Hunter Pence.

Welcome to Philadelphia.

Phillies do what it takes to get Pence, which appears to be Cosart, Singleton and two lesser prospects. It is a lot to give up for a player like Pence, but the urgency of the situation obviously played a part. It also should be taken into account that the Phillies were probably in the market for a right-handed corner outfielder of Pence’s ilk for the next few seasons anyway, so whether it was another trade or free agency at some point a move was going to have to be done.

Holding onto Dom Brown eliminates the possibility of immediate regret. Cosart and Singleton are at least a couple of years away.  If the Phillies reach the pinnacle in that time, no one will dwell too much on what becomes of the prospects headed to Houston.  I’d be more concerned about Singleton, who as I mentioned earlier is a high-ceiling guy who is young for his level.  I think Cosart has been overrated and the Phillies have a few other young arms that could take his place.

The last night of the Phillies offense as we know it produced quite a bang, 10 runs through the first seven innings.  Not a bad output against stingy Pittsburgh.  But, starting as soon as tomorrow, the Phillies lineup will have a much different look.  And by next week, the Phils will be running out something like:

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

Not too shabby.  I give the Phillies credit for going that extra mile for the 3rd straight year now, and of course the deal also keeps Pence out of Atlanta.  We probably won’t have a verdict on Pence until at least October and the prospects for years, but for now the already wild scene down at Citizen’s Bank Park gets another jolt of life and hopefully Pence can bring a little life and spark to the veteran clubhouse as well.

For more thoughts on Pence, scroll down a few posts.

Bidding Wars, Widespread Panic, Etc.

Ed Wade Not as Dumb as he Looks.

Four consecutive playoff appearances, a doubling of the payroll and a couple of favorable trades have just added to Ed Wade’s reputation in Philadelphia as a whipping boy.  I was as surprised as anyone that Wade got another GM position, but if I looked at it honestly, perhaps I shouldn’t have been.  Houston was a team with payroll limitations, they probably wanted to build from within, they weren’t in a terribly different spot than the Phillies were during Wade’s tenure.  He did put together a decent team, ultimately failing to end a playoff drought, but many of his pieces are still in place.  If you are among those who give all the credit to Mike Arbuckle, I suppose I don’t have a great argument for that, but the point is, Wade is not the blithering idiot that many perceive him to be.  He hasn’t done a great job in Houston, but 160 million dollar payrolls tend to make people better GMs, and Wade has never had that luxury.

The truth is, a Hunter Pence deal may be Wade’s only chance to save his job.  Houston is under new ownership, they’ll be looking to possibly clean house, they want to further cut some fat from the payroll, so if Wade is going to stick around he’s going to need a blockbuster package for Hunter Pence.  The good news for him is that it appears a bidding war may be at hand.

The supply of hitters was thin to begin with and with Carlos Beltran going to another NL contender the Braves and Phillies are both feeling a sense of urgency.  Not only have the Giants improved, but the Braves just struggled in a series against the Pirates and put Brian McCann on the DL.  The Phillies lost 2 of 3 to the Giants sending the Phillies fan base into a level of panic that I didn’t even know existed.  I’ll save another rant on the Phillies fan for now, perhaps until after they play four more in San Francisco, but I’m sure even Ruben Amaro realizes he’s not in the best bargaining position.  Add to all that the news that Astros would like to complete a deal by today and it’s likely someone is going to pull the trigger on a very sweet deal for the Astros, regardless of Ed Wade’s involvement.

Of course with the increased interest in Pence there comes the inevitable backlash.  Pence strikes out too much.  He doesn’t hit for enough power.  He’s just an average outfielder with a flashy arm.  He’s been unusually lucky on balls in play this year.  I’m not making that last one up, there are stats for such things.  People are setting themselves up for an “I told you so,” moment if Pence hits .175 in the NLCS and one or more of the would be traded prospects develop.  You just hope that Amaro has the deal in the proper perspective.  Hunter Pence wouldn’t have won that game for the Phillies last night. If there is a problem, and I’m not sure there is, it is more likely that the players the Phillies are already committed to are not good enough.

