The Phillies used 21 relief pitchers last season, so depth can be a serious issue.
They added another arm to their Spring Training bullpen competition today, when they selected right-hander Kevin Munson from the Diamondbacks in the Rule 5 Draft. He went 2-4 with a 4.12 ERA in 53 appearances last season with Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno, but has averaged 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings in his Minor League career.
“He’s a power reliever, a two-pitch power guy,” Phillies scouting director Mike Ondo said. “A big fastball with a hard slider. He’s a guy that can create some depth in our bullpen. Get him in the mix. In the past he’s been capable of giving you a two-inning outing. He’s also a guy that can come in with that stuff and get a strikeout.”
The Phillies lost right-hander Seth Rosin to the Mets. The Phillies acquired Rosin in July 2012 in the Hunter Pence trade. They also lost shortstop Jonathan Roof to the Red Sox in the Minor League phase of the draft.
“He was a guy we thought we had a chance to lose,” Ondo said about Rosin.
But Munson at the very least creates a little more competition for a young group that includes Justin De Fratus, Jake Diekman, B.J. Rosenberg, Michael Stutes, Phillippe Aumont, Jeremy Horst and others. Munson’s fastball is in the 92-95 mph range, but consistently sits 93-94 mph.
“I know the ERA was high, but the walks were down in Triple-A,” Ondo said. “And his strikeouts were still there. He started getting more groundballs in Triple-A. We saw him both places this year, and we’ve seen him in the past. We’ve liked the arm in the past. The way he’s progressed we figured we take a chance on that stuff.”
Munson must remain on the 25-man roster the entire season to remain with the organization. If not, another team can claim him or he can return to the Diamondbacks.
Scott Boras is holding his annual scrum with reporters at the Winter Meetings.
He already got asked plenty of questions about Shin-Soo Choo, but I snuck in a question about Domonic Brown.
Considering the season he just had and the fact the Phillies need to get younger, is it surprising to hear Brown’s name keep coming up in trade rumors?
“Really, when you have breakout young players that teams have control over a long time, I think it’s pretty customary that teams are going to be interested in him,” Boras said. “Again, anybody with 20-plus home run power these days, we’re talking about annually, there’s like 40 of them in the league. That’s a little over one a team. So when you hit 27 home runs like Domonic did, clubs are going to pay attention and try to acquire those assets.”
Boras also was asked about the Phillies. Typically, they are in the hunt for some of the bigger names on the market, but so far they have been on the sideline.
“I think their team is in a position where they are trying to work on what’s below, but they’re trying to win now,” he said. “When you’re in that position, it’s hard to say when you look in the glass of water that it’s crystal clear. It’s a hard process. It’s a very hard process.”
That said, is it surprising to see them dangling Brown?
“I think it’s unfair to say they’re dangling him,” he said. “I think a lot of people are asking for him because he is young and he hits a lot of home runs. That’s customary. So I would expect that teams are going to ask Philadelphia about that, because they may be offering them more veteran players to help in their direction toward winning now. That’s the give and go of this. It’s like eating and brushing your teeth at the same time. You want clean teeth but then again you want to survive. So I don’t know quite how you do it.”
And what does Brown think about this?
“I think that they’ve got a direction on what they want to do, and clearly they want to win now, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “I always tell players when you’re under control of a club you just sit back and listen and I’ll let you know, but usually you’re going to end up in a good place if it happens.”
ESPN and CBSSports.com reported the Phillies have told teams they will listen to offers for Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Now why in the world would the Phillies do that? Well, it is important to note that listening is different than trading. But if some team is willing to offer premium talent for Hamels or Lee — and take their entire salary to boot — it would be foolish not to listen.
It would be foolish, however, to trade one of them for a package that does not address numerous and immediate needs. After all, what was the purpose of extending Chase Utley, signing Marlon Byrd and resigning Carlos Ruiz if the Phillies are not trying to win the next couple seasons?
The Phillies better than anybody know the risks of trading a top starting pitcher for young talent. They traded Lee to the Mariners in Dec. 2009 for Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez. They also have acquired Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt for prospects that included Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Jason Knapp, Kyle Drabek, Travis d’Arnaud, Michael Taylor, J.A. Happ, Jonathan Villar and Anthony Gose.
Have any of those players come back to haunt the Phillies yet?
How certain can the Phillies be that the players they would get in return for Hamels or Lee would make a difference?
