Thursday, December 3, 2015

Phillies Make A Solid Addition Via Waivers


Taking Advantage Of The Waiver Wire – The Phillies have always liked Peter Bourjos. They finally acquired him Wednesday, when they claimed the outfielder off waivers from the Cardinals. Bourjos' arrival puts free-agent outfielder Jeff Francoeur's potential return into doubt. Bourjos posted a .645 OPS the past four seasons with the Angels and Cardinals. The 28-year-old's name popped up a few times in recent years whenever the Phillies were searching for an outfielder. Former Phillies general managers Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro Jr. liked the speedy and defensive-minded Bourjos, and it seems new general manager Matt Klentak likes him, too. Klentak knows Bourjos well. They were together with the Angels from 2012-13. Bourjos enjoyed a career-year in 2011, when he hit .271 with 26 doubles, 11 triples, 12 home runs, 43 RBIs, 22 stolen bases and a .765 OPS in 552 plate appearances with the Angels. He has managed just 910 plate appearances since, in part because of injuries (Bourjos had right wrist surgery in September 2013 and hip surgery in October 2014) and in part because he had been passed on the depth chart in St. Louis. He hit .200 with a .623 OPS in 225 plate appearances last season. But Bourjos is known as an elite defender. According to FanGraphs, Bourjos has averaged a 16.1 Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 defensive games since his debut in 2010. That is third among outfielders with 3,500 or more defensive innings played in that span. Only Lorenzo Cain (19.0) and Jason Heyward (18.3) have a better average. Francoeur hit .258 with 16 doubles, one triple, 13 home runs, 45 RBIs and a .718 OPS in 343 plate appearances. The 31-year-old also proved to be a vocal leader in the clubhouse. But with Bourjos in the fold, Francoeur could be squeezed out. There could be more changes coming, but at the moment, outfielders Bourjos, Odubel Herrera, Cody Asche and Aaron Altherr are all expected to make the Opening Day roster. Darnell Sweeney could be considered the team's fifth outfielder at the moment. Darin Ruf also can play left field, although he could get more playing time at first base. The possibility exists that Francoeur could fit somehow, but reduced playing time in a more crowded outfield might not suit him. The Phillies also announced the Marlins claimed right-hander Nefi Ogando off waivers. The Phillies remain at 38 players on their 40-man roster.

Modest Goals For The Meetings – Five years ago at the Winter Meetings, the Phillies became the mystery team in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. Next week's Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., are expected to be less eventful unless a team is ready to pay for hard-throwing closer Ken Giles. The Phillies are highly unlikely to invest $100 million or more into a single free agent this offseason, because one player will not push them into World Series contention. No, the Phils have too many holes to fill and too many unknowns regarding the young talent in their system. Instead, they will use the Meetings to make more modest improvements to their roster, with an eye on competing again in another year or two. "We really want to raise the floor and add some depth," general manager Matt Klentak said earlier this offseason. "Kind of at every turn, that's what we're going to be focused on. And in the pitching department, I think we really need to work on just -- again, I say 'raise the floor' -- but kind of establish sort of a firm foundation of pitching. That's not going to end when we break camp at the end of Spring Training. That's something we're going to be committed to for a long time." So far, most of the gains the Phillies have made this offseason are pitching-related. Philadelphia acquired right-hander Jeremy Hellickson in a trade earlier this month with Arizona, and it claimed relievers Dan Otero, A.J. Achter and Michael Mariot off waivers, as well as outfielder Peter Bourjos. The Phils also signed reliever James Russell to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training, and they cut ties with outfielder Domonic Brown and right-hander Justin De Fratus. Expect the Phillies to continue to pursue pitching help. They need at least one more veteran starter. Hellickson, Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff seem like safe bets to make the Opening Day rotation, with Adam Morgan, David Buchanan, Alec Asher and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez competing for the other jobs. Philadelphia could use a veteran reliever to fortify the bullpen, too. The Phillies have talked with teams about Giles, who could land them a few prospects, but that's the key: They have to be legitimate prospects. The Phils are under no obligation to give Giles away. The Phillies could come to a conclusion about the futures of Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz, the only two remaining players from the 2008 World Series championship team. They also need to find a veteran outfielder. Free agent Jeff Francoeur remains in play, but the Phils are pursuing other options. Not expected to be in play are Justin Upton and Jason Heyward. Think along the lines of Ryan Raburn, David Murphy, Rajai Davis and Alejandro De Aza. Chris Young would have been a good fit, but he just signed with the Red Sox. "Honestly, I think with the present roster, if we needed to field a lineup tomorrow, we generally could do that," Klentak said at the conclusion of the General Managers Meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., earlier this month. "That doesn't mean we're going to stop looking for opportunities to upgrade or add depth wherever we can. But one of the beauties, mostly on the position player side, is most of the team that was on the field that ended the year last year returns next year. So, again, that doesn't mean we're going to stop trying to find alternatives or upgrades or just build depth."

The Phillies finally put an end to the season finishing in last place in the NL East with a record of 63-99. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances, this has ended up being one of the worst seasons in franchise history! However, at least Ryan Madson got another ring this year.

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