Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Most Underpaid Players of the 2012 Season
As the the baseball world is currently in Winter Meetings frenzy down in Nashville, Tennessee, the Philadelphia Phillies remain quiet on the transaction front.
At this point in the offseason in prior years, Phillies fans are used to GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. having already signed a top-tier free agent to a lucrative contract that is either an overpay in years, dollars or both. However, this offseason Amaro has been steadfast in his unwillingness to overpay for lesser talent, and it's certainly praiseworthy. But that's a conversation for another article.
Last week, I touched on covering the Phillies' most overpaid players of this past season, but as one of my commenters noticed, it wasn't entirely accurate because I accidentally used the batting values for pitchers' worth in addition to hitters.
In brief, pitchers' worth was determined by how well they batted, not how well they pitched, and in the National League those results will ostensibly not be in the pitcher's favor. I apologize for the discrepancy.
Having said that, this article will be much more accurate in its accuracy concerning the worth of Phillies players in 2012. As was the case with the last slideshow, I will be using FanGraphs' WAR-based dollar value amounts that constitute how much a player should receive on the free-agent market should they have hit free agency following the 2012 season and subtracting the player's actual 2012 salary to determine how much money the Phillies saved and didn't have to pay.
That doesn't apply to many of these players, though, because only a select few are actually free agents after the season's end.
And as was also the case, only players who spent the full season on the Phillies roster will be eligible for inclusion on this list, meaning that midseason call-ups such as Erik Kratz and Kevin Frandsen will unfortunately be excluded from this slideshow.
I present to you a correct version of the Phillies' five most underpaid players of the 2012 season.
*Salaries courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.
5. Cole Hamels
2012 Dollar Value: $20.3 million
2012 Salary: $15 million
Savings: $5.3 million
I almost included Kyle Kendrick in place of Cole Hamels because Hamels' six-year, $144 million contract extension signed in late July had finally set into my mind as having already taken place. Little did I remember, though, that Hamels only—I know, only—made $15 million in 2012, so he subsequently earned placement on this list.
Hamels had arguably the best season of his career thus far in 2012. Given the Phillies' offensive woes throughout the season, Hamels managed to post a miraculous 17-6 record with a 3.05 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, a career-high 216 strikeouts and two complete games, both of them shutouts, in 215.1 innings.
Hamels' 2011 season saw him put up a 14-9 record, 2.79 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 194 strikeouts and three complete games in 216.0 innings pitched.
The difference? First of all, Hamels had a career-best ERA and WHIP in 2011, but he also missed a start due to bone chips in his elbow. Additionally, his win total was only 14 in 2011 because he suffered the most from lack of run support.
In 2012, the poles switched, as Hamels received the most run support of the Phillies' starting pitchers—Cliff Lee infamously received the least, not earning a win until July as a result.
Hamels can no longer argue that he's underpaid, as his new contract makes him the second-richest starting pitcher in baseball history as of this writing. Would he have possibly earned more in free agency? Absolutely, but fortunately for Phillies fans, the world will never know.
4. Juan Pierre
2012 Dollar Value: $7.5 million
2012 Salary: $800,000
Savings: $6.7 million
Juan Pierre was perhaps the best minor league free agent signing of the 2011 offseason. After a down contract year with the Chicago White Sox, Pierre received little to no interest from any other teams until the Phillies gave him a call and signed him at the end of January. Pierre received an invite to spring training and would receive $800,000 if added to the major league roster before Opening Day, and when he was chosen over Scott Podsednik, who had had a better spring training, it came as a bit of a surprise aside from Podsednik having a minor league option left on his contract.
When Pierre was added, it was thought that he would be used primarily as a pinch runner and occasionally as a left fielder. As April came and went, it became clear that John Mayberry, Jr. was not an everyday player and Pierre got his shot to play out the season.
Pierre didn't disappoint—in 130 games, he hit .307 with the highest OBP (.351), SLG (.371) and OPS (.722) in his career since 2009. He struck out just 27 times and walked 23, stole an astounding 37 bases and also hit six triples.
After the Phillies traded Shane Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants at the July 31 trade deadline, the Phillies called up Domonic Brown and utilized him and the newly-acquired Nate Schierholtz more often to assess their future outfield situation, which reduced Pierre's role.
Pierre wasn't just valuable to the Phillies in 2012—he was invaluable, and the reason why the Phillies did as well as they did near the top of their batting order and in left field overall was in no small part thanks to Pierre.
Paying him less than a million dollars in 2012 was a steal, and even though there wouldn't have been a spot for him on the 2013 roster, he will be sorely missed.
3. Vance Worley
2012 Dollar Value: $8.4 million
2012 Salary: $495,000
Savings: $7.905 million
To be honest, Vance Worley's inclusion as one of the Phillies' most underpaid players in 2012. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Worley fan, but after the end of April, Worley was, for the most part, atrocious.
