The Phillies Take the Middle Road

The FanGraphs community exists in an echo chamber. As far as echo chambers go, it’s not a bad one. We expect baseball teams to (mostly) make objective, rational decisions. But we do have our own pre-conceived ideas about what makes a decision objectively rational. We also have a lot of contrarians in our midst, which prevents an echo chamber from becoming stodgy and outdated. Bill James is a noted contrarian as are many other sabermetricians. That basic instinct – it’s almost an assumption that conventional thinking is wrong – has helped our little closet industry grow to one that front office personnel read on a regular basis.

You may recall there was a time when seemingly a quarter of the articles on this site were simply about who had a low or high BABIP and should be expected to regress. We called BABIP a “luck stat,” but like most new things, it was oversimplified. We now know different types of batted balls carry different expectations, as do different pitches at different locations. Unsurprisingly, BABIP can be considered to possess a luck component and a non-luck component. We now readily discern between these aspects of BABIP in our player analysis.

I sense that another area where we’re beginning to adjust is with how we view the rebuilding process. In the past, it was popular to dismiss pricey signings by non-competitive clubs with scorn. Of course, snark is a driving force behind any web-based written endeavor, so it’s not surprising that we reserve heaps of it for seemingly baffling moves. One of my favorite throwback articles on this site was about The Contest between Omar Minaya and Dayton Moore. That article was a masterpiece of snarkery, but it didn’t help us to understand more about the Royals or Mets.

The Phillies offseason has met with its share of snark. As Mike Petriello pointed out in November, the Phillies have earned that scorn with a series of poor signings, headlined by Ryan Howard‘s extension. As you may know, it is FanGraphs’ official position that the Howard contract is doggy poop.

Not much has changed for the Phillies since that November article. Here is a list of the principle Phillies news from this offseason:

And there you have it. A team that won 73 games last season added about $60 million in guaranteed salary (not including Chase Utley‘s in-season extension) in order to re-sign their aging catcher, bring in an even older outfielder, and acquire some rotation depth for a top heavy staff. On a positive note, they did sign a lucrative television deal that should ensure strong revenues for years to come.

If you were managing the Phillies offseason, things would have been different, right? You wouldn’t have signed the fogeys to multi-year contracts. Gambling on Gonzalez, Hernandez, and the minor league invitees makes perfect sense, but that’s a lot of money to guarantee to Byrd and Ruiz over seemingly non-competitive seasons. You would also aim to trade Cole Hamels AND Cliff Lee, shedding payroll and receiving top prospects in one fell swoop. You may have even tried to sneak Howard into one of those deals, although good luck finding a taker.

That’s how a classic tear down would go. The model employed by the Astros is what some fans expect when a formerly great roster grows decrepit. Collect your first overall picks, give playing time to those lottery ticket types in the hopes of finding the next Jose Bautista or Jayson Werth, and put up with a few losing seasons. Surely the Astros will soon turn things around. Of course, their own television deal is a flop. The local providers aren’t paying the carriage fee so the team probably won’t receive full payment from that revenue channel. It might have helped things if the Astros were a good team or had some at least some hope of competing, a few local heroes, anything that made them a desirable product to the local fan base.

The Pirates more than once employed a similar model. Pittsburgh saw great success from their latest tear down and rebuild effort. They’ve put a collection of solid players around one truly excellent superstar, Andrew McCutchen. Sure enough, the team was propelled to the playoffs last season. Certainly, it’s time to forget that the club had 20 straight losing seasons during their rebuilding period. That’s 20 straight seasons of poor revenue.

They’re hardly the only team who has misfired in their rebuilding efforts. The Royals share that claim, the Blue Jays flopped last season when they tried to turn the corner, and the Orioles pulled themselves out of the hole two years ago, though they have precious little margin for error. To successfully rebuild, a team must find or develop star players and then fill an entire roster around them. It’s by no means an impossible task, but it requires skill, luck and timeliness.

Which brings us back to the Phillies. Aside from a one-season blip in 1993, the Phillies were dreadful from 1987 through 2000. They fielded a decent team for the six seasons prior to their recent run of five straight postseasons. However, until the team actually reached the postseason, most fans in the Philadelphia area just assumed that the team would fall apart. The team had failed at rebuilding so many times that the fans had given up. It doesn’t help that Philadelphia fans place the same expectations on their teams as Yankees fans, except Philadelphia ownership isn’t nearly as committed to a win-at-all-costs mentality.

The Phillies were fortunate that things came together in 2007. Jimmy Rollins, Utley, Howard and Hamels all arrived on the scene at the same time and were reaching their physical peaks together. Players like Shane Victorino, Werth and Ruiz emerged from the thrift shop to become key contributors. The influx of talent combined with a new ballpark allowed revenue to leap forward, which further allowed the club to start spending like a large-market franchise.

