be correct.  Morgan started a whopping ten out of a possible twenty-six games during this span.  He also scored a grand total of five runs, so I am not sure where this whole “contributing to the team” comment came from.  His twelve walks in fourty-eight plate appearances is actually pretty impressive, but when you remember that he had no hits, his OBP is still a paltry .250. 

I think it is fair to say that Joe was only a quarter full of it this week.  Congratulations.

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During yesterday’s game between the Jays and Phillies, Jays manager Cito Gaston made what in my opinion are a couple of questionable decisions.

The first I will just mention in passing.  The Jays were down 5-4 in the bottom of the eighth with two outs and the bases loaded.  Cito elected to remove OF Jose Bautista (.754 OPS) in favour of pinch hitter Russ Adams (.619 OPS).  Anyone who has followed the Jays over the last few years knows that he has one of the worst sticks in the league.  After predictably popping out to third base, he was also forced to enter the game in left field, where he has a grand total of 13 innings played in the majors.  Mind-boggling decision by Cito.

The point I want to focus on occurred in the bottom of the ninth, and is at the heart of the small ball debate.  I will preface this by saying that I am not a small ball fan, and would build my team with a couple of on-base machines and a couple of sluggers to drive them in.  I would always play for the big inning and would not give away precious outs with bunts or stolen bases.  However, like every game plan, there is an exception, and this is it.  The Jays got their first two batters on to begin the ninth inning (score is still 5-4 Phillies) against closer Brad Lidge, bringing Aaron Hill to the dish.  This situation begs for a bunt.  A successful bunt not only gives you two chances to win the game with a base hit, but also tie it with a sacrifice fly while keeping you out of the double play.

Instead, Hill swings away.  I know Hill leads the AL in total bases this year and already had two home runs that afternoon, but they were against soft-tossing lefty Jamie Moyer, not power closer Lidge.  The rest of the inning played out like this.  Hill pops out.  John MacDonald gets picked off at second and Vernon Wells grounds out.  The rally is dead and the game is over just like that.  Normally in a baseball game you never play for a run or two, but always play the numbers and go for the big inning.  However, in this situation the Jays only needed two runs to win the game.  Had Hill laid down a sacrifice bunt, the Phillies most likely would have walked Wells (who is terrible) and pitched to base-hit machine Scott Rolen (.333 batting average).  Even if he did not get the job done, they would still have an opportunity to win it with Adam Lind, who is third in the AL in total bases.           

I have a ton of respect for Cito as a manager, and his free-swinging ways really helped turn around the Jays after he replaced micro-manager John Gibbons.  However, there are certain situations where you have to break the mould and play according to the situation.  I hope I did not sound too much like Harold Reynolds there.

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The current economic recession has proven that professional sports are not immune to swings in the economy.  Every team has their own personal attendance pattern based on the success of the team, success of other professional sports team in the city, new ballparks, and a myriad of other factors.  However, it has been a long time since we have seen essentially every team suffer a simultaneous drop in attendance.  So far this year, MLB games are averaging 29,082 fans per game, which is about 66% of capacity.  This is down from the past two seasons, which averaged 32,516 (72% capacity) and 32,770 (72% capacity) respectively.  Not only is this a 12% drop in the number of bodies in the ballpark, but an even greater decrease in revenues.  It is the premium seats and corporate boxes that are going unsold, which are a main source of revenue for major league teams. 

Two of the main offenders are the Yankees and Mets, which is especially curious considering teams that build new ballparks generally realize an increase in attendance, known as the Honeymoon period.  However, these teams gravely overestimated how much fans would be willing to pay to watch a ball game, which has led to entire empty sections.  The Yankees are down 8,500 per game, while the Mets have suffered a 4,500 decrease per game. 

While this decrease in attendance probably will not deter the free-spending New Yorkers, there is another team that is in much bigger trouble.  The Detroit Tigers have seen their attendance plummet to 28,126 from 39,538 only a year ago.  The demise of the auto manufacturer’s has hit the Detroit area very hard, and even the best team in hockey, the Red Wings, are not immune to attendance problems.  With one of the highest payrolls in baseball, I would not be surprised to see owner Mike Ilitch shed some salary this summer.  This is very unfortunate as the Tigers have come out strong this season, and are leading the AL Central by 1.5 games.

Oops

Oops

Some other teams of note:

Washington Nationals: Down 8,300

Atlanta Braves: Down 6,800

Houston Astros: Down 5,700

Colorado Rockies: Down 5,500

However, I am not all about doom and gloom here at MLB Insights.  The World Champion Philadelphia Phillies are up 1,200 for obvious reasons.  The bandwagon is filling up in Kansas City with the Royals averaging an extra 2,400 per game, although this should regress amidst the teams eight game losing streak.  Strong performances in the Lonestar state have led to a 2,800 per game increase for the Rangers.  It would be great to see that franchise finally win a playoff series and shed the stench of the A-Rod contract.

We can only hope that the economy is on the road to recovery and fans are able to once again afford tickets to the sport they love.  If we can take one positive from this, it is that other than the Yankees, the recession helped bring free agent contracts back under control.  Only in 2008 would the guy who broke the single season saves record get $12 million per year, not a whole lot more than BJ Ryan got two years prior.

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