Ten Biggest Questions for the Sixers Off-Season: 7. Are Any of Our Mid-Level Free Agents Worth Re-Signing?

Ten Biggest Questions for the Sixers Off-Season: 7. Are Any of Our Mid-Level Free Agents Worth Re-Signing?

As has been mentioned numerous times in this multi-part off-season
review, one of the unquestionably smart things the Sixers did last
off-season was to not take on any long-term contracts while rebuilding
their team on the fly. Consequently, a number of guys we picked up while
re-stocking our rotation–now missing such previous contributors as Lou
Williams, Jodie Meeks, Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand–are already coming
off the books, allowing us to get a trial sample of their work, and
allowing us to make long-term decisions about their futures at season’s
end.

This group includes Nick Young, Dorell Wright, Damien Wilkins, and
Royal Ivey–though unfortunately, not Kwame Brown, unless Tony DiLeo
makes him an offer he can’t refuse (free trip to Hershey Park?) and he
opts out of the second year of his contract. All those guys, and their
combined $12.5 or so million in salary, come off the books this year,
and all could very well be playing in different jerseys next year.

But are any of them worth retaining long-term, or at least for another short term? Let’s break them down, one at a time.


Nick Young:

Unlike many, I had absolutely no issues with the Swaggy P experience
in Philadelphia. He knew his role–come in shooting off the bench, hit
crazy shots when the team’s down 20–and he played it fine. His passing
was better than advertised (though still not exactly Nash-ian), his
defense was better and more committed than most gave him credit for, and
he gave us a handful more legitimately memorable moments on and off the
court than at least six or seven other guys on the roster. I have no
beef with Nick Young, and wish him the best wherever he ends up,
including if he’s back with the Sixers.

However, there is the matter of the price tag. Nick Young cost us $6
million last year, a total that while not totally unpalatable on a
one-year deal, is still far more than a player of Young’s production
deserves. What’s more, rumor has it that after last year’s make-good
deal–which ended with him riding the pine for much of the second half of
the season–the Swagness now wants a long-term deal, and may very well make something in the three-for-$15, four-for-$18 million-type range.

That shouldn’t be the Sixers. As much fun as it’s been to have Swaggy
in our locker room, he’s still little more than a bench wildcard–he was
only worth a little over two wins for the Sixers last year by Win
Shares, and he’s never had a PER above 15 (about league average) in his
career. He’s not a young core player on a rebuilding team, he’s not a
reliable veteran player on a contending team, and it’s hard to see how
he really helps the Sixers no matter what direction they end up going
in.

If he’s willing to take another one-year contract for the Sixers, at
about three or four million, I’d still take him for the entertainment
alone. But that’s probably not going to happen, so Bye Bye Swaggy.


Dorell Wright:

Dorell had an up-and-down year for the Sixers, his production and
playing time both streaky (though only one of those things was really
under his control), but in the end, he was about what we thought he
was–an athletic wing defender who can hit open threes and provide lineup
flexibility by playing either the three or the four. That’s a limited
but valuable skill set, one that translates to just about any style or
type of team, and at age 27, it’s one he should be able to provide for
at least another couple years–which for the $4.16 million he was paid
last year, is a fairly good bargain.

However, it’s unclear whether he’ll be available at that price again.
His statistical production last year was fairly modest for a contract
year–9.2 ppg, on 40% shooting and 37% from deep, with about four
rebounds and two assists–but advanced stats actually have this as a
career year for Wright, with his highest PER and WS/48 yet, likely due
to his stellar D, his 85% shooting from the free-throw line, and his
best-ever assist-to-turnover ratio (about 2.3:1). Plus, as Zach Lowe of
Grantland recently wrote about,
players who can defend two wing positions and hit three-pointers are at
a peak in NBA value, and Wright arguably fits that description.

