Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Prove It

There is a rather significant positive that can be taken from the Jason Michaels-Arthur Rhodes deal finally being made. Ryan Madson is finally freed from the bullpen and will in all likelihood begin 2006 in the Phillies starting rotation. This is the silver lining that so many Phillies fans are quick to point to in defense of the trade. It is a good thing, there is little denying it; in fact, depending on how optimistic one is about Madson’s abilities, this could be a very, very good thing. One problem – there was no rule that disallowed the Phillies from both keeping Jason Michaels and moving Madson to the rotation. These things were not mutually exclusive to anybody but the people running the Philadelphia Phillies. The need for a veteran back of the bullpen arm is what finally gave the Phillies piece of mind enough to move Madson from the pen to the rotation. This shouldn’t have been the case, but it was. The Phillies do not deserve the benefit of doubt in this situation; they made a good move internally (promoting Madson) that could have been made without hurting the team externally (giving up Michaels to get Rhodes).

The strange fascination with old, past their prime relievers never ceases to amaze – it is really part of the much larger school of thought permeated within the Phillies organization (to be fair, this line of thinking isn’t exclusive to the Phils) that wants us all to believe that older, experienced, “proven” players are inherently superior than a guy who has yet to get a chance at the big league level. We all know, at least with some small degree of certainty, what kind of players Abraham Nunez, Sal Fasano, and Arthur Rhodes are by now. They have established track records (for better or worse…) at the big league level – they also come with the price tags (for example, Nunez will make roughly five times more than Danny Sandoval this season) typically associated with “proven” players.

Would some combination of Matt Kata/Danny Sandoval, Carlos Ruiz, and Chris Booker/Yoel Hernandez/Travis Minix/Ryan Cameron/Brian Sanches be any better than Nunez, Fasano, and Rhodes? Maybe, maybe not. The point is that being a “proven” player doesn’t make you a good player – heck it doesn’t even make you an average player (Nunez: career OPS+ 67, Fasano: career OPS+ 81). The fact that Abe Nunez has over 2100 career plate appearances does not make him any more valuable than a guy who has just 2 plate appearances (Sandoval); those 2100 times at bat have resulted in a rather significant disadvantage for teams Nunez has been on in his career (Pittsburgh and St. Louis). I’m not going out of my way just to pick on Nunez, but the sentiment that having a “proven” guy is just a weak security blanket for a GM to cling to. Bringing Nunez in appeases the average fan; giving an unknown like Sandoval a shot would raise questions and open up the general manager for criticism if the unproven guy falls on his face. I was hoping Pat Gillick would be secure enough given the Phillies commitment to him and his impressive big league track record of success to think outside the box in Philly.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Six Reasons Why the Jason Michaels/Arthur Rhodes Trade Will Work Out for the Phillies

Six Reasons Why the Jason Michaels/Arthur Rhodes Trade Will Work Out For the Phils:
  1. Newest Phillie Arthur Rhodes is a comic genius – if you don’t know about the Arthur Rhodes earring incident, sit back and enjoy:

    But I just don't feel like a man without them

    Sampson's hair was the key to his strength. Are diamonds the key to Seattle Mariners reliever Arthur Rhodes' strength? Rhodes, who wears a diamond-studded earring in each ear, was forced to remove them before pitching Saturday and Sunday and both times the results were less than ideal.

    Sunday he allowed Kenny Lofton's game-winning, two-run single in a 4-3 loss to Cleveland. This after Rhodes was told to remove his earrings at the behest of umpire crew chief Tim McClelland.

    Saturday, Rhodes' diamond glitter almost started a fight between the two teams when Omar Vizquel complained to plate umpire Ed Rapuano that the glint was distracting him. Rapuano and McClelland asked Rhodes to remove the earrings. When he refused, both benches emptied as he and Vizquel exchanged words, and Rhodes soon was ejected.

    "I've been in about 5,000 ballgames," said Indians acting manager Grady Little, "and that's the first time I've ever seen both teams come on the field over a pair of earrings."

    Rhodes was not amused: "Yeah, I was mad — who's that little midget to tell me to take my earrings off? I've worn earrings for two years now and nobody's ever said a damned thing about 'em."

    I don't mean to repeat his quote, but Rhodes actually said, "Yeah, I was mad — who's that little midget to tell me to take my earrings off? I've worn earrings for two years now and nobody's ever said a damned thing about 'em." It is difficult for me to get across how happy that line makes me. It amuses me to no end.
  2. It is safe to say that all Bobby Abreu trade rumors will be put to rest…for now anyway. (It's funny - I wrote that last sentence a few days ago, but on WIP today Eskin mentioned a possible Abreu and Gavin Floyd for Jose Contreras and Jermaine Dye swap. I know it's Eskin and it isn't legit, but it's just funny that the thing about the Abreu trade rumors being put to rest lasted for about 48 hours)
  3. The Phillies may get creative and go with four outfielders instead of the typical five – this would allow them to pursue C Mike Piazza to fill the top righthanded bat off the bench role Jason Michaels leaves behind. (Again, this was from a few days ago. Piazza is now a Padre so that ship has sailed. It is still possible the Phils will get created with the makeup of the bench, but does anybody really see that happening?)
  4. Cops all over the Delaware Valley can breathe a large sigh of relief - though I think the Department of Homeland Security Terror Alert has been raised from yellow to orange in Cleveland. JMike's fists are classified by the government as WMD's.
  5. Pat Burrell will come out this spring playing with renewed vigor – this is the year he hits 80 homers, I can feel it. All of those late nights with his college buddy JMike had sapped him of his power on gameday, but now that he is booze free (yeah right) he is primed for the best season in the history of the game. Plus this reduces the chance he’ll get another blonde dye job by at least 75%.
  6. Ryan Madson finally gets his opportunity to do what he has wanted to do all along – start in the big leagues (let’s push that debacle against the White Sox in 2003 out of our minds, shall we? There is nothing wrong with repressing a memory here and there).
So, out of those 6 original reasons I came up with in the past few days, we can cross 1/3 of them off the list for good. I'd say that's a pretty encouraging start. I know there are some very optimistic Phillies fans out there and it is high time they helped me out. Give me some reasons why this Michaels/Rhodes trade will work for the Phils.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Father Mike

Piazza with Pope John Paul II

Looks like the Phillies can cross out C/1B/DH possibility Mike Piazza as a candidate to fill the top righthanded hitter off the bench role vacated by Jason Michaels. Piazza has reportedly agreed to a 1-year contract worth $2 million with the San Diego Padres. Hard to blame Piazza for this one - he gets to return to Southern California (a region with a pro-Piazza fanbase built in), catch a whole heck of a lot more than he would have in Philly, and enjoy the excellent weather, great beaches, and fish tacos (or In-N-Out Burger if so inclined). There are rumors circulating around that Piazza turned down more money from the Phils to play for the Padres - I have no verification on that information at this point in time. The bottom line remains: Piazza is no longer available. This leads us to the question that remains: What next for the Phillies?

Sources (not that I'd make this up or anything...):
Philadelphia Inquirer
Ken Rosenthal at FoxSports.com
(who else this offseason?)

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Some highlights from the Inquirer's wrap of the Jason Michaels/Arthur Rhodes trade:

Michaels had mixed emotions about the trade when reached by telephone in Florida last night. "I'm sad and I'm excited," he said. "I'm sad to be leaving the Phillies and my teammates. I have a lot of friends and memories in that organization. The players, the coaches, the fans - everyone was great to me. But I'm also excited about the possibility of getting some more playing time. I hear Cleveland is a great place, too."


Michaels was asked whether he believed that last summer's off-field incident played a role in the trade. "Not one bit," he said.

"Absolutely not," said Gillick, in response to a similar question. "We had some excess outfielders on our club and we felt this was a way to solidify our bullpen."

Good to see Michaels depart Philly in a classy manner. I wish him nothing but the best in Cleveland. Is anybody seriously buying Michaels and Gillick both saying that the whole cop punching incident had nothing to do with this trade? Anybody?

The Daily News today has much of the same - Gillick talking about his love for Rhodes, everybody wishing Michaels well, Mark Shapiro welcoming Michaels to Cleveland, etc. It also contains a little line about the Phils having a renewed interest in C Mike Piazza as a righthanded option off the bench. When a guy's name keeps popping up over and over again, there is normally something of substance there. I think the Piazza situation is something to keep a very close eye on in the coming days. I've just got a hunch something is brewing there that I can't quite put my finger on.

