Tag: Wes Helms

Desperate for outs after losing Nunez, Phils vote for Pedro

Without an answer at third base since Scott Rolen departed in 2002, the Phillies appear poised to open yet another chapter in the saga. It’s really kind of a tough book to recommend.

Pending a physical, it seems the Phillies will sign 32-year-old Pedro Feliz to a two-year contract worth $8.5 million with a club option for 2010.

Feliz is a fantastic defensive player and sure to give the Phils a boost with the glove, but the news is disappointing. The fact that Dobbs and Helms are both barely passable defensively at third base was a big problem. But the answer wasn’t a guy with nearly 3,000 career at-bats and a career-high on-base percentage of .305.

Feliz is good for 20 home runs a year, maybe more at Citizens Bank Park. He hasn’t slugged over .430 in the last three seasons, though. In 2007 he slugged .418 — Helms, Nunez and Ruiz were the only three Phils to get 200 at-bats and post a worse slugging percentage.

He’s just a mess as an offensive player. He cut down on his strikeouts last season, posting under 100 whiffs for the first time since 2004. He’s drawn 100 walks in the last three years combined (Burrell and Howard both walked over 100 times in 2007). He hits into a lot of double-plays. Most importantly, though, he just can’t hit left-handed or right-handed hitting. He’s a career 263/305/437 hitter against righties and 248/282/431 against lefties.

His addition would almost surely mean there’s no room on the team for both Dobbs and Helms. The Phils deal Helms for a relief pitcher seems like the best bet, but it’s not exactly going to be an example of selling high. I’d love to see Dobbs continue to get a bunch of starts at third base against righties, bad defense or not. We’ll have to wait and see what the Phillies say and do, but I’d be surprised if they brought in Feliz to do something besides play third base every day.

If Dobbs does go to the bench it does solve the no-lefty on the bench problem. That was a small one, though.

Up till now I thought Eric Bruntlett’s role was going to be primarily as the guy who plays third base in the late innings. Don’t know what he’s going to do now, but he seems sure to hang on to a job as the Phils need someone to back up second and short and their choices are extremely limited.

Using OPS as the measure, the Phils got less offense from their third basemen in 2007 than any other team in the National League. They posted a .688 OPS. Except for five innings played by Russell Branyan, Dobbs, Nunez and Helms got all the time at third base last season. Offensively overall on the year, Nunez was terrible, Helms was terrible and Dobbs was okay. But in the at-bats Dobbs got as a third baseman, he was just wretched. Here’s what Dobbs did in his at-bats last season when he was playing third base and in his at-bats last season when he wasn’t playing third base:

 
AB

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
Dobbs as 3B 190 .232 .293 .347 .641
Dobbs not as 3B 134 .328 .380 .597 .977

I think you can make the argument that it was simply a fluke that Dobbs was so much worse offensively when he played third base in 2007 than when he played other positions. In the same way, Helms is virtually guaranteed to produce more offense in 2008 than he did in 2007. The Phillies got some miserable production out of third in ’07, but there was a good chance that Dobbs, Helms and Bruntlett of ’08 were going to outplay Dobbs, Helms and Nunez of ’07 by a lot offensively.

The Phillies gave Abraham Nunez 212 at-bats as a third baseman last season in which he hit a miserable 255/342/311. If you’re going to give that kind of an offensive player that many at-bats you can’t be surprised when you wind up the worst in the league at the position. Your third base situation is just terrible if you have to do that — Nunez at third was a weak solution, but apparently it was the best the Phillies could come up with. Charlie Manuel just wasn’t going to regularly let Dobbs or Helms play third late in a close game. Given those options, my guess is that we would have seen a ton of Bruntlett at third in ’08 as a defensive replacement, burning the bat of Dobbs or Helms early. I’m not saying that would have been a good way to handle the situation, but I think it’s what Manuel would have done. If the plan was to give Bruntlett Nunez-like numbers of at-bats at third in an effort to address the problem that Dobbs and Helms are barely passable defensively there, giving those at-bats to Feliz instead would be an improvement.

The addition of Feliz guarantees that the team will be better defensively at third than they have been for a long time. Since Scott Rolen, in fact. Feliz and Rollins are going to do about as good a job as anyone at keeping ground balls from going through the left side of the infield. And the team can and will score runs, whoever the third baseman is. What they need to figure out is how to prevent them.

Sure wish they would have tried getting a pitcher, though.

