Probably the last post of the hot stove season will be the announcement that Kris Benson has joined the Phillies. Benson and the Phils agreed to a minor league deal Wednesday and will report with the rest of the pitchers and catchers tomorrow. Benson is still recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum and may not be ready for opening day although he is optimistic that he’ll be ready.
The Phillies now have a rotation of Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Kyle Kendrick, Jamie Moyer, and a decision to make on the last members of the rotation. Candidates are Adam Eaton, Benson, Chad Durbin, and J.D. Durbin. The signing also gives the team depth if one of the top four starters gets injured.
The only other move that is very doubtful to happen before Spring Training tomorrow is trading Wes Helms for a much needed bullpen arm.
Rumors have been that the Oakland A’s may be looking to trade 27 year old starting pitcher Joe Blanton. Blanton was 14-10 with a 3.95 ERA in 2007 and was rumored to have been on the Phillies radar last July. If Blanton becomes available he would be a great number 3 pitcher for the Phillies are sure up the rotation for the season. Blanton can not become a free agent until 2010 and only earns $3,700,000.
The catch is what the A’s will want in return. The Phillies farm system is ranked 22 out of 30 and this trade would set them back even further. If they could trade one pitching prospect and a position player prospect and or even Wes Helms the deal is probably worth doing.
The Phillies watched Kris Benson pitch again yesterday and are still considering adding him to their stable of pitchers. The team also continues to stay in touch with Kyle Lohse. Although both options have been downplayed to the press, many close to the team assume that the Phillies will sign one of these pitchers. Which is the better option? Benson will sign for one season while Lohse will command more money and three years. Their career stats are similar but Lohse is four years younger and less injury prone. Lohse has already pitched in Citizens Bank Park and had success.
The bigger picture is this, the Phillies have Jamie Moyer as their number 5 pitcher. After this season he will probably retire and need to be replaced. Would Kyle Lohse not be a solid number 5 pitcher to replace Moyer? Look around the majors and compare Lohse to other teams number 5 pitchers and you will find him to be very good. The Phillies will need to then add a number 3 or 4 pitcher after this year but would have 1 (Hamels), 2 (Myers), 4 (Kendrick),
and 5 (Lohse) filled nicely.
Lohse may cost a little more and require a longer commitment, but he will fill a need and solidify the back end of the Phillies rotation. He fits in with the team, seems to work well with Rich Dubee, and can be counted on to pitch 175 innings while keeping the team in the games he starts. The Phillies may have competition for Lohse’s services now since Curt Schilling is having shoulder issues and are looking at Lohse as a possible replacement. The Phillies need to make a decision and a signing soon so they can be sure to get the pitcher they want. Lohse may be that better pick.
Since the Johan Santana trade, the Mets have been the talk of the National League East. They have been able to turn the talk about the biggest collapse in baseball history to renewed optimism for 2008. The press conference welcoming Santana was a great public relations event and the team and fans seem reenergized. Santana is only one player, albeit a good one, but he will not completely change the dynamic of the NL East. The Mets will be more competitive but they are not absolute favorites.
How do the Phillies change the Momentum? Very simply. First, sign another starting pitcher. Whether it is Kyle Lohse, Kris Benson, or another option, they need to ensure they have five healthy major league starters. Second, sign Ryan Howard to a long term deal. If the Phillies announced a long term deal with Howard, the momentum and attention would turn the Phillies way. The Mets ensured their team by signing Santana long term, the Phillies need to do the same by making Ryan Howard a Phillie past his arbitration eligible seasons. Showing this commitment to Howard will end the yearly haggling and show the fans the organization is committed to winning and being a national league powerhouse for many years to come. Paying for Howard now, no matter what the cost, will be cheaper than paying for him later.
The Phillies watched right handed pitcher Kris Benson on Tuesday. The team did not say whether they were interested or not but did say as they have all along that they are looking to bolster their starting rotation. His agent Gregg Clifton said the Phillies were pleased with what they saw and were going to have another session watching him. He also said "He’d love to continue discussions with them, and he’d love the chance
to be part of that staff in ’08. He really likes that team."
The addition of Benson would give the team much needed depth and experience. Benson missed all of 2007 recovering from shoulder surgery so he would be yet another question mark. He would be a low risk high reward player however since there are other options if he does not work out and will settle for a one year deal. If he is considered healthy and his velocity and movement on his pitches are good, he is a gamble worth betting on.
It is good to see the Phillies thinking ahead and being overly prepared going into the season. With 8 or so choices for starting pitching, the team should be able to have 5 legitimate starters to start the season with. Kudos to Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro!
For every man out there, if Benson joins the rotation the team (or at least the wives) will be much more attractive. Sorry, bad joke!
If things were not tough enough in Phillies Nation after the news that Johan Santana was traded to the Mets, things got worse when the news broke that the team would be looking at Odalis Perez to help fill out a starting rotation that is a question mark after Cole Hamels and Brett Myers. It got worse when assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr said, "We can’t worry about what other clubs are doing around us. We have to concentrate on our club and how we can improve it." He also said,
"We have a budget and a responsibility to that budget." Mr. Amaro, increasing revenue should increase the amount you can spend. Win a championship and then look at the bottom line. If another team you compete with is going to spend the money, you need to figure out a way to spend as much to remain competitive. This is true in any business. If a competitor makes a better product, you have to go back and figure out how to keep your product competitive.
Perez, if signed, will bring another huge question mark to Spring training. Although a minor league contract may be good to fill out the triple A roster and serve as a backup in case of injury, the Phillies need to look higher up the food chain for pitching help. Kyle Lohse should be the least talented pitcher considered at this point to add to the rotation and there should be no scenario where another pitcher is not added.
Now is the time for the Phillies. If they want to be a true National League powerhouse and a popular profitable franchise, the time to step up is now. Why can’t the Phillies be the Yankees or Red Sox of the National League? The answer? There is no reason. The only thing that is preventing this is ownership. Take a risk guys. If Henry Ford had not taken a risk, we would all be walking. If Ryan Howard is not paid and retained and a pitcher is not acquired, the fans of Philadelphia will be watching football, hockey, and basketball while Phillies games would draw 17,000 fans like the bad days in the late 80’s and late 90’s at the Vet. What a sad world that would be.
When Pete Rose joined Manny Trillo, Larry Bowa, and Mike Schmidt on the 1979 Phillies, they had the best infield in baseball. 29 years later, the Phillies can again brag about having the top infield in the game. The addition of Pedro Feliz gives the Phillies this honor again. Third base has been a weak link for the Phillies since the departure of Scott Rolen. With slick fielding Feliz, the infield is strong at all four positions. Ryan Howard should be healthy this year and we can expect 45 to 55 home runs from him again, Chase Utley is the best second baseman in the game and will continue to put up MVP caliber numbers, reigning MVP Jimmy Rollins will be back and is eager to continue as one the games elite short stops. What can the team expect from Feliz? He will hit between 20 and 30 home runs. Some may say 30 is a stretch but he will play 81 games at Citizens Bank Park as opposed to being in pitcher friendly A T & T park. Pedro also brings one of if not the best gloves at third base to Philadelphia. With Rollins and Feliz on the left side, it will be a place where hits go to die.
Can you imagine an infield that produces 125 homeruns in a season? The Phillies can. Barring injuries all four positions will produce 20 home runs and each could produce 30. It will be fun to watch the best infield in the game in 2008.