Early-Season Grades for Philadelphia Phillies' Offseason Acquisitions
The Philadelphia Phillies had a relatively quiet offseason in comparison to those of recent years. After making free agent splashes and major trade acquisitions for years, the Phillies have seemingly cooled on that methodology. Instead, in each of the last two offseasons, they've sought players with upside and value.
It's lead to a very different final product. What the Phillies look like they're doing is patching holes. While there isn't necessarily anything wrong with that, it doesn't exactly help the team in the long run.
Nevertheless, there's time for that aspect of things. Right now, the Phillies are concerned about winning in 2014, and they went into the offseason with that mentality. They signed two starting pitchers, two catchers and one outfielder to major league deals, while they also traded for a reliever.
Since Carlos Ruiz was a re-signing, he will be excluded from this list. But with the rest of the above in mind, here are the grades for the Phils' offseason acquisitions about a week and a half into the regular season.
Statistics and salaries courtesy of BaseballReference.com
OF Marlon Byrd
How Acquired: Signed to a two-year, $16 million contract
Marlon Byrd returned to the place where his career started when he inked a two-year deal with the Phillies in mid-November. At the time, the signing came across as an overpay—Byrd was 36 years old and came off a 2013 season that could turn out to be a fluke.
After a hot start in the opening series in Texas, Byrd cooled off and fell below a .300 batting average. He has yet to reach that mark again, though he's brought his average back up to .263, slugging two home runs and driving in six in the process.
Byrd's OPS of .721 is also lackluster, though he's been worth his keep defensively thus far, making no errors.
However, given that this is a two-year contract, Byrd will have to do more to make it a worthwhile investment for the Phillies.
Early-Season Grade: C
RP Brad Lincoln
How Acquired: Traded from the Toronto Blue Jays for C Erik Kratz and P Rob Rasmussen
Despite a strong showing in 2012, his first season with the Blue Jays, Brad Lincoln fell off the map in 2013. His ERA spiked and his control was out of whack. With a Toronto bullpen that was full of younger options, Lincoln became expendable, and the Blue Jays and Phillies eventually found a trade match.
Lincoln is not too expensive from a contract standpoint. What it took to acquire him was nothing overly valuable in baseball terms. However, it still wouldn't justify poor performance, and unfortunately, that's what Lincoln has provided thus far.
In 2014, Lincoln has pitched to an 11.57 ERA with a 2.14 WHIP in just 2.1 innings. He's allowed three earned runs on five hits, striking out two batters. The only good news? Lincoln hasn't walked anybody.
It's too early to judge someone with a sample size as small as Lincoln's. But for the sake of this article, he has to improve to maintain a roster spot.
Early-Season Grade: D+
C Wil Nieves
How Acquired: Signed to a one-year, $1.125 million contract
When the Phillies traded Erik Kratz in the deal that netted them Brad Lincoln, a vacancy opened at the backup catcher position. On paper, Cameron Rupp looked like the favorite to win that job. What wasn't anticipated, though, was the Phillies going out and signing a replacement for Kratz.
They did so with Nieves in a matter of minutes following the Kratz trade.
Nieves' signing is intriguing. He's never been much of a hitter and his defense hovers around average. Rupp has much more upside, and one would figure that the Phillies would want to develop their young talent.
Although he's started only one game in 2014, Nieves has not recorded any hits and has struck out once. It truly is too early to tell whether this deal will work out. But if Nieves continues to struggle, expect louder outcries for Rupp to be promoted and take Nieves' job.
Early-Season Grade: Too early to call
SP Roberto Hernandez
How Acquired: Signed to a one-year, $4.5 million contract
Roberto Hernandez had mild success as a swingman for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013, though he wasn't anything spectacular. Nonetheless, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made it a priority to sign him at the end of the winter meetings, and as a starter at that.
Hernandez has upside, but when he doesn't keep his sinker down, he allows home runs like it's nobody's business. In a venue like Citizens Bank Park, where he'll pitch half of his games, that may not bode well.
Sure enough, that's been the case so far, to a degree. Hernandez has posted a 4.35 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and has fanned 14 batters in his first two starts. The strikeouts are encouraging, though he's only lasted just over five innings on average in each performance. That must improve.
The Phillies could have done a lot worse than Hernandez, and for a back-end starter, he looks like he'll do just fine.
Early-Season Grade: B-
SP A.J. Burnett
How Acquired: Signed to a one-year, $16 million contract
As spring training crept closer and closer, the Phillies were low enough on pitching depth that they felt they needed to sign another starter. They chose A.J. Burnett to fill the void left by Cole Hamels' offseason shoulder woes and Roy Halladay's retirement.
Burnett pitched two years for the Pittsburgh Pirates, getting better as he became acclimated to the city and team. What held him back from signing this offseason was the possibility that he'd retire. When Burnett decided against it, the Phillies swooped in and had him sign the dotted line.
The addition of Burnett was supposed to provide stability and reliability from the right-handed side of the starting staff. That's happened to an extent thus far, though Burnett hasn't pitched as well as many had hoped. He has a 3.86 ERA, 1.71 WHIP and six strikeouts in two starts.
Burnett will need to be better if the Phillies plan on contending. A bit of a wild card, Burnett will need to show he's worth what he's being paid this season.
Early-Season Grade: C
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