In Support of a Ruben Amaro Transaction

The Philadelphia Phillies have given the sabermetric community a lot of ammunition over the last few years. The Ryan Howard contract! $52 million for Jonathan Papelbon! Delmon Young! Even off the field, the Phillies GM gives us comments like “I don’t care about walks, I care about production.” Picking on the Phillies recently has been pretty easy, and writers from this side of the baseball spectrum have been warning of the Phillies coming demise for several years.

Now that it’s here, the Phillies were even more roundly ridiculed for not acknowledging their place on baseball’s win curve, holding on to valuable trade chips at the deadline even as they get passed by the Marlins in run differential. Rather than turn Cliff Lee, Chase Utley, and Michael Young into younger, cheaper talent, the Phillies are soldiering on with an aging, expensive club that is nearly 20 games behind the Braves in the standings. And with last night’s news of an impending Chase Utley contract extension, they seem to be digging in their heels even more.

Chase Utley will be 35 next season. The last three years, he’s played 115, 103, and 83 games, and he’ll probably end up in the low 100s again this year, unless he gets hurt before the season ends and falls short of even that mark. The team with the 29th best run differential in the majors just signed up an injury prone second baseman for his age-35/36 seasons, but unlike most of the Phillies moves over the last few years, I actually like this move for Philadelphia, and commend Ruben Amaro for getting the deal done.

The reported terms of the deal guarantee Utley $27 million over the next two seasons, and then Ken Rosenthal notes that the deal has multiple vesting options for additional years beyond the next two, so Utley will need to play regularly in order to activate those extra years. The base of the deal, 2/27, puts this contract squarely in the realm of what decent older players have been getting in free agency lately. Last winter, Torii Hunter signed for $26 million over two years, for instance, while Ryan Dempster signed for $26.5 million over the same time period. The year before, Carlos Beltran signed for $26 million over two years.

This is basically the going market rate for players who have been productive but come with age and health concerns. Only there’s one primary difference between Hunter, Dempster, Beltran, and Utley; the Phillies second baseman is a lot better than any of the other three.

Here are the totals for the prior three seasons for each of those players prior to signing their free agent contracts:

Beltran, 2009-2011: 1,210 PA, 140 wRC+, -14 UZR, +7.9 WAR
Hunter, 2010-2012: 1,879 PA, 123 wRC+, +8 UZR, +10.8 WAR
Dempster, 2010-2012: 591 IP, 3.87 FIP, 3.74 xFIP, +8.5 WAR

And here’s what Utley has done over the last three calendar years.

Utley, 2011-2013: 1,355 PA, 118 wRC+, +25 UZR, +11.8 WAR

It’s easy to talk about the fact that Utley misses a lot of games, but even with over 500 fewer plate appearances than Hunter over the three year period leading up to their contracts, Utley was still the more valuable player overall. And, of course, he blew Beltran and Dempster out of the water.

Chase Utley is so good that he’s more valuable in 100 games than many players are in 150, and he’s actually trending upwards. Over the last 365 days, Utley has played in 136 games and posted +4.9 WAR, #22 among major league hitters, just behind Jacoby Ellsbury and in front of Hanley Ramirez. This isn’t a case where the three year total obscures a recent decline. As I wrote about in July, there’s no real evidence that Utley has actually declined much at all, or that the conventional wisdom about second baseman and their aging curves should actually apply to players of Utley’s caliber.

$13.5 million per year might sound like a large investment, but it’s basically the same AAV the Nationals gave Dan Haren last year on the hopes that he would rebound, and less than what Washington gave Rafael Soriano to pitch one inning every few days. A few years ago, $13 million per year meant a player had to produce at a premium level to justify his paycheck; now, it just means that he needs to be a little above average.

Utley easily clears that bar, and even if he spends a month or two on the DL each of the next two years, he’s got a good shot at providing value over and above what he’s being paid. He doesn’t have to be an ironman who plays everyday to make this a worthy investment. If Utley produced at his current levels and was capable of playing 150 games per year, he’d be worth close to $27 million per year, not $27 million over two years.

In a vacuum, this deal is a serious bargain for the Phillies, and represents a pretty significant home town discount, as Utley was likely motivated to finish his career where it started and retire as a career Phillie. But this deal doesn’t take place in a vacuum, and we can’t discuss the wisdom of an aging non-contender re-signing an aging player without looking at the bigger picture.

One could make a pretty good case that the Phillies should be trying to blow up their roster and start over. They’re 51-62, and their roster is full of expensive players on the downside of their career. Next year, they’re on the hook for a combined $104 million in salary between Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins, and Mike Adams. Toss in Utley at somewhere in the $13 million range, and you’re looking at nearly $120 million for seven players, leaving roughly $40 million for the rest of the roster if we assume the Phillies are going to run a payroll somewhere close to what it was this year.

