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November 19, 2010

GM for a Day

Philadelphia Phillies

by John Perrotto

Being the general manager of the Phillies has been a good job to hold in recent years.

Pat Gillick led the Phillies to their first World Series championship in 28 years and just the second in their history in 2008, then retired. Assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was promoted to GM and the team won their second consecutive National League pennant in 2009 and their fourth straight NL East title this year.

Thus, stepping in as a one-day temp for Amaro doesn’t sound like a bad gig until you remember that there may be no tougher fans in America than those of Philadelphia teams. The Phillies haven't won a World Series in two years, and their faithful expect more as they help sell out Citizens Bank Park game after game. Thus, I can expect to be ripped on all-sports talker WIP before I even settle into my nice, comfortable GM for a Day chair.

And I'm going to give the fans more ammunition to tear me apart when I am forced to confront the biggest issue facing the Phillies: what to do with free-agent right fielder Jayson Werth.

In a vacuum, re-signing Werth is an easy decision. His .322 TAv and 53.2 VORP were team-leading figures last season and his WARP has gone up in each of his four seasons since joining the Phillies; he's jumped from 3.2 in 2007 to 7.0 in 2010. Werth is also one of the rare players who has been able to shake two undesirable labels—underachiever and injury-prone—to become a superstar.

However, his agent is Scott Boras. While I wouldn't be afraid to stare across at Boras on the other side of a bargaining table, I would be hesitant to sign Werth to a contract of five years or more, which is the kind of deal his side is believed to be seeking. The contract would likely be beneficial to the club in the first two or three years, but the 31-year-old Werth is almost certain to decline in the latter of stages of the deal and get paid a large sum or money for not a lot of production.

Therefore, I would make a short-term offer to Werth of three years and $51 million. If he takes it, I'd be ecstatic. If doesn't, I would move on knowing that I still had one of the best and deepest rosters in baseball.

Now, it's easy to say I should just have the Phillies' owners open up the checkbook since the franchise has become a cash cow in recent years. However, ownership has already been quite generous in putting a lot of the money it makes back into the team as evidenced by giving huge contracts to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, handing long-term contracts to Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, and giving the OK to trade for such quality starting pitchers as Joe Blanton, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Roy Oswalt in the last three years. Even a big-market club can only go to the financial well so often.

Assuming Werth turns down my offer for a longer and richer deal, it would be time to tap into another well that is close to running dry. The Phillies have used a large portion of its once-bountiful farm system in the trades for pitchers, but there is one prospect jewel remaining in outfielder Domonic Brown.

Brown dominated at Double-A and Triple-A last season before being called up to the major leagues and rotting on the bench as he was given only 70 plate appearances, compiling a .230 TAv. However, it is time to plug him into the lineup in right field, even though it makes the lineup lean even more to the left.

It is the perfect situation to allow a young hitter to develop as the lineup remains deep enough that Brown won't need to become an integral part. Finding a right-handed hitter who can spell Brown against tough left-handed pitchers while he adjusts to playing regularly in the major leagues would also aid in his development.

The guy I want to sign to platoon with Brown is Jeff Francoeur. Before you throw your slide rules at me (that's a joke, so please hold the angry comments and e-mails), allow me a paragraph to explain my thinking.

Francoeur has his faults, mainly swinging at everything and often missing. However, he has also consistently hit left-handers throughout his career with a .299/.343/.481 slash line in 982 plate appearances. Considering we are looking for Francoeur to mash lefties and not play regularly, he makes perfect sense.

Now that right field has been tackled, the only other real order of business is strengthening the bullpen beyond closer Brad Lidge and right-handed set-up men Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras. The starting rotation is fabulous, even with Kyle Kendrick as the fifth starter, so no work needs to be done in that department.

I would like to re-sign right-hander Chad Durbin to continue in his role as a middle man, but he is marketing himself as a potential starter in free agency. It is an understandable strategy since starters make more money than middle relievers. Thus, with Eddie Bonine already in tow after being signed as a free agent by Amaro last week and Danys Baez still on the roster, I'll reluctant say goodbye to Durbin since he wouldn't be able to crack the rotation.

