Phillies, Blanton Avoid Arbitration with 3-Year Deal

January 21, 2010

Blanton has been "Mr. Consistency" during his stretch with the A's and Phillies (scot2342/Flickr).

Philly.com: “The Phillies just announced the team has reached a three-year extension with pitcher Joe Blanton worth $24 million. Blanton, who was set to be a free agent after the 2010 season, had requested $10.25 million in salary arbitration.”

Diamond Cutter Spin: Well I can’t argue with this decision as the Phillies make a solid baseball decision by locking Joe Blanton (12-8, 4.05 ERA, 163 K in 31 starts) down for three more years. The nice thing about Blanton is that not only is he an innings eater (averaging 203.2 innings per year over past five years since becoming a starter) which the Phillies desperately need due to their weakened bullpen but he is also the model of consistency winning between 12-16 wins four of past five seasons with an ERA right around four.

Blanton is the type of pitcher every club should clamor for. He’s as solid a number three guy in your rotation as you can ask for and has been healthy ever since becoming a starter with Oakland back in 2005. Plus this also solidifies their rotation for the next three seasons as their top four starters are all locked up through 2012.

The Phillies are definitely the team to beat in the NL East once again in 2010.

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Hot Stove: Moving Brett Wallace

December 15, 2009

Wallace is on the move again, this time to Toronto (mwlguide/Flickr).

So by now I’m sure you have received all the talk about the mega blockbuster trade between Philadelphia, Toronto and Seattle, but just in case your cable, internet and cell phone have all been broken over the past few days, here is a peek at what happened:

PHILLIES GET:
– Roy Halladay, RHP (from Toronto)
– Phillippe Aumont, RHP (from Seattle)
– Tyson Gillies, OF (from Seattle)
– Juan Ramirez, RHP (from Seattle)
– $6 million cash (from Toronto)

MARINERS GET:
– Cliff Lee, LHP (from Philadelphia)

BLUE JAYS GET:
– Travis d’Arnaud, C (from Philadelphia)
– Kyle Drabek, RHP (from Philadelphia)
– Brett Wallace, 1B/3B/DH (from Oakland)

A’S GET:
– Michael Taylor, OF (from Philadelphia via Toronto)

There it is in a nutshell. Like I said, you’ve probably heard all of it before. But the new pieces of the puzzle saw the Blue Jays have Kyle Drabek added as one of their players as well as turn around and send newly acquired Michael Taylor to Oakland for prospect Brett Wallace. To start, here’s a look at Kyle Drabek:

Diamond Cutter Scouting Report on Kyle Drabek:

Son of former Major League pitcher, Doug Drabek, Kyle may even be better than his old man. Despite a strong mid-90’s fastball, his money pitch is a devastating spike curveball that has a sharp, late drop that kills opposing hitters. Despite some off the field issues, the Phillies hope he enhances his work ethic and continues to blossom into what he is capable of.

As you can see, he was a very nice piece to have pried away from the Phillies who did not want to give him up. The second player I mentioned is a highly touted offensive prospect in Wallace. Here is my brief scouting report and a link to my long and detailed analysis of Wallace:

Diamond Cutter Scouting Report on Brett Wallace:

Wallace’s greatest asset is his approach at the plate. He has very good plate discipline considering his age as it generally takes some time to get everything in synch. But Wallace is the type of hitter who refuses to expand his strike zone and waits pitchers out, forcing them to throw him something he can make solid contact with. Wallace also does a great job in plate coverage thanks to his batting stance which crowds the plate. With his advanced approach, Wallace has the potential to translate his success to the pros and could end up being a perennial on-base machine. I project him a .280-.300 hitter, around .380-.400 OBP and a slugging percentage in the upper .500’s. Then add in his 25-30 homers and 100+ RBI and you have a pretty strong offensive weapon that Albert Pujols will love having hit behind him. With all that said, he is an average defender at third (I view him higher than most) who would be better suited to play first, but with that position locked up, he will do just fine at the hot corner (read my extended scouting report on Wallace with his “Prospect Spotlight“).

As you can see I think very high of the youngster and even ranked him at number 12 in last year’s top 25 prospect list. As I have seen more of him I’ve convinced myself that he may not be able to handle staying at third (apparently based on Oakland’s willingness to trade him they feel the same way) as he just has no range. This being said, a move to first in Toronto or preferably DH is what Wallace needs.

This trade has continued to build and become bigger and better every day.


Hot Stove: Halladay and Lee in a Mega 3-Way

December 14, 2009

Lee will now make the best 1-2 punch in baseball with Kind Felix (artolog/Flickr).