In case you haven't been paying attention (or can't read between the lines) thus far, the deal between Cleveland and Philadelphia involving Jason Michaels and Arthur Rhodes is complete. Jason Michaels is an Indian (1/128th Cherokee, if my sources are accurate - for the record, my sources include my own imagination) and Arthur Lee Rhodes is your newest Philadelphia Phillie. Rhodes is an interesting addition - he is neither as bad as some people will lead you believe nor as good as his recent numbers indicate. I tend to agree with the consensus on this trade - it was a bad one for the Phillies. You don't trade a useful part for any kind of non-elite reliever (this obviously makes up the vast majority of all bullpen arms). Michaels would have been a more valuable asset off the bench for the '06 Phillies than the whatever the difference will be between whatever Rhodes winds up doing and whatever the pitcher who is losing a spot to Rhodes in the bullpen (A. Lopez, C. Booker, J. Santana, T. Minix, R. Cameron, etc.) had the potential of doing. That is my gripe with the trade. It just wasn't equal value.

Now we can whine about this deal for the rest of the offseason (undeniable fun) or we can move on and access what the Phillies got in return. The biggest knock on Rhodes thus far has been that he isn't equal value for Michaels; now that he is officially on the team and Michaels is gone, it makes little sense to dwell on this. The two will be compared as the season goes along, but what is done is done. Rhodes may not be an equal return for Michaels, but he is here and he should be assessed on his own merits.

Two of the bigger knocks on Rhodes go hand in hand - 1) he is old 2) he is prone to injury. Hard to argue with either point. Rhodes is old - this is his Age-36 season. Rhodes has had his share of injuries over the past two seasons - this includes only 43.1 innings pitched last year. Having said all that, I must admit that neither point really bugs me. Sure, Rhodes is old - I get it. He is only a member of this team through the end of the season though - there is no long term commitment to the guy. I'd rather have a younger reliever who we know is going to be here a long time, but knowing that Rhodes is here for a one year shot and that is all is a little bit comforting. He comes in, does a good job, pitches some big middle relief in the World Series, collects his paycheck, and we all wish him well in '07. I may be trying to stretch a positive out of nowhere with this point, but I still believe the age factor is overrated in this trade. If Rhodes had 3 more years left on this deal, I'd be furious; by only taking one year of Rhodes on, it is at least theoretically possible that he performs better than either of the two younger relievers mentioned in the trade rumors with Cleveland (Rafael Betancourt and David Riske) in 2006.

The injuries don't particularly concern me either - if he goes down mid-season there should be plenty of decent candidates hanging around at AAA to pick up the slack (all of the aforementioned guys from a few paragraphs up). Injuries are a part of the game and they are an inherent risk when acquiring any pitcher. Rhodes may have more question marks than most - prior history and age are obvious warning sides for future injury - but he is by no means an important enough piece to the puzzle that an injury to him can not be overcome. Here's hoping he stays healthy and effective in '06.

Another common complaint when it comes to the addition of Rhodes - the man is vastly overpaid. This is due to the bloated contract Billy Beane gave to Rhodes in order to convince him to come to Oakland before the 2004 season and close out games for a contending team. I'm a huge Billy Beane guy, but this decision turned out to be a disaster - though admitting defeat and spinning Rhodes and Mark Redman for Jason Kendall was worth a shot. Anyway, the contract issue surrounding Rhodes is a complicated one. He earned $1.8 million in 2004, $3.7 million in 2005, and is owed $4.7 million in 2006. We know that Oakland is on the hook for $1.0 million of his salary in '06. It is also being reported that Pittsburgh (Rhodes was a Pirate for 2 weeks in the '04/'05 offseason) is also responsible for paying part of his salary. The amount is not yet known publicly however. Because the amount Pittsburgh must pay, it is difficult to judge whether this is a bad move from a salary standpoint. The money owed to Michaels ($1.5 million) is off the books as well - that should be considered when factoring in the cost of Rhodes. I suspect Pittsburgh isn't paying all that much of the contract, so Rhodes will still cost around $3 million this season. If that is the case, I am on board with those who say his contract is a problem in '06 - it just isn't money well spent (in case you are new, I'm not one for spending big bucks on middle relief). Until we know for sure what Rhodes is being paid by the Phils in 2006, we'll cut them some slack and wait to insult this aspect of the deal.

So there are many flaws with Arthur Rhodes, Baseball Player - but what about Arthur Rhodes, 2006 Phillies Relief Pitcher. How will Arthur Rhodes perform on the mound? The career path taken by Rhodes has been an interesting one. He just misses being a player who has pitched only in what I like to think of as my personal baseball era - from 1993 (my first year following baseball and sports in general, lucky me) on. See, those are the kind of things I can say here since it's my site and all. Nobody cares about that, but me and since I'm in charge here, nobody can do anything about it. Anyway, Rhodes broke in as a starter with Baltimore in 1991. He wasn't moved to the bullpen on a full-time basis until 1996. Rhodes defines the idea of peak years - his Age 26, 27, and 28 seasons comprise some of the best pitching of his life. Extremely little known fact about Arthur Rhodes: he actually got enough votes (5) to finish 20th in the 1997 AL MVP vote. Randy Myers, Baltimore closer and teammate of Rhodes that season, finished 4th. Ken Griffey Jr. got all 28 first place votes and won in a landslide. That's why this site is so good - you learn something new everyday here.

Since relief pitching is so volatile (one of the reasons why you shouldn't invest big bucks in it), Rhodes was able to rediscover himself in Seattle in his early 30's. His Age 31 and 32 seasons were by far his two best (call it a mini late season peak) - in those 2 seasons, Rhodes went 18-4, threw 137.2 innings, and had a crazy 164 strikeouts with only 25 walks. His WHIP in 2001 was 0.853. In 2002, he somehow managed to lower it to 0.833. To frame those numbers with a little bit of context, I give you Billy Wagner, who we all know was dominant in 2005 with the Phils, and his '05 WHIP of 0.837. Rhodes has been Billy Wagner good at times in his career.

Rhodes in 2005 was a bit of a mixed bag. He was good...when healthy. His 43 strikeouts in 43.1 innings pitched is very impressive, but then again only throwing 43.1 innings isn't too encouraging. He is a lefty, but not a LOOGY (left-handed one out guy) - his numbers over the past three seasons are fairly similar, with maybe an edge to his righthanded batter splits. He has a tendency to give up more flyball outs than ground outs (in the past two seasons anyway), but his ratios over his career are volatile (it's a good day when I can use volatile twice in one post) and even out to around 1 for his career.

I still think Arthur Rhodes can pitch. Maybe that is from admiring his work over the years, some of the encouraging things I see in his numbers, or just plain blind optimism. I would have rather kept Jason Michaels than see Rhodes on the team, but that doesn't make Arthur any less capable of contributing now that he is here. The team is not any better for the long-term, but if the mentality is to win now (something that remains to be seen) then Phillies fans can take pride in knowing that the team truly believes they'll be a better team in '06 with Arthur Rhodes in the pen. There are far worse bullpen arms than Rhodes out there and the Phillies, if they are smart enough to avoid using him in any one role (whether it be permanent 8th inning guy or the batter or two lefty option), can get this most out of their new acquisition. When deployed strategically, Rhodes has proven to be useful. He isn't as young as he used to be (what a dumb saying), but there is still some gas left in the tank (how about a dumb cliche while we're at it).

Friday, January 27, 2006

Is Michaels to Cleveland and Rhodes to Philly a Done Deal?

3 Sources say Arthur Rhodes will be a Phillie - only links and a quick quote from each paper/news outlet for now. Details and analysis to come...

Philadelphia Inquirer

Rhodes is in Philadelphia today having a physical examination. If he passes the physical, the deal could be announced later today.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Indians left-hander Arthur Rhodes, according to a major league source, flew to Philadelphia on Friday morning to undergo a physical by the Philadelphia Phillies. Rhodes is part of a much discussed three-way trade among the Indians, Boston and Philadelphia.

Associated Press

The Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians reached agreement Friday on a Jason Michaels-for-Arthur Rhodes trade, a deal that could trigger a bigger swap involving the Boston Red Sox. Rhodes was in Philadelphia taking a physical, two people familiar with the deal told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the trade had not been finalized.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Post-Trade Rumor Hangover

Not too much going on, so we'll just hit the high notes from a fine assortment of newspapers scattered throughout this great nation of ours:

From the St. Petersburg Times:

Still, Branyan would seem a good gamble. Tampa Bay likely will sign him to a minor-league contract and invite him to its major-league camp, so the upfront financial risk would be minimal. And he is versatile, with ability to play first base, leftfield, rightfield and DH.

This isn't official yet, but looks to be a done deal. If it is true that Russell Branyan is getting a minor legaue deal...I don't know what to say. Branyan would have been a very good fit on this Phillies ballclub. It appears that the Phillies had no interest in Branyan at all. Instead of getting angry, I'll just walk away...

The New York Post:

San Diego and Philadelphia are options. When Lozano phoned the Yankees on Monday, it was communicated that the catcher had one current option: as a backup with the Phillies.