The other free-agent reliever of note is left-hander is J.C. Romero, who is beginning to show signs of wear and tear as a 34-year-old who has pitched in 628 major-league games. That he had more walks than strikeouts last season is particularly alarming. Thus, it also time to bid adieu to Romero and look for a new lefty specialist.

Scott Downs is tempting, but I'd hate to give up my first-round draft pick to sign him as a Type-A free agent, especially with the farm system now lacking depth. Instead, I will go after Pedro Feliciano and sell him on the virtues of leaving the Mets for the best team in the NL East. Then banking that the 34-year-old can continue his career-long performance of holding left-handed hitters to a 580 OPS, I'll sign him to a two-year, $6 million contract.

The Phillies may indeed be Werth-less following my day as the GM, but they certainly are poised to win a fifth straight division title next year. That should be enough to get the vitriolic set at WIP to lay off me and return to scrutinizing Andy Reid's every move.

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

25 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Hoff

Do the phils really have the financial wherewithal to keep spending? they've got 146 million on the books for next year already, and will probably take that close to 150 picking up new pitchers and settling arb cases. They never spent more than 100 before 2009. I know the playoffs help and that they're selling out, but they don't have their own network and didn't make the ws this year.

Nov 19, 2010 05:39 AM
rating: 0
 
Patrick M

The Ibanez contract is a real millstone, as any thinking person could have predicted when he was first signed. It wasn't the average salary per year; rtaher it was the length of the deal that was the killer. If he had been inked to a one or two year deal, it would have been fine. There is no chance the Phillies would be able to ship him to another team unless they agree to eat a ton of salary.

Ibanez was Amaro's biggest mistake, in my opinion. In what turned out to be a buyer's market for outfielders, Amaro handed Ibanez a contract that was (a) overpriced and (b) longer than it needed to have been. Meanwhile, as that offseason progressed, several comparable or better players were signed at terms more advantageous to the signing teams.

If Ibanez were off the books now, the Phillies could put that money toward trying to sign Werth for a 2-3 year deal (might or might not work, of course), and have Brown take over Ibanez's slot.

Also overlooked is the Howard contract. Howard is a fine player, but not a special player, home run totals be damned. The Phillies will come to regret the contract they signed him to.

Nov 19, 2010 06:29 AM
rating: 0
 
Hoff

Actually at 2.6 warp this year howard is already probably not living up to his 20 mil average salary. And he's 31 today. Happy birthday ryan!

Nov 19, 2010 06:34 AM
rating: 2
 
ColonelTom

The Ibanez deal wasn't great, but it's not the franchise-crippling deal you make it out to be. Raul comes off the books after 2011 along with Lidge, which frees up a good chunk of change after this year. The downside is that they'd probably have to give Werth an extra year at the end to make up for backloading his deal.

Werth isn't going to sign anywhere for 2-3 years. He'll get at least 4, likely with a vesting option and/or a team option with a significant buyout for a fifth year. That, and not the Ibanez deal, is why the Phils won't likely bring him back - it's the effect down the road when they're also paying a bunch of other guys, including Howard, for their mid- to late-30s seasons.

Nov 19, 2010 06:37 AM
rating: 1
 
Patrick M

I agree that Werth will probably find *some team* to give him a 4-year deal. And whomever does accomplish that will eventually develop buyer's regret.

Even so, it is difficult to evaluate the Ibanez contract as anything other than a negative. Laying aside the Werth decision for the nonce, Ibanez's presence is ignificantly hampering the Phillies's flexibility on all personnel decisions.

Nov 19, 2010 06:44 AM
rating: 0
 
bflaff1

No, a one-year $12 million contract is not keeping the Phillies from doing anything. A payroll that big can afford short-term inefficiency, and in any case RAJ has already said the team has the money to add payroll.

Nov 19, 2010 10:40 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Ibanez had 4.8 WARP in 2009 and 3.6 WARP in 2010. That is worth about $41.5MM right there. He cost them $31.5MM for the three year deals plus a draft pick worth about $8MM. The deal is already about a wash if he is replacement level this year.