An Astros-style rebuild would be a nightmare for the Phillies. The hard-won fans from their 2008 World Series victory might flee back to football or hockey until the next time the Phillies field a true World Series contender. The fans in Philadelphia simply don’t have patience for losers. If the team became truly terrible again, many fans would go away and not come back until a World Series title was within reach. However, a decline to mere mediocrity could keep more fans around in the interim and make it easier to win back the most fickle-hearted.

In the meantime, even if the Phillies were to aggressively dump salaries, they would still have a relatively large payroll. If attendance and revenue cratered, the club would be in dire financial straits. That in turn could compromise their ability to supplement the roster the next time an Utley, Howard or Rollins arrives at the big league level.

Let’s not forget the lesson of the Astros’ television deal. The Phillies were probably able to negotiate a slightly better return based on the current quality of the club and ownership’s apparent commitment to prevent a total collapse. Moreover, Philadelphia’s status as a fringe contender (however much a stretch that title might be) should make it easier for Comcast SportsNet to sell the broadcasting rights. Of course, it also helps that the Phillies stuck with their current provider so that the only moving part is the carriage fee.

The Phillies could have made different decisions years ago. They might have divested themselves of certain players, kept a few others and tried to build a new core. That probably would have been advisable. But they didn’t, and now they are committed to another plan. As analysts, we cannot assume that the Phillies should be striding the same path as the Astros or Pirates. There are many reasons why such an approach may not be prudent. At the end of the day, the Phillies will struggle to tread water in 2014, but perhaps that is best course of action for the long-term health of the franchise.

Of course, there is a separate and more ominous question to consider. The current leadership may well be making logical choices for 2014, but they’re also responsible for the position in which the club now finds itself. Are they the right personnel to lead any rebuilding effort — be that a full-scale slash and burn or a multi-season limp?



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Brad is a former collegiate player who writes for FanGraphs, MLB Trade Rumors, The Hardball Times, RotoWorld, and The Fake Baseball. He's also the lead MLB editor for RotoBaller. Follow him on Twitter @BaseballATeam or email him here.


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coldseat
Guest
coldseat
2 years 8 months ago

I’d also add that if one “undo’s” every trade away
of prospects by the current regime, the club doesn’t look a whole lot better.

Inb4 those prospects could have been used as trade chips in different deals. prospect speculation upon speculation.

Za
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Za
2 years 8 months ago

undoes?

John J
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John J
2 years 8 months ago

Don’t forget the recent Bobby Abreu signing, although I actually think he could be helpful in a Manny Mota type role. This is like a reunion concert of some faded 1980’s hair metal band. It may seem like a good idea at the start but by the second half the reality sinks in.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
2 years 8 months ago

What “reality”? That this is a 70-85 win team with no realistic shot at the postseason?

The Phillies know that. That’s literally the point of the article.

harry
Guest
harry
2 years 8 months ago

i know this aint how its suppose to be used but based on last seasons run totals, they actually outperformed their pythagorean win% (.399, 64 wins). Bc of this, 85 wins seems very optimistic for this phillies team, considering they really have not improved much besides getting guys healthy.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 8 months ago

Guys getting healthy isn’t something to just toss out, though.

I don’t think they get above .500, personally, but they could get 85 if absolutely everything breaks right.

G. Lee
Guest
G. Lee
2 years 8 months ago

The fans in Philadelphia simply don’t have patience for losers.

I’m not so sure that this makes the Phillies’ situation unique. Outside of Wrigley Field, fans everywhere don’t have patience for losers.

Chickensoup
Member
Member
Chickensoup
2 years 8 months ago

It’s not really unique, it’s pretty much how every non NY/Chicago/LA team has to operate. Notice I did say pretty much though because there are 2 notable (and FG favorite) teams who don’t fit this mold for another reason. The Rays and A’s mostly don’t have I worry about fans not showing up if they make what FG people don’t consider good moves because they pretty much never draw fans to games regardless of win/loss record. What fans are they upsetting if they had to rebuild? 500k? These teams draw a large part of their profits from revenue sharing so rebuilding is no problem. It also means they kind of max out on profitability as a consequence, but an Astros style rebuild has less consequence than most teams because of this.

jruby
Member
Member
jruby
2 years 8 months ago

True, but in most places you don’t consider a violent, Colombian soccer-style reaction to frustrating on-field performance…

piratesbreak500
Guest
piratesbreak500
2 years 8 months ago

I think Patience is a relative term. Basically, if you had a losing season, how much would your revenue drop- that could be one measure of patience. Maybe a better one would be how your revenue in a season where you were expected not to make the playoffs compared to your revenue/attendance in years where you were expected to make the playoffs.

