Philadelphia Phillies: Could the Phillies Move Jonathan Papelbon’s Contract?

May 30, 2013 by Matt Boczar  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies continue to hover near the .500 mark this season, but are a win-streak away from making a run at first place in the National League East.

While no one knows whether the Phillies will become buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, or even stand pat, the one thing that seems certain is that trade rumors will soon begin swirling regardless of the team’s win-loss record.

Cliff Lee’s name is likely to come up, but if he continues to pitch like one of the best pitchers in the National League—already tying his win total from last season—the Phillies could decide that even with his high salary it makes far more sense to keep Lee rather than trade him.

Trading Ryan Howard should be the Phillies top priority, according to David Murphy on Philly.com.  But with more than $100 million owed to him from 2013 to 2017, and with a nagging knee injury, it seems even more unlikely that a team would make an offer for Howard.

Chase Utley and Michael Young are currently set to become free agents after this season—meaning the Phillies would not see any long-term cost savings by trading them. Cole Hamels signed a $144 million extension last season—meaning the Phillies likely have no intentions of trading him. 

But what about Jonathan Papelbon?

At first glance, it’s difficult to see a team willing to potentially pay $39 million over the next three years, plus what he is still owed this season, to a closer.  However, Papelbon has continued to pitch like one of the best closers in baseball this season.

Papelbon has now struck out 17 batters while walking just three in 20.2 innings and has given up three earned runs.  He also currently has 11 saves, which ranks seventh in the NL, and a 1.31 ERA.

The 32-year-old right-hander made a bit of news this week when he spoke about potentially returning to the Boston Red Sox.  In an article by Rob Bradford on WEEI.com, Papelbon was quoted as saying:

Yeah, I could see myself in Boston, he told WEEI.com. I could see myself pitching in New York. You know me. I’ve always been the kind of guy who…I don’t really just settle, or accept things. Whatever happens in my future is going to happen. I’m not blind to that fact.

The Red Sox have spent approximately $22.79 million in deals involving potential closers to replace Papelbon since he signed with the Phillies, as Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe wrote.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe also wrote an article that contains a quote from a National League scout who said that a return to Boston for Papelbon isn’t far-fetched.

For the Phillies, Papelbon now has 49 saves in less than two full seasons and one All-Star appearance. 

But $39 million, which includes a yearly salary of $13 million now, is a high price to pay any closer. $13 million a year for a player who, at most, will have three to four outings per week, is a steep price. 

Considering the Phillies must win with more consistency for Papelbon to have save opportunities in the first place, saving money at the closer position and working on improving the team’s lineup could make more sense.

If the Phillies are looking to move a contract that will save them money in future seasons, Papelbon’s could be one they look to deal.  The hard part would be finding a team willing to take on such a contract.

As Bradford’s article noted, Papelbon can block trades to eight teams and the Red Sox may be one of those teams.  This means that the Red Sox, or any team on his no-trade list, could have to pay more for him to waive his no-trade clause.  Although this could make a trade more difficult, it doesn’t mean that it cannot take place.

Jim Salisbury on CSNPhilly.com wrote in early May that the Detroit Tigers could be a team interested in Papelbon.  But with Jose Valverde back and Bruce Rondon still having plenty of time to improve, would the Tigers be interested in taking on Papelbon’s contract for possibly three more years?

Furthermore, with Mike Adams battling injuries and inconsistency plaguing the rest of the bullpen, the Phillies could see a huge drop-off at the closer position. But if saving money in the ninth inning can lead to improved production in a lineup for a full nine-inning game, 162 times a season, the drop-off in talent can be made up in other areas. 

It will likely take a team with a high payroll to be willing to make an offer for Papelbon, and even then the Phillies may have to throw in additional cash to complete any deal.  But if the Phillies continue to hover near the .500 mark, trading a high-priced closer could become their best option, if at all possible.

Papelbon has been outstanding for the Phillies, but the team can only fully utilize his talents if their offense is able to put him in a save situation.  If those instances become rare, paying $13 million for another few years to a pitcher who only appears a few times each week may become a situation that is too pricey.

