Tag:Ryan Howard
Posted on: August 31, 2011 1:55 pm
 

September Storylines: Kemp's season overshadowed

Matt KempBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Dodgers may have the best player in the National League, and yet he's been overshadowed by the team's ownership story and even his own teammate, Andre Ethier who has a long hitting streak and a mysterious injury that have garnered headlines. Heck, the biggest story of the year involving Los Angeles' Matt Kemp may be better known for his breakup with his girlfriend last offseason than his breakout on the field this season.

Yep, Matt Kemp may be the best player in the National League, and Dodgerland is still talking about the McCourts, Ethier's possibly injury and the return of their broadcast team. Meanwhile, Matt Kemp leads all big leaguers in Wins Above Replacement players at 8.0 (according to Baseball-Reference.com -- FanGraphs.com has him sixth overall and second in the National League at 6.6).

If advanced metrics aren't your thing, he's hitting .321/.396/.573 with 31 home runs and 101 RBI -- numbers that put him in the running for the triple crown. (He's also tied for second in the NL in stolen bases with 35, 12 behind the Braves' Michael Bourn.)

September Storylines
    • A look at the postseason races

Last year it was Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and Carlos Gonzalez challenging for the triple crown, this year Kemp has the best shot. Here's a look at his numbers, and chances.

Batting average: Kemp's currently hitting .321, good for fourth in the National League behind Jose Reyes (.335), Ryan Braun (.331) and Votto (.325) -- with David Murphy (.320) hot on his heels. A career .292 hitter, this is his best batting average since 2007, when he hit .342 in 98 games (and 311 plate appearances) as a 22-year-old. This is the best year of the 26-year-old's career, so it's not like past performance will predict production, but he has tailed off in the last month of the season in his career. Kemp's hit .264/.310/.426 in September and October in his career, while hitting .297/.354/.502 in the other months (although those numbers do include this season's production). 

Home runs: Kemp's tied for the National League lead with Mike Stanton and Pujols with 31 homers, with Lance Berkman and Dan Uggla just one homer behind, each with 30. Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder both have 29 homers, while Troy Tulowitzki and Jay Bruce each have 28 homers -- meaning the race is wide open. 

The Dodgers have 10 home games remaining on their schedule and 17 road games, which would appear to help Kemp who has 16 of his 31 homers on the road this season in fewer games, hitting a homer every 17.3 plate appearances on the road and one every 19.4 plate appearances at Dodger Stadium. However, the stadiums left on the Dodgers' tour of the National League haven't been kind to Kemp -- he has just three homers in the parks left on the team's travel schedule, with two of those coming at Arizona's Chase Field. He hasn't homered in either San Francisco's AT&T Park or San Diego's Petco Park, despite playing six games in both stadiums this season. Kemp has just two homers in San Francisco in his career (166 plate appearances) and three in San Diego (139 plate appearances). Overall, he's managed just one homer every 40.6 plate appearances in the six parks (Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Washington, San Francisco, San Diego and Arizona) the Dodgers will play in during September and 15 total, seven of those at Chase Field.

RBI: Kemp enters Wednesday's game with 101 RBI, already tying his career best (2009), and just one behind leaders Howard and Fielder. Tulowitzki is the only other player with more than 90 RBI, with 94 on the season. The RBI stat is dependent on what other players do, and after struggling in July, the Dodgers had one of their best offensive months of the season in August, scoring 127 runs in the month, the most of any month and getting on base at a .322 rate, only just below its .339 OBP in June. That said, that doesn't mean much, since the Dodgers followed their productive June with their worst month of the season in July. Predicting RBI is the ultimate folly, because not only does Kemp have to deliver, so do his teammates. The same thing can be said about the others on the list, as well. 

It'd be silly to predict a triple crown or even guess at a single crown for Kemp with a month to go in the season, but it's certainly worth keeping an eye on -- and gives Dodger fans something to cheer about, something that's not been easy to do in 2011.

