Looking to add some left-handed bullpen depth, the Phillies have signed veteran reliever James Russell to a minor-league contract.
Russell has spent six seasons in the majors, almost all with the Cubs, logging 330 total innings with a 3.90 ERA. Nothing stands out about his secondary numbers, which include mediocre strikeout, walk, and home run rates, but Russell is a 30-year-old capable of filling a middle relief role and the Phillies are likely just collecting as much usable depth as possible.
Russell agreeing to a minor-league deal this early in the offseason suggests he thinks his chances of making the Opening Day roster are pretty strong.
Placed on waivers by the A’s following a rough season, right-hander Dan Otero has been claimed by the Phillies.
Otero was very effective in 2013 and 2014, throwing a total of 126 innings with a 2.01 ERA and 72/21 K/BB ratio, but he fell apart this year while allowing 35 runs in 47 innings for the A’s in a middle relief role.
Otero lacks impressive raw stuff, but he’s an extreme strike-thrower with just 1.4 walks per nine innings for his career and at age 31 could stick with the Phillies as an inexpensive bullpen piece.
Cliff Lee is officially a free agent, as the Phillies declined the former Cy Young winner’s $27.5 million option for 2016 and instead paid him a $12.5 million buyout.
Lee missed all of 2015 after suffering a torn flexor tendon in spring training and was also limited to just 13 starts in 2014. At age 37 it’s hard to imagine Lee securing a guaranteed multi-year contract on the open market, but contending teams might pursue him with incentive-laden one-year deals. However, because he opted not to undergo surgery Lee may simply retire.
Lee went 41-30 with a 2.89 ERA in 106 starts during his second go-around with the Phillies after signing a five-year, $120 million deal in December of 2010.
Making official what was reported over the weekend, longtime Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has joined the Red Sox as first base coach.
Going from the front office to the field is an uncommon move and doubly so in this case because Amaro has been in the Phillies’ front office–first as assistant GM under Pat Gillick and then as GM–since retiring as a player way back in 1998.
With that said, he’s still just 50 years old and it’s possible that this is the first step toward Amaro some day becoming a manager. He very quickly reached the highest level of the front office and now he’ll try to do the same in an on-field role, which is a fascinating change of direction.
In addition to serving as first base coach the Red Sox announced that Amaro will also be their outfield instructor. He played eight seasons in the majors as a part-time outfielder for the Phillies, Indians, and Angels and also spent parts of 10 seasons in the minors, where Amaro hit .300 with a .400 on-base percentage and more walks than strikeouts and lots of speed.
Domonic Brown was a 25-year-old All-Star in 2013, hitting .272 with 27 homers and an .818 OPS. Today the Phillies dropped him from the 40-man roster and Brown passed through waivers unclaimed by the other 29 teams.
Brown is still just 28 years old and under team control through 2017, but the former top prospect made $2.6 million this season and would be in line for similar money next year via arbitration.
That’s not exactly a huge investment, but Brown hit just .233 with 15 homers and a .634 OPS in 207 games during the past two seasons and any teams interested in picking him up as a reclamation project probably figures they can get him on the cheap as a free agent.
It’s a rapid fall from grace, but he should be able to snag a part-time job for 2016 and is still plenty young enough to get back on track.