Friday, October 12, 2007
Starting Pitching. The Phillies will need five starters for 2008. Pencil in Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer into slots #1 and #2. That’s two. Kyle Kendrick seems to have a firm grasp on the #3 slot. The logic choice, partly due to his contract, for #4 would be Adam Eaton, which means that the Phillies need a fifth starter for the rotation again. Possibilities here include trade deals involving Jon Garland, Rich Harden, Dontrelle Willis, and, tantalizingly, Johan Santana. Expect this to be the area where the Phillies devote the bulk of the $20 million or so they have to spend this off-season to, and also expect the Phillies to deal something from their minor league system to acquire pitching.
The Bullpen. Pencil in Brett Myers as the Phillies closer for 2008. It’s a job that he’s proven himself to be quite good at and it would give the Phillies the lights-out closer they desperate need and lacked for years. Setting up Myers are J.C. Romero, who needs to be re-signed, and Geoff Geary. Perhaps Ryan Madson can work his way back here. The other three slots in the Phillies bullpen are up for grabs. Look for the Phillies to spend some time and money to upgrade these slots.
The problem, as Pat Gillick has noted, is that pitching is at a premium in the major leagues and when you want to buy it off the open market (i.e., free agency), you tend to pay outrageous prices. It’s basic economics. Expect pitching to once again be at a premium in the off-season, and expect the Phillies to be forced to over-pay. Either in bringing free agents to town or in affecting a trade to secure help in the bullpen.
Third Base. Wes Helms was not the answer. He hit just five home runs and had a mere 39 RBI. He hit .198 with runners in scoring position. His On-Base Percentage was .297. Utility infielder (calling him “light-hitting” would imply that he hits something) Abraham Nunez isn’t the answer either, because the Phillies elected to not exercise their $2.5 million dollar option for him for 2008. The Phillies need someone who can play the hot-corner and provide some pop to the lineup. I wonder if Tadahito Iguchi, the Phillies acquisition from the White Sox, can do the job. He’s not a power-hitter – just a .138 ISO – but he’s a good contact hitter who has some speed and makes good decisions. After getting a fifth starter, this is where the Phillies will spend some dough. I wonder: Mike Lowell as a Phillie?
Who’ll be back. Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Kyle Kendrick, Kyle Lohse, Adam Eaton, Brett Myers, J.C. Romero (hopefully), Geoff Geary, Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Tadahito Iguchi, Michael Bourn, Pat Burrell, Wes Helms. That’s basically sixteen of the Phillies twenty-five players right there. Notable is how young the core of the Phillies roster is: Cole Hamels is 23. Bourn is 24. Werth is 29. Kendrick is 23. Myers is 28. Victorino is 27. You get the idea.
What is really exciting about the 2008, 2009, 2010 Phillies is that the core of the team is 30 or younger and these guys are going to be around for years. If the Phillies can hold off the Braves and Mets, this could be a dynasty in the making, a team a lot like the mid-1990’s Cleveland Indians, which dominated their division with a young core of talent.
Who’s Gone. Abraham Nunez, Rod Barajas, Antonio Alfonseca, Jose Mesa, Jon Lieber, Freddy Garcia, Kyle Lohse. Lieber won’t be back despite pitching some strong performances in 2008. The team that signs him will be getting one heck of a pitcher, but that won’t be the Phillies. (The Mets?) Garcia, likewise, won’t be back because he can command millions on the open market place despite his arm injury last season. I see him in a Yankees uniform in 2008. Lohse is being represented by Scott Boras, so count on him leaving the Phillies and signing a mega-deal ($12-14 mil) for some team desperate for pitching. Nunez, the non-hitting utility infielder, is gone now that the Phillies won't exercise their option. The Phillies have also declined options on catcher Rod Barajas (4 Home Runs, 10 RBI), which is addition by subtraction as far as I am concerned.
On the bubble. Aaron Rowand. Will the Phillies re-sign him? Will they over-pay? My guess is that the Phillies will let Rowand walk rather than sign him to the $10 to $11 million a year he’ll command on the open market (Gary Matthews, Jr. inked a 5-year, $50 million deal last season, can Rowand be expected to ask for less?), and that’s not completely a bad thing. I’ll expand upon this next week a little, but Rowand has some flaws as a ballplayer. Sure, the fans and his teammates love his passion, fire and walk-through walls mentality. However, Rowand's got some flaws in his game. E.g., Rowand’s 47 walks (.069 BB/PA) is a rarity for his career. He’s a free-swinging hitter who rarely works counts, rarely draws walks and is the most consistent producer of outs on the Phillies roster after Jimmy Rollins, and he lacks Rollins speed on the base-paths. Rowand’s ability to get on base is predicated on his ability to get a hit, and players who are purely dedicated to hits at the plate tend to be inconsistent. Rowand had a good year at the plate – he hit .309, better than the .262 and .270 he hit in 2006 and 2005 – but that’s probably a fluke. Rowand’s BB/PA over the last few seasons is utterly abysmal: .040 in 2006, .050 in 2005, .056 in 2004 … And Rowand’s defensive skills have been a disappointment after he was so good manning center field for the White Sox in 2005. No … I see Shane Victorino or Michael Bourn as the Phillies starting center fielder on Opening Day, 2008.
Farm Hands. Lost in all of this talk is the Phillies farm system. They’ve got a lot of great talent sitting down in Ottawa and Reading and Clearwater and you can expect to see a lot of it up in Philadelphia in 2008. Mike Costanzo, who hit .270 with 27 Home Runs and 89 RBI in 2007 with the Reading Phillies, will probably being playing with the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs in 2008, the Phillies new Triple-A affiliate. A mid-season call up is a definite possibility. Carlos Carrasco, the Phillies spectacular pitcher who finished the season in Double-A Reading, cold head to Philadelphia by mid-season as well. Carrasco is the top prospect in the Phillies system and could wind up being their fifth starter ultimately. Costanzo, Carrasco, Josh Outman, Jason Donald, Adrian Cardenas, and Kyle Drabek are all potential minor-league trade bait for help on the mound.
These are all very preliminary thoughts. I’ll expand on some this week coming up a little.
Monday: Aaron Rowand
Tuesday: Will Johan Santana be a Phillie?
Wednesday: No Post
Thursday: Musings on Citizens Bank Ballpark
Friday: Chris Coste
On the other hand, knowing Iguchi will be signing elsewhere would cushion the shock of going after a free agent, as we would get a draft pick to replace the one we would give up.