This week, you have seen Eric, Pat, and Corey unveil their offseason plans for the Phillies, which have included Nick Swisher, Peter Bourjos, Denard Span, and others. I’m a little bit of a Wild Card compared to the rest of the gang – somewhere in between “Vice President Biden with a live microphone” and “Jeffrey Loria with a baseball franchise” Wild Card. I’m the guy who told Phillies fans to “Get Excited About Chad Qualls” and wrote thousands of words about the possible contributions of guys like Joel Pineiro, Scott Podsednik, and David Purcey. While I got some wrong, I did successfully nab Juan Pierre as not only a starter but a big time contributor and nailed a few roster moves. Being the Wild Card doesn’t mean you have to be the Joker all of the time and it has helped me view the Phils a little differently.
Keeping with the theme, Wild Card should be the name of the game for this team. As is, this team, as constructed, can compete for and win the first or second Wild Card with a dash of health and luck. These additions, with health and realistic luck expectations, should push them to the NL East crown again.
Many fans know that LoMo is one of the most entertaining and outspoken players on Twitter. When Morrison was called up in 2010, he hit, and hit, and didn’t stop hitting. In his first full season in 2011, his plate discipline decreased but his power increased.His OBP dipped 60 points while slugging quietly increased 21 points. Morrison played only 93 games last year, fighting injuries, and presents a perfect buy-low opportunity for the house-cleaning Marlins. Morrison has four more years of team control, becoming arbitration eligible for the first time in 2014, making his services even more desirable.
Morrison is projected to have a bounce-back type year by Bill James (23 HR, .256/.347/.460) and I believe he will as well. Miami was a particularly unstable place to play last season and a focused, but fun locker room may help the soon-to-be 25 year old outfielder remain on track. Perhaps offering the Marlins a young reliever or two who are still cost controllable, preferably Josh Lindblom, would get the deal done. Including a player like Lindblom, who similarly has four more years of team control, may sweeten the pot enough for the Marlins to bite.
My original plan for filling an outfield spot was Torii Hunter, but he was snatched up by the Tigers on Wednesday.
Infield: Sign Jeff Keppinger (Two years, $8 million)
Keppinger was an absolute steal for the Rays in 2012 for one year, $1.5 million. Keppinger’s very good .325/.367/.439 line in 2012 was comparable to his numbers in 2007 in 276 PA and 2010 in 418 PA. Phils fans shouldn’t expect that should they sign Keppinger that he will be that fantastic much like they shouldn’t expect the numbers Kevin Frandsen put up in 2012 to translate fully into 2013. However, they can expect something closer to Keppinger’s career lines at worst: .288/.337/.396. Keppinger, over his career, been slightly above average defensively at third base and in the outfield but is not a viable defensive option at second or short over the long term. He is, however, just close enough to average to fake it there.
Bullpen: Sign Jeremy Affeldt None
Since Affeldt re-signed for three years, $18 million with the Giants, I really see no difference makers available at a price that is digestible for the Phillies. Is the bullpen an area of need for the Phillies? Absolutely. Do they have pieces that could develop into solutions? Absolutely. Will it all come together next year? Probably not.
There is only one reliever in the MLB Trade Rumors Top 25 Free Agent list, but I don’t think, he, Rafael Soriano is a good fit price or year-wise with the Phillies. Carlos Villanueva would be a nice fit as a long man, but, as the Top 25 points out, Villanueva is seeking a rotation spot. If you held a gun to my head and told me to pick a reliever, I would hope the Phillies sign Jason Grilli who had a bit of a renaissance season in 2012 and could be the veteran set-up man the Phillies are looking for. But honestly, I would rather let Phillippe Aumont cut his teeth as the set-up man in 2013.
Sign Josh Hamilton (Four years, triggered option for year five, average annual value: $26 million per year)
It wouldn’t be a Phillies off-season without a big splash. The line-up is lefty-heavy, but you know what? One of them (Ryan Howard) is particularly unreliable at this point in his career and the other (Chase Utley) is a perfect number 2 hitter for this line-up.
