Phils, Reyes Can’t Get Deal Done

It looked like left-hander Dennys Reyes was the lone Phillies prize out of the Winter Meetings. Instead, it now appears that they left the meetings empty handed. The Phillies decided against going through with the $1.1 million deal that they signed with Reyes earlier in the month.

While the move came shortly after Reyes took a physical in Philadelphia, neither side would confirm that the physical was the reason for the change of mind. “We were not able to finish it off and that’s all I’m going to say,” was all assistant General Manager Scott Proefrock would tell the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The move now leaves the Phillies without a veteran left-hander for their bullpen and sends the Phillies back into the free agent market for such a player. Potential targets like Joe Beimel, Arthur Rhodes, Ron Mahay and Hideki Okajima are still on the market. Earlier in the off-season, Rhodes was a target of the Phillies just prior to their ill-fated signing of Reyes.

Cliff Lee returns to Phillies

Just two days shy of the one-year anniversary of Cliff Lee being dealt away from the Phillies, the free agent left-hander has agreed to return. As it turns out, the Phillies were the mystery team involved in negotiations with Lee over the past couple of weeks. It was thought that the Yankees and Rangers were the front-runners to get Lee’s services, but the Phillies were able to sweep in to sign Lee.

The surprising part of the deal is that the Yankees were thought to be offering a seven-year deal and the Rangers were at six-years, but the Phillies were able to get Lee with a five-year deal. The deal will pay Lee $120 million over five years.

Lee was originally acquired by the Phillies from Cleveland in July of 2009 and helped return the Phillies to the World Series for the second straight season. Then, surprisingly, the Phillies dealt Lee to Seattle last December for three young prospects. The trade didn’t sit well with Phillies fans, but was deemed necessary at the time to restock the farm system which had been decimated by trades, including a deal to bring Roy Halladay to the Phillies from Toronto. Lee finished last season with Texas, helping to put the Rangers into the World Series for the first time in their history.

The Phillies will now have one of the most potent pitching rotations in baseball history with Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. To help fit Lee into the fold financially, the Phillies may now look to deal pitcher Joe Blanton, keeping the fifth spot in the rotation open for either Kyle Kendrick or rookie Vance Worley.

Reyes joins Phillies bullpen

The Phillies search for a left-hander for their bullpen took them to veteran Dennys Reyes. After 14 seasons in the majors, Reyes comes to the Phillies, who will be the 11th team that he’s pitched for.

Last season, Reyes was with the St. Louis Cardinals and posted a strong 3.55 ERA, but his peripheral numbers – 21 walks, 25 strikeouts in 38 innings – could be cause for concern. Reyes allowed 12 of the 41 runners that he inherited to score.

The Phillies and Reyes agreed on a one-year, $1.1 million deal.

Mr. Werth goes to Washington

Jayson Werth can consider it an early Christmas gift. The Washington Nationals gave Werth a seven-year, $126 million contract to become their right fielder. The move was a surprise, since the Nationals weren’t thought to be a realistic landing spot for Werth, with the Boston Red Sox thought to be the most logical spot for Werth to sign.

For their part, the Phillies did make a late offer to Werth, but weren’t able to come close enough to the deal offered by the Nationals to keep Werth in Philadelphia. Werth signing with Washington hurts the Phillies in a couple of ways. First, he goes to a division rival and one of the teams that are thought to be an up-and-coming team. Secondly, since the Nationals will be drafting in the top half of the first round in 2011, they won’t have to forfeit their first round pick for signing Werth. Instead, the Phillies will get Washington’s second round pick next June.

The consensus is that the Nationals overpaid for Werth in both years and dollars. Coming into free agency, Werth and his agent, Scott Boras, were said to be seeking a deal much like Matt Holliday got (seven-years, $126 million) last off-season when he re-signed with St. Louis. Most people around baseball didn’t think that Werth would be able to get that sort of money, but the Nationals actually gave him almost a million-dollars more per season than Holliday was able to get from the Cardinals.

Werth’s decision to stay in the National League East means that the Phillies will play against him 18 times a season for the next seven seasons. It also means that fellow free agent Carl Crawford‘s price just went up. Crawford is seen as the better choice between the two free agents and he will possibly receive an even longer and more lucrative deal than the Nationals gave to Werth. Some experts now put Crawford’s price tag at something around eight-years and $180 million.

Some non-tenders may interest Phillies

Now that there is an official list of non-tendered players – about 50 players became free agents when they were non-tendered – it’s worth looking at some of the names who might be of interest to the Phillies.

The first name that pops out is outfielder Matt Diaz formerly of the Atlanta Braves. Diaz is a right-handed hitting outfielder who is at least adequate defensively in both left and right field and his career average of .301 to go along with mild power would make him a good fit to come off the bench or potentially platoon with Domonic Brown in right field for the 2011 Phillies. Diaz would be especially suited for a platoon spot, since he is a career .335 hitter against left-handed pitching and has hit roughly two-thirds of his career home runs against lefties. He’s also got a career .267 average as a pinch-hitter.

San Diego non-tendered outfielder Scott Hairston, a guy who the Phillies have had an interest in acquiring as lately as in 2009. San Diego put him on the trading block in ’09 and the Phillies made an attempt to get him, but he wound up going to Oakland before returning to the Padres in 2010. Hairston is a career .278 hitter against southpaws, but just a .170 hitter coming off the bench. Hairston can play both left and center fields and could handle second base, if needed, at least for a short stint.

On the pitching side, the Phillies missed on left-handed reliever Hisanori Takahashi, who was a free agent and signed with the Angels on Thursday. The good news is that lefty reliever Hideki Okajima (Boston) was non-tendered. In 2010 Okajima struggled with a 4.50 ERA and lefties hit .284 against him, but he’s got a career ERA of 3.06 and has held left-handed hitters to a .214 average over four major league seasons, during which he’s averaged 63 appearances.

While the Phillies missed out on Takahahi, they are pursuing free agent left-hander Arthur Rhodes, who posted a 2.29 ERA in 69 games with Cincinnati last season.

An Average Pitcher…Only if YOU didn’t have to face him

Tom Underwood was the quintessential average major league pitcher. In fact, over the course of an 11-year (1974 to 1984) major league career, he could hardly have been more average. His career won-lost record was 86-87, about as average as you can get. His career ERA+ was exactly 100, which is to say he was exactly an average pitcher, at least as far as his ERA in comparison to his contemporaries, taking into account the parks he pitched in, the leagues he pitched in, and the teams he pitched for. Continue reading

Minor League manager’s offices all filled

The Phillies rounded out the main pieces in their player development system with the announcement of minor league managers. Last week, Ryne Sandberg joined the fold to take over for Dave Huppert at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Another former Phillie, Mickey Morandini – can’t type that name without hearing Harry The K say it – will take over at Williamsport in the short-season New York-Penn League this season.
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