The Hunter Pence Trade

The Phils' New Right Fielder

Ruben Amaro Jr. strikes again, acquiring an All-Star at the trade deadline for the third consecutive year.  Of course, that doesn’t include the December 2009 trade that brought Roy Halladay to Philly.  Some bullet-point reactions to the trade:

On Pence:

  • Phillie fans should probably temper expectations for Pence to some degree.  Yes, he’s a (fairly) young, 2-time All-Star that can do a ton of nice things.  But he’s far from a superstar.
  • In some ways, Pence can be compared to Jayson Werth, but with much less patience at the plate, worse defense, but more consistent as a hitter.
  • An underrated plus for Pence: he has never been hurt.
  • Another plus: his stats don’t blow you away, but he’s been incredibly consistent.  He hit exactly 25 home runs each of the last three seasons.  Though he’s well below that pace this year.
  • In 658 plate appearances last year, he walked 41 times.  He’s on a similar pace this year.  That is a very low walk rate.
  • His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) this year is .368, over 60 points higher than the last three years.  That means his .308 average this year is a fluke that can be expected to drop significantly.
  • He appears to be a guy that could’ve really used the Davey Lopes Base-Stealing School.  He has good speed, but his stolen base percentage is just over 60% for his career.  Though he is 7 for 8 so far this year.  He stole a career-high 18 bags last year.
  • He has been a significantly better hitter in his career at his home park in Houston, a hitter’s park on par with the Bank.  So we can’t expect any CBP Bump in his production.
  • While it’s true that the Phils will have Pence for less than market value over the next two seasons, he’ll be far from cheap.  He could be expected to cost roughly $25 mil. over the two seasons.
  • All that being said, there can’t be any doubt that Pence makes the Phillies a better team immediately.  Charlie has already said he expects to bat him 5th, with Victorino moving back up to 2nd, which I think makes a ton of sense.

On What They Traded:

  • On the plus side: the two top prospects they surrendered are both in A-Ball, and so much can go wrong in the development of a player between A-Ball and the majors.
  • As highly as Cosart is rated, he’s still considered high risk/high reward.  Seems like after the deal went down, some Phils people intimated they have concerns about his maturity.  Maybe true, maybe just trying to justify moving him.
  • Singleton is mostly seen as a “won’t-miss” ML bat, but he basically has no position and is 19-years-old. 
  • All in all, safe to say the Phils over-paid for what Pence is, though when you’re clearly in “win-now” mode, you often have to overpay.
  • List of prospects the Phils have now moved since July of 2009: Kyle Drabek, Carlos Carrasco, J.A. Happ, Jared Cosart, Michael Taylor, Jason Knapp, Jonathan Singleton, Anthony Gose, Travis D’Arnaud, Lou Marson, and Jason Donald.  Varying degrees of talent there, of course, but that’s a ton of young players to vacate from your organization over the span of just two calendar years.
  • On the one hand, you have to give credit to the front office and scouts for continually stocking desired young talent.  On the other hand, you have to wonder when the well runs dry.
  • I suspect Domonic Brown was never put on the table and the Phillies never had any intention of trading him.  I know his name was thrown around, but certainly a team like the Astros had something to gain by hinting that the Phillies were putting Brown out there.  It could’ve forced the Braves to flinch and include one of their prospects that they didn’t want to lose.

Overall:

I’m not sure if I would’ve made this trade or not.  It’s not that I am super-high on Cosart and Singleton, but more that I have my doubts about Hunter Pence.  I wonder, for example, if Cosart and Singleton could’ve been the centerpieces of a deal for a better player than Pence in the coming offseason.  Maybe a Matt Kemp?

But, we can’t forget that the Phils are virtually all-in for a title THIS year.  I can’t fault Amaro for his decision.  I love the aggressiveness.  The team has all the pieces to win it all.  Though another bullpen arm wouldn’t hurt.  Us Phillie fans are greedy all of a sudden, huh?

Not Exactly a Great Week So Far…

With the best week in off-the-field sports history now into Thursday, the great hopes for our Philly teams have taken a bit of cold bath thus far.  Before we rundown the happenings in the past 48 hours (none of which is good for either the Phils or Eagles), let’s take a minute to pause and take a breath.  While it hasn’t been “good” yet, it also hasn’t been “bad.”  A lot more of the action is still to come over the next 4-5 days, and there are a lot of chips still to be played, so, by no means, have we lost here in either sport.  But, the early returns are not exactly the big “splashes” to which we grown accustomed recently.