Here’s why Hamilton fits:
- The Phillies need an outfielder – Hamilton is an outfielder
- The Phillies need an impact signing to keep pace with fan expectations – Hamilton is an impact signing
Listen, I’m not advocating the signing of Hamilton for the sake of signing an impact player. Hamilton is intriguing on so many levels other than contribution but contribution, far and away, is the biggest factor. So long as Charlie Manuel is in charge, Hamilton fits directly into the Phils’ game plan: get extra base hits. Hamilton was 10th in MLB in OPS and 4th among outfielders.
For the immediate future, Hamilton had a marginally better year in 2012 than 2011 (4.4 v. 4.1 fWAR) and bounced back from a down year in 2011 with a career high in home runs (43) and his second-highest wOBA (.387). Hamilton is among the most-feared hitters in the Majors and the fact that only 37.6% of the pitches he has seen are strikes demonstrate that pitchers are avoiding him. Hamilton has continued to swing at more pitches, particularly more outside of the zone (a career high 45.5% last year), so even a dash more patience will help him draw more walks and see better pitches to hit.
The transition from the Ballpark at Arlington to Citizen’s Bank Park won’t be seamless or flawless but the parks play relatively equal in terms of power, so Hamilton’s Ruthian power will not likely be lost due to park factors. Take, for example, their positions on the home run probability park factors (Arlington – 7th, CBP – 11th). Arlington is slightly more favorable for doubles (5th v. 15th for CBP) but think about Hamilton’s power: he led all of baseball in No Doubt About It home runs, with 15 of his 43 HRs in 2012 being truly tape-measure shots.
The question becomes: how will Hamilton age? There are two schools of thought: the more popular theory is that because of Hamilton’s substance abuse history, Hamilton may break down quicker. There is the second, less-popular theory that Hamilton will age more gracefully because he had time away from the field. Hamilton has had between 7-9 steals in the last five years and has added 3.6 runs per year with his legs for the Rangers which adds to his value but may be something that slowly moves away from Hamilton as a plus.
Hamilton was worth $19.6 million according to FanGraphs in 2012 and it would likely take an overpay to secure his services. I am OK with this – Hamilton is a relatable figure, the picture perfect imperfect human, who could symbolize Philadelphia’s working class and their struggles. Hamilton’s signing would not come without cost, however: the Phillies would forfeit the 16th pick in this year’s draft and may be less likely to exercise Roy Halladay‘s 2014 option, which may or may not happen at this point regardless. However, if Hamilton can add 4 Wins, Halladay gives just a “better” set out outings in 2013 and is able to add even 1 Win to his 2012 totals, if Howard plays to a 1 Win first baseman (a net gain of 2), that in itself adds 7 wins, exactly enough to tie the second Wild Card Cardinals in 2012.
After adding these players and the Phillies payroll would be ~$176 million. Though the threshold is $178 million, 1/30th of player benefit costs are added to each team’s payroll, and that figure is generally around $10-11 million, meaning my Phillies would be around $8-9 million over the luxury tax. I fully expect to make up the luxury tax payment in Hamilton merchandise, including bobble heads, temporary tattoos, and figurines and LoMo merchandise featuring his Twitter handle.
Here is the roster after these moves are made:
SP: Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, Vance Worley
RP: Jonathan Papelbon, Aumont, Antonio Bastardo, Jeremy Horst, Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus, Tyler Cloyd
C: Carlos Ruiz, Erik Kratz
IF: Howard, Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Keppinger, Frandsen, Freddy Galvis
OF: Hamilton, Morrison, Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr., Darin Ruf,
Off roster: Laynce Nix (cut), Nate Schierholtz (non-tender), Lindblom (traded), Michael Schwimer (minors, first reliever up), B.J. Rosenberg (minors, second reliever/first long-man up), Mike Stutes (rehab, mid-season call-up)