Most multi-year deals are net gains early on and net losses later on.

Nov 19, 2010 06:53 AM
 
Hoff

Where can i find the details on the new morp system that you're using Matt? Is it still the same one listed in the glossary?

Nov 19, 2010 07:00 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Sorry-- the glossary definition is old. The descriptions came here:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=10629
and here:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=10642

The numbers for valuing draft picks were later put at $13MM for signing your own Type A, $8MM for surrendering your first round pick to sign someone else's, and $5MM for surrendering your second round pick to sign someone else's. Otherwise, the numbers in that article should be correct.

Nov 19, 2010 10:26 AM
 
Patrick M

OK, I will admit that I am over-selling the Ibanez stuff. I should have doublechecked before posting; indeed, I was surpirsed to see that his 2010 WARP was as high as it was.

Even so, I think Ibanez's performance the past two years has been better than the Phillies had any right to expect ex ante, and was not projectable.

That same offseason, the Angels signed Bobby Abreu to a one-year deal for $5 MM base (up to $8 MM with incentives). Knowing only what you could have known in Feb 2009, what would you have thought was a better deal: the Abreu contract, or the Ibanez contract?

Also that same offseason, the Nats signed Adam Dunn to a 2-year, $20 MM deal. Knowing only what you could have known in Feb 2009, what would you have thought was a better deal: the Dunn contract, or the Ibanez contract?

Bottom line is, Amaro misread the market that offseason, and was in too much of a rush to make a signing. Even if he wanted Ibanez all along--and given Ibanez's actual results, I have to admit he can be forgiven for that--he could have, and should have, secured more advantageous terms fo his team.

Nov 19, 2010 07:29 AM
rating: 0
 
ColonelTom

I agree on Amaro's misreading the market in the winter of '08-'09. Ibanez could have been had for Dunn money or less.

But that's RAJ - he's big on cost certainty and making all of his moves (signings, extensions, option decisions) earlier rather than later. I get the feeling he's a big "chemistry" guy and feels there are only certain personalities he wants in the clubhouse (Ibanez, Moyer, and Polanco all fit this mold), and will overpay for them in years and dollars if need be.

Nov 19, 2010 07:48 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

Unless the market turned in the other direction. The average value of a win from a player with more than six years of service in 2009 and 2010 is already built into MORP, so the fact that outfielders were particularly cheap and other players were more expensive might not have been obvious. I'm not sure that there was conclusive information about which direction the market would go, and the fact that prices fell doesn't necessarily imply that the process was bad.

Keep in mind also that Ibanez's performance might seem to have been a shock to us, but for people inside an individual baseball organization, they are privy to a lot more information. Given the familiarity of the Phillies with the Mariners' system, it wouldn't be surprising if they felt they had enough information to know he would beat his PECOTA projection. That he did beat it isn't necessarily conclusive about the process any more than knowing that prices fell is conclusive about the process in the opposite direction, but it's another thing to take into account.

The net effect is that Ibanez produced more per dollar than most dollars spent on free agents over the last two years, even if you imagine the entire contract being spent on the previous two years.

Nov 19, 2010 10:58 AM
 
bflaff1

On the point that most multi-year deals are net gains early and net losses later, the Phils almost certainly got exactly what they expected out of Ibanez, and it's a bit silly to think that because they're paying him $12 million in 2011, that indicates that they thought he'd be an $12 million player in 2011. They paid him $12 million for 2011 so they they could get him for 2009 and 2010, and I'm sure they envisioned platooning him or worse at this point for 2011. 39 year old players don't usually bring it 6 days a week.

Nov 19, 2010 10:48 AM
rating: 0
 
ColonelTom

Why sign Francoeur when the Phils already have Ben Francisco (career .267/.347/.460 vs. LHP)? Francoeur might be an upgrade against LHP, but you're forced to pinch-hit for him against every RH reliever, unlike Francisco (.262/.323/.440 vs. RHP).

