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« Backup C watch: Phillies negotiating with Barajas? | Main | Barajas deal expected to be 1-year, $2.5M »

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Comments

Once teams like Texas, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee discover they don't have enough starting pitching, probably in spring, the Phillies can unload Lieber for bullpen help. Someone from their outfield surplus, possibly Rowand, could also be dealt if Werth proves himself ready, also for bullpen. At which point, Gillick and the Phillies will have orchestrated a very productive and positive offseason, with plenty of room to deal for an impact player at the deadline.

I'm sorry, but I dislike this Barajas signing very much. In fact, I hate it!

Maybe the Phillies know something we don't about Coste and Ruiz. I'll trust their judgement on this one.

Tony- I wish I shared your view, but I don't. I see this signing as a negative because I believe it will hinder the development of Ruiz as a starting MLB catcher. I have ZERO faith in Manuel's ability to use the better of the 3 catchers. We all know his "loyalty" to veterans...that's worked so well in the past hasn't it (Rhodes, Bell, Cormier)?

Ruiz basically had a couple good months so we have no idea how he will pan out.

Coste had a good year but can we really expect him to hit .320 again? Remember Kevin Stocker? He got called up in 93 and hit 324 and then never sniffed 300 again. Plus, it might be just me but Chris Coste probably has the single ugliest swing on the Phillies. Big looong stride, pretty much a guess hitter, I hope I'm wrong but it's just my opinion.

Barajas stinks, I'll admit that, but I think the competition will make all of them better. If not, we can just go with whoever is the hottest.

Carson, Cholly's loyalty to veterans will work in reverse with his catchers. He'll play newbie Barajas the most and give some crumbs time to Ruiz/Coste. Coste lead the team in BA, yet he'll wind up in Cholly's scrapheap. With players now playing into their 40s, Coste is a young buck. I just don't understand all of this. Maybe they don't have faith in Ruiz and all of this "Ruiz will be our starter next year" stuff was just talk for the foolish fans. Coste has paid his dues, why is he being treated so poorly?

With the Phillies obviously going out to get another catcher and for what they paid for Barajas, they should of just resigned Lieberthal.... He knows the staff and was showing going offensive #s once he was finally healthy...

I feel for Coste. The guy gets hosed last year with the signing of Fasano, and now this. Maybe they're thinking of packaging him later on?

A shame.

Lake Fred- I was trying to say the Manuel would play Barajas the majority of the time and leave Ruiz and Coste picking splinters.

I do not expect Coste to hit .320 again, but I do expect him to still hit better than Barajas. 3 catchers on the roster now...just don't like it. Remember we could have used Coste at 3rd a lot last season, but Manuel failed to play him 1 inning there. So why do we expect Charlie to change now...the man is a dumbass.

Lake Fred,

Players are playing into their 40's now, but Catchers are a little different. A 30+ Catcher isn't a young buck. Those knees have some wear and tear.

I like Coste, but I have no reason to believe he'll repeat last year's performance. I would rather have seen the Phils bring back Estrada.

This situation isn't as bad for Ruiz as everyone is making it seem. Barajas caught just a little more than half the games last season for Texas. The manager and GM have said they have confidence in Ruiz, which is reflected by this one-year deal. Barajas also missed time late with a back ailment.

Barajas had a deal with Toronto, but it fell through. It was reportedly two-years, $6 million-ish.

for all the talk of "not having faith in chris coste", i think that, resigning Coste to a minor contract last year, bringing him up, and having him catch the majority of time last year gives some testament to the respect he has been given.

I suspect that there may be some type of issue between Ruiz and the pitchers.

I think it's hard to predict what this deal means until we see what the price tag is. if Barajas is going to pull down something in the $3-$4M range like he did with Texas last year, I have a hard time believing that he'll be sitting on the bench very often.

in any case, to me this is just another perplexing move that fails to address the single biggest hole on our roster - the complete lack of a bullpen. (true, as Jason rightly points out, Lieber may have more value later on in the year. but if we're willing to shell out money on semi-redundant mediocre catchers and longshot outfielders, why not the same for desperately-needed middle relievers?)

What's upsetting me more is that I see a need for a left-handed hitter off the bench and plenty of bullpen help...c'mon!

AE- I agree, we're taking a risk on Werth. So why not take a risk with Riske, Hermanson, etc.

They also need to figure out how to get a left-handed outfielder. That's another situation that will likely be addressed this spring.

I just read that they might be looking at Roberson or Bourn to be the left-handed hitting outfielder. The fact that Roberson was actually referred to as a "hitting outfielder" is beyond me...I can't stand him!

Carson, where did you hear the Roberson/Bourn info? It would completely mystify me that they'd essentially give up on Coste, yet stick by Bourn/Roberson as their left handed OF options. I love the Coste feel-good story from last year, but history tells us that it was a flash in the pan kind of thing. A return to the mean is due, meaning subpar stats as a regular. There is a reason why he didn't seen MLB time until later in his career. Will Barajas be any better than Coste's "back-to-earth" season? Only time will tell. Not to mention, the Phillies in general have always needed plenty of backup catchers.

As a backup catcher, Barajas is okay. His OBP flat out sucks, as noted, but his defense is evidently okay and he can punish mistakes.

Ruiz, though, offers a lot more and could be one of the better hitting Cs in the league. I want to see him start 120 games at least, with Barajas getting the bulk of the rest. I'm not going to blame the Phils for not trusting Coste's magic to return for an encore: he's useful, but he won't hit .330 again. Given that Werth is also semi-viable at catcher, Manuel (or maybe Jimy Williams, whom I think was hired to do the in-game machinations) will have a lot of options.