So it’s a matter of price for Dorell and the Sixers. If we could get
him back for a couple years at a rate in line with his previous pay
scale, he’d certainly provide value for the Sixers, as a trade chip as
well as as a player. But if he starts climbing into the
five-or-six-mil-a-year, multi-year strata, which he very well may
deserve, he officially becomes too expensive for the Liberty Ballers,
who should be avoiding those kind of mid-level contracts at all costs as
they attempt to find a core of players worth building around.


Damien Wilkins:

A few months ago, this would’ve been a joke inclusion, like
“hahahahah no of course we’re not giving Damien Wilkins a contract what
is this opposite off-season??” For better or worse, though, Damien has
played his way into this actually being some sort of conversation,
ending the season with his strongest production in years, with 12 points
a game on 53% shooting for the month of March. He provided real energy
and toughness for the Sixers, played adequate defense, and
dribble-drived his way into Doug Collins’ starting lineup and heart.

That said, this really still shouldn’t be much of a discussion. We
got Damien for the veteran’s minimum last off-season, and if he charges
the Sixers a penny more this off-season–which he has every right to do,
having proven himself a decent veteran bench guy–he’s gotta head
elsewhere. Even though he played with fresh legs last season, Damien is
33 years old, with only one really good month in his last five seasons
to his credit, and should be the ninth or tenth man on a playoff team
needing bench depth, not a potentially rebuilding one like the Sixers.

There isn’t a Sixers writer alive that isn’t terrified the team won’t
reward Damien with a four-year, $20-million deal, though, just to thank
him for keeping the team competent during the waning months of last
season. If they do, we have very, very serious problems as a franchise.

Royal Ivey:

Our other veteran-minimum signing last off-season, Royal had himself a
similarly decent year, though never quite earned Collins’ loyalty the
same way as Wilkins. He was asked to do remarkably little–defend
opposing point guards that were giving Jrue and Evan trouble, and make
open threes–and he did both of those things pretty well. He didn’t do
much else, but that’s cool.

If he wants to come back and do those two things for the same amount
of pay next year, I’m with it. If he wants to earn more or do more,
well, don’t forget to write. Is there a cheese-named player out there
that he can be teammates with, as has long been his nickname destiny?
Here’s hoping.

In Conclusion:

If you asked me, I’d be a little surprised if any of these guys were
on our team next year. I’m the most worried about them re-signing
Damien, but I’m hoping–perhaps naively–that they’ll be too concerned
with landing a big fish in free agency to take up their cap space with
four or five mil a year of D-Wilk. There’s a chance Dorell gets
undervalued on the open market and ends up sticking where he is, or that
Royal has nowhere else to go and just returns to Philly out of process
of elimination, but ultimately, I think it’s goodbye and good luck to
all four of these guys.

And that’s fine–none of these guys were ever part of the Sixers’
long-term plans (or at least they shouldn’t have been), and they
arguably do more for us by walking away and letting us invest their
combined $12.5 million (or however much of it the CBA says we can use)
elsewhere. Miss you guys, particularly Swaggy, but there’s no point in
being sentimental about low-level contributors on a 34-win team, so it’s
onwards and upwards for the Sixers without this particular quartet.

Previously:

No.
10. Where Are We Now (And Where Are We
Going)?

No. 9.
Is Thaddeus Young Untouchable?

No. 8. Is Spencer Hawes Good Enough For Our Starting Center?

Best of MLB: Beltre's 2 home runs lift Rangers over A's

Best of MLB: Beltre's 2 home runs lift Rangers over A's

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Adrian Beltre hit his second home run of the game with two outs in the ninth inning, a two-run shot that rallied the Texas Rangers past the Oakland Athletics 7-6 on Monday night for their third straight win.

Beltre, who finished with four hits, had two singles in his first three at-bats before hitting a solo homer in the seventh. His game-winning drive came on the first pitch from Ryan Madson (3-4).

Until then, Texas had trailed since Danny Valencia hit a two-run homer for Oakland with two outs in the first. All 13 runs in the game were scored with two outs.

Texas turned three double plays behind starter Martin Perez, who has induced a major league-best 25 in 21 games.

Valencia also had the first of three run-scoring doubles in a three-run third that gave the A's a 5-1 lead (see full recap).