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Posted on: August 17, 2011 9:53 am
 

Pepper: Signing deadline needs to be moved up

Bubba Starling

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The last couple of days showed us some of the best of baseball, five walkoffs on Tuesday, Jim Thome's 600th home run on Monday, triple plays both Monday and Tuesday and so much more. But Monday night we saw one of the things that needs to be fixed, and that's the signing deadline for draft picks.

Yesterday I touched on this, but I suggested just moving it from midnight to a more reasonable hour. That was a selfish wish. Hall of Famer George Brett tells the Kansas City Star that the deadline needs to be moved up more than a month to something like July 4.

The reason is simple, the development of players is stunted by a year and the posturing could hurt players. According to Brett, the Royals and Scott Boras, the "advisor" for their top pick, Bubba Starling, didn't even start talking until 10:30 p.m. on Monday night. The two sides then agreed to a deal with 20-40 seconds left, Brett said.

"If they made the deadline July 4, these guys would sign July 4 and the guy would jump on the plane and play some real baseball rather than go to Arizona when the season is almost over after not picking up a ball and a bat for how long … and playing football … he's not baseball ready," Brett told the newspaper. "It's going to take him a while." 

Instead of playing baseball and cashing checks, Starling was working out with the Nebraska football team as a negotiating ploy, showing that he was "serious" that he'd turn down millions of dollars to play football. He was also risking injury and his future with no guarantee.

That said, with the way money was thrown around on Monday night, it seems to make little sense to sign early. The teams showed that players who wait to sign until the deadline will be rewarded. An agent I spoke to on Tuesday said he's had players sign early in the past -- which is all well and good for the teams, but did he do his players' a disservice by not waiting until the end? In his previous cases, no, it was still the right thing to do. But next time? When the 27th player picked gets $800,000 above slot, the waiting game pays. That's not going to change, the way to fix that it to shorten the wait.

Pirates' booty: Speaking of the draft signings, the Pirates spent $17 million in signing bonuses for their draft picks. While there are negatives, for Pittsburgh, this is a positive. For many years teams like the Royals and Pirates wouldn't draft the best available player in the draft, instead drafting the best available player that would fit into their budget. The Royals gave Bubba Starling a huge contract and the Pirates gave out several, including an $8 million signing bonus to No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole and $5 million for second-rounder Josh Bell. Last season we heard about how the Pirates weren't spending their luxury tax gains, but now we see an actual plan and owner Bob Nutting is putting money into the team. [MLB.com]

Right player, wrong position: Living in Cincinnati I've seen this before -- teams in MLB will often pick the best player available in the draft, regardless of position, now Yonder Alonso is in the big leagues with the Reds and has little to do because Joey Votto isn't going to sit the bench for him. The Nationals saw a player some considered to be the best in the draft fall to them and couldn't pass up Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, despite already having a 26-year-old at third base in Ryan Zimmerman. The Nationals are happy to have Rendon and let that problem play out. [MASNSports.com]

Bundy eyes 2013: Orioles first-round pick Dylan Bundy said his plan is to be in the big leagues in 2013. The right-hander would be 20 in 2013. Brett would tell him if he was serious about that, he maybe should have signed sooner. [Baltimore Sun]

Overrated Howard: Baseball-Reference.com's Sean Forman made the argument in the New York Times that Philadelphia's Ryan Howard is not an elite hitter. The bigger argument was about overvaluing the RBI -- the stat that Howard provides much of Howard's worth. It does certainly help that he plays for the Phillies and has some pretty decent players in front of him in the lineup.