But with the Yankees no longer interested, he could find himself in San Diego, for about $2 million.The Padres began negotiations with Lozano about a week ago, according to Padres GM Kevin Towers.

I had to sneak a Mike Piazza update in here somehow. The Phillies as an organization have interest, Charlie Manuel has said the idea of Piazza on the team intrigues him, and rumor has it a formal offer with detailed contractual parameters was even made. That's all well and good, but it looks like (as of now anyway, these things change by the minute) Piazza will wind up with the San Diego Padres. They've clearly leapfrogged the Phils in the pursuit of the catcher and must be considered the odds on favorites to land him. Good for them.

Jayson Stark at ESPN.com

But an official of one team in touch with the Phillies said they were "not real optimistic" about coming away with Rhodes or any other reliever, because they feared their portion of the trade was "disintegrating." That's because if Cleveland holds onto Crisp or winds up dealing for an outfielder like Kearns, it no longer would need Michaels. The Phillies then would probably hang onto Michaels until spring training and shop him for a setup man in the spring.

The Coco Crisp/Andy Marte/Jason Michaels/Arthur Rhodes mix 'em up between Boston, Cleveland, and Philly looks to be in serious trouble. A betting man would even go far as to say that there is less than a.....10% shot this thing comes off. I was very entertained by all the rumors at first (see any one of my 4oo or so posts on the subject), but now that they aren't quite so fresh and exciting anymore, I'm just ready for it all to stop. My attention span cooperated as well as I could have hoped, but now I'm ready to move on to bigger and better things. Like maybe starting some kind of petition to get the Phillies to sign Russ Branyan...or am I too late for that?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Trade That Never Ends

Who knew this little Jason Michaels trade would wind up being one of the most ongoing, compelling (well I think it is compelling anyway) stories of the offseason? This trade (really it is still a potential trade at this point, but you know what I mean) has had everything any baseball fan with a desire to see how big league front offices operate could ask for – a multi-layered deal involving three teams (at least three teams…), quality big leaguers mixed with quality prospects, an injury to one of the key members that could potential derail the whole shebang, a crazy new surprise team that could work itself into the deal and blow it all apart from the inside out, a “new” general manager trying to make a statement, a legitimate new general manager eager to make his first move on the job.

The Red Sox have been juggling their front office staff while also trying to get the pieces that would fill a few holes in their lineup and enable them to be in a position to get back past the first round of the postseason. Now that Theo Epstein is finally officially back in charge, many believe the Red Sox have reclaimed much of the front office clout that had been missing thus far this offseason. Pundits claim that the Sox will be a far savvier team during trade negotiations and that there is no way in hell Theo Epstein will get ripped off but any of the mere mortal GMs in baseball. Makes little sense to me when all signs point to Epstein being in charge throughout his time away from the team – I don’t believe anything has changed with the way the Red Sox operate their baseball side of things from when the Sox began negotiations with Cleveland to now. The basic parameters of the deal remain the same, whether Epstein has officially been the boss or not.

The Indians have a team in place capable of making a serious playoff run, but are also lucky enough to have one of the best GMs in the game who is willing to trade valuable talent from his big league club for an intriguing mix of quality stopgap players to fill the void in ‘06 and a potential impact bat that could be ready to produce by ’07. Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro has done a masterful job to this point of acquiring a team that is ready to win now, but is also capable of sustaining excellence over an extended period of time. All of the rumored proposed deals show exactly why Cleveland is in the current position they are in.

The Phillies new management team is undoubtedly feeling the pressure to make some kind of move to improve the club in ’06, but look as if they are just kind of along for the ride waiting to pick up the scraps while the two big boy contenders make their trade. It makes for a fun storyline anyway – two young gun general managers (Epstein and Shapiro) conspire against the cagey, old school professional who has been scouting players since before the two youngsters could tie their shoes. The Phils are also faced with dealing with potential protests and boycotts by the local police force over that whole Jason Michaels cop punching incident. Are the Phillies that committed to cleaning up their act that they’d dump Michaels for the sole purpose of ridding their team of “bad character” players? If this isn’t the case, then what in the world are they doing with an interest in a has-been reliever like Arthur Rhodes? Did Ed Wade ever really leave? It’s like any old Friday the 13th movie – did anybody ever actually see Ed Wade’s body or have we just all just wrongfully assumed he was gone? (I’ll save you the trouble of letting me know he got a job scouting in San Diego…but has anybody actually seen him in San Diego? Did I kill this joke? I think I did)

Let’s recap briefly – the proposed deal between Boston (Sox get C Josh Bard, OF Coco Crisp, RP David Riske) and Cleveland (Indians get C Kelly Shoppach, 3B Andy Marte, RP Guillermo Mota) broke down today because Boston’s Mota allegedly failed his physical with the Indians and Cleveland refused to take him. The first source to report the failed physical was Philly’s own Howard Eskin on 610 WIP-AM radio. The Philadelphia Inquirer later confirmed these reports and the deal was officially thought to be delayed at best, or completely quashed at worst. Many in baseball still believed that the deal would go through after a few slight modifications were made to the personnel involved. This deal would of course lead to the Jason Michaels to Cleveland deal, but, in all likelihood anyway, only if the first Cleveland-Boston deal went down.

We know that much as fact. Now, believe it or not, things begin to get a little hazy. The Cincinnati Reds are a team under new ownership – new ownership often begets all kinds of organizational change. Just yesterday, the Reds fired their GM Dan O’Brien and replaced him for the time being with interim GM Brad Kullman. Things have begun to leak out of Cincinnati (that sounds grosser than it should) in the past 24 hours indicating O’Brien rejected a number of deals that were on the table – the majority of these deals involved Reds OF Austin Kearns.

This first deal is said to have been negotiated “late last week” according to the Dayton Daily News

The Reds, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians were in a three-way discussion, working on a proposal that would have brought pitcher Matt Clement to the Reds from the Red Sox. The Reds would have sent outfielder Austin Kearns to Cleveland and the Tribe would have sent outfielder Coco Crisp, catcher Josh Bard and pitcher David Riske to the Red Sox.

The Red Sox would get the package they wanted all along. Cleveland would have a suitable outfielder to replace Crisp – thus there would be no need for Michaels. The Reds, not a potential Phillies trade partner in this case as they don’t need any more outfielders, would have had a starting pitcher they have long coveted.

Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com has reported that the Reds new interim GM’s first player personnel move would involve Austin Kearns. Rosenthal mentions the Royals, Cubs, Cardinals, and Nationals as potential trade suitors. He also mentions the Indians (I hope you saw that coming, why else would this be in here?)...

Look for the Reds to make at least one trade before spring training under interim general manager Brad Kullman, most likely involving outfielder Austin Kearns. New owner Bob Castellini wants action, and Kearns remains the team's most marketable player…The Indians wanted Kearns to fill the outfield void that could be created by their trade of Coco Crisp to the Red Sox. But the Reds evidently weren't sold on Westbrook, who was 15-15 with a 4.49 ERA last season after going 14-9 with a 3.38 ERA in 2004.

Rosenthal believes the Reds will trade Kearns by the start of the season. The Cleveland organization has long been enamored with Kearns and could try to do everything in their power to obtain him. In this scenario, the Red Sox are out of the loop. It makes sense that if Cleveland adds Kearns, Crisp could be on his way to Boston. If talks were to break down between Cleveland and Boston yet again, Jason Michaels could be the fallback option for the Sox. That last point remains to be seen.

The Cincinnati Post is also reporting on the rumored interest between Cleveland and Kearns:

According to a team source, one of those offers came from the Cleveland Indians, who will be in need of a starting outfielder once they complete the deal that reportedly will send leadoff man Coco Crisp to the Boston Red Sox. The Indians offered right-handed starter Jake Westbrook for Kearns, but the Reds decided to pass for the time being.

The Phillies have been completely usurped in this scenario with the Reds playing the role of the Phils, Kearns as Michaels, and Jake Westbrook as Arthur Rhodes. The similarly red pinstriped uniforms make this set-up all the spookier.

The Akron Beacon Journal does not like the odds of a Cleveland-Boston trade revival:

It was not clear whether the trade with the Red Sox could be revived by removing Riske from the deal to compensate for the loss of Mota to the Tribe. However, as of Tuesday night, that did not seem likely.

If it is more complicated than just removing Mota and Riske from the deal, then this thing could drag on. If talks completely fall apart between Cleveland and Boston, then the Michaels to the Red Sox talks should intensify.

