Phillies rebuild not off to a smashing start

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Phillies GM Ruben Amaro was burnt the first time he ever had to sell, giving Cliff Lee away to the Mariners for three modest prospects, none of whom have made any sort of contribution so far, after the 2009 season. Take two isn’t looking like a big success either, as he doesn’t appear to have gotten any potential stars in return for two-thirds of his outfield in Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino today.

Pence was sent to the Giants for catcher Tommy Joseph, outfielder Nate Schierholtz and right-hander Seth Rosin, a return that pales in comparison to the package of first baseman Jonathan Singleton, right-hander Jarred Cosart, outfielder Domingo Santana and right-hander Josh Zied that they gave up to get him from Houston a year ago.

Joseph, who is hitting .260/.313/.391 as a 20-year-old in Double-A this year (he turned 21 two weeks ago), is a fine prospect with a chance to be a perfectly solid starting catcher come 2014. That’s good timing for the Phillies, since Carlos Ruiz will be a free agent after 2013. However, Ruiz is a fan favorite having an outstanding year, and even though he’ll be 35 in 2014, there’s a good chance the Phillies will want to keep him around. Plus, while Joseph is the better bet, the Phillies already had a pretty good Double-A catching prospect in Sebastian Valle. Certainly, having an extra catcher is a good thing, but Joseph lacks All-Star potential and wasn’t the ideal centerpiece here.

The Phillies know what they’re getting in Schierholtz, a 28-year-old who has hit .270/.319/.412 in 1,209 major league at-bats. Because he’s a very good defensive right fielder, he’s a reasonable option as a platoon starter against right-handers. But he’s a complementary player, and guys like him aren’t hard to come by in free agency. The Phillies will probably pay him close to $2 million in arbitration next year.

Rosin, a 2010 fourth-round pick, didn’t rank among the Giants’ better prospects. He had a 4.31 ERA in five starts and 29 relief appearances for Single-A San Jose this season.

Victorino was traded to the Dodgers for right-handers Josh Lindblom and Ethan Martin. I like Lindblom despite his weak peripherals, but as a flyball pitcher, he’s not a great fit in Citizens Bank Park. I still think he’ll prove to be a fine setup man in front of Jonathan Papelbon. The 25-year-old has a 3.02 ERA in 47 2/3 innings out of the pen for the Dodgers this year. Because he’s given up nine homers, he has a FIP of 5.05.

Martin, a 2008 first-round pick, is a long shot, though the 23-year-old has managed to bring his walk rate down to a reasonable level while going 8-6 with a 3.58 ERA and a 112/61 K/BB in 118 IP for Double-A Chattanooga this year. Odds are that he’ll be a reliever if he does make it.

In a vacuum, that’s still a pretty good return for two months of Victorino. Still, it’s only so much better than the supplemental first-round pick than they would have gotten had he left in free agency this winter. The haul for Pence wasn’t impressive, and it’s clear that his likely $14 million salary in arbitration next year scared off some suitors. That’s not Amaro’s fault; he just gave up too much to get Pence in the first place.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.