The Philadelphia Phillies had a great week and a great celebration, but it’s back to business today. The first order of business is the anticipated naming of Ruben Amaro Jr. as the new general manager of the Phillies who replaces the retiring Pat Gillick.
Amaro’s first order of business appears to be the need to replace left fielder Pat Burrell in the Phillies’ lineup. At 32, Burrell does not have the athleticism he once had and has been taken out of the lineup all season in late innings, most recently by Eric Bruntlett. Still, his production for the Phillies has been significant. Burrell has averaged 31 homers and 98 RBI the past four seasons. He should build on that if picked up by an AL team, although he has struggled in a limited DH role to date.
The Phillies would like to resign the free agent Burrell, but that appears highly unlikely. Burrell will likely obtain a longer than two year deal that the Phillies have offered. It will most likely come from an American League club where his defensive lack of speed is less of an issue.
The question then becomes whom will Amaro find as Burrell’s replacement? Manny Ramirez has been mentioned as a possible replacement. Ramirez will certainly command about $20 million per year and the Phillies may have the money given their World Series run and record setting attendance this season. Plus, this is the last year that the Phils have to pay Jim Thome’s salary ($7 million owed to the White Sox) and Wes Helms’ contract ($4.5 million owed to the Marlins). Then, there’ s the salary of Adam Eaton ($8 million) that will expire after next year.
Manny certainly showed what he’s capable when he’s happy (as he was with the Dodgers). Opponents certainly took notice; even Shane Victorino while miked during the NLCS, said he was “on another level” than the rest of the league. That was an understatement actually.
We find the Ramirez signing unlikely, however, for a few reasons. One, the Phillies will already be significantly increasing its payroll as stars Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels plus eight others are up for arbitration. The World Series MVP Hamels made only $500,000 in 2007 so you know he’s due a significant raise. Two, Ramirez was not treated well on his visits to Philadelphia and he may not be a good fit in a blue collar town where the fans are known to be rather unforgiving. Three, the Phillies have great team chemistry and manager Charlie Manuel is a chemistry guy. Manny has been known to upset that a little bit. Four, the Phillies have options already on the team like Greg Dobbs and Geoff Jenkins. Jenkins earned $5 million this past season; a lot for a part-time pinch hitter.
Other big name outfielders that may be available are Matt Holliday, Magglio Ordonez, and Milton Bradley (who should have been on the all-name team now that I think of it). But, the odds on favorite to be the newest Phillie appears to be Rocco Baldelli. Baldelli, who hit a homerun in World Series game five for the Rays to tie the game, can no longer play every day with his muscle fatigue syndrome. This may work for the Phillies, however, with the club wanting to give playing time to the left-handed hitting Jenkins and possibly Dobbs if he makes the conversion to outfield. Besides, Baldelli, a right handed hitter, will be significantly cheaper than the other names mentioned.
The Rays chose to not renew Baldelli, 26, during his option year for next season, thus making him a free agent. Baldelli, who earned $6 million in 2008, earned a $4 million buyout from the Rays. Baldelli started the year on the 60-day DL and had only 80 at bats during the season. Baldelli appeared in only 35 games in 2007. His best season was 2003 prior to his diagnoses with the disease when he hit .289 with 11 homers and 89 RBI plus 27 SB.
Fantasy Baseball Dugout Tip: Baldelli appears to have his illness in check with the proper combination of medicines, but he is no longer an every day player by any means. The platoon seems to make sense for the Phillies who see a lot of southpaws with their two best hitters, Utley and Howard, hitting from the port side. Expect Baldelli to pick up close to 300 AB’s at best and hit close to his lifetime average of .281. Add to that, 15 HR’s. Not huge numbers for a fantasy baseball outfielder except in the deepest of leagues.