Umps visit kids: Jerry Meals may be Public Enemy No. 1 in Pittsburgh, but not to 3-year-old Emily Berger. Berger, who had undergone surgery on Monday, was one of the children visited by a group of MLB umpires to visit a children's hospital on Tuesday. Meals, who famously blew the call at home plate to end a 19-inning game in Atlanta for Pittsburgh loss, and the rest of his crew hosted a Build-A-Bear workshop for dozens of children. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

Sizemore improving: The Indians hope Grady Sizemore can return next month after he started baseball activities on Tuesday as part of his rehab from a right knee injury and a sports hernia surgery. [MLB.com]

Granderson's rare feat: Curtis Granderson has a shot at leading the American League in homers and triples. The last player to do that was Jim Rice in 1978. [Baseball-Reference.com]

Mariners doing well: Jack Zduriencik won the offseason according to many before the 2010 season, and we saw how that worked. But even with that in hindsight, it appears Zduriencik has had a good couple of weeks despite his team's fall in the standings over the last two months. [Seattle Times]

More Thome: If you haven't had enough of Jim Thome (and really, it's not like we've even got to a tenth of the DJ3K madness yet), his hometown paper, the Peoria JournalStar put together a fantastic package looking back on his life and career. Make sure you check it out.

Give the people what they want: Nice job by the Brewers' promotion department with the announcement of  "Tony Plush Rally Towels" for the Sept. 9 game against the Phillies. "Tony Plush" is the "gentleman's name" of outfielder Nyjer Morgan. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

Bashing Boise: No, not the Broncos and their "Smurf turf," but the city's Class A team -- Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said Boise's Memorial Stadium is "below standard." [Chicago Tribune]

Pros vs. G.I. Joes: Some White Sox players are playing video games with soldiers online. [MLB.com]

Hi, bye: Outfielder Jonny Gomes was traded from the Reds to the Nationals last month, but he wasn't informed until just before the Reds' game started, meaning he wasn't able to say goodbye to his teammates in Cincinnati. Now a member of the Nationals, Gomes got to say both hello and goodbye to the Reds when the team started their series in Washington. [Cincinnati Enquirer]

Cut those sideburns: Monday was the 20th anniversary of Don Mattingly sitting out a game for refusing to cut his hair. [MLB.com]

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Posted on: July 8, 2011 5:07 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 1:05 pm
 

Loaded pitching highlights NL East All-Stars

By Matt Snyder

2011 All-Star Game
SEE THE OTHER DIVISION ALL-STARS: AL East | AL Central | AL West | NL Central | NL West
The strength of this divisional All-Star team is going to be mitigated by the fact that we're only picking one starting pitcher, one non-closing reliever and one closer, because this sucker is stacked with pitching. The lineup is no slouch either, in what is probably the second-best division in the majors, if not better than the vaunted AL East. I would have said the NL East was better top-to-bottom if it wasn't for that dreadful June by the Marlins. Anywho, let's get to it.

C Brian McCann, Braves: It's an easy choice, but that doesn't mean the other guys suck. Not by any stretch. Carlos Ruiz, Ronny Paulino, John Buck and Wilson Ramos are admirable backstops to varying degrees, but McCann is the best catcher in baseball this season, hands down. He's hitting .314 with 14 homers and an OPS over .900, not to mention he calls the games for one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.

1B Gaby Sanchez, Marlins: Before freaking out, Phillies fans, remember we're using DHs in this little exercise (wink, wink). We're also going to set Michael Morse aside for later and Ike Davis is injured. So it boils down to Freddie Freeman and Gaby Sanchez. Freeman's been hot of late and is hitting .279 with 13 homers, 42 RBI and a .354 OBP. Sanchez is hitting .290 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and a .370 OBP. He's also superior defensively be several metrics, so it's Sanchez in a close call.

Lineup
No. Name Team Pos
1 Jose Reyes NYM SS
2 Shane Victorino PHI CF
3 Gaby Sanchez FLA 1B
4 Ryan Howard PHI DH
5 Carlos Beltran NYM RF
6 Michael Morse WAS LF
7 Brian McCann ATL C
8 Danny Espinosa WAS 2B
9 Placido Polanco PHI 3B
2B Danny Espinosa, Nationals: Tough call over Chase Utley here, but Espinosa has played in 89 games to Utley's 38, so that makes the choice much easier. Espinosa, the NL Rookie of the Year front-runner at this point, has played a great second base for the Nats in addition to developing as a power hitter. He has 16 home runs and 52 RBI to go along with 11 stolen bases.