I’m still in favor of a trade for Pence assuming the deal is within reason.  What is within reason?  I’d certainly give up the Cosart/Singleton package.  They are too far away to be worried about.  Single-A pitchers, regardless of how highly they are regarded have a very low success rate.  Cosart has flashy stuff, but he’s far from unhittable.  He’s 9-8 with a 3.92 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP.  For reference, Cole Hamels had a career WHIP in the minors of 0.95.  His ERA in 200 minor league innings was 1.43.  That’s a super prospect.  That’s approaching can’t miss.  Cosart is all projection, and if you listen to the doubters like the ones that have started popping up for Pence, a lot of people think the Phillies’ so-called “Baby Aces” are nothing more than a bunch of guys who project to be 3rd or 4th starters.

And, you could say the same with Singleton, though at least he’s uncommonly young for his level, but he’s still a projection guy.  If the deal includes those two prospects and Domonic Brown, then I think you’ve gone too far.  Pence can’t make that much of a difference.  The re-tooling, if this team is not good enough, would have to come in the off-season. If you were talking Brown and maybe a single prospect for Pence, then I’d be really tempted, because I see in Brown a guy that should still be in AAA.  I see a guy who needs to make adjustments and I see a guy who isn’t an instinctual baseball player.

I’m not going to be able to sit here and wait to see if a deal happens today, so let’s just set the stage.  What if the Braves get Hunter Pence?  What if the Phillies get Pence?   I hate to use an advanced stat here, but according to WAR, Hunter Pence would only make the Phillies a couple of wins better over the course of an entire season than they’d be if they played Dom Brown.  And, the same would go for the Braves.  Is there a difference between winning 98 and 100 games?  Not really, all this is boiling down to a projected NLCS.  Pence would put the winning bidder in a better position to advance, but only marginally.  Will Hunter Pence win or lose the NLCS for the Braves or Phillies?  No.

The Braves fate is probably more tied to the health of Brian McCann and Chipper Jones.  Or perhaps whether their bullpen can continue with their abnormal workload.  I’d say the Phillies will be more reliant on Placido Polanco coming back healthy.  Putting him back into the 2-hole instead of Michael Martinez would have more of an impact than switching in Pence for Dom Brown (especially if Mayberry continues to have some success in his platoon role).

What the fans want, and this drives me crazy, is a sure thing.  They want to believe that if the Phillies trade for Hunter Pence then a World Series is guaranteed.  They can relax, I guess?  But, there are no guarantees and honestly if you told me right now the Phillies were going to win the World Series that would take all the fun out of the next few months.  I’d be happy they won, but what’s the point?  Do you walk into a movie theater and ask someone to tell you how it ends?  If you want to be someone who is terrified of the Giants, or if you want to be a doom and gloom person, settle in for a long ride, because what if the Phillies do trade for Pence and then go out to SF and lose 3 of 4?  Are you shutting off your TV for the rest of the year?  Get some perspective.

 

Eagles Trade Kolb to Arizona (Finally).

Get Ready to be Disappointed, 11.

I was never a Kevin Kolb fan.  In a lot of ways he reminds me of the pitching prospects that have been moving through Philly in recent years.  Kendrick, Happ and now Worley.  Some success, some promise, but nothing really dynamic.  It’s always best to sell high on these guys in my opinion.  Because, isn’t Kolb really just a more polished A.J. Feeley?  The deal sending Kolb to Arizona for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd round pick was finalized Thursday afternoon, and it allows the Eagles to get on with the business of signing Michael Vick and not having any linebackers.  Kolb will receive an extension from the Cardinals.