James
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James
2 years 8 months ago

Yeah, I thought this was a strange point. I’m not sure if the article is suggesting that the Astros’ fans don’t care about winning or what. Clearly they could switch their attention to the Rockets or some other team (ok, maybe not the Texans…). I’m not sure there’s anything magical about Phillies’ fans that puts them in a unique situation. The article would be on firmer ground just suggesting that for all teams there’s some merit to not being a disaster, a point that Dave Cameron has made time and again.

Paul Sorrento
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Paul Sorrento
2 years 8 months ago

It seems to me the author is making the point that the Astros are paying a price for their scorched earth rebuild. He mentions that the Astros are not generating TV money due to the poor quality of the team and lack of ratings, a potential problem that could bite them in the ass if this continues for a decade or more like some other “rebuilds” have.

Raff
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Raff
2 years 8 months ago

I beg to differ! The fans of Philadelphia have lived with the worst team in baseball for 130 years.

* From 1918 to 1948 (my grandfather’s childhood and young adulthood), the Phillies were above .500 once.

* From 1951 to 1974 (my father’s childhood and young adulthood), the Phillies finished as high as 2nd place once.

* From 1984 to 2000 (my childhood and young adulthood), the Phillies were competitive once (the 1993 WS team).

It is because Phillies fans have waited so patiently for success — not the opposite — that we are so anxious to see our team capitalize during a fleeting window of opportunity.

(Note: I realize the window has closed. Now I can look forward to raising a son, letting him know that when he turns 33 — like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather before him — the Phillies will be in the World Series. I don’t believe that’s what Yankees fans’ mentality.)

FeslenR
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FeslenR
2 years 8 months ago

Is Franco really that poor a fielding 3B?? Considering they have no depth there, I’d leave him at 3b for as long as possible. With that giant, fat contract eating up at first base, it makes 0 sense for them to move Franco there.

(plus, they have Ruf there, who is adequate and blocked as well)

jruby
Member
Member
jruby
2 years 8 months ago

I get the feeling that the front office really believes Cody Asche is the long-term answer at 3B. Or, maybe more precisely, the believe that the chance Asche is the long-term answer at 3B, however small, is greater that the chance that they have anything close to a long-term answer at 1B.

coldseat
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coldseat
2 years 8 months ago

It’s being reported as some time at 1b and not an outright move, per the club. Franco scouts ok as a 3b per reports, slow and limited range but good hands amd arm. The team is just building his flexibility. Howie has been known to get hurt from time to time and it also might help Franco’s trade value. Not sure there is any downside here.

Rick
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Rick
2 years 8 months ago

I wonder if the Phillies might be hoping a relatively healthy Howard establishes this year that he has at least some value left, thus allowing them to trade him. Perhaps the Angels or Yankees would be interested, a la Vernon Wells or Alfonso Soriano?

Raltongo
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Raltongo
2 years 8 months ago

Exactly my thought. I think one more year with this core is all that’s left before the massive overhaul that’s described in the article. If the phillies miss the playoffs but Howard even slightly improves hid value, it’s possible that the could bring a decent prospect back in a trade to a desperate team. This can explain also some of the extra reps Franco will take at first base. The asche to second base experiment was not overly pretty, but I think it’s possible they revisit that idea in order to keep Franco at third. Unless the Phil’s really don’t think Franco can stick at third anyway, then the extra reps at first are a win-win for everyone

paperlions
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paperlions
2 years 8 months ago

If Howard slightly improves his value, he’ll be worth about 30% of his remaining contract. The Phillies would have to each a huge portion of it just to unload him, and probably couldn’t get a decent prospect back no matter what.

If you have to rebuild, it is always better to trade away aging players a year too early, when they still have value relative to their contract, than to wait one year too late, when they value is zip. This team really has few assets that can help in a rebuild because their contracts are already horrible or the represent close to their value, leaving no extra value that justified teams paying up in prospects unless Philly is willing to eat some $$, which they don’t seem willing to do.

The problem is mostly that Amaro is usually the guy on the other side of such deals, willing to give up prospects and take on the $$, he doesn’t understand the other side of such trades.

derekcarstairs
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derekcarstairs
2 years 8 months ago

If the Phils would only platoon Howard, he still would be a Top 20 offensive player in all of baseball in the 115 games he would start. Howard remains lethal against righties.

dovif
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dovif
2 years 8 months ago

If you said top 20 1B, it might make a little sense, he is not a top 20 offense player like 4 years ago

derekcarstairs
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derekcarstairs
2 years 8 months ago

dovif – Since you haven’t already, check his stats and then return with your revised opinion. I suggest you look at wOBA, wRC+, OPS and OPS+. I suggest you also cut Howard some slack for 2012 when he was in recovery mode, but look at 2010, 2011, and 2013.

