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ColonelTom
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TTI - it's a "fiscal issue" in the sense that ownership wants a positive number at the bottom of the balance sheet - in other words, they won't go into the red for a season to prop up this team. From my post on Dec. 3: TGP estimated last April, based on very early returns, that the team would sell 644K fewer tickets in 2014 than in 2013, and would lose at least $24M with ~$175M payroll. They ended up with about 10% less of a loss (588K rather than 644K), so back-of-the-envelope, let's say they lost about $21.6M last year with that payroll. To "right-size" the budget, you'd basically jettison all the expiring contracts and pay the arbitration raises. Christmas came early with Burnett's declining his player option, but I don't think that gave Amaro a dime more to spend. Management is likely trying not only to avoid 2015 losses, but to pay for 2014's shortfall as well. That eats up the $12.75M from Burnett and leaves RAJ with the task of paring another ~$8.85M to backfill last year's budget. But wait, there's more (or in this case, less). There's the likely decline in attendance this year, which could result in another $10-20M hit if they lose between 300-600K more ticket sales. Let's peg that at the midrange of $15M. They'd then need to cut $8.85M+$15M, or $23.85M from the budget. I think MG's point was simply that instead of giving the fans no information on the team's plans, they've started talking in terms of a rebuild because the fans will soon realize that the "savings" from Burnett et al. aren't going to be spent - they'll go to balance the books in light of declining attendance.
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John Sickels on the Phils' Rule 5 picks: 9. Philadelphia Phillies, Odubel Herrera, 2B, Rangers: Age 22, from Venezuela, hit .315/.333/.388 with 21 steals in 479 at-bats split between High-A and Double-A. In most systems Herrera would have been protected, but he was surplus behind flashier players with better gloves in Texas. He is a career .294/.354/.377 hitter in six minor league seasons. His bat is effective but shaky defense limits him to second base and even there he looks like a liability at times. He can hit though. 31. Philadelphia Phillies: Andrew Oliver, LHP, Pirates: Age 27, second round pick by the Detroit Tigers in 2009 from Oklahoma State University, posted 2.53 ERA with 85/47 K/BB in 64 innings in Triple-A for the Pirates this year. Oliver has a terrific arm but horrible command and shaky secondaries moved him to the bullpen this year after four years as an enigmatic minor league starter. He still throws hard and still has trouble finding the strike zone.
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Lore, you're really pessimistic on Windle and Eflin. Both guys are recent high-round picks (Eflin was a 1st in 2012, and Windle was a 2nd in 2013) who held their own at altitude in the Cal League last year. Both project as potential mid-rotation starters. You figure if you get two guys like that, there's a fair shot that one of them pans out. I like the Phils' two selections in the Rule 5 draft as well. Herrera's about the best-case scenario for a Rule 5 guy, as he has some versatility (TM) and his hitting is advanced enough that he won't be a complete offensive sinkhole when he plays. Oliver's walk rate is obviously high, but the Phils probably see a potential Andrew Miller in Oliver if he can get the walks down a tick or two. At worst, Oliver can eat innings in middle relief next year, and I'd rather take a chance on his swing-and-miss upside than suffer through another ride on the Manship.
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Supposedly the Giants offered Lester 7/$168, but he preferred the Cubs. Scherzer's supposedly looking for $200M, and assuming he (unlike Lester) goes to the highest bidder, he'll probably at least get close to it. Like PB said, Hamels' contract must be looking tasty to Boston and others right now.
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Per Ken Rosenthal, Jon Lester has agreed to sign with the Cubs - 6 years, $155M.
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clout - Betts is ranked by Baseball Prospectus as Boston's #1 player under 25, ahead of Xander Bogaerts (who was ranked #2 in all of baseball by BP before 2014). The author says it was a coin flip between the two and that both have "all-star futures."
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I'd be surprised if they're paying Williams $2.5M to be a long reliever. I think he's this year's Fauxto Hernandez signing.