It won’t be easy, but if the Phillies can move Papelbon’s contract, it could become the best long-term cost saving option.

 

*All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Grades for Every Player in May

May 29, 2013 by Alec Snyder  
Filed under Fan News

It hasn't been the easiest of seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans alike to endure. At times when it's seemed that they're ready to climb over the hill that blocks their way, the Phillies have often lost and have plummeted further below .500.

In the month of May, the Phillies have gone 13-12, close to .500 like their season on the whole. However, not all Phillies players can say the same—some have been excellent, while others have faltered. While the Phillies are roughly a third through the season, there's still time to correct their errors, albeit not much.

In the meantime, here's a list of grades for each Phillies player during the month of May, sorted by grade.

Stats available at baseball-reference.com and as of May 29.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

2013 MLB Draft: Latest Expert Predictions for Philadelphia Phillies’ 1st Pick

May 28, 2013 by PHIL KEIDEL  
Filed under Fan News

After years of being "one player away," the Philadelphia Phillies are now much further than that from contending for a championship.

Since the 2008 World Series, each successive playoff failure has left Phillies fans with the feeling that if the Phillies only had one more difference-maker, they would have won another title.

In 2009, the Phillies returned to the World Series where they had 37-year-old Pedro Martinez start (and lose) two games, including the Series clincher against the New York Yankees. They were clearly a pitcher short.

In 2010, the Phillies wheezed out in the National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants. The pitching was much better, but the Phillies hit .216 as a team. That team was definitely a hitter (or three) short.

In 2011, Hunter Pence was brought in at the deadline to address Philadelphia's offensive woes. It was not enough, though, as the Phillies were shut out in a home elimination game by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Then in 2012, everybody got hurt.

This season, the Phillies appear to be on a slow boat to nowhere. Unlike past seasons, there is no credible way to suggest that the team is "one player away" from getting back to the top of the mountain.

The Phillies have the 16th pick in the upcoming 2013 Major League Baseball Draft. Who might the Phillies grab?

Bleacher Report's Mike Rosenbaum and Adam Wells recently posted a dual/dueling mock draft. Rosenbaum had the Phillies taking high school shortstop J.P. Crawford. Wells went with junior college shortstop Tim Anderson at No. 16.

ESPN.com's Keith Law posted his mock draft that had the Phillies taking Crawford. That pick was co-signed (indirectly) by John Sickels of minorleagueball.com

Law also linked the Phillies to being interested in right-handed high school pitcher Devin Williams, high school shortstop Travis Demeritte and the aforementioned Anderson.

Chris Crawford's most recent mock for MLB.com has the Phillies taking left-handed hitting high school first baseman Dominic Smith. Bleacher Report's Rosenbaum had Smith ranked 16th in his recent top 100 pre-draft rankings.

SI.com's Dave Perkin likes towering high school lefty Trey Ball as the Phillies "will need to rebuild" their "once vaunted starting staff."

The fact that so many experts have the Phillies drafting a shortstop or a pitcher reflects the franchise's reality.

While the Phillies have those positions covered now, they are manned by aging, expensive stars who probably will not be playing for the Phillies beyond 2016 when these prospects figure to be ready for the major league level.

Check back with Bleacher Report regularly for the latest 2013 MLB draft updates.

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Stock Up, Stock Down for Philadelphia Phillies’ Top 10 Prospects for Week 8

May 27, 2013 by Matt Boczar  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies turned to their Triple-A affiliate four times this past week for major league replacements.  However, none of the players selected are currently ranked as top 10 prospects.

Was this because the current top prospects are progressing nicely but just need more seasoning, or because a lack of early season success is causing them to fall short of expectations?

A player such as Darin Ruf could have earned a promotion once Chase Utley was placed on the disabled list, especially with a DH needed for the next two games.  Instead, a slump led to the Phillies eventually promoting Michael Martinez.

Additionally, when Roy Halladay’s spot in the rotation came up, it was Tyler Cloyd who was promoted again rather than Adam Morgan or Ethan Martin.