JPinPhilly
Member
JPinPhilly
2 years 8 months ago

Franco isn’t being moved to 1B outright. He’s splitting time there. Some scouts seem to disagree on whether or not he’ll be able to stick at 3B long-term so he may end up at 1B eventually anyway. When Howard moves on in 2017 Franco will only be 24 years-old. Asche hasn’t shown any ability to hit LHP yet (.608 OPS in only 34 PA) and Howard can’t hit lefties to save his life so Franco’s bat could be useful at 3B and at 1B.

Also, what does it mean to say that Carlos Ruiz “emerged from the thrift shop”??? They signed Ruiz as an international free agent out of Panama. They didn’t have high school baseball where he grew up so it took some time for him to develop but he did put together three straight seasons with an OPS of .800 or better before being promoted from the minors. Since then he’s been stellar behind the plate and has a career .358 OBP. This isn’t some guy that they signed off waivers or got in the Rule 5 draft.

psualum
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psualum
2 years 8 months ago

Yea and Jayson Werth was the 22nd overall pick in 1997, he made not of made it with the Orioles but he certainly wasn’t a “scrap heap” prospect either.

TK
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TK
2 years 8 months ago

At the time they signed him from the Dodgers he was on the scrap heap. His value had almost completely cratered due to health and development concerns.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 8 months ago

He failed in several places before coming to the Phillies.

Also, being drafted 22nd overall doesn’t mean anything in the MLB draft.

coldseat
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coldseat
2 years 8 months ago

22nd overall is pretty special & means at least a little bit.

Werth had a serious wrist injury with many saying it was career ending in nature, including the Dodgers. Apparently, the Dodgers misdiagnosed/mistreayed the injury to the point that Werth was talking suing them once he heeled up in Philly.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 8 months ago

The median career WAR of the 22nd overall draft pick is -.01; the mean career WAR is 7.3.

A 28 year old coming off a major injury with exactly 1 above average offensive season to his name is the definition of a scrap heap signing. His having been a former late first rounder doesn’t change that in the slightest, because most late-first rounders bust.

coldseat
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coldseat
2 years 8 months ago

it means he has/once had great tools.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 8 months ago

That doesn’t mean anything. Greg Golson was a 21st overall pick. He also had great tools.

If someone picks him up and gets great production, will it not have been a scrap heap signing?

Mr Punch
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Mr Punch
2 years 8 months ago

But … I’m sure the Philly FO doesn’t think their situation is that of the Pirates or Royals. This is a big-market team that was considered very good (because of outstanding pitching, mostly) quite recently, but has recently done badly and is aging fast. Their best recent comp, at least in their own minds, may well be Boston. It’s certainly reasonable to question whether or not they seem to be achieving anything like the Red Sox reboot – but that’s the right question.

Waldo23
Member
Waldo23
2 years 8 months ago

This article could conceivably be on the money, but I’m not really moved by the arguments in favor of the myriad bad contractual decisions here. No numbers at all, the whole thing is based on conjecture, and therefore an impossible case to prove or disprove on the given criteria. The article presupposes without evidence that fans would rather accept mediocrity with familiar faces than a restructure, but surely there must be a way to test this theory?

coldseat
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coldseat
2 years 8 months ago

“bad contracts”? – it’s really been just Howard. And the Pujols, Fielder contracts don’t look much better so they are not alone. Pap is overpaid, but its still not a crippler & at the time he signed, Philly was the overwhelming favorite to win the NL pennant, with closer being their biggest hole (btw look what happened to madsen).

The rest of the signing may be misplacef gambles, but hardly team altering by any stretch.

David G
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David G
2 years 8 months ago

Nice try, Jonathan Papelbon’s agent.

ankle explosion hr celebration
Guest
ankle explosion hr celebration
2 years 8 months ago

Oh, I see. It’s just those two crippling mega-contracts, the total cost of which (for 2014 alone) will be $38 million, while in return for those $38 million they ought to get something like 1WAR. Well, when you put it that way, it doesn’t sound so bad.

Paul Sorrento
Guest
Paul Sorrento
2 years 8 months ago

Waldo, there is evidence – game attendance and TV ratings are better in a given market for a .500 team than for a horrid team. Most casual fans just want to see a win and don’t have the thought in mind that the future of the franchise would be better if they would ship off what useful pieces they have and sacrifice wins now for wins later. Even if they did have this in mind I would think they’d be less inclined to watch the lesser product anyway.

jdbolick
Member
Member
2 years 8 months ago

I don’t know that Philadelphia really had many options. The old “tear down” model depends on other teams being willing to give prospects and/or young players with potential in exchange for established regulars, but Tampa can’t even get what they want for David Price. I don’t know that there is really much of a market for the Phillies’ aging corps even if they decided to blow it up. If that is true, then the choice becomes overpaying for mediocrity or tearing down the roster simply to give young players more experience and hope some of them emerge. Not only does the money from the television deal make it easier to swallow overpayment, it also means they may feel additional obligation to field a team that has some semblance of competitiveness.