3B Placido Polanco, Phillies: We'd be a lot stronger here if David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman and Chipper Jones were completely healthy and hitting up to their full potential, but things haven't gone that way. Jones is in obvious age decline, Zimmerman has struggled -- until very recently -- after a lenghty stint on the DL and Wright has been on the shelf for all but 39 games. Polanco, on the other hand, has provided steady defense for the Phillies at the hot corner and is hitting .274 with a .331 OBP. 

SS Jose Reyes, Mets: Back in early April, we may have thought this would be a three-horse race between Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins and Reyes, but it's not even close. Ramirez had been awful up until the past few weeks and while Rollins is good, Reyes has been an MVP candidate -- at least until he fell injured a few days ago. Reyes leads the majors in hits, triples and batting average while also leading the NL in runs scored.

LF Michael Morse, Nationals: Hey, he's played 27 games in left, even though he's primarily a first baseman now. I'm using him here because we wanted to put together the best possible lineup and the other choices out in left in this division weren't great. Logan Morrison was the next best choice, while Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay are simply far overpaid at this point. Morse, however, has been tearing the cover off the ball since the beginning of May. He's hitting .303 with 15 homers, 48 RBI and an .887 OPS.

CF Shane Victorino, Phillies: The All-Star is really the only choice here. Angel Pagan was injured for a while Victorino has far exceeded the production of Roger Bernadina. Victorino's hitting .303 with a .376 OBP, 53 runs and 13 steals. He also plays a stellar center field behind that vaunted Phillies pitching staff.

RF Carlos Beltran, Mets: Who woulda thought this one coming into the season, huh? You've got the young studs Mike Stanton and Jason Heyward out in right in this division, meanwhile Beltran had to move to right from center to keep his knee injury from reaggravating. All he's done is go out and make his sixth All-Star team. In addition to leading the NL in doubles (26), Beltran is hitting .283 with 13 home runs, 57 RBI and a robust .372 OBP.

DH Ryan Howard, Phillies: If Chipper Jones or Ryan Zimmerman were having better seasons or David Wright and Ike Davis were healthy, this might have been a much tougher choice. Stanton could be an option, too, but I'm going Howard. He has 18 homers, an NL-best 71 RBI, an .842 OPS and just feels like a menacing DH in the batter's box.

SP Roy Halladay, Phillies: Do I seriously have to pick just one? We could put together a five-man rotation of ace-caliber pitchers -- Halladay, Jair Jurrjens, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Tommy Hanson -- and still have the likes of Anibal Sanchez, Jordan Zimmermann and the injured Josh Johnson left over. What if Johan Santana and Stephen Strasburg were healthy? This is the most pitching-rich division in the majors, including the bullpen. And it's only going to get better as the young arms further develop and a dude named Stephen Strasburg gets healthy. Anyway, I have to pick one, so it's the best pitcher in baseball. Maybe Justin Verlander has a case over Halladay, but he's not in this division. Just remember, if we went out to 25-man rosters, this division would have the sickest pitching staff of all.

RP Jonny Venters, Braves: Antonio Bastardo has been excellent for the Phillies. He has a 0.87 ERA and has stranded over 99 percent of his baserunners. He's struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings and has now collected five saves. Tyler Clippard has also been outstanding. He has a 1.86 ERA and strikes out batters at an even higher pace than Bastardo. But Venters has been dominant in 53 1/3 innings (Bastardo has 31) and has thrown in more high-leverage situations than Clippard. According to FanGraph's wins above replacement player, the only relief pitcher in the NL more valuable than Venters this season has been Craig Kimbrel, who you'll see below.

CL Craig Kimbrel, Braves: Drew Storen and Francisco Rodriguez have been good, but Kimbrel leads the majors with 27 saves and has struck out 70 batters in just 45 innings. Sure, he's blown five saves, but none since June 8. Since then, he's closed all nine opportunities and hasn't even given up a run in his last 13 games. He definitely looks the part of a young Billy Wagner. Only workload is a concern for the 23-year-old at this point.