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SF might be a good destination for Byrd and Asche, but you won't get Susac (who posted a 125 OPS+ in limited catching duty for SF last year) for the pair. I could see going after one of their minor-league OFs in a Byrd deal, perhaps Mac Williamson (coming off elbow surgery) or Gary Brown (whose stock has slipped in the last two years, but could still help the Phils).
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They don't have 5 starters at the moment. They actually have 6: Hamels Lee Buchanan Williams Pettibone MAG It's ugly after Buchanan (or perhaps even before him, depending on your opinion of him), but that's life in the cellar for you. My guess is that we'll sign a Kyle Kendrick type (maybe even KK himself, if he'll come back at a reasonable discount) to provide depth in the likely event that we lose one or both of Hamels/Lee to trade or injury, respectively.
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BAP nails it. The Phils generally don't pay players to play elsewhere, and - despite any public proclamations to the contrary - would rather take less talent in return to avoid doing so. And the unfortunate reality is that the Phils can probably get (1) a decent prospect for Byrd or (2) salary relief, but not both. The option year is more than a "bit of a hindrance," especially since it's almost certain to vest barring injury. Committing 2/$16M to a player who will turn 38 in August is a substantial risk for most clubs. If you parse the analytical stats on Byrd's FanGraphs page, you can see reasons to worry that the aging cliff is looming in front of him. As for mid/low-market teams wanting Byrd, I'm fairly confident that 3 of the 4 teams on his no-trade list (Atlanta, Seattle, Kansas City) would have been interested in Byrd but view him as less attractive - and perhaps off-limits entirely - because he'll insist on their guaranteeing the 2016 vesting option.
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Byrd's vesting option (which will vest with his 463rd plate appearance in 2015) and limited no-trade clause (blocking 4 teams that would have been logical destinations for him) have effectively killed his trade value. If he had only one year remaining, he'd be much more attractive to suitors. Unless the Phils are willing to eat that $8M in 2016, he's pretty much immovable for a meaningful return. I expect to see him in the Phils' lineup until at least the 2015 trade deadline, and probably much longer than that.
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Get ready to be pissed, MG. Meet the 2015 Phillies, same as the 2014 Phillies (but a year older).
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Man, you'd think the Braves and Mariners could have worked something out. Gattis would have been a great fit as Seattle's DH instead of Nelson Cruz, and Saunders would have been a much cheaper and arguably better OF option for Atlanta than Nick Markakis. Seattle could have kicked in a 2B (Ackley, whose bat can't play in LF where Seattle has him, Brad Miller, or Chris Taylor) to make the deal worth Atlanta's while. Instead, both teams end up taking on expensive long-term deals. Of course, if it ends up hurting Atlanta, I'm all for it.
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Lore, point taken - but Z's carving out a hell (meant in the "fiery pit of despair" sense) of a legacy in his own right, despite the team's blip in the right direction last year. Here's a summary of the M's latest moves from a Seattle sports fan site - "Mariners basically added J.A. Happ for one-year, $62 million.". The formatting on the linked page is messed up on my screen, so here's the takeaway: [T]rading Michael Saunders for J.A. Happ was simply asinine, and basically undoes all of the good done from overspending on Cruz.... Cruz without Saunders is basically a wash, and preys on a position – any outfield position that is – for which the Mariners have very little organizational depth. In essence, the Mariners have swapped something like a league average outfielder for something like a league average DH, spent $58 million, and gained J.A. Happ and his $6.7 million in salary (about $4.0 million more than Saunders will make in 2015).
