Carlos Ruiz scored a nice contract, but did he win his offseason?
With 19 days left until MLB pitchers and catchers have to report to spring training, the 2013-14 offseason is drawing to a close. Although some high-profile names such as Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz remain on the board, they will likely fall into place on new teams once Japanese superstar pitcher Masahiro Tanaka signs with an American team within the next few days.
While some teams still have some shopping to do, for all intents and purposes, the Philadelphia Phillies' offseason has concluded. The only outstanding move remaining is an arbitration settlement or hearing with outfielder Ben Revere, and the only moves to expect aside from that would be of the minor league variety.
As the offseason ends, one of the biggest topics that emerges is who won and who lost. Today, we'll take a look at just who came out on top and who was left in the dust for the Phillies this winter. Without further ado, here are the biggest winners and losers of the Phillies' offseason.
Last offseason, Marlon Byrd was on the verge of calling it a career. After a 2012 season riddled with a 50-game PED suspension and a poor performance while on the field, the best Byrd could do was nab a minor league deal with an invite to spring training from the New York Mets. He proved himself in spring training and surprisingly cracked the Opening Day roster.
Byrd started off 2013 somewhat slowly before ramping up his offense in June, batting .282 during the month. July was when he really got going, though, as he hit .336 with a .930 OPS. It led to significant interest in his services by the July 31 trade deadline, and while no deal was consummated before then, Byrd was shipped off to the Pittsburgh Pirates in August.
With continued offensive production into the postseason and consistent outfield defense, Byrd primed himself nicely for a decent contract. What was unfathomable a year before was reality in 2013 when the Phillies signed him for $16 million over two years. Despite his age—Byrd will be 36 years old on Opening Day—he was able to land a major league deal.
Byrd will return to the team with which he started his career. But will he be able to build upon 2013, or was it a fluke? That remains to be seen, but for now, Byrd will enjoy his future paychecks.
Darin Ruf only had an outside shot at starting on Opening Day. However, the signing of Marlon Byrd—for two years, at that—sealed his fate as a bench bat, at least in the outfield.
Ruf has shown he can hit at the major league level, and he had a hot August and September to supplement that fact. But his defense in the outfield is just atrocious. According to FanGraphs, Ruf's UZR/150 in the outfield was minus-26.9, and even worse in right field alone at minus-34.9. Even Ruf's defense at first base, his natural position, was sloppy—his UZR/150 there was minus-6.9. Not exactly ideal, to say the least.
To start the year, Ruf is bound to the bench. He could end up as a platoon partner for Ryan Howard if he sours, and he's likely a candidate to start in right field should an injury to Byrd occur. But for someone with the offensive potential that Ruf has, sitting on the bench isn't flattering.
Carlos Ruiz is an obvious winner here. After a season which saw him start out suspended for 25 games due to Adderall use, then hurt two weeks later, he did pretty well to receive a three-year contract.
Chooch showed up in August and September after a dismal first half, and then some. His defense remained steady as ever, but with an apparent inability to hit a baseball for quite some time, Phillies fans were worried if Ruiz could play without the use of Adderall in his system.
Nevertheless, the Phillies re-signed their long-time catcher for $26 million over three years this offseason. It's a bit of an overpay, but Ruiz and his agent did well to land him that kind of money.
Wil Nieves benefited from a trade of Erik Kratz for Brad Lincoln in addition to receiving over $1 million guaranteed for the first time in his career, per Cot's Baseball Contracts. He's nothing special as a talent, but he'll serve as a decent backup.
Overall, the Phillies' two likely Opening Day catchers are big winners here, but those waiting in line will have to wait a little longer.
With Ruiz being re-signed and Nieves taking the backup role, Cameron Rupp is out of options to be a major league player in 2014. The only way it happens now is if an injury arises.
It's probably not the worst thing for Rupp, but it's not great either. Rupp will get more playing time in the minors, but it also means he'll lack the major league experience needed as a potential backup in 2015. This doesn't come as a huge surprise, as manager Ryne Sandberg played Rupp sparingly during his September call-up anyway, but it's more discouraging than anything.
