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Chad Durbin And Phillies Agree to Terms to Reunite

Durbin
Photo: Philliedelphia/ Steve Trapani

The deal is done.  As first reported here yesterday morning, former Phillies pitcher and 2008 World Series champion reliever Chad Durbin will return to the Phillies.    Todd Zolecki reports that the deal, pending physical, is a one-year agreement and contains a second-year option.

As we mentioned yesterday, Durbin had a solid 2012 with the Atlanta Braves, going 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA pitching in a career-high 76 games after being released by the Washington Nationals in Spring Training.   The two sides clearly were fond of each other in 2011 until the Phillies spent their money on re-signing starting pitcher Cliff Lee.

Durbin will join a bullpen that has Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo, and a combination of other relievers that includes Phillippe Aumont, Justin DeFratus, Mike Stutes, Jeremy Horst, Michael Schwimer, Jake Diekman, and Raul Valdes.   The Phillies certainly should have plenty of depth in 2013.

The astute eye of our photographer Steve Trapani's wife Lisa led to the post yesterday.


Return of a Champion? Could Chad Durbin Return to the Phillies?

Chad_Durbin

There is a buzz that former 2008 World Champion reliever Chad Durbin could return to the Phillies.

"Family friend" Ashton Kennedy tweeted on Twitter that he was happy that Durbin was returning to the Phillies. Check out the tweet here:

Ashton_Kennedy 

Durbin has been a member of the Indians Nationals, and Braves organizations since leaving the Phillies. Durbin and the Phillies' planned 2011 reunion was snarled by the addition of Cliff Lee. So, we know the two sides like each other.

Kennedy deleted the tweet, prompting speculation that it was a bit premature.  If accurate, would be the second signing this offseason leaked out by family or friends. Mike Adams' family announced his signing before any reporter.

Durbin had a solid 2012 with the Atlanta Braves, going 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA pitching in a career-high 76 games after being released by the Washington Nationals in Spring Training.


Doom and Gloom For the Phillies? I'm Not Buying It

I've read it enough that I've kind of got to the point of being tired of it: The Phillies are done, and Amaro is a bust. In fact, even optimism is fake now. Seriously. This team is just screwed. I mean, first we heard how bad Michael Young is, then how Ben Revere has no power, then how Lannan couldn't make the Nationals (I personally don't see Ross Detweiller as worlds better, but ok), then how Mike Adams is a bust, and of course now how Delmon Young is the worst signing ever. We're screwed, royally.

 

I just have trouble buying it. This isn't shocking, I'm one of the few people on the 'net that thinks that Billy Beane and his "Moneyball" is an utter failure (in a decade plus's time, he hasn't had one team make the World Series), so I'm not quite always with the prevailing wisdom. I both don't think the Nationals and Braves have improved as much as others think, and I don't think the Phillies are in such a ridiculous decline either. Am I saying the Phillies are the team to beat, or even necessarily better than the Braves today? No. I also would say that I probably wouldn't have done much different this off-season, and I think this team will be a contender.

 

Let's start with the competition. In 2013, the Mets and Marlins are pathetically bad baseball teams on paper, and don't warrant much discussion, except to say that the Phillies better put double digit wins (I'm thinking 25 total, at least) on both of them. Let's then move to the teams that matter, the Nationals and Braves. Here's their off-seasons to date:

 

  • Nationals- Replace Edwin Jackson with Danny Haren, Replace Michael Morse in the line-up with Denard Span, Replace Sean Burnett with Rafael Soriano.
  • Braves- Replace Michael Bourn with B.J. Upton, Replace Martin Prado with Justin Upton, Replace Chipper Jones with Chris Johnson. Add Jordan Walden while giving away Tommy Hanson.

Let's not kid ourselves, almost all of these moves could go either way. Haren could be healthy, he could not, in which case that wildly alters the fifth starter situation in DC. They'll miss Morse, but Span is solid and fills more of a need, though he doesn't upgrade their production much. Soriano is an upgrade on Burnett, but he's also another righty in a 'pen full of them. The Braves may have gained in the power department, but given up some in other areas of their offense. The most likely take away from this is that both teams are about as good on paper going into the year as they were last year- when both finished ahead of the Phillies, and made the playoffs.

Let's now put the Phillies through the same ringer, and see how they look.

  • Ben Revere essentially takes Juan Pierre's line-up role, and Mayberry's defensive job at the end of the year.
  • John Lannan essentially replaces Vance Worley.
  • Mike Adams essentially replaces no one, as we had no real set-up person that is gone.
  • Michael Young replaces Placido Polanco.
  • Delmon Young essentially replaces Mayberry in the line-up, and Pierre defensively, but mostly Schierholtz on the roster.
  • Kevin Frandsen now replaces Michael Martinez, as Erik Kratz replaces Brian Schneider.

