TBAG #7: Hey Phillies, Please Hire All The Cardinals


Bye bye, Bud. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

So apparently Bud Selig is not going to be MLB Commissioner for life.

After numerous false retirement pronouncements, Selig announced Thursday that he will retire as MLB Commissioner after the 2014 season.

Like, for reals, this time.

Back in 2006, Selig said he would retire after the 2009 season, but then signed a new three-year contract in 2008. He then said he would step down after the 2012 season, but re-upped for a two year contract after that.

However, this time, owners think it’s going to stick.

So, what to make of Selig’s tenure? Obviously, it’s not black or white.

Under Selig’s watch, Major League Baseball has become more popular than ever. More money is coming in from TV contracts than ever before. The game has never been richer, and attendance has never been better. There has been unprecedented labor peace since the 1994 strike, and even though there are critics, the expansion of the wild card has generated more interest in the game. Interleague play and revenue sharing have also been implemented during Selig’s tenure.

However, Selig also oversaw one of the darkest eras in baseball history, the steroid era. Selig’s attempts to rehabilitate his image on this point has led him to, some would say, maniacally hunt down supposed PED users and eliminate them from the game. There was also the cancelled 1994 season, which essentially killed Major League baseball in Montreal and cancelled a World Series. There are huge stadium problems in Tampa and Oakland, a horrible owner in Miami, and the situation in Houston, in which the Astros have fielded a historically bad team on a historically low payroll, taking advantage of the millions of dollars they will receive in draft money, revenue sharing, and first round picks. Baseball officials worry that could become a trend unless rules are changed.

Still, overall, the game is probably better off now than when Selig first started. While some us may hate interleague play, it has been good for baseball. The two wild cards have sucked the life out of the divisional races, and a one-game playoff that feature the two wild card winners is a joke, but they have largely been good for the game as well.

Selig has been a commissioner that has not been bound by the old rules of baseball. He has allowed the game to evolve, and for that, he should be commended.

Now, onto this week’s TBAG.

Michael Wacha

is just another pitcher to come out of the St. Louis farm factory. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

What St. Louis continues to do year after year is just remarkable. And many of the reasons why can be found in this ESPN article written back in February. Simply put, St. Louis is using every tool available to get accumulate as much information on every single player they have and are looking to draft/acquire. I wrote about the differences between the Cardinals and Phillies about a month ago, and it’s all about a philosophy.

But one of the biggest reasons why the Cardinals have a better farm system than the Phils is that they’ve simply had more first round draft picks than the Phillies have had over the last few years. The Phils have lost a lot of picks by acquiring free agents, while the Cardinals have largely eschewed big free agent contracts, and have gotten compensatory picks back themselves, as players like Albert Pujols has left the team.

Since 2003, the Phillies have had 12 first round picks. In that same time, the Cardinals have had 24. This includes compensatory picks that count as first-rounders. When you have that many picks, you have a much better opportunity to pick quality players, like Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal and Colby Rasmus (who was traded for bullpen help that enabled the Cardinals to win the 2011 World Series), as well as top-flight minor leaguers like Kolten Wong, and Matt Adams.

Some of it is luck, but you don’t put together a farm system like this on luck alone. The Cardinals use analytics as well as scouting when targeting players in the draft. They simply have a blueprint on the type of players they want to draft, accurately identify them, and then select them.

And they’ve also utilized the international market well. Their top prospect, Oscar Taveras, was signed out of the Dominican Republic, as was their #3 prospect, Carlos Martinez.

The Cardinals have really smart guys, backed up by an analytics department and good scouts. Credit also has to go to John Vuch, the team’s director of minor league operations, as well as the coaching staffs along the minor league pipeline, who continually pound into the heads of all position players the importance of working the count, getting on base, fouling off pitches, and grinding out one at bat after another. They also do a terrific job teaching their hard-throwing pitchers to keep the ball down and not walk anyone.

They’re doing it right all over that organization. If I were the Phillies, I’d hire all the Cardinals. All of them. Wherever possible.

Chooch is coming back. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

I also wrote about this a few days ago (not many people actually READ my stuff, do they?). Carlos Ruiz is coming back. I don’t think there’s any question about that now. Ruiz will be 35 next year, but has had a very solid last two months of his 2013 season (.291/.344/.450 since August 1). Players like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Brian McCann are going to get bigger deals than Ruiz, which makes Ruiz that much more palatable.

Not only that, there is no Phils catcher in the pipeline who is ready for the job. Tommy Joseph has concussion issues and missed most of 2013. He may not even play catcher anymore going forward. Sebastian Valle is no longer a top prospect and is backsliding badly. Cameron Rupp will probably start at AAA last year and could be a candidate for the back-up job last year. But he is no starter. Neither is Erik Kratz.

So, that leaves Ruiz. For a catcher his age, I would think a two-year, $14 million deal would be as high as I would go. Even though there aren’t a lot of better options, anything longer than a two-year commitment to a 35-year-old catcher is a bad idea.

If some other team is willing to give him three years, then the Phils should bid him adieu.

Corey Hart

, Phillies target? Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The most unrealistic move would be a trade for Giancarlo Stanton. It’s never going to happen and the Phillies would have to give up too much to get him, even if the Marlins crazily decided to make him available. I’d put the odds of a Stanton trade, no matter how much it’s talked about, at .001%.

The most realistic move is that Amaro will either trade for or sign a corner outfielder. That player will likely be right-handed and someone who can hit for some power, although Shin-Soo Choo would be attractive as an on-base machine at the top of the lineup. Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran will likely either get one-year qualifying offers or re-signed to extensions. If the Phillies get a protected first round pick, they could go after either player aggressively. Or, they could do something that costs a little less and is a little more sneaky and go after Corey Hart.

Either way, I don’t think they believe Darin Ruf is an everyday corner outfielder.

This kind of relates to the previous question.

Obviously, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels will be #1 and 2. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is penciled in as the #3 starter, although no one, not even Ryne Sandberg, knows what he’s going to give the Phillies next year.

Something inside me believes Amaro is going to re-sign Kendrick to be the #4 starter. I know, I know. It turns my stomach too, and I hope I’m wrong. But I just have that feeling. But I’ll answer this question assuming Kendrick WON’T be in the rotation next year. In which case, I could see the Phils target a player like Bronson Arroyo to be the #4 starter on a two-year deal. That would make sense to me.

Then I think Amaro will look to fill out the #5 starter with someone internal. My darkhorse is Adam Morgan. They loved him in spring training and he probably would have been the first to get a look with the big club this year if he hadn’t gotten hurt. If he has a big spring, my guess is he’s the #5.

Please no

Curtis Granderson

, Rube. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of bad things Ruben could do this off-season.

He could sign Curtis Granderson or Jacoby Ellsbury for an insane amount of money over five or six years. He could sign Matt Garza to, well, any contract. He could sign another middling veteran reliever to a big contract.

But I don’t know. I am getting the impression that Amaro may be seeing the light a bit. Signing MAG, while there are injury concerns, at least proves the Phils are aware that the traditional free agent market is mostly filled with over-priced crap and that the international market might be a better place to spend big dollars.

I’m actually a little optimistic on that point. But, Amaro has the ability to surprise us all, and not in a good way sometimes.

That’s all for this week, kiddos. Talk at ya next week.