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Phillies Off-Season: Jayson Werth — Gone, Cliff Lee Signs

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Jayson Werth    Jayson Werth
  <---Out—-> 

Cliff Lee  ——>Cliff Lee —–>Cliff Lee —–>Cliff Lee By now, all Phillies fans must know, unless they’re in reclusive hybernation, that Jayson Werth went free agency and signed for 7 years, $126 million with the Washington Nationals and that lefthanded Cy Young-winning starter Cliff Lee, spurning lucrative offers from both the Yankees and the Texas Rangers and leaving millions on the table, returned to the Phillies, the scene of his 2009 2nd half and 4 win post-season heroics, signing a 5-year, $120 million deal with a vesting option for an additional year.

Dealing with Werth’s signing with the Nationals first.  All due credit to the Nats’ front office for getting aggressive in signing the former Phils’ rightfielder.  But after losing Adam Dunn to the Chicago White Sox, a few major questions come up:  How will the Nats make up for the homer shortfall losing Dunn and his average 40 plus homers and 100 plus RBIs vs Werth’s average 29 homers and 80 plus RBIs over the last three seasons — the maturation of his career?   The strikeouts are basically a wash, although Dunn has struck out approximately 5.5% more than Werth over the past 2 seasons.  

Will Werth’s defensive prowess and durability as well as steadier offensive production compensate for the loss of Dunn’s power numbers?  Time will tell.   Is Jayson Werth at age 31, the same age as Dunn, really worth $3 million more than Dunn over the next 4 seasons and worth the risk of 61 million more over 3 additional seasons?   And how do the Nationals afford to spend an average $18 million on 1 player when they only averaged 22,500 per game attendance in 2010 in Nationals Park, a stadium which holds close to 42,000?  

Granted, the Nationals have phenom Stephen Strasburg, who it is hoped will be back full-force from Tommy John surgery for the 2012 season, and some other seeming upside potential starting pitchers, along with newly-acquired outfielder Rick Ankiel, 3rd baseman Ryan Zimmerman, Werth, 20 year veteran catcher Ivan Rodriguez and 1st baseman/outfielder Michael Morse.  But will Werth be what it takes to move up over any one of the four clubs who finished above them in the NL East?  Never mind any thought of challenging for the division, ain’t gonna happen!   But the Nationals will be interesting to watch in 2011.

Now, for THE DEAL…   Cliff Lee, after a 2010 sojourn with the Seattle Mariners and after being integral in the Texas Rangers’ 2nd half drive to their 1st ever appearance in the World Series, spurned an attractive offer from the Rangers and steered clear of the Yankees with their drama and intrigues returning to the site of his 2009 heroics with the Phillies.  With Lee onboard, one would be hard-pressed to find, anywhere in MLB history, a starting rotation foursome on paper as impressive, dynamic and seemingly unbeatable as the Phillies’ Four Aces: righties Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt and lefthanders Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.  

But looking back through MLB annals, you would have to go back to those Baltimore Orioles of the 1970’s with lefthanders  Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally and righthanders Pat Dobson and Jim Palmer or those Atlanta Braves rotations of the 1990’s of Steve Avery and Tom Glavine going from the left side and righthanders Greg Maddux and John Smoltz to find a rotation to approach the dominance, on paper, of the Phillies Four Aces of 2011.

Here’s a caution about the possibility of unrealistic expectations: the position of pitcher is the MOST vulnerable position on the field — a 95 mph fastball line-smashed back through the box — there’s not much a pitcher can do unless he’s lucky enough to get the glove hand up or, somehow get out of the way.

Having lost Werth to free agency, the Phils look to outfielders, including top prospect Domonic Brown, as well as Ben Francisco and possibly John Mayberry Jr., to either break-out individually or to collectively make Werth’s departure relatively painless.   And, of course, the rest of the starting lineup need stay clear of injuries and put together consistent production, both with regard to power and in small-ball, such as they’ve shown to be capable of in previous seasons.   The June/July swoon last season, the long string of shutouts against them, the power-outage and failure to play small-ball during that 2 month period all were nerve-wracking for Phillies fans.

Having said all of the above, each over the four aces consistently went deep into games and completed a combined total of 20 games between them in 2010.  Hopefully, in 2011, the Phils middle relief and set-up men won’t be over-used getting to the closer.   And a Brad Lidge, hopefully closer to 2008 form, would support the starters with plenty of light’s-out ninths when the aces need closer help.

