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February 2012

Phillies to Sign Failed Boston Red Sox Closer RHP Joel Piñeiro

Posted by Frank Klose

Pineiro


Well, the Phillies have their new fifth ace: Joel Piñeiro, according to ESPN.

OK, that's harsh.  Piñero, most famous for his attempt to be a closer in Boston while Jonathan Papelbon attempted the starting rotation, will be in camp on a minor league contract.  Piñeiro, presumably, would be attempting to crack the Phillies bullpen, though probably will be AAA depth.

With the Angels in 2011, Piñeiro was 7-7 with a large 5.13 ERA and battled shoulder issues. 

Then-Boston Assistant General Manager Jed Hoyer said this of Piñeiro in 2007 when he signed to be the closer:

"He's a guy, even when he was a starter, a lot of our reports were that he would be pretty unbelievable in the bullpen. The early part of the season may show a lot as to who's going to be the closer later in the season, but you don't have to have your postseason roster set in April." 

Papelbon remained closer and the rest is history.


Phils Avoid Arbitration, Sign Kyle Kendrick; Was It The Right Move?

Posted by Mike Frohwirth

Kyle_Kendrick

Philliedelphia/Corey Shaw

The Phillies avoided arbitration with Kyle Kendrick on Friday, agreeing to a $3.585MM deal for 2012. The right-hander is expected to serve as a long reliever, and as insurance for the starting rotation. Kendrick, who made $2.45MM in 2011, would likely have made between $3 and $4MM in arbitration, so $3.585MM seems a somewhat reasonable compromise. However, should the Phillies have offered Kendrick arbitration in the first place?

How good has Kendrick been in recent years?

2010: 180.2 IP, 4.73 ERA

2011: 114.2 IP, 3.22 ERA

Looking at these stats, it looks like Kendrick had a bad 2010, followed by a strong 2011. But ERA can be a somewhat deceptive stat, as it often affected by factors outside of a pitcher's control. More importantly, ERA is not particularly useful as a predictive stat, and the Phillies need to determine how valuable Kendrick is likely to be in 2012. Let's look at some additional stats, some of which have a bit more predictive value than ERA:

2010: 4.18 K/9, 2.44 BB/9, 1.71 K/BB, .284 BABIP, 69.0 LOB%, 4.62 xFIP

2011: 4.63 K/9, 2.35 BB/9, 1.97 K/BB, .261 BABIP, 76.1 LOB%, 4.42 xFIP

(BABIP is "batting average on balls in play." A pitcher with neutral luck should expect to have a BABIP of about .300. Pitchers with a BABIP below .300 has been lucky, and it is likely that their BABIP will regress towards .300, in the future. This regression would likely result in a higher ERA.)

(LOB% is "left on base percentage." A pitcher with neutral luck should expect to have a LOB% of about 70%. Pitchers with a LOB% above 70% has been lucky, and it is likely that their LOB% will regress towards 70%, in the future. This regression would likely result in a higher ERA.)

(xFIP is a predictive statistic that attempts to show what a pitcher's ERA would have been, if it was adjusted for the effects of factors outside a pitcher's control. It assumes an average BABIP and LOB%. If you are attempting to determine how well a pitcher is likely to perform in the following season, xFIP is a much better choice than ERA.)

Kendrick was fortunate in terms of BABIP in both 2010 and 2011. In 2010, he was slightly unlucky in LOB%, and lucky in LOB % in 2011. His xFIPs of 4.62 in 2010, and 4.42 in 2011, imply that he was a very mediocre pitcher in both seasons.

One more important point: Kendrick hardly strikes anyone out. His K/9 rates are consistently among the worst in the NL. As someone who rarely records strikeouts, Kendrick is extremely dependent upon his BABIP luck, since most opposing batters put the ball in play.

While BABIP/LOB% could have an advantageous (or disadvantageous) effect on Kendrick in 2012, his ERA will most likely be in the 4.5 range. It seems that $3.585MM is a bit much to pay for a 4.50 ERA pitcher, but what were the alternatives to offering arbitration to Kendrick?

Alternative #1: Find an internal solution.

Earlier this offseason, the Phillies signed veteran right-hander Dave Bush to a non-guaranteed contract, with an invitation to Spring Training. If Bush makes the parent club, he is likely to earn in the $600K- $1MM range. Bush posted a 2010 xFIP of 4.72 (Kendrick: 4.62), and a 2011 xFIP of 4.20 (Kendrick 4.42). Bush and Kendrick could be expected to post similar 2012 numbers, though Bush stands to make at least $2.5MM less. The Phillies could have hedged a bet on Bush by adding some additional arms on non-guaranteed minor league contracts.

Alternative #2: Sign free agent Roy Oswalt to a one-year deal, for $6-8MM.

