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Why Soriano?
2006-11-08 22:42
by Mike Carminati

The Phils are convinced that they must rid themselves of Pat Burrell. And why not? He has two years and twenty-seven million dollars left on his elephantine, misguided contract. As Jerry Crasnick points out, Burrell batted .222 with runners in scoring position. That's fine if you're Karen Valentine (get it? Room 222?), bit not if you're a corner outfielder in the middle of the lineup. Too many Burrell at-bats ended with his expressionless form watching a called third strike go by.

They are equally convinced that they need to sign free agent left fielder Alfonso Soriano to replace Burrell not only in left but in the five spot in the lineup to protect Ryan Howard, another thing the team feels Burrell failed to do this past season. The Phils haven't been this convinced that they had to sign a left fielder since they signed a young Pat Burrell to the contract they now feel the need to divest themselves of.

"Situations change," Phils GM Pat Gillick said. "Your club might be constituted differently from one year to the next, and anything that restricts your flexibility is a problem. If you have a player under contract and you're paying the sums we're paying now, I think clubs ought to have the freedom to trade that player."

Hmmm…cagey. It's good not to play one's cards so close to the vest.

Soriano, like Burrell right before he signed his big contract, is coming off of a career year. He set career highs in home runs (46), OBP (.351), slugging (.560), and OPS (.911) and was a 40-40 player. He is seeking big money, amigo money and plenty of years. He'll be 31 next season and will most probably start to decline early on in any long-term contract. As far as the dreaded Burrell backwards K, Soriano outpaced him in strikeouts by almost thirty last year.

Also, keep in mind that Soriano has just one year in left field under his belt, last year, and he balked at playing left when the Nats started the experiment. There is no chance that the Phils will shift him back to his natural position, second base, because of Chase Utley.

As far as Burrell's .222 batting average with runners in scoring position (RISP), of the 27 left fielders with at least 100 plate appearances with RISP, that puts Burrell way down at number 24. But guess who's right ahead of him at #23, you guessed it, Soriano (.231). Also consider that Burrell batted .313 with RISP in 2005 and had a 1.026 OPS, top five among qualifying left fielders. So what, did he forget how to bat with runners on this year? Soriano's .235 batting average with RISP in 2005 would have been the third worst among left fielders.

Not to run Soriano down, but one would have to think that the move to left, and not pending free agency, was the reason for his career year this past season. I had long been theorized that moving him away from his defensive shortcomings and distractions at second base would help him at the plate. Maybe it did.

But to sign Soriano for big bucks to a long-term contract, one would have to believe that a) he will want to play left for the length of that contract (or third maybe though he hasn't played there since 2000), b) the move to left caused his mini renaissance in 2006, and c) he won't be negatively impacted as he gets farther away from thirty. Those are too many question marks for my liking. Not to mention the difficulty they will have in trading Burrell and his no-trade contract to replace him with Soriano.

Besides I wouldn't rate a change in left fielder any higher than fifth among the Phils' offseason problems. In order they would be third base and catcher, where they have no viable starters on the roster (Sorry, Abraham O. Nunez), starting pitching, and relief pitching. I would also throw in lead-off hitter before replacing Burrell.

But the Phils have decided that Burrell must go so go he must. Whether the reason is that Gillick actually thinks it will improve the team or it's a sop to the disgruntled fans, I cannot say. I can't understand half of Gillick's moves, but that's still head and shoulders above Ed Wade. The fans will salivate all over Soriano and cheer Burrell's departure, but these are the same fans who believe that the Phils improvement down the stretch was due to Bobby Abreu's departure.

I do understand why Soriano is a high priority for Phils brass, however. He fulfills two of the Phils main goals. He'll put fannies in seats, and he helps assure that they will again come close to nabbing a playoff spot but would help them actually do it—a goal because of all of the messy contract bumps caused by a largely unprofitable postseason run.

2006-11-08 22:52:29
1.   Bluebleeder87
somebody has to tell this "Gillick guy" it's all about pitching, you can have all the power hitters in the world but if you can't pitch you ain't making it to the promised land.
2006-11-08 22:52:46
2.   das411
It doesn't make any sense Mike, I think it has to be a feint by Gillick to try and get the Mets to jump at Soriano instead of a starter. Why pay some team to take Burrell, add a longer bigger contract to a player who is not that much better, and handcuff yourself again with the no-trade clause he is going to demand??

Instead of throwing $$ at Soriano, I suggest the best moves for this offseason would be to keep Burrell, trade several arms to the NYY for Sheffield, bring in a second-tier 3B (ie Helms or DeRosa), re-up the Wolfman, and sign one or two Borowski-type bullpen arms. If you can get one of those for Rowand also, so much the better, although I would hope he displays some power early in 07 and ups his trade value for the deadline then...

