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Philling Voids

The Philadelphia Phillies, fresh off their 2008 World Series Championship, will enter the 2009 season a bit short-handed. Their most valuable player, Chase Utley, underwent surgery after the playoffs and may miss up to two months. And J.C. Romero, their lefty specialist, will miss 50 games after his controversial suspension. Losing Utley and Romero for approximately the same amount of time is very significant; it isn’t as if we are talking about Eric Bruntlett and Clay Condrey.

Several names were tossed around as potential replacements should Utley not be ready for opening day. Eric Bruntlett and Jason Donald, internal replacements, were the most popular two. Mark DeRosa found his name in the mix back during those Jake Peavy trade talks as well. The Phillies decided to throw another name into the mix when they signed Marcus Giles to a minor league deal earlier this week. Signing Giles to this $600,000 deal signals that the team expects Utley to miss some time and that they are not fully confident in Bruntlett and Donald filling the void.

Giles last played in the majors in 2007 for the Padres. In 116 games that season, he hit an awful .229/.304/.317. With a .283 wOBA, Giles produced -19 runs offensively. His -2 run defense did not make him any more valuable either. After adjustments, Giles was worth -0.4 wins, a far cry from the very productive version of himself seen from 2003-05.

From 2003-05, Giles posted wOBA marks of .396, .364, and .363, resulting in wRAA totals of +36, +12, and +20. His defense also proved to be very solid as well, as Giles posted UZR marks of +11, +5, and +4. In terms of win values, we are talking about +6.8 in 2003, +3.4 in 2004, and +4.9 in 2005. The 2004 season looks much lower due to Giles playing just 102 games. Prorated over the course of a full season and the total comes much closer to +4.7.

In 2006, though, his stumble began, as he produced -5 runs on offense while experiencing a sharp dropoff defensively to the tune of -8 runs. He plummeted from +4.9 wins to +0.9 wins.

Marcel projects Giles to post a .309 wOBA in approximately 250 PA next season. This would place him right around -5 runs on offense. If we assume that the -8 defensive runs in 2006 was too low and the -2 in 2007 may be a bit optimistic, then -4 runs seems like a nice compromise. His positional adjustment as well as adjustment for playing time add up to +9 runs, which cancels out with the -9 runs from offense and defense.

Essentially, Giles is the definition of a replacement player next season. He costs just $600,000, is projected to provide replacement level production, and is only being called upon due to Utley’s injury. Of course, if he truly has overcome an injury that supposedly lingered from 2004, and can prove he still has some semblance of production, then the Phillies may have found themselves a significant upgrade over the likes of Bruntlett.

Filling the void left by Romero also presents both internal and external options. GM Amaro has stated that the team will not spend much money to replace him, and JA Happ could be a viable alternative already on the roster. Of course, Happ is likely the best option for the fifth spot in the rotation. If he finds himself in the bullpen, Scott Eyre will likely take over Romero’s role while Happ takes over Eyre’s longer duty role.

The other names being tossed around are Casey Fossum, Will Ohman, Eddie Guardado, and Joe Beimel. Fossum projects the worst of this bunch, literally at replacement level. Guardado looks like a +0.25 win pitcher, with Beimel coming in at +0.40 wins and Ohman at +0.55 wins. None of these pitchers should cost the team more than $2.8 mil or so for a one year deal, but with a plethora of players heading towards arbitration, Happ making chicken-scratch (relative to MLB) looks like the most fiscally responsible solution.

Either way, the Phillies have some decisions to make regarding who will fill what voids, as two significant voids currently need filling. Utley’s is by far more significant than Romero’s, but fans of the defending champs can only hope that the likes of Giles, and Happ/Guardado/Beimel/Ohman/Fossum/whomever can help lessen the productivity lost by these players missing time.