Friday, January 20, 2006

Stark Always Remembers His Roots

From the always entertaining Jayson Stark's Rumblings & Grumblings article at ESPN.com (special thanks goes out to Jayson for providing me with something easy to write about on a slow Friday):

Using Bobby Abreu as his prime currency, Gillick has spent the winter chasing an ace collection that included Barry Zito, Jason Schmidt, Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior, Javier Vazquez, Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Erik Bedard and, more recently, any and every starter on the White Sox roster.

Well, it's a hell of a shopping list, anyway. But not one pitcher in that crowd went anywhere this winter -- except for Vazquez, who put the Phillies on his no-trade list. In fact, not one starting pitcher who won more than 15 games changed teams anywhere in this entire offseason, either by trade or free agency.

Very important point that is often forgot in the offseason madness every year (and one made all the more confusing by Pat Gillick's declaration that number one starting pitching is "available") - despite all the rumors about front line pitching trading hands this offseason, only one guy on that list went anywhere. Teams often realize quality when they have it and, although they may dangle impressive names out there (Bobby Abreu for one), they rarely make any actual moves involving said impressive names. There is no harm in shopping a star player (unless his feelings get hurt of course), but actually letting a star go is a big decision to make. A big decision that is not often made. Just saying.

Gillick stunned the press corps and fans of Philadelphia the other day by announcing, bluntly, that he's "not satisfied" with the job he's done this winter. Then he topped that lightning bolt by uttering words you almost never hear a GM utter -- that his team, as its pitching staff is constructed right now, isn't good enough to win its division.

In some towns, remarks like that would get the GM fired. In Philadelphia, it actually won Gillick rave reviews from a fan base tired of hearing their favorite mutt was a threat to run off with the gold medal at the Westminster Dog Show.

I'm not so sure the public reaction was quite so positive, but it definitely went over better in Philly than it would have in other markets. Stark hits the nail on the head when he writes about a tired fan base. He couldn't come out and say it, but I can - the false promises of former GM Ed Wade were the number one complaint of the average Phillies fan throughout his tenure as general manager. Philadelphia sports fans are too smart to be lied to. The Phillies organization has added lesser talent to the team for years while at the same time making the point to dress up the new acquisitions as far more meaningful than they ever really were - wow what an awkward sentence, sorry. It is kind of like what the Dodgers just did when they gave up Jackson and Tiffany for Baez and Lance Carter. One of the first things LA did to defend the move was point to the addition of former All-Star Lance Carter. I mean, hey, he was an All-Star once - he can't be all bad. Actually, he can. He is terrible. But they packaged him as a former All-Star in an attempt to cushion the blow to their more knowledgeable fans who knew it was a shaky deal to begin with. It's not a perfect comparison, but it is the best I can do on a Friday.

The latest buzz is that Gillick has been talking to the White Sox about swapping Abreu for one of their "excess" starters. But the White Sox don't want to take on money. They're not interested in moving Mark Buehrle or Freddy Garcia. And Jon Garland and Jose Contreras don't quite fit the mold of pitcher the Phillies want back for Abreu.

Interesting stuff, but it amounts to a whole lot of nothing to Phillies fans. Seems like neither Buehrle nor Garcia are legit possibilities (this is probably for the best although Buehrle would make a lot of sense for the Phils) and Garland/Contreras don't represent good value in return. Jose Contreras is a guy that has had his name mentioned before back when Gillick claimed his deal for a number one or two fell apart. His age is the biggest drawback to a potential deal, I think (listed at 34, but who really knows?).

So the Phillies also are attempting to move outfielder Jason Michaels for an eighth-inning setup man. (Michaels to Cleveland for Rafael Betancourt, David Riske or Arthur Rhodes apparently has been bounced around, without success.) And if that doesn't fly, a package of pitcher Robinson Tejeda and A-ball prospects is another option.