The more I think about the Werth signing, the more I like it. Here's a guy who's versatile, has a great batting eye (check out the walk rates), showed power potential, is youngish (27) and cheap. I still expect a deal that sends Rowand or Victorino out of town; adding a lefty bat to platoon with Werth could give the Phils production that approximates what Dellucci did.

I would have done a trackback to this from the post on my site, but you don't have that turned on so here's what I posted on my Rangers site:

In a bit of good news for the Rangers, it appears Rod Barajas has signed a one year deal with the Phillies.

This is a good move for the Phillies, as they have some stud kid catchers, but they're not mature enough to handle the full time job. So a one year is good for the Phillies in that regard, as Carlos Ruiz and a kid with the last name of Jaramillo are apprently the (somewhat near) future.

This is a good move for the Rangers, as it puts to rest that rumour from a few days back that the Rangers were thinking of brining him back. While I liked Rod when he was here (my fav moment was that home run to beat the Yankees at home - I was there), I felt it was time to part. Laird deserves the job, and we don't need him back as a backup, nor do I think he'd want that.

This is a bad move for Rod Barajas, as he... well... He probably screwed himself with the deal in Toronto, that was probably a better deal in terms of years and stature, I would think. As much of a Phillies fan as I am, I would think it would have been better for Rod in Toronto. Of course, I'm just a guy at a keyboard in Garland Texas, I'm not the actual player. :)

I'm perplexed at the mindset on this thread about Coste. Everyone thinks he'll do worse than last year, yet, we're expected to believe that Eaton will win a lot of games, that Moyer will win a lot of games, and maybe, that Barajas will hit north of .250. What's Coste expected to hit...240??!! Using that logic, we can surely expect Utley, Howard and Rollins to come back to earth with their numbers, too. While we're at it, let's expect that Burrell continues to get worse. I guess we can call it the Abreu Effect.

Gillick expects us to believe that Helms is some kind of hitter; that Bourn/Roberson will hit great. Now it looks like we'll have three times Nunez in the regular lineup with Helms, Barajas and Bourn/Roberson hogging three spots in the lineup while Coste sits on the pines. Bah! Humbug!

underwhelming. i'm just glad it's only for one year. this will look better to me if we trade ruiz for some value becuase PG decided jaramillo is the 08 catcher anyway. until then, underwhelming.

Lake Fred,
As of right not Bourn/Roberson will be a back-up OF so they will not have a regular lineup spot. Also, seeing how Manuel loved platooning Bell and Nunez at the beginning of last year I assume the same will be true with the three catchers. Manuel will probably feel out in ST who is most comfortable against right-handers and left-handers respectively and platoon accordingly. I am not overly excited about the Barajas pickup but I am not angry about it. It does give the Phils some flexibility behind the plate and the ability to have 3 catchers and 3 third-basemen with Coste able to fill in at the hot corner. Despite how everyone else feels here, I don't think Manuel is stupid enough to NOT ride the hot hand behind the plate. I am sure that if Ruiz is tearing the cover off the ball he will see 5-6 days of catching a week. The same goes for Coste and Barajas.

Drew I like your optimism, but I'm sorry to inform you...Charlie Manuel is in fact incredibly stupid.

Drew, I am not convinced that Coste will see any playing time at 3B, based on Cholly's 2006 performance giving Coste zero innings at anything other than catcher. The team wanted Ruiz at first string and I guess Barajas is string 1-A with Coste third string.

I was being partially facetious about Bourn/Roberson being the RF part of the outfield, but with Cholly, who knows? We suffered through months of Nunez as a starter. Not once dis Coste spell Nunez.

Carson aka DQ, your last post cracked me up.

That's why I'm here Lake Fred- for entertainment and somewhat insightful commenting.

I disagree that the Phils have had a good offseason so far. The one area they truly did upgrade was starting pitching. Garcia is clearly up upgrade but I am not crazy about the Eaton signing. Helms upgrades 3B offensively (anyone is an upgrade over Nunez) but I am not sure about his defensive.

As for the other moves, I am less than thrilled. Werth is still damaged goods. Amaro said his wrist is only 75% a year after his surgery. Phils most hope he has a miraculous recovery in 3 months. Barajas is a decent defensive catcher but his offensive stinks. Playing Barajas alot in April will not help this club get out to a quick start.

There are some major holes on this team. Gillick did nothing to improve the sorry state of this bullpen. In fact, it might even be worse than last year (hard to fathom). If Gordon goes down, this club is in serious trouble. As for the bench, poor Charlie won't have a decent PH option in the 8th or 9th inning again this year to start the season.

I just don't see how this team is better than 85 wins at this point. Starting pitching is better but the bullpen is going to be atrocious. Kind of a wash there. Offensively, they probably fall back to the pack a bit. Just don't see Howard and Rollins being able to repeat their performances from last year. Plus, RF of Victorino-Conine is going to be pretty poor offensively. No power and not much average.

Have no fear MG- I heard we're considering Hideki "Fat Toad" Irabu for a bullpen vacancy and the Ageless Wonder Jesse Orosco as lefty specialist.

Picky crowd. I don't know what else could be reasonably expected from Gillick. He got a third baseman, talented OF and possibly catcher under market value. He got two starters, which was supposed to be impossible at this park. He traded little to get Garcia.

They're also sitting on six starters in a market starved for pitching. They have an outfield surplus, and they still have money.

They need bullpen, and will address it before the season, probably with better answers than Borowski and Weathers. As for PH ... relax about it. Just relax.

MG, good insightful post. I'm getting confused about the outfield. I thought Vic was in CF. Where's Werth play? Hey Abbot! Who's on first?

Jason, I'm sorry I'm giving the wrong impression of this offseason thus far. I am happy with the Helms and Garcia addition. Eaton is ok, and I think it has the chance to be a good deal. Werth is worth the risk.