[UPDATE: Pretty much right after posting this, report surfaced that the Birds have signed Jason Babin…so, things are looking up]

[UPDATE:  There have been a couple of baseball injuries to add to this list that I left off when first posted, but have significance and are in with the “theme.”0

Jason Giambi may go to the disabled list
The Phillies and Rockies had pretty much completed a deal that would bring Jason Giambi to Philly for a bit prospect.  It is a very Pat Gillick-esque move (think Matt Stairs or Tad Iguchi) that sometimes makes the difference on a championship club.  But, now that Giambi may be heading to the DL just in time for the non-waiver trade deadline to roll over, it may not happen.  And, with all the teams fighting with the Phils in the NL having worse records than they do, this would be an easy “block” situation after the deadline.

Dayan Viciedo has an apparent thumb injury
Never heard of Dayan Viciedo?  Really?  Well, me neither.  But, his injury could really change the landscape of the next 3 months in the lives of Phillies fans.  Viciedo is an outfield prospect for the White Sox and is supposed to be the immediate replacement for Carlos Quentin.  With Viciedo ready to go, the Sox would be much more likely to move Quentin (a big, right-handed bat with pop), and the Phils are probably the front-runners to get him if Kenny Williams decides to move him.  But, with Viciedo out and the Sox still in the race in a bad, bad division, Quentin could be off the table.

—————-
Carlos Beltran traded to the Giants

The defending champs needed offense desperately – and they got it.  Not only did the Phils fail to land the one guy who was probably the best fit for their lineup right now, but he ended up in the worst possible place for Phillies fans.  The Giants pitching has already proven that they can go toe-to-toe with the Phils in October and now they may not even need a lightning-in-a-bottle postseason from a guy like Cody Ross because Beltran is a stud.

The Cardinals seem to be playing hardball for Kevin Kolb
Now, I do think that this deal will get done, and I do think that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be involved in the deal, so at the end of the day, this will be a fine result.  But, the sticking point is now that additional draft pick.  At first, it looked like the Birds were going to get DRC and a 2nd-round pick.  But, now that the Cards could be using guys like Kyle Orton as leverage, that draft pick is more likely to be in the area of a 4th-rounder.  Still nice, but it’s nerve-racking that a seemingly done-deal is still not done.

The Astros rejected a big Phillies offer for Hunter Pence and now want more
According to various sources, the Phils offered their best pitching prospect (Jarred Cosart), their best hitting prospect (Jonathan Singleton), and another yet-to-be-determined prospect for Pence.  I like Pence, but I thought that this was way too much to give up for him.  And now the rumor is that the Phils, in almost desperate fashion, are reported to be strongly considering using Dominic Brown to get this trade done.  I really hope this doesn’t happen, even if the alternative is Pence in a Braves uniform.  I am not ready to mortgage the future for a year and a half of Hunter Pence.  Again, I think he’s a really solid player, but this asking price is GIGANTIC!  That being said, if we can get him straight-up for Vance Worley, then DO IT!  But, now Brown, and not a collection of young prospects.

The Patriots traded for Albert Hayesworth
Aside from the fact that I don’t get this at all, being that Haynesworth’s big issue was that he didn’t want to play in a 3-4, I was pretty upset when I heard this news.  A fifth-round pick for a guy with that talent is shades of Randy Moss.  And, whether he works out in NE or not, I really think that he could have been a BEAST here in Eagles’ green.  Now, maybe this is not over and the Pats could still deal him here for more, but it doesn’t look good at this point.

Quintin Mikell is gone; Stewart Bradley and Jerome Harrison are next
The Eagles have not, as of yet, resigned ANY of their own free agents.  Quintin Mikell (one of the most underrated safeties in the game) has already inked with the Rams.  Jerome Harrison is about to sign with someone, and it is a bit disconcerting that Stewart Bradley hasn’t been resigned yet.

DeSean Jackson is going to hold out
This one could top all of the news of the week.  D-Jack, rightfully so, feels underpaid.  And, how do you get more money?  The American way – that’s how.  Just don’t show up for work.  Here’s the problem:  Jackson correctly believes that he is AT LEAST of equal caliber to Santonio Holmes, who just signed for $50 million.  But, on the Eagles side, while that may be completely true, are they willing to invest $50 million in a guy who weighs about a buck-sixty and already has had several concussions?  Throw in the fact that they drafted Jeremy Maclin to be a #1 and you’ve got yourself a possible recipe for a long, ugly disagreement between player and management…ugh.