It also must be noted there are obstacles involved in any potential Hamels and Lee talks. First, both have limited no-trade clauses. Second, they are owed a ton of money. Hamels is owed $118.5 million over the next five years, which includes $22.5 million in salary each of the next five seasons, plus a $6 million buyout for a vesting option in 2019. Lee is owed $62.5 million over the next three years, which includes $25 million in salary each of the next two seasons, plus $12.5 million buyout for a vesting option for 2016.
If the Phillies trade either of them the other team must take their salary, which limits potential partners. The Phillies last ate money in a trade in 2005, when they shipped Jim Thome to the White Sox.
There are reasons it makes sense for the Phillies to listen. They have holes everywhere. They need to get younger. They could use the payroll relief. But there are plenty of reasons it won’t happen, too.
“Roy was one of the best. There are no shortcuts to greatness; Roy understood that, and that’s why he never took any. I wish I could’ve gotten him that ring he desired. That’s my only regret while having him on my team.”
“It’s been an honor playing along side Roy Halladay. His tenacity, attention to detail, and preparation was second to none. He is one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever played with. We will definitely miss him, as will the game of baseball.”
Ruben Amaro Jr.
“It was kind of bittersweet. I know how much he likes to compete. For him to not be able to compete at the level he’s accustomed to, I feel badly about that. The other thing people shouldn’t take for granted was what he did for us. When he stepped on the mound, there was like a 97 percent chance you were going to get a win. He was a little bit like Steve Carlton, although Steve did it for much longer with our organization. But when you get a guy like that one the mound, that’s pretty special. I was blessed. I think our fans should feel blessed they had an opportunity to witness that.”
“He was one of the best competitors who ever played this game and taught everyone around him to prepare the right way in order to be the best. For me, personally, he helped me understand the game more and gave me insight on how to become a top of the line starting pitcher.”
“Roy was probably the best influence in my career. Being able to spend the last four years with him taught me what work ethic and commitment are all about. In my eyes, the game just lost the best pitcher of the last 10 years.”
“Roy was one of the best pitchers and students of the game I’ve ever had the honor of playing with. Hands down, he was the best pitcher of this era and a first ballot Hall of Famer.”
“Roy Halladay is the ultimate competitor. He is by far the hardest worker that I’ve ever seen and treated every game as if it were his last. It was no coincidence why he was the best pitcher of his era. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to watch him pitch for four years. I’ll miss his presence and passion but, most of all, I will miss his intensity.”
“Roy was the most prepared, ferociously competitive pitcher I’ve ever been around and was the epitome of professionalism. How he conversed with people and treated his teammates was something I really admired about him. He did it all. He and Jamie Moyer are the most demanding pitchers I’ve ever had. They wanted to get better every time out and if you look at Roy’s numbers, having played in the AL East all those years, winning two Cy Youngs, pitching a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter, he should absolutely get strong consideration for the Hall of Fame.”
“Roy was one of the hardest working teammates I played with. He was a joy and pleasure to be around and brought the best out of everyone.”
“Roy Halladay is one the most dominant, consistent professional pitchers I’ve ever had the privilege of playing with. He was a great teammate, but an even better father, friend and role model. He is one of those guys who is determined and driven to be great at whatever he does. I wish him and his family all the best.”
“I know it must have been hard for Roy to make this decision to retire because I know how much he loved to play the game. Roy was, without a doubt, one of the greatest competitors I ever had the pleasure of being around.”
“I’m very sad to see Roy retire but very happy to have been his teammate. He was a special player, and it was my great fortune to be able and watch him pitch. Hopefully he enjoys retirement.”
“Roy was a great player and a very special friend. To have caught both his perfect game and playoff no-hitter is something I will remember for the rest of my life. I wish him and his family all the best in retirement.”
He will sign a one-day contract and retire a Blue Jay.
The retirement should not come as a complete surprise. Halladay, 36, had a 5.15 ERA over the past two seasons as he has battled shoulder problems, which included surgery in May. His ERA ranked 161st out of 169 pitchers with 163 1/3 or more innings the past two seasons.
He simply had not been himself.
But Halladay absolutely dominated the game for more than a decade prior. He went 175-78 with a 2.98 ERA from 2001-11. Only Johan Santana (2.94) had a better ERA among pitchers with 1,500 or more innings pitched. Only CC Sabathia (176) had more wins. Halladay had 64 complete games in that span, 30 more than Livan Hernandez. He had 19 shutouts, seven more than Chris Carpenter. Halladay ranked first in WAR (65.4), ERA+ (148), strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.52) and winning percentage (.692); second in walks per nine innings (1.55) and opponents OPS (.642); third in WHIP (1.11); fourth in innings (2,300); and fifth in strikeouts (1,795),
He won the American League Cy Young in 2003 and National League Cy Young in 2010. He threw a perfect game for the Phillies in 2010, and a n0-hitter in Game 1 of the 2010 National League Division Series.