Finally, from the Boston Globe – Mota’s agent denies that Mota ever flunked the physical. That doesn’t quite mean what you might think it would mean. The deal is dead (at least for now) no matter what. Cleveland won’t take Mota as is. That part isn’t being denied. Adam Katz, the agent, just wants it to be known that Mota didn’t technically “fail” anything, but rather he just wasn’t quite in great enough shape for those medical sticklers in Cleveland to accept. So no real news here, just some amusingly pompous agent speak to go out on a high note:

Adam Katz, agent for Guillermo Mota, denied a radio report out of Philadelphia Tuesday night that said Mota had failed his physical with the Indians. However, Katz acknowledged that the Indians raised issues with Mota's right shoulder, which could kill, or require revision to, the six-player deal that would bring Coco Crisp to Boston…Katz contended that Mota ''did not flunk his physical." Instead, Katz said, the acquiring club in these instances is ''allowed to have higher standards. It's their right and entitlement."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Possible Breaking News

Howard Eskin from 610 WIP radio in Philadelphia is reporting that Guillermo Mota has failed his physical with the Cleveland Indians and the much reported deal between Cleveland and Boston is off the table. His report has not yet been verified. As I find out more about this, you will too.

UPDATE: The Philadelphia Inquirer confirms WIP's initial report:

The Phillies' trade was contingent on a six-player trade between the Indians and Boston Red Sox becoming official. The Red Sox would receive outfielder Coco Crisp, reliever David Riske and catcher Josh Bard. The Indians would get top prospect Andy Marte, catcher Kelly Shoppach and relief pitcher Guillermo Mota. But Mota failed his physical today in Cleveland, which means the Sox will have to try to satisfy the Indians some other way.

It's believed the Sox will try to make that happen because Mota wasn't the key figure in that trade: Crisp and Marte are the key pieces.

So if the Sox can provide the Indians with another piece, most likely bullpen help, the Michaels-Rhodes deal could still happen. The Phillies and Indians have been talking about Michaels for Rhodes for several weeks.

So there you have it. The Indians-Red Sox trade is on hold for now, but it is still very likely that the original deal (the one involving Mota) can be reworked in such a manner (no more Mota) that both sides are satisfied enough to agree on. Maybe the relievers being exchanged by the two teams will be eliminated completely or maybe a different reliever will be subbed in for the banged up Mota. So long as that end is worked out, Michaels for Rhodes should still be on.

Something New

First things first (and if you don't want to hear an incredible long shot/bit of old news, skip on ahead to the second paragraph - my feelings won't be hurt, I promise) - Yesterday I mentioned the possibility of a new wrinkle in the Jason Michaels trade involving some catching being shipped between the three teams involved (Red Sox, Indians, and the Phils in case you haven't been paying that close attention). It is something that hasn't been really confirmed by any major media outlet (the Boston Globe mentioned it yesterday, but as a reader of that particular paper every morning I tend to wait until I see a rumor in some other paper before taking their word for it - these Boston papers are useless in many ways) and is more speculation than anything else, but there are whispers in some baseball circles (how vague is that?) that the Indians and Red Sox had expanded their deal to include six players: C Josh Bard, RHP David Riske, and OF Coco Crisp would go from Cleveland to Boston and C Kelly Shoppach, 3B Andy Marte, and RHP Guillermo Mota would go from Boston to Cleveland. The Phillies would then send OF Jason Michaels to the Indians, who would send LHP Arthur Rhodes and newly acquired catching prospect Kelly Shoppach to Philadelphia. There is about a 1% chance of any of this being true, but I'd advise Phillies fans to gear up for some kind of confirmation on the highly reported Rhodes-Michaels swap rather than any believe any, less heavily reported deal involving Michaels.

The real point of that above paragraph: a Michaels/Rhodes trade looks to be about a...95% certainty at this juncture and any other rumor disputing the Michaels/Rhodes trade should be taken with a rather large grain of salt. That's all there is on that for now. Time to move on.

The New York papers today are reporting on possible Phillies interest in free agent catcher Mike Piazza. Why do I believe the New York papers and not the Boston Globe? I'm not saying the New York papers are any more or less credible than the Boston papers (or Philly papers, or whatever papers), but rather the nature of the rumor (random team believed to have interest in random player) reported in today's New York papers is more plausible than the very different rumor (deal rumored for days to be one way is suddenly drastically rearranged) being reported out of Boston. It is merely a judgment call on my part. Either agree or don't. Anyway, here is what Newsday (first) and the Daily News (second) had to say...

In addition to the Phillies, the Orioles, Blue Jays and another National League club are believed to have some interest in Piazza. The interest of the Phillies and at least one other NL team corroborates Lozano's original assertion from early this offseason that multiple NL teams have interest in Piazza as a catcher... It is estimated that he could make $2 million to $3 million.

The Blue Jays are already loaded with 1B/DH types, but have let it known this offseason that they are willing to upgrade at catcher if the right deal came about. Piazza might fit there. Any move to the Orioles would seem to be contingent on the O's finding a taker for Javy Lopez - not impossible, but not likely to happen. The Yankees say they are fine with Andy Phillips and Bernie Williams at DH, but it's the Yankees so you really never know what they are thinking. Most years this would have seemed like a very Yankee-ish move to make, but they have exhibited some kind of fiscal restraint this offseason and appear to be less willing to gobble up "name" players just for the sake of doing it than in years past. The Angels, Dodgers, and Padres (detect a geographical theme?) could all also still be in the running for Piazza's services.

According to sources, Piazza, who hit .251 with 19 homers and 62 RBI with the Mets last year, has minimal offers from the Padres, Phillies and Indians to play a reserve role, but none of them are anywhere near his believed asking price of $7 million-$8 million a year.

The two papers report different salary figures - maybe we should assume Piazza will make anywhere between $2 and $8 million in 2006. How very helpful. I think the general idea is this - Piazza wants between 7-8 million, but will more likely have to settle on 2-3 million. I think some team will come up with at least the $3 million to bring him in for the year, but who knows.
The Phillies popped up twice in one day's worth of newspaper columns about Mike Piazza - there could be something to this rumor. Piazza would be a very interesting fit on this ballclub. He could see plenty of time as a backup catcher considering Phillies starting catcher Mike Lieberthal played in only 118 games last season. Is it so inconceivable that the Norristown native could come home and get 50 starts at catcher in '06 for the Phils? He would also be a good option as a backup first baseman who could start in place of Ryan Howard on days a tough lefty is on the mound. Piazza is a disaster in the field, but who are the candidates to spell Howard on the roster as it stands today? The Phillies are reluctant to move OF Pat Burrell to play 1B once a week (despite earlier reports hyping this idea) and the only other in-house options appear to be IF's Abe Nunez and Tomas Perez. Ouch. Piazza would also be an ideal DH during the Phils interleague schedule. Last, but certainly not least, if the Phillies do pull the trigger on the Jason Michaels deal, they will have lost their best bat off the bench (and second best righthanded hitter on the team for that matter). Mike Piazza could fill that void.

I've gone a little crazy with pro-Piazza speak here, so time for a little reality check. Piazza is a 37-year old, worn down catcher with a six year run of declining OPS numbers. That's the bad news. The better news is that Piazza was once one of the most feared hitters of his generation - this puts the six year decline in OPS into some context - the starting point of that slide was really, really high. His OPS in 2000 was 1.012. That is amazing. His OPS in 2005 was .778. That is less amazing, but still not bad at all. With more time off from behind the plate and a move from a pitcher's park like Shea to the Phillies hitter's park, Piazza could stop that OPS drop with a (nice round) number like .800 or so. Hopefully there is more to report on this in the coming days.

Because I have it in my archives (it's weird to finally actually have archives), here is a little blurb I wrote up about Piazza on 11/30/05...back when I was still doing that Free Agency Tournament (by the way that was far too ambitious a project for this year and is officially dead, maybe next year I'll be able to pull it off). For reference sake, I'm comparing Scott Eyre to Mike Piazza in the first paragraph. They went head to head to see who would be the more valuable addition as a free agent somewhere. That was the premise of the tournament anyway. Anyway, this is what I said then (I'll bold the part I like best):

I don’t like either guy – how could I have ranked Eyre the 25th best free agent? Eyre has been worked like a dog the past few seasons and he’ll wind up an overpaid, broken down middle reliever who will cost whatever team he signs with a first/second round pick. Piazza will be a 37-year old catcher/DH type coming off the two worst seasons of his career. Would you rather blow your money on middle relief or a fading slugger without a real position? This matchup comes down to what kind of contract each will receive – I think somebody will give Eyre more years than Piazza will get (baseball rule number one: don’t ever pay for middle relief unless it is a special, special player or it is on a one-year deal) and that swings this battle to the old catcher.

