Not Another Tanking Post

So we can’t let tanking go. If the Phillies are bad, they are tanking because they are bad. If they are good, they are tanking because they did not try hard enough to win. The newest champion for the Phillies are Tanking Front is Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors who took on the subject in his newsletter. Let’s dive into this, because why not, not all of these can be brain melting.

Tanking is the only proven way to gain access to the players at the top of the draft.

You mean outside of just being bad, like the Red Sox who have picked in the Top 12 of the draft 3 times in the last 4 years, also the Brewers and Reds tried to win last year and are both picking in the Top 5.

So, you can understand why a team trying to build a sustainable winner would take that route.  The Phillies are one of a handful of teams that are clearly tanking.  Though they jumped off to a surprising 11-10 start, the Phillies are still projected to win only 68 games this year.  Is there any way this team could have reasonably taken a shot at 90 wins in 2016?

Ah the intellectual exercise of commenters everywhere.

As it stands now, the Phillies are a hefty 22 wins shy of what they’d need to have a strong chance at the playoffs.  Plus, they just lost Charlie Morton for the season.  That means we have to bump the target up to 24 additional wins.  That’s a lot.

I am not sure many comprehend just how many wins 24 wins really is, and this who exercise requires everyone to stay healthy because the farm is going to be dead when we are done.

The first thing I’m going to do is cheat a bit with the team’s starting pitching.  Right now their starters’ ERA ranks fifth in the NL at 3.63.  They’ve still got Jeremy Hellickson, Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vincent Velasquez, all of whom are credible starters.  This foursome is projected for only 519 additional innings for the rest of the season.  It’s not a group that goes deep into games, but I think they can provide more innings than that (we’re assuming perfect health).  We’re going to let each of Nola, Eickhoff, and Velasquez start 30 games this year.  So we’re not going to baby them, and it’s going to add two wins to our bottom line.  Now we need 22 more.

Not going to argue here.

I’ll start by having the Phillies sign Rich Hill, back in my hypothetical offseason.  Perhaps they actually tried to, and Hill preferred a pitchers’ park.  But the Phillies could have thrown a few extra million at Hill to convince him.  An optimistic projection says the lefty could be good for three additional wins this year, bringing our need down to 19.  Rich Hill makes everything better.

Isn’t this basically what the Phillies did with Charlie Morton? It’s not like Rich Hill is a paragon of health. So far we have run the Klentak play book.

The main reason the Phillies are projected to be so bad this year is their position players.  They can expect fewer than seven wins above replacement from their position players from here on out, and that’s even worse than the Braves.  The only two positions I’d leave alone are Maikel Franco at third base and Odubel Herrera in center field.

Fine, let’s see where this goes from here.

Behind the plate, I’ll take Chris Iannetta.  This adds a win to our ledger.

We have upgraded from 0 to 1! Congrats everyone!

Byung-ho Park will man first base, a three-win upgrade over the Phillies’ current sub-replacement level group.

A mannequin would be a 1 win upgrade on Howard/Ruf. Park is currently batting .241/.308/.569, he might be a 3 win upgrade, but we are talking a 2 win player here, and they have to actually win the posting.

At second base we’ve got Neil Walker, whose acquisition cost in reality was minimal for the Mets.  We add two wins here.

That minimal return was John Niese who is off to a bad start this year, but is on an incredibly reasonable contract as a #4 starter (if you don’t believe me, go look at the Mike Leake contract). The Phillies don’t have that trade asset to give the Pirates for Walker, let’s say the Pirates want an innings lefty with some upside and for some reason they love Adam Morgan. So by Adam.

At shortstop, we’ll ignore Super Two and call up J.P. Crawford now, adding a win over Freddy Galvis.

That works, it hurts Crawford’s dev some but I won’t dwell.

We added seven wins around the infield; we still need a dozen more.  We may need to actually spend some money here.  Our new left fielder will be Justin Upton, who I realize has been really bad this year and the Phillies would have had to overpay to sign.  Still, he’s our guy, and I’m going to optimistically say he adds four wins.  We need a right fielder as well.  Jason Heyward seems far-fetched even for this whole scenario.  Instead, we’re going to trade for Ryan Braun, and assume he won’t block the deal.  Braun is owed $19MM a year, and the Phillies might have been able to reduce the acquisition cost to something minimal by agreeing to take on the entire contract.  Braun adds three wins.  We’re now just five wins shy of a 90 projection.