Oswalt's worst xFIP was in an injury-plagued 2011. But the 3.95 xFIP Oswalt posted last season (career xFIP: 3.58) was still substantially better than Kendrick's 4.42 xFIP. Oswalt will likely be far superior to Kendrick in 2012, and is certainly worth the extra $2.5-4.5MM in expected 2012 salary.

Alternative #3: Sign Kyle Kendrick, or another free agent pitcher with similar expected 2012 stats, to a deal in the $1.5MM range.

A pitcher with an expected xFIP in the 4.5 range does have value. Just not $3.585MM in value.

When the Phillies had to make their arbitration decision on Kyle Kendrick, it did not seem likely that a pitcher of Roy Oswalt's stature would be available for a one-year commitment. But pitchers similar to Kyle Kendrick (like Bush) were available at a fraction of Kendrick's arbitration cost. While that extra ~$2-$3M may not seem like a lot, the Phillies are closing in on the luxury tax threshold, a payroll level they are unlikely to exceed. The opportunity cost of signing Kendrick at $3.585MM may be the inability to afford a $4MM setup reliever/partial salary dump 3B (David Wright?) at the trade deadline. More importantly, whether you are extending the contract of a first baseman, or avoiding arbitration with a long reliever, paying ~350% over market price is just not smart business.


Super-Agent Scott Boras, Phillies' Ruben Amaro Get Into Public Debate Over Reds' Ryan Madson

Posted by Frank Klose

Ruben_Amaro

"There's no reason to get into a public debate with Scott over this", Ruben Amaro told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, when pressed about what exactly happened between the Phillies and Ryan Madson.   A public debate is pretty much what they got into.

Check out Crasnick's ESPN piece here.   Some key pieces from Crasnick:

From Scott Boras:

"We agreed to a four-year, $44 million offer, and Philadelphia decided to sign someone else".

From Ruben Amaro:

"All I can tell you is, there was never an agreement, and we decided that we wanted to sign someone with the experience and the ability of Jonathan Papelbon. So we went that route".

So, maybe what really happened is unclear.  What seems clear, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, is that Madson and the Phillies have a "strained relationship" and that Madson would not return the Phillies' calls:

"We hear that relations between Madson and the Phillies became strained after negotiations between the two parties fell apart in November and the Phils signed Papelbon. We hear that the Phillies actually wanted to feel out Madson about the possibility of returning as a setup man on a one-year deal, but he didn’t return their calls. " 

So, there you have it.  I believe Boras overplayed his hand, and Madson suffered for that reason.   Speaking of Scott Boras and his clients, will ANYONE sign Prince Fielder?


Ryan Madson, Cincinnati Reds Reach Deal

Posted by Frank Klose

Ryan_Madson

Well, the idea of Ryan Madson coming back as a set-up man for Jonathan Papelbon was a pipe dream, but fun while it lasted.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Madson and the Cincinnati Reds have agreed on a contract.  Heyman did not disclose the terms.

Madson and the Phillies were rumored to be close on a four year, $44 million deal at one point, but the deal fell through.  My guess is that Madson scored nothing close to that amount in years or dollars.  

Cincinnati had four effective years from Francisco Cordero, who declined arbitration.  Cordero earned $48 million over the last four years with the Reds, and is still without a job, an indication that Madson may have lowered his asking price.


Phillies focusing on one-year deal for Hamels

Posted by Kevin Durso

Cole Hamels won 14 games in 2011, and has won 74 games in his six-year career with the Phillies. (Kevin Durso/Philliedelphia)

The Phillies' biggest free agent worry is for next offseason, not the one rapidly coming to an end.

Cole Hamels may sit third in the Phillies' super rotation, behind Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, both inked to megadeals. But Hamels is number one on the Phillies' to-do list.

That being said, Hamels is and is not the pitcher of the Phillies' future. Hamels is 28 and in the prime of his career. Halladay and Lee are inked to deal that will keep them with the Phillies through 2014 and 2015 respectively. Hamels is the pitcher of the Phillies' future depending on what Halladay and Lee decide about their baseball careers once their contracts are up. Hamels' is also not the pitcher of the Phillies' future if he is viewed as the third man on the totem pole.

Hamels and the Phillies have been discussing extensions this offseason, trying to avoid the free agent market next offseason. The Phillies are interested in a one-year deal for Hamels at the moment, as made known by Phillies' assistant GM Scott Proefrock.

“Right now, we’re focused on a one-year deal. There’s plenty of time down the road. That’s all I’ll say. Right now, we’re focused on a one-year arbitration deal."

The Phillies seem content to wait until next offseason and take their chances on locking Hamels' up to a larger extension. That being said, the Phillies will likely have some hefty competition, as Hamels will be coveted by many teams in baseball.