VICTOR: Mike Piazza

Piazza is the best hitting catcher to have ever played the game. He is the greatest player to ever come out of Norristown, PA and the most accomplished 62nd round pick of all time. He was flat out dominating for an entire decade beginning with his rookie year in 1993 to his last truly great season in 2002. That is ten years of dominance. His best stretch was from 1995 to 1998. Piazza was a catcher. Not a good one, but a serviceable one. For a catcher to hit like this…it really boggles my mind. During that stretch his worst line would have been .336/.417/.563 with 32 homers. His 1997 was one for the ages - .362/.431/.638 with 355 total bases, 40 homers, 201 hits, and 5 steals (!) in 6 chances. Piazza is a 12-time All-Star and winner of 10 straight Silver Sluggers (1993-2002). He has made over $110,000,000 in his career and was once involved in a megadeal that Sports Illustrated proclaimed the “Trade of the Century” (I still remember the cover to that week’s issue, the article itself was one of the best I have ever read too). Piazza was dealt on May 14th, 1998 from Los Angeles (I never in a million years thought he’d play anywhere but L.A.) to Florida for a package including Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, Charles Johnson, and Gary Sheffield (Manuel Barrios was also included). Just about a week later (May 22nd, 1998) the Marlins dealt Piazza (there was never any doubt he wouldn’t be a Marlin much longer than the week that he was) to the Mets for young prospects Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall, and Geoff Goetz. Fascinating trades all around which fit in nicely with the overarching theme of the really amazing, storybook career Mike Piazza has had. Baseball Reference has no real strong comparisons to him because no catcher has ever put up numbers quite like he has before. Piazza was (is) a one of a kind ballplayer.

My view on signing Piazza has changed slightly since then, but I think I can be forgiven for that so long as his salary demands have changed as well. Paying for middle relief can either be with free agent dollars or with your one true valuable trading chip/important fourth outfielder and bench player. To make one last thing clear about Mike Piazza - I am a big fan of his as a ballplayer and he is as true a first ballot Hall of Famer as you'll find. That does not mean, however, that I like Mike Piazza on any kind of personal level. I am not a fan of his (nor his family's) politics or off the field comments/behavior over the course of his career. It doesn't make him a bad guy per se, I just don't agree with 99.99% of what comes out of his mouth. I endorse his signing because he is a good ballplayer still capable of adding something to this team (for the right price), but that is the extent of my Piazza fandom. Sorry for all of that, I just didn't want to confuse the two. Thanks for bearing with me there.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Who But Jason Michaels...

Alright, here are some of the highlights of the previous two articles mentioned in the previous post - perfect for if you were either too lazy to click on the links yourself or have been waiting anxiously for my take on each (that is a scary thought). Ken Rosenthal's article from FoxSports.com is first and Jim Salisbury's take in today's Inquirer is second:

The Indians' tentative plan to trade outfielder Coco Crisp to the Red Sox and reliever Arthur Rhodes to the Phillies could hinge on whether Red Sox reliever Guillermo Mota passes the Indians' physical, FOXSports.com has learned. The first trade, the core of which would be Crisp for Mota and third baseman Andy Marte, would trigger the second, Rhodes for outfielder Jason Michaels. But officials with two of the clubs involved cited Mota's recent arm trouble as a potential deal-buster. Rhodes' condition also could be an issue — he missed time in August with an inflamed right knee. Rhodes, 36, and Mota, 32, are the two oldest players in the deals.

The Red Sox are not operating under the assumption that their acquisition of Crisp is a given. They maintained contact with other prospective trade partners Sunday, keeping their options open in the event they needed contingency plans. They could revise their deal with the Indians if Mota is not included, or pursue another center fielder.

The first paragraph sums up the whole situation as we understand it currently, while the second paragraph adds a fun wrinkle that allows us to engage in some wishful thinking. Chances appear to still be pretty good that Phillies OF Jason Michaels will be sent to Cleveland for LHP Arthur Rhodes shortly after the Indians deal OF Coco Crisp to the Red Sox. That is the most likely scenario as it stands now. Rosenthal leaves the door open for a possible collapse of the original Cleveland-Boston deal; Boston would still be in the market for an outfielder if this were to happen. Would Jason Michaels plus a little something extra be worth the same deal they'd give up to obtain Coco Crisp (Mota and AAA 3B Andy Marte)? If talks with Cleveland die down and the Sox decide to seek another center fielder, Jason Michaels represents the best logical fit for their ballclub. This scenario isn't likely, but not impossible.

Rhodes, 36, is a well-traveled lefthander coming off a strong season with the Indians. He would likely become the Phillies' primary setup man for closer Tom Gordon. The acquisition of Rhodes would allow the Phillies to shift Ryan Madson to the starting rotation.


Rhodes, who has one year and $3.7 million remaining on his contract, was 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 47 games for the Indians last season. He pitched in only four games in the final two months of the season because of a stint on the disabled list (inflamed right knee) and time on the bereavement list due to a family illness.


For Michaels, the trade would mark the close of a four-year stay in Philadelphia that ended in controversy. He was arrested on July 3 and charged with assaulting a Philadelphia police officer outside a nightclub. He avoided a trial and last week was placed on six months probation and ordered to complete 100 hours of community service.

The cause and effect behind any deal where the Phillies acquire anybody whom they consider to be a bonafide major league reliever relates back to Ryan Madson. If the Phillies were to go out and get a replacement for Madson in the bullpen, then the odds of him starting skyrocket. That seems to be the case with this deal. I don't deal a useful bench player/guy who will be a major league starting outfielder on his new team for a generic relief pitcher. Never. Dealing talent for a reliever or signing a reliver for big bucks in free agency is rarely a good idea. Relief pitching is too volatile a thing to invest so much in, not to mention the fact that no position in baseball is easier to fill from within than relief pitching. Just a general, philosophical belief of mine that is quite different from any Phillies team belief over the past decade. But if there is a silver lining in all of this, it is that acquiring relief help will lead the Phillies to believe that Madson is not needed in the bullpen and thus can be used as a starter. That's the good news.

There isn't much to be said about Rhodes as he is still only rumored to be coming to Philadelphia. No sense in writing 500 words about a guy who may or may not ever play in South Philly. His contract situation is one that many people seem to be unfamiliar with and I'd like to at least attempt to clear it up. The Oakland A's are reported to be paying about $1 million of what is owed to Rhodes - that is why you see his number at $3.7 million and not $4.7 million as some outlets have reported. The Pittsburgh Pirates are also believed to be on the hook for at least some of that $3.7 million. So all we really know about what is owed to Rhodes at this point is that it will be somewhat less than $3.7 million.

It is also widely believed the Phillies organization is going through the process of "cleaning up" the ballclub - first with the ouster of Vicente Padilla for far less than face value and now with Jason Michaels being sent away for a marginal return (reportedly). If this is the case, then so be it, but it is always distressing to see the ballclub get weaker when major league sports franchises that are in no position to take a stand attempt to do so. I've joked about cop punching in the past, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the serousness of the situation. I don't enjoy being in a position where I am defending a cop puncher, but dealing a player for one mistake seems like a dangerous club policy to set. I truly haven't given all of this much thought, but that's my real quick take on that last little blurb in Salisbury's column.

Later: either more possible updates (i.e. a finalized deal or changed rumor) or the new spin that catching could be involved in a potential deal. Stay tuned.

Michaels for Rhodes Near Completion?

The very latest:

Both Ken Rosenthal and the Philadelphia Inquirer are reporting that the Philadelphia Phillies are set to acquire LHP Arthur Rhodes as compensation for sending OF Jason Michaels to the Cleveland Indians. Rhodes is a 36 year old lefthanded reliever who is owed $3.7 in 2006 - the last year of his current contract. I believe the Pittsburgh Pirates are still on the hook for some of his '06 salary per the conditions of a prior trade, but the amount they owe is unclear at this time. Rhodes pitched for Phils GM Pat Gillick when Gillick was in charge of both Baltimore and Seattle.

More on Michaels

The very latest on the Jason Michaels saga, this time from The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Depending on how right-hander Guillermo Mota's physical goes, Coco Crisp could be Boston's new center fielder sometime this week.The Indians and Boston, according to a major league source, are considering a six-player trade that would send Crisp and two low-level minor leaguers to Boston for third base prospect Andy Marte, Mota and another a minor league pitcher. The Indians would then trade Mota to Philadelphia for outfielder Jason Michaels.There's also a chance that the Indians could keep Mota, if he passes his physical, and send David Riske or Arthur Rhodes to the Phillies. If Mota doesn't pass the Indians and Phillies physical, the three-team deal could be scrubbed.

So the Boston papers report that it'll be either Rafael Betancourt or Arthur Rhodes while the Cleveland papers (newer report by the way) claim that it'll either be Guillermo Mota, David Riske, or Rhodes with no mention of Betancourt. Mota is yet another big strikeout guy - 145 K's in 163.2 innings pitched over the past two season. He is 32 years of age and has a career GO/AO ratio of 1.08 - nothing special compared to the rest of the league (pitchers as a whole tend to throw more groundballs than flyballs), but better than a drastic flyball type pitcher.