I do not presume here to know the entire financial picture surrounding Werth’s departure and Lee’s signing.  But here is what I’ve pieced together in terms of the plus/(minus) for 2011 [this may or may not be complete];

  1. Werth’s departure frees up $7 million in 2011 (based on his 2010 earnings — source: USA Today
  2. Lee’s 1st season pay:  $11 million in 2011 (source: NBC Philadelphia)
  3. Possible trade of Joe Blanton: 2011 pay: $8.5 million (source: MLB Fanhouse) If traded, the Phils may have to eat a portion of Blanton’s 2011 pay to do the deal and free up funds in both 2011, as well as a full $8.5 million in 2012.
  4. Roy Oswalt’s final gauranteed season is 2011: he’s due $16 million ( source: NBC Philadelphia)
  5. Raul Ibanez makes $11.5 million in 2011, the final season of his deal (source: ibid)

Here are a group of great related articles dealing with all Four Aces, as well as other pertinent off-season pieces regarding Werth’s signing by the Washington Nationals and prior-season pieces regarrding other Phillies:

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Phillies: Off-Season 2010 - 2011

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

After taking a long rest over the past 2 months since the Phillies’ season ended, it’s time to start talking about off-season events.

Tim Lincecum          Giants Win 2010 World Series         After 56 Years

Everyone knows that the Texas Rangers beat out the New York Yankees in 6 games in the ALCS and that the San Francisco Giants subsequently downed the Rangers in the 2010 World Series to emerge as MLB Champions.  For the Giants, it was their 1st World Series Title in 56 years, since 1954 when they swept the Cleveland Indians in 4 games.  The Giants had gone to the World Series two other times since moving to San Francisco, in 1962 when they lost by 4 games to 3 to the Yanks, losing game 7 by a 1-0 score as Giants slugger Willie McCovey slammed a liner snagged by Yanks 2nd baseman Bobby Richardson with a 2 out runner on 3rd base to nail down the title, and in 1989 when they were swept by one of their state rivals, the Oakland Athletics.

And I’m sure that all ML Baseball fans know by now that 3 icons of the sport passed away in the off-season, 2 of them  Hall of Famers.

Sparky Anderson                Sparky Anderson

Former Phillies 2nd baseman Sparky Anderson, who went on to lead the Cincinnati “Big Red Machine” of the 70’s to four World Series appearances, winning two Titles, and later leading the Detroit Tigers to a World Series Title in 1984, defeating the  San Diego Padres in 5 games.   Anderson passed away at 76 years old in Thousand Oaks, Calif. from what was reported to be complications of dementia.

Ron Santo              Ron Santo

Early this month, former Chicago Cubs great 3rd baseman, and later 21 year broadcasting veteran Ron Santo passed away in December in Arizona.  It was reported that Santo died from complications from bladder cancer.
Bob Feller              Bob Feller
In mid-December, Hall of Fame former pitching ace for the Cleveland Indians, Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller passed away from acute leukemia at a hospice in Ohio.   Durring his Hall of Fame career, he amassed six 20 plus win seasons with the Indians and led them to two World Series appearances — in 1948 when they won the Title and in 1954 when they were swept by the then New York Giants.

Cliff Lee      Cliff Lee

Jayson Werth       Jayson Werth

Finally, all Phillies fans must know by now that rightfielder Jayson Werth went via free agency signing with the Washington Nationals for a reported $126 million over 7 years and that lefthander Cliff Lee, the hero of both the 2nd half of the Phillies 2009 season, as well as the post-season, has returned to the Phils, reportedly spurning more lucrative offers from the Yankees and Texas Rangers to return to the Phillies’ friendly confines.  Lee reportedly signed a 5 year, $120 million deal with the Phils.  There will be more commentary on those major signings in subsequent posts.

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Myers, Astros Edge Phillies as Offense Sputters Again

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

The Phillies collected 9 hits off of Houston starter Brett Myers.  But the offense blew numerous chances plating only 2 runs off of the former Phil.  Both runs came in the third inning when catcher Carlos Ruiz led off with a homer off of Myers.  After a ground out, 2 singles, and a fielders choice play at the plate, 2nd baseman Chase Utley looped a single into shallow centerfield to score the 2nd run.  Phillies starter Joe Blanton came up with another fine performance going seven innings and giving up a first inning run and 6 hits while striking out 9 and walking none.  With the Phils leading 2-1 starting the eighth inning, reliever Ryan Madson blew the lead giving up 2 runs as Myers and the Astros edged the Phillies by a 3-2 score as the offense sputtered again in the series opener.