Hall of Famer?
The Phillies picked up an extra selection in next Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft.
Major League Baseball awarded them the Cubs’ pick – the fourth selection overall – after the Phillies won a grievance regarding Chicago’s handling of right-hander Lendy Castillo, whom the Cubs selected from the Phillies in the 2012 draft.
It gives the Phillies the Nos. 4 and 7 selections, if they choose to use them. The Phillies have 39 players on the 40-man roster, so if they want to use both they would have to remove one player from the roster.
The Phillies are typically active in the Rule 5 Draft. In previous seasons they have selected Shane Victorino, David Herndon and Michael Martinez.
Players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must be on the 25-man roster the entire season. To prevent teams from abusing the system, those players must be active 92 of the season’s 183 days. The Cubs had Castillo on the disabled list 91 days with a groin injury before activating him in September when rosters expand, giving him 92 days on the active roster.
He went 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA in 13 appearances with the Cubs in 2012. He spent 2013 between Class A Kane County and Class A Daytona.
The Phillies announced today they have signed catcher Wil Nieves to a one-year contract.
He is expected to back up Carlos Ruiz.
Nieves, 36, has hit a combined .299 with three home runs, 30 RBIs and a .704 OPS in 295 plate appearances the past two seasons with the Rockies and Diamondbacks. He has hit .242 with a .597 OPS in his 10-year career.
The Phillies had an agreement with Nieves in place before they finalized the deal that shipped catcher Erik Kratz and left-hander Rob Rasmussen to the Blue Jays for right-hander Brad Lincoln.
The Phillies also announced they have signed right-hander Jeff Manship to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. He appeared in 11 games (four starts) last season with the Rockies. He went 0-5 with a 7.04 ERA. He is a combined 3-7 with a 6.42 ERA in 52 appearances (10 starts) in his big-league career.
The lesson: an organization can never have enough arms.
The Phillies added another arm Tuesday night when they announced they had acquired right-hander Brad Lincoln from the Blue Jays for catcher Erik Kratz and left-hander Rob Rasmussen. Lincoln has made 97 appearances in four seasons in his big league career, which began in Pittsburgh. He has posted a 4.66 ERA, although he spent much of 2013 in Triple-A Buffalo as he battled command problems.
“We’ve always liked Brad Lincoln’s arm,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said Wednesday morning. “He’s gone back and forth as a starter and reliever. We think he’s going to be somebody that can really help us in our bullpen. It’s a matter of him getting back into that niche.”
The trade explains the Phillies agreeing to terms with catcher Wil Nieves, which sources confirmed following the initial CBSSports.com report. Amaro declined comment on Nieves, but said, “We’re trying to create some depth there.”
Presumably, Nieves will be Carlos Ruiz’s backup, although Amaro and manager Ryne Sandberg are quick to praise Cameron Rupp, who spent much of last season in Triple-A. Nieves hit .297 with a .690 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 206 plate appearances last season with the D-backs. He has a .597 OPS in his 10-year career, but is known for his defensive capabilities.
Lincoln, 28, averaged 9.9 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings with Buffalo, but 7.1 strikeouts and a troubling 6.3 walks per nine innings with the Blue Jays. Before last season, he has averaged 6.8 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine innings.
“He had some issues with his command last year,” Amaro said, “but I don’t think that’s his MO typically. We think he’s a good arm. We’re trying to create some depth in our pen.”
The Blue Jays have plenty of depth in the bullpen, which made him expendable. He also had run out of options, which is something to remember as the Phillies finalize their Opening Day roster in March.
The Phillies hope Lincoln provides depth to a struggling bullpen short on experience, which finished 14th in the National League with a 4.13 ERA. Closer Jonathan Papelbon (527 career appearances) is expected to anchor the ‘pen, but he has experienced a dip in velocity and strikeouts. Setup man Mike Adams (386) will try to come back from right shoulder surgery – Amaro said they cannot expect him to be ready by Opening Day, although they are hopeful — while left-hander Antonio Bastardo (208) will try to prove himself following a 50-game suspension for using a performance-enhancing substance.
