They hope Chad Billingsley can be that guy.
The team announced Thursday night it signed Billingsley, 30, to a one-year, $1.5 million contract, which includes performance bonuses. Billingsley has pitched just 12 innings in the big leagues since 2012 because of elbow injuries, but he passed his physical and the Phillies hope he could be in the big leagues by late April.
“He’s a bounce back candidate,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “We’re cautiously optimistic that it’s a good risk. If healthy and if he bounces back close to where he has been in the past, he’s a very solid middle-to-upper rotation type pitcher.”
If everybody is healthy and nobody is traded by Opening Day, the Phillies’ rotation is expected to include Hamels, Lee, Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams and David Buchanan. Billingsley could bump Buchanan at some point. And if Billingsley pitches well, who knows? They might be able to spin him off to a contending team in July.
Again, all that is only if he is healthy and returns to prior form.
Billingsley had Tommy John surgery in April 2013 and surgery to repair his right flexor tendon last June. But before that his 73 wins from 2007-12 ranked 20th in baseball. His 3.65 ERA ranked 27th out of 89 qualifying pitchers.
“We’re going to make sure that we take our time with him,” Amaro said. “We want to make sure he’s healthy when he’s pitching in Philadelphia. We’re not going to rush him. If he continues in a straight line we’re hopeful that by late April or early May he’s ready to pitch for us.”
The Phillies designated left-hander Cesar Jimenez for assignment to make room for Billingsley on the 40-man roster. Billinsgley will wear No. 38, which had been Kyle Kendrick’s number since 2007.
Kendrick is a free agent and will not return.
The Phillies announced significant changes to their leadership this afternoon.
They said David Montgomery will rejoin the franchise as team chairman, not as team president, the role he had held since 1997. Montgomery took a medical leave of absence in August following jaw bone cancer surgery in May. Pat Gillick replaced Montgomery as interim president, but the team removed the interim tag. Gillick said he will serve as president as long as ownership wants him.
Bill Giles has moved from chairman to chairman emeritus.
“This is the best of all worlds for me,” Montgomery said in a telephone interview today. “The more that we talked about things, the conversation became less about when I return and more about in what capacity. The job I had was a little time consuming. I have the opportunity to maybe not have to be here every morning by nine. If there was a (Great Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce) meeting at 7:30 in the morning and there was a night game, I’d work from 7:30 to midnight. Everybody was asking me if I was prepared to do that for another year or two.”
The Phillies said Montgomery, 68, will “remain active in Philadelphia civic, business, sports, and charitable endeavors, and also will maintain his close association with Phillies fans, customers, and sponsors. He will continue to be very involved in Major League Baseball committees and projects.” He will not be involved in the Phillies’ daily baseball operations.
Gillick will continue to run baseball operations while senior vice president of administration and operations Mike Stiles will run the business side. Gillick initiated a complete rebuilding effort in August, when he assumed control of the team. The Phillies have lost 89 games in consecutive seasons and just finished in last place in the National League East for the first time since 2000, despite a franchise-record $180 million payroll last year.
Today’s announcement ended months of speculation about the Phillies’ future at the top. Montgomery said in November he expected to return as president, but he also acknowledged he alone could not make that happen.
“It’s not entirely my call,” he said then.
Two sources said this evening that talks are alive, although the seriousness of those discussions is unclear. Yahoo! Sports first reported Friday that the Phillies and Brewers were in serious negotiations. FOXSports.com mentioned the Blue Jays’ interest.
In the following days, reports surfaced that a deal with either team is unlikely.
But that has not stopped them from continuing to talk about Papelbon.
Both teams need a closer and Papelbon would fill a void, but there are serious sticking points. First, Papelbon will make $13 million this season. He also has a $13 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests if he finishes just 48 games this season. The Phillies will have to eat some of that salary to make a deal happen. Second, Papelbon has limited no-trade rights and he might require a team to pick up the club option before he waives his rights, although he said in July his no-trade rights would not be an issue.
Third, the Phillies want something of value in return if they agree to eat a bunch of salary. Can they get what they want?
Papelbon went 2-3 with a 2.04 ERA and 39 saves in 43 opportunities last season. His 90.7 save completion percentage ranked sixth out of 29 qualifying closers in baseball. His 0.90 WHIP ranked 19th out of 185 qualifying relief pitchers.
“Some guys want to stay on a losing team?” he said, expressing a desire to be traded. “That’s mind-boggling to me.”
