We've got a ton to get to today, including a comprehensive breakdown of the Placido Polanco move, but first let's take a quick look at where the Phillies' three free agent signings leaves them in terms of available money and potential places to spend it.
I. Payroll Committments for 2010
As you'll see in the chart below, I have the Phillies projected to pay out $127.8 million to the 20 players who are locks to be on the team next season. This includes 15 players who are guaranteed money along with two arbitration eligible players and three players with less than three years experience. The salaries for the two arbitration eligible players (Victorino and Blanton) as well as the salaries for Carlos Ruiz, J.A. Happ and Ben Francisco are estimated (for a comprehensive look at how we arrived at some of these numbers, check out some of our previous posts).
RAJ has said that he does not expect to spend much more money on payroll this season than he did last season, when they opened up the year at $132 million and by the end of it doled out a hair over $137 million. So in our offseason projections we have been working with the number $140 million, mostly because it is a nice, even figure.
SS - Jimmy Rollins: $7.5 million
3B - Placido Polanco: $6.0 million
2B - Chase Utley: $15.0 million
1B - Ryan Howard: $19.0 million
RF - Jayson Werth: $7.0 million
LF - Raul Ibanez: $11.5 million
CF - Shane Victorino: $6.5 million* ($3.125 million)
C - Carlos Ruiz: $0.750 million* ($0.475 million)
TOTAL: 8 regulars, $73.25 million
No. 1 - Cliff Lee: $9.0 million
No. 2 - Cole Hamels $6.65 million
No. 3 - Joe Blanton $6.5 million* ($5.475 million)
No. 4 - J.A. Happ: $0.500 million* ($0.400 million)
No. 5 - Jamie Moyer: $8.0 million
TOTAL: 5 starters, $30.65 million
Bench 1 - Greg Dobbs: $1.35 million
Bench 2 - Ben Francisco: $0.55 million* ($0.4214 million)
Bench 3 - Juan Castro: 0.75 million
Bench 4 - Brian Schneider: $1.25 million
Bench 5 - OPEN
TOTAL: 4 reserves, $3.90 million
Reliever 1 - Brad Lidge: $11.5 million
Reliever 2 - Ryan Madson: $4.5 million
Reliever 3 - J.C. Romero: $4.0 million
Reliever 4 - OPEN
Reliever 5 - OPEN
Reliever 6 - OPEN
Reliever 7 - OPEN
TOTAL: 3 relievers, $20 million
GRAND TOTAL: 20 players, $127.8 million
VACANCIES: 4 relievers, 1 bench player, 1 starter
II. Relievers: Breaking down Brandon Lyon
This would leave the Phillies with roughly $12 million to spend on five open active roster spots, four of which will likely be devoted to relievers. RAJ re-iterated yesterday what he has said several times this offseason, that some of those roster spots might be filled by players already under the Phillies' control. Two obvious candidates are righthanders Chad Durbin and Clay Condrey, both of whom are arbitration-eligible. Condrey earned $650,000 last season, while Durbin made $1.65 million, and thanks to service time and performance both would likely be in line for decent raises. Both are versatile relievers who have been with the team for the past two seasons. But the Phillies could decide that they are better off making both free agents and spending the money elsewhere.
The Phillies also have several young relievers in their minor league system who could factor into the equation. Lefthander Antonio Bastardo was on the playoff roster for all three rounds last season, although he faced a grand total of two batters. Fellow lefty Sergio Escalona made several appearance in the big leagues and showed some promise. Lefty Mike Zagurski, who made a brief appearance in the majors in 2007, is fully recovered from elbow surgery and in 45 relief appearances for Double-A Reading last year went 3-4 with a 3.57 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 69 walks/hits allowed in 53 innings. And while the Phillies would like to take it slow with righthander Scott Mathieson, who has made a surprising recovery from two elbow surgeries, he was impressive in the Arizona Fall League and could make an appearance in the majors at some point in 2010.
The thinking here at High Cheese is that of the Phillies' four vacancies in the bullpen, at least one and likely two will be filled by low-cost players who are already under the team's control. It would make sense to give one of the two young lefties a shot at proving themselves in a situational role at the start of the season. The cost, about $400,000, would be minimal. And it would give Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee and the front office a chance to assess whether a guy like Bastardo or Escalona can fill the role, with the back-up plan of adding another arm at the trade deadline. Another one of those four vacancies will likely be filled by a low-cost long reliever, a role that Condrey has filled over the last two seasons, and could fill again. If the Phillies decide that Condrey's price tag is more than they are willing to pay, they could fill the void with a guy like Kyle Kendrick, who also figures to make a serious push for the No. 5 spot in the rotation in the spring.
