They should be, and if the price is right they should jump on it.
Here is the thing: the Phillies already have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to players like Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Jonathan Papelbon and Carlos Ruiz. You spend that kind of money because you expect to win and fill seats at Citizens Bank Park. But this rotation has question marks following Hamels and Lee. Kyle Kendrick had a 3.22 ERA after his first 13 starts last season, but posted a 6.45 ERA in his final 14 before finishing the season on the disabled list. They certainly need the first half Kendrick to return, or at least something close to it. The Phillies signed Roberto Hernandez to a one-year, $4.5 million deal, but he has a 5.19 ERA over 67 appearances (59 starts) the past three seasons. He pitched so poorly last year the Rays bumped him from the rotation to the bullpen, but at the moment he is a lock for the rotation.
Hernandez was the Phillies’ most puzzling offseason move, in my opinion.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Jonathan Pettibone currently are the top two candidates for the No. 5 job. Gonzalez is a mystery. The Phillies and Gonzalez agreed to a $48 million deal in July, which meant Phillies scouts and executives believed he was at worst a No. 3 starter. But after an issue with his physical he signed a $12 million deal. And ever since then the Phillies have hit the brakes on any expectations for him. From $48 million to $12 million to competing with Pettibone, Ethan Martin and Chad Gaudin for the fifth spot. He is a huge wild card.
But back to Burnett. If the Phillies have committed hundreds of millions of dollars because they think they can win, why not bring in Burnett? Why not spend a little more? He would stabilize the rotation as a solid No. 3. Kendrick would fall behind him at No. 4, and then you can figure out the No. 5 spot with Hernandez, Gonzalez and Pettibone. The only reason not to pursue Burnett would be if the Phillies recognize they need numerous things to break exactly right to have a chance to win, therefore consider whatever Burnett might cost to be too much of a risk.
In other words, Burnett only makes a difference if A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I and J go right this season. And what are the chances of that happening?
But if the Phillies truly believe Howard is healthy and will be effective, Rollins will be more motivated and bounce back, Papelbon can be effective despite diminished stuff, etc., then Burnett will help. And they should get him into camp.
He knows Phillies fans well.
He has heard how fans are underwhelmed at the Phillies’ offseason acquisitions, which not only includes himself, but right-handers Roberto Hernandez and Brad Lincoln, catcher Wil Nieves and outfielder Bobby Abreu.
Byrd takes no offense.
“If I was a fan I think I’d rather have Robinson Cano. I think I’d rather have (Masahiro) Tanaka,” Byrd said with a smile this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. “I want those guys. Ruben (Amaro Jr.) went with the guys he thought would help this team. And until we get on the field and actually get to show it, the fan base will kind of be looking at this team like, ‘Hey, two years of trying to get back to the promised land, we need 10 Robinson Canos in this lineup and a whole staff of Tanakas. I think they’ll be happy once we get on the field and we start producing.”
Byrd hit a combined .291 with 24 home runs and 88 RBIs last season with the Mets and Pirates. Fans normally might be enthused at the thought of somebody like that hitting behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. But following a 50-game suspension for using a performance enhancing substance in 2012, many people wonder if Byrd can replicate those numbers at 36.
Those skeptics wonder how real those numbers are.
Once again, Byrd takes no offense.
“Everything last year until I retire will be looked at that way because I did test positive,” he said. “The guys that don’t like talking about it are the ones that were trying to cheat or trying to beat the system. I wasn’t. I was stupid. I took something. I didn’t do my due diligence. It’s as simple as that, so it’s easy for me to talk about it because I have nothing to hide.”
Byrd said he is excited to rejoin the organization, which drafted him in the 10th round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft. He has remained close to Howard and Jimmy Rollins, both of whom served as groomsmen at his wedding.
“I was so excited when they were making their run, going through the playoffs,” Byrd said. “I was coming to games. I was waving my towel like a fan and everything. I absolutely loved it.”
Byrd shared a story about how he texted Rollins during the 2008 World Series to tell him how Rays pitcher Matt Garza tipped his pitches. Coincidentally or not, Rollins went 2 for 3 with a run scored against Garza in Game 3 at Citizens Bank Park, which the Phillies won, 5-4.