I just want some bullpen help and I do dislike this Barajas deal.

Jason, I'll try deep breathing and think happy thoughts...

Breathe in. Hold breath. Think Coste will get to play. Breathe out.

Breathe in. Hold breath. Think Garcia will win a lot of games. Breathe out.

Breathe in. Hold breath. Think Burrell's foot will heal. Breathe out.

Breathe in. Hold breath. Think Cole Hamels is the real deal. Breathe out.

Now I feel better.

Lake Fred- if that makes you feel better you must have been "breathing in and out" aka inhale/exhale something good, possibly from Rich Dubee.

i held off posting until i thought a little clearer, but this signing sucks. i don't get it. they have 2 catchers and just signed an OF who could be an emergency catcher. so what do they do, they go get ANOTHER right-handed hitting catcher who can't hit compared to the others and agree to pay him most likely more than the other 3 COMBINED. its insurance against ruiz tanking? his tanking would be roughly the .282 career OBP that this guy has. i say ugh to this deal.

MG -

Improving the starting rotation, immediately improves the bullpen. You don't need to bail out 2/5ths of the rotation every time they pitch this year, simply because the rotation doesnt have Madson and Floyd in it.

As for late inning PH. I'd have to say that Coste is going to be seeing a lot of late inning pinch hitting.

Now we need a lefty pinch hitter. Hopefullly more than a sausage beater.

This off season aint done yet, and it looks to be one of the best offseasons, at least on paper, that I remember as a phillies fan.

Jason - thanks for calming the troops, it is still early and the fishing was slim & expensive this off-season.

We now have some more depth without breaking the bank, especially when Myers, Ultey, & Howard's contracts are under consideration by Gillick.

Regarding the catching situation, it is one of the most important positions on the field and we are not privy to the behind-the-scene ongoings regarding a pitcher's confidence or comfort level in calling a game, setting up hitters, communicating with the rest of the field, etc.

I like Coste alot but he is very unorthodox & still somewhat unproven and Ruiz is raw but full of potential. To have a proven ML'r back there makes sense and if things go well they could potentially trade him along the way if needed.

We should be more competitive than last year, especially in the rotation and it is hard for any team to address all it's weaknesses.

Regarding the catching situation, it is one of the most important positions on the field and we are not privy to the behind-the-scene ongoings regarding a pitcher's confidence or comfort level in calling a game, setting up hitters, communicating with the rest of the field, etc.

Well stated, Bix.

I agree with Jason that Gillick's offseason has been very good so far, although incomplete.

My only scare is that Coste doesn't get a real shot at getting regular starts during the season. If he comes out of ST batting .200 or something, then fine, last year was an abberation I'll let it go. But if he lights it up at .400+ clip again and doesn't get a regular start out of it, I'll be piping mad.

What does this mean for the upcoming tear-jerking feel-good-movie-of-the-year, "Just Give Me One Shot: The Chris Coste Story"? Man I was looking forward to that, after all we heard last year about studio execs and agents all wanting a piece of Coste.

I'm really trying not to be overly critical, but I completely disagree that this offseason has been "very good."

I have no problem with the Garcia acquisition; given the money and prospects changing hands this year, we probably got off easy. but Eaton has been an injury-prone, below-average pitcher for his entire career, so I don't see four years of him as a particularly great acquisition.

Helms is certainly an upgrade from Nunez, but that bar is set awfully low. Jason, you seem to be very high on Werth, but he would have to have a career season to match Dellucci's production last year.

I can't complain about the prices Gillick is paying. he does seem to be getting good deals, even though we don't know what he's paying Barajas. but ultimately you get what you pay for, and all the salary flexibility we supposedly had this offseason doesn't look like it's bought us all that much.

I have to agree with MG that this still looks like an 85 win team. considering the complete lack of a bullpen and the very realistic possibility of a dropoff in offensive production, even that might end up being optimistic.

ae, Jason qualified his statement to include the work still needed to be done. This included more bullpen help through trades and another left-handed OF bat. This makes your last line sound pretty ridiculous.

Will, writing that the offseason is both "very good" and "incomplete" (as you did) is also pretty ridiculous. it's one or the other.

jason: You're the second person on here to say the Phillies have an outfield surplus. I assume you mean bodies, not talent. Either that, or your view of a starting OF of Burrell/Rowand/Werth-Victorino with Conine as #5 is radically different than mine.

The bottom line is that the Phils now have three catchers who, while not qualifying as starters, are also a notch above being strictly 'backups'. Neither Barajas, Ruiz, or Coste likely will have a defined status or role going into the season; whoever plays the best, will start the most.

I still have to interpret the signing as evidence that despite what they say about giving Ruiz the shot, that they do not believe in him, or that they intend to trade him. 'Insurance' to me would have meant a guy you keep at Ottawa, not on the big-league roster. I would not be the least bit surprised if Ruiz was dealt. The signing of Barajas would appear to make very little sense otherwise.

How in the world can someone write "We should be more competitive than last year." I mean I know there are house shills on here, but, hey, the offseason is barely half over and there are tons of unaswered questions.

PG needs 2 more bullpen arms and a lefty OF. Hopefully some combination of Lieber, OF crap and maybe Coste or Ruiz can get what they need. I think it's too early to judge PG's offseason. So far, it looks good, but he's got more holes to fill. And why does everyone assume Werth is going to suddenly bounce back and be a stud? I hope he does, but there is zero evidence to assume that.