BMarkham
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BMarkham
2 years 8 months ago

“but Tampa can’t even get what they want for David Price.”

That’s a totally different situation though. Tampa wants young talent that is ready to play in the MLB now or at least at some point in 2014. They wanted Walker from Seattle, they wanted Polanco from the Pirates. They want someone really close to ready because they intend to continue to contend this year. They’re having a hard time finding a match because most contenders aren’t fond of getting rid of MLB ready young talent either.

Philadelphia is in a completely different situation. They should be looking for talent that is ready in a few years. I bet the Phillies could find a lot of quality A and AA prospects with their trade chips.

I disagree that it’s better to prop up a mediocre team and slow the rebuilding process. If Phillies fan’s will really support the franchise wants their contenders again, then the Phillies should take a few dark years in the name of revitalizing their system.

If Phillies fans really are huge supporters of WS caliber teams, then really it makes sense to slash and burn, take the loss in revenue for a few years, and then have a very profitable franchise once they’re contenders again. To do otherwise is valuing the smaller short term profits over larger long term profits.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 8 months ago

It’s called maintaining competitiveness during a rebuild. It’s how big-budget teams work.

paperlions
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paperlions
2 years 8 months ago

Totally context dependent. There are a lot of variables that go into such decisions, and previous (even 5-10 yrs ago) approaches no longer hold because valuations of veteran vs prospects have changed, the FA market has changed, and the relative level of sophistication of FOs has greatly increased. Smart teams plan ahead and make moves planing for both the present and the future, they don’t just focus on the present because they know that the playoffs are a crap shoot and it is better to get there a lot than to be a little better when you get there and to get there fewer times.

Philly is setting themselves up to be really bad for several years by holding on for far too long. The value of most of their assets has depreciated greatly, they have little of trade value because most of their players are old and not worth their contracts, much less their contracts PLUS prospects.

As Cameron is fond of saying, you don’t trade players, you trade contracts….and Philly is chock full of bad ones.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 8 months ago

Oh, the context is exactly why they aren’t doing anything wrong.

The only player Philly is committed to in 2017 is Cole Hamels. It’s just a matter of their staying somewhat afloat until then. That’s why they’ve been signing veterans through 2016.

Once they get out from under the Howard, Pap and Lee contracts, they’ll be good to go.

derekcarstairs
Guest
derekcarstairs
2 years 8 months ago

The good news is that the Phils have stopped trading prospects and stopped losing draft picks through free-agent signings. Given their current elevated draft position, the Phils’ farm could be Top Ten after the 2015 draft.

The bad news is that it’s an awfully slow process just to rely on the draft and wait for the bad contracts to expire. At the current pace, the Phils won’t be a top team again until 2017-2018, at the earliest. Five or more years of irrelevance is not acceptable for a big-spending team like the Phillies.

coldseat
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coldseat
2 years 8 months ago

this & the “good news” began at the 2012 deadline…which is much earlier than most complaining for a rebuilding today.

Tim
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Tim
2 years 8 months ago

You say “middle road,” I say “wishy-washy.” I don’t think a full-scale teardown made a ton of sense for the Phils, but I see even less point in what they’ve done. You’ve got an old team with a few very good players, a bunch of average players, a couple open slots, and a first baseman with a contract so huge your only play is to desperately hope he rediscovers himself. To me this doesn’t say “tear it down,” it says “go for it.” Once they had the opportunity to bring back Ruiz on a very reasonable deal, they should have been thinking about putting together a fringe-competitive team by adding above-average players for RF and #3 starter. Instead they inexplicably signed Byrd and Hernandez. Now they’ll win 80 games and everyone will decide in June that they’re done and should have dumped Hamels and Lee for not much in prospects, when for not much more money they could have won 85 games and been in play for a wild card spot all year.

There’s value in being an above-average-but-not-good team, and the Phils had the opportunity to get there. There’s probably value in the tear-it-down approach, though they’re not terribly well set up in terms of the trade value of most of their veterans. But the worst thing in baseball to be is a team that is below-average-but-not-terrible, and that seems to be what they’ve accomplished.

hk
Guest
hk
2 years 8 months ago

“Now they’ll win 80 games and everyone will decide in June that they’re done…when for not much more money they could have won 85 games and been in play for a wild card spot all year.”

Assuming that every free agent who has signed this off-season would have come to Philly for the same price, which two players would have combined to be a 5 win upgrade over Byrd and Hernandez for not much more money?

harry
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harry
2 years 8 months ago

80 wins for this phils team is quite generous. last year they won 73 and were luckly to get to that number. Based on the moves they made, where do you see another 7+ wins for this team?