Reggie Bush is traded to the Dolphins
Not that complementary running back is of the highest priority for this team, but Bush was relatively inexpensive and could have really added a dynamic dimension to this already impossible-to-defend offense.

First-Round Pick Danny Watkins remains unsigned
The one thing the Birds have done this week is sign 9 of their first 10 draft picks of 2011.  The only one missing – top pick, Danny Watkins.  With training camp starting today – and a very condensed schedule – it is essential that the offensive line (particularly the new guys) get working together.  Watkins needs to be in camp.

Plaxico might head back to the Giants
Like Bush (or Haynesworth, for that matter), Plax wasn’t priority #1, but, at a cheap price, it would have been a nice gamble to see the team take.  Now, it looks like he might end up back in the Meadowlands, which might mean that the Eagles pay doubly for passing on him.

Nothing Doing at Defensive End
While free agent signings cannot technically be announced until later today, a lot of deals have been announced.  And, while I still believe that the Eagles will land one of the top D-ends (Ray Edwards or Jason Babin), you never know until it’s done.  And, it’s looking more and more like it is going to be the 31-year old Babin (as predicted here five months ago) and not the 26-year old Edwards.

Nnamdi will not be an Eagle
This one is not really a “loss” because with DRC, the Birds now have much more pressing issues elsewhere.  But, he is the best player on the market, and there was wild speculation that he would be an Eagle, so now that he’s not, it’s hurts a little bit.  That being said, it looks like he might end up a New York Jet, which is WAY better than a Cowboy or a Redskin.

Back to Work for the Birds – Names to Watch

As convenient as it may seem to blame the NFL lockout on my own hiatus on the BSB front, the real story is that I was in labor negotiations myself. I played was playing hardball over my share of the BSB “total pie.” But today, in the spirit of labor peace (and a lucrative offer of a $5 per story donation to Hope Through Health, www.hthglobal.org, from a loyal BSB follower).

So, the most exciting two weeks in the history of off-the-field sports transactions will begin tomorrow, as the NFL lockout is lifted and the MLB trade deadline nears its climax. In preparation of Eagles roster moves as early as tomorrow, I wanted to run through some of the names that will most likely be associated with the Eagles in some way or another over the course of the whirlwind that we are about to enter.

THE KOLB DEAL
Kevin Kolb

Looks like another in the long line of huge trade returns for Eagles backup QBs

Obviously, the most bandied about name in the NFL would be the most on his own team. And, that guy is Kevin Kolb. It is almost a lock that Kevin Kolb will be traded, and it seems pretty definitive that it will be to the Arizona Cardinals. Would I make this move? Almost definitely – as long as I believe I maximized his value. He will never be more valuable than he is right now, the Birds have a Pro Bowl starting quarterback, and the jury is still out as to whether or not Kolb will ever even be a reliable starter in this league. They spent a second round pick on the guy, got a couple wins from him, and now it appears they are going to flip him for MUCH more than a 2nd round pick. The question is how much more…

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
The most likely return for Kolb is Cardinals 5th year cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and probably a draft pick as high as a 2nd-rounder. If you’re asking me: DO IT! Rodgers-Cromartie is very, very underrated. He’s got size, speed, toughness, and he is just coming into his prime. I think this guy might be a superstar as soon as this year. His ability might go unnoticed because of where he plays and because another guy at his position has the same last name, just in a slightly different media market. The only reason I would not do this deal is if I had a shot at…

Patrick Peterson
He’s a game-changer. The Cardinals picked him #5 this year and, at the time, I thought that that meant he would be an Eagle. It looks more now like the Cards got him just so that they could part with Rodgers-Cromartie, but if there’s a chance of grabbing Peterson, I wouldn’t even mind seeing a draft pick go the other way in the deal, if that’s what it takes. But, this is probably wishful thinking, and trust me, DRC is quite the consolation prize, especially if a 2nd or 3rd round pick is thrown in.

EAGLES FREE AGENTS:
Stewart Bradley

If he had been healthy all these years, he'd be a household name

The first thing that is going to happen for the Birds in this “offseason on crack” is the Kolb trade, but the next thing that they will do is try to bring back their own free agents. Teams will probably have three days to negotiate with their own free agents before they hit the open market. And, probably the most interesting piece of this puzzle for the birds is Stewart Bradley. I really believe that a healthy Stewart Bradley might be a borderline franchise player on the defensive side of the ball. The problem is there is no possible way to prove me wrong about this because we have never really seen a healthy Stewart Bradley. I expect (and really hope) that Bradley comes back, but it would be hard to fault the team to letting him walk because it is very difficult to build a defense for a Super Bowl run without any confidence that your middle linebacker will even be healthy come December.