Michaels for a setup man makes the most sense out of any one thing in this article. Many still believe the Phils can get a back of the rotation type starter for Michaels, but I'm less convinced that this is true with every passing day. Betancourt is a strikeout pitcher (185 K's in 172.1 innings pitched), but is also a rather extreme flyball guy (career ratio of 0.59 AO/GO, good for 206 air outs vs. 117 ground outs). He'll be 31 in April, but would fill the all important Venezuelan in the bullpen role occupied by, the pride of Venezuela himself, Ugueth Urbina. David Riske enters his Age-29 season coming off his best full season in the bigs. He is another strikeout an inning guy, but also has a bit of a flyball tendency (0.90 career AO/GO ratio) though clearly not as extreme as Betancourt. Riske might be a name worth keeping an eye on. Rhodes is yet another strikeout an inning pitcher, but is more of a groundball pitcher (though his recent past has been different). He is 36 years old and is the only lefthander out of this bunch. With any of these Cleveland rumors it would be wise to keep an eye on what the Indians decide to do with Coco Crisp - if he is sent to Boston, the door is open for a Michaels trade to Cleveland. Of course, that eliminates Boston as a possible destination for J-Mike. Guillermo Mota rumors still persist, but Stark himself claims that they have since cooled.

Adding a setup arm would free Ryan Madson to head for the rotation, where he went 59-34 in the minor leagues and started both the Double-A and Triple-A All-Star games. But as good as Madson could be, he's closer to Steve Trachsel than Pedro Martinez.

That last sentence is hard to argue with from a realistic standpoint, but my desire to see Madson in the rotation does not waver. Trachsel has had a nice enough career (career ERA+ 102), but Madson's upside is greater. He is still closer to Trachsel than Pedro...without a doubt. Very few pitchers in the history of baseball are close to Pedro Martinez - career ERA+166, sure bet first ballot HOFer, and most similar player per baseballreference.com is some guy named Koufax. I'm not sure where I was going with this...Pedro is one of the best ever, Trachsel was a legit big league starter for a decade, and Madson falls somewhere in between. That makes some sense, right? It's Friday - I give up.

2 Comments:

Anonymous braveswin said...

XXX-Sorry to jump off topic, but is I was wondering to what happened to these Phillie prospects:

P Il Kim
P Franklin Perez
3B Travis Chapman
P Eric Junge

11:54 AM  
Blogger XXX said...

A motley crew of minor leaguers to say the least...

P Il Kim - after his much publicized signing in March 2001 (along with Seung Lee), Kim failed to distinguish himself as any kind of prospect. His numbers in short season A ball in 2001 were good enough, but the Phils tried to move him to the pen in '02 and it all fell apart from there. He was released in early 2003 and his current whereabouts are unknown (to me anyway, I'm sure he knows where he is).

P Franklin Perez - Phillies released him at the very beginning of December (same day they released Pedro Liriano). Perez was never the same after his 2002 Tommy John surgery and ,last I've read, was still looking for a AAA job somewhere.

3B - Travis Chapman - I always loved Travis Chapman, so much so to the point of believing he could have someday been at least a league average 3B somewhere. Something like a .270/.350/.450 line with 15 homers and a whole lot of doubles (one of the bigger flaws in his game was his lack of power - .424 career minor league slugging percentage, ouch). It obviously all never worked out for him. I know after the Phils gave up on him, he missed all of 2004 with a shoulder injury before getting another shot to play in the Reds organization. Beyond that, I haven't heard much of him at all lately. I think he played A ball in Sarasota for the Reds in '05, but I'm not 100% sure.

P Eric Junge - I always rooted for Junge for three reasons 1) he pitched very, very well when given the chance in the big leagues (2.21 ERA in 20.1 innings pitched), 2) he is a proud grad of Bucknell University here in Pennsylvania, and 3) he was, by extension anyway, part of what the Phils wound up getting for Schilling (they acquired Junge for Omar Daal, they got Daal for Schilling). Junge last pitched for the Phils in 2004 when he split time between the Rookie league, A ball, and, for the majority of his season, AAA. Eventually the Phils lost him as a minor league free agent to the Mets. He started 22 games for their AAA squad in Norfolk last. Maybe someday he'll work his way back to the majors, but at 29 years of age time is starting to run out.

So basically, none of the four has done anything of any significance in the major leagues. Perez and Junge could resurface somewhere down the line, but they'll need some lucky breaks to see themselves on a big league roster anytime soon. I'll be rooting for them all. Hope this helped.

2:19 PM  

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