“I felt like a scout,” Byrd said.
The Phillies are bringing several former players to Spring Training next month as guest instructors, but they will be without Mike Schmidt in Clearwater, Fla., for the first time in more than a decade.
The Phillies announced today that five former Phillies will be in camp: Roy Halladay, who retired in December; Brad Lidge, who recorded the final out of the 2008 World Series; Gary Matthews, the former TV broadcaster and outfielder for the 1983 National League championship team; Larry Andersen, the current radio broadcaster and pitcher for the 1983 and 1993 NL championship teams; and Dave Hollins, the current scout and former third baseman for the 1993 team.
Schmidt had been in Clearwater every year since 2002, mostly as a guest instructor.
“Mike is treating a health issue that requires him to remain near his doctors, and he will be unable to attend Spring Training as a field instructor this year,” a Phillies spokesman said in a statement. “Mike plans to visit camp in the middle of March as part of his marketing relationship with the Phillies and continue his normal visits to Philadelphia throughout the summer.”
It seemed a certainty Halladay would be in camp, based on what he said in December at the Winter Meetings.
“Baseball has been so great to me,” he said. “My goal is to try and leave baseball better than what I found it, and I’ve tried to do that in my career. I’ve tried to be respectful to the game and do things the right way. I’ve tried to do that to the best of my ability, and moving forward, I’d like to do the same.”
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg extended an open invitation to Halladay at that time.
Lidge and Andersen will be able to offer advice and perspective to the organization’s young relievers, who need to step up this season to give the team a chance to win. Andersen has been interested in coaching again after working as pitching coach with Double-A Reading (1995-96) and Triple-A Scranton (1997).
“It’s my passion, working with guys in the bullpen,” he said. “It’s all about making the team better. That’s the bottom line.”
Matthews has coaching experience, serving as hitting coach for the Blue Jays, Brewers and Cubs. Hollins served as a hitting coach in the Mets organization from 2004-05.
A source confirmed a CBSSports.com report today the Phillies and Bobby Abreu have agreed to a Minor League contract, which can be worth $800,000 if he makes the team.
Abreu, who turns 40 in March, did not play in the big leagues last season, but he has played well in Winter Ball in Venezuela. He hit .322 with 10 doubles, three triples, three home runs and 28 RBIs in 180 plate appearances for Leones del Caracas. He has hit .464 with eight home runs in 15 games in the postseason.
Earlier this offseason the Phillies signed Marlon Byrd to a two-year, $16 million contract. Byrd and Abreu played together as regulars in the Phillies outfield in 2003-04.
Abreu is expected to compete for a bench job as the Phillies have been looking for a left-handed bat. He will be the favorite for that job. The Phillies also had been pursuing Lyle Overbay, and it is known they have liked Grady Sizemore in the past.
Abreu played for the Phillies from 1998-2006, and he ranks among the leaders in several offensive categories. Former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick traded Abreu and Cory Lidle to the Yankees in July 2006 for C.J. Henry, Jesus Sanchez, Carlos Monasterios and Matt Smith. The trade was little more than a salary dump as Gillick thought the clubhouse needed different chemistry. He later said moving Abreu allowed players like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to assert themselves as leaders.
The Phillies added another arm to their pitching staff today when they signed right-hander Chad Gaudin to a Minor League contract.
He will be in big-league camp this spring.
Gaudin, 30, went 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 30 appearances (12 starts) last season with the Giants. He opened the season in the bullpen, posting a 2.05 ERA in 18 relief appearances, before finishing the season in the rotation, where he went 5-1 with a 3.53 ERA before finishing his season on the disabled list with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Gaudin gives the Phillies more flexibility and versatility with his ability to pitch in both the bullpen and rotation.
He is 45-44 with a 4.44 ERA in 344 appearances (87 starts) in his big-league career.
Two of Comcast’s top choices said no or aren’t interested: Brad Lidge and Dan Plesac. Either would be fantastic, in my opinion. Both are incredibly smart and likeable. Lidge has been impressive on SiriusXM. Plesac is fantastic on MLB Network. But both have reasons for not joining Tom McCarthy in the booth. Lidge told the Daily News the timing isn’t right. And Plesac has a truly excellent gig at MLB Network.
