Thursday, November 08, 2007
Let’s start with the winter meetings … Lots of deals get done at the Winter Meeting of the GM’s every year and I’d expect this year to be no different. The Phillies are in the market for pitching help and for a new third baseman. So far they’ve taken the first step to address their bullpen issues by dealing Geoff Geary, Michael Bourn and Mike Costanzo to the Houston Astros for Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett.
The Phillies give up … Michael Bourn, a fast player who wowed the Phillies by swiping 18 bases in 19 tries. In one particularly memorable game Bourn entered the game as a pinch-runner for Pat Burrell and proceeded to swipe second base, then third base, and scored on a weak grounder by Wes Helms because he was simply too fast to catch.
The thing about Bourn was that he was going to be the Phillies fourth outfielder in 2008, a defensive replacement / designated runner. Shane Victorino is going to slide into Aaron Rowand’s slot in centerfield and Jayson Werth seems destined to play rightfield for the Phillies. Both Victorino and Werth are quick but pack some power in their bats. Bourn is a one-trick pony: he runs very, very fast. I’m sure as a full-time player with the Astros he’ll steal 50-60 bases, but he’s a little like Vince Coleman, a speedster whose On-Base and Slugging Percentages weren’t so good. I’m sure Chris Roberson can fulfill the fourth outfielder slot for the Phillies just as well.
The Phillies give up … Geoff Geary, a solid set-up man whom the Phillies can ill-afford to part with. Last season Geary’s stats weren’t so great: 3-2, 4.41 ERA, 1.05 HR/9, 3.3 BB/9, and 5.0 K/9. He benefited from strong defense behind him: the Phillies DER behind him was .704, so his defense-neutral stats say that he pitched worse than his ERA: his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) ERA was 4.93. That is a great deal higher than it was his last two seasons: 3.48 FIP in 2005 and 3.58 in 2006. Is Geary slipping or have the Phillies just lost the man they need to set up Lidge’s ninth inning saves? Time shall tell.
Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).
DER – Defense Efficiency Ratio: (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.
HR/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
Zone Rating (ZR): Is a stat which measures a player’s defensive ability by measuring plays they should have made. Admittedly, this is a stat left open to subjective opinions.
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
And the Phillies give up … Mike Costanzo, the Phillies second-round pick (first overall) in the 2005 Draft is a Philly native, so it is a shame he’ll never be able to play for his hometown team. After working his way from Short-Season Single-A in 2005 to Advanced Single-A in 2006 to Double-A in 2007, Costanzo seemed poised to travel north to Allentown to play with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs in 2008. A third baseman, he is not in the Phillies plans for 2008 because he needs time in Triple-A to develop his skills. Costanzo is a solid prospect and one of the few potential everyday players being developed in the Phillies system. As a Reading Phillie he had a .368 OBP with 27 Home Runs and 86 RBI. He had a 116 OPS+ in the Eastern League. He might be the piece of the puzzle that the Phillies miss the most.
The Phillies get … Bruntlett, a classic light-hitting utility infielder. Say hello to the new Abraham Nunez.
The Phillies also get … Lidge, the prize of the deal. Lidge succeeded Billy Wagner as the Astros closer – hey, the second time that the Phillies have taken the Astros closer – and converted 29 of 33 saves in 2004, 42 of 46 in 2005, 32 of 38 in 2006 and just 19 of 27 in 2007. On the surface it looks like Lidge slipped in 2007, but his FIP ERA was right near what it was in 2006: 3.73 to 3.70. I love that Lidge gets a lot of strikeouts: 16.5 K/9 in 2004 (157 strikeouts in 94 & 2/3 innings!), 13.6 in 2005, and 11.9 in 2006 & 2007. He’s a strikeout machine like Wagner was, not a finesse-oriented closer like Tom Gordon. Just what this team needs. The only big minus I have about Lidge is that he gives up a lot of walks: 4.1 BB/9 the last two seasons.
Generally, I give the trade a qualified thumbs up. I think it will benefit the Phillies in the short-term, but I fear that trading Costanzo might come back to haunt the Phillies.
Let’s move onto the Phillies other needs … The market for bats at third is going to be pretty thin this season. You’re choices are going to be A-Rod, Mike Lowell, and … That’s about it. A-Rod’s $30 million prices him out of the Phillies budget, so Mike Lowell is pretty much it for the Phillies. Expect to see Lowell pursed by the Yankees pretty aggressively and for the Red Sox to spend money to keep him out of the Bronx.
The Phillies prospects for obtaining Lowell’s services are pretty bleak, in my opinion.
So the Phillies will likely turn to another trade. Much talk has been made of the Phillies dealing for the Rockies Garrett Atkins, because the Rockies have a very talented prospect poised to play third base, but I am skeptical that the Rockies would break-up any part of their formidable roster after their astonishing run to the World Series. No, expect the Rockies to keep Atkins or demand a King’s Ransom for his services.