All of these players have plenty of time to continue improving and reach the major leagues, possibly at some point this season.  But they have also seen at least one, if not two or three, opportunities come and go for a major league call-up.

Meanwhile, how did the rest of the Phillies top 10 prospects, according to Baseball America, fare this past week?

Let’s take a look at whose stock is up and whose is down following Week 8.

 

*All statistics courtesy of MiLB.com unless otherwise noted.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

2013 MLB Draft: 8 Position Players Philadelphia Phillies Should Target

May 24, 2013 by Marilee Gallagher  
Filed under Fan News

For the Philadelphia Phillies and all teams around baseball, the MLB amateur player draft, which takes place during the first week of June, is a chance for the team to really bolster what, in recent years, has been a barren and nearly decimated farm system.

The strength of the Phillies' farm system comes in the form of pitching, particularly left-handed pitching. In fact, since 2002, the Phillies have spent four of their six first-round picks on pitching, three of which, including Cy Young finalist Cole Hamels and minor league standout Jesse Biddle, were left-handers.

But while the pitching has been developed pretty well, many other areas, most notably at the corner outfield, have been neglected and sorely underdeveloped.

And for that reason, the Phillies should make the most of their four draft picks in the top 100 and their 16th overall pick, the highest since the team drafted Hamels in 2002.

While this draft has been considered a pitching-heavy one, there are plenty of good corner outfielders, as well as other positions, that are there to be had. There are also some standouts who might fall through the cracks and some guys with marginal talent who could end up being draft steals when all is said and done.

There are spaces throughout the minor league organization that need to be filled, and the Phillies will certainly have a group of talented guys to choose from.

So, in no particular order, here are eight position players the Phillies should consider drafting with some of their early picks.

  

All prospect rankings courtesy of Baseball America's Top 250 and MLB's 2013 Top 100 Draft Watch.
Scouting Grades courtesy of Jonathan Mayo (MLB's 2013 Top 100 Draft Watch).

 

Statistics courtesy of: Samford Baseball, Mississippi State Baseball, Stanford University Baseball, Fresno State Baseball

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Chase Utley Injury: Updates on Phillies Star’s Oblique

May 23, 2013 by Ethan Grant  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has caught the injury bug again. 

Utley is heading to the 15-day disabled list with what the team is calling a "very mild" Grade 1 oblique strain, according to a report from Mike Axisa of CBS Sports. Philadelphia expects Utley to return to the lineup within the next two to four weeks. 

The move is retroactive to May 21, and an MRI on Thursday did not reveal any further intercostal or ribcage damage. 

Utley's latest DL stint will mark the fourth time in the last four seasons that he's missed time during the regular season due to injury.

Philadelphia has not yet made a roster move to replace Utley on the 25-man list. Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen will likely get the bulk of the playing time at second base while Utley recovers from his latest trip to baseball's medical haven. 

A five-time All-Star, Utley was off to a good start to the 2013 campaign. Hitting .272 with seven home runs and 25 RBI in 44 games this year, Utley isn't exactly lighting the world on fire but is a steady contributor to Charlie Manuel's lineup and a proven veteran presence.

It looks like Utley's trip to the DL is nothing more than a precaution for the Phillies, who were 5.5 games out of first place behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East heading into Thursday night's action. When it comes to Utley's status, though, Phillies fans have learned to take nothing for granted when he is forced to miss time via injury. 

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Phillies 2013 Mock Draft: Projecting Their Top 5 First-Round Targets

May 22, 2013 by Alec Snyder  
Filed under Fan News

With the 2013 MLB Draft right around the corner, the Philadelphia Phillies have likely narrowed their choices as to who they want to select with the 16th pick, their highest in the draft since 2002 when they drafted Cole Hamels with the 17th pick.

The Phillies' top-16 pick is a result of a 2012 season in which they played .500 baseball, ending with an 81-81 record. While it wasn't a losing record, it was the first time the Phillies had not finished a season with a winning record since 2002 when they ended at 80-81.