The Phils blew their 3rd opportunity in 5 games to gain ground on Atlanta and remained remained 2 1/2 games behind NL East-leading Braves who were edged by Colorado.  The Phils wildcard lead dropped back to 1 game over the San Francisco Giants who pounded Cincinnati. Both the third place  Florida Marlins and the 4th place Mets had the day off but each picked up a 1/2 game on both the division-leading Braves and 2nd place Phillies.

Blanton retired the next 11 straight hitters after after giving up a run on 3 hits in the first inning.  Then he gave up a single hit in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.  In addition, he singled to shallow center in the third but, being slow afoot, he was rubbed out at home on centerfielder Shane Victorino’s fielder’s choice grounder.   With shortstop Jimmy Rollins at 3rd base after following Blanton with a single, Utley drove him home with his single to centerfield. 

With Madson in the game in the eighth and Astros on 2nd and 3rd base with 2 out, leftfielder Carlos Lee singled to shallow leftfield driving in both runs.  Madson was charged with the loss.

Manager Charlie Manuel was tossed from the game in the eighth for arguing a call when Astros centerfielder Michael Bourn bunted safely, barely eluding a tag attempt by 1st baseman Ryan Howard.  Manuel was tossed for claiming that Bourn step out of the baseline on the play.  Manuel was tossed by the same umpire under similar circumstances 2 months ago for arguing when Victorino was called out for running out of the baseline.

Winning pitcher Myers similarly fanned 9 Phils while walking 1 in his seven innings.  All 9 of Myers’ strikeouts were recorded against the 3rd through 6th hitters in the Phils lineup.  Howard alone accounted for 3 of strikeouts — that’s 112 strikeouts in 107 games.

Closer Brad Lidge tossed a scoreless ninth inning while Astros reliever  Brandon Lyon notched his 7th save. 

For more on another moribund offensive showing by the Phils, click here for AP’s game recap for Yahoo.

To view the scores of all of Monday’s games, click here.

In Tuesday’s game 2, lefthander Cole Hamels opposes Bud Norris.

To view the schedule of all of Tuesday’s games, click here.

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Halladay/Lee Trades: Will Phillies 3-Peat to World Series?

Friday, December 25th, 2009

The Roy Halladay and cash for 3 prospects deal between the Phillies and the  Toronto Blue Jays, and the Cliff Lee for 3 prospects deal between the Phils and the Seattle Mariners (with the Mariners flipping a prospect each with the Oakland A’s) was actually two trades but historically, the huge 4 team deal will be seen as one and will rank high in the MLB all-time trade records.

A lot of ink has been spilled as to why the Phils foiled all of our dreams by trading lefthander Lee.  Our dreams of a Halladay, Lee top of the rotation all went for naught over an alleged ceiling on the Phils payroll budget and perceived need to replenish a Minor League system depleted by last season’s trade for Lee and the deal for Halladay.

Lee, whose short stint surely will go down in MLB annals having won his first 5 starts, completing 2 of them, going eight innings in a 3rd and seven innings each in the 2 others.  He struggled a bit in September, but then went undefeated in 5 post-season starts winning 4 of them, including a sensational 6 hit, 10 strikeout World Series opening win over the Yankees in the Bronx.  I can’t recall a pitcher in my 50-some years of baseball consciousness who accomplished what Lee accomplished in a mere 2 months of regular season and in the post-season.

It would have been a sight to behold; Halladay, Lee, a hopefully rejuvenated  Cole Hamels with Joe Blanton and lefthander J.A. Happ providing the balance of the starting rotation.   The prospect of Halladay joining Lee at the top may well have eased the pressure on the bullpen immensely allowing for flexibility regarding the set-up and closer spots.  Both Halladay and Lee are capable of complete games with every start.  Halladay’s got 49 CG in his 12 season career, 25 of them in the past 3 seasons alone.  Lee notched 10 CGs over his last 3 seasons, 13 for his career.