Quintin Mikell
From the sound of it, we may have seen the last of Quintin Mikell in an Eagles uniform. And, honestly, I am not happy about it. I think Mikell is about to become (if he isn’t already) one of the better strong safeties in the league. But, he is a free agent, and from the looks of it, it is not at the top of the Eagles priority list to bring him back. If he leaves, he will be missed.

Jerome Harrison
It is looking more and more like Jerome Harrison’s Eagle career will end after just 8 games.  To be completely honest, I really don’t know if it is because he is looking for starters’ money or if the Eagles just don’t have him in their plans for the upcoming season.  If it’s the former, I would wish him luck and move on, but if it is the Eagles that are choosing to cut the cord, I hope that they have a direct replacement in line (maybe one of the guys listed in the next section) because I actually think Harrison still has some value, and, as the roster is constructed right now, I think that this season may depend a little too much on the health/effectiveness of Shady McCoy.  I do believe they have a plan, though, and if that plan is an upgrade to Harrison, then great.  But, if not – bring him back.

David Akers

He'll be missed...for a kicker

There is only one kicker that I have ever actually felt a connection to.  There is only one kicker that I have ever been proud to root for and felt was “one of us.”  There is only one kicker that I have ever watched on a regular basis and thought of him as a real part of the team.  And, that is David Akers.  But…he’s still a kicker.  And, with all due respect to what he has brought to this team for so long, I am not really losing sleep over the chance of losing him in the next couple of days.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not and have never taken for granted how great it was to have such an incredibly accurate and reliable kicker.  But, when they go downhill, sometimes they go really quickly.  And, while I have a lot of mixed feelings on using a 4th-round pick on a kicker, the Birds did draft the most accurate kicker in NCAA history (Alex Henery), so maybe they are going to replace the great David Akers with the next David Akers.

OTHER FREE AGENTS/POTENTIAL TRADE TARGETS:
Nnamdi Asomugha

If Kolb isn’t the most talked about name this offseason, it is probably because people think they know how to spell Kolb – they don’t even try with the guy who should be the most talked about. Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the two best cornerbacks on the planet, and I am not convinced he is not the best. And, he is an unrestricted free agent. If the Eagles didn’t have this Kolb off-the-charts-value fall in their laps, I would have said that they were the clear-cut favorites to sign Nnamdi. But, now, if they can get DRC (or Peterson) for their backup QB, then they can save the money to spend on someone else. And, while Nnamdi is incredible, it would be a little dicey to have two highly-paid cornerbacks, both entering their 30’s together. I never thought I would say this, but it might be best if we actually let this one off the line, even though it’s pretty sweet to dream about it. All that being said, if the Eagles, somehow, do not land a CB in the Kolb deal, then they had better get this guy. My real fear is that he ends up with a star on his helmet, but we’ll deal with that if it happens. My guess is that he either ends up in that same state, but a couple hundred miles away in Houston or, even more likely, in my home state, just a couple miles from my house – in Baltimore.

Johnathan Joseph

So, he's not Nnamdi...but he's damn close

Again, now that it looks more and more likely that the Birds are going to trade Kolb for a cornerback and not just draft picks, the less and less important the free agent crop of corners becomes to them. However, if they decide to either keep Kolb or they decide to trade him just for picks, they will need to make a splash in free agency at CB. And, if it isn’t Nnamdi, then I really hope it is a guy that no one seems to be talking about – Jonathan Joseph. While not quite on the Nnamdi level, I think Joseph might end up being the best bargain of this wild free agency period. Joseph is an absolute stud, who may be just a small step below Nnamdi and Revis as the best in the business. And, he is only 27 and probably won’t command near the price tag of Asomugha.