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Posted on: July 2, 2011 4:20 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2011 6:00 pm
 

Rauch explodes in ejection during ninth

Rauch

By Evan Brunell


Jon Rauch just had a meltdown for the ages after being ejected by umpire Alfonso Marquez, tossing aside manager John Farrell much like one sweeps that annoying bug out of your face.

Rauch and Farrell were upset with Marquez's strike zone, especially against lefty slugger Ryan Howard in the ninth inning on two particular pitches. Howard walked to push Chase Utley, who had reached base on a fielder's choice, to second. Utley then scored on a Shane Victorino RBI single, with Corey Patterson's valiant throw pulling J.P. Arencibia off home plate to the first-base side. A diving Arencibia missed the tag on Utley, and Marquez correctly signaled that Utley was safe, pushing the Phillies' lead to 5-3 in a seesaw game that saw Roy Halladay eventually pitch a complete game. Rauch was not pleased with the call and immediately turned to Marquez, pointed with his glove and said something.

Whatever he said earned an immediate ejection, and that's when Rauch exploded. Farrell, who was already on the way out of the dugout to argue the call, got in front of Rauch, but Rauch flicked Farrell to his left and went after Marquez. Farrell valiantly tried to hold onto Rauch and drag him away but succeeded in only depriving the 6-foot-10 reliever of his uniform. Arencibia served as a buffer and Rauch eventually stalked off to the dugout.

RauchThat left Farrell a little unnerved, and he walked back to the dugout before turning around and heading to the mound to talk to reliever Shawn Camp, who had just jogged in from the bullpen without warming up. On his way back to the dugout, Farrell had more words for Marquez who lost patience and sent Farrell to join Rauch in the showers.

Farrell then ran to home plate and drew lines with both of his hands just to the right of home plate, in the batter's box of where a left-handed hitter would stand, apparently contesting the calls against Howard before departing. It appeared as if Rauch and Farrell had a case, as the strike zone display on television showed Rauch was being squeezed on pitches that Halladay was getting called strikes.

Camp mopped the inning up without incident, then Halladay shut down his former team in the ninth to register a three-run complete game victory, walking one and striking out eight. It was Halladay's homecoming, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation during pregame warmups and prior to the start of the bottom of the first as he walked to the mound.

Check out the video at MLB.com.

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Posted on: May 31, 2011 3:44 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2011 3:49 pm
 

NL All-Star balloting update: Cards lead way



By Matt Snyder


Major League Baseball has issued a press release with the first All-Star balloting update of the season, and the NL starting lineup would include three Cardinals if the voting ended right now. The leaders by position (including three outfielders, of course): Albert Pujols, Brandon Phillips, Placido Polanco, Troy Tulowitzki, Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman. (Full ballot update at MLB.com)

A few things immediately jump out:

- Jose Reyes is the most qualified candidate at shortstop, despite Tulowitzki's hot start. Reyes leads the NL in hits, doubles, triples and stolen bases and is hitting .335 with an .876 OPS. He doesn't even have half the votes Tulo does. Oh, and Jimmy Rollins (.265 with a .698 OPS) is second. At least Reyes is in third, but it's odd to see a player in New York so under-represented in the voting.

- The starter at first base has gotta be Joey Votto over Pujols. It's not even close this season. Votto is second, trailing by about 182,000 votes. Prince Fielder (third) and Ryan Howard (fourth) should also be ahead of Pujols. Remember, it's for the 2011 season.

- Speaking of which, Chase Utley is third in voting at second base.

- Dodgers outfielders Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp have very strong cases in the outfield, and they check in at spots four and five in the voting, respectively. Still, who are you going to bump between Braun, Holliday and Berkman? Maybe we can petition to move Braun to third base in order to maximize the offense?