And that group is simply not a championship core without a lot of help, which the Phillies won’t really be able to buy in free agency considering how much money they have already committed to their players already under contract. The odds of the Phillies contending next year aren’t particularly great, and in the long term, they probably would have been better off if they had used Lee and Utley as bait to try and get as much cheap young talent and salary flexibility as they could at the deadline.

However, there’s also an argument to be made that the Phillies have already crossed the Rubicon. Even if they had moved Lee and Utley, they were going to be stuck with Howard’s contract, and given the way Cole Hamels has struggled this year, they weren’t going to be able to get out from under that deal either. Papelbon and Adams are basically dead money, and the Phillies are stuck with both. No one is taking Jimmy Rollins at this point. It’s one thing to talk about blowing up the roster and starting over, but it’s another thing entirely to actually do it when most of the roster is full of contracts no one wants.

In an ideal world, the Phillies should probably rebuild. In the real world, that’s easier said than done. They could have traded Lee and Utley, but given Lee’s salary, they weren’t getting premium talent back, and Utley was going to be a rental, so his trade value would have been somewhat limited as well. Moving both players wouldn’t have brought the Phillies a grand haul of future stars to build around. It would have brought them salary relief, but it’s not clear that they could have spent $38 million this winter and gotten more value than Lee and Utley will provide, and you don’t generally find free agents with long term value worth building around either.

Trading Lee and Utley would have pushed the Phillies towards a rebuild, but there wasn’t an obvious phase two of that plan, besides sit around and wait for all the toxic contracts to expire. The thing, is, though, you can wait for the toxic contracts to expire without losing 100 games in the process. If you’re stuck with Howard, Hamels, Papelbon, and the rest anyway, it might be better to try and sneak your way into a playoff spot than simply be terrible for the sake of landing a high draft choice.

This gets back to something I wrote last year, titled Why I’m Not a Fan of Losing on Purpose. There are some instances where franchises need to totally reboot and start over, as the Astros have done this year, but that’s the best plan when you have a 70 win team going nowhere, not a team with enough pieces to make .500 a realistic projection for next year. And while the Phillies are certainly not very good this year, projecting them as a .500ish club for 2014 isn’t out of the question.

Right now, our rest-of-season forecast has the Phillies as a .473 team, and that’s while dedicating a lot of playing time to replacement level scrubs as they finish out the year. With some decent off-season pickups, a nice low-risk re-signing of Roy Halladay, and some better performances out of guys like Hamels and Rollins next year, and it wouldn’t be crazy to think the Phillies could make a wild card run. I wouldn’t bet on it, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility now that they have Utley back.

So, yes, the Phillies could get bad on purpose, but they’d be throwing away a non-zero chance at salvaging one more playoff run out of this roster, and getting the team back on the winning path very well have more of a positive impact on the future of the franchise than netting some marginal prospects and lowering payroll by getting rid of the team’s two best players. Winning with this core group next year is a bit of a longshot, but so is actually rebuilding while being tied to a bunch of overpaid players no one else wants.

The Phillies are stuck between a rock and a hard place, as their constant spending during the boom years has left them carrying the cost of those decisions now. But instead of going halfway towards a rebuild that probably wouldn’t work either, the Phillies may very well be better off pushing forward and trying to squeeze the very last bit of blood from this particular turnip.

In poker, this situation is being called pot-committed, where you think you’re likely going to lose but the cost of continuing on is relatively low compared to the payoff if the unlikely happens and you actually pull off a miracle. The Phillies roster is basically at that point now. There just isn’t a huge cost to keeping Utley and Lee and trying to win again in 2014, even if it’s unlikely, and the payoff if it actually works is much higher than the payoff from landing a top 10 draft pick and driving your attendance even further into the ground.

This isn’t a strategy I’d advise for every team, but the Phillies are not in the same position as every other team. I wouldn’t suggest that Philadelphia go throw a lot of money at expensive free agents on long term deals to try and keep this thing afloat, but keeping a star like Utley at a good price is not the same thing as throwing good money after bad. Even mediocre teams should be looking to spend their money wisely, and giving Utley $27 million over two years is a good use of funds, even for an aging team that won’t be anyone’s pre-season World Series pick next year.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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tehzachatak
Member
tehzachatak
3 years 21 days ago

Good article, Dave, and I agree with most of your points and your conclusion, but need to nitpick on one thing…

given the way Cole Hamels has struggled this year, they weren’t going to be able to get out from under that deal either

Where is this? I haven’t seen it. Are you talking about from a really silly GM’s perspective, or an uninformed media perspective, or something? I’m not sure why someone familiar with DIPS theory would say Hamels is “struggling.” His contract was a never a really good contract to begin with, as Hamels has never really had super-high end value, but there’s not a lot in Hamels’ performance this year that leads me to believe he’s had any major shift in talent, nor anything I would describe as “struggling”. His K% has dropped from last 2 years, but he’s been successful at this K% rate before.

tehzachatak
Member
tehzachatak
3 years 21 days ago

someone needs to learn how to use close quote tags.

channelclemente
Guest
channelclemente
3 years 21 days ago

Someone needs to read, and not edit.