At first, the news that the Phillies are working on a one-year deal with Hamels doesn't seem right. Why would you only extend Hamels for a year? But at a closer look, this is more of an extension on hold. The Phillies are focused on keeping Hamels happy to play in Philly, and happy with the Phillies' brass, so that perhaps the extension process, when it comes around next season, is easier.

If the Phillies fail to keep Hamels through 2012, then this will look like a plan that backfired. But for now, taking focus off of the off-the-field work and shifting the players' attention to the on-the-field preparations for Opening Day is the right call.

There is time to wait on Hamels, but once November 2012 hits, and free agency begins, if Hamels' isn't locked up by then, there won't be too much time left.


In Memoriam: John Bowker's Phillies Career

Posted by Frank Klose

John_Bowker

John Bowker, we hardly knew ye.   John Bowker has been released.  Bowker will wisely head to Japan, where even Scott Mathieson is a millionaire.

The Phillies' primary left-handed August trade deadline acquisition, Bowker went 0 for 13, for a lusty .000 batting average, and clogged a 40-man roster spot for most of the offseason.

The Phillies now have a 40-man roster spot to add another player.

Please post your favorite John Bowker memory.  Mine is that time he hit a ball foul down the line that was *almost* a hit.


Likely Bullpen Scenarios in 2012: Will the Phillies Pick Up Another Arm?

Posted by Danielle Wilson

Romero_Bastardo_Kendrick_Corey_Shaw
Philliedelphia/Corey Shaw

Shopping for more arms can't be good news for guys like Justin De Fratus and Joe Savery.

With additions like Dontelle Willis and Jonathan Papelbon, the places of a lefty set-up man and closer are taken. It was recently reported by multiple sources that the Phils are talking to both Kerry Wood and Brad Lidge. Necessary or no?

The 2011 season ended with a bullpen full of young arms that could hold down the fort rather well. Stutes, Aumont Herndon, Bastardo, Savery, Schwimer, and De Fratus sounds like a bullpen that we would all love to see in the future. In fact, I was looking forward to seeing the same exact bullpen in 2012.

Let's assume these players are healthy on Opening Day and are all on the active roster (John Bowker excluded with the possibility of him going to Japan):

SP: Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Worley, Blanton
INF: Ruiz, Schneider, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Polanco, Valdez, Wigginton, Thome
OF: Victorino, Pence, Nix, Mayberry, Martinez

That leaves six spots open for the bullpen. Imagine if the Phillies do come to terms with Lidge and Wood. Or Madson, for that matter. It's still a possibility.

A few of the young arms aren't going to have a chance until someone is placed on the disabled list (knock on wood.) I don't know about you guys, but this is a bit of a disappointment to me.

The current status of Jose Contreras and Joe Blanton are questionable. Should Blanton further harm the nerve damage in his elbow, Kyle Kendrick would take his place in the rotation, leaving a spot open in the 'pen. And if Contreras runs out of gas and needs to end his career, that leaves another spot open.

Dontrelle Willis, a lefty, is a good use for an eight inning guy. If two spots happen to be open with a bullpen of Papelbon, Herndon, Bastardo, Lidge and/or Wood, we could see the return of Schwimer, De Fratus, or Savery.

I'm feeling pretty confident about the pitching staff heading into the 2012 season. Should Blanton and Contreras miraculously have an excellent spring training, we wouldn't need Stutes or guys alike in the bullpen.However, if Joe and Jose do end up on the disabled list, the Phillies certainly have some excellent reinforcement.


Ryan Howard Set to Begin His Journey Back from Achilles Injury

Posted by Christina Angelos

 

(Courtesy of CBSPhilly)

Remember Ryan Howard? Remember the doomsday drama as the final out in NLDS? Yeah, let's forget about it... 

How about I give you an update on the situation, which is certainly some great news....

According to Todd Zolecki, Ryan Howard was cleared on Thursday by the doctors to begin strength and power exercises after undergoing surgery on his left Achilles' in October. Howard will start by jogging underwater. Sounds fun, right? On the other hand, Ryan Howard could be cleared for baseball activities within six weeks as he will begin fielding groundballs before moving ahead with hitting.

It's one step closer to a return. When will it be? If Ryan Howard is cleared to begin baseball activities within six weeks, which is also the beginning of Spring Training. Is it possible to see The Big Piece penciled in the Opening Day lineup?   Maybe, but we shall see as it gets closer if no barring setback. 

“I can’t even speculate,” Amaro said. “All I know is that it’s nice to know that at some point in Spring Training, that he’ll start doing some light baseball activities. I think it is good news.”

Take your time. No need to rush. Good luck with your journey back!