The Phillies' farm system is pretty bare across the board as a result of the many high-profile trades Ruben Amaro, Jr. has made in his time as Phillies GM. Nevertheless, some areas of the farm have more depth than others, so while the Phillies may disagree with my philosophy and select someone based upon talent alone, positional play will impact this list.

With a farm system thin of outfielders and first basemen, players at those positions will be the primary focus of this slideshow. So without further ado, here's a look at the top five players the Phillies will look to take with their first draft pick on June 6.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: Mismanagement Has Rendered the Club Insignificant

May 21, 2013 by Pete Dymeck  
Filed under Fan News

Such a Herculean task it is to dissect the Philadelphia Phillies nowadays. 

Nearly two months into the season, the Phillies continue to hug a sub-.500 record. Meanwhile, the front office continues to debate on whether or not their supposed plan is being implemented appropriately. 

Whatever plan general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has for this club is not working. Simply put, he is at the forefront of the blame while skipper Charlie Manuel should be ousted for his debilitated decision-making.

A perfect example of the adverse decision-making on behalf of the Phillies skipper can be seen Tuesday night, when the Fightins square off against the Miami Marlins.

In 13 innings versus the Phils, Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez has yet to allow a run scored while giving up just three hits. Of those three hits Fernandez has permitted, two came off the bat of the switch-hitting utility man Freddy Galvis

Despite the small sample size, it is evident that Galvis has had the most success any Phillie has had against Fernandez to date. However, he will be on the bench in this affair.

Instead, outfielder Delmon Young will get the nod.

Young is baseball's version of Napoleon Dynamite when it comes to defense. He is also struggling to stay above the Mendoza Line, batting-wise. 

It's not like Amaro Jr. and Manuel have to be committed to Young. After all, Young is on a one-year contract worth a thrifty $750,000. 

So what gives? 

At the end of the day, the Phillies' decision to sit Galvis against Fernandez in favor of D. Young is representative of the porous decision-making the club has made over the course of the last two seasons.

Naysayer's with pie-in-the-sky attitudes will point out that the Phillies are a good series or two away from overtaking first place in the National League East.

Never mind their record against sub-.500 clubs as opposed to clubs with winning records.

Never mind the fact they have yet to take on the Washington Nationals.

Let's get one thing clear: The Phillies are in decline. Anybody who says otherwise is likely to still believe in the Tooth Fairy.

The window of opportunity to repeat the feat from 2008 closed in 2011. The door slammed shut when the Phillies gave up a 2-1 series lead over the St. Louis CardinalsThe nails were hammered in the coffin when the Phillies surged late last year only to have their postseason hopes dashed in a series sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros.

In-game mismanagement by Manuel coupled with questionable personnel decisions from Amaro Jr. have rendered the Phillies insignificant. 

The sad reality is that the organization continues to string its fanbase along in similar fashion to the Philadelphia 76ers. After trading for center Andrew Bynum (and his two bad knees), Sixers ownership led fans down a path, all season long, to think that Bynum could play at some point.

As everyone knows, Bynum never debuted. 

The Phillies will not make the playoffs, either.

The point is that the Phillies organization has made terrible decision after terrible decision. Sure, hindsight is always 20/20. Unfortunately, some of the moves the Phillies have made were called into question at the time they occurred.

For instance, the decision to trade Vance Worley and prospect Trevor May to Minnesota has turned out to be atrocious. Sure, Worley has been horrible for the Twins, but nobody could have forecast that at the time. So long as May develops into a serviceable No. 4 or 5 pitcher in the majors, the Twins soundly defeated the Phillies in this trade.

One has to wonder: Whose bright idea was it to trade arms for Major League Baseball's leader in ground-ball rate?

Regardless, the doom and gloom in South Philly is real. Fans oblivious to the mismanagement of this club can continue to think the Phillies have a shot to contend. Those who understand reality will just sit back, elbows crossed, and watch everything unfold for the worst.

Prior to the start of the season, many with realistic expectations believed the Phillies were an above-.500 club with a decent chance at cracking the postseason, even in the NL East.