Scraps
Guest
Scraps
3 years 21 days ago

Someone needs to read, especially reading the commenters’ name.

Drew
Guest
Drew
3 years 20 days ago

I accidentally up-voted this!

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 21 days ago

He was editing himself. S’alright.

Jay29
Member
Jay29
3 years 21 days ago

“I don’t care about walks, I care about production.”

It sounds bad when Ruben Amaro says it, but what if Adrian Beltre had said it? As long as the final production is the same, it doesn’t matter how you get there. Not that I’m defending his moves, of course. Just saying you don’t need to walk to be good on offense.

Richie
Guest
Richie
3 years 21 days ago

Agreed in principle. Just not application right here, as Ruben’s actions have showed ignorance of the link between batter walks and run production.

Jay29
Member
Jay29
3 years 21 days ago

Yeah I hear ya. I just think the way Dave phrased it made it seem like it was an ignorant comment in and of itself, when we know it’s ignorant only when you pair it with Amaro’s track record.

Bubba
Guest
Bubba
3 years 21 days ago

That’s a silly comparison. What Beltre says doesn’t matter because he doesn’t build a team.

Richie
Guest
Richie
3 years 21 days ago

The point was that you don’t need walks for production, had the statement come from a SABR-savvy GM we wouldn’t see it as meaning something silly.

dovif
Guest
dovif
3 years 20 days ago

Walk is part of production, part of not getting an out, which decreases the chance of losing. Saying you don’t need walks for production is like saying you do not need Ks, GB, or HRs for production

If you hit 10 HRs you do not need Walks
If you have 27 fly ball outs, you do not need Ks or Ground balls

Izzy
Guest
Izzy
3 years 20 days ago

I don’t care about apples! I care about fruit!

channelclemente
Guest
channelclemente
3 years 21 days ago

Bandbox logic, perhaps?

Drew
Guest
3 years 20 days ago

Bandbox logic should be walk, walk, 3-run homer.

Chief Keef
Guest
Chief Keef
3 years 21 days ago

No, if you don’t care about walks that means you don’t care about that form of production. Taking walks is a form of production. So no, it was a stupid comment and will always be a stupid comment.

Richie
Guest
Richie
3 years 21 days ago

Billy Beane: “I don’t care about walks, I care about production.” We all take that to mean Billy stating that even though the guy he just signed doesn’t walk, he’s still a productive ballplayer.

Tim
Guest
Tim
3 years 21 days ago

To my knowledge, Billy Beane has never signed Delmon Young.

Professor Ross Eforp
Member
Professor Ross Eforp
3 years 21 days ago

Billy Beane would be answering a question like, “Billy, I noticed the computer that runs your team has a lot of guys that walk a lot this year. Care to explain why you love walks so much?”

Eminor3rd
Guest
Eminor3rd
3 years 21 days ago

Sure, there are two or three exceptions to every rule. Adrian Beltre, Vladimir Guerrero, Josh Hamilt… wait. Uhh… Yeah that’s about it. Carlos Gomez?

NBarnes
Guest
NBarnes
3 years 21 days ago

Beltre isn’t really paid to understand the link between walks, selectiveness, and hitting. Especially at this stage of his career, he is what he is. Ruben Amaro, however, is precisely paid to understand these things. The expectations are different.

Jay29
Member
Jay29
3 years 21 days ago

See Professor Ross Eforp’s comment above. He gave a good hypothetical of what I’m talking about. Plus Billy Beane would take Beltre in a heartbeat (for the right price) since he produces.

Deelron
Member
Deelron
3 years 21 days ago

Yep, in fact I believe the As tried to sign him before he went to the Red Sox.

baycommuter
Guest
baycommuter
3 years 20 days ago

He not only tried to sign him, he supposedly had the high bid, but Beltre didn’t want to play in Oakland.

Drew
Guest
3 years 20 days ago

If Beltre walked he’d be better.

minstrel
Guest
minstrel
3 years 18 days ago

No one’s contesting that walks are good. But what we ultimately care about is production, not the shape of it or what makes up that production. A low-walk-but-still-productive player is better than a high-walk-but-overall-unproductive player. Walks are one tool to be productive, but “being productive” is still the only thing that matters, not what tool(s) you use to get there.*

*As long as the tool you use isn’t PEDs. People care about that a lot!

Brian
Guest
Brian
3 years 21 days ago

The vesting options part is something that was understated. There’s more value than meets the eye.

Tom G
Guest
3 years 21 days ago

Another reason for not blowing it all up: The Phillies are due for a new TV contract in 2015. They want to be able to show cable companies that they are trying to put a winning product on the field every year.

Richie
Guest
Richie
3 years 21 days ago

Not so sure re 2015, if that’s when it actually gets negotiated again. Then they’ve got to keep this jalopy going for another 2 seasons, not just the one.

