Phillies 'still looking into' catching, pitching help

Phillies 'still looking into' catching, pitching help
January 25, 2013, 2:45 pm
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Barring injuries in spring training, several Phillies will be competing for the final few roster spots. The infield of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Michael Young is set, with Freddy Galvis likely serving as the utility infielder.

The outfield will feature some permutation of Ben Revere, Delmon Young, John Mayberry Jr., and two of Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf and Laynce Nix. Nix’s left-handed bat off the bench, ability to play first base and $1.35 million salary give him an advantage.

There’s also Kevin Frandsen, who was paid $850,000 this offseason after hitting .338 in 210 plate appearances for the Phils last season. Galvis' superior glove makes him a more likely candidate than Frandsen to make the team.

But even though the 25-man roster appears nearly complete, the Phillies could have another move or two up their sleeve.

“We may be doing some other things,” GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said earlier in the week. “We're still looking into a couple of other areas. Catching perhaps and maybe a little bit of pitching, but we're still working on some things.”

The Phillies could use some more depth behind the plate. Carlos Ruiz will miss the first 25 games of the season because of a positive test for a banned amphetamine, which as of now leaves the job in April to Erik Kratz and whoever emerges out of spring training. Sebastian Valle is the only other catcher on the Phils’ 40-man roster, and mediocre vets Steven Lerud and Humberto Quintero and prospect Tommy Joseph are the only other backstops who have been given invites to Clearwater.

The free-agent market as a whole is obviously thin at this point, with 196 players having signed and 91 remaining. That includes six unsigned veteran catchers: Kelly Shoppach, Chris Snyder, Rod Barajas, Miguel Olivo, Matt Treanor and Brian Schneider.  

Treanor hit .175 last season at age 36, and Schneider may retire after struggling to stay healthy in recent years. Scratch those two off the list.

Snyder is a poor fielder who had back surgery less than two years ago. He hit .176 with 70 strikeouts in 258 plate appearances last year for the Astros. He probably isn’t an option either.

That leaves Olivo, Shoppach and Barajas, the former Phillies catcher who infamously failed to block the plate on a sure out in Miami in 2007.

Olivo isn’t much of a hitter or fielder but he’d fit in with the rest of the Phillies who refuse to take pitches. He walked seven times in 323 plate appearances last season for the lowest walk rate of any player since 2008.

Shoppach is worth a look. He’s hit .222 over the last five seasons for four different teams, with 57 homers and 66 doubles in that span in limited duty. He’s the prototypical backup catcher with power who strikes out a ton. He’s terrible against righties (.203 career average), but hits lefties well (.868 OPS, 31 HR in 611 plate appearances).

Barajas is similar to Shoppach in the no-average, all-power, high-strikeout department. The Phils may be reluctant to bring him back based off of his poor 2007 (.230 BA, four home runs), but Barajas has staggering career numbers at Citizens Bank Park -- a .633 slugging percentage with nine homers in fewer than 100 at-bats.

If the Phillies want to add a passable offensive catcher to take some ABs in April in place of a Quintero or Lerud, Barajas and Shoppach are logical options. Both could be had on one-year deals for inexpensive base salaries. Shoppach made $1.35 million last year and Barajas made $4 million but priced himself down by hitting .206.

As far as pitching, there are only a few starters left who wouldn’t command a multi-year deal: Dallas Braden, Derek Lowe, Chien-Ming Wang, Randy Wolf, Chris Young and Carlos Zambrano. Four of those guys (Braden, Wang, Wolf, Young) are either coming off of injuries or are often hurt. Zambrano was a disaster last season in Miami. Lowe wants a starting job, and though the NL would be kinder to him, he isn’t better than John Lannan or spring training invitee Aaron Cook at this point.

There are some decent options left on the relief market. Brian Wilson, Francisco Rodriguez, Jon Rauch, Francisco Cordero, Jose Valverde, Ramon Ramirez, Rafael Perez, Manny Parra, Brandon Lyon and Kevin Gregg are still unemployed.

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