Cole
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Cole
2 years 8 months ago

Above average right fielders grow like oranges in Florida. Also, the Phillies didn’t go out and sign a # 3 starter because they dont wish to lose a draft pick. Thanks to them being in the bottom 10, their first is protected I know, but a high 2nd in what seems to be a deeper draft is pretty valuable. The only “number 3” they could have gotten without sacrificing the pick would have been Garza or Tanaka. Tanka got paid out the behind, really not a good fit on this team anyways, and Garza would have added another lengthy expensive contract when it appears that front office wants their hands clean of this team by 2017. After that season the only boys on the books are Chase and Cole.

The Phillies added players this off season that they hope can help this core, if healthy per usual, to fall into some lucky wins and maybe be in it for that second wild card spot. If not, look for the trades to start happening. It really is not all the gloom and doom some phillies fans say it is. Those “fans” are the ones who just expect results immediately, and have no appreciation for just how challenging it is to put a championship team on the field every year.

derekcarstairs
Guest
derekcarstairs
2 years 8 months ago

I think the best way for the Phils to improve the rotation would have been to take a gamble on those high-ceiling guys trying to bounce back or hang on, guys like Josh Johnson, Haren, Hudson, etc. It would have been no sure thing, but it would have been cheap and without a long-term commitment.

That, of course, is just looking at things from the Phils’ point of view.

From the pitchers’ point of view, it was wise for them to sign with NL-West teams with pitcher-friendly ballparks.

bjsguess
Member
Member
bjsguess
2 years 8 months ago

Since when is Hudson a high ceiling guy? He hasn’t been worth more than 3 WAR since 2011. Before that you have to go back to 2007.

Hudson is a fine starter that may be worth his contract if things break right. High upside though?

Ace
Guest
Ace
2 years 8 months ago

I think folks are being a bit generous with their expectations for the Phillies in 2014. According to the Fangraphs depth charts, the current roster is projected for about 28 WAR, or 27th in all of baseball. That’s slightly worse than the Twins and Astros. Now obviously that number is not infallible or anything, but this looks to me like a pretty bad team, not just a mediocre one. They would need to gain at least 15 wins over last season’s total just to be on the periphery of the 2nd wild card race.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 8 months ago

I hope you aren’t just adding up the WAR from the ZiPS projections to get that total. That runs the risk of being karate chopped by Dan Szymborski.

Ace
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Ace
2 years 8 months ago

No, if you go to any of the team depth chart pages, there is a list on the right side of all 30 teams and their projected WAR. I think it’s Steamer based, since the ZIPs projections aren’t all out yet. Of course there are massive error bars here; just a very quick and dirty way to say that Philly appears closer to the last place teams than they do to the WC contenders.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 8 months ago

A lot of that stems form their lack of depth, though, since the total playing time from summing the projections adds up to more than the total playing time that should be expected in a full season.

cass
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cass
2 years 8 months ago

That’s now how the FanGraphs depth charts work. One of the FG staff assigns playing time for each player and then they multiply the projections times the playing time. It’s not infallible, of course, but there isn’t the problem you describe in terms of too much playing time.

jfree
Member
jfree
2 years 8 months ago

Your last paragraph is the right one. Those who get you into a mess are never the ones who get you out of it.

Mike
Guest
Mike
2 years 8 months ago

What a loser mentality and a waste of an article. You neglect to mention that the Phillies have replaced their inept manager with a hall of famer and that their record with Ryan Howard in the lineup over the last two dreadful years is 14 games over .500. They will contend for a playoff spot this year. You can book it.

Divorced from reality
Guest
Divorced from reality
2 years 8 months ago

Yep, HOF players always translate into super-awesome coaches. ALWAYS. So Howard, Utley, and Rollins made for a nice core in 2008 but are now another year older and deeper into their decline phase. This team should win upwards of 135 games. Anything else is loser talk. BOOK IT.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 8 months ago

Actually, Utley is looking somewhat healthy again. If he plays a full-ish season, he’s worth 3.5-4 WAR easy.

Antonio bananas
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Antonio bananas
2 years 8 months ago

Utley always looks healthy at the beginning of the year, it’s once he starts playing baseball that he gets hurt.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 8 months ago

He was healthy almost all of last year, though!

I believe!

cass
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cass
2 years 8 months ago

Why the down votes? This comment was funny, especially the last two sentences.

matt w
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matt w
2 years 8 months ago

The Pirates did not more than once employ a similar blow up the whole team and rebuild from scratch model. The GM before Neal Huntington, Dave Littlefield, was notorious for neglecting the farm and the draft for short-term moves that were designed to get the team to mediocrity the next season or two. (Google Dave Littlefied + “Drive for 75” to see what I’m talking about.) That’s why he traded for Matt Morris instead of saving the money to sign Wieters; why he blocked young talent with washed-up vets like Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa (the second time around), and Benito Santiago.