- The biggest snub appears to be Jay Bruce. The young Reds' slugger was been an absolute man-child in May and leads the NL in home runs, RBI and total bases. He's 12th place in votes for outfielders. Looks like Reds fans need to get over to MLB.com and support their team. Phillips leads at second because there aren't many good candidates, but Votto and Bruce should be starting and aren't yet in that position.

- Obviously, Posey can't start because of his season-ending injury and NL manager Bruce Bochy will name a replacement if Posey wins the voting. So the catcher voting -- at least as long as he's at the top -- is irrelevant.

Voting continues on MLB.com through June 30 at 11:59 p.m. ET. There will be an update on AL voting Wednesday.

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Posted on: April 21, 2011 3:14 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 3:40 pm
 

Braun signs big extension with Brewers

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Ryan BraunThe Brewers have announced a five-year extension for outfielder Ryan Braun through the 2020 season. There's also a mutual option for 2021.

According to CBSSports.com senior writer Danny Knobler, the deal is worth $105 million for those five years from 2016-20, with a $10 million signing bonus. He'll make $19 million from 2016-18, $18 million in 2019 and $16 million in 2020. There's a mutual option worth $20 million for 2021 and a $4 million buyout. He has a no-trade clause and has agreed to defer some of the payments in hopes of helping the owners keep their payroll competitive.

Here are some other notes Knobler passed along:

• Braun and Troy Tulowitzki are the only two players in the game signed through 2020, with two more -- Joe Mauer and Adrian Gonzalez -- signed through 2018.

• The average annual value of his contract is $21 million, the most for any outfielder. He is guaranteed $145.5 million from this season through the end of the contract.

• Now 27, Bruan is now one of seven players signed through age 36 that have spent their entire career with one team, joining Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Ryan Howard, Chipper Jones and Todd Helton.

• It's the largest contract (by annual average value) given out by a team in the lower third of teams determined by the Nielson Company.

Braun had signed an eight-year, $45 million deal in May of 2008.

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Posted on: March 29, 2011 6:28 pm
 

Phillies' Lidge shut down for 3-6 weeks

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Jose ContrerasWith news that closer Brad Lidge won't be able to throw for another three to six weeks, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he will likely turn to Jose Contreras to close.

Lidge had an MRI on Tuesday and it showed a posterior rotator cuff sprain, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters, including the Philadelphia Daily News' Paul Hagen. Lidge won't need surgery, Amaro said.

"Hopefully after another three weeks, if he's feeling OK, he'll start throwing and then we'll progress him from there," Amaro said. "We're glad it's not a labrum. That' son the bright side of things. But it's still significant."

In Lidge's absence, the team will turn to the 39-year-old Contreras over Ryan Madson, who has been groomed to take over for Lidge.

"Right now, with the way it looks, here lately we've been using Contreras," Manuel said. "Of course, Madson is still there. At the same time, to start the season, it looks like it might be Contreras. I don't know yet. But I'd say right now, if I had to pick somebody tonight, it would probably be Contreras."

Madson will likely stay in his set-up roll. In the past, he's struggled when asked to close.

Manuel also said Ben Francisco will be starting in the place of rookie Domonic Brown, who is out with a fracture of the hook in his hamate bone in his right hand. John Mayberry Jr. had a good spring, tying with Ryan Howard for the team lead with five home runs, but Francisco wasn't too bad either, hitting .385 with four home runs this spring.

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 6:04 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 6:29 pm
 

3 up, 3 down: Ruben Amaro's best, worst moves

Amaro

By Evan Brunell

Now that Charlie Manuel is in the books with a two-year extension, the Phillies are turning to Ruben Amaro, the GM that has steered the club to two consecutive playoff berths after replacing Pat Gillick. Philly.com reports that Amaro's own extension is "lacking just the finishing touches."

That begs the question: what has been Amaro's best and worst moves to date? For all of the machinations that Amaro has done -- some of which were head-scratching -- it's impressive that there were a litany of candidates for Amaro's best moves, but aside from one painfully obvious move, none of his worst moves are truly terrible.

