January 24, 2013
On the Beat
Phunky Strategy for Philly
Anyone who knows anything about baseball axioms knows that pitching and defense go together. However, the Phillies appear to be trying to challenge that notion as they build their roster for the 2013.
Though their string of five consecutive National League East titles ended last season when they went 81-81, the Phillies are still built on pitching. They have the Big Three of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels at the top of the rotation and lockdown closer Jonathan Papelbon at the back of the bullpen. While the Phillies’ pitching staff could be shaky beyond those four, the defense is even more questionable following general manager Ruben Amaro’s off-season moves.
The latest transaction came Tuesday when outfielder Delmon Young signed a one-year, $750,000 contract to be Philadelphia’s right fielder. The final out had barely been recorded in their World Series loss to the Giants when the Tigers said they had no intention of re-signing Young after he hit .267/.296/.411 with 18 home runs in 608 plate appearance. He was the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series.
“I understand the Phillies don’t have much in their outfield,” said an American League front-office type. “That being said, I can’t believe any National League team would want Delmon Young. He’s a defensive liability. And playing the guy in right field? Seriously? What exacerbates the problem is that he is regressing as a hitter. He never had a lot of plate discipline, but now he’s not even a .300 OBP guy. It’s one thing to carry a guy for his bat, but his bat isn’t special. He’s an ordinary hitter for a corner outfielder, at best.”
The Phillies made a pair of trades in December that also don’t figure to shore up the defense. They acquired Ben Revere from the Twins to play center field in exchange for right-hander Vance Worley. Revere had 1.9 FRAA last season while playing left field. Michael Young came over from the Rangers for reliever Josh Lindblom and a minor-leaguer and will play third base. Like Delmon Young, Michael Young was primarily a DH last season, and his FRAA was -2.6 when he did pull backup duty on the infield. His career FRAA is -68.3 in 13 seasons, including a combined -34.0 over the last four years. He joins an infield in which first baseman Ryan Howard (-3.5) and shortstop Jimmy Rollins (-8.5) were also below-average fielders last season. Adding Revere and Young also leaves the AL FOT rather cold.
“I like Revere a little bit, and he does make that team more athletic,” the FOT said. “At the same time, I look him more as a complementary player. He’ll help you, but he’s not going to be the guy who puts you over the top. As far as Michael Young, he’s like Delmon Young to me. He’s not playable in the field anymore and his power is below average. I think he can still hit for a decent average, but he’s not going to give you the production you want from a third baseman.”