Phillies fans appear to have reached some sort of consensus on a potential Michaels deal - either Betancourt or Mota would be good enough value, Riske is a more questionable option, and that bringing in Rhodes would be worse than...something really, really bad (although he was the only reliever to have his name pop up in both papers, just saying).

I don't know what more to say as there is still much about this deal that appears to be up in the air. I will say this though - the longer this thing drags on, the less likely I think it will happen. The Phillies are dealing from a positition of strength where they don't have to make a move just for the sake of making a move. Needless to say, I don't think Cleveland is being truthful when they say they are strongly considering Jeff DaVanon for a starting OF spot if the Michaels trade falls through. The Phils should wait, see if they can milk everything they can out of this opportunity, and then strike. If it all falls apart and they are stuck with Michaels, so be it. The bench could use his bat, glove, and versatility during late game situations. Treat Michaels like you have been treating Bobby Abreu - only move him if you are getting what you want for him. A middle of the rotation starter for Abreu...no thanks. A mediocre reliver who may or may not be better (but will certainly cost more) than Chris Booker, Aquilino Lopez, Yoel Hernandez, Ricardo Rodriguez, Ryan Cameron, Travis Minix, Brian Sanches, well you get the idea...I'll pass.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Michaels to Cleveland Close?

Sunday's edition of the Boston Herald includes a story about a deal between the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians where OF Coco Crisp (and maybe another player) would go to Boston and RP Guillermo Mota and 3B prospect Andy Marte would head to Cleveland. Coco Crisp is a nice player (his most similar batter through his Age 25 season is Red Sox legend Dom Dimaggio, believe it or not), but this is an absolute steal for Cleveland. Good for them. Anyway, if you've been paying attention then I am sure you can connect the dots and see why you are reading this bit of news on a website devoted to the Philadelphia Phillies. Read on...

The deal was agreed upon several days ago under the condition that Cleveland be able to acquire another outfielder to replace Crisp, presumably Jason Michaels from the Philadelphia Phillies. There was some indication that the Phillies and Indians were hoping to complete the deal for Michaels as soon as last night. Cleveland was believed to be sending one of two relievers - left-hander Arthur Rhodes or right-hander Rafael Betancourt - to the Phillies in exchange for Michaels.

If only the Red Sox were as much in love with Jason Michaels as they seem to be in with Coco Crisp. Mota is at as good as any of the proposed relievers in the Cleveland package and Andy Marte could very well be a potential star at third base - a spot where the Phils are more than a little weak at now and in the not so distant future. I think Michaels is a better player than the general public perception (he must be platooned at all costs!) would lead you to believe as he is a dynamo against lefty pitching yet also plenty capable of hitting righties well enough (biggest drop against righties is in his SLG). He also has always played above average defense at any of the three outfield spots not to mention his awesome abilities when it comes to cop punching. He truly does that with startling efficiency.

More to come on all of this as it actually becomes official - assuming the trade talks don't break down between now (middle of night) and tomorrow morning. It really looks like a framework of a deal is in place, so this should get done by Sunday night at the latest. Until then, we wait...

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.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Best Guess at the Phillies 2006 Payroll

WARNING: This isn't exact by any means (if you don't believe me now, you will very shortly) and is only designed to serve as a tool to see roughly where the Phillies are at with regards to the 2006 budget.

Let's see if we can figure out who will be getting paid what in return for the privilege play baseball in Philadelphia (don't be rude, it is a privilege to play in Philly) in 2006. I think I've got the vast majority of the salaries pegged, but two things bug me with my list: 1) I'm not sure of the exact breakdown of what the Phils are paying Jim Thome to not play for them over the next three seasons is, and 2) I'm also not sure of the breakdown of the Abe Nunez contract. Luckily, I'm a problem solver and, although these methods may not be perfect (please correct me if someone knows something I don't), logic enables me to figure out some decent ballpark estimates for the salaries I am missing. Thome is owed $22 million by the Phillies over the next three seasons - let's break that down to the simple $7.333 million per season it may very well actually be. Nunez is owed $3.35 million over the next two years - we'll break that in half and say he is owed $1.675 million in '06. With those minor obstacles out of the way, the Phillies 2006 payroll begins to take shape. And if the formatting and margins are off, I blame you and not me since it looks damn good on my computer.

RF Bobby Abreu 13.00
LF Pat Burrell 9.50
DL Randy Wolf 9.00
C Mike Lieberthal 7.50
CWS Jim Thome 7.33
SP Jon Lieber 7.25
SS Jimmy Rollins 5.00
3B David Bell 4.50
RP Tom Gordon 4.50
SP Brett Myers 3.30
SP Cory Lidle 3.30
CF Aaron Rowand 3.25
SP Ryan Franklin
RP Rheal Cormier 2.50
IF Abraham Nunez 1.675
OF Jason Michaels 1.50
RP Aaron Fultz 1.20
IF Tomas Perez 0.70
C Sal Fasano 0.425
Money Guaranteed to J. Santana 0.325

So that is 19 players right there - 17 out of that 19 are very safe bets to be on the Phillies opening day roster (Thome is in Chicago and Wolf is still rehabbing). Julio Santana isn't actually listed as a player on this first list, but the 325,000 big ones owed to him no matter what are. Santana is getting that money no matter what. He'll earn $475,000 if he actually makes the team out of spring training. This brings the total value of his contract to $800,000.

1B Ryan Howard
2B Chase Utley
P Ryan Madson
RP Geoff Geary
OF Shane Victorino

These five young chaps are all assured spots on the roster - our total (along with the previous 17) is 22. As far as the MLBPA's guidelines concerning minimum salaries goes:

2006-at the 2005 rate per season plus a cost of living adjustment rounded to the nearest $500, provided that the cost of living adjustment shall not reduce the minimum salary below the 2005 rate per season.

The minimum last season was $316,000. I'm not sure of what it'll be in 2006 at this point. It could be out there already, but I haven't read about it yet. If someone knows something I don't (but, really, what are the odds of that ever happening?), help would be appreciated. Since we've already estimated on a few things, I am fairly comfortable with doing it again. We'll use $350,000 as the minimum for 2006 - a tad high for a minimum, but surely the Phils will give the maximum raises allowed for some of their players (Utley and Madson come to mind) with under three years experience, right?

So we have 22 guys thus far. Since I'd rather guess the payroll to be higher than it is than lower, we'll stay conservative with our guesses and use a wide pool of candidates that could wind up on the roster. We'll give six guys (Gavin Floyd, Robinson Tejeda, Ricardo Rodriguez, Aquilino Lopez, the aforementioned Julio Santana, and Rule Five draftee Chris Booker) as examples of players who could come and go from the roster at some point in '06. Five of those guys will get our hypothetical $350,000 and Santana will get the additional $475,000 owed to him if he were to make the team.

Time for some math -

Those 17 active Phillies (including Thome, Wolf, and Santana's guarantee) will cost the Phils a whopping $88.358 million in 2006. Wow. Then we have five guys who will make the team each earning $350,000 and five guys who could make the team each earning $350,000. 10 x $350,000 = an additional $3.5 million. That makes for a total payroll of $91.858 million. Throw in Santana's extra $475,000 if he makes the team and we are now at $92.333 million in 2006 (funny that Thome's $7.333 shows up like that in the final calculation).

The payroll for 2006 should end up being up to or around $95 million. By these very rough calculations that leaves the Phils with about $2.7 million to play with. That would allow the Phillies to add another star-quality pitcher like Ryan Franklin to the budget and still have enough money left over to pay for a couple decades worth of season tickets for me.

An interesting name being mentioned as a potential late addition to this Phillies roster is former Astros and Red Sox starter Wade Miller. Adding Miller would be a very good move even when taking into account the fact he won't be ready until the beginning of May (some say mid-May at the earliest). I'd actually consider signing Miller this year to be less of a risk and a better investment than signing him last year would have been - he has finally had surgery on his damaged labrum, a move that at least gives him the chance to recapture some of his magic of a few year's back (he elected not to have the same surgery when the opportunity presented itself last offseason when he instead opted to first try various alternate treatments). I would support a Miller signing without a doubt - however, the Phils tight financial situation should not be forgotten. Miller is apparently seeking a $1.5 million guaranteed deal with incentives tied in that could bump the one-year deal all the way up to $4.5 million. That could be more than the Phillies are willing to (or are able to) offer. I suppose it all depends on what their 2006 payroll figures will look like. Say, wouldn't it be great if somebody with too much time on their hands decided to at least attempt to break down what the '06 payroll will look like? Indeed it would. Indeed it would.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Utley, Madson, and Gillick

"Well, I'm not the best athlete in the world, so it looks like I'm trying a lot harder. Someone like Jimmy is just so athletic it looks easier when he does it, but he's busting his butt. Same for Bobby Abreu. He sometimes gets a bad rap, but he's busting his butt and played hurt most of last year."