Joe: A rotation with pitchers who go deep into ballgames helps a bullpen. Eaton is near the bottom of the NL in innings per start among pitchers who have averaged at least 20 starts per season since 2000. I think PG would be first to say he doesn't want to start the season with the bullpen as it is now.

unrelated to the hotstove, but an interesting story on espn about former phillies scout tony lucadello: http://tinyurl.com/ybcafj

Jason, you seem to be very high on Werth.

He's okay; I don't have a beef with the addition. He's an upgrade over Roberson. As for Barajas, not impressed with his offense, but I understand why they did it.

Which moves did Gillick miss? Everybody squawks, but nobody says. I think Iwamura would have been a nice move. Other than that, which moves did he miss? Carlos Lee? Soriano? Embree? Weathers? Dotel? Borowski? He failed his physical. Zito and Schmidt, because they wanted to come here so badly? Wolf?

Clout: Bodies. Teams will need speed, or a spare right-hander in ST. You know how it goes. That's a situation that can play in a lot of different ways between now and April. I agree with your outfield moto about Burrell/Victorino/Werth/Conine that you've been repeating.

I'm on board the "Victorino as 4th outfielder" crowd, and think he will play even less now that Werth has signed, if he's healthy.

RSB: Ruiz would be attractive to a number of developing teams, like Washington or Florida. I wouldn't rule it out, but my read is pretty simple. They don't think Coste is a catcher, so they signed Barajas. Scratch Coste's name off anything having to do with catching.

sh, if interested, there is an entire book which focuses on the life and work of Lucadello, called 'Prophet of the Sandlots'.

I guess I can't quite believe that the Phillies are saying they have no use for Coste, a guy who was enormously productive offensively as well as a receiver whom pitchers trusted and strongly endorsed. If they have no use for him as catcher, then where do they use him? He didn't see a single inning at 3B last year despite the prolific struggles of Nunez.

clout -

Yeh, I am concerned about Eaton's durability, too, but he is still an improvement over madson/floyd/schlub of the week.

From opening day last season, to opening day this season, we will only have 1/5 starting pitchers returning, assuming a Lieber trade.

As for the bullpen, it does need two pieces. Lots of time before camp, and I think that we may have the in house talent to fill the roles in the form of Castro and Bisnesius.

Which leaves us with a Lefty PH/outfielder. We can prbly find one of those.

Right now, I think that the Phils are having the 2nd best offseason in the NL, behind the dodgers.

Thankfully, the Mets are hanging their hopes on landing Zito. However, they've still go thte geriatric rotation.

and yeh, Werth is a gamble, and if I were a betting man, I would bet that Ruiz is going to get traded.

The second half Phillies record was 48-33 vs 1st half which was 37-44.

Yes they typically get hot in the second half but they have upgraded that starting rotation with Garcia, added some offense at 3B, acquired some depth while not losing that much (Floyd, Liberthal, Wolf, Rhodes, R.White, Fultz) except Delluci from that 2nd half team.

Roward will be back at 100%, Hamels is still on the rise and Matt Smith looks promising, and they have some time to get a bullpen arm or two with Lieber in the mix.

Clout - I am missing something here?

Clout - how in the world could someone write that there are a ton of unanswered questions this offseason as I am not sure exactly how many questions equal a ton.

You mentioned about 3-4, are you secretly hiding the others in your Phillies cap?

I agree with Jason's comment above about what Gillick did or didn't miss. I think the Phillies are in fabulous position for '07. I think the Werth signing was a steal -- if he's healthy it was a tremendous move and even if not it seems worth the risk. There are risks in a couple of places, Helms and Werth and Barajas, but I think that all of the risks are guys with big upsides. Even if just one of those three comes through with a big year they're still worth the price the Phillies paid for all three. In terms of what else Gillick might have done I was a little sorry to see Dellucci's bat go. I will be surprised if both Rowand and Victorino start in the outfield on opening day. I would guess they won't.

bix:
1. Will Hamels stay healthy? His history is mixed on that issue.
2. Is the OF as productive as last year's? Please explain, using facts, not hopes.
3. Does Barajas/Ruiz provide as much offense as Lieby/Coste?
4. Was Helms' career-best season last year a fluke, like Nunez's 2005? Will his bat offset his glove?
5. Who closes when Gordon gets hurt/tired?
6. Does Matt Smith have the talent to be a setup guy?
7. Does Werth suddenly emerge healthy and with a potent bat, despite mediocre career numbers?
8. Is Castro ready to step right into pressure situations or does he need at least a half season of AAA, which he's never had?
9. Who's the second lefty in the pen?
10. Who's the setup man?

I'll do 10 more if you like, but you can just get started on these.

Where is this supposed surplus of outfield depth coming from? Conine is pretty much cooked at this point, Victorino is best employed as a 4th outfielder, and Werth isn't recovered yet from surgery he had over a year ago.

Besides Gordon's health, Burrell's health will also be a huge factor for this team. If Burrell goes down, this might be one of the worst outfields in the majors.

Weitzel - I can't believe that you have been more critical of Gillick's move. With the exception of the Garcia trade and maybe the Helms signing, you can't point to moves that upgrade this team from last year.

Sadly, I think Montgomery and co. have figured out that they will have a pretty competitive team again that will draw fairly well again next year with a reduced payroll. As for the typical PR baloney about "payroll flexibility," to acquire players, I will believe when I see it.

After this club trades Lieber this winter, there payroll will open around $65 million and the Phils will have been one of the only teams to significantly reduce their payroll this offseason.

clout, don't you think you could come up with just as mnay questions about the Cardinals, if not more? How about the Mets? Every team has questions. I think the Phils right now have less than most.

in the NL that is.

MG, if Manny goes down the Sox would have the worst OF in the AL. If Pujols goes down, the Cards offense is probably in the 5 worst in the NL.

Every team is in the same boat we are.