ESPN Report: “A three-way deal that would send Roy Halladay to Philadelphia and Cliff Lee to Seattle is “close” but “not done,” according to two sources familiar with the negotiations…Toronto would get highly regarded Mariners pitching prospect Phillippe Aumont, Phillies catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud and another Phillies prospect in exchange for Halladay. Indications are that the Phillies have balked at Toronto’s repeated requests for outfielder Domonic Brown, and the Phillies are offering highly touted outfielder Michael Taylor instead…Seattle would also send two prospects to Philadelphia in exchange for Lee, who is a year away from free agency.”

Diamond Cutter Spin: Wow, what a deal this is looking to be. If this ends up going through (which it looks like it will) the Phillies get an ace locked up for a few years, the Mariners get another stud pitcher to go with King Felix and the Blue Jays reload their farm system. Looks pretty good all the way around.

I have to say, while this is a good deal for the Phillies considering Halladay (click here for my coverage and scouting report on Halladay) is locked up for a few seasons in Philly, I am really impressed with how aggressive the Mariners have been this winter. They have now added Chone Figgins to the top of their lineup and Cliff Lee to the front of their rotation to go with Felix Hernandez. They are setting themselves up to give the Angels the fight of their lives especially since the Angels have now lost Figgins and their ace John Lackey (to Boston).

Now is the time for the M’s to strike while the Angels are weakened.


2009 Preview: Baseball’s Top Bullpens

February 21, 2009
Where do the Twins and baseballs best closer rank? (gamergirl27/Flickr)

Where do the Twins and baseball's best closer rank? (gamergirl27/Flickr)

Often the most overlooked part of a team’s success is also often the most valuable. In this case, it’s usually the bullpen.

The bullpen isn’t as sexy as a powerful or fast lineup and it’s not as glamorous as a dominating rotation. But in this day in age where starting pitchers have become coddled and pitch fewer innings each game, bullpens have had to get 9-12 outs per game now and having it loaded with reliable arms is more important than ever.

With that being said, I figured the best way to start our 2009 Preview series (one of this site’s most popular series) is to take a look at the top five bullpens in all of baseball.

[5] Chicago Cubs
With the Cubs not bringing back their closer Kerry Wood, the spot has been seemingly opened up for hard throwing right hander, Carlos Marmol. But the winter addition of Florida Marlins closer Kevin Gregg has added some competition for the ninth inning gig. These two will battle this spring, one with power on his side and the other with experience, with the winner getting the nod from skipper Lou Pinella. Don’t be surprised if Gregg wins this job with Pinella’s track record favoring veterans. Also make sure to keep an eye on the youngster Jeff Samardzija this season as he could be the closer in the making.
Closer: Kevin Gregg (R)/Carlos Marmol (R)
Set-up: Carlos Marmol (R)/Kevin Gregg (R)
Impact Arm: Jeff Samardzija (R)
The Rest: Aaron Heilman (R), Luis Vizcaino (R), Neal Cotts (L), Chad Gaudin (R)

[4] Philadelphia Phillies
It’s hard not to put these guys in the top five considering they had one of the best set-up men in baseball (Ryan Madson) and a closer who was perfect right up until the final pitch of the World Series (Brad Lidge) last season. Lidge seems to have gotten over the Pujols shot heard round the world that seemingly crushed his confidence back in the 2005 NLCS and was able to become the most reliable closer in the game. The Phillies had inklings of making Madson a starter until he became an indispensable 8th inning guy. The Phillies pulled in the number four spot even without the cheater JC Romero who won’t be back until mid season due to his suspension.
Closer: Brad Lidge (R)
Set-up: Ryan Madson (R)
Impact Arm: JC Romero (L) (if he’s still good without the juice)
The Rest: Chad Durbin (R), Scott Eyre (L), Clay Condrey (R), Adam Eaton (R)

[3] New York Mets
I haven’t had too many kind words for the choke artists over the years, but I will say they have put together a pretty good bullpen. Going out and getting the best closer available in Francisco Rodriguez was something they had to do with Billy Wagner being out for a long, long time. Then they went out and acquired another solid closer in JJ Putz to be their set-up man. Pretty good start. I do however have a bad feeling about Rodriguez. I can’t put my finger on it, but I just have the feeling Rodriguez is on the verge of completely burning out. His strikeout total took a big drop last and I just don’t know how much longer he has as an elite closer. His 62 saves last season was miraculous but I see troubles possibly late this season.
Closer: Francisco Rodriguez (R)
Set-up: JJ Putz (R)
Impact Arm: JJ Putz (R)
The Rest: Pedro Feliciano (L), Sean Green (R), Bobby Parnell (R), Duaner Sanchez (R)