Jason Babin
Ah, the prodigal son returns…I have said this on BSB several times now, but the one thing that I believe will come out of the blue this offseason for the Birds is the return of Jason Babin. And, I will now add to this prediction. Mark it down – the Eagles will try to sell to the fanbase that Babin is their “big free agent pickup” this offseason, and Howie Roseman and company will use this signing as reason why they did not sign Nnamdi. Eagles fans will be up in arms about how the team always oversells their moves and never actually goes for it. And, in the end, the team will be right and the fans will be wrong…again. Babin emerged as a potential superstar defensive end while in Tennessee. Why the sudden emergence? Some guy named Jim Washburn, who is not the Eagles D-line coach. I expect the Birds to sign Babin, and I expect him to be a terror opposite Trent Cole for several years to come.

Ray Edwards

This could be the kind of signing that is more likely to win you the front pages in January than it will in August

While I have been predicting a return of Jason Babin, I have been hearing more and more that the Eagles are leaning towards the younger, more well-rounded Ray Edwards.  There was even a report of a real estate agent showing houses in Malvern to the Edwards family.  And, honestly, if this is true, the Birds will have proved again that they really know what they are doing.  Edwards would be a fantastic fit opposite Trent Cole.  He is a very good, efficient pass rusher, especially when single-teamed on passing downs (which he was in Minnesota and would be here), but he is also a stellar run defender.  He has the rare combination of effective pass rushing ability with the ability to set the edge on run plays – something that guys like Darren Howard and Brandon Graham were not able to do that well last year.

Tamba Hali
It is still unclear as to whether or not Hali will even be available this year because the Chiefs are most likely going to make a push to keep him.  But, if for whatever reason, he becomes available, he is definitely a guy that the Eagles will want to try and bring in.  At 25 years old last year, Hali broke out in a big way with 14.5 sacks and was one of the keys to the surprising season in Kansas City.  He would be a monster opposite Trent Cole, and I am drooling thinking about those two rushing the passer while Samuel and DRC shutdown receivers on the outside.  Though I am a little worried about just how high the price tag is, but I do know that he would be an instant favorite here at BSB to Doogan because of his Penn State roots, to me because of his West African heritage, and to all of Eagles Nation because of his pass rushing prowess.

Albert Haynesworth

Character issues? I hadn't heard...

This one is more “what if…?” kind of speculation than anything actually founded in reality.  But, what if…?  Yes, maybe I am a little too caught up in ignoring his “issues” and just focusing on how good he was in Tennessee under Jim Washburn, but when I hear him say things like “I’d give up everything to play for Coach Wash again,” I can’t help but wonder.  Let us not forget that it was just two years ago that an NFL franchise gave him $100 million.  In 2008, he was the most dominant interior lineman on the planet (and the Sporting News Defensive Player of the Year).  He is still only 30 years old.  Most of that ridiculous contract is already in his bank account via Daniel Snyder’s brilliantly structured contract that paid a notoriously unmotivated player all the money upfront.  Now, the only thing he’s got left to earn is his pride, which coupled with a once-in-a-generation set of abilities, could be a dangerous recipe.  But, here’s the problem:  Haynesworth, much to the dismay of Mike Shanahan, is still technically a member of the Washington Redskins.  So, unless the Redskins flat-out release him (which is unlikely because he does seem to have some value – though you never know with the ‘Skins), acquiring him would mean trading for him.  And, while the Redskins have been pretty inept in the front office, they do now have Bruce Allen running the show, and he is more than smart enough to know that Haynesworth is more valuable to the Eagles than anyone else because of Washburn.  And, therefore, will probably charge the Birds an “in-division tax.”  All that being said, if I were running the Eagles, I think that I might be willing to go as high as a fifth and a seventh or possibly even a fourth-round pick for Haynesworth simply on the remote possibility that I’d be acquiring the best D-tackle in football.

Plaxico Burress

The jury is still out - so to speak - on whether he's got anything left in the tank

He wore a Phillies hat when he was released from prison – that must mean he is definitely signing with the Eagles, right? Well, not exactly. The Eagles on the short list of Plax destinations, but let’s slow down before dreaming of the Vick to Burress red zone celebration of the American criminal justice system’s powers of rehabilitation. Would Burress help in the red zone? Sure. Would I mind if the Eagles brought him in on a smallish, incentive-laden contract? Probably not. Would it be impossible to express how shocked I would have been three years ago if you told me that Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress would be the big Eagles receiving combo in 2011? Uh, yes. The problem is that it seems like there are several teams pretty interested in what Plax can do. I would love to have him, but I would not like to see the Birds getting in a bidding war for what may likely amount to nothing more than an older, more rusty version of a guy they already have on the roster in Jason Avant. Don’t break the bank, but if he’s cheap, take a shot. I mean any friend of Jimmy Rollins if a friend of Philadelphia, right?