Revere is a better defender than Mayberry, though a younger, similar version of Pierre. Lannan may end up being a downgrade from Worley, but maybe not too. Adams, even last year's worst season of his career version, is a huge upgrade on anything we had. Young is an upgrade offensively, and health wise, on Polanco. Young should be a better hitter than Mayberry, but a much worse defender than Pierre. Frandsen and Kratz would appear to be upgrades, right now. Looking at it this way, the Phillies right now are a little better than they were at the end of last season- in which they finished 81-81, but 44-31 in the second half of the season.

What all of this means about the Phillies is, they are about as good as their health is. Does Chase Utley play a full season, and 130 games or more? How about Ryan Howard? Does Roy Halladay join Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels making 30 All-Star level starts this season? If those things are true, there is no reason to doubt that this team can win 92-95 games as constructed right now, even in a difficult division. Post trade deadline they played very well against both Washington and Atlanta in their head-to-head games.

For those of you who are very sabermetric friendly, look at it like this- Revere was a 2.4 WAR player in 2012, while Pierre was a 1.9 WAR player. Lannan was a 0.3 WAR pitcher, while Worley was a 0.7 WAR pitcher. While Michael Young was a -2.4 WAR player (which strikes me as ridiculous for a .277 hitter with 79 runs scored, but ok), Polanco was somehow a 0.3 (which strikes me as almost disqualifying for this stat). Delmon Young's -1.2 WAR (similarly weird to me, but ok) wasn't good, but Schierholtz's -0.1 WAR wasn't either. Frandsen's 1.5 WAR and Kratz's 1.4 WAR, are both huge upgrades on Martinez's -0.2 (which is simply not low enough) and Schneider's 0 WAR. Mike Adams adds 1.2 WAR. Bottom line? We're 0.6 WAR better (Note that I don't really believe in WAR).

What's that all mean? Well, it means that we're probably dependent on some aging stars having come back years, such as Halladay, Howard, and Utley. Lots of blogs are saying it won't happen, and that this team has become much worse this off-season, and for my two cents I couldn't disagree more. If Roy Halladay's issue was a lat-pull (which is what they say), and he took the time to heal this winter (which they say again), then I have to believe he will return much closer to what he was in 2011 than in 2012. Based on the power numbers put up by Howard and Utley in their shortened seasons, I have no reason to doubt they still have some good baseball left too (also, in Utley's case, how much he did play after returning, nearly every day period, is a good sign). If those three are good this season, and the Phillies other players don't all turn to trash, why aren't they a 90 win team? I'm still not picking up that argument very well.

My optimism that the 2013 Phillies can still be at least a playoff level team is tempered by lots of things, sure. They're not as young as the other two competitors in this division. They finished third last year. The Nationals and Braves have some very nice ballplayers, and frankly still have more financial flexibility than we appear to have right now, if we need a move in season. Finally, yes, I do know that guys who get injured seriously tend to keep getting injured, so I'm not rock solid in my hopes for Utley, Howard, or Halladay. My skepticism is not based on the moves the Phillies made this off-season though, or the moves of the Nationals and Braves. We may flop this season, sure, but it will be because the core of our team has aged, not because we brought in Delmon Young.

I'm also not using this to defend Ruben Amaro's overall performance, which I'd rate as somewhere between low mediocrity and decent. He's made trades and signings I like, such as moves for Halladay and Lee, but also moves I can't stand, such as the entire Hunter Pence fiasco, not playing Dom Brown for an extended enough period to come to a final opinion, and even the higher than market value deals with Howard and Papelbon (mostly because we don't have those dollars for other things, not because the players stink). He's won three divisions in four years, but we've went backwards in the post-season picture each year. Our drafts, since he was hired over Mike Arbuckle, have not so far yielded the kinds of blue-chip talents that Arbuckle was landing when he built our title teams. I still think he's not doing enough to sign international talent either. With that all said, I'm neither willing to call his tenure a complete failure yet, or that this team is going nowhere.

I will defend his off-season though. Should we have overpaid B.J. Upton, or traded every chip left in our system (which still probably doesn't get it done) to get his brother? Should we over pay the wildly mediocre Nick Swisher, or give Angel Pagan a major payday after his best year? I think not. Ruben spent this off-season giving out very short-term commitments to players who might make this team just a little bit better this year, in the hopes that his core players, many of them facing impending free agency, can pull out one more year of greatness, and give the developing talent he does have, one more year to develop. Cody Asche, Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis, Tommy Joseph, Tyson Gillies, Jesse Biddle, and other names who will be in Reading and Allentown, will probably have more to do with how this team is in three years than Delmon Young and Michael Young, and by extension, they will probably have more to do with whether or not Ruben Amaro is still here in two or three years. By resisting the urge to overpay a Josh Hamilton, Ruben kept this off-season from digging his payroll hole deeper with an aging team. I actually have to say this off-season is better than last, when he both spent money and didn't upgrade the team much.