Before then Cam Bonifay started a blow-up-and-rebuild strategy, but the Pirates’ surprise contention in 1997 (with a lower payroll than Albert Belle) led the owner to put pressure on Bonifay to get a winning team in place in time for PNC Park’s opening in 2001. Moves like the contract extensions for Jason Kendall, Brian Giles, Kevin Young, and oh yeah Pat Meares aren’t exactly part of the model you’re talking about.

So the Pirates didn’t really go into a total rebuild until Huntington came in and blew up the entire roster, from top to bottom, while pouring as much money as he could into the draft. And it took a while to work, but it did work. It was when management refused to commit to a rebuilding strategy that we got most of the twenty years of losing.

MikeH_TSP
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MikeH_TSP
2 years 8 months ago

Are you serious? The fans in Philly are a LOT smarter than you give them credit for. There’s a silent majority that doesn’t blame the players on the field. Be honest, if someone came in and offered you twice what anyone else was offering, would you turn it down? The problem in Philadelphia, outside of Pat Gillick, has been the general manager and the lack of ability of the talent evaluators on hand. Honestly, you can’t get any denser than the current iteration of what the Phillies call their front office.

Howard – Signed two years before FA. What makes things worse is that the 1B class that year would have been Howard, Pujols, Gonzalez, and Fielder.

Utley – Yes, let’s extend a guy who hasn’t played over 135 games in any season the last four years. Did I mention he has a CHRONIC knee condition?

Rollins – Let’s give a guy, with no market, essentially a four year deal.

Papelbon – One ups Rollins. Overpaid in years and dollars. Close to double the most recent closer signings.

Do I even get involved with the draft? Of the 12 “first round” picks since Cole Hamels, only Travis d’Arnaud is expected to be on a MLB roster come opening day. Extremely poor decision making, whether it be in the draft or free agency or trades, is the reason why real fans stop showing up. The worst part is the “ownership” group has no apparent interest in the on the field quality. The front man keeps giving a vote of confidence to people that have caused the team to speak into obscurity.

Maybe, just maybe, if the Phillies ACTUALLY invest heavily into player development, they can have similar success to what they have now, or greater, for a fraction of the cost. The only difference between a $170M payroll that wins 75 games and a $70M payroll that wins 75 games is the expectations.

Teddy Westside
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Teddy Westside
2 years 8 months ago

You nailed it Mike H.

Unless you are that terrible QB that got carried to a Super Bowl, Brad Johnson, I don’t who you are or when you became the voice of Phillies fans. Sure some people will “run away” until we have a contender, but those aren’t real fans. Those are the people that go to games because it’s the “thing to do.” EVERY franchise has fans like that, so don’t you act like we are the only ones. The true fans around here, and it’s the majority of us, understand that this is a bad team with a depleted farm system. You think we wanted to sign Byrd, Ruiz, Fauxto Carmona etc? No, dude, we didn’t. Sure, when the team underperforms I am not going to 20 games a year. I’ll still go to a handful, but I’ll watch EVERY other game at home. Same goes for the other fans. We won’t spend our hard earned money to go watch a team lose, but bet your ass we support from our couches and bars. So don’t act like we are frontrunners, because you are way off base.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 8 months ago

Are you saying Brad Johnson was a terrible QB that got carried to a Super Bowl, or are you directing a comment to the author of the article? Same names = so confusing.

JPinPhilly
Member
JPinPhilly
2 years 8 months ago

Eh, I’m with you til you get to the draft and the ownership. We don’t know what ownership does and doesn’t care about. I’m sure they care about making money and probably like watching their team win. If the team doesn’t start winning again they’ll lose money so there is definitely an interest in seeing the team win. The Phils are far from “obscurity” and every team goes through these cycles. Rube won’t be there forever and some of the draft picks that you disregard as not having made opening day rosters were included in deals that brought in Doc or were drafted recently enough that we don’t know what they’ll be. Biddle and Crawford have plenty of talent. Most draft picks don’t work out and even the brilliant Rays have missed on a bunch. Turns out it’s harder to get it right when you’re not picking in the top five every year.

James
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James
2 years 8 months ago

Phillies take the middle aged road

Jason B
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Jason B
2 years 8 months ago

Well they tried to get Young last year (Delmon AND Michael!) and people didn’t like that either! There’s just no pleasing some people…

ankle explosion hr celebration
Guest
ankle explosion hr celebration
2 years 8 months ago

har har har, but seriously, they are way old. That’s a major flaw in their “rebuilding” strategy. Older players are more known commodities, but they tend not to improve much.

If you want to rebuild, you ought to invest in high upside, high risk assets (younger players, international free agents, and so forth); whereas if you want to keep your window open, you invest in low upside, lower risk assets (veteran FAs). The Phillies are seemingly buying the latter, even though it’s apparent to all involved that they need the former much more in the long term.