Reggie Bush
This makes a lot more sense, actually, than Burress does, and I think I would be willing to up the dollars and years on an offer to Reggie Bush than I would to Plaxico. In fact, while Reggie Bush has never even come close to living up to the #2 overall pick (which absolutely shocks me because he seemed, to me, to be unequivocally destined for Canton), he actually comes out of New Orleans a little bit underrated, if you can believe that. For one, he is an elite pass-catcher out of the backfield, and, as we all know, those kinds of guys can really thrive in Andy Reid’s system. Also, while small, he is a smart player, who is pretty decent on the blitz pickup. Tell me you don’t get somewhat excited thinking about Vick and Bush on the field together on a broken play. I say, unless someone offers him a big contract, bring him to Philly.

Willis McGahee

The guy's just got a nose for the end zone

In news that just broke as I was writing this post, it looks like the Ravens are going to release McGahee as soon as they are able to do so.  While it is still too early for me to have heard any rumors, I would be pretty surprised if his name wasn’t connected to the Birds, at least in rumor, this offseason, for the same reason they have been connected to Burress – their struggles in the red zone last year.  Having watched McGahee first-hand here in Baltimore for the past several seasons, I know how frustrating he can be in the middle of the field, BUT, I also know that he is just one of those rare guys with a true nose for paydirt.  And, with all those weapons on this team to get them the first 90 yards, McGahee might be a really nice addition to help get those last 10.

Derrick Mason
Again, this news is “hot off the presses” and maybe a bigger story here in B’more than anywhere else, but Derrick Mason is probably going to join McGahee on Tuesday as the newest crop of ex-Ravens.  I do not really think that the Eagles necessarily need a guy like Mason, I figure I’d throw his name out there because if they’re interested in Plax, I’m sure they’d be interested in this guy.  Plus, unlike a guy like Burress, Mason might be the perfect “veteran presence” for a group of young, talented receivers.  However, as a Raven fan (and friend of the site) opined when I mentioned this possibility, Mason’s whole game is based on intricate timing and route-running, and, if you were running down a list of Michael Vick’s strengths, you might be there a while before reaching “intricate timing” as one of his best qualities.

Vince Young

Isn't the point in this league still to win games?

With Kolb out of the picture, the Birds will have to turn to filling the backup QB spot with someone who can step right in and win games if (and, some people believe, when) Michael Vick goes down. Vince Young would seem like a really nice fit. For one, they would not have to change the playbook drastically if Vick went down. Young, like Vick, is a left-handed thrower with a relatively long delivery and phenomenal movement in the pocket. And, let us not forget that, despite everything that people have said and written about the guy, he is one of very few people that can say that they have won 2/3 of the games they’ve started in the NFL. I think I would be totally onboard with VY as the backup here – at least until Kafka is ready to take that role…or be traded for 3 times what it cost to acquire him…

The Former Falcons/Packers/Jets/Vikings Quarterback from Mississippi that Cannot Stay Away from Untimely Interceptions, Disturbing Wrangler Jean Commercials or Inappropriate Text Messages
I can’t tell you how much it pains me to write this section, but with the rumors flying, I would be remiss to not even address it…I will, however, refuse to use his name out of respect for the dead. And, the only thing I actually will say is, “please God, no.” Not only will I find it very, very difficult to root for him, I also cannot imagine it not undermining the startership of our current QB, regardless of what he says on Twitter.

Donovan McNabb
Hey, the backup QB position will be open in Philly, and Mr. McNabb is on his way out of Washington, so there will inevitably be the shameless rumors about him coming back to Philly. This will not (and better not) happen.

Terrell Owens
After tearing his ACL filming some ridiculous reality show, it looked like the Hall of Fame career of one of the most interesting athletes in a generation would end at the age of 37. But, smarter men than me have stupidly discounted his work ethic and commitment to the game, so I will not do that here. But, will he be back in Philly? Let’s just say, it’s not 0%, but it’s not much more than that.

Brian Westbrook
Just like McNabb and TO, Westbrook is looking for work, so I am sure rumors will attach him to the Eagles. I love B-West, but he’s done…unfortunately.

A Possible Beltran Trade

Will the Phils hire this gun?

It’s that time of year in baseball where trade rumors fly in every direction, and the big Phillie rumor swirling over the past 24 hours is that the team is “aggressively” pursuing Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran.

