December 08, 2004

Phils add Lieber, years, to rapidly aging team



Despite concerns about his arm, the Phillies signed Yankees right-hander Jon Lieber to a three-year $21 million deal Wednesday. In the past five days, the Phillies have signed or traded for players who will be 35, 37, 37 and 38 years of age when they start the 2005 season.

The Phils scraped together the resources by subtracting $9 million from Eric Milton, who's never had as much good buzz surrounding him as he has this winter, and Kevin Millwood who flopped through two high-priced seasons that included a critical blown game against the Marlins down the stretch in 2003, and health and mechanics issues this season.

Millwood earned $11 million in 2004. That's lights-out ace money. Wow. The Phils shook loose $20 million from the two contracts, spending about $7 million for Lieber, who I'd consider their equal.

Lieber relies on his control to get batters out and is especially tough on right-handed hitters. He can work long, deep, quality games, the biggest problem with the Phils last season. The Phillies press release also said he had a "tendency" to keep balls on the ground, although Baseball Prospectus has him tagged as more of a fly-ball pitcher.

Money, money everywhere
That sound around baseball Wednesday was the "woosh" of starting pitchers quickly being sucked up by other teams. So I say the Phillies should spend the remaining $13 million on one of the last remaining pitching arms available: Carl Pavano, Derek Lowe or Pedro Martinez. Splurge on it. Spend every penny of it on an overpriced arm, just not Eric Milton or Kevin Millwood.

It's Utley time
I fully believe the Phillies have designs on giving 26-year-old Chase Utley the second base job, meaning, there's simply no place to for Placido Polanco, unless Ed Wade is keeping a tight lip about trading David Bell, which seems unlikely.

So let me be the first person to express my total support for the second baseman of the future, Chase Utley. Defense comes with experience. It's a small sacrifice to give up some defense to allow the development of potential run-producing weapon, who's hit at every level as a pro so far. And everyone around the organization likes him. A lot.

Keeping Polanco would be the safe thing to do, and I'm tired of safe. Let the young guys learn and play if they're ready. That's the approach taken by the best team in Philadelphia, the Eagles, who make it a rule not to resign guys over 30 with few exceptions (Brian Dawkins). Utley spent the exact right amount of time in the minors to develop his talent.

That, folks, is why you draft them.

The oldest catchers in baseball
The fact that Mike Lieberthal, 33 in January, and Todd Pratt, 38 in February, represent the oldest tandem of catchers in the majors should finally expose a gross mishandling of that position by the Phillies.

There's a quarter tank of baseball left in their systems, and they're good to have around, but the time has come and gone to inject a young catcher into the backup role. The resigning of Pratt, a decent, affordable and servicable backup, should be viewed as a failure to develop a better solution within the system.

10 Comments:

At 9:47 AM, Blogger el123chico said...

excellent analysis as always. i am also worried that lieber is more of a flyball than groundball pitcher. i don't think that they will do anything else with the rotation though, but i do think they should let madsen compete with myers for the last spot.

The age thing is also a concern. If Liebie goes down, can we really rely on Todd Pratt as the everyday catcher?

 
At 10:14 AM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

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At 10:44 AM, Blogger el123chico said...

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At 1:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 2:03 PM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

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At 2:55 PM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

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At 3:16 PM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

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At 3:31 PM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

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At 3:41 PM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

Chico, Tom G.:

I had to remove your comments because they referred to incorrect information I posted about Johnny Estrada. To set the record straight, it was former Phillies catcher Bobby Estellela, not Estrada, that was linked to Balco.

Here's the original response to Chico without the Estrada mistake:

Ryan Madson was the Phillies most effective pitcher last season, and he did so a reliever. He was asked to come into critical spots and stop the bleeding, and kept the Phillies in a number of ballgames through the later innings.

I'd hate to lose that kind of weapon, something they haven't had in years. Not every pitching prospect has to become a starter, often they're groomed in the minors not to be. I think Madson should stay in long relief, and I think that’s where the Phils will keep him.

On catcher, with Millwood gone and forgotten, the Estrada/Millwood trade is officially a bust.

It's hard to predict injury, but with old catchers, obviously you're playing with fire. Estrada could have been the catcher of their future, although I have a hunch he was a one-hit wonder this season.

Tom G.:
It appears as though you are correct - Lieber, from the sites I checked, is indeed a groundball pitcher.

 
At 5:36 PM, Blogger el123chico said...

yeah j.m.w. do your research from now on. :)

either way i don't think estrada was more than a one hit wonder and think we'll get similar production from liebie anyway.

hearing lieber is a ground ball pitcher makes me smile though. :)

 

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