Those expectations have now been altered. More likely than not, one can expect the Phillies to finish with a losing record for the first time since 2002. That was the year when Nelly's "Hot in Herre" could be heard on every radio station in America, George W. Bush was still in his first term as president and the United States had not yet invaded Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

As Charlie Chapman once said: "In the end, everything is a gag." Words couldn't speak truer for the current state of the Phillies.

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Philadelphia Phillies: As Ryan Howard’s Fade Continues, Darin Ruf Must Play Now

May 20, 2013 by PHIL KEIDEL  
Filed under Fan News

Ryan Howard is day-to-day with inflammation in his left knee, per Ryan Lawrence of Philadelphia's Daily News.

That isn't all. The magnetic resonance imaging test of Howard's knee identified "changes" in his meniscus.

Since my training is in law and not medicine, maybe it would be best to hear it from Phillies' trainer Scott Sheridan: "He’s got some changes in his meniscus and his knee. And he’s also got some inflammation in the knee that concerns us."

Maybe Howard will be back in a few days. Maybe he will need a disabled list stint.

Either way, it does not really matter. Ryan Howard is a player with egregiously diminishing skills who now cannot much stay on the field.

And Howard's at-bats against decent left-handed pitching are the stuff of nightmares. As of this writing, Howard's on-base percentage against lefties is .213.

At this point in his career, Howard would be a solid platoon player. And that's about it.

If the Phillies could commit to playing Howard only against right-handed pitching, the production the Phillies would get from a half season from Howard and the rest from the likes of John Mayberry Jr. and Michael Young might equate to the output of a decent full-time first baseman.

Or maybe Darin Ruf should be splitting time with Howard at first base. More on Ruf in a minute.

It all sounds crazy, of course, because of Howard's contract.

The common refrain any time the idea of sitting Howard crops up is that the Phillies owe Howard too much money.

Here's the thing, though: One thing should have nothing to do with the other where that issue is concerned.

Howard is going to get the whole of his $20 million this year and $25 million in each of the next three seasons no matter what his playing status is.

Playing Howard only because of the money he is making, then, is quite possibly sacrificing enhanced chances to win future games because of a past blunder.

Not only does that decision-making run counter to the basic ethic of professional sports, which is to win above all else, but it sends the absolute wrong message to the other 24 guys on the team who might have a better chance to win if Howard sits against left-handed pitching.

Because Howard got off to a decent start in 2013, and because Darin Ruf's season began poorly at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Ruf fell off most Phillies fans' radar after he was the darling of spring training.

And it is not like Ruf is now the second coming of Miguel Cabrera at Lehigh Valley now.

But Ruf's batting average is up to .267, and he has hit five home runs in 40 games.

In limited major league action last season, Ruf hit three home runs in 12 games.

Maybe Ruf cannot hit right-handed pitching well enough to keep a job at the major league level. That's okay, because Howard can still do that just fine.

Ruf can almost certainly hit left-handed pitching at a better clip than .196.

If the Phillies are serious about trying to steal a playoff spot this season, the first order of business must be the beginning of cutting their losses with Ryan Howard.

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Stock Up, Stock Down for Philadelphia Phillies’ Top 10 Prospects, Week 7

May 20, 2013 by Matt Boczar  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies top pitching prospects saw their immediate futures take an interesting turn this past week when the team signed Carlos Zambrano to a minor league contract.

With Roy Halladay and John Lannan on the disabled list, pitchers such as Adam Morgan, Tyler Cloyd and Ethan Martin seemed like the top options for filling a rotation spot.

However, after Cloyd’s upcoming start, it could be Zambrano who gets the next chance to fill a rotation spot. This would keep Morgan and Martin in Triple-A to work on recent struggles, as they try and achieve positive results with more consistency.

But what about the chances for the Phillies other top-10 prospects, according to Baseball America, of reaching the major leagues soon?

Let’s take a look at which players’ stock is up and which of them are down following Week 7.

 

*All statistics courtesy of MiLB.com unless otherwise noted.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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