It’s amazing how much a couple weeks of good play can change a team’s outlook. Especially in the mediocre National League.

It was a mere month ago that Phillies GM Pat Gillick was telling fans they should give up on this season AND NEXT SEASON. Now the Phillies are fighting for the wildcard and look like they could be only a couple of players away from challenging for the NL East title in 2007.

So what has changed? The Phillies traded 3B David Bell and RF Bobby Abreu and gave the starting 3B job to Abraham Nunez, who is finally starting to hit after months of sub-.200 crap, and the starting RF job to Shane Victorino, who is batting .300 and has added speed to the top of the Phillies’ lineup and has allowed Chase Utley to move to third in the batting order and Ryan Howard to hit cleanup where, clearly, he has flourished.

And Cole Hamels has shown himself to be the top of the rotation starter that Gillick tried so hard to trade for all season long. Together with Brett Myers, the Hamels is anchoring a starting rotation that is suddenly among the best in baseball.

In case you hadn’t guessed, Pat Burrell is playing his last season with the Phils, unless the team finds no takers for him in the off-season (a real possibility). Burrell is making $9.75 million this season and has a no-trade clause in his contract, but unless something dramatically changes, expect the Phils to make him an offer to waive the clause, perhaps moving him to the American League, where he would be better suited as a designated hitter. The Phillies probably won’t ask for much in exchange. Cap relief would be sufficient.

Meanwhile, Mike Lieberthal is said to be pretty pissed at general manager Pat Gillick, after the catcher heard Gillick say on the radio recently that Lieberthal was not part of the team’s future plans. Guess what, Mike? You’re not part of the team’s plans for next year. I could have told you that much. Thanks for the great 12 years. You’re done now.

Look for the Phillies to give Chris Coste, who is hitting an insane .330 this season, a chance to win the starting catching job next year. And look for the team to bring in an outfielder to replace Burrell and play alongside Victorino and Aaron Rowand. Who will the Phils sign? Alphonso Soriano would look great in red and white, but let’s get real. Tori Hunter is a more realistic choice. But even Hunter might be a little pricey for a team that is clearly looking to keep it’s payroll at bay. Here’s name Gillick might want to consider: Moises Alou. If Felipe Alou doesn’t return as Giants manager, Moises probably won’t return to the Giants line-up. And Alou would be a reasonably priced option and a guy who could morph the Phillies line-up from potent to downright scary.

Got other ideas for who the Phils should acquire to replace Burrell? Check out this list of potential 2006-2007 free agents to see the possibilities.

Of course, the Phils could always trade for a new left fielder.

No Responses to “2007: the year of the Phil”

  1. Coley, I disagree with your optimism. And here’s why:

    A 33-year old rookie catcher is not a good thing. There’s a reason why it took him so long to get to the bigs. If you want to find a candidate for most overachieving player, look no further than Chris Coste. I’ll bet he bats no better than .250 next year and will be out of baseball in two years.

    You severely overrate Aaron Rowand. Very good defensive centerfielder, no doubt. Offensively? Let’s put it this way. For the last two years, he’s batting .267, OBP of .326, slugging .414 for an OPS of .740. As a reference, people who have had a higher OPS than Aaron Rowand in that span (with at least 800 at-bats) – Scott Hatteberg, Mark Grudzielanek, Jason Michaels, Jeff Conine, Kenny Lofton, Greg Zaun, Kevin Millar, and Tony Graffanino. Abraham Nunez at 3rd? OPS of .650 over the last two years.

    And why do you guys hate Pat Burrell so much? Have you not learned from Bobby Abreu? Sure, neither of these guys are franchise players, but they never should have been considered as such to begin with. That’s not their fault. If Abreu hadn’t been dumped for no good reason, you would have had the two most patient hitters in all of baseball. Abreu leads the majors in most pitches seen per at-bat. You know where Burrell is? Fifth. That’s two of the top-five. You’ve already dumped one. Now you’re dumping the other.

    For all the talk about Pat Burrell and his crapiness, the guy’s on pace to hit 28 homers and 97 RBIs. Why are people advocating benching him? How many guys in the league put up these numbers? Right now, only 35 other guys have as many homers and RBIs as Burrell does. He’s 34th in OBP, one place behind NL leader in batting average, Freddy Sanchez, and one place ahead of golden boy David Wright. He’s 4th on the Phillies in Win Shares. Does he really belong on the bench? Imagine having Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu, with their patience and OBP, hitting in front of Ryan Howard. That scares me a lot more than Utley-Howard-Dellucci. Why wasn’t the batting order Rollins-Abreu-Burrell-Howard-Utley? That’s one of the best 1-5 orders I’ve seen this year.

    And why do Philly fans continually accuse people of being “un-clutch”? From 2002-2005, Pat Burrell had an OPS of .848 with runners in scoring position. That’s better than what he’s put up overall. With 2-outs and a RISP? OPS of 1.019. That’s an Albert Pujols number. Yes, it’s true that his numbers with runners in scoring position aren’t good this year. But you know which of his numbers are? His overall performance with runners on base. OBP of .404, slugging .511 for an OPS of .915. That’s far more than solid. Why isn’t it considered clutch when he rips a double scoring a runner who was on first? Why is that considered less important than hitting a single with a runner on second? And even if he only hits a single with a runner on first, is it his fault that the guy behind him can’t drive him in? Isn’t that the organization’s responsibility to find someone who could? Philly media ripped (unjustifiably) Abreu for the same thing, when it wasn’t true. And it’s not true here, either. It’s selective criticism. Both Abreu and Burrell are fine. They’re not top-ten hitter material, so they’re not going to perform “in the clutch” like they are top-ten. Is that so wrong?

    On a side note, you’d really rather have Moises Alou than Pat Burrell? They pretty much produce at the same level, except that Alou is forty. I don’t see how this is an upgrade. Looking at the list of potential free-agent corner outfielders, the only ones I’d rather have over Burrell are Alfonso “don’t call me Alphonso” Soriano, Carlos Lee, and Jermaine Dye.

  2. Whoah, Paul, I never advocated that the phils should deal Burrell. I just stated the opinion that they probably will. Why will they? First, he has almost completely worn out his welcome with the fans, justly or not. Second, he has chronic problems with his wrist and foot and most baseball people think he would be better off as a DH. Third, while his numbers this season have been pretty good, his numbers in the second half of the season have been abissmal. Why would I rather have Alou? Only one reason: he’d make about half of what Burrell does and the extra cap room might give the Phils the flexibility to upgrade at catcher or 3B.

    You’re right about Chris Coste. He is too old to count on. But John Ruiz, the team’s other catcher, has also been good this season. Of course, I wouldn’t mind if the Phils traded for a better catcher, but I’m not sure who’s available or what we have to trade.

  3. I just looked at Burell’s stats since August 1st.

    Batting Average: .240

    On-Base Percentage: .379

    Slugging Percentage: .426

    On-Base Plus Slugging: .805

    It’s true. It’s certainly not great. You’d expect more pop out of Burrell. But the OBP is still there, and his batting average isn’t so out of the ordinary for him. Moreover, his OPS, even during his supposedly abysmal period, is still better than those of Jimmy Rollins, Jeff Conine, Shane Victorino, Abraham Nunez and Aaron Rowand throughout the year. So seriously, why is he benched? I just feel like Philly’s ire is pointed in the wrong direction. Does Pat Gillick get lambasted? What about David Montgomery? Help me out here.

    Do you think ownership would actually use the money saved if they trade Burrell? Or will they pocket it?

    And I don’t think you can blame Burrell for his contract. It’s not his fault the organization offered so much. Wouldn’t you have taken the deal?

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