Kolb’s real value is simply that he’s a rarity.  It is a lot harder than you’d think to find someone who can play the quarterback position with any aplomb.  There are 32 teams and far fewer quality quarterbacks.  Depending on your definition, upwards of 20 teams could honestly use an upgrade.  They just aren’t out there, though, and so teams constantly draft them high or overpay for unproven guys like Kolb.  The mentored backup seems to be a popular route to getting a quarterback these days.  People see Aaron Rodgers, or even a guy like Matt Schaub, Matt Cassell and they think that any quarterback they pluck from a good system is going to flourish.

I doubt that will be the case with Kolb.  He could very well be serviceable, if he can stay on the field.  He lasted all of 1/2 of football last season and that more than anything sealed his fate in Philadelphia.  You had to be able to run and hide to play quarterback in Philly last year and Kolb couldn’t do either.  I just don’t see a skill that is going to allow Kolb to progress to elite status.  His numbers, on a good team with plenty of talent around him were not good.  A touted accurate thrower Kolb completes 61% of his passes (not an eye-popping figure, especially in this offense), he’s thrown 14 picks to 11 INTs and his career rating is just 73.2.  I honestly have no idea why Larry Fitzgerald was so interested in getting him to Arizona.  I guess a year of working with DA, Max Hall and John Skelton can skew your perspective.  Kolb probably looked like Jeff George out there casually throwing lasers.

But even with Fitzgerald and the decent receiving corps in place, Arizona is not the sweetest landing spot.   The Cardinals yielded 50 sacks last year and Kolb is no magician in the pocket.  The running game in Arizona is a mess. They were dead last in the league in 2010 in rushing yards per game.  This isn’t going to be like Aaron Rodgers stepping in for the Packers, and it isn’t even going to be like Kolb taking over the reins for the Eagles.  Kolb is given a 5-11 team and asked to make something happen.  It’s a huge risk by the Cards, but like I said, they don’t have much choice.  Burn more picks?  Kyle Orton?  Pick your poison.

The trade for the Eagles will get a lot better if the Cardinals don’t have a good year and that 2nd rounder turns into a high pick.  Otherwise, Rodgers-Cromartie is definitely an upgrade for the secondary, but still plenty of questions on defense for the Eagles, like who is going to make tackles?  Bottom line?  See you later, Kolb.  It was a nightmare while it lasted.

Learning From Armchair GMs.

Listen Up, Ruben.

Beltran to San Francisco and Cain beats Hamels all on the same night.  Bitter pill.  I said last week that I wouldn’t be thrilled if Beltran ended up in San Francisco, and I still wouldn’t call it good news.  Look at San Francisco’s outfielders. They’re all worse than Beltran by a good margin.  He’s not going to rejuvenate their whole offense, but he gives them some one swing potential that they were sorely lacking.  And, not only was that trade completed, but the Phillies played out a little NLCS deja vu last night that has sent a good portion of the fan base into a panic.  Matt Cain, if you haven’t heard, is now Bob Gibson.  With Kendrick going against Lincecum tonight, they might as well cancel the rest of the season.

It certainly wasn’t a great effort from the Phils last night.  I sat there in the stands and watched them collect four hits and one fortunate run, but I saw them hit some balls hard.  It’s not like Cain piled up 16 strikeouts.  He was very good, I’m not saying the Phils should have scored 5 or 6 runs, but they had some chances.  Chase Utley ripped a ball to center with the tying run on base in the 8th, but to read the game story it sounds like a can of corn.  And, I think that’s because part of the fan base (and the writers who cater to them) wanted this to happen.  They want to jump out of their chairs and yell, “See! We lost to the Giants again!  We’re not good enough!  I told you so!”

The Giants are a good team, and if the Phillies met them in the playoffs it would be a stout test, because you aren’t going to score a ton of runs off them (add whichever bat you’d like it doesn’t matter) and I fear that Charlie will perpetually be outmaneuvered by Bruce Bochy.  I still can’t fathom why Rollins is bunting a guy over last night.  All due respect to Mikey Mart, but I’m taking my chances on Rollins getting a base hit.  Especially since he doesn’t bunt much and Wilson Valdez is very slow for a man of his dimensions.

