Ordinarily I take credit for anything clever that I’ve heard and later repeat, but this one’s incredibly racist, so I’ll blame it on Blockie, Friend of the Blog and Sometime Fantasy Sports antagonist. I’m not 100 percent positive he said it, but I know it was one of my 4 friends and it wasn’t me or Paul.
With the neck-beard, Pedro Feliz sort of looks like he stepped out of Planet of the Apes. This is racist because he’s not white, though I swear it’s only meant to say that he’s got a beard, big ears, and a round face, not that he’s somehow less-evolved than the rest of us. I’m sure he walks as upright and uses simple tools as well as any one of his less-hairy teammates. I will say that his approach at the plate could stand another Ice Age’s worth of fine-tuning.
Which is precisely why the Phillies have declined a $5 million team option on their Simian infielder.
This clears room for the equally indisciplined but measurably better (and underrated) Adrian Beltre to come here for 2 years or so. Beltre is an upgrade over Feliz pretty much everywhere. I’d love to have him as a right-handed power bat (which would almost-perfectly balance out the Phillies’ power hitters from a platoon advantage standpoint), a defensive player, and the fact that I think the number 48 would look good on a Phillies uniform.
Now, on to something that’s going to piss some of you off. Here are two other offseason acquisitions I’d really like to make.
The first is Ben Sheets. I know, his elbow is made of spaghetti, the Phillies aren’t exactly desparate for starting pitching, and even in the best-case scenario he’s probably only going to be the Phillies’ third-best starting pitcher. I know he’s probably headed to Texas and a reunion with his beloved pitching coach Mike Maddux.
But the Phillies have had great success recently with low-risk, high-upside deals in the past 2 or 3 years. Jamie Moyer, Pedro Martinez, Greg Dobbs, Matt Stairs, J.C. Romero, Scott Eyre. He’ll probably command an incentive-laden minor league deal and I think he’s worth that kind of risk. I think if his elbow hadn’t abruptly given out at the end of 2008 and he pitches in that first round against the Phillies, we don’t make it out of the first round. I think that kind of power pitcher can’t be overlooked, particularly when you can pick him up off the scrap heap for $1.75 plus tax.
The other one is a little bit of a stretch. Aroldis Chapman is the latest in a line of Cuban two-sport athletes–combination power pitchers and world-class open-water sailors.
The 21-year-old lefty touched triple digits at the World Baseball Classic with average to above-average breaking stuff. Scouts say he’s the best defector to come across the pond since Jose Contreras, which might sound like damning with faint praise until you remember that Contreras was actually quite a good major league pitcher for a few years.
Now I’m aware that these highly-hyped imports, both Japanese and Cuban, tend to be a mixed bag. There are those who lived up to the hype (Nomo, the Hernandez Brothers), those who didn’t but still turned out to be effective major league starters (Contreras, Daisuke Matsuzaka), moderate disappointments (Rolando Arrojo) and those who were Oil Rig Fire flameouts (Hideki Irabu, Ariel Prieto).
Odds are, Chapman will command the kind of money offered to Contreras earlier this decade (4 years, $30+ million), if not more, which is a somewhat bigger risk. Upsides, he could turn into the Tonto to Cole Hamels’ Lone Ranger after the Mass Exodus of November 2011. Downside is that if he’s actually 21, I’d, well, let’s just say I’d be very surprised if he actually is as young as he says he is. Another downside is that he’s got a reputation for being a little petulant and hotheaded. Well, that’s not surprising at all. He’s “21.” The two best homegrown starters the Phillies have produced since the Korean War are Cole Hamels and Brett Myers, and at 25 and 29, respectively, they’re both still a little petulant and hotheaded. Ok, Randy Wolf might have been a little better than Myers, and he’s cool as a cucumber.
Also, if between Robin Roberts and Cole Hamels the best pitchers your farm system can cough up are Brett Myers and Randy Wolf…well, if that’s not a damning indictment of a team’s scouting department, I don’t know what is.
The point is, after two straight pennants and nine straight winning seasons, with their first set of marketable stars since 1983 and a relatively-new ballpark, the Phillies are priniting money. Printing money. The way you get that big-team mentality that separates great teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox from bad teams in big markets (Detroit and San Diego) is by taking big-money risks like this one. I say we at least bid, and bid big, on Chapman. If the Yankees get him for $60 million so be it. But if he can be had for $35 million, we may one day regret not at least asking.
Though I am the guy who practically jumped off a bridge when the Phillies traded for Cliff Lee instead of Roy Halladay, so you might want to take any of my pitching advice with a grain of salt.
I think the Phillies should be a big player in the Winter Meetings. You’ll remember that the great sustained winning teams of recent years (Atlanta 1991-2005, Yankees 1995-present, Red Sox, 2003-present) have been able to continue to win division titles and pennants with a continual player turnover. Hitching the wagon to the same 6 guys works for 2 or 3 years, but you do eventually need to trade in your used Damon for a late-model Ellsbury from time to time, or when the lease is up on your V6 Soriano, see if you can get a Cano to replace him. Those little deals, trading like-for-like, gradually getting younger and better, is how those teams put together sustained runs of success, and it’s the difference between a 4-year run of division titles and becoming a perennial World Series contender.
With that said, no major league Phillie, apart from Hamels, Lee, and Utley should be completely untouchable this offseason, and tires ought to be kicked on anyone who might make the team younger and/or better, if only to establish what Joakim Soria might cost, or even Ryan Zimmerman. It can’t hurt to ask.
Ruben Amaro should go into these winter meetings with a price in his mind on every player under contract, and if he can sell Shane Victorino or Jayson Werth now at peak value in the interest of continuing to contend in 2012, I say do it.