Throughout January and February, we're reviewing offseason MLB transactions that have fantasy implications, and we're going team-by-team. This isn't quite like Hot Stove Daily. The focus here is limited. We're only looking at ownable fantasy players who've found new employers.
When you're still basking in the afterglow of a World Championship and most of your core players are in the middle of their careers, there's no reason to make sweeping changes. The Phillies can boast of two MVP infielders (Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard), one MVP-in-waiting (Chase Utley, widely considered the team's best player), a dominant No. 1 starter in Cole Hamels and a lights-out closer Brad Lidge. With all due respect to the significant upgrades the other NL East clubs have made, the path to the division title still runs through Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies did make one major position flip over the winter and there were a couple of other bold-worthy moves (at least by my lenient HSH standards), so let's have a stroll down Broad Street and check in with the defending champs.
Signed LF Raul Ibanez to a three-year contract
Ibanez takes over for the departed Pat Burrell, and while both are below-average defenders, they couldn't be more different at the plate. Burrell offers more power and walks more often; Ibanez makes more regular contact (leading to a higher average), runs the bases better, is more consistent and has been far more productive with runners in scoring position for three years running. Ibanez is also four years older at 36, but nonetheless he got a fatter contract because he signed earlier in the free-agent season (three years, $31.5 million); Burrell mistimed the market and was ultimately forced to accept two years and $16 million with the
Devil Rays (at least he can finally settle in at his best position, DH).
From a fantasy perspective, Ibanez has been the superior bet for several years in a row. He's earned a profit on his average draft-day price in each of the past four seasons, while Burrell has returned a loss for three consecutive years. Ibanez has also beaten Burrell's roto value, straight up, for three years in a row. Ibanez is currently the No. 35 outfielder on the ADP board at 119 overall, and while that doesn't reflect the same value he offered in some of his Seattle years, it's still a number you can make a profit on (and you might be able to steal him 15-30 picks later than that). It's not a case of making Ibanez an aggressive target; you take him when the rest of the room falls asleep on the sneaky veteran.
Signed SP/RP Chan Ho Park to a one-year contract
Park quietly resurrected his career in the Los Angeles bullpen, but he's getting a crack at the No. 5 spot in the Philadelphia rotation. You can probably connect the dots from here - relief work at Chavez Ravine is far safer than a starting gig in Philadlephia's cozy little launching pad, and there's a very good chance this is going to end with some crooked numbers. Kyle Kendrick is the other contender for the final rotation spot, if you wanted to know; you might remember his death-defying ERA run back in 2007, but things normalized for him pretty quickly last year. Even in the deepest of leagues, you're passing on him.
Acquired C Ronny Paulino via trade
The Paulino move gives the Phillies three catchers on their 40-man roster, and none of them are much to write home about. Chris Coste was on the brink of being mixed-league relevant last season and Carlos Ruiz wasn't, but according to GM Ruben Amaro the job is Ruiz's to lose entering spring training. Eventually the club hopes something becomes of 22-year-old prospect Lou Marson, but he's mostly regarded for his defense and he's still a couple of levels away.
Phila-buster: Utley (hip surgery) is already taking ground balls and batting off a tee, and the club is hoping he'll be a go for opening day . . . Pedro Feliz is recovering slowly from back surgery, which means Greg Dobbs might have to open the year as a regular . . . Howard lost 20 pounds over the winter, if you wanted to know, and Brett Myers dropped 30. Myers said his disappointing first half in 2008 encouraged him to take conditioning more seriously over the winter. Howard's weight loss will be offset by his fat wallet; he scored a three-year, $54 million contract on the eve of his arbitration hearing . . . The Phillies led the NL in relief ERA and save percentage last season. Lidge was obviously a large part of that (he didn't blow a save all year), but the set-up work in front of him was excellent, too . . . Philadelphia hit just .255 as a team in 2008 but that's misleading; the Phils led the NL in home runs and tied for second in runs scored. I'll never understand why team batting stats aren't arranged by runs, that's what really matters . . . Jayson Werth had a stealth 20-20 season in 2008 despite a modest 418 at-bats. He's in line to play every day this time around, and he's an important part of the lineup because the Phillies have a slew of left-handed bats in the middle of the order (Utley, Howard, Ibanez) . . . Amaro took over as the team's new general manager in November when Pat Gillick stepped down, as planned. Gillick remains on the payroll as an advisor.
Image courtesy Associated Press