Using 20/20 hindsight, players were available on the market for the Philadelphia Phillies besides Mike Adams. There were other third basemen, outfielders and relievers. Why didn’t Ruben Amaro Jr. corral them?
This article represents the thinking of a baseball man in my opinion. Most fans do not consider the budget, prospects on the radar, the organization’s weaknesses, the track record, the competition and the other intangibles.
There will be a published storyline each week. This review is an additional posting.
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Despite the stat sheets and scouting reports, general managers play a lottery for prize acquisitions.
Amaro paid $5 million for five months of Michael Young, who is now a .275 hitter. He was the perfect stopgap giving Cody Asche four months to mature at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The rookie has impressed everyone as Chase Utley 2.0, but he has grown since his arrival in Philly. He’s revised his goal to staying in the majors and increased his effort subconsciously: He might even hit .290 by season’s end.
According to a self tally of AAV (Average Annual Value) from Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the front office only had $24 million before touching the competitive-balance threshold of $178 million. There were holes at third base and all three outfield positions, but a eighth-inning setup man was priority number one. Management’s plan was an average of $6 million for four slots and a hungry cub in the fifth spot.
With hindsight as an advantage, Chris Branch of the Courier Post wrote that Amaro exposed the entire franchise to failure. Opining that this path to mediocrity was the direct result of large contracts to older veterans, Branch mentions Utley and Ryan Howard but implies Jimmy Rollins, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon and Adams. However, scrolling to the bottom line, other clubs are inking stars before their free agency, which means the talent pool offers less. Secondly, even without the signings and the trades for Halladay and Lee, the Phils would not have a new core four from their farm system because that requires high draft picks after an extended period of cellar dwelling: Pat Burrell, JD Drew and Wil Myers (the Kansas City Royals) are examples.
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The easy out is to blame the decision-maker; however, factual exploration might yield a different outcome.
The general manager sent Josh Lindblom to Texas for Young, and the hurler only saw action in call-up starts. He, however, could not succeed above Triple-A even with several rotation jobs available. On the other hand, Young was a concrete solution before the swap with Los Angeles. That stated, the hot corner had two other possibilities: Kevin Youkilis and Scott Rolen. Youkilis inked a one-year deal with the Yankees and has seen limited playing time due to his physical difficulties. He’s been out since mid-June following surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back, and–at 34–he is on the scrap heap. The injury-prone Rolen wanted a starting role, did not get one, and retired.
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There was no shortage of available jobs beyond the base paths, but limited funds were the biggest obstacle. The red pinstripes offered Vance Worley and Trevor May for Josh Willingham, who was under contract for 2013 and 2014. However, the Twins countered with Ben Revere instead, which gives Ryne Sandberg a center fielder who is a .300 hitter and base stealer in the leadoff position. Worley’s demotion by Minnesota was on May 22, but his right shoulder inflammation disabled him at the Triple-A level on July 18. Willingham, on the other hand, missed six weeks or 25 percent of the campaign, while Revere went down eight weeks ago.
The other possibilities for right field did not create envy. Atlanta agreed on five seasons with BJ Upton, but he has been an expensive disappointment. Arizona signed outfielder Cody Ross–whose preference was other than right field–but disabled him on August 11 in his first of three years. Ryan Ludwick returned to Cincinnati for two tours, but his campaign did not begin until August 12.
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Path to Papelbon:
Adams was the premier setup man in baseball, but Amaro’s first choice was a younger option. Wilton Lopez was on the radar despite his elbow concerns, but his worrisome physical voided his trade here. He has not duplicated his 2012 success in Colorado, which means even Antonio Bastardo was a better fit. The bullpen prediction here is that Papelbon will have a bounce-back 2014, and Adams will pay dividends on his costly contract.
Where the grass is always greener in many minds, Brandon Lyon and Jon Rauch inked team bargains before their discharges led to Triple-A innings for other organizations. Each has since requested a release and remains available. Koji Uehara has excellent numbers, but the brain trust was not looking for a one-season solution from an aging vet. Jason Frasor has been productive, but he is behind four others in the Rangers’ bullpen staff. Despite the recent glimmers of hope from the relief corps with BJ Rosenberg, Jake Diekman and Ethan Martin, the higher-ups will add an arm or two for the next 162.
Until a fortune teller can assist Amaro, he can weigh the statistics, scout the talent, and pray he doesn’t pick a booby prize.
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A rotation spot opened with the barter for Revere, which swapped two major leaguers near the minimum salary. In other words, Amaro wasn’t looking for an expensive replacement in the five slot, and he had three options: a farm product, an inexpensive free agent or an acquired veteran. From the pipeline, Jonathan Pettibone and Martin were the possibilities, while the unsigned hurlers were John Lannan and Jeff Karstens. Meanwhile, Los Angeles (NL) had three vets among their eight starters: Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang.
The general manager had a spending range of $2 million to $4 million, but the management from Hollywood was in no hurry to part with pitching. In the end, they waited until April 6 to deal with the Rockies for Harang. Passing on Karstens, the head honcho inked Lannan for $2.5 million plus easily reachable incentives of $1.3 million (from $2.5 million total); however, the hurdles to reach $3.8 million were producing his average and staying off the disabled list. Influencing Amaro’s decision for the home park, Lannon is a ground-ball producer and Karstens does not have an out pitch.
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The Rental Charges:
The Rule 5 Draft consists of players who did not fit under the protective shield of their club’s 40-man roster. These athletes are trade bait for their teams to pick up pros for a postseason push. That stated, a franchise loaded with prospects, cannot protect them all, and deals the more expendable ones for temporary help in the final month or two of the year. Otherwise, the competition will select them in the draft for only monetary compensation.
Rob Rasmussen (the Dodgers), Tommy Kahnle (the Yankees) and Nefi Ogando (the Red Sox) were on the table for Young and John McDonald. Boston settled for McDonald and parted with Ogando, who did not succeed as a starter at the lowest rungs of professional ball. The Phils waited an additional month for Rasmussen instead of Kahnle, who has only relieved in the minors. A pitcher who switches to the pen at a later point in his career has more upside, which may happen to Rasmussen at Lehigh Valley next summer.
The southpaw reported to the FIL (Florida Instructional League), and management will decide if he warrants protection on the 40-man roster. The games end this week.
Four disabled hurlers who will command a 2014 roster spot are Adams, Jonathan Pettibone, Kyle Kendrick and Jeremy Horst. Currently, Joe Savery, JC Ramirez, Luis Garcia and Cesar Jimenez are among the 40. There will be one open spot after those four arms are healthy, but the organization will bring in others before spring training begins.
To earn protection, Rasmussen must–at least–unseat either Ramirez, Garcia or Jimenez.
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