- Chase Utley from his appearance on the Morning Guys (Angelo Cataldi, Al Morganti, Rhea Hughes, etc.) on WIP this morning

Yet another reason to love Chase - as if anybody in this town needed it. Cataldi is a dope who frequently lambastes Abreu for a lack of hustle and emotion on the field. I can only imagine the look on his face after Chase Utley, a fairly knowledgeable if not unbiased source, made this astute (albeit the longstanding company line) observation. The very same observation that any Phillies fan who has watched over the past half decade has been making during that very same time period. Bobby Abreu is a very talented ballplayer who gets knocked in this town for all kinds of stupid, nitpicky things - many of which are just flat out untrue. I just don't get it and maybe I never will.

Today's Inquirer actually had two, count 'em two, stories about the Phillies. Jim Salisbury wrote a story about Ryan Madson's desire to start this season in the Phillies rotation. Phils manager Charlie Manuel would also like to see it happen. Phillies GM Pat Gillick is also in favor. Heck even Madson's buddy and teammate Brett Myers is on record saying that the Phillies should make the move (said it on Comcast television). So what's the holdup? Same old story of course - until the Phillies make a move to acquire a dependable late inning setup man, Madson is needed to serve as the team's eight inning bridge to Tom Gordon in the bullpen. I've said it before and I'll continue to say it until that fateful day when the Phillies finally call and ask for my advice - Ryan Madson needs to start for this team in order for the Phils to maximize the talent currently on the roster. Madson is a starter. Time for the Phils to wake up and use him as one.

The other Inquirer story was written by Phil Sheridan and comes across as a bit of a "In Gillick We Trust" kind of article. Sheridan wants us all to believe that Gillick's "frankness" will translate into wins on the field for this franchise. Needless to say, I'm not buying it (maybe it wasn't so needless after all, you dig?). The content of the article isn't particularly interesting, but a few quotes stand out. Gillick expressed what he considers to be a number starter publicly by saying,

"I'm talking about a guy with power, a guy who can stop a losing streak, who can strike people out."

Sounds good to me, Pat. It's nice to see Gillick has an understanding of how valuable a strikeout pitcher can be although it just makes the Ryan Franklin signing all the more baffling. Anyway, now that we know what Gillick's prerequisites of a number one starting pitcher are, how about finding one of these guys and getting him in red pinstripes? Pat? Any luck on the search thus far?

"They're available," Gillick said, declining to reveal exactly where or how one goes about finding a true No. 1 starter.

I'm not sure what this means exactly. I suppose it depends on one's definition of what a number one starter really is. The Phillies sure seem to think Eric Bedard, for example, is a number one starter; I do not happen to agree. Many Phils fans still see Barry Zito as a true number one starter; he is no such thing. There aren't that many true number one starting pitchers in this league. The teams that do have them aren't so quick to give them up. So maybe Gillick has his sights on a guy whom is not a sure fire number one in everybody's eyes (everybody basically equals me) such as Bedard or Zito. Or maybe Gillick knows something we don't (well this is absolutely true no matter the case, I think it's in his job description) about the availability of a guy we (again, we equals me) can all agree is a number one starter such as Mark Prior or Carlos Zambrano. Or maybe I'm reading way too far into a couple of quotes from a weak Inquirer puff piece.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Good, the Bad, and the Crazy

Sources tell me that Phillies GM Pat Gillick appeared along with Jody Mac today on Philly sports talk radio station WPEN. He addressed many interesting (surprising really) points that throw a bit of a wrench in my previous prognostication of what the 2006 roster would be. Don't worry, my feelings aren't hurt by the GM waiting until after I publish my thoughts on the roster to make some comments on players on the bubble that seem to go against much of the prevailing logic on how this team would look. I knew as soon as I put that up, something "big" would happen to screw it all up. Gillick said some things I liked and, as usual, said some things I don't like quite so much.

The Good

Whether this is actually good news or not really depends on how it is interpreted. I'm still on the fence about it personally. Pat Gillick today admitted that "we haven't done much" thus far this offseason. No way can that tidbit alone can be considered good news, but it is refreshing to hear a GM try a little honesty in this time. It's about time. Even still, admitting failures just isn't enough. That's why it was nice to hear Gillick say the team is still exploring various big moves that could greatly improve the team. I realize it is the job of a GM to go on the radio and tell the people things like this, but this new regime seems intent on dealing RF Bobby Abreu for top of the rotation pitching. In other words, I believe Gillick when he says something big is in the works. Things could fall apart, of course, but I think it might be wise to take another look at the possibility that Abreu could be playing in a city other than Philly in '06.

That previous paragraph you just read was all a tease. Some may even call it "filler." It wasn't particularly well-written nor was it very well-thought out as I typed it. It is all true, I wouldn't give you bad information, but I had a tough time trying to make some useful conclusions based off of a couple of Gillick sound bites. On any other day, I'm sure I could have done it. Not today. Why you ask? There is bigger, better news. News that personally shocked me. News that I'm still not convinced is true - I can't tell if I think it isn't true because the news isn't logical or because I'm a cynical Philly sports fan. So much babbling, so little content. Let's do this.

Pat Gillick said in his interview today that newly acquired SP Ryan Franklin was not guaranteed anything (except for his $2.6 million salary which he'll get no matter what, but that is besides the point). Gillick was actually referring to Franklin's place in the Phils starting rotation. He said that the only known starters are Jon Lieber, Brett Myers, and Cory Lidle - 2 rotation spots remain up for grabs. The players Gillick specifically mentioned as contenders for the last two spots were Franklin, Gavin Floyd, Ricardo Rodriguez, Ryan Madson (!), and the biggest surprise of them all...the third player shipped to the Phils in the Jim Thome trade, Daniel Haigwood. In my perfect world, Madson is the fourth starter and Gavin Floyd does enough this spring to win the fifth starter job outright. That would make me happy. It is very interesting that Robinson Tejeda was not mentioned (no Eude Brito for that matter), but Tejeda could very well have slipped the 96 year old Gillick's mind.

The Bad

First off, I don't like the idea of Haigwood in the rotation. Haigwood has excellent minor league numbers and had his best stretch of baseball as a pro while facing down his biggest challenge to date (AA at 21 years old). That says something. I still don't think he should be rushed. I'd start him at AA and then move him along to AAA as the season wears on. Come early 2007, he should be a prime contender for a rotation spot. Then again, much like any of the back of the rotation candidates, if he is ready to pitch in the big leagues now then the Phils should not hesitate to give him a shot. 2006 is about winning now after all. I guess my point is that I don't think he is ready quite yet. The Phillies seem to be a tad obsessed with cramming a lefty into the rotation (how else can you explain Brito being discussed?) and it would be a shame to see them do it at the expense of a nice young pitcher's long-term development.

Second off, I don't like what Gillick had to say about free agent IF Russell Branyan. Gillick said, "We're not looking at Russ at this point. We're looking at someone with a little more versatility than Branyan." I understand the need for versatility, but how many versatile guys that can't play (Abraham Nunez, Tomas Perez) can one team possibly want? Branyan isn't versatile - he can play 3B, 1B, LF, and RF. He doesn't play any of those positions well either. But Russell Branyan does one thing quite well - he hits righthanded pitching. I like him. I'll continue to campaign for him. Unfortunately, I think it may all be for nothing. Can't win 'em all. But, hey, at least we got Ryan Franklin, right?

This isn't so much bad as it is wildly informative. Gillick mentioned two guys who could fill the Urbina (8th inning)/Madson (7th) roles of last year (presumably Madson takes the 8th if he is still in the pen, but late inning relief is an important thing to work out for this team right now either way). Gillick said that LHP Aaron Fultz and RHP Julio Santana were likely candidates to pitch in the back of the bullpen as closer Tom Gordon's primary setup guys. Fultz isn't too big a surprise (even though the thought of a 32 year old guy with but one above average year under his belt pitching in the late innings is troubling to me), but Santana is. Not so much the fact that he is potentially being counted on to pitch in meaningful spots, but the fact that he will pitch in Philadelphia at all. He does have a partially guaranteed contract ($325,000 of his $800,000 is assured), so maybe this shouldn't come as much as a shock. I'd pencil Santana in as a member of the Phillies bullpen in '06 after hearing this. Guess a revised look at the roster is in the works.

One other name was later mentioned as a potential late inning reliever - old friend LHP Rheal Cormier. Cormier is owed $2.5 million in '06, so it is no surprise that he'll be a Phillie this season. It is a surprise to hear him being talked about as a setup man after the way Charlie Manuel refused to pitch him in any meaningful situation late in the season. A potential clash between manager and general manager? I doubt it, but it still should be a situation to keep an eye on.