But forget about that, the result last night triggered quite the reaction online.  If you ever want to see Phillies fans reduced to their simplest ingredients, the comment threads at Philly.com are always a good place to look.  Now, in response to the game last night, you can’t take them too seriously.  It’s just raw emotion.  You might as well run over someone’s dog and then ask them for a comment.  That’s what happened last night.  But, what about on wounds that aren’t so fresh.  Surely there are educated people out there.  What about the Beltran deal?  And Pence, what are the thoughts on him?  Let’s take a look.  A sampling of the 125+ comments from yesterday’s Philly.com article:

“Neither Beltran nor Pence have fantastic numbers batting RH this year–the main reason we need them.”

–Of course, Hunter Pence is a right-handed hitter, so this year, hitting right-handed his numbers are: .307/11/62

The only “sure thing” about Ed Wade is that he’s getting fired at the end of the season.”

 –Well played.

“This is the dumbest article Bob Brookover has ever written.”

–The article was written by Matt Gelb.

“The Giants are a threat in the post-season because they always get hot at the right time like they did last year.”

–Of course, before last year, they hadn’t been hot at the right time since 1954.

FIP, WAR.  You should stick to fantasy baseball, Gelb.  Maybe you can become a GM…and acquire high UZR and high WAR players that should win 120 and then complain how unlucky it was when they finish under .500.”

–It always comes back to the metrics.

“Relax girls, keep are panties pulled up…plenty of time.”

–If only the are/our hadn’t crossed him up.

“Again, what has friggin Dominic Brown shown anyone to warrant such elite status in the organization?! Are you serious?! He’s a butcher in the field and can’t hit. He’s the LAST guy I want in the field in the latter portion of Game 6 or 7 of the NLDS, NLCS or World Series! The LAST! Dom Brown untouchable is a laughable premise. So please, let’s keep it real up in here: Hunter Pence is one of the best outfielders in baseball, and is an above average hitter. INCLUDE BROWN IN A TRADE FOR PENCE, IF NECESSARY!”

–Not sure if this was written before or after Dom’s adventure last night.

Dom Brown has the same potential that Jeff Stone had.  How many All-Star teams did Jeff make?  ZERO.”

–Brown reminds me more of a poor man’s Von Hayes.

Using advanced Sabermetrics, we can determine with a high degree of accuracy Vance Worley’s likely stats for the rest of his career.”

–Sarcasm.  I chuckled.

How about thinking out of the box when it comes to a blockbuster deal? Would the Phillies consider trading Howard and a high-rated minor leader prospect for Pence and another relative high-paid veteran prospect (Brett Meyers) cand help the Phils now or be traded for someone else useful. For Houston, this arrangement would help reduce the burnden of taking on Howard’s contract. The Phils could throw in a few million if need be. They could also bring up one of the presently blocked, left-handed first badmen. Houston’s GM, given his ex-Phillies ties, might be interested in acquiring Howard if it could be done without breaking the bank.”

–To summarize that’s Howard and a prospect for Pence and a “veteran prospect” like Brett Myers.  The Phils will then have room for Matt Rizzotti.  And, if it’s too much of a burnden (sic) for Houston, just toss in a few million.

“Dom Brown is a mutt.  I’d drive him to Houston if that’s what it takes.”

–The Astros are stingy with relocation allowances from what I hear.

See that?  The answer is in there somewhere.  You just have to know where to look.

NFL Movement. An Open Discussion.

I Think NFL Free Agents Should Get Novelty Checks.

I didn’t really get bogged down in the particulars of the new collective bargaining agreement, but it looks like the money is still flowing.  Thirty million guaranteed for Charles Johnson.  A few days ago I thought Charles Johnson was a terrible receiver, or perhaps a retired catcher.  Not the case, he’s a DE staying in Carolina under very generous terms.  Even that Santonio Holmes deal looks a little rich at first blush.  The movement is coming at a furious pace right now as NFL teams try to get their rosters put together for training camp.  I’ll run down some stuff, but anyone following Adam Schefter religiously on Twitter, feel free to break some news.