3 UP

1. Welcome to Philadelphia, Cliff Lee! (And welcome back.)

At the trade deadline of 2009, Ruben Amaro pulled off a trade that cemented Philadelphia as a team to be feared. Lacking a clear ace, Lee predictably became a monster in the NL and helped lead Philadelphia to a second straight NL pennant. While Lee would be traded in the offseason (we'll get back to this), the impact he had on the club was immeasurable. 

Even better is that Ben Francisco came along for the ride and provided an excellent bat off the bench as backup outfielder -- and now may be poised to open the year as the starting right fielder after a hot spring. In fact. Francisco may make this deal look even better if and when he finally settles in as a full-time player. Don't forget that he received a ton of playing time in Cleveland and showed he was capable of being a solid starter.

All the club gave up was Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, Jason Knapp and Jason Donald. Carrasco looks like a fungible back-of-the-rotation pitcher while Marson shows no aptitude for hitting and figures to have a lengthy career as a backup catcher -- not a  player to miss. Donald, meanwhile, has been getting all the playing time he can handle and doesn't look any better than a second-division starter best used as a utility player. Knapp could be the player that pays the deal off for Cleveland, but even he's in doubt with his checkered injury history.

Also counted in this category is bringing Lee back to town. While trading Lee to the Mariners ended up being a mistake, every ounce of credit is deserved by Amaro for being unafraid to tactically admit a mistake. After claiming Lee simply wanted too much to resign, they bounced him to Seattle and then opened the checkbook to bring him back and got a steal by convincing Lee to ink a five-year deal. While the average annual value of the deal is higher as a result (with a total value of $120 million), the Phillies did very well to only lock themselves into five years.

2. What's up, Doc?

Amaro wasn't done spinning blockbuster deals for starting pitchers, as he would bring in Roy Halladay five months later to be the new anchor of the team. All Halladay did in his first NL season was toss a perfect game against the Marlins and stifle the Reds during Game 1 of the NLDS with a no-hitter. He nailed down a Cy Young Award with a 2.44 ERA in 250 2/3 innings, posting a Lee-ian 7.30 BB/K ratio. In addition, Halladay did so while agreeing to a three-year, $60 million pact with a fourth-year option. Philadelphia had told Halladay they did not want to go beyond three guaranteed years, something they clearly changed their mind on with Lee, but regardless, they locked Doc up to a sweetheart of a deal.

So why does this rank below Lee? Simple: This time around, Amaro gave up a pretty decent package to snag Halladay. Kyle Drabek has already made his major-league debut and there is already talk of Drabek hitting 200 innings pitched in his first full season once 2011 rolls around. You can't project Drabek to be another Halladay, but the Jays did well to get a replacement for the top of the rotation. They also snagged outfielder Michael Taylor who was sent to Oakland for Brett Wallace. While Taylor bombed in Triple-A for the A's, he still remains a solid prospect worth watching. Wallace would later be dealt to Houston for center fielder Anthony Gose, a player the Jays had tried to get included in the Halladay deal that Amaro shipped away in the Roy Oswalt trade. Lastly, Toronto netted Travis D'Arnaud, who ranked No. 61 on CBSSports.com's Top 100 Prospects list and could be Toronto's catcher for a very long time.

But make no mistake about it: the Halladay deal was fantastic for Philadelphia, especially because Amaro clearly recognized the window of opportunity for Philadelphia to win was now, with well-established players capable of winning a World Series. Sure, these players Amaro dealt away could have helped the Phillies extend their winning window, but there are no guarantees of the future, plus Philadelphia still improbably has a strong farm system after decimating it in the Lee, Halladay and Oswalt trades.

3. Signing Chan-Ho Park

Yes, I couldn't think up a clever title for this one. But signing Park to a one-year, $2.5 million deal ended up paying off big time when Park was finally convinced to vacate the rotation in favor of the bullpen. By the time the South Korean arrived in Philadelphia, he had been a top starter for the Dodgers, a massive bust who made millions of dollars in Texas, rebuilt his value in San Diego, missed an entire year as a member of the Mets, then returned to L.A. and turned heads with his production out of the bullpen.

