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December 20 2006

The Phillies appear to be on the verge of signing 31-year-old right-handed catcher Rod Barajas.  For the Phils it could be their second signing in as many days after bringing aboard outfielder Jayson Werth yesterday.

Barajas has hit 47 home runs with the Rangers over the last three years but has had a lot of trouble getting on base.  The .306 on-base percentage that he posted with Texas in 2005 is a career-high.  Last season he threw out 19 of 57 base-stealers, or 33%.

The move is seen by some as a vote of little confidence in Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste.  Barajas does bring experience, 1,621 career at-bats and over 4,000 innings behind the plate compared to 267 at-bats and 610 2/3 innings for Coste and Ruiz combined.  Coste struggled behind the plate last season despite his terrific offensive output.  Ruiz looked better behind the plate and had a monster with the bat at Triple-A, hitting 307/389/505 in 368 at-bats.  The fact remains, however, that Ruiz will be 28 when the season starts and has gotten just 69 big-league at-bats.  Neither Ruiz or Coste was able to stop opponents from running much last season, Coste threw out just 19% of base-stealers while Ruiz was only slightly better, throwing out 3-of-14 or 21%.

It's hard to get excited about a guy with a .282 career on-base percentage.  But I think the argument that the Phillies needed to bring in a veteran catcher is valid.  I expect that Barajas will get more at-bats and innings behind the plate than either Ruiz or Coste in '07.

And for the second time in two moves the Phillies address an upgradable spot, outfield with Werth and now catcher with Barajas, without trading anyone away.  You have to think a trade is coming.  I don't think the Phillies are done with their outfield or their relief pitching.  And if Coste is really going to be the third catcher, it's hard to imagine that they'll go into '07 with one-fifth of their roster being Barajas, Ruiz, Coste, Werth and Conine.  If Coste is not primarily a backup catcher it seems like Coste, Werth and Conine are too similar in terms of what they bring to the table as right-handed hitters.  I'd still be looking for the Phils to deal for a left-handed outfielder and relief pitching, with the left-handed outfielder taking Conine's spot or Rowand's if the Phillies trade him and push Victorino to center.  The addition of Barajas certainly also makes a trade of Ruiz or Coste more possible.

I'll be returning shortly to some of the biggest decisions of 2006 if the Phillies will ever stop adding players.  Here's a look at some of the biggest events of 2006, and the Phillies record at the end of the day when they occurred:

Date Event Record
11/2/05 Pat Gillick named GM  
11/25/05 Trade J Thome for Rowand, Haigwood, Gonzalez  
11/29/05 Sign FA J Santana  
11/30/05 Sign FA A Nunez  
12/1/05 Sign FA S Fasano  
12/12/05 Trade V Padilla for R Rodriguez  
1/13/06 Sign FA R Franklin  
1/27/06 Trade J Michaels for A Rhodes  
4/1/06 Trade R Tejeda, J Blalock for D Dellucci  
4/3/06 Lose 13-5 on opening day 0-1
5/11/06 Rowand makes his amazing face-breaking catch 19-15
5/12/06 C Hamels first start 20-15
5/29/06 J Lieber injured 26-24
6/1/06 G Floyd last start 27-26
6/29/06 Trade D Haigwood for F Castro 36-42
7/7/06 J Lieber returns 38-47
7/7/06 Phillies fall nine games below .500 38-47
7/25/06 Trade S Fasano for H Made 44-53
7/28/06 Trade D Bell for W Laureano 46-54
7/30/06 Trade Abreu and Lidle for Smith, Henry, Monasterios, Sanchez 48-54
7/30/06 R Wolf first start 48-54
7/30/06 R Madson last start (double-header -- but thanks for noticing) 48-54
7/31/06 Trade R Cormier for J Germano 49-55
8/7/06 Trade R Franklin for Z Stott 54-57
8/19/06 Trade A Baldwin, A Barb for J Moyer 60-62
8/21/06 Rowand injuried, out for season 62-62
8/28/06 Trade A Chavez for J Conine 65-65
9/6/06 Wolf allows 2 runs in 6 IP -- the 9th game in a row the Phillies' starting pitcher has allowed three or fewer runs 70-69
9/20/06 Phillies and Dodgers have identical 79-73 records with 10 to play 79-73
9/24/06 Phillies go nine games over .500 82-73
9/28/06 Phillies lose for third time in four games 83-76
9/30/06 Phils eliminated from playoffs 85-76
10/1/06 Season ends 85-77

On July 7 the Phillies' record stood at 38-47, nine games under .500.  After a win on September 24 they were 82-73, nine games over .500.  In those 70 games the Phils went 44-26, playing to a .629 winning percentage. 

The Phillies' starting pitching was much better beginning around the time Conine arrived.  In their 32 remaining games after August 28, a Phillies' starter would allow more than three runs just five times -- four runs in four starts and one start by Moyer where he allowed five runs.  By comparison, between April 15 and April 26 Phillies' starters allowed four or more runs in seven of ten starts.  Between May 17 and May 27 Phillies' starters also allowed four or more runs in seven of ten starts.

The Phillies and the Dodgers had identical 79-73 records with ten games left to play.  The Phillies had an awful series in Washington, but managed to go a respectable 6-4.  The Dodgers on the other hand, went 9-1, which would have been difficult to overcome.  Los Angeles ended the year with the same number of wins as the Padres, who went 8-2 in their last ten.

Ryan Church gets a lot of attention in this mailbag on the Nationals web site.  The deal that sent Jose Vidro to Seattle, brought Chris Snelling to Washington and may have made Church more expendable is finally official.

This article speculates on how the Blue Jays might try to get Lieber and suggests Alex Rios.  Seems unlikely, but it would be a fine deal for the Phillies no matter how many outfielders they have or relievers they need.

Jayson Werth signed a one-year contract with the Phils.  He will be paid $850,000.  I seem to be more excited about this than most people.  I'll try and calm down, but I'm worried there might be something wrong with y'all.

The Phillies may discuss a long-term deal with Brett Myers in the next few months.

The Twins may be close to signing Rondell White.

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