Yahoo! Sports reported today that the Phillies and Brewers have been in serious discussions about sending Papelbon to Milwaukee – the same place he expressed his desire to be traded — although it will not be easy. Papelbon has a limited no-trade clause and reportedly can block a trade to Milwaukee, although it is highly unlikely he would if given the choice. He also makes $13 million this season and has a 2016 club option worth $13 million that automatically vests if he finishes 48 games this season.
Papelbon is likely to ask a team to pick up the club option before he waives his no-trade rights, although getting the option to automatically vest should not be an issue if he stays healthy. He has finished no fewer than 52 games each of the previous eight seasons, and has averaged 56.4 games finished in that span.
But the prospect of spending another season in Philadelphia might be enough for Papelbon to accept a trade. The Phillies are trading their veterans and said they are unlikely to contend again for another three seasons. It is worth noting similar reports surfaced about Roy Oswalt in 2010, saying he absolutely would not accept a trade to Philadelphia unless the Phillies picked up his 2012 club option. But in the end, faced with spending another season in Houston or getting a shot at a World Series in Philadelphia, Oswalt waived his no-trade rights without the option being picked up.
Papelbon vigorously shook his head no in July when asked if his no-trade clause would be an issue in facilitating a trade.
But the Phillies and Brewers still would have to agree upon how much salary the Phillies would eat and the prospects the Phillies would receive in return.
The Brewers finished 82-80 last season, six games behind the Giants and Pirates for a National League Wild Card berth. The Brewers just traded Yovani Gallardo to the Rangers, but are looking for backend bullpen help.
Papelbon would help a contender. He went 2-3 with a 2.04 ERA and 39 saves in 43 opportunities last season. His 90.7 save completion percentage ranked sixth out of 29 qualifying closers in baseball. His 0.90 WHIP ranked 19th out of 185 qualifying relief pitchers.
His velocity has declined in recent seasons, but last season he learned how to pitch more effectively without it.
Of course, it is believed one reason Papelbon has been difficult to trade is the perception he is a problem in the clubhouse. Major League Baseball suspended him seven games in September after he grabbed his crotch after a blowing a save in Philadelphia. He also has been critical of the Phillies’ front office and coaching staff, although the team’s young relievers have said he has been a positive influence in their development.
“I think there’s a couple clubs out there that could use somebody to close,” Phillies interim president Pat Gillick said this week. “Ruben (Amaro Jr.) has talked to some people. Maybe something will materialize. But the guy has saved 120 games in three years. His record speaks for itself.”
And the notion Papelbon can be difficult?
“I hate to say Pap is Pap,” Gillick said, “but he’s a competitor who likes to win. He goes out there day in and day out. I don’t think at any time this season or during the time we’ve had him that he’s begged out of a situation. Relievers as a group are a little quirky. They’re a little different.”
Cliff Lee missed much of last season with an injured left elbow, but Ruben Amaro Jr. said last night that Lee has thrown three or four times off a mound recently without any issues. Amaro said Lee is expected to be ready to go when Spring Training opens next month.
That is significant because if Lee can stay healthy and pitch effectively, he could become a valuable trade chip come July.
“There’s plenty of teams out there that need pitching, especially when you talk about top of the rotation left-handers,” Amaro said. “They don’t fall off trees. I know there are going to be more than one or two contenders out there.”
The Phillies announced this morning they have traded the greatest shortstop in franchise history and cash to the Dodgers for Minor League pitchers Zach Eflin and Tom Windle. The deal ends a 15-year run for Rollins from 2000-14 that included one World Series championship, two National League pennants, five NL East titles, one NL MVP, three NL All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger Award, memorable predictions and proclamations, a 38-game hitting streak and a franchise record 2,306 hits.
“Jimmy is both an iconic player and person whom I have had the great joy of watching grow up in this game and this city,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. “His contributions to the franchise and to Philadelphia are unparalleled and I wish him the best in Los Angeles. This transaction is one that I believe benefits both Jimmy and the Phillies.”
“The Dodgers are very lucky to acquire a player like Jimmy,” Chase Utley said in a statement. “I’ve said it time and time again that Jimmy makes everyone around him better. The team will miss his leadership on the field and his infectious smile, but most of all, I will miss our pre-game handshake.”
Everybody knew last week Rollins’ time had come to an end as the Phillies rebuild for the future. The Phillies and Dodgers agreed to the deal at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, but the Dodgers first needed to acquire Eflin from the Padres. The Dodgers agreed to send Matt Kemp and $32 million to San Diego for Eflin and others, with the Dodgers flipping Eflin to the Phillies.
But the Padres had concerns this week about Kemp’s physical, which delayed the announcement.
That said, the Phillies-Dodgers trade was never in jeopardy. The Phillies wanted Eflin, but a source said the Phillies would have settled on another player if the Kemp trade fizzled.