If they don't have confidence in Francisco as a platoon option, how about Andruw Jones? He mashed lefties last year (.256/.373/.558) and is more versatile than Francoeur, who has played only 15 innings anywhere but RF in his career. Remember, Werth was their CF backup the last few years, and Francisco's badly stretched in CF. (Jones isn't good there anymore either, but I suspect he's still more comfortable there than Francisco, who looks completely lost in center.)

Nov 19, 2010 06:31 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Eric Seidman
BP staff

One thing I had heard was a deal for Willingham who might then be locked up for a bit, to take over for Ibanez in LF. Similarly, Carlos Quentin's name has popped up. The Phillies are going to use this year as a gap-bridger most likely. Brown will start in RF and be platooned -- though I bet he plays more against lefties than people think -- and that platoon partner would likely be someone they consider capable of starting in 2012 when Ibanez is gone. That is, assuming the world is still around in 2012.

Nov 19, 2010 07:49 AM
 
ColonelTom

Both Willingham and Quentin would be great pickups for the Phils. Both teams need a legitimate 1B prospect, and Jon Singleton would likely be the key piece of a deal. I could live with that.

Nov 19, 2010 08:04 AM
rating: 0
 
Sharky

I seriously doubt $6 million will land Feliciano for two years. The guy has been excellent, and with teams like the Phillies and Yankees interested, doesn't $6/2 seem light?

Nov 19, 2010 07:08 AM
rating: 0
 
ColonelTom

I'm not sure he'll get more because there are a ton of lefty relievers on the market. At a quick glance on the Cot's Contracts page:

Jeremy Affeldt
Joe Beimel
Randy Choate
Scott Downs
Pedro Feliciano
Brian Fuentes
Arthur Rhodes
Hisanori Takahashi
Bobby Seay
Brian Shouse

I'd say Feliciano is in the second tier of that list behind Fuentes and Downs, though I believe they're both Type A and would cost a pick. Affeldt, Rhodes, and Takahashi are good alternatives to Feliciano.

Nov 19, 2010 07:58 AM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

Feliciano is a big beneficiary of Benoit's shiny new 3-year deal, and should get about the same money and years

Nov 19, 2010 09:53 AM
rating: -1
 
ColonelTom

I'd be stunned to see Feliciano get that kind of money. By the numbers, Benoit was the best reliever in baseball last year (1.34 ERA, 0.680 WHIP, 11.2 K/9, 1.8 BB/9). He can get both righties and lefties out. Feliciano's a LOOGY, and his numbers were 3.30 ERA, 1.532 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, and 4.3 BB/9.

I'm not knocking Pedro. He has a great track record as an effective LOOGY, and I'd love to see him on the Phils. I doubt he'll hit the $10M mark on his contract, though.

Nov 19, 2010 11:31 AM
rating: 2
 
amazin_mess

Ol Pedro has a ton of miles on that arm. You guys can have him. I hope the Mets pass.

Nov 19, 2010 11:51 AM
rating: 0
 
millenia54

You people need to move on about Ibanez. He was more than adequate last year and is only on the roster for one final year. Its over, let it go.

Willingham would be an ideal acquisition - he is almost identical to Werth from a hitting standpoint but much less in the field and basepaths. That said he is going to be expensive to trade for and I would think there would be significant demand for him now that he "won't be extended."

Either one of the Mets bullpen lefthanders would be ideal and hopefully they can acquire one of them. In fact, it would be nice if they got one of them and then added another lefty for the pen.

Nov 19, 2010 08:53 AM
rating: 1
 
bflaff1

Phils don't need a right-handed OF bat so much as a right-handed *power* OF bat. That was Werth's unique contribution, and Frenchy won't do much to address that.

Nov 19, 2010 10:42 AM
rating: -1
 
Yatchisin
(487)

Kind of fascinating that the Phils adding two ex-Mets (Frenchie and Feliciano) would make them better. Not arguing with it, just saying.

Sandy Alderson has some work to do.

Nov 19, 2010 16:08 PM
rating: 0
 
Dodger300

Frenchy Francouer? You're fired.

Nov 20, 2010 22:43 PM
rating: -1
 
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