I have somewhat conflicting feelings about acquiring Beltran, but if the deal were to go down, I’m sure I’d be on board pretty quickly.  There’s no doubt that Beltran is still a very productive hitter (from both sides of the plate) and even though he’s showing his age, he still has plus-speed and is a capable defender in right field.

Strictly from the standpoint of, “What should the Phillies do to win a World Series this year?”, a trade for Beltran is maybe the best move they could possibly make.  He’s punished left-handed pitching throughout his career.  In my opinion, it would make sense to slot him right into the 3-hole in the order, making a line-up that would look something like this:

1. Rollins
2. Utley
3. Beltran
4. Howard
5. Victorino
6. Ibanez/Brown
7. Polanco
8. Ruiz

That line-up has all three lefty bats split up, with two guys (Beltran and Victorino) that hit lefties really well doing the splitting.  And as much as we might not like to admit it, Utley’s downward trend in power numbers means he’s probably more suited to hit 2nd then 3rd these days.

With the Red Sox considered to be the other team that is most aggressively pursuing Beltran, it’s not hard to imagine this bidding war being the deciding factor in the Fall Classic in a few months.  The Sox and Phils could probably be considered the co-favorites right now, so it’s safe to say that if either adds Beltran they would be considered the odds-on favorite.

All that being said, I’m not totally on-board.  Strictly from a fan standpoint (i.e. not very logical), I don’t like the idea of “renting” players for a few months.  Considering Beltran’s age, it seems unlikely that the Phils would be interested in re-signing him after the season.  They already have enough money committed to players in their 30’s going forward.

As much as I want another championship, you have to wonder at what point bringing in hired guns cheapens the feeling.  I know the cliche is that we’re all just rooting for laundry, and there’s certainly a ton of truth in that.  But that cliche overlooks the fact that when you watch a group of players play together every night, year after year, in said laundry, you obviously develop an affection for the players wearing that laundry.  Even if they don’t totally care which team they’re playing for or which fans are rooting for them, that doesn’t mean we can’t feel a legitimate connection to them and an added appreciation when they succeed.

It doesn’t help matters that this potential hired gun is being hired from an arch-rival.  I still remember fondly Beltran’s last postseason at-bat, mostly because it was the Mets’ last postseason at-bat: an Adam Wainwright curveball that he watched go by to end the 2006 NLCS.  I was in a bar in New York City and my cheer went up just as the rest of the bar went silent.  It was the premature end of the road for this still mostly-intact Mets nucleus.

Now that same player could join the Phillies nucleus that we’ve watched come together for the past five years.  Sure, Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt are all guys that established themselves elsewhere before the newfound deep pockets of the Phillies gave them the chance to bring them aboard.  But Halladay and Lee are both guys that really wanted to be here and are signed for the long-term.  We may not have grown them on our farm, but their both very much Phillies at this point.  The same goes for Ibanez and Polanco, neither of whom was here for the ’08 title.

But Beltran?  Do we really want to win the World Series with him leading the way offensively, possibly hitting right in the heart of the order?  Well, the answer to that is YES.  We want the title, even if Beltran plays a key role.  But wouldn’t it be better to win it without him?  And wouldn’t it possibly be even better to keep a prized prospect like Jared Cosart or Jonathan Singleton so we can watch them grow up in years to come, like we have with Hamels and Utley?

I don’t have any conclusive stance here.  I just think this is a larger issue that we Phillie fans need to face as we join the ranks of the spoiled elites, like Yankees and Red Sox fans.  In the end, swinging a deal for Beltran is probably the right move, and I won’t be complaining a bit if and when he’s riding on one of the floats down Broad Street.

Phillies Report Card #8

 
Maybe Mayberry is the right-handed bat the Phils are looking for

Record since Mid-Season Report Card: 8-4

Overall Record:  57-34 (3.5 games ahead of Atlanta)

The Phils ride into the All-Star Break on a high note, having won six consecutive series, including series against the Red Sox and Braves.  And they won a statement game on Sunday, romping to a 14-1 rout of the Braves, who have been making a strong push from second place for weeks.  It was the second 14-run output by the offense in the past few games, which is obviously encouraging, even if the consistency is still not there.  On to the grades….

Position Players:
Over the last 12 games, the team batting average is about .285, which is far higher than just about any 12 game stretch all season.  Most notable has been the production of the corner outfielders (we’ll count John Mayberry in that group even though he’s been playing center field).  Raul Ibanez, Dom Brown, and Mayberry combined to hit .324 (34/105) with 7 HR and 27 RBI.