Rollins waived his 10-and-5 rights to leave the Phillies, who have said publicly they do not expect to contend again until 2017 at the earliest.
The demolition has begun.
Rollins is regarded as the greatest shortstop in franchise history, and he has the longest tenure of any professional athlete in the city. The Phillies selected him in the second round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft. He made his big league debut in 2000, won the 2007 National League MVP Award, helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series and set the franchise’s all-time hits record this season.
Rollins would be the first iconic player to fall in a potentially franchise-altering offseason. Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and others could be next in an extensive rebuilding project, although it is too early to tell. But multiple sources said Wednesday afternoon that the Phillies will trade Rollins to Los Angeles. The deal has not been finalized because a third team is involved in the trade, and money needs to be exchanged among them, which requires approval from the Commissioner’s Office.
“I know that there’s a lot of Jimmy Rollins stuff out there,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in the team’s hotel suite at the Winter Meetings. “There’s nothing to announce, and as I’ve said before, we’re keeping our options open and our minds open on any way that we can improve our club long term.”
The Rollins trade is not official yet.
But left-hander Antonio Bastardo is headed to the Pirates for Minor League left-hander Joely Rodriguez. Bastardo, who will become a free agent following next season, became expendable with the emergence of young left-handers Jake Diekman and Mario Hollands.
Rodriguez, 23, had a relatively pedestrian Minor League career over six seasons in Pittsburgh, but he has come on lately. He made the Arizona Fall League’s top prospects team this year, going 3-0 with a 2.38 ERA in seven starts. He also is 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in three appearances (two starts) in Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic.
The Pirates had been considering Rodriguez as a candidate for next season’s rotation or bullpen.
“He’s kept coming on, and has shown his best velocity in Winter Ball,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Tuesday. “We’ll see if he can sustain it and continue to move forward.”
Rodriguez went 6-11 with a 4.84 ERA in 30 games (21 starts) this year with Double-A Altoona, so the Phillies must consider his recent surge encouraging.
“He wasn’t the same guy in Spring Training, then had some early challenges in Double-A, but then continued to get better and better,” Huntington said.
MLB.com already has moved Rodriguez to 19th on the Phillies’ Top 20 prospects list.
Bastardo went 5-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 67 appearances this season. He has a 3.72 ERA in 275 career appearances. Major League Baseball suspended him 50 games in 2013 for violations relating to its Biogenesis investigation.
A source this afternoon said the Phillies are close to trading Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers, although the deal has not been finalized. The teams are still discussing parameters of the trade.
CSNPhilly.com first reported Rollins is headed to the Dodgers. FOXSports.com reported a third team could be involved in the deal.
Rollins is the longest tenured professional athlete in Philadelphia. The Phillies selected him in the second round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft. He made his big-league debut in 2000, won the 2007 National League MVP Award and helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series. He set the franchise hits record this season, passing Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt.
The other players involved in the deal are unknown, but one thing is known: Rollins has agreed to waive his 10-and-5 no-trade rights to join the Dodgers.
Rollins had said repeatedly he would not waive his no-trade rights, although the prospect of playing on a losing team almost certainly helped change his mind. The Dodgers have a legitimate chance to win a World Series, and Rollins is from Northern California. He always has enjoyed his trips back to the West Coast.
Well, the pin has been pulled.
The Cubs and Lester have agreed to a six-year, $155 million contract, which means trade discussions regarding Cole Hamels are heating up. The Cubs, Red Sox and Dodgers had been most interested in Hamels, but with the Cubs out of the picture the attention turns to the Red Sox and Dodgers, who have the prospects and wherewithal to take the remaining four years and $96 million on Hamels’ deal.
(Hamels’ contract jumps to five years, $110 million if a 2019 club option automatically vests based on innings pitched.)
A source said the Giants also are taking a run at Hamels. They pursued Lester, but finished third in that sweepstakes.
Ryne Sandberg said yesterday the Phillies would have to be wowed to trade Hamels, which is true to an extent. They are not going to trade Hamels for a crop of mid-level prospects. They cannot make the same mistake they made in 2009, when they traded Cliff Lee to the Mariners for Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez. The Phillies’ return for Hunter Pence, who they traded to San Francisco in 2012, also has been lackluster.
If the Phillies trade Hamels they have to hit big.
The Dodgers have a couple prospects the Phillies would love to have: infielder Corey Seager (No. 13 in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list) and outfielder Joc Pederson (No. 15). They might be able to pry away one. A source indicated the Dodgers and Phillies could put together a bigger package to improve the Phillies’ return, and that package could include Jimmy Rollins.