The Crazy

This is a good one. Definitely crazy. New trade rumor has surfaced in the past few hours and I have to say that I think it has very little validity. I'll post it because it is fun, but I see no way that this happens. No way. Rumor has it that Jason Michaels could be heading to the Red Sox. In return, the Phillies add SP David Wells. There is a problem. David Wells does not want to play for an east coast team - last time I checked the great city of Philadelphia doesn't meet his geographical wants. Don't worry, the rumor goes on to solve this problem. The Phillies would package the newly added Wells with C Mike Lieberthal to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Phillies would receive a starting pitcher from LA to make this deal work - Derek Lowe? Brett Tomko? Jae Seo? The Phillies would then be without a starting catcher...or so it seems. According to the source, the Phils believe enough in Carlos Ruiz that they would be comfortable going into 2006 with a Ruiz/Fasano duo at catcher. So...what is more appealing? A Ruiz/Fasano catching duo along with one of the aforementioned Dodger starting pitchers OR Lieberthal and Michaels staying put as Phillies? Crazy.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Phillies Opening Day Roster Ideas

The Phillies 2006 roster is beginning to take shape - this is a good thing as spring training is, believe it or not, just around the corner. There are so many things (last minute free agent additions, trades, injuries) that could take place between now and spring training that predicting the opening day roster isn't easy...in theory anyway. I happen to believe the Phillies roster you see today will be extremely similar to the roster come April with only one (maybe two) spots up for grabs in Florida. The Phillies starting eight and bench appear to be set. The Phils coaching staff/front office still has to decide on who will be the fifth starter - that decision will surely set off a chain reaction of roster moves that will shape the big league bullpen.

The Phillies starting eight will look a heck of a lot like the lineup that finished the 2005 season. Mike Lieberthal is back catching, the infield of Howard/Utley/Rollins/Bell remains intact, and the corner outfielders, Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu, both return despite being the subject of many a trade rumor this offseason. If Abreu is traded between now and spring (it is still a very real possibility, but I'd drop the odds of it happening now to 10% - just a personal feeling), just disregard the previous statement. In any event, I am confident in proclaiming those seven guys safe bets for the opening day roster. New addition Aaron Rowand will round out the starting eight and play centerfield everyday. It seems like the Phillies are committed to the idea that Rowand would make a good 2-hole hitter (something I think is a bad, bad idea), but actual lineup construction is another story for another day. For now, I'll stick with my belief that these 8 guys have spots on the 2006 Philadelphia Phillies. Easy so far, right?

The bench is a different story - not so much because of the uncertainty over who will make the team, but because of the belief that some of the guys who are poised to win bench jobs as of now stink and it doesn't have to be that way. The Phillies have put themselves in a position where the bench has room for five guys going into the season - 2 outfielders, 2 infielders, and one backup catcher. IF (infielder, not an emphatic "if") Abraham Nunez is a lock to make the team and should be a guy who will see plenty of time starting around the diamond whenever a starter needs a day off - for better or worse. The two OF spots look to be pretty much guaranteed to Jason Michaels and Shane Victorino. The only thing that could change this is a trade - whether it is of Michaels or Abreu. If either Michaels or Abreu are dealt, Victorino would either be the 4th OF (if Michaels is dealt) or platoon with Michaels in right (if Abreu is dealt). A new 5th OF is needed either way. Chris Roberson, Josh Kroeger, or maybe even Peter Bergeron could then be that guy. Sal Fasano is the obvious frontrunner for the backup catcher spot with Carlos Ruiz having a tiny, tiny chance to make the team instead with a strong spring. The smart money is on Fasano to win a spot on the team, of course.

So, far the bench looks like Michaels/Victorino/Nunez/?/Fasano (in the order they should be pinch-hit). Strong outfielders, poor everything else. Will the "?" mystery candidate for the bench job save us? It doesn't look good. IF Tomas Perez has been a Phillies mainstay over the past few years and seems like the frontrunner for the last bench job. I'm sure many Phils fans believe Tomas is a lock for a spot on the team, but I'm less than 100% certain. If I had to bet on my life on who will win that final bench job, I'd say Tomas. Luckily, nobody has pinned me down with such a proposition, so I am free to speculate on who can seize that job when the Phils finally decide to dump Perez. Matt Kata, Danny Sandoval, and Joe Thurston are all candidates to at least battle Perez in camp. Either Kata or Sandoval would be a better choice (so much is unknown about Thurston) than Perez and it will be interesting to see if either is given a real shot at making the team over him. The best option out there remains Russell Branyan (I get on a bandwagon and I hang on for dear life), but that seems like an out of the box solution to shoring up the Phillies lineup against righties while at the same time strengthening the bench. I have just about given up on Branyan being a Phil just because thinking out of the box isn't characteristic of this organization. Let's say that the last Phillies bench job is up for grabs with the other 12 position player spots looking like they are set.

(My take on the bench real quick - Michaels/Victorino/Nunez/Perez/Fasano isn't all bad, but it just seems like a bit of a waste of resources. My cheaper, more effective, and more versatile bench for 2006 - Branyan/Victorino/Roberson/Ruiz/Sandoval, with a trade of Jason Michaels [nothing personal, but his value is at an all-time peak] for some league average starting pitching in there as well. I like that bench better from a baseball standpoint and it would only cost you around $2.25 million or so to do)

The pitching staff has no shortage of live arms vying for spots - there may not necessarily be great quality, but there sure is quantity. That sounds like an insult (maybe it kind of is), but it is actually a pretty sound strategy to building a staff. Pitching is all about attrition. Teams need depth to succeed and there is no better way to build depth than by inviting as many pitchers as possible to camp and promoting competition for spots on the team - especially in the bullpen. The Phillies are expected to carry twelve pitchers going into 2006 and, by my count, there are only eight locks at this point in time. There is no shortage of candidates for the other four spots. What does all of this mean? I think it'll be an exciting spring.

4/5th's of the starting rotation can be penciled in with great certainty - Jon Lieber, Brett Myers, Cory Lidle, and Ryan Franklin all will open the year in the rotation. The fifth starter job will be the most highly publicized battle going into camp and will go a long way in shaping the entire staff. As it stands now, the job comes down to Gavin Floyd, Robinson Tejeda, Ricardo Rodriguez, Eude Brito, and Ryan Madson (in order of how likely they are to win the job, Floyd being the guy who I think will win it). Each guy comes with some pretty major questions - Floyd was a disaster in 2005, Tejeda has had some recent control issues, Rodriguez hasn't done anything in the big leagues, Brito is an over-aged/under-talented prospect, and Madson still might be better suited in the bullpen (prior success in the pen and durability concerns if he joined the rotation).

As of now, Madson will remain a reliever. He is out. Brito just isn't good enough, though his being lefthanded could make the Phillies consider him longer than they should. He is out. Rodriguez is probably is a better fit for the bullpen and may not even be looked at as a starter at all. Out. It's down to Floyd or Tejeda. Let's assume Gavin Floyd has a good enough spring and overcomes all other contenders to win the fifth starter job. Now what? Do the Phils send Tejeda to AAA to start every fifth day or has he proven enough to warrant a job in the big league bullpen? If Tejeda is better than the other bullpen candidates, then the bullpen is where he should be. The team is looking to win in 2006. If he isn't, then he should be in AAA and serve as the Phils 6th starter (pitching depth is key, remember?) and potential trade bait. Now let's assume Tejeda impresses Gillick and company enough to earn that fifth job. A bullpen job is then absolutely opened up as there is no chance the Phillies will make the mistake of sticking Floyd in the bullpen again. Floyd would then be sent to Scranton to spearhead the Red Barons starting rotation.

Depending on the fifth starter shakedown, there will be either two or three bullpen jobs available (Tejeda being a possibility to land one if Floyd wins the job). It should be a seven man bullpen with five locks to this point - Tom Gordon, Ryan Madson, Rheal Cormier, Aaron Fultz, and Geoff Geary. There are a ton of guys fighting for the remaining two (maybe one) spots (or spot). For the sake of discussion we will stick with Floyd winning the 5th starter job. The two remaining bullpen spots then come down to a mix of failed 5th starters (Rob Tejeda, Ricardo Rodriguez, Eude Brito) or a bunch of guys that had limited or no big league time in 2005 including Aquilino Lopez, Julio Santana, Chris Booker, Travis Minix, Ryan Cameron, and Brian Sanches. The battle for those spots should rival the events at Waterloo some time ago.

Lieberthal, Fasano, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Bell, Nunez, Perez, Burrell, Rowand, Abreu, Michaels, Victorino. That's 13. Lieber, Myers, Lidle, Franklin, Floyd. That's 18. Gordon, Madson, Cormier, Geary, Fultz, That's 23. Tejeda is 24. Since the Phils value experience, I'd peg Lopez (due to actually being a Phillie for a bit last year) as the 25th man. It is only mid-January, but there is my projected opening day roster.