For the record I'm not comparing Burrell to Manny and Pujols, I'm just saying injuries to your "star" players hurt every team.

I know someone that needs a magic eightball for X-mas.

Name a better team with less questions? Not to promote gambling but here are the ODDS for teams to win the World Series that are ahead of the PHILS and they all have a ton of unanswered questions:

New York Yankees 4/1
New York Mets 5/1
Chicago White Sox 10/1
Detroit Tigers 10/1
Boston Red Sox 12/1
Los Angeles Dodgers 12/1
Minnesota Twins 12/1
St. Louis Cardinals 14/1
Los Angeles Angels 15/1
Oakland Athletics 18/1
Philadelphia Phillies 18/1

right, its a question of balance, and team total performance, as measured by wins and losses.

Are we going to have a RF that will be as productive as Abreu? Probably not. Will an outfield of Burrell, Vic and Rowand be "enough"? Maybe. Probably. We already have the best hitting infielded in the NL, we can afford to take a hit in another position.

Does the change in pitching offset the loss of Abreu and Dellucci in the overall picture? Probably.

We all can't be the Yankees and have Allstars 1 thru 9. Yer gonna have some holes.

On balance, I am already excited about next season, and yes, I realize that there is work to be done.

Mets have a better offensive infield than the Phils. Howard-Utley-Rollins-Helms is very good but Wright-Reyes-Valentin-Delgado is a bit better.

MG, Why is Victorino best employed as a 4th outfielder ?

Do you think Rowand is a better option in CF ?
What parts of his game (other than slightly more power) are superior to Vic ?

Or are you saying neither are legitimate ML center fielders ?

Clout: No offense but those 10 questions are all pretty much solved by our 3 needs. lefty RP, Righthanded setup man, and left handed OF. You can list 10 questions like that about any team. I agree we should have got some help for the bullpen in FA. But I think we have had a good winter so far.

I understand this move.

That having been said, I can't say that I totally agree with it. I also thought that Coste had earned the right to at least be the backup C. But basebal IS a business, let's not forget, and Barajas does have a longer proven track record than Coste. This may also mean that Ruiz will go back down and Coste will be a backup, or Coste will be moved. Either way, I can't see them carrying three catchers especially when Werth is a former C.

Seems like PG is stocking up with talent to open up his trading options, in my opinion.

I still have faith in Gillick, more than I
EVER had with Wade.

Ruiz is too old to be "full of potential." If the Phils are lucky he'll grow up to be Rod Barajas. Coste is not an everyday player. Signing an actual major-league catcher was, despite the judgment of the majority of this board, a priority -- what's more, most of you agreed with that before Coste dazzled you by playing over his established level for two months. Will, please get real. Spring training batting averages mean virtually nothing (I realize most of you are too young to remember Ron Stone). Furthermore, clout, neither Coste nor Ruiz is worth anything on the trade market; they are the definition of "replacement level." (Yes, I realize that Barajas is close to the same level, but at least his ML experience is measured in years rather than months).

I agree with Joe on the pitching -- Eaton is below average and an injury question besides, but still a better bet (albeit on paper) than HOPING Floyd or Madson will work out.

As for Clout's questions:

1. Will Hamels stay healthy? His history is mixed on that issue.

As it is for every player in MLB. Until the first year he got hurt, Ken Griffey Jr. was a rock. And then he wasn't. As Vin Scully said, we're all day to day. This is why I like having six starters.


2. Is the OF as productive as last year's? Please explain, using facts, not hopes.

Which of last year's OFs are you referring to -- the one with Bobby Abreu that played under-.500, or the one without him -- the lesser of the two -- that played over .500? In either case I'd say we're a little short -- but keep in mind that we went to battle last April with Abreu-Rowand-Burrell. I'm assuming that some of the logjam of bodies will be sorted out in Clearwater.

3. Does Barajas/Ruiz provide as much offense as Lieby/Coste?

Probably not, but they provide better defense.

4. Was Helms' career-best season last year a fluke, like Nunez's 2005? Will his bat offset his glove?

Yes, it was a fluke? No, the bat won't offset the glove, and I will go out on a limb and predict that Nunez will be used more at some point, at which point the team ERA will fall by a run a game, just like last year.

5. Who closes when Gordon gets hurt/tired?

One of the tough ones, as the Phils do not have the sort of young-but-wild flamethrower who often steps up in such situations. BTW, I am not counting on much from Geary, who was sorely overused last September. I would not be surprised if his arm is fried. That said, capable -- not dominating, but capable -- relievers can be found in lots of places. Whether the Phillies' scouts can find them is, of course, another question.

6. Does Matt Smith have the talent to be a setup guy?

Probably not, but he'll get regular work as the 7th-inning-or-so guy against lefty-heavy lineups.

7. Does Werth suddenly emerge healthy and with a potent bat, despite mediocre career numbers?

Almost certainly not. While everyone else seems to think he's a lock to start, I'm assuming he will be battling for a job in Clearwater, and that they won't hesitate to DL him if his wrist is still at 75% come April.

8. Is Castro ready to step right into pressure situations or does he need at least a half season of AAA, which he's never had?

No. I will be shocked and amazed if he doesn't get at least that half a season in the minors, if only because he lost so much development time last year.

9. Who's the second lefty in the pen?

Unknown, but then several teams went through last season with NO lefthanded relievers. I was surprised PG never parlayed his surplus in that area into a trade, at least until Cormier was unloaded. Had he pulled the trigger on one of his lefties sooner, he might have gotten something useful.

10. Who's the setup man?

This is the one that, obviously, PG has punted on for now. My track record on pulling names from hats is crummy, so you should probably ignore me when I say Solomon Torres of the Bucs seems like a guy who's ready for more responsibility.