All of this talk will soon be irrelevant. Spring training is almost here, and I'm actually remaining optimistic on the whole.


On Multiple Occasions, The Phillies Tried To Land Justin Upton

If you don't come in first, then you're last. Yesterday the Atlanta Braves added their second big name and second Upton of the offseason while the Phillies watched. That does not mean that they did not try.

According to David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News, the Phillies contacted Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers about a trade for Upton. Simply put, the Phillies did not have what the Diamondbacks wanted in return.

The Diamondbacks got a starting third baseman in return from the Braves in Martin Prado. The Phillies had no comparable player to offer in return. So, the Phillies will instead face Upton 18 times a season for the next three years.

See Murphy's full report here:
http://mobile.philly.com/sports/phillies/?wss=/philly/sports/phillies&id=188314911&viewAll=y#more


On Multiple Occasions, The Phillies Tried To Land Justin Upton


Catch 22: Mike Knuble Reportedly Returns to the Flyers

Khabif-hawks2008
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Looking to overcome a tough start the Flyers returned to an old friend: right wing Mike Knuble.  

Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia reports that Knuble will be sign Friday:

 

 

Knuble played for the Flyers for four seasons from 2005 to 2009.   Since then Knuble played with the Washington Capitals.  In 2011-2012 Knuble had six goals and 12 assists in 72 games.  Now 40 years old, the Flyers hope that Knuble will give the 0-3 Flyers a boost.


Michael Bourn Probably Will End Up on the New York Mets

Michael_Bourn_

Michael Bourn remains unsigned.  The Mets have not signed a single major league free agent all offseason (is that possible?).  As the offseason winds down and as the Mets deal with a loophole in the MLB collective bargaining agreement, the two may be coming to a match.

The Mets have money, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports says.  The Mets have been quiet not out of financial restrictions, but rather prudedence.  Further: what's the greatest reason for teams not to sign Michael Bourn?  Giving up a draft pick.   With money, and potentially not having to give up a pick, the Mets just may be the team.   

Heyman explains the legal loophole/battle that the Mets face right now:

The Mets are thinking enough about it that they are trying to win a ruling to keep their draft choice if they sign Bourn, the Daily News reported. The teams with the 10 worst records are supposed to have protected first-round draft picks, and the Mets' contention is that while they are slated to pick 11th and thus not holding a protected pick, that's only because the Pirates failed to sign their No. 1 pick, Mark Appel, last year, not because they weren't 10th worst by record.

If all the Mets have to give up to get Michael Bourn is money, then he may be the man for them.  I am sure it was not what Bourn had in mind heading to free agency, but it may be his only chance to recoup some money and his pride.  Boras will throw in opt-out clauses, I am sure, so if the Mets are not a good team in a couple years and the market is good Bourn can escape.

The Mets are the first team on Heyman's list, and the Braves just added Justin Upton so the teams not having to give up a draft pick are dwindling.  I think Bourn ends up in Flushing.

Sammy


Deal is Done: Justin Upton To the Braves; With Prado Exit, Braves' Lineup Weaker Than 2012

Justin_Upton

The Braves pulled it off.  Justin Upton will be joining his brother B.J. Upton in the Braves' outfield in 2013.  Surprisingly though, the Braves traded their would-be third baseman Martin Prado to the Arizona Diamondbacks to complete the deal.

Here's how the deal breaks down, courtesy MLB.com's Mark Bowman and Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal:

Braves get:
Justin Upton (OF)
Chris Johnson (3B)

Diamondbacks get:
Martin Prado (3B-2B-OF)
Randall Delgado (P)
Nick Ahmed (SS prospect)
Zeke Spruill (P prospect) 
Brandon Drury (1B prospect) 

Losing Prado still leaves the Atlanta Braves without a leadoff hitter (Prado was probably going to have to hit leadoff by default) and means that the Braves will be stuck using a combination of Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson at third base.

The deal essentially means that the Braves are swapping out Chipper Jones for Justin Upton, Michael Bourn for B.J. Upton, and Martin Prado for Juan Francisco.  I am not sure who is going to lead off for the Braves given who they have.  The lineup may look like this:

1. Andrelton Simmons, SS
2. B.J. Upton, CF
3. Justin Upton, LF
4. Jason Heyward, RF
5. Freddie Freeman, 1B
6. Brian McCann, C
7.Dan Uggla, 2B
8. Juan Francisco, 3B
Pitcher 

Francisco needs to hit eighth and B.J. Upton is not a leadoff hitter.  So Simmons it probably is for the Braves.  There simply is no one else to lead off out of that bunch.