However, Park still wanted to start. Amaro granted his wish, but after seven disastrous starts in which Park put up a 7.29 ERA, he was exiled to the bullpen where he instantly became a weapon. In 50 relief innings, Park went on to whiff 52 and walk 16 while posting a 2.52 ERA. Unfortunately, that would be Park's only (so far) season in Philly as he insisted on another crack at the rotation. He would eventually go to the Yankees where he experienced bad luck, then returned to his strong self as a reliever in the nether regions known as Pittsburgh. Park will pitch in Japan for the 2011 season where, presumably, he will get his wish to start.

It may have just been one year, but the production Amaro received out of Park was invaluable in the march to the NL pennant. Not all successful moves are of the blockbuster variety. In many cases, it's the smaller, unheralded pieces that end up being crucial.

Phillies

3 DOWN

1. He did WHAT?

Yes, Ruben Amaro signed Ryan Howard to a massive five-year, $125 million deal in April, virtually a full two years before the deal will kick in. Who thought this was a good idea?

Howard was a fantastic player before 2010, but was entering his age-30 year. As someone who had a late start to his career and doesn't appear that he can hold up well thanks to old-people skills (tied up in walks and power), any slippage of Howard's power reduces his value significantly.

And that's what happened in 2010, as he hit "just" 31 home runs and 23 doubles. But hey, five triples. Howard will begin his massive deal at age 32, and it's hard to fathom anyone giving him five years and $125 million as a 32-year-old, even if he rebounds with a strong year. In addition, it's not as if Philadelphia got a discount. They could have easily waited a year and then locked Howard into the deal. This was just completely unnecessary and will unfortunately become known as a disastrous deal.

2. Driving off a Cliff (Lee)

Yes, Cliff Lee is Amaro's 1 and 1A best moves of his tenure, but trading Lee away continues to be a head-scratcher, doubly so given Lee's return as a free agent. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, so what was the issue at the time?

Simply put, Lee was expected to command a huge extension and the overtures that Amaro/Philadelphia made were rebuffed. It doesn't appear that any thought was given to a deal that eventually ended up bringing Lee back, but that's purely speculation. What we do know is that the price Lee was thought to be commanding influenced the trade. In addition, Amaro wanted to restock the farm system after the initial Lee and Halladay deal.

But that's where he went off course, agreeing to import Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez for Lee. And simply put, none of these players appear to have the ceiling of the prospects Philly surrendured to get Lee. Aumont is a reliever who may never reach the majors, Gillies is a speedster with a questionable bat and questionable off-field issues and Ramirez is a mildly intriguing prospect. This is one trade that, from the day it was consummated (not unlike the Howard contract) was panned, and not just because of the concept behind the deal, but the return as well.

3. Jumping the gun on Ibanez

When Raul Ibanez was inked to a three-year, $31.5 million pact the day after Christmas of 2008, many didn't quite understand the deal, but it wasn't thought to be terrible. That changed quickly, as that was the offseason that the market corrected itself and many players were frozen out until well into the new year. If Ibanez had waited just a couple more weeks, he would have easily seen his market drop to no more than two guaranteed years, and it's unlikely he could have commanded $10 million per year.

Ibanez kicked off 2009 with an absolutely silly .309/.367/.649 mark in 289 plate appearances, but upon returning from a left groin strain, it was an entirely different year as Ibanez finished the drive with a .232/.326/.448 line, but he ended up with a ring. Last season, Ibanez continued where he left 2009 off, finishing with a .275/.349/.444 mark and 16 home runs -- lowest since 2004, when he also had 16, and also his lowest as a full-time starter. Couple that with his defense and inability to hit left-handed pitchers and Ibanez isn't quite living up to his deal as he enters the final year.

However, this is one deal that stood up better than most expected when it was signed. And if this is only Amaro's third worst move, he's doing fairly well. But that Howard contract...

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