So what are those other questions under your hat?


I think that ultimately Castro and Bisenius will be in the bullpen as setup guys.

Bisenius is a comer, the kid can pitch, we saw how good Castro can be.

Absolutely need a LH hitting OF right now, I think PG will make a trade to alleviate this.

I know a lot will happen between now and opening day.
But there are lots of questions concerning the bench. I would assume you would want 2 extra infielders and right now you just have 1 -- Nunez. Obviously the Phils do not see Coste as a 3rd baseman, since he didn't see one inning there last season despite Nunez hitting under 200 until September.

Assuming 12 pitchers, this will leave the Phils with 5 bench slots. And I think this puts Coste in a tough spot to make this team with everyone else with guaranteed money.

1. Werth (RH)
2. Conine (RH)
3. Ruiz (RH)
4. Nunez (Switch)
5. Lefthanded PH

First of all, $650K guaranteed to Werth hardly looks like the kind of money that's impossible to swallow, so that argument won't hold water. As noted earlier, I also think they'll put him on the DL if he's not ready. Second, why should they have kept Nunez on the bench when his defense was saving them a run a game? Bell's offense was as good as most of the people you folks tout, and his defense was unacceptable -- his range amounted to the distance he could fall in either direction. That said, they do need a backup SS, and would expect to see one added.

Ragtop, if by "ultimately" you mean "by the end of the season," you might be right. If they go north with them in the regular bullpen rotation, they'll most likely be on the disabled list by September. I like using youngsters in the bullpen as much as the next guy, but it has to be done carefully. "Careful" is not a word I would ever use in connection with Charlie Manuel's use of a bullpen -- and as far as i recall it's not a strength on any of his many ultimate replacements sharing the dugout with him.

coste is to be an 8th or 9th inning PH according to Fox Sports..I really think PG is loading up to trade Lieber/(Rowand or Vic)/either of the 3 catchers for bullpen help and LH OF.. If he doesn't.. then these last 2 signings are meaningless and roster-clogging.

Alby, I agree with you about Elmer's pitcher handling. He rides his horses until they blow out.

I'm just thinking that these two guys have talent and ultimately rather than fork out big bucks for a name setup guy, PG will decide to give these guys a shot.

I feel that we are an improved team. I think that Pat Burrell is gonna come in with apoint to prove and hit the crap out of the ball.

Ok, I'm optimistic. I'm hoping. Hey, I'm a lifelong Phils phan, what choice do we have?

Really, there's been crazy money thrown around this off season.

Manuel does ride his relievers pretty hard. It's funny though because he exactly has done a good job of not abusing his starters. Both Myers and Hamels have not been subjected to 120+ pitch outing. Hopefully that goes a long way to keeping them healthy.

JASON - Do you really know if Cholly makes the pitching decisions?

I know ultimately he makes the decision in public but I thought I read somewhere that he more or less goes with what Dubee says when it comes to pitching and pitching-related decisions.

We all know his recognized strengths are handling the players and hitting.

In this day of specialization I am sure that is common in many dugouts and other aspects of management anywhere but is this more understood in the inner media circle and addressed less in public?

Ragtop, you're exactly right. I count the lack of overspending on mediocrities as the greatest triumph of the offseason. And I agree with you on the young pitchers. I worry that Dubee doesn't have enough juice to protect some of these guys -- though the after-the-fact admission by Cholly that he wasn't using some of the older arms on consecutive days is an indication that he has at least a little awareness of the problem. I still think the smart thing to do would be to stretch out a couple of the bullpen arms as 2-inning guys -- Madson is an obvious candidate -- and then NEVER use them on consecutive days. I go back far enough to remember the Danny Ozark bullpen. Warren Brusstar was the guy who threw ground balls; he entered games only with men on base because he was good at inducing DPs. Then came Reed, Garber and McGraw, not necessarily in that order -- and never all three on the same day. Whoever followed Brusstar went until the pitcher's spot came up in the order again, usually two innings. The closer was chosen based on whose arm was freshest, who pitched yesterday, and who was due up for the opponent.

Victorino should be a 4th outfielder simply because we won't produce enough. If last season was a pretty good indication of Victorino's offensive ability, a full season of 450-500 ABs mean something like an AVG. of .260-.280 with 5-10 HRs. Plus, Victorino almost nevers walks.

That is not nearly enough production from a corner outfield position. Victorino's would need to double his HR production and up his OBP to be near the league average for RF. Victorino's numbers translate better to CF but his offensive deficiencies don't make up for his defensive abilities.

Obviously, I hate the Barajas signing, because it almost certainly means the end of Chris Coste with the Phillies -- not that it should be that way.

This event simply reaffirms what I have been saying all along about Gillick -- specifically about Gillick's consistent lack of belief in Chris Coste. Notwithstanding Coste's stellar performance last season, I'll wager that no one on this board can come up with a link documenting *any* unqualifiedly positive statement made by Gillick about Coste -- all season long --and "faint praise" and marginalizing condescending comments by Gillick don't count.

Coste was originially brought up on May 21st because Lieberthal was on the DL, and Fasano was hurting. Because of a combination of subsequent injuries to Fasano and Lieberthal, combined with Phillies' management's stated purpose of having Ruiz "play every day" in AAA, Coste survived one "cut situation" after another, until Coste finally got some starts at catcher, and began hitting the ball, after an 0 for 13 start. When Coste's contract was purchased after the retirement of Gonzalez, Gillick explained the move, saying simply that "right now, we need a catcher." At the time, Gillick's plan for Coste was nothing more than to give the guy a "cup of coffee", but Chris Coste wonderfully played his way into a season-permanent role with the club. To be clear, however, Gillick has never believed in Coste as a major league player, and IMO, that arrogance on Gillick's part -- combined with some of Gillick's astoundingly poor personnel moves such as Fasano, Gonzalez and Nunez -- cause me to have little to no respect for the guy's contemporary judgment as a major league GM. Whatever credit Gillick deserved in Seattle and Toronto, IMO, he is "over the hill", and "around the bend."

