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November 1 2006

It's hard to be a Phillies fan these days without picking up through osmosis the news that the Phils are going to go hard after Soriano.  I don't think there's anyone that's going to be real unhappy if they do so and wind up getting him.  Soriano had an excellent year last season, bashing 46 homers, the most of anyone in the league who wasn't Pujols or Ryan Howard.  He hit .277 and stole 41 bases.  He bats right-handed.  But if there won't be a lot of Phillies fans crying into their beer if it happens, there's going to be more than one of us who are really surprised.

Soriano would most definitely be a corner outfielder with the Phillies with a huge contract.  Pat Gillick has spent most of the past year or more trying to trade his two corner outfielders with big contracts.  Heres a look at the numbers for Abreu and Burrell in 2006 and over their careers:

 

Player   AB AVG OBP SLG OPS
Abreu 2006 548 297 424 462 886
  Career 5276 302 412 507 919
             
Burrell 2006 462 258 388 502 890
  Career 3527 258 362 479 841

And here's Soriano's numbers:

 

Player   AB AVG OBP SLG OPS
Soriano 2006 647 277 351 560 911
  Career 3902 280 325 510 835

Notably, Soriano's career OPS is the lowest of the trio, lower than either of the guys Manuel has worked so hard to get rid of.  His career on-base percentage is .325.  He was the best hitter of the three last season, but in 2005 he on-based .309 while hitting 36 home runs.  In 2005 Burrell hit 32 home runs while on-basing .389.  Soriano is going to make more money than Burrell next year.  He'll be at the start of his contract while Burrell will be near the end.

Burrell strikes out.  A lot.  131 times last season.  People are tired of seeing it -- but if that's the problem, Soriano isn't the answer.  There were only nine players in the National League who struck out more than Burrell did last season.  Two of them were on his team and one of them is Alfonso Soriano.  Chase Utley struck out 132 times and Ryan Howard was second in the league behind only Adam Dunn with 181 strikeouts.  Soriano's 160 was fourth in the NL.  To be fair, Burrell did strike out at a higher rate than Soriano did, 131 times in 567 plate appearances, about 23% percent of the time, compared to Soriano's 160 strikeouts in 728 plate appearances, which is about 22% of the time.

And then there's the contract.  Does Gillick want to give anyone a long contract like the five or more years it would likely take to land Soriano (or another big name free agent for that matter)?  Of course not.  The question is whether or not he will.  I think the answer is probably no.  It's the opposite of what he wants to do.  I think there's a difference between pitchers and hitters -- if Gillick signs a pitcher to a five-year contract I will truly be stunned.  Less so with a hitter, but I would still be surprised.

I was also surprised at something I read at Todd Zolecki's always excellent Q&A Forum yesterday.  In responding to a question, Zolecki said that he thinks the Phils are serious about going after Soriano and that if they got him they would probably bring back Nunez to play third.  That would be an absolute disaster that could contribute to the Phillies being a worse offensive team in '07 than they were in '06.  Bell's 278/345/398 in 324 at-bats wasn't fabulous, but it dwarfed the awful 211/303/273 in 322 at-bats from Nunez.  Nunez isn't usually the guy you count on as an everyday player to start the season -- over his career, April is, by a significant margin, the month in which he has gotten the fewest at-bats.    

Finally, I'm not ready to give up completey hope about the possibility of a Dellucci return in 2007.  Certainly Dellucci did not seem happy at the end of the year in '06 but there's a big difference between '06 and '07 for the Phillies.  At the start of '06 the Phillies had one of the best hitters in baseball manning right field.  Now they don't.  He wants to play and the Phillies have an opportunity.

In the Arizona Fall League, the Saguaros snapped their five-game losing streak with a 6-3 win over the Mesa Solar Sox.  Yankees prospect Darrell Rasner threw four scoreless innings and Cardinals prospect shortstop Brendan Ryan was 4-for-5 with three doubles and two RBI.

The MLB players have arrived in Japan.

Speculation still abounds that Pat Burrell doesn't want to play in Baltimore.

I recently stumbled across this web chat that Pat Gillick did in January.  My favorite part is that Gillick answers virtually every question about whether the Phillies have interest in a specific player with some variation of "no comment" with very few exceptions, one of which is a question about Jeff Weaver, which he responds to with a very direct, "We have no interest in Jeff Weaver."  Neither did almost anyone else, and all of us were surprised when Weaver won the World Series for the Cards by allowing a run over eight innings while surrendering just four hits, one of which was a fly ball to Chris Duncan.  Other interesting parts of the chat for me are Gillick talking about short contracts and that the Phillies decided against pursuing Russell Branyan last year due to a worry about all the strikeouts they already had in their lineup. 

Pedro Feliz to the Giants apparently not a done deal.

Anyone for Wes Helms (very end of the article)?  He played 24 games at third for the Fish last year while hitting 329/390/575.  He hasn't been anywhere near that good a hitter over his career (269/331/447), but he would still be a big improvement offensively over any of the other Phillies options at third if he could handle it defensively.

Rich Aurilia played 52 games at third for the Reds last year while hitting 300/349/518, also better than his career line of 278/332/443.  He doesn't have the defensive questions of Helms but seems like he may stay with the Reds.  He hasn't hit 37 home runs in a season since 2001.

All three of those guys, Helms and Aurilla especially, seem more likely to me for third base than the likes of Ramirez or Iwamura.

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