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For what it's worth, the eerily accurate Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors that Saunders will get $2.9M in arbitration this year. Here's the full list of arbitration estimates from MLBTR: http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2014/11/projected-arbitration-salaries-for-2015.html
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Unless you actually fielded a team of 25 replacement players, how could we ever determine how many games that team would win? You can do that using a computer simulation, running thousands of seasons using a lineup of 0.0 WAR players. How would they do? From the FanGraphs FAQ on Replacement Level, written shortly after FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference harmonized their definitions of replacement level so the two sites' WAR figures could be compared more easily: This new unified replacement level is now set at 1,000 WAR per 2,430 Major League games, which is the number of wins available in a 162 game season played by 30 teams. Or, an easier way to put it is that our new replacement level is now equal to a .294 winning percentage, which works out to 47.7 wins over a full season. So now we come to: I don't think a WAR to Win ratio works like that. The Team War was 9.6 for hitting and fielding and 16 for pitching for a total team WAR of 27.6. 47.7 wins for replacement level + 9.6 wins for hitting/fielding + 16 for pitching ——— 73.3 wins You may recall that the Phillies won 73 games last year.
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Money wasn't the key factor in the Saunders deal. Happ is due to receive $6.7M next year. Saunders won't get anywhere near that - even with a gaudy 128 OPS+, his counting stats are low in part due to Seattle's home park, and he missed over two months with injuries. Every time you feel bad about having RAJ as our GM, remember that you could have Jack Zduriencik, who is systematically destroying Seattle's organization for years to come. Here's the backstory on the Saunders deal: http://blog.seattlepi.com/baseball/2014/11/07/report-mariners-to-shop-injury-prone-of-michael-saunders/ Jack Z basically called out Saunders for suffering a back injury last year, and blamed it on a lack of offseason preparation. Saunders' agent told the front office it would be best if they parted ways, and now they have.
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jbird: The 2014 Phils finished at 73-89, right on their Pythagorean number, with Hamels having a historically good season and four mid-30s veterans - Utley, Byrd, J-Roll, Ruiz - all posting solid numbers. On average, we have to expect a decline from those guys (probably a bit below 1 WAR decline per player in that group - let's say 3 WAR for the four), and if Hamels departs, a massive plunge (somewhere between 3-5 WAR) down to whoever takes his place. Take 6-8 wins from 73, and you're looking at a record between 65-97 and 67-95. If Lee comes back and is healthy, he can replace Hamels as our ace. That's a huge "if" though, and I'd bet on less - not more - Lee than the 13 starts we got last year. Jerome Williams will be lucky to post an ERA within 2 points of last year's 2.83 mark. As bad as Burnett and Kendrick were, I don't see any reason for optimism in their potential replacements.
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Long-term, it's not as bleak as all that, at least if the kudos regarding recent drafts are well-founded. But for now, it's going to get worse - perhaps much worse - before it gets better. If Hamels goes without bringing back multiple guys who can help now, we're looking at between 95-100 losses next season. On the positive side, we can free up all that disposable income we would normally use on Phils and Sixers tickets, merchandise, etc.
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If we've learned anything from baseball history, it's that teams generally can't spend their way out of a downward spiral, but they can certainly spend their way further down into one. My faint hope is that the front office will give RAJ enough financial latitude to hold Hamels until a team gets desperate, either once the big-name FA pitchers have signed or during the season. I wonder if RAJ hoped that keeping the Phils' name in the Tomas discussion would give the impression that he wasn't under pressure to cut payroll this year, giving him more leverage in negotiations to trade Hamels because teams would figure RAJ could walk away. If that was the intent, it has backfired now, with Tomas's agent saying publicly that the Phils didn't even make an offer because they needed to jettison payroll first.