I suspect you’re still right. Just you could also thus argue for tearing it down right here right now, in hopes of getting the worst behind you now and hopefully having something to show come 2015.

evanwins
Guest
evanwins
3 years 20 days ago

” you could argue for tearing it down right here right now, in hopes of getting the worst behind you now and hopefully having something to show come 2015.”

Ridiculous. The cycle in baseball is too long for a 2 year turnaround on a rebuild. However, finishing with a protected draft pick puts you in a tremendously better position for turnaround and maintaining future goals.

Bill
Guest
Bill
3 years 20 days ago

Boston did it. Granted the situations are completely different. The Phillies have a lot more dead money and weaker farm system. Athough, if they could have pawned off Papelbon and Howard on some team, they might be able to something. Of course, Adrian Gonzales and Carl Crawford were better players signed to better contracts than Paps and Howard.

dovif
Guest
dovif
3 years 20 days ago

The problem is that this team is declining so quickly that it is not inconceivable that this is a 60 win team by next year. The Marlins have a better run differential then the Phillies

Brian
Guest
Brian
3 years 20 days ago

I don’t know why this argument persists. It doesn’t really make much sense. If they win now at the expense of future projection (which occurs from the opportunity cost of the prospects they could have traded for, no matter how non-elite they may have been)then they would be HURTING their TV deal, not helping it.

The TV companies know better than to pay for 2013’s attendance/viewership in 2015. If the future outlook is bleak for 2015 and beyond, the TV deal is going to be greatly affected, regardless of what happens in 2013 and 2014. The results of 2013 and 2014 are irrelevant in determining the TV contract’s value.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
3 years 21 days ago

You just perfectly summed up my thoughts on the contract, Dave. I don’t understand why so many Phillies fans I’ve seen are complaining about the deal. I understand the need to get younger, but with all of the bad contracts on this team, RAJ has handcuffed himself to this roster and there’s not much he can do about it now. Gotta just keep moving forward at this point.

Not to mention Chase is the leader of this Phillies team and one of the hardest working guys in baseball. You want to rebuild? Not a bad idea to have a guy like Chase on the team to show your young guys how to play the game the right way and prepare at this level.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
3 years 21 days ago

I can’t imagine why a Phillies fan would hate this deal. It’s a great deal from the Phillies perspective. They should complain about the Papelbon and Howard contracts, not this one.

Phillies Fan
Guest
Phillies Fan
3 years 21 days ago

Don’t worry, we do complain about those two.

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
3 years 21 days ago

Yeah, this is a really good deal. Any team would love to have Chase Utley at $13.5 million per season, even with his injury risks.

dovif
Guest
dovif
3 years 20 days ago

I think it would be a really good deal for a contender, it is just a ok deal for Phillies.

It means they miss out on prospects that could have been traded for and the development of a 2B that might be part of the next winning team in Philadelphia

The part I am unsure about this analysis is that a lot of Utley’s value seem to be tied to UZR and defence matric are more variable then hitting ones. Also does defense ability ages well at a position like 2B, or will injuries and aging means that Utley will not be a plus defender in the next few years. I am not so sure that will be a good deal at the end of the contract

martin short
Guest
martin short
3 years 20 days ago

as a phillies fan, i’m upset about the deal because of his degenerative knees. no way utley gets on the field for more than 100 games either of the next two seasons. he’s a great guy and our city loves him, but enough with these contracts

Richie
Guest
Richie
3 years 21 days ago

Exactamundo. Other than you should capitalize ‘Rubicon’, so people know it is (was?) a real river.

Now that aging vets are priced properly so that you just don’t get much at all for them prospect-wise, it’s sometimes best to hang onto them, reap the (admittedly-mild) attendance gains you get from keeping them, and take another shot at contention. Even if it doesn’t work, the following year, maybe some job-desperate GM gives you a much better price for one of your pieces.

I think the “pot committed” concept might help people see this. Good metaphor choice.

Jay29
Member
Jay29
3 years 21 days ago

He doesn’t have to be an ironman who plays everyday to make this a worthy investment.

Sorry, Dave, I gotta do it.

Chase Utley would be an everyday player if he played every day.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 21 days ago

no you didn’t

FYFs LOBs
Member
FYFs LOBs
3 years 21 days ago

Yeah. You really didn’t. Especially if you are going to use slang like’gotta’.

It would also be either ‘Sorry, Dave. I gotta do it.’ or ‘Sorry, Dave; I gotta do it.’ You cannot use a comma to separate those two thoughts.

Jay29
Member
Jay29
3 years 21 days ago

I disagree on all counts.

Teej
Guest
Teej
3 years 21 days ago

Resoundingly wrong.

BRICK T
Guest
BRICK T
3 years 21 days ago

LLLLLLOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUDDDDDDDD NNNNNNOOOOOIIIIIIISSSSEEEESSS!