This from the Phillies web site also says that Chad Durbin is likely the fifth guy in the bullpen behind Lidge, Romero, Gordon and Madson.


Desperate times call for desperate measures of production

Wes Helms was undeniably awful last season, but the Phils still shouldn’t be dealing him away for a minor leaguer regardless of whether they pay half his salary or not. Even given his miserable ’07, his combined numbers over the last two years are still pretty solid.

 
AB

2B

3B

HR

AVG

OBP

SLG
2006 240 19 5 10 .329 .390 .575
2007 280 19 0 5 .246 .297 .368
               
Total 520 38 5 15 .285 .341 .463

Over the two years combined, Helms has posted an .804 OPS. The Phillies were 15th in OPS in ’07 from their third baseman. They posted a .688. An .804 OPS would have been good enough for seventh-best in the NL.

There’s certainly no guarantee that Helms will bounce back in ’08, but hoping for him to do seems to make more sense than investing in acquiring someone from what looks to be a mostly weak group of available third baseman (by which I mean more Mora, Inge, Feliz and the like and less Hank Blalock).

Trading Helms without adding third base help would be a disaster. Dobbs clearly can’t play third every day, he hit 214/267/214 against lefties last year for one thing, and the only other choice at this point seems to be Bruntlett. Bruntlett is a better offensive player than Nunez, but he turns 30 in three months, hasn’t hit a home run since 2005 and has a career high in RBI of 14.

Helms’ numbers over the last two seasons look adequate only because his ’06 was so fantastic. After being a miserable hitter against righties all his career, Helms hit 323/368/632 against them with the Fish in ’06. His line against righties was the worst of his career this season as he hit 221/261/313 against them. He also didn’t benefit from Citizens Bank Park in ’07, hitting just 197/225/295 there while hitting a far more reasonable 291/357/432 in the Phils’ away games.

In 139 plate appearances at Citizens Bank Park in ’07, Helms had seven extra-base hits. While with the Marlins in ’06 he had 19 Citizens Bank Park plate appearances and had four.

Overall, Helms was as bad as he’s ever been last season. It doesn’t mean that he couldn’t get worse, but it does mean that he there’s reason to believe he can get a lot better. And as bad as the Phillies are in the minors, this isn’t the time to be trading the guys who might help you now for the ones that might help you later.

In this article, Ken Griffey Jr suggests that Ryan Howard is the best player in baseball in the “young generation.”

This article says the Phillies are interested in Nate McLouth.

Jeff Fasero wants to make a comeback. 45.

This article suggests that Iguchi’s agent will talk to him this week about whether he wants to play in Colorado.

This article recalls the 1974 Winter Meetings during which the Phils may or may not have backed out of a deal they had agreed on to send Bob Boone to the Tigers.


Wes not goin’ fishing yet

It’s been suggested in many places, including this one, that the Marlins offered relief pitcher Scott Nestor for Wes Helms. Nestor is a 23-year-old righty who struck out 86 in 75 innings at Double-A last season while throwing to a 4.44 ERA. Opponents hit just .233 against him but he walked 41, which is way too many. If that was the whole deal it’s a bad one for the Phils and I’d be surprised if they did it — Helms has a chance to bounce back this year and without other options at third they need him a lot more than Nestor.

The article linked above also says the Marlins may be interested in 25-year-old infielder Jorge Cantu, who was released by the Reds this week. Cantu doesn’t get on base but hit 28 home runs in 2005 as a 23-year-old and would seem like someone that would be on the Phillies’ radar as well.

This article says that the Phillies turned down an offer from the Marlins for Helms in which Florida asked the Phils to cover more than half of Helms’ salary for the upcoming season. It also suggests that Pedro Feliz may be the answer to the Phillies’ problem at third. Feliz has never on-based more than .305 in a season and hasn’t slugged more than .430 in any of the last three years.

Aaron Rowand declined arbitration.

This article says that Baltimore is interested in Joe Crede but needs to figure out what to do with Melvin Mora.

Just acquired Michael Restovich is gone. He has signed a contract with the Softbank Hawks to play in Japan.

The Phillies announced the signings of 13 minor leaguer free agents, including Jake Blalock. Blalock is back after being traded to the Rangers along with Robinson Tejeda for David Dellucci just before the start of the 2006 season. He’s still just 24 but was miserable last season, hitting 219/292/353 between four Single-A and Double-A teams combined. The Rangers traded him to the Royals and Kansas City released in July, which is when the Phils picked him up again.


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