***

Tons of QB movement. Seattle’s game plan is interesting.  I always wonder if there are people out there that think Tarvaris Jackson is actually good, or if they know he stinks but is the best they can do.  Seattle has to know this isn’t going to work out, right?  Elsewhere you’ve got Hasselbeck to the Titans (he’ll be injured by week 4), the Bengals are recruiting Bruce Gradkowski (who wouldn’t), and the market for Kevin Kolb looks to be drying up.  I’m expecting the Eagles to outsmart themselves on this one and start another season with both Kolb and Vick, roles reversed, this time.  All this happens while the defense gets younger and thinner, that’s in terms of depth, not fitness.

***

Speaking of the Eagles it looks like there is a reasonable chance that DeSean Jackson is going to hold out.  Jackson has been complaining about his bargain contract for well over a year now, and after sucking it up and playing in 2010, he might not be inclined to do the same this year.  I feel like most teams would have appeased Jackson at this point, but the Eagles are terribly stubborn.  The debate over his worth is another story, but he seems like a guy you’d want to have in camp.

***

If the Kolb market is drying up, I imagine the pursuit of Nnamdi is about to get rabid.  I’ve heard Ravens, Texans, 49ers, Lions, and even the Jets.  Imagine Asomugha and Revis on the same team.  If I can understate things, that would limit the opposition’s passing game.  Of course, you still need the Sanchize to bring it home.  Ike Taylor re-signed in Pittsburgh taking another corner off the market, but there’s no one in Ashomugha’s league.  If Charles Johnson got that deal, can’t wait to see Nnamdi break the bank.  Will he go for a contender or for the biggest windfall?

***

Other things going on:  Plax back to the Giants?  Donovan McNabb and his constant involvement in some type of “saga.” I’m sure more things will develop during the day, and for the rest of the week.  We’ll try to keep track of everything.  Kyle Orton’s available, so we’ve got to stay alert.

Great Umpiring vs. Terrible Umpiring.

Is it easy to be an umpire?  I doubt it.  I once sprained an ankle and had to sit out a baseball scrimmage.  Instead of playing, they sent me over to officiate at first base.  I totally spaced out and was brought back to the moment by a bang-bang play happening right in front of me.  I made no call until I realized that everyone on the field was standing there waiting for me to say something.  Finally, I just called the guy out.  I had no idea.  It wasn’t a popular call with the team at the plate.  I’d like to think though, if I was umpiring for my livelihood, I’d at least pay attention to the play.  Of course then there are plays like last night’s Pirates/Braves game where the umpire is looking right at the action and still blows it, swallows the proverbial whistle.  Here you go:

It was 1:30 in the Morning.

He’s standing right there.  Not sure how he missed that one.  The consolation prize is that the Braves added an extra game’s worth of innings onto an already taxed bullpen.  Also, Brian McCann is hitting the DL, but we don’t take any consolation in injuries around here.

Of course, sometimes the umps get it all right.  There was a close play at the plate in the Phillies game last night, but it had no impact on the outcome.  It just had an impact on how jolly Phillies fans feel this morning.  Chase Utley was almost thrown out on his inside-the-park home run attempt.  Several things could have gone wrong there.  Juan Samuel could be in witness protection this morning, but since he made it, we’ve all got a, “did you see that,” moment to talk about this morning.  There was no reason to send him.  None.  But, the fans wanted it, and Utley wanted it, and thankfully we had the right umpire on hand to make the correct call.  Take a look:

Eagle Eyes.

I’m just having a bit of fun here.  Obviously, umpires miss calls all the time.  It’s part of Americana, but those Braves did get fortunate last night.  Luckily, they’re still six back.  Who’s got a magic number calculation?