Jay29
Member
Jay29
3 years 21 days ago

(Sorry, Richie, didn’t mean to reply to you. I agree with your comment, though!)

Richie
Guest
Richie
3 years 21 days ago

Great. Now I bet I get some spillover ‘-‘s, and I’m already nearing my seasonal quota.

;-)

Jay29
Member
Jay29
3 years 21 days ago

Haha my bad. Hopefully they all go in my direction.

tz
Guest
tz
3 years 21 days ago

It’s great that Utley produces a lot of WAR in the games where he’s active, but does this mean the Phillies should ensure that they have an above replacement-level 2B available as insurance?

Nevertheless, agree this is a decent deal for the Phils. Especially since they are committed to be “all-in” during the remains of the Ryan Howard/Roy Halladay era.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 21 days ago

They should start by ensuring that they have above replacement level players penciled in as starters given the best of circumstances. I’m looking at you, Young (either, or, both).

Confucius Jackson
Guest
Confucius Jackson
3 years 21 days ago

It seems like they should get a low-cost guy who can be penciled in to reliably start 50 games a year at 2B and another 15 at SS. Darwin Barney of the Cubs comes to mind, even though he hits like Mark Belanger.

Brian
Guest
Brian
3 years 20 days ago

They already have their own version of Barney, Freddy Galvis.

Bill
Guest
Bill
3 years 20 days ago

Barney >> Galvis

Brian
Guest
Brian
3 years 20 days ago

Ok. So what?

agam22
Guest
agam22
3 years 21 days ago

Halladay is off the books after this season (unless they re-sign him, which would presumably be cheaper and short term). And basically 100 gms of Utley+60 of replacement minor leaguer is still more production than a lot teams get out of the position. They already have a few decent, cheap guys under team control for the foreseeable future (Frandsen, Galvis, Hernandez) that even if Utley does miss like 50 games a year they can get league average-ish production from the spot while he is out.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
3 years 21 days ago

Here’s an interesting way to put it: If if you took 1 WAR off Utley’s current totals for a replacement level player, he’d be worth more than Brandon Phillips is right now and about as much as Daniel Murphey has been in 111 games…and that is with Utley still having games to play.

tyler
Guest
tyler
3 years 21 days ago

Replacement level in philadelphia is different than replacement level everywhere else. In Philly, Michael Martinez is above replacement level.

Mike Trout
Guest
Mike Trout
2 years 11 months ago

lmaooo as a philly fan I appreciated that comment

Dionysus
Guest
Dionysus
3 years 21 days ago

Another possibility here is that, given how reasonable this contract is, should the Phillies at some point get an offer they really like for Lee, they could conceivably get decent value in trade for Utley as well.

I still think they should have gone the way of blowing it up, but yeah this contract isn’t as awful as I was expecting.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
3 years 21 days ago

They’d better do that quickly, as Utley becomes a 10-and-5 guy sometime next season, I believe.

Phillies fan 2
Guest
Phillies fan 2
3 years 20 days ago

I believe Utley’s 10-5 kicks in this month

Ian R.
Guest
Ian R.
3 years 21 days ago

The only issue with trading Utley is that doing so might make it more difficult to sign other guys to hometown discount contracts down the road.

Of course, if they make the trade with Utley’s consent (and as chuckb mentioned, he gets full no-trade rights next year), that may not be so much of a problem.

tyler
Guest
tyler
3 years 21 days ago

this is only an issue if you believe jimmy rollins, kyle kendrick, john lannan, or humberto quinto should be signed for a hometown discount.

while the phillies have a handful of difficult contracts, they’re not in a terrible position for 2015 and beyond. They just don’t have any real talent to count on coming up, and a 25 man roster filled with question marks. If signing chase utley means that amaro is suddenly unable to offer Dom Brown a ryan howard-esque arbitration buyout, I think us phillies fans can live with that.

tyler
Guest
tyler
3 years 21 days ago

just reread ian r’s comment to realize my reply is arguing something completely different. So take that, strawman!

Choo
Member
3 years 21 days ago

Chase Utley at slightly less than QO for the next two years? Hell yes that’s a good deal.

Jay29
Member
Jay29
3 years 21 days ago

That’s what my first thought was yesterday. Very nice deal for the Phillies.

Max
Guest
Max
3 years 21 days ago

The real way to improve the Phillies for the future is to fire Amaro…

HopelessPhilsFan
Guest
HopelessPhilsFan
2 years 11 months ago

Completely agreed…I’ve always liked his ambition, but I could run circles around him on the free agent market. So could my 10 year old sister. Since he took over from Pat Gillick, the level that this team has dropped to, and dropped from, with the money they’ve spent, and with the money and fan support they bring in, is truly just astounding. The fact that it is so clear to me that I know more about how to run a team than an actual MLB GM is a pretty great feeling, and a pretty awful one since I’m a Phils fan. P.S. for the record yes agreed the Chase deal is obviously a good one

Fastpiece
Guest
Fastpiece
3 years 21 days ago

So what happened to the Utley to A’s trade?