See the Ruiz and Byrd contracts. The Phillies will be lucky if those two can perform at the levels they have recently, and they certainly aren’t likely to greatly exceed those levels.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 8 months ago

Why do you care about the Ruiz or Byrd contracts? They aren’t guaranteed anything after 2016, which is when the Howard contract ends. They’re just trying to be .500-ish until then.

They want to give fans a reason to keep coming to the games while they retool and rebuild. Guys like Byrd and Ruiz (who is quite good) allow them to do that. They recognize that isn’t their window, but they aren’t about to intentionally suck for 4 years because of that.

ankle explosion hr celebration
Guest
ankle explosion hr celebration
2 years 8 months ago

“They’re just trying to be .500-ish until then.”

Here’s the problem as I see it: they are nowhere near .500-ish right now. As pointed out above, they are 27th in WAR, and their roster is old–like, way old–so I’m inclined to view that as a “best case” scenario.

My thinking is that they are going to suck if they try to contend, and also suck if they don’t try to contend. So why not try for the rebuild? At least that way you get a better chance of not sucking post-2016.

What do you think is going to happen in 2016? I ask that genuinely. Their farm system is bare. Yes, they will have a lot of money to spend, but they aren’t Yankees-rich; they can’t buy the best 3-4 free agents on the market. Even if they did, that wouldn’t be enough to build a competitive roster from scratch. In the mean time, they will be getting middle-high draft picks, and as has been pointed out, there’s a drastic decrease in expected WAR going from the first couple of picks to the rest of the first round.

So the way I see it, by attempting to get to contention in the near term, they are sacrificing their long-term competitive prospects. This is not new; it’s the classic argument for a rebuild.

I will concede on reflection, Byrd isn’t such a bad contract for rebuilding. If he somehow has a tremendous year, which I believe is highly unlikely, then trade him and get some future value. But for some reason they gave Ruiz a no-trade clause, which means that it may be difficult to get rid of him, so I stand by that as a bad decision.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 8 months ago

The Phillies, meanwhile, see it as “Well, if we absolutely tank for a few years, it will take 5 years of being really good for people to want to come to our games again, and the resultant lack of attendance will make it that much harder to afford to be good again.”

In 2015 and 2016 they’ll have over $90 million coming off of the books. They’ll be able to get the parts they need to build around their hopefully panned out young core of Franco/Asche/Brown/Biddle/Crawford to go along with the last couple years of Hamels’ and Utley’s deals.

Kevin
Member
Kevin
2 years 8 months ago

They went after MAG. That a huge gamble with a potentially golden payoff.

E.Yo
Guest
E.Yo
2 years 8 months ago

Not only does Brad Johnson write great articles about the phillies. He also had the best cutter in the MIAC from the years of 2007-2009

Billy
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Billy
2 years 8 months ago

I’m gonna remark on something completely different here: the opening part about being contrarian. I don’t know if Bill James labeled himself this, and if he did, he was using the word in a way that differs from it’s technical meaning.

Generally, I’m not a big fan of being contrarian or skeptical simply for the sake of being such. I’m a big fan of people thinking for themselves. The difference being that we should always think things through ourselves and examine things closely, to avoid following things blindly and give ourselves a better chance to find more accurate answers. But questioning or being contrarian just out of habit can sometimes merely make you a jerk.

Peter Thiel once said something I liked when being accused of being contrarian. He responded with something along the lines of saying (in paraphrase), “I don’t care about being contrarian. I care about getting things right.”

I guess I’m trying to say that, as far as I can tell, the open minded truth seeker may have a better path to knowledge than a skeptic who questions for questioning’s sake. We’ll always need people who question things to keep us sharp, but like most else, it can be worthless if taken to an extreme. Maybe I’m wrong, but for me, I think it’s best to focus simply on trying to get things right, as opposed to questioning, as the ultimate goal.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 8 months ago

Exactly. It’s not about the rejection of conventional wisdom, as such. It’s about not being bound to any preconceptions.

channelclemente
Guest
channelclemente
2 years 8 months ago

What’s that catchy new song the little red headed girl is belting outs to…

Amaro, Amaro, , I love ya, Amaro
You’re always a day away

…,

Antonio bananas
Guest
Antonio bananas
2 years 8 months ago

The Red Sox are how you rebuild and try to stay competitive. Mid season fire sale when it’s for sure a lost season, sign a boatload of free agents, call up the prospects. By now philly could have easily traded lee, hamels, paps, utmost, and Rollins and rebuild the farm then signed decent replacements. They didn’t. They’re dumb. As a braves fan, I hope Ruben stays there forever. He’s the George Bush of GMs.

Tripp
Guest
2 years 7 months ago

I liked your remark when you mentioned The Phillies offseason has met with its share of snark. I am agreed with you in this matter.

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