[2] Minnesota Twins
Those on the outside looking in may not be very impressed with the Twins’ bullpen. Granted they don’t have the big arms they once had (Juan Rincon, Pat Neshek, etc), they do have some good young arms that can hold their own. They have Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain ready to take the 7th and 8th innings as well as newly added Luis Ayala available to get hitters out. But the impact arm may be left handed rookie Jose Mijares who had a spectacular September call up last season posting a 0.87 ERA and 0.29 WHIP in 10 games and holding hitters to a .088 batting average. Oh and there’s always that Nathan guy who happens to be the best closer in baseball.
Closer: Joe Nathan (R)
Set-up: Jesse Crain (R)
Impact Arm: Jose Mijares (L)
The Rest: Matt Guerrier (R), Craig Breslow (L), Luis Ayala (R), Phil Humber (R)

[1] Boston Red Sox
We all know the intensity of Jonathan Papelbon and how lights out he has been. But it’s the rest of the group that can make or break them. The addition of Takashi Saito was huge as he gives the Sox a right handed set-up guy. This is especially important after Francona backed off using Hideki Okajima in close and late games down the stretch last season after a rough first half. Of course the wild card in all of this is the man who would be starting for most other teams in Justin Masterson if not for the Red Sox 19 veteran starting pitchers they have to choose between. If Okajima can bounce back, look out.
Closer: Jonathan Papelbon (R)
Set-up: Takashi Saito (R)
Impact Arm: Justin Masterson (R)
The Rest: Hideki Okajima (L), Manny Delcarmen (R), Javier Lopez (R), Ramon Ramirez (R)

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
diamondcutter@columnist.com

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Super Arbitration Tuesday

January 20, 2009

Today brought an onslaught of one-year deals throughout Major League Baseball as 42 players agreed to terms with their teams.

Howard is making it clear he wants to get paid (phillenium1979).

Howard is making it clear he wants to get paid (phillenium1979).

Among them were Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche for $7.05 million, Dodgers catcher Russell Martin for $3.9 million and reliever Jonathan Broxton for $1.825 million, Yankees outfielders Xavier Nady for $6.55 million and Melky Cabrera for $1.4 million, Mariners pitcher Erik Bedard for $7.75 million and Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon who set a record for a closer’s arbitration (set just days earlier by Bobby Jenks) at $6.25 million.

In the midst of all these signings was the bomb Ryan Howard dropped on the Phillies with his request of $18 million in salary arbitration. This was the third highest figure ever submitted since the process began in 1974 with Derek Jeter ($18.5 million in 2001) and Roger Clemens ($22 million in 2005) being the only two higher.

The Phillies have offered $14 million making the two sides still a ways off. Howard is coming off a season in which he hit 48 homers and drove in 146 RBI while helping the Phillies win their first World Series title since 1980. He makes a very strong case for himself with the gaudy numbers he puts up and already has an arbitration win last season when he was awarded $10 million from the Phillies.

Right now it’s up in the air which side will come out on top of this one and neither Howard nor the Phillies look to be in any sort of hurry to lock in a long term deal.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | Facebook

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News and Notes: “Mop-Up Duty”

January 18, 2009

Ace Cole Hamels is the latest to sign long-term with the team he loves (BernMarsh/Flickr).

Ace Cole Hamels is the latest to sign long-term with the team he loves (BernMarsh/Flickr).


Today’s “News and Notes” is going to be a delightful hodgepodge of baseball stuff all thrown together. Sort of like a long reliever in some mop-up duty, I have a large array of items to get through and clean house with. Ok, that’s a bit of a stretch, but whatever. Hopefully it sticks to the wall and we can call it a big win. Now on to the news and/or notes…
Boston has inked the heart of their team for years (keithallisonphoto.com)

Boston has inked the heart of their team for years (keithallisonphoto.com)

MLB NEWS
• Two of baseball’s biggest contenders were able to avoid arbitration with one their best players and signed each of them to deals this past week. First Boston signed their first baseman Kevin Youkilis to a four-year, $41 million deal, then Philadelphia followed suit and inked up their ace Cole Hamels to a three-year, $20.5 million contract. Both of these were fantastic signings by these clubs as not only did they prevent having to deal with arbitration, but now they each have one of their stars locked up for the next few seasons. Not only that, but both teams received “hometown discounts” with their players as each made it clear they wanted to stay with their organizations. While this helps out the Red Sox (who also received a great deal locking 2008 MVP Dustin Pedroia up long term earlier this winter) and Phillies tremendously, it hurts free agents still looking for teams as well as other players who are coming up on arbitration situations. Clubs now have an opportunity to say to their players, “if a reigning MVP (Pedroia), a man many believe should have won the MVP (Youkilis) and a playoff hero and rising star (Hamels) all took discounts, why can’t you?” I believe this will play a large part in many team’s negotiating tactics very, very soon.