Tommy Joseph shouldn't be shocked here either, as his 2013 was muddled with concussions and poor performance. Granted, Ruiz's signing essentially means that the Phillies have no long-term faith in Joseph as the starting catcher anymore, but it also means that Joseph—or any other catcher, for that matter—has the chance to prove the Phillies wrong.
Two simple words provide the reason why Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez come in as winners this offseason: Guaranteed money.
Yes, all major leaguers are guaranteed salary. That's nothing new. However, both are receiving generous raises in 2014 compared to their 2013 salaries.
Kendrick is a free agent after 2014 and probably shouldn't have made much more than $6.5 million next season—a sentiment which MLB Trade Rumors' Matt Swartz echoed with his $6.6 million salary prediction for Kendrick for next year—but he'll now be earning $7.6 million after both parties agreed to avoid arbitration. For what Kendrick provides and his career 4.38 ERA, that's nothing short of outrageous.
As for Hernandez, his deal is a little more reasonable at $4.5 million, but he's also been guaranteed a spot in the Phillies' rotation. Compared to his 2013 salary of $3.25 million, per Cot's, and his job as a swingman, Hernandez did well in landing his deal with the Phillies.
Jonathan Pettibone was given the chance to start in the Phillies' rotation in early 2013, and he did a solid job for a rookie. However, with a shoulder injury derailing his September, Pettibone found himself out of favor by the offseason.
With an ERA of 4.04 in 18 starts, Pettibone showed some promise, though the Phillies probably wanted someone with more experience. It's preventing the team from infusing youth to its veteran core, but that no longer seems to be a priority, at least on paper.
Pettibone will likely top the Triple-A rotation alongside Jesse Biddle, but with Chad Gaudin now in tow as well, it's debatable whether Pettibone will start in the majors at all in 2014. Couple that with Biddle as the more exciting prospect and Pettibone will need to find a miracle to wind up back in the majors next year.
David Montgomery, Bill Giles, John Middleton and other Phillies owners probably slept the soundest they have in years after the Phillies signed their new television contract with Comcast.
According to Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News, the Phillies and Comcast agreed to a 25-year, $2.5 billion television deal that includes a 25 percent equity stake in the company for the Phillies and ad revenue going their way. The hard money on the surface may seem like a minute amount compared to other large TV deals signed by teams around the majors, but the equity stake is significant and the ad revenue is an added bonus.
The deal will give the Phillies the money they need to continue to be a top-five payroll team in the majors, if they wish. If not, it's money in the owners' pockets. But on that front, the owners aren't complaining about either scenario.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is a loser not only because of the contracts he's signed, but also because he's been a scapegoat of sorts for deals potentially facilitated by ownership.
Ruiz was apparently only re-signed when the Phillies guaranteed his third year, per ESPN's Jayson Stark. Byrd's contract was an overpay. Robert Hernandez is laughable, and Kendrick's 2014 salary is ridiculous. Chad Gaudin and Bobby Abreu are so-so moves, but they don't make a huge impact on the team's bearing.
The only all-around good move of Amaro's crucial offseason was the acquisition of Brad Lincoln for Erik Kratz and Rob Rasmussen, and even that could blow up in the Phillies' faces. But should Amaro be taking 100 percent of the blame here? The answer is no.
Simply put, the public does not know how much influence the owners like Montgomery and Giles have on the deals the Phillies make. Add in Comcast now as well, who axed broadcasters Chris Wheeler and Gary "Sarge" Matthews to start their partnership tenure, and you've got a conglomerate of power superseding Amaro.
It could all be Amaro's fault and this could go entirely in vain. But there's no way to know that. And until the Phillies come out and say that ownership has been the driving force behind the bad contracts—which they never will—then Amaro will continue to be the scapegoat for every bad transaction. It's just part of the job.