Ibanez hit four of those homers, with a whopping 15 RBI, including a walk-off homer to beat Atlanta on Friday and 6 RBI in Sunday’s win.  He also added an amazing leaping catch at the wall in that win.  At least three times teams opted to walk Howard to get to him, and he repeatedly made them pay.  Mayberry showed that he is potentially the right-handed bat the team’s been missing, as he had six extra-base hits in 19 AB’s, including a two-homer game in Florida on Wednesday and three doubles vs. Atlanta on Sunday.  It looks like Dom Brown has changed his approach at the plate lately, and the results were positive, with a .366 average over these 12 games.  For a team that’s had no production from the corner outfielders all season, they suddenly find themselves with three good options, assuming these guys can keep it up.

Solid stretches were also turned in by Rollins (.314 avg, .386 OBP, 4 steals), Utley (.306, HR, 3 steals), and Howard (.280, 2 HR, 10 RBI).  Victorino was continuing a hot streak, hitting .450 (9-20) with five extra-base hits, before hitting the DL with a sprained thumb.  Even Michael Martinez got into the action, with four hits on Sunday.  He also made some nice defensive plays at both third base and center field in place of the injured starters.

On the negative side, it was really just the continued struggles of Polanco, leading up to his own trip to the DL with back pain.  Maybe the back pain is the reason he’s struggled.  Whether that’s a good thing or not, I don’t know.  Either way, Polanco had three hits in his last 27 AB’s before taking a seat.

Grade:  B+

Starting Pitchers:
Even without Oswalt:  12 starts, 8 of which can legitimately be called excellent.  Another one was Hamels’s injury-shortened outing when he left after four scoreless innings and was most likely heading for another gem.  Hamels went 8 innings in each of his next two starts, giving up 2 and 1 run, respectively, and picking up wins both times.

The Start of the Week goes to the other lefty, Lee, for his 2-hit shutout of the BoSox.  He took a really hard-luck no-decision against Atlanta on Saturday.  He gave up one run on three hits in 8 innings, and also hit a home run off Tommy Hanson.  But his homer was the only run the team could muster.  Lee struggled in his other start, when the Blue Jays ended his 34 inning scoreless streak by touching him for six runs.

Doc Halladay went the distance in his old stadium in Toronto, giving up three runs and getting the W.  He then took a no-decision, despite giving up just two runs in 7 innings against Atlanta.  Halladay continues to be the third best pitcher on this team over the last six weeks, yet he will start the All-Star game tomorrow night for the NL.  And he deserves it.  That’s how good this staff is.

The amazing season for Vance Worly continued with two dominating performances against Boston and Florida.  He went 7 innings in each start, giving up a combined 1 run on 7 hits over those 14 innings.  Kyle Kendrick has been far from bad, but he doesn’t look too good compared to these other guys.  He was hit for six runs by Toronto, then gave up just one run but was pulled after five innings against Florida.

All told, just another 12-game stretch where the starting rotation posts a combined 2.40 ERA, with 69 strikeouts against 15 walks.

Grade:  A

Bullpen:
The pen had a few rough outings, but they have to be graded on a curve right now, considering the current bullpen was much more likely to be the pen for the Iron Pigs this season than the Phillies.  Charlie has been left having to go with Andrew Carpenter to protect one-run leads.

Most noteworthy for the pen was the continued domination of Antonio Bastardo.  He allowed one base-runner (on a walk) in his five appearances, picking up three saves in the process.

The lasting memory right now of Michael Stutes may be the three runs he gave up in the 10th inning of Saturday’s loss, but that’s not really fair.  Especially for how inexperienced he is, he’s been carrying a really heavy workload lately, so it’s not at all surprising that he might not be at maximum effectiveness.  In his five appearances before Saturday, he gave up no runs and two hits in 4.2 innings.

Yet another reason baseball is an amazing sport:  on a pitching staff that features one lock Hall-of-Famer, another Cy Young winner, and another World Series MVP and two-time All-Star, it was some guy named Juan Perez that was the subject of the heading: Phillies Pitcher Makes History.  Perez came into Friday’s game against the Braves and struck out all three batters he faced, on 9 pitches.  He became just the 48th pitcher in major league history to do that, and the first Phillie in 20 years.

David Herndon and Andrew Carpenter had some struggles, giving up a combined 8 runs in 5 innings.

Grade:  B-