Sean
Guest
Sean
3 years 21 days ago

Very good deal for the Phillies, IMO. Low risk for a 2 year deal at non-absurd $. Smart to lock up one of the franchise’s most iconic players as well and keep him in their uniform.

zimmerman
Guest
zimmerman
3 years 21 days ago

Phils will struggle vs lefties. Rollins can’t hit righthanded anymore, revere, utley, howard, brown, asche. That leaves Ruf and possibly ruiz as rh bats if he re-signs.

Muggi
Guest
Muggi
3 years 21 days ago

Er…Utley has a 117 wRC+ vs lefties this season, and has had a negligible L/R split for his career.

Brown is better vs righties of course, but he’s respectable vs L (108 wRC+)

Revere is a reverse split guy: better numbers vs L than R. Has been his entire career.

Howard and Rollins sucks vs lefties, agreed. We know next to nothing about Asche.

I think your assessment is inaccurate, premature, or both.

evanwins
Guest
3 years 20 days ago

Stop. You’re letting actualities, aka facts, get in the way of what he wants to believe, regardless of how off-base it is.

phillychuck
Guest
phillychuck
3 years 20 days ago

Not to mention that Ruf and Mayberry both really excel versus lefties. (Ruf in the minors, mostly, to be honest).

Brian Jones
Guest
Brian Jones
3 years 21 days ago

You lost me when you started critisizing Chase Utley. He’s a HOFer who probably won’t get there and despite his injuries his WAR has been over 3.0 those seasons you complain about. Ruin Tomorrow Jr. still is aweful though.

Bubba
Guest
Bubba
3 years 21 days ago

An excellent way to miss the point is to stop reading.

Fastpiece
Guest
Fastpiece
3 years 21 days ago

You might be a moron. Sorry your mother didn’t have the heart to tell you.

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
3 years 21 days ago

I actually don’t know exactly where in the article Chase Utley was criticized, so kudos for stopping when you found it.

rusty
Guest
rusty
3 years 21 days ago

It’s like, even in the title of the article? Which makes me lean troll rather than misreading.

Eminor3rd
Guest
Eminor3rd
3 years 21 days ago

lol

Nathan
Guest
Nathan
3 years 21 days ago

TROLLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 21 days ago

This article makes perfect sense. It should be noted that the only salary relief of any real magnitude the Phillies get over the next TWO years is Halladay coming off the books this year. All of those guys are under contract through at least 2015, which is conveniently the length of this contract. And if the options vest, then the deal will surely end up a very valuable one.

agam22
Guest
agam22
3 years 21 days ago

This is the first rational and thought-out piece on the current state of the Phillies that I have seen from a national writer in a long time. I agree they are unlikely to contend next year, but who knows maybe Asche, Brown and one or two of the young pitchers all do enough to offset decline elsewhere. You take the shot and at the very least, give the fans something to be excited about in keeping the face of the franchise around.

HopelessPhilsFan
Guest
HopelessPhilsFan
2 years 11 months ago

As much as I want to agree with you, and I see your point, this was Phillies’ fans arguments going into this year as well. Maybe Domonic Brown will put it all together, the young guys, blah blah…well, guess what, Brown has been as outstanding as he could possibly project to be, our young guys have been as good as we could expect (Ruf, Asche are the only ones we have…), and we are a million times worse than last year, and one of the absolute worst teams in baseball. You mention Brown, what is he going to do better than this year? That will offset Utley, Rollins, Lee, Halladay, Howard, Chooch all being a year older and worse? Halladay is already done, Howard is already done, Rollins is pretty much done, and it’s gonna be one of the other guys next. They are dropping like flies. What about next year’s team “gives the fans something to be excited about?” Yes, keeping chase around gives us something to feel good about (He is my absolute favorite player), and was the right move for this price, but as a whole, over the past year RAJ has probably done the worst job of managing a professional sports team that I’ve seen in recent memory. Ok keep Chase, fine. If teams were actually “interested” in Michael Young, or Papelbon, which I’m sure a couple teams were actually stupid enough to be, or any of the bums from our team, trade them, trade them for anything, pay every penny of their salary over the rest of the year, I don’t care, so a contender gets a free arm for the stretch run, and give us a decent prospect. Because of the second wild card and idiot teams like the Phillies, no one was selling at the deadline, and some of the deals teams were getting for selling were ridiculous. Even Lee, who I love…ok I get your guys points that we have the bad contracts until 2015, but if we trade him and get a guy or 2 that are really young, they’ll be around in 2015, right? I’m sorry, but as a Philly fan I have no interest in keeping Papelbum and co. and watching this pathetic team and being .500 or below .500 or even above .500 or even barely competing for a wild card spot, which is the best we can hope for. That gives me absolutely no interest or “excitement” or enjoyment in the Phillies. Not in a team that spends the money we do and that has the fan support that we give. It was a good run, would have been better if Ruben hadn’t gotten his hands on the team, but it’s time to completely move on, build around Hamels, Utley is a good piece, even keeping cliff is fine but god, if we sign another Young…if Dmitri Young finds a way on our team…I’m turning to the NBA. I’m THIS close. I’m not, but…At least the Sixers have a plan….it starts with Ruben going, and though I like the Chase deal, we need to rebuild, no .500 crap. The fact that we did nothing at the trade deadline was shockingly pathetic to me. Sorry for my resentful tone, I don’t even disagree with much of what you said. I like the deal. It’s just Ruben…he makes me like this…I promise..