2006-11-08 23:19:24
3.   Bluebleeder87
excuse me for asking but what kind of pitching do the Phils have?
2006-11-09 02:16:29
4.   Yu-Hsing Chen
3 Philly pitching is actually not all that horrid. they have Myers and Hamels, two relatively young pitcher, Myers have consistently given them #2 or #3 quality starter, while Hamels is projected to be a #1 type of guy.

They also still have Jon Lieber and Jamie Moyer, 2 guys that have been relatively reliable mid/back rotation guys. this setup is actually far better than what the Mets have at the moment .... they have a few inhouse candidate on a #5 , and they could resign Randy Wolf or something.

The problem is that the Philly stadium by default is a bandbox, unless you get 5 super sinker ballers there (say.. Webb / Halladay /Lowe / Wang / Cook / ) your going to give up runs to some extend, the Philly rotation setup is ok right now, depth is questionable, but really, the Mets are far worse off and the Braves aren't better . Florida is supposedly better, but they have their other obvious problems.

If your built like that, you try to exploit that, there is a good reasons why the Yankees overkills on lefty bats. or why Seattle's failure to realize their dome's problem on right handers have been costing them. the Philly is a band box stadium, unless they can grab very good sinkerballers the chances of their effectiveness is always questionable, might as well try to bash their way into the playoffs.

As for pitching wins playoffs or whatever, it's bullshit , the Braves won 1 freaken championship with 3 hall of famer pitcher in a whole damn decade. the Cardinals had the WOREST staff by far on the 8 teams this year. the Dodger staff goign in was much better than the Met's yet they got swepted, the Twins had the best pitcher in the game and they got swepted. the Cardinals ran 2 career mediocare pitcher out there and a newbie closer and they won. what does any of those prove? nothing, it proves that playoff is a crapshoot and all you can do is put the best team out there and pray, there is no gaurentee who will perform and who will not.

I agree with you Mike , this whole thing doesn't make sense, and going about trading Burrell like this right now is asking for another Abreu trade where the Phillies got abosatluely nothing for a very solid player. (and might even pay money!) and you go out to sign Soriano, whom before this year was actually a crappier player. has very serious flaws in his games also. and will surely ask for a longer/bigger contract than Burrell .

What the Phillies should do if thy want to fill seats is go after guys like say... Akinori Iwamura, yes his a lefty , but at worest he's David Bell, and he'll draw some international spot light and probably come a pretty fair price, and he has a good chance of hitting more like something between Johjima and Hideki Matsui in terms of power. which would at least be light years ahead of what Abraham Nunez gave.

Gary Sheffield would be a ok option for the Phillies i suppose. but i think Sheffield vs the Philly media is a atomic disastor in the waiting. Moises Alou would offer about the same albiet his health is also questionable ... though just maybe he would agree to a low balled deal.

Or seriously, Philly is the largest single city market team, WHY NOT JUST UP THE STAKES TO 100M or so? they only have 60M commited next year right now, they could have BOTH Soriano AND Burrell.... GASP!!!

seriously, they sign Soriano to say 16M next year, say they bid 5M on Iwamura and sign him at 4/5/6 or something like that. and they sign a pitcher, that's still LESS then 88M, what they had this year. even if the stakes are a bit higher than we thought, what's the logic that the Phillise can't go over 90M with a new ball park and a damn big market with the rest of baseball market on the bulls?

of course, between Burrell/Soriano/Utely / Howard /Iwamura/ Rollins they are going to strike out like mofos next year, but they should rake . and Victorino if he gets more playing time should balance it out a bit.

2006-11-09 06:48:15
5.   jakewoods
who started this notion that 31 yr old start declining?

This isnt 1930. Players today are in phenomenal shape. They routinely play well into their 40's. 31 is not old.

It in his prime. Using your logic you're saying that the only good years for a player are 28-30.

2006-11-09 07:10:40
6.   Mike from Hoboken
Protection for Ryan Howard? The man set a club record for homers this season with Burrell hitting behind him. What do they think, that he'll hit 90 HRs with Soriano "protecting" him?
2006-11-09 09:24:12
7.   Bluebleeder87

You made some good points, but i don't agree with you on the pitching part i'm old school so i'll go to my grave thinking pitching pitching pitching.

2006-11-09 17:16:24
8.   Yu-Hsing Chen
7 it has nothing to do with what school, the name of the game is scroing more than you give up, your not going to win much with a rotation of 5 Roger Clemens/ RJ in their prime with a bullpen full of Billy Wagner /Mariano Rivera / Trevor Hoffman if you have 9 Abraham Nunez and Neifi Perez patrolling the field. pitching have the most effect of a single player in a single game, but that doesn't mean they are all that matters. the Philly have 2 legit front rotation young pitcher and 2 legit mid/back rotation veteran and their bullpen last year was actually pretty good. of course they could improve on it. but in relative the setup is already pretty competitive barring health problems.

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