So the Upton contract costs the Phillies their pick and the contract.  But now on to discussing Ryan Braun. I remain convinced that Braun is a very useful player, and his 3.8 WAR last year and 1.1 WAR this year with a .373/.440/.657 line agree with me. He costs 6/$111M if you pick up the option and 5/$100M if you don’t. That is a really reasonable salary for his age 32 to 37 seasons. The package won’t be elite, but it won’t be nothing. The best requirement for a trade I saw was two 55 level prospects. Let’s call this Jake Thompson and Cornelius Randolph, and probably a couple of throw ins from 10-20 tier (let’s theoretically call them Adonis Medina and Malquin Canelo). So that is a pile of prospects, a pick, and potentially $232.75M in salary.

So, we turn to the bullpen.  I’ll trade for Jake McGee and sign Shawn Kelley, Darren O’Day, and Ryan Madson.  And I think we really could get five additional wins out of that group as compared to the Phillies’ current bullpen.

Jake McGee was traded for Chris Dickerson, at the point of the trade Aaron Altherr was not hurt, so let’s say the Phillies trade Aaron Altherr for McGee. We of course managed to convince all of the others to come aboard. Now the author makes the claim that this is a 5 win upgrade. The best bullpen in baseball was worth 6.4 fWAR. So saying you are making a 5 win upgrade is beyond optimistic.  Especially since Hector Neris is not in this group (seen below), our only lefty is the “closer”, and the whole group is incredibly injury prone.

Lineup:

  1.  Odubel Herrera – CF
  2. Justin Upton – LF
  3. Neil Walker – 2B
  4. Ryan Braun – RF
  5. Maikel Franco – 3B
  6. Byung-ho Park – 1B
  7. J.P. Crawford – SS
  8. Chris Iannetta – C

It’s a little too right-handed, and the defense wouldn’t be great, but this group could boast six above-average hitters.  You may quibble with the ordering, but I tried to alternate right-left as best I could.

Rotation:

  1. Vincent Velasquez
  2. Aaron Nola
  3. Rich Hill
  4. Jeremy Hellickson
  5. Jerad Eickhoff

Bullpen:

  • Darren O’Day (R)
  • Jake McGee (L)
  • Shawn Kelley (R)
  • Ryan Madson (R)
  • David Hernandez (R)
  • Andrew Bailey (R)
  • Jeanmar Gomez (R)

Andrew Bailey, really, he didn’t even make the Phillies bullpen. That lineup is solid, but there are also a lot of holes in it. The rotation is fine, but not elite. Our bullpen is very good 1-5, but none of the guys are shutdown relievers.

I added 10 players during my offseason – seven through free agency and three through trade.  In reality, the free agents required a total commitment of about $236MM.  For the Phillies to have signed them, assuming a 10% premium would have done the trick, they would have been looking at $260MM in commitments plus the loss of their second-round draft pick for Upton.  The trade acquisitions have another $110MM in contractual commitments; maybe more if Braun required his mutual option to be picked up.  Plus, they would have had to give up some useful players to acquire Braun, McGee, and Walker.

The total bill to get 90 wins (again requiring that no one gets hurt) is this:

  • $400 million in future commitments
  • Adam Morgan, Aaron Altherr, Jake Thompson, Cornelius Randolph, Adonis Medina, Malquin Canelo, Sam McWilliams (because we still traded for Hellickson), Ken Giles, Jonathan Arauz
  • 2016 Second Round Pick

This is for 90 wins, not 100 wins, 90 wins.  That might not even win the wildcard this year in the National League.

All in all, the Phillies trying to accelerate their timetable with a $400MM spending spree seems pretty dumb.  They’re already running an $89MM payroll this year in real life, and these acquisitions add nearly $100MM for 2016.  The Phillies would be right back to 2014, with a top five payroll and several new questionable contracts on the books.  The reality is that their group of position players was just way too bad to attempt to put a competitive team on the field in 2016.  Now, as for the 2017 season…

But why did you write an entire piece then. It isn’t that the Phillies are tanking, it is that there was not a practical way for them to compete this season. Now can we just go back to making joke about how many home runs the Braves have hit.

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman
Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.

3 comments

  1. That’s exactly the type of moves Ruben in the last few years that had him roundly mocked.

    • Untrue. For all his faults, Amaro did a very good job of not making harmful future commitments or giving up young players or draft picks over the past few seasons.

  2. So he thinks the Phillies aren’t tanking? Or what the hell was Dierkes’ point?