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The only remaining drama for this offseason is whether management's "need" to pare the payroll forces Amaro to sell off Hamels for pennies on the dollar, rather than holding out for a king's ransom. Warning - there are back-of-the-envelope calculations below, so feel free to pick them apart for errors. TGP estimated last April, based on very early returns, that the team would sell 644K fewer tickets in 2014 than in 2013, and would lose at least $24M with ~$175M payroll. They ended up with about 10% less of a loss (588K rather than 644K), so back-of-the-envelope, let's say they lost about $21.6M last year with that payroll. To "right-size" the budget, you'd basically jettison all the expiring contracts and pay the arbitration raises. Christmas came early with Burnett's declining his player option, but I don't think that gave Amaro a dime more to spend. Management is likely trying not only to avoid 2015 losses, but to pay for 2014's shortfall as well. That eats up the $12.75M from Burnett and leaves RAJ with the task of paring another ~$8.85M to backfill last year's budget. But wait, there's more (or in this case, less). There's the likely decline in attendance this year, which could result in another $10-20M hit if they lose between 300-600K more ticket sales. Let's peg that at the midrange of $15M. They'd then need to cut $8.85M+$15M, or $23.85M from the budget. Hamels will make $23.5M this year, making him the perfect sacrifice on the altar of balancing the team's books. (Never mind that TV contract, of course, which ownership will almost certainly pocket in the short term.) Long story short, RAJ will likely be forced to deal Hamels sooner than he'd like (i.e., this offseason) and for less than he feels comfortable. The team won't take anyone in return for Hamels with a salary above the big-league minimum if they can possibly avoid it. The Dodgers seem like a logical landing spot, given that they generally have more dollars than sense. As Rob notes, the bloom is off Zach Lee, so maybe the Phils can get him as a Kendrick replacement, along with Joc Pederson (who almost has to be the centerpiece of a Dodgers deal in which the Phils don't take on salary) and a low-level lottery ticket or two. I doubt they'll get anything better than that without paying a chunk of Hamels' contract, and I don't see that happening based on the team's current finances.
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CR - especially if we're talking about a scenario where Ruf gets injured mid-season and we need a 1B, why would you go Franco/Asche/Utley at 3B/2B/1B when you could keep Asche and Utley at their current (i.e., best) positions and let Franco play 1B, where he already has some experience in the minors? Russ Canzler would probably have the inside track if Ruf gets hurt and Howard is gone. Canzler had a fantastic second half after coming to Lehigh Valley last year (.286/.360/.545 in 242 PA). If Howard is gone, Canzler may well make the big-league club as a bench bat. Canzler is labeled a veteran journeyman at this point, even though he's only 3 months older than Ruf. He is essentially Ruf with a bit less upside to dream on, so he'd be an acceptable replacement in a pinch.
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The top end of the SP market lays out like this: Hamels (age 30) pretty much sets the FA market for high-end veteran SP's. Assuming he's traded and the 2019 option is guaranteed, his contract is 5/$100-104M (depending on whether the 2019 option is guaranteed at the $20M team option or $24 vesting option rate). Jon Lester (age 30) turned down something around 4/$70-80M last April, and is rumored to be sitting on a 6/$120M offer from the Red Sox now. He's likely to get a bigger per-year offer from someone, but may take less to go back to Boston. Max Scherzer (age 30) supposedly received a 6/$144M offer from the Tigers, but is seeking more than $150M and perhaps a seventh year elsewhere. I think he's overpriced at that level, and some teams might see Hamels as a lower-risk alternative. James Shields (age 32) is a notch below the three guys above, but he's still a very good, consistent workhorse. Being two years older than Hamels/Lester/Scherzer, he's probably looking at 4/$75M or so, and perhaps will get someone to go 5 years to close the deal. Looking at that market, the Phils have to wait for Lester to land somewhere (probably with the Red Sox or Cubs). Hamels and his 5/$100M contract then become a more economical alternative to Scherzer, and Hamels is 2 years younger and a somewhat better pitcher than Shields, perhaps making it worthwhile for a team to pay a premium in prospects to get the "upgrade" to Hamels.
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BAP - I agree, there's no point in dumping Brown. You'd have to look for a change-of-scenery guy. One of the Philly papers mentioned Jeremy Hellickson of the Rays, and that might be a sensible swap for both clubs.
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Happ for Oswalt, Worley for Revere, Drabek for Halladay, Carrasco and Knapp for Lee. Worley's the only one who's gone on to be anything Carrasco was absolutely lights-out (2.55 ERA in 134 IP) for Cleveland this year, particularly in the second half. After moving into the rotation, he posted a 2.67 ERA in 14 starts, striking out over a batter per inning with a 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
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