In looking at the respective careers of Halladay and Lee, Halladay looks on paper to be the superior pitcher.  But the Philies fates in 2010 ride to a large extent on whether Hamels recovers his 2008 magic, whether Happ can at least equal his rookie year performance, whether Blanton can continue to pitch effectively, whether Brad Lidge’s efforts in 2010 more closely resemble 2008 than 2009 and whether the Phils can add some further depth and efficiency to the bullpen.  If Hamels falters, the second-guessers will have a field-day ripping Amaro Jr. for trading away Cliff Lee.

We eagerly anticipate spring training and the 2010 season.  It’s great to be a Phillies fan and know that we’re not hoping futile hopes and pipe-dreams.  Checkout this Phillies Nation piece on Phillies fans’ perspective on the coming 2010 season — makes for enjoyable reading.

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Phillies Off-Season Action: Who’s Here, Who’s Not

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

      Placido Polanco           Roy Halladay         Cliff Lee

After blogging straight through from the inception of this blog in April, 2006 through the end of the 2009 World Series, I decided to take some time off with the end of the Series on November 4.

While resting from blogging, I did try to keep on top of the Phillies’ frenetic off-season action leading up to the recent vintage “Mother of Blockbuster Deals” — where super-star pitcher Roy Halladay was acquired from the  Toronto Blue Jays for 3 top prospects while trading last year’s ace and post-season undefeated lefthander Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners for 3 Mariner top prospects.  Phillies fans, who had fond visions of a monster Halladay/Lee top of the rotation had those dreams dashed.  But more about the Halladay/Lee moves in a subsequent post.  But for now, here is a pretty comprehensive list of reports following the ebb and flow of the Halladay/Lee Deal:

To begin, it appears that the Phils have parted ways with erstwhile starter/ reliever Brett Myers and let reliever Clay Condrey go to free agency. 

They signed free agent infielder Placido Polanco, who incidently preceded current incumbent Chase Utley at 2nd base.  Polanco  played some 3rd base during his stay with the Phillies and the consensus is that the Phils acquired an important cog here.  In my estimation, Polanco’s offensive stats reflect an offensive upgrade over Pedro Feliz at 3rd base.  Their respective 2009 offensive production in homers and RBIs are close to even, although career-wise Polanco averages more games played per season than Feliz while striking out less and drawing more walks.  Polanco’s career batting average is 50 points higher than Feliz and is  although, career-wise Feliz has 45 homers more than Polanco.  Defensively, they are both on a par.  I like the flexibility of Polanco in the lineup availing the Phillies consisted small-ball possibilities as well as the power of Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Utley and Jayson Werth.

The Phils also signed utility players Ross Gload and Juan Castro as well as  Brian Schneider to spell 1st string starting catcher Carlos Ruiz.

The top 4 of Phillies starting rotation shapes up at this early point as Halladay as the ace with lefthander Cole Hamels followed by Joe Blanton or young 2009 Rookie of the Year contender lefthander J.A. Happ, depending on manager Charlie Manuel’s preference as to the #3 and #4 spots.  It appears that ageless lefthander Jamie Moyer, youngster Kyle Kendrick and possibly Chan Ho Park battling for the 5th spot.  Here’s hoping that Hamels is able to comeback to his 2008 form which won him MVP in both the NLCS and the World Series and that Halladay’s work ethic has a positive rub-off on the rest of the pitching staff.

Consensus has it that Moyer has the edge due to the size of his contract and so it may well be that Kendrick and Park may again join Ryan Madson, a hopefully healthy and straight J.C. Romero, Chad Durbin, closer Brad Lidge and some young hopefuls. 

The big challenge for the Phils will be ascertaining of Lidge is able to return to something approximating his 2008 form rather than his disastrous 2009 and making an insurance move to spell him should he again falter.  A steady, consistent bullpen, with Halladay completing games often enough to keep the ‘pen rested spells a 100 win season and a sure 4th straight trip to the post-season.  Go Phillies!

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Phillies Tune-Up for Opening Day Splitting With Tampa Bay

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

Joe Blanton pitched 5 quality innings on Friday in his final tune-up for the regular season, with Tampa Bay scoring single runs in the 1st and 4th innings.  The Phillies bullpen was nearly perfect shutting the door on the Rays over the final 4 innings while infielder Jason Donald drove in the winning run with a bases-loaded rightfield single as the Phils edged the Rays by a 3-2 score in Pat Burrell’s return to Philly game.

