Thursday, December 12, 2013


By DENNIS DEITCH, @DennisDeitch

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Phillies did not leave the Winter Meetings empty-handed.

The question is whether they left with a hand much better than the one with which they arrived.

Although the organization wasn’t ready to make it official, a source confirmed a report by that the Phillies have agreed to a one-year contract with right-hander Roberto Hernandez, who spent most of last season in the Tampa Rays’ starting rotation.

In 24 starts with the Rays last season, Hernandez was 6-13 with a 4.98 ERA before he was moved to the bullpen when Matt Moore came off the disabled list in late August.

Until January 2012, Hernandez was known as Fausto Carmona. That was when a bizarre arrest in the Dominican Republic took place that led to revelations that his family had changed his age and identity as a youth. The legal trouble and a three-week suspension levied by MLB over the controversy cost the then-Cleveland pitcher most of the 2012 season. It also revealed he was three years older than believe. Hernandez’s listed age is 33.

After the Phillies selected Arizona minor-league reliever Kevin Munson in the Rule 5 draft, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. spoke vaguely about Hernandez without naming him.

“We’ve gotten close to acquiring a starter to give us a little bit of depth,” Amaro said. “We’ll see. We’re still working on it. Hopefully within the next week we’ll be able to get something done.

“It’s someone who will join our rotation … more of a depth guy, someone who can slide into the bottom of our rotation. We need some depth. We’re trying to get the best bang for our buck, and in this marketplace, it’s tough because the prices have soared significantly.”

The money wasn’t stated, but Hernandez made $3.25 million last season, so the figure should be in the $4 million range. The Phillies have about $10 million remaining in their budget, although there remains plenty of time to make a trade and change that dynamic.

Until a trade can drop, however, Amaro thinks this might be the last 40-man roster addition he makes as far as starting pitchers go. The Phillies’ rotation at the moment consists of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, Hernandez and either Jonathan Pettibone or Cuban signee Miguel Gonzalez.

“I don’t know if we’ll be adding another guy,” Amaro said. “We've talked internally about some of our options. We’ll likely have Pettibone and Ethan Martin stretched out. Hopefully that will create enough depth for us. We’re going to try to continue to look for some depth there.”

Hernandez’s best season was his first full season in the Indians’ rotation in 2007, when he went 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting. In the six seasons since, he is 39-64 with a 5.03 ERA.

Amaro hinted that he didn’t think Hernandez’s talent was as far removed from some of the pitchers commanding $10 million-plus per season on the free-agent market.

“Some of the big names, for us, are probably more names than they are talent,” he said. “… what they are seeking, I don’t think it matches up with the level of talent. That’s my take on it.”

The Phillies also added Munson into the fold. The right-hander, who turns 25 in January, was 2-4 with a 4.12 ERA and 14 saves in 53 games between Double- and Triple-A for the Diamondbacks last season. Although he had a 5.09 ERA during his stint with Triple-A Reno, it is a notoriously hitter-friendly stop in the Pacific Coast League, and his other numbers (27 strikeouts, seven walks in 23 innings) led the Phillies to believe he could be ready to compete in the majors.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Ruben? You want to do what? WHAT? WHAT?!?!

Desperate times call for desperate measures.
The problem is, when the desperation is coming in flailing fits from the general manager of a franchise with one of the biggest payrolls in baseball, it makes you wonder if there’s a plan in place.
The second full day of the MLB Winter Meetings got off to an interesting start with rumors that Ruben Amaro Jr. has been asking around for teams interested in acquiring either Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels in a trade to make the Phillies younger.
There are a few problems with this fanciful thought.
 If what Amaro wants in return is a big-league ready, controllable, young player, that isn’t going to happen because teams do not accept contracts with $62.5 million over two years (which is what is remaining on Lee’s) or $112.5 million over five years (which is what remains on Hamels’) and offer anything generous in return. Sure, the Phillies could cough over $30 million to a team interested in Lee or $40 million to one interested in Hamels to make it work … but why would you spend $17 million in 2014 on Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz, then dump that much money to unload an established starting pitcher and wreck an already thin starting rotation?
The only logical reason the Phillies could have for even tossing those names out there is to get a temperature check in case they want to deal either southpaw at the trade deadline. Lee was discussed in each of the last two Julys and Augusts, but teams weren’t buying what they were selling.
However, once another $15 million has evaporated from Lee’s contract in the first half of 2014 … now the price is starting to get to a manageable place for a contender.
At least it seems the Phillies have learned from the last time Lee was traded and are more focused on getting one solid young  big-leaguer or near-ready prospect, as opposed to the trio of raw, B-graders they got from Seattle (Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez).

The most frightening thing about the Lee/Hamels talk is that it speaks to a general lack of a plan for the Phillies this winter. When they re-upped Chase Utley (who turns 35 next week) and signed Ruiz (turns 35 next month) and Byrd (36), they closed the door on making a push for a younger team. This will be an old, rickety Phillies team in 2014. There is no way around it. All Amaro can do at this point is try to add enough depth to cover for the inevitable physical breakdowns waiting to happen.