I’ve said this in the past, but a key factor in whether or not a deal gets done is whether or not teams have done business in the past. The White Sox and Phillies have had numerous deals with one another since Pat Gillick took over the reins as Phillies GM: Jim Thome-for-Aaron Rowand, Gio Gonzalez/Gavin Floyd-for-Freddy Garcia, Tadahito Iguchi-for-Mike Dubee, etc. There has been a lot of traffic between the South Side of Chicago and Philly now for the last few months, so it is reasonable to assume that it will continue.
The Phillies have twin concerns: pitching and a bat at third base. Expect the team to attempt to pull-off a deal where they’ll ship some minor-league players to Chicago in exchange for Joe Crede and Jon Garland.
Crede had a terrible season in 2007 (.258 OBP, 4 Home Runs and 22 RBI in just 47 Games), but he’s a powerful bat (30 Home Runs, 31 Doubles, 94 RBI, and .223 ISO in 2006) who would be a definite upgrade over Wes Helms (5 Home Runs, 39 RBI, .297 OBP in 112 Games). Garland, a Jon Lieber-type pitcher who doesn’t surrender many walks or home runs (2.46 BB/9, 0.82 HR/9), would fit in well with the Phillies rotation and would be a good arm to round out the Phillies rotation in 2008 (Hamels, Moyer, Eaton, Myers and Garland), assuming that Brett Myers returns to the rotation.
What could the Phillies offer from their meager farm system? Greg Golson, currently playing Double-A ball with Mike Costanzo’s old team in Reading, is a position player with enough skills to entice teams. Jeremy Slayden, a slow-footed slugger from Advanced Single-A Clearwater, is a talented player who has limited prospects of playing with the newly speedy Phillies. Slayden would fit right in the American League. The White Sox seem intent on gobbling up Phillies pitching, so why not package J.D. Durbin or J.A. Happ or Kyle Drabek as part of the deal? Or Kyle Kendrick, now that the Phillies can return Myers to the rotation. He's a proven starter the Phillies can shop. The Phillies could probably part with three or four of these players and easily continue to nurture talent in the minors. Crede and Garland would be key parts to the Phillies 2008 season, while Durbin, Kendrick, et al, would go a long way towards helping the White Sox rebuilding program.
Forget free agency or a trade with the Twins for Johan Santana, this is the deal that the Phillies are going to make this off-season and it is the only one that makes sense. Moving along …
It’s almost time for award season. AL and NL Rookie of the Year on Monday, Managers of the Year next Wednesday, the AL Cy Young on Tuesday, the NL Cy Young next Thursday, then the AL MVP on Monday the 19th and the NL MVP on the 20th. I’ll predict the awards on Monday. So far baseball has handed out some awards: the Gold Gloves were awarded the other day and I was pleasantly surprised.
Two Phillies won awards: Jimmy Rollins and Aaron Rowand. I hate raining on the parade of a Phillie, but how in the world did Aaron Rowand win this award? This has to be a reward for meritorious play in 2005 with the White Sox, because Rowand is terrible these days. According to The Hardball Times Relative Zone Rating (RZR), Rowand was sixth of seven NL centerfielders in 2007 in RZR and ninth of eleven in 2006. Shane Victorino easily bested Rowand in centerfield in 2006, turning in better RZR numbers, committing fewer errors and getting more assists per inning played. In 2007, Rowand played nearly all of the Phillies defensive innings, but there were a multitude of players who turned in better performances. File this one under: “Huh?”
Jimmy Rollins got the Gold Glove for short, which again, I am skeptical about. Rollins finished ninth of fourteen N.L. shortstops in RZR. J.Roll displayed some nice range, with 65 plays on balls hit outside of his zone, but the Pirates Jack Wilson had 78 in 300 fewer innings of work. To J.Roll’s credit he was third in Fielding Percentage and second in double plays started, but I am not sure that he really was the best defensive shortstop in the N.L.
To my pleasant surprise baseball chose not to award Derek Jeter with a Gold Glove for the first time in recent memory. The decision to award Kevin “The Greek God of Walks” Youkilis the Gold Glove for first base was astonishing: Youkilis, a DH-type, led the AL in RZR at first base. Alright, being the best defensive first baseman isn’t much to boast about, but it is something and it strikes me that the pundits got it exactly right. Well done.
I’ll complete my current projects soon enough. Keep reading…
Kendrick was lucky in 2007. Garland is a better bet, a pitcher with a proven track record. Kendrick could bomb in 2008. In fact, I expect him to do so. Garland is a better bet.
I also think Crede would be a big upgrade over Dobbs & Helms.
I also think you overrated Geary. There are 100 Gearys out there and he had zero chance of being the 8th inning guy. Maybe his departure opens up a shot for Mathieson to get a shot in the pen.
Finally, my guess is that Helms and Dobbs will be manning 3B this year. I've been confused why so many people insist on spending money to upgrade third base when it's not offense we need. Sure, our OPS at third was terrible, but the Phillies out class the rest of the league at the other three infield positions. We need pitching, not more offense. Spend money on pitching.