In Saturday’s game, ace lefthander Cole Hamels was pounded for 6 Tampa Bay runs on 6 hits in 5 innings, although Hamels struck out 7 while walking 1 and Rays starter Matt Garza was rocked nearly as bad giving up 4 runs on 6 hits in 4 innings as Tampa Bay came out on top in a 9-7 slugfest.

Burrell, sporting a Tampa Bay uniform in 2009 after spending the previous 9 years with the Phils, was emotional about his return to Philadelphia. The  AP recap for Yahoo sports reports;

The Phillies treated their former outfielder to a five-minute video presentation on PhanaVision before Friday’s game.

Burrell watched from the dugout as his career played out before his eyes, to the tune of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love is.” An emotional Burrell came out of the dugout to thunderous applause and tipped his cap.

“I didn’t know they’d bring out the archives,” he said. “It was pretty special. I didn’t anticipate that. It was definitely emotional, something I’ll never forget.”

Upon his 1st inning plate appearance, Burrell was yet again loudly cheered and again tipped his cap to the fans.

The AP recap continues that Burrell;

lined an RBI single for Tampa Bay’s first run. He went 1-for-3 with a walk, and delighted the 39,338 by swiping his first stolen base [in the 6th inning] since 2004.

“I couldn’t believe I was safe,” Burrell said.

“We’re going to miss Pat,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “He was here for a long time and everybody liked him. Pat was a big contributor and played a big role of leadership. We’re going to miss him and wish him all the luck in the world. If he had to leave, I’m glad he’s in the American League. At the same time, life goes on for the Phillies.”

The Phils notched a run in the 6th inning and, trailing 2-1 going into the 9th inning, they sent out closer Brad Lidge who pitched a perfect 9th inning.  The Phils tied the game in th 9th before Jason Donald’s bases-loaded walkoff single won the game.  Lidge notched a win in his final tune-up while reliever Winston Abreu, who gave up 2 hits and loaded the bases before Donald got his game-winning hit, was charged with the loss.

On Saturday, Hamels was pounded for 4 runs out of the starting blocks in the 1st inning as Burrell, in an unusual lead-off spot in the batting order, solved Hamels for a lead-off homer and 1st baseman Carlos Pena went yard on Hamels with 2 men on later in the inning.

Hamels recovered to pitch scoreless ball in the 2nd through 4th innings as the Phils knotted the game in the 4th as rightfielder Raul Ibanez and 3rd baseman Greg Dobbs each slammed 2 run homers off of Garza.

But a tie is as close as the Phils got as Tampa Bay went ahead with 2 more runs off of Hamels.  The Phils got 1 run back as Jason Donald, replacing  Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, slugged a 2 out solo shot — 6-5 Rays.

The Phils and Rays trded 2 runs each in the 7th with the Rays pounding lefthanded reliever J.C. Romero in his final pre-season appearance.  We won’t be seeing Romero for a while as he begins serving his 50 game suspension on opening day.  The Rays added an insurance run in the 9th.

Garza, although being pounded in the 4th inning, was awarded the win and Hamels was charged with the loss.

In other news, lefthander J.A. Happ, who lost out to Chan Ho Park for the 5th rotation spot, made the opening day roster and will be assigned to the bullpen.  The Phils now have 3 available lefthanded relief arms with Happ,  Jack Taschner and Scott Eyre as Romero serves out his 50 game suspension.

A couple of days ago, this blog noted that the Phils were looking at veteran outfielder Gary Sheffield as a possible additional righthanded bat off of the bench.  On Friday, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reported that Sheffield has signed a deal with the Mets and may get to play everyday in rightfield.  Sheffield would have been a good match for the Phils off of the bench, but, as a starter and a position player in rightfield, he’s old and slow afoot.  Look for the Phillies talented and slugging lefthanded hitters such as Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to give a rightfielder Sheffield fits and rack plenty of extra-bases.

For all of Friday’s and Saturday’s results of spring training play,  click here and here.

Sunday is opening day and the Phillies open the season hosting the Atlanta Braves.   Brett Myers will start the opener for the Phis against Atlanta’s Derek Lowe.  The teams have Monday off and resume play on Tuesday as Joe Blanton is opposed by 23 year old Jair Jurrjens.

For all of Sunday’s opening day games, click here.

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