Following them are a host of relievers that includes Mike Stutes (79 career appearances), Jake Diekman (77), Justin De Fratus (76), Jeremy Horst (72), B.J. Rosenberg (44) and Phillippe Aumont (40).
“We have to have confidence they’re going to continue to improve,” Amaro said about his collection of young relievers. “But at the same time if there’s a way we can improve our club we can’t just stop doing it. We’ve been surprised at times with some of these guys, particularly a couple years ago with Stutes and Bastardo. On the flip side we’ve been disappointed, which is part of the growing process when it comes to the bullpen and particularly young bullpen guys. Some guys year to year can make it click. And other guys just don’t ever get it.”
Amaro said they have interest in several players recently non-tendered by their former teams. Relief pitchers include Ryan Webb, John Axford and Wesley Wright.
“We’ve made several calls to quite a few of those free agents,” Amaro said. “We’ll see how it pans out. I think it’s still very fresh. Whenever this happens to players typically they’re surprised by it. So they’re just getting into the marketplace. Our job is to try to make sure guys know we have interest in them.”
Kratz hit .230 with 18 homers and 52 RBIs in 120 games over three seasons with the Phillies. The Phillies acquired Rasmussen from the Dodgers in August for infielder Michael Young. He went 3-11 with a 4.11 ERA in 28 games with Double-A Chatanooga and Triple-A Albuquerque.
They avoided arbitration with infielder Kevin Frandsen, agreeing to a one-year, $900,00 contract, which includes performance bonuses. They also tendered contracts to right-hander Kyle Kendrick, center fielder Ben Revere, left-hander Antonio Bastardo and outfielder John Mayberry Jr.
They were the organization’s only five players eligible for arbitration.
There had been no doubt the Phillies would tender contracts to Kendrick, Revere and Bastardo. The Phillies need Kendrick to fill out the rotation, Revere to play center field and hit atop the lineup and Bastardo to help a beleaguered bullpen.
Frandsen could have been non-tendered had the Phillies felt they were too far apart in contract negotiations. They have infielders like Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez and Reig Brignac to compete for bench jobs in Spring Training.
Mayberry has had an up-and-down time with the Phillies, but he still holds value as a right-handed hitter with power who can play all three outfield positions and first base.
If you have not read the story yet, the Phillies held a press conference last night to announce Carlos Ruiz‘s three-year, $26 million deal. Ruben Amaro Jr. discussed the risks of signing Ruiz, who turns 35 in January. But last night’s news conference was old news. The story broke Monday, and Ruiz’s agent Marc Kligman (@MLBAgent) confirmed and discussed the deal on Twitter and elsewhere. By the time the official announcement came, most people already had their fill of how the deal went down.
The real news is what’s next for Amaro? I wrote the other day that unless he makes a trade to free up a spot in the field, Marlon Byrd and Ruiz could be the only tweaks to next season’s lineup. (And Ruiz can’t be considered much of a tweak because he isn’t new.) So here are Amaro’s answers to questions about the team and what’s next.
Q: Could there be more changes to the lineup?
A: It is possible. We’ve had a lot of dialogue with a lot of clubs. We’ve kept our minds and our eyes open as far as our lineup is concerned. We hope to try to continue to improve it, or change it, somehow.
Q: Five of the eight everyday players will be 34 or older on Opening Day …
A: I think we can win. It’s really a matter of getting the guys on the field. If they’re on the field, they will produce. Unless something drastic happens over the next several months, I fully expect these guys to be on the field and performing.I also think we have some better depth because we have some kids who got a chance to play last year. If we do have breakdowns, I think we have better depth to fill in some spots. Yes, they’re older but they’re also very good when they’re playing. That’s important. I think it was (Yankees general manager) Brian Cashman who said, ‘I don’t care about the age so long as they’re good.’ I believe in our players even though the core group is getting older. There’s no question about that. I can’t deny that. We hope to get them on the field. And if they’re on the field, they’ll produce
Q: So what’s next?
A: Well, I think we are still – as we talked about before – the pitching remains a priority for us. If we can still improve the rotation and our bullpen, we will try to do that. We’re still looking for ways to maybe improve, tweak our lineup. We’re looking for more depth in the outfield, some athleticism. We’re just trying to get ourselves so we can cover all the bases a little better than we did last year when we had breakdowns in the infield and outfield. We had a lot of six-year free agents pitching in the rotation, so we’re going to try and create some depth on the pitching side and in the field as well.