• It appears as if Frank Wren has finally woken up in Atlanta after landing Derek Lowe this week to head up his staff in 2009. I discussed this about a week ago in a “GM for a Day” article stating how the Braves could not afford to let Lowe get away from them like AJ Burnett and John Smoltz did. In fact, it now looks as if the Braves are taking a little more of my advice and looking to bring both Tom Glavine and Andruw Jones back to Atlanta. I’m not sure if Wren returned from an extended vacation or started reading this site, but either way, it’s nice to have you back.

BASEBALL BLOGGER NEWS
• Patrick Sullivan wrote a fantastic article for Baseball Analysts depicting how unjust (and uneducated) some baseball writers are in their selection process for the Hall of Fame. He breaks it down and shows how individual awards (MVP, Cy Young) are weighed too heavily by many writers and the player’s statistics in his era should mean more. Check it out.

• My old Minnesota Twins discussion buddy Nick Nelson has posted his Minnesota Twins top 10 prospect list over at his site Nick & Nick Twins Blog. My Twins Top 5 prospects list should be up very soon and I look forward to getting Nick’s thoughts on this as well.

• I finally picked up my edition of “The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2009” the other day at Barnes and Noble. I had been looking for it for a while now in bookstores as I was too lazy to order it online (even though I’m on a computer a lot). I’ve been trying to find some uninterrupted time to dig into it and I think I finally have some today. So far it has been a great read and I highly recommend it. I’ve spoken before about how much I enjoy The Hardball Times site and thus far the book hasn’t disappointed. I’ll give you more updates as I go.

DIAMOND CUTTER NEWS & NOTES
I just wanted to take a look ahead at what is coming up here on “The Diamond Cutter” over the next week or two as I have been receiving some emails as of late wondering.

Click above for Top 25 Prospects!

Click above for Top 25 Prospects!

• The Top 25 Prospects list will continue to take shape as I gradually unveil them one at a time. We will also see the return of the Top 5 Prospects by organization return in the next day or so after a brief hiatus. I wanted to try to space these out a bit so they don’t get too mundane and repetitive. I want to keep these fresh!

• I am currently in the process of working on a couple of larger articles that are taking quite a bit of time. One is a detailed biography of a future Hall of Famer (I assume they will be in the Hall based on their historic statistics, but of course I could be wrong based on if the Baseball Writers Association has a predetermined bias against him already) who I will name at a later date and the other article is a continuation of the “Deconstructing Series” (click here for the first one about Andruw Jones’ collapse) where I will be discussing the rise and fall of Dwight Gooden. Stay tuned for both of those…

• The next couple of weeks will also be another interview (click here for my last one with Red Sox prospect Jeff Natale) that I am in the process of setting up with Toronto Blue Jay catching prospect, JP Arencibia. He has already graciously agreed to speak with me and now it’s just a matter of finding a time for us to meet.

• As spring training draws closer and closer, I will continue the “GM for a Day” series as well as start reviewing each division which will ultimately lead to one of my favorite parts, the predictions for the 2009 season. This is always a fun time as I compile everything that has happened over the winter and smash it into each team to see if we can make some sense out of the upcoming season. I also ask for a large amount of participation from you the reader during this time as I feel it makes it a whole lot more interesting.

Stay tuned for all this and don’t hesitate letting me know if there are more things you want to see more (or less) of.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | Facebook

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2008 Division Predictions: NL East

March 21, 2008

Howard at the plate (ebot/flickr)

Big Ryan Howard looks to help his club destroy the Mets for a second straight year. (ebot / flickr)

With the 2008 season opener upon us I figured it would be as good a time as ever to give my exciting 2008 division, playoff and award winner picks! We’ll start off by covering each division (one division per day) with the order they will finish along with some brief statements about each team and the standout players from that division. Once all of the divisions are done we will talk playoffs and then finally the 2008 award winners. As always, let me know your opinion on each one!

(click here to continue this article on Baseball Digest Daily)

Catch my “Diamond Cutter” major league coverage now featured on Baseball Digest Daily and my prospect coverage on Big League Futures!

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