On the Eve of Free Agency

Thursday, November 13, 2008 ·

As quickly as the season ended, the offseason is set to begin. It is hard to say that the Phillies have holes, but even defending champions will look to improve. The Phillies biggest needs will be the starting rotation, the bullpen, an everyday left fielder, and a right-handed bat off the bench.

First, we'll look at that the Phillies free-agents:

Type A - Pat Burrell, Jamie Moyer
Type B - Rudy Seanez
Other - So Taguchi, Tom Gordon

Teams that lose a Type A free agent are compensated with two draft picks. If a player loses a type B free-agent in return, they get one pick.

There is good news and bad news.The good news is that the Phillies have most of their championship team returning. The bad news, financially speaking, is that the team will be some some significant raises. Yes, the Phillies won the World Series. Yes, they will see a larger profit from the postseason run and the extra 300,000+ regular season seats sold. However, don't expect the Phillies to make a huge free agency splash because of their extra going money going toward players already under contract or arbitration-eligible players.

Currently, the Phillies are negotiating with Jamie Moyer. Last year, Moyer made $7 million after his salary and performance bonuses. It is expected that he'll make somewhere around the same price tag with a multi-year deal. I the Phillies do indeed sign Moyer, that still only leaves them with 4 veteran starters: Hamels, Moyer, Myers, and Blanton. If Myers and Blanton can replicate their late season success and Moyer can continue to confuse hitters with his soft stuff, the Phillies will have a fairly strong rotation.

They could either look to free agency for a fifth starter or go with J.A. Happ. It is safe to say that Adam Eaton will never be in the rotation again. The Phillies do feel that Carlos Carrassco will be up with the team at some point this year. He is not quite ready yet. They'll likely try to limit his innings as well because he is so young.

If the Phillies decide to go with a free agent, they will need to go big or go home. After the front-line starters, there is a huge drop off. The biggest names available will be C.C. Sabathia, Ben Sheets, A.J. Burnett, Ryan Dempster, Oliver Perez, Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Jon Garland, and Mike Mussina. The best pitcher for them to look at who would not command such a huge price is likely Derek Lowe. Last year, Lowe only made $10 million, so while he'll see a raise, it will likely not be in the area of Perez, Sabathia, Sheets, and Burnett. The only problem with going for Lowe is that the Mets seem to covet him as well and that may drive up the price.

While the Phillies have a need in the rotation, realistically, I would not expect them to a lot of money for a starter. Truthfully, they probably need another legit front-line starter, but like you saw last year, they can get away with with they have. Their rotation is already better this year than the start of last year.

Next on the agenda is left fielder Pat Burrell. MLB's Ken Mandel stated that if Burrell does return it'll likely be with a short-term contract and a hometown discount. Sure, they could pass on him and look toward free agency, but the market is really thin. The only real interesting name is Milton Bradley and it pretty much ends there. Bradley creates concerns with his durability and being a team cancer, but when he is healthy and not causing problems, he has a career OPS+ of 118. Last year, his OPS+ of 167 and the year before of 153. Last year, Bradley only made $5.25 million, so you'd expect he'd see between $10-12 million after what Aaron Rowand saw last year. So, if the Phillies were to go that route, Bradley is the name we'd like to see pop up.

Burrell has a career OPS+ of 119 and even with his defensive inabilities, it is hard to argue for losing a player who reaches base 37% of the time in his career and averaged 31 home runs and 103 RBIs per 162 games. Sure, his batting average doesn't look flashy, but Burrell is a slugger and the Phillies need a right-handed slugger to compliment Ryan Howard. Burrell has a very good career OBP percentage and slugging percentage that he's worth bringing back for the offense. Adam Dunn is out there, but the Phillies do not need another left-handed power bat and definitely not one who strikes out as much as Howard. The correct move would probably be to pass on Burrell, but you don't want to take a step back with the lineup and truthfully, outside of Bradley, they would take a step back tremendously. I'd rather have a guy that hits .250 with power and only makes outs 63% of the time than a player who hits .290 with less power and makes outs 67% of the time.

In terms of the rest of the position players, there are some stars available, but but not in areas of need for the Phillies. Overall, this free agent class is relatively unimpressive. For any free agency move, the Phillies need to make sure that if they make a lateral move, it is at a cheaper price or if they make an expensive move, it is a drastic improvement.

The Phillies need to look for a right-handed bat off the bench and they should look for that player is a first baseman or outfielder. Casey Blake would be an interesting player, but he'll likely find a starting job somewhere. Blake can play both first and third. Blake would likely make around $8-10 million at least and you really do not want to throw that at a bench player. It'll be interesting to see Amaro, Jr.'s subtle moves similar to what Gillick was known for. Currently, the Phillies have two outfielders of the bench that are left-handed in Matt Stairs and Geoff Jenkins. They're both pretty much one-dimensional power hitters. Once again, there isn't much. The free agent list is filled with veterans that will likely command prices well more than they deserve.

Lastly, though the bullpen was great, the middle relievers do not have career consistency on their side. You can never have enough pitching either. A few interesting names would be Dennys Reyes, Joe Beimel, Will Ohman, and Brendan Donnelly. Donnelly is the oldest of the bunch and he had a poor year last year. Outside of last season, which he was injured, he's had a very good career. Reyes, also right-handed, is coming of a great season and he might see an over-priced contract because of that one season. Both Beimel and Ohman are lefties, with Beimel being the younger and more consistent of the two. I'd love to add Beimel, but I am not sure if putting a lot of money in to a reliever is the route the Phillies are going to take.

The Phillies will have to make some additions. The rest of the National League is going to try and improve, so the Phillies need to make sure they stay ahead of the game. For good reason, the Phillies are now a marked target. The Mets fans were embarrassed over the last two seasons, so with Citi Field coming opening, you'd have to expect a spending spree by them. The Braves have fallen off the map, but they are very close to trading for Jake Peavy. While the Phillies ace is the NLCS and WS MVP, they need to make sure his supporting cast is consistent and better than the rest.

While the East Coast will be mostly sleeping, Ruben Amaro Jr. and other GMs will begin discussing terms with available free agents. Hopeully, the Phillies will work toward becoming repeating champions.


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We Hate to Lose began in October 2007. The initial purpose of the website was to provide news updates and commentary on all four major sports teams in Philadelphia. Because of time-constraints, in April of 2009, I decided to post only on my first-love, the Philadelphia Phillies.

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