Blue Jays' Sanchez wins 10th straight decision
TORONTO  -- Aaron Sanchez pitched seven shutout innings to win his 10th consecutive decision, Kevin Pillar had three hits and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the San Diego Padres 4-2 on Monday night.

Sanchez (11-1) became the first Blue Jays pitcher to win 10 straight since Roy Halladay won 15 decisions in a row in 2003. Halladay and Roger Clemens (1998) hold the club record.

Making their first appearance in Toronto, the Padres were held scoreless until Alex Dickerson hit a two-run homer off Bo Schultz in the ninth.

Dickeerson's drive into the fifth deck extended San Diego's team-record streak of games with at least one home run to 23. The 2006 Atlanta Braves were the last National League team to homer in 23 straight games.

Roberto Osuna replaced Schultz and got two outs for his 21st save (see full recap).

Orioles top Rockies for 5th straight win
BALTIMORE -- Adam Jones scored the winning run in the 10th inning on a low throw to the plate by pitcher Jordan Lyles, and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Colorado Rockies 3-2 on Monday night for their fifth straight victory.

Jones reached on a one-out single off the third-base bag and took third on a single by Jonathan Schoop. Manny Machado followed with a comebacker to Lyles, who fumbled the ball before throwing home. Catcher Nick Hundley caught the ball near the ground and lost the handle while attempting to tag the sliding Jones.

Lyles (2-3) was charged with an error on the play.

Getting two RBIs from Jones, the Orioles climbed a season-high 18 games over .500 (58-40) and improved to 37-14 at home.

Chaz Roe (1-0) worked the 10th for the win (see full recap).

Trade candidates — especially Jeremy Hellickson — lead Phils to shutout of Marlins

Trade candidates — especially Jeremy Hellickson — lead Phils to shutout of Marlins

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Jeremy Hellickson was standing in front of his locker speaking with reporters after his second strong outing in a week against the Miami Marlins when Cameron Rupp walked by an offered his take on all the trade talk surrounding the veteran pitcher.

“He’s not going anywhere,” Rupp said loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.

Hellickson laughed at his catcher’s commentary.

“I hope not,” he said.

If Hellickson really wants to stay with the Phillies and finish out this rebuilding season instead of moving to a contender for the final two months — and possibly beyond — he did himself a disservice Monday night.

He enhanced his attractiveness to potential buyers by pitching six shutout innings in the Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins (see Instant Replay).

Hellickson, who sports a 3.65 ERA in 21 starts, needed just 70 pitches to get through the six innings. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter with runners on second and third and two outs in a scoreless game in the top of the seventh. Ryan Howard struck out, following Cody Asche and Peter Bourjos, as the Phillies whiffed on a golden scoring chance.

“I hated taking Hellickson out of the game there, but we had an opportunity to score and I had to go for it,” manager Pete Mackanin said.

“After we didn’t score, I didn’t think we had a chance to win this game. I just thought that with their bullpen we were in trouble.”

The Phillies ended up winning with a rally against Miami’s bullpen. Tommy Joseph delivered a clutch, two-out double against Fernando Rodney in the eighth to score Maikel Franco from first. That was the only run the Phillies needed. They tacked on three against the sloppy Marlins in the ninth to finish it off.

Hellickson, David Hernandez, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez then combined to allow just one base runner in three innings to finish off the Phillies’ 11th shutout of the season. That’s the most in the majors.

“Our bullpen did a great job,” Mackanin said.

Three of the four pitchers that the Phillies used in the game — Hellickson, Hernandez and Gomez — are very much available for trades. They all pitched well with a gaggle of scouts sitting behind the backstop. A number of contending clubs — the Cubs, Orioles, Giants, Rangers and Blue Jays — had scouts at the game. Pitching, starting and relief, is high on the needs list for most of those teams.

Of course, the Marlins are looking for pitching, too. They have interest in Hellickson, though it’s not clear whether he is a top target of theirs. Maybe he will become