So where does that leave us? Right now, it leaves us projecting that the Phillies have two definite vacancies to fill in the bullpen. They need a guy who can pitch multiple innings, and would love to add a guy who can pitch in the eighth or ninth innings if necessary. On paper, the Phillies already have three back-of-the-bullpen arms under contract for a total of $20 million. But J.C. Romero could be sidelined early in the season as he recovers from elbow surgery. And Brad Lidge is coming off minor elbow surgery as well as a rocky 2009 campaign.
The multiple-innings role is one that Durbin has helped fill the last two seasons and could fill again. Chan Ho Park also remains a possibility, although RAJ declined to handicap his chances of re-signing the veteran righthander yesterday.
Which brings us to a name that we first raised a couple of weeks ago when breaking down the Phillies' offseason.
Over the past couple of weeks, we've gotten some strong indications that the Phillies are hoping to land Tigers righthander Brandon Lyon, a versatile reliever who saved 26 games for the Diamondbacks in 2008 but also has the ability to pitch multiple innings.
Lyon is an interesting guy in that he compliments a 92-93 MPH fastball with three other pitches, most notably (and regularly) a curve ball. He also throws a slider/cutter and, occasionally, a change-up.
Lyon would seem to be a guy who can step into the role filled by Park last year. He pitched more than one inning in 24 of his 65 appearances last season, posting a 3.35 ERA and 1.095 WHIP while striking out 5.51 K/9 in those outings. But he has also pitched in the back end up of the bullpen, saving 14 games for Arizona in 2004 and 26 in 2008. In his outings that lasted one or fewer innings last season, he posted a 2.18 ERA and 1.12 WHIP while striking out 7.9 per nine innings.
Lyon isn't a ground-ball pitcher like teammate and fellow free agent Fernando Rodney, but his GB/FB rate ranked in the middle of the pack among MLB relievers.
A caveat? Lyon has spent the majority of his career pitching in two of the more pitcher-friendly parks in the majors in Chase Field and Comerica Park. But attempting to take home ballparks into consideration is always tricky.
Lyon will be 30 on Opening Day, so he is considerably younger than a lot of the other pitching options on the market. And with the Phillies likely not in a position to overpay for players like Mike Gonzalez and Fernando Rodney, Lyon could be a palatable option should the Phillies find themselves unable to reach an agreement with Park.
For what it's worth, a former teammate of Lyon's told me a couple weeks ago that the righthander would be a "perfect fit" in Philadelphia.
III. Other Options
Apart from Lyon, Rockies reliever Rafael Betancourt is another player whose skill set would jive with the Phillies, although a report out of Denver earlier this offseason that said Betancourt rejected a two-year, $8 million contract suggests he might be out of the Phillies price range.
After that, I'd look for them to try to add the type of low-risk (AKA cheap), high-reward type of player that RAJ talked about yesterday. One option could be John Smoltz, although I'd say the chances of him actually signing in Philly are slim and none. There are other relievers who are either coming off unhealthy or unimpressive (or both) seasons who might be willing to sign a low-base, incentive-laden contract. ESPN reported the other day that the Phillies have had some interest in former Mets righthander J.J. Putz, with whom Pat Gillick and Benny Looper are familiar from their ties to the Mariners organization. But again, I'd put the chances of that happening at slim and none for a variety of reasons: One, it doesn't make much sense for the Phillies to invest any substantial money in a base salary for a player whose velocity dropped last season and whose workload has decreased in each of the last three seasons. Two, it doesn't make much sense for Putz to take a chance on a team that plays in what pitchers believe to be a bandbox and that features two back-of-the-bullpen arms who will get first dibs on high-leverage situations. Remember, he'll be trying to play his way into a big contract next year, and there would seem to be better opportunities to do so than in Philadelphia.
A more likely option would seem to be finding the 2010 version of Kiko Kalero or Brendan Donnelly, two players who performed well for the Marlins last season while trying to prove themselves after injuries. One such player who could fit that mold this year is righthander Joaquin Benoit. Benoit, who will be 32 in 2010, missed all of 2009 after undergoing rotator cuff surgery in Junuary. He posted a 5.00 ERA and 1.667 WHIP while battling shoulder pain in 2008. But from 2005-07, Benoit posted a 3.80 ERA and 1.243 WHIP while striking out 9.0 batters per nine innings for the Rangers.
Another name to keep your eye on is Brad Penny, who the Phillies have had some interest in over the last couple of seasons and who could be a guy who could compete for the fifth spot in the rotation.
Then, of course, there are the relievers who are perceived to be over-the-hill but who might try to make one last attempt at hanging on. Included in this category are former Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan and former Angel Justin Speier.