Furthermore, this business about Coste not being given so much as one inning at third base last season was a travesty -- given Nunez's seriously deficient offensive production. After being the AAA International League's All-Star *third baseman* for the 2005 season, to not be given even one inning at third base? The reason? The following is my take on that situation.

The Phillies' failure to play Coste at third base after the Bell trade last season was due to two related factors: (1) the desire on the part of Gillick/Manuel to relieve pressure from the struggling Nunez, who was hitting way below .200 as of the 7/31 trade deadline, and to avoid a "third base controversy" while Nunez wasn't hitting a lick; and (2) Gillick seeking to avoid heightened criticism at the time, for his terrible off-season bench acquisition failures in 2006 -- ie., Fasano and Gonzalez, who were no longer with the team after the trading deadline.

In this regard, Manuel had a very revealing quote in a Todd Zolecki piece in the August 8, 2006, editions of the Philadelphia Inquirer. In pertinent part, the article went like this:

"Manuel does not seem inclined to try Coste at third base, where he has played in the past. The Phillies want to give Nunez a chance to play, and Nunez is considered a superior defensive third baseman to Coste.

"I haven't seen Coste play a lot of third," Manuel said. "But we just traded David Bell. This is supposed to be a chance to let Nunez play. If you say you're going to let somebody play, you're going to play this guy. It's important to win games, but if you want to give a guy a chance, you have to give him a chance."

In the end, it was all about giving Gillick "cover", from more deserved in-season criticism about Gillick's terrible off-season bench aquisitions in Fasano, Gonzalez and Nunez. Too bad Coste had to receive the butt end of that kind of management. But IMO, that is what it is.

davthom: Excellent, thought-provoking post. I too think this may be the end for Coste, unless they trade someone to clear a space.

It is hard to believe that the decision not to play Coste at 3B was internal politics. I have to think that Manuel actually saw Coste play 3B at some point, or worked him out there, and wasn't impressed. Nunez surely missed a few games after Bell was dealt and since Coste was hitting, why wouldn't you play him there if you thought he'd help you win? I can't believe that Manuel would rather lose ballgames just for some face-saving by PG.

Unlike most here, I don't hail PG as the savior of the Phillies. His personnel moves last year were absolutely dreadful. I like what he's done this offseason much better, but the jury is definitely still out. And the old crap about how he won rings in Toronto & Seattle is utterly meaningless. A GM is only as good as his next trade and so far during his tenure here, he's made more bad ones than good ones.

bix: You were the one who implied the team had no questionmarks and now that I raise them ,you say I have too many? I thought Alby's answers were pretty good. You had none at all. But if you don't think there's questions, it's hard to have answers.

BOOK SWAP: Following last week's spontaneous discussion, a new and used book section has been added to the right sidebar, compiled with your recommendations.

I think it is early to write Coste off. But I don't understand the love for him either. Yes he was a great story last year but that wasn't his norm. Not even in the minors. The Barajas deal isn't bad. We get a veteran catcher at below market value. If Ruiz or Coste show they can handle the starting job in the majors they will get it. The thought that Coste was held back to save "face" is absurd. I like Coste and think he has a place on the team, but he is not a guy who has proved he can do it year in and year out in the majors. If Coste proves he can do what he did last year he will be on the team.

Jason: Book Swap is great touch. I know TEAMMATES by David Halberstam was mentioned before. Really good book for any older baseball fan to check out. If anyone likes Baseball fiction, If I Never Get Back by Darryl Brock is a great story about baseball at its beginning. Another older book is Slugging it out in Japan by Warren Cromartie. Really interesting look at an African-American ballplayer in Japan. It is probably out of print but it worth hunting down.

Well said Malcolm, well said.

My pleasure. I'll get as many up as possible. I ran into problems trying to find covers for some of them, some of RSBs recommendations, for example.

Malcolm doesn't understand the love for Coste. I know why. It is because he hit over .300 and had a lot of clutch hits.

After reading all the stuff (true or not) written about him in this post; he overcame tremendous odds to achieve what he did. I'd hate to see his chance go down the tubes because people (Cholly & PG) don't think he can do it again. I thought sports rewarded those who perform well. Stuff in this thread said his swing is ugly, or he doesn't look like a catcher. It's all ludicrous.

If they trade Coste for crap and keep Ruiz and Barajas, I'll be pissed, so will a lot of Philly fans.

How can Coste prove that he can do what he did last year again if they don't give him the chance? It is ridiculous that they would waste this guy because they THINK he might not be able to repeat his performance from last year. Coste more than proved his worth to the team last year. I've never seen Coste play third, but if he can play there why not try him out there? I would be pissed if this guy ends up back in the minors without being given the shot to prove that he can do a repeat performance.

DavThom73 - I'm going to play devils advocate for a moment. Chris Coste was 33 last year. Getting a cup of coffee when you've spent a significant chunk oftime playing catcher in the minors (10 out of his 14 seasons have had him listed as either catcher full time or part time) is good going. Everyone starts raising questions about major league catchers at that age, so its no surprise Gillick would have been wary of taking a gamble on him, his decent OBP notwithstanding.

But nothing stopped Gillick going at getting a backup with MLB experience by July 30th deadline. If we could trade Fasano to the Yankees, we could have got a warm body to stick behind the plate. The decision to stick with Coste was on merit, not in spite of his ability.