In five April starts in 2012, Worley went 2-1 with a 1.97 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 32 strikeouts in 32 innings pitched—a strikeout per inning. June was also kind to the Vanimal, as he posted a 1-2 record but also had a 2.70 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in the third month of the year.
But in May, July and August, Worley posted ERAs of 6.00, 6.43 and 5.23, respectively, until he was finally shut down at the end of August.
Worley's August shutdown and season struggles were blamed on bone chips in his pitching elbow, which he had removed in early September. However, that may not deter teams from being interested in his services at the Winter Meetings—or, at least, the Phillies being willing to listen.
According to CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury, the previously off-limits Worley, along with top pitching prospect Trevor May, are available in trades should the right deal come along.
The reason why I'm surprised to see Worley apparently worth as much as $8.4 million is because of his midseason struggles. Worley had two good months, one great. But the other three months were extremely lackluster, and his FanGraphs WAR was only 1.9 as it was.
I honestly don't get it. Worley's got immense potential and still has plenty of time to realize it, but this injury backtracked him quite a bit, though that seemingly isn't evident per FanGraphs' dollar value stat.
Nevertheless, the Phillies have underpaid Worley as a pre-arbitration eligible player and have, on the whole, reaped the benefits over the last two seasons. With 2013 being Worley's final season before he's arbitration-eligible, the Phillies should take advantage of his ability and only move him if the return fills a need and brings in youth.
Worley's very cost-effective and should be a nice No. 4 starter for the Phillies for quite some time.
2. Jimmy Rollins
2012 Dollar Value: $22.2 million
2012 Salary: $11 million
Savings: $11.2 million
After hitting free agency following the 2011 season, Jimmy Rollins ultimately re-signed in Philadelphia on a three-year, $33 million deal. Although he's well past his offensive prime, he remains one of the best defensive shortstops in the game and won his fourth Gold Glove for his outstanding defense in 2012.
J-Roll's offense was even better than it had been in recent years, making him one of the most valuable shortstops in the majors this past season.
To elaborate, Rollins batted just .250 and only posted a .316 OBP, but his .427 SLG and 33 doubles were his highest marks in those categories since 2009 and J-Roll's OPS of .743 was his best since 2008.
In addition, Rollins' 23 home runs were the most he slugged since he drove 30 balls out of the bark in his MVP 2007 season. The fact that he played 156 games was encouraging, though, and even though he struck out 96 times, he posted a career-high number in bases on balls with 62. He also stole 30 bases.
Rollins' defense, despite earning him the fourth Gold Glove of his career, was only so-so by his career standards. His 4.9 UZR/150 was an upgrade over his 3.1 UZR/150 of 2011, but both are well below his 12.3 UZR/150 in 2010. The numbers notwithstanding, though, Rollins' defense still remains the one aspect of his game that can be relied upon.
Combining his always-stellar defense with his unusually improved offense, Rollins was truly one of baseball's best shortstops in 2012. If he can continue to put up this kind of offense over the life of his contract, it'll be nothing short of a coup for the Phillies.
Last offseason, Rollins initially wanted more money, and while he got it, it's certainly worth wondering whether he should have been paid more.
1. Carlos Ruiz
2012 Dollar Value: $24.8 million
2012 Salary: $3.7 million
Savings: $21.1 million
A little over a week ago, if I asked any given Phillies fan about Carlos Ruiz's value to the team, chances are they would say that he was the Phils' most valuable player in 2012. However, now that he's been suspended for the first 25 games of the 2013 season due to illegal Adderall use, I'd imagine that at least some of those opinions would change.
Regardless of the Adderall-based suspension, the numbers don't lie: Chooch was the Phillies' MVP in 2012. His defense behind the plate led him to be a Gold Glove finalist, and combine that with his offensive breakout season and you get Ruiz's first career All-Star nod.
In 2012, Ruiz was incredible at the plate. He batted .325 with a .394 OBP, .540 SLG and thus a .935 OPS, all career highs. Chooch also slugged 16 home runs, another career best, in addition to 68 RBI and 32 doubles.
Although plantar fasciitis derailed his season and limited it to 114 games, there's certainly no doubt that 2012 was a season that finally allowed Ruiz to prove his worth in the National League and the majors.
But can that really be validated now? Adderall is a drug usually used for ADD/ADHD treatment and increases focus and concentration, among other things. It's very possible that Chooch took Adderall knowing this and it allowed him to swing the bat better than he had before.
Worth noting, though, is that Ruiz's 25-game suspension indicates that he tested positive for a banned stimulant such as Adderall once before, meaning he's likely aware that a stimulant enhances his performance. Even though Adderall is not a steroid, should it be frowned upon in the same manner?
Whether or not it does is another debate in and of itself. But there's no doubting that Chooch was valuable to the Phillies in 2012. His $5.5 million club option may not be as much of a bargain as it once was now that he's missing a sixth of the 2013 season, but if Ruiz can still come back and produce at the same level without Adderall, he can say he's proven his critics wrong for the second time.