RSquared
Guest
RSquared
3 years 21 days ago

For the sake of symmetry, Halladay should get a 2/26.
Think of the marketing possibilities as the cable contract is negotiated: the Over the Hill gang in the last round-up; by ’16 you have the H and H boys (Hamels and Howard) march on. Then by 17, the Lone Ranger (Hamels gets traded to TEX).

Robbie G.
Guest
Robbie G.
3 years 21 days ago

The Phillies will presumably get better offers for Cliff Lee this winter than they received prior to this summer’s trade deadline. I am assuming that Lee gets moved this winter. I am also assuming that the chances of finding a team willing to bail Philly out on Jonathan Papelbon’s contract also go up this offseason. Although Ruben Amaro, Jr. has demonstrated repeatedly over the past several years that assuming that he makes rational decisions is not the best assumption to make.

Does Philly seriously not intend to fire Amaro after the season is over? At some point, we need to stop blaming lousy GMs for running teams into the ground and blame ownership for allowing these lousy GMs to run their teams into the ground. If I’m the owner of the Phillies, and Amaro says to me, “Hey, let’s re-sign Ryan Howard to this massive extension two years before his current contract is up,” I have to think about firing him on the spot!

Richard
Guest
Richard
3 years 21 days ago

It’s commonly believed to have been rather the opposite: ownership wanted the Howard extension.

Robbie G.
Guest
Robbie G.
3 years 21 days ago

This is my point. It’s easy to blame the GM, but the ultimate blame rests on ownership, for either approving a terrible move or advocating for one. Please understand that I am not defending Amaro. Never!

Bill
Guest
Bill
3 years 20 days ago

But then we complain about ownership failing to trust their baseball guys. Yes, ownership is largely responsible for hiring and continuing to employee the wrong guy, but a lot of “good baseball people” probably tell Montgomery that Amaro knows what he’s doing. Gilick picked him as his successor and Gilick has won the World Series three times, so he must be good. The worst type of owner is the Jerry Jones type -well the worst is a Jeffrey Loria type- the next to worst owner is the Jerry Jones type that is constantly involving themselves in day-to-day operations. I think you win more with a Montgomery who is willing to give his guys a longer leash then with a guy who changes GMs every other year.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 21 days ago

“As I wrote about in July, there’s no real evidence that Utley has actually declined much at all, or that the conventional wisdom about second baseman and their aging curves should actually apply to players of Utley’s caliber.”

Whoa now. The heavy burden of proof is on the writer to show why traditional aging curves don’t or shouldn’t apply to Utley.

(By the way I don’t disagree with your premises that this is a very reasonable deal and that Utley is an excellent player, even if in 100-120 games a year. My only quibble is the premise that certain very good players are somehow immune to aging curves.)

Tim
Guest
Tim
3 years 21 days ago

Yeah, Utley is a good player, but it’s not like really good second basemen don’t collapse in their thirties. Seven of the 18 second basemen with more WAR than Utley were basically done by 35, and most of the rest by 37.

And I’m once again boggled by how good Rogers Hornsby was. He only had one good (not for him) year after 33 and still managed 130 WAR.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 21 days ago

“but it’s not like really good second basemen don’t collapse in their thirties.”

Precisely! Along with most all other players (good, bad, otherwise) at most all other positions. I’m struggling to understand why Utley is immune from the routine effects of aging.

evanwins
Guest
3 years 20 days ago

I guess the fact that he hasn’t actually declined by aging is what deterred people from realizing that you think he’s going to decline.

Hmmm. what to believe? What’s actually happening OR what you think will happen.

Tough one but I’ll go with what is actually happening.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 17 days ago

He hasn’t actually declined by aging?! (!) You don’t think degenerative knees and the resultant lost playing time is an effect of aging? Interesting.

Again there’s no argument that Utley is excellent when he plays. It’s just that “when he plays” will continue to diminish over time. Father time is and will remain unbeaten in that regard.

Drew
Guest
3 years 20 days ago

The league wasn’t good.

KDL
Guest
KDL
3 years 21 days ago

I’m not going to lie. I’m really disappointed this wasn’t a Swift-ian, ironic title.