I also disagree with you citing the decision not to move him to third because it gives 'cover' for Gillick's mistakes. Gillick doesn't generally make excuses about his mistakes. See the trading away of fasano and the admission of his mistake on padilla for reference.

A dearth of positive quotes by gillick about coste is a flimsy reason to assume he's down on Coste. Gillick makes non-committal comments about most every player on this team. The only thing gillick says consistently is that everything and everyone is always under review. Gillick is NOT in the habit of endorsing players verbally to the press. He'll make opaque comments till the cows come home about which way a player might be panning out, but he rarely gives continued support for a guy. He seems to leave that to Manuel.

Which is as it should be. He's the GM of the organisation - the manager of the team should be able to talk up the players. I bet you would be hard pushed to find gillick saying that he didn't feel coste was a good fit at major league level as well. I'm happy to be proven wrong. But reading that guy's intentions on the basis of what he says is pointless - as this offseason has proven.

Yes, they probably felt like giving Nunez a chance, to see whether a sustained burst at 3rd might bring about a return to his 2005 numbers. But to have put coste in at 3rd was to take a gamble on Ruiz and Lieberthal's production on catcher, and as Jason has pointed out, Catcher is a position that is also subject to the preferences of the pitching staff, not just the offensive numbers of the catcher. it takes time to build up confidence in catchers.

I don't think it was the right decision to keep coste away from third, but neither do I think that the organisation's actions towards coste last year suggest a lack of faith in coste.

The barajas deal has me thinking coste is going to be used as super-utility guy #1, and shove nunez down to #2. Gillick is taking a lot of chances on players this year - helms and werth are the two best examples, but you can argue the same for ruiz. If anything, I think he wants the flexibility to put coste in where his bat is needed on any given game if one of the players isn't working out. And by keeping coste, he gives us a decent bench option.

To be clear, I'm not a fan of the barajas deal, not because (as I previously stated) I think he'll get loads more playing time (it's a one year deal, Ruiz is younger and fitter than lieberthal, I just don't see it happening) but because I'd really rather that we didn't have low obp guys as our backup. If a bench guy can't hit, I'd at least like for them to get on base.

The morning after- and I'm still irked about the Barajas deal. I can only hope the Gillick is trying to be creative and stockpile the team with "talent" and therefore competition in spring.

K.C. signed David Riske...where the hell was Gillick on that one?

Does anyone really think Coste can even play 3B at the major league level? Is with the Phillies in August of last year the time and/or place to find out?

Plugging in Coste at 3B after Bell was traded would have been a greater risk than starting Nunez IMHO.

Castro si, Bisenius no! ragtopguy, I hadn't heard much about Bisenius, who you've mentioned several times, so I did some research. I can't find anyone who lists him among the Phils top prospects. He had a nice K/BB ratio in 23 IP at Reading, but I know nothing about him. The fact no one cites him as a prospect makes me think he's a soft-tossing control guy. Can you (or Jason) enlighten us?

Carson, I think the competiton will be good for everyone. At catcher and the bullpen will be some heated battles which should be fun to watch this spring.

I think Gillick was tired of having guys like Lieberthal and Bell guaranteed starting positions the day they showed up in the Clearwater locker room to pick up their uniforms. And then having said player struggle until June to "find" his swing. It was the same thing every year, "It's a marathon not a sprint" was the line thrown around ad nauseum by guys like Lieby, Bell, Cormier, and Wolf. BS I say!!!

There was no urgency... they were veterans, they were starting no matter what. This year if you are a marginal player and you want to start you're going to have to earn it.

Helms or Nunez?
Barajas or Ruiz or Coste?
Vic or Werth or whoever?
Beisenus or Castro or Rule 5 guys, etc.

Show me something...

I don't think so tony. Nunez had exactly two seasons playing 3b at major league level. You could argue that somehow nunez was going to find it easier to make the transfer to the hot corner having played shortstop for long enough - and this year we're prepared to gamble on helms' glove in return for his bat. I think it was more to do with who would have been left taking care of catching (ruiz and lieberthal) rather than the merits of coste at 3b. What was evident last year was that the phils were slower to put their trust in ruiz at MLB level - coste had 198 ab to ruiz's 69.

Also, jason, am I not correct in assuming that they weren't keen to move ruiz to quickly from AAA because of SW-B's success last season?

You won't find Bisenius on any of the prospect lists. The Phillies believe he suddenly figured it out this season and they're putting him on the fast track. He throws cheese and is considered a closer in progress. At last check, he's dominating Venezuela:

"Over six appearances spanning six innings, the 2004 12th-round draft pick has collected two saves and has yet to allow a run." (Phillies.com)

We first talked about him here on August 11, following Mike Drago's feature in the Reading Eagle:

http://beerleaguer.typepad.com/beerleaguer/2006/08/beer_nuts_readi.html

He's one of three young relievers having great offseasons, including Castro and Alfredo Simon. At last check, Simon's ERA is under 1.00 after 20+ innings.

Simon was the Rule 5 guy right? That would be great if one of those guys panned out.

Say Hello to my lil' friend- Fabio Castro.

I truly hope he's given a legit shot at the bullpen in spring training.

in re: market value for catchers.

we're paying $2.5M for Barajas. that's not below market value for a guy who's barely over replacement level.

on the other hand, the Nats just got Robert Fick, who's two years older than Barajas and arguably a wash offensively, for a minor league contract and ST invite. that is below market value.

Bisenius throws cheese? That must be a Wisconsin term. Is throwing cheese a compliment?

I'm starting to get the impression that Gillick may be going with the young, live arms in the bullpen.

Its not a bad idea. Get a bunch of live arms, try them out in ST, best couple stay, and if they falter, they can bring more up.

Its how you get good bullpens like the Tigers.

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