Names I have heard a lot include Doug Glanville, who works with ESPN; Buck Martinez, who broadcasts with the Blue Jays; Kevin Stocker, who has received high marks for his work with the Pac-12 and CBS Sports networks; and Mickey Morandini, who is a coach with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Jamie Moyer‘s name has been mentioned, although I’m not certain of the interest either way. Ricky Bottalico and Ben Davis already work with Comcast, so they could be in the mix.
Who else is out there? Who do you want?
Bad news: Phillies pitching prospects Adam Morgan and Shane Watson are going to miss most of 2014 following shoulder surgeries.
The Phillies yesterday announced they have invited five more players to Spring Training as non-roster invitees.
The quintet includes left-hander Jesse Biddle, third baseman Maikel Franco, right-hander Ken Giles, left-hander Mario Hollands and catcher Sebastian Valle. MLB.com ranks Biddle and Franco as the top two prospects in the organization, respectively.
Biddle went 5-14 with a 3.64 ERA in 27 starts last season with Double-A Reading. Franco hit a combined .320 with 31 home runs and 103 RBIs in 134 games between Class A Clearwater and Reading. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Franco could compete with Cody Asche for a job at third base, although Asche is the favorite.
Biddle is expected to open the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Giles is a hard thrower, striking out 16 in 10 1/3 innings in the Arizona Fall League. He went 2-2 with a 6.31 ERA with Clearwater, although he was limited to just 24 appearances because of injury.
Hollands went 7-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 27 appearances (20 starts) with Clearwater and Reading. The Phillies recently removed Valle from the 40-man roster. He had been the top catching prospect in the organization, but Cameron Rupp and Tommy Joseph surpassed him last season.
The Phillies have invited 16 players to camp as non-roster invitees: pitchers Biddle, Shawn Camp, Giles, Hollands, Cesar Jimenez, Jeff Manship and Sean O’Sullivan; catchers Lou Marson and Valle; infielders Andres Blanco, Reid Brignac and Franco; and outfielders Leandro Castro, Tony Gwynn Jr., Dave Sappelt and Clete Thomas.
Big changes continue with the Phillies on TV.
Last week they signed a 25-year contract with Comcast SportsNet worth a reported $2.5 billion. Then today the team announced broadcasters Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews will not return to the TV booth. Multiple sources said Comcast requested the changes during contract negotiations, which Wheeler essentially confirmed in a statement.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to be a part of the Phillies broadcast team for 37 years,” Wheeler said. “I certainly respect the decision that was made and I look forward to my new role in the Phillies organization.”
Both Wheeler, 68, and Matthews, 63, will remain in the organization in some capacity, although what specific roles are unclear.
Tom McCarthy, who does play-by-play on TV, has four years remaining on his contract. He will return to the TV booth. Gregg Murphy will return as TV’s field reporter. Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen will return and remain in the radio booth.
“That’s where I want to be,” Franzke said. “I like doing what I’m doing.”
Sources said Comcast is looking for one color commentator to replace Wheeler and Matthews. In the past, broadcasters have been Phillies employees, but the new broadcaster will be a Comcast employee.
Comcast also has final say over who it hires, but the Phillies and Comcast just entered a 25-year business partnership, so the Phillies will be consulted on the short list. If they strongly object to a candidate the network will listen.
He never mentioned the pitcher by name because he needs to pass a physical before the Phillies announce the deal. But a source said it is right-hander Roberto Hernandez, who pitched under the name Fausto Carmona before he was arrested in Jan. 2012 for using a false identity.
It is a one-year deal, which MLBTradeRumors.com reported is worth $4.5 million with $1.5 million in incentives.
Hernandez, 33, went 6-13 with a 4.89 ERA in 32 starts (24 appearances) last season with the Rays. He made his last start Aug. 27 before Tampa Bay moved him to the bullpen.
He will join a rotation that includes Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.
“It’s more of a depth guy,” Amaro said. “It’s not somebody who is going to slide into the top of the rotation. But we need some depth. We’re trying to get the best bang for our buck, and in this marketplace it’s tough because the prices have soared pretty significantly. We’re just trying to add a little bit of depth.”
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.