Brian
Guest
Brian
3 years 21 days ago

Aren’t the Phillies also giving up the draft pick they would have gotten by giving Utley a qualifying offer on the way out the door? I guess maybe that’s still in play after 2015.

x
Guest
x
3 years 18 days ago

What makes you think Utley would’ve given up a ~14M qualifying offer to hit the open market with a loss of draft pick attached to him? At least this way the Phillies pick up some control if he does well.

NBarnes
Guest
NBarnes
3 years 21 days ago

There’s an extent to which is a roundabout commentary on the inanity of Howard’s contract (and, to a lesser extent, Papelbon’s). How much are the Phillies hamstrung now because of decisions made years ago? Without contracts like Howard’s, this is a team that might actually be able to make another run with players like Utley.

Robbie G.
Guest
Robbie G.
3 years 21 days ago

Top 25 2Bs of all time, based on Fangraphs WAR (asterisks next to current or future HOFers):

1 Rogers Hornsby* 130.2
2 Eddie Collins* 120.5
3 Nap Lajoie* 102.2
4 Joe Morgan* 98.8
5 Charlie Gehringer* 78.6
6 Frankie Frisch* 74.8
7 Rod Carew* 72.3
8 Bobby Grich 69.2
9 Lou Whitaker 68.1
10 Craig Biggio* (surely will get voted in soon) 65.3
11 Roberto Alomar* 63.9
12 Bid McPhee* 62.7
13 Willie Randolph 62.0
14 Ryne Sandberg* 60.9
15 Joe Gordon* 60.6
16 Jackie Robinson* 57.2
17 Jeff Kent 56.6
18 Billy Herman* 55.0
19 Chase Utley 54.4
20 Bobby Doerr* 53.3
21 Tony Lazzeri* 50.1
22 Larry Doyle 49.6
23 Johnny Evers* 49.0
24 Tony Phillips 46.6
25 Cupid Childs 45.6

If Utley continues to play and play well for the remainder of this season, and averages between 2.5 and 3.0 WAR during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, he is above the 60.0 WAR threshold, and right there with Ryne Sandberg and Joe Gordon. He’ll still have less total WAR than Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker, and Willie Randolph, but these guys played during an era when things like on-base percentage, defense, and base running were undervalued. Utley has a legitimate shot at the Hall of Fame, particularly since he is a) associated with some very good and likable Phillies teams and b) perceived to be a player who “plays the game the right way,” whatever that means. He also is a player who has, to my knowledge, never been accused of steroid use, which is a big bonus. Maybe his candidacy will get people thinking about Grich, Whitaker, and Randolph, and maybe these guys can get some support from the veteran’s committee at some point in the relatively near future.

In any event, if Utley is spending 2014 and 2015 putting the finishing touches of a Hall of Fame career, there is obviously some value there for the Phillies organization that we aren’t measuring here. Presumably this factors heavily in the Phillies organization’s decision to re-sign Utley.

Seattle Homer
Member
Seattle Homer
3 years 20 days ago

Cupid Childs? Cool.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
3 years 21 days ago

Extending Utley to this deal adds trade value to him. Sign Halladay to a short deal at a discount. If he over performs, flip him too. They can realistically get rid of all their bad contracts except Howard by this time next year. No excuse why they didn’t get something out of Young though.

evanwins
Guest
3 years 20 days ago

Now here’s a guy who really knows baseball. He pays attention to all the details.

JS7
Guest
JS7
3 years 20 days ago

Chase Utley has been the second most valuable 2B in the NL this season.

.275/.336/.505 (130 wRC+, .360 wOBA, .230 ISO)

Win Probability Added of 2.29 which has been his best since 2009.

He’s also still playing good defense with a 9.6 UZR/150.

CHRIS
Guest
CHRIS
3 years 20 days ago

NOW THIS IS THE TRUE #1 CONTRACT VALUE!!!

FM
Guest
FM
3 years 20 days ago

Good article, I just don’t understand why a team with such a high payroll has to stay in and “hope for a miracle”. I am fine with this deal, it’s all the deals that preceded it that are the problem. This team is poorly positioned for the future,and for that Amaro must go.

NCMetFan
Guest
NCMetFan
3 years 20 days ago

Well done, excellent read. As a Met fan I would have loved for Utley to go away. Players like him and Beltran will remain valuable because they maintain a high OBP through a sound hitting approach, and still hit with good power. To me, that is the key delta that helps prevent a player’s rapid decline. It’s a big part of why I think D. Wright was a great signing for the Mets. Utley at $13.5M/season oven two seasons is sound and though he is not the player he once was he is still likely to be better than two-thirds of all second baseman oven that time frame. Damn Phillies.

DNA+
Guest
DNA+
3 years 20 days ago

“I don’t care about walks, I care about production.”

Why would anyone mock this statement?! …now if he had said, “I don’t care about production, I care about walks”…

Brad Johnson
Member
Member
3 years 20 days ago

I like the pot committed analogy. That’s an apt way of explaining what I’ve been telling Phillies fans all season.

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