The Braves did pretty well; there was nothing they could do to counter losing Chipper Jones to retirement.  However, the lineup may be a tick below last year's.

P.S.: This likely sends Martin Prado into free agency next offseason. He's long been a favorite of Charlie Manuel.  He may fit with the Phillies.


Braves Could Be Close To Landing Justin Upton, Too

Justin_Upton_

The Phillies' division rivals have landed several big names this offseason already.  While the Phillies have added Delmon Young and Michael Young, the Phillies have seen B.J. Upton, Rafael Soriano, Denard Span, and Adam LaRoche added to division rivals.  The next one may be Justin Upton, whom the Arizona Diamondbacks finally appear to be ready to unload.  

Ken Rosenthal reports that the talks are heating up:

Upton, brother of new Braves centerfielder B.J. Upton, would be the final piece the Braves need this offseason.  Having replaced Michael Bourn in center, the Braves are looking to replace Chipper Jones' place in the lineup.  With the versatile Martin Prado able to play third base Upton can take Prado's old spot in left and Jones' old spot in the lineup.

 


Delmon Young Will Get Paid $600,000 Extra To Eat Less

Delmoneat
Photo: Erik Seybold's glorious photoshop skills

Delmon Young has a lot to work for in order to make all of his incentives. Not only must Young stay out of trouble off the field, but he must also watch what he eats. Looks like no cheesesteaks for Delmon.

In a report by Philly.com's Matt Gelb, Delmon Young is eligible to gain an extra $600,000 if he can keep his weight under 230 pounds.

Young's one-year, $750,000 contract includes bonuses based on his weight, according to The Associated Press. Young must be weighed six separate instances, the timing of which will be chosen by the Phillies. 

Each time he makes weight, Young receives $100,000. The first three times he must weigh 230 pounds or less. He must weigh 235 pounds or less for the last three weigh-ins.

Young says as of Tuesday's physical, his current weight tips the scale at 238 pounds. He needs to lose eight pounds before his first weigh-in in order to get paid his incentives.

Young's other incentives include $250,000 for being on active roster for a week and an additional $100,000 each for 40, 80, 120 and 160 days. 

It seems to me like the Phillies are trying to shape Delmon Young into a respectible and fit teammate as both will benefit the organization and himself.

Follow Erik on Twitter @ErikSeyboldPHI.


Half-Jewish Ruben Amaro Jr.: Delmon Young Is "Not An Anti-Semite"

Young

"I don't want that anti-Semite", many exclaimed as news broke that the Phillies signed controversial outfielder Delmon Young.  People remember the hard-to-forget incident a year ago in New York City.  The incident was reported as follows by the New York Post:

Young directed his rage on four men who were in town for a bachelor party when he saw them talking to a yarmulke-and-Star of David-wearing pan handler outside the Hilton Hotel on Sixth Avenue at 2:40 a.m.

He allegedly shouted “You bunch of F-ing Jews!” and pushed the first member of the group that he could get his hands on — Jason Shank, a business man from Schaumburg Ill, sources said.

The 6-3, 240-pound Young allegedly shoved the much smaller Shank, 32, into a hotel wall, and then tackled him before the scuffle was broken up, sources said.

I, for one, am horrified by this incident and find the behavior reprehensible.  However, Phillies General Manager, born to a Jewish mother, does not see the worst in Young after this incident.

Amaro told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that it was a "mistake" that Young made, and not a bias against Jewish people:

I'm part Jewish, so it's a concern to me...He's not an anti-Semite. He made a mistake. Hopefully, he can move on from that.

Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Daily News writes that after the incident Young spent time with a Detroit area Rabbi.  Rabbi Joshua Bennett spoke to Brookover:

Out of a strange and unfortunate situation, we have become friends.  I have over the course of the last year connected with Delmon. We speak somewhat often and much of what we talk about privately will remain between him and me.

Really, the most important theme is that he is trying to get through this incident and make people recognize this does not define him. He's a good human being and obviously an excellent baseball player. He's very appreciative that he's going to have a chance to prove that to people.

So, Judge the Young move not by his character, but what he may bring to the team.  As a fan, my greatest concern is his weight.  I do not think the weight is an issue because he eats doughnuts all day, but his brother Dmitri always had to struggle with diabetes and to keep his weight down.  The very talented Dmitri had a very up-and-down career with the issues.

If  Young is healthy and not burdened by extra weight he can be a very talented player, still young at 27 years old.  While the team signed him to a major league contract, he can be cut at any time with the deal only costing the team money.  That may be a better risk than trading any of the Phillies' young talent for a marginal player.

Young's rabbi said that he is appreciate of a chance to prove that he is a good guy.  I hope that he also appreciates the opportunity to the point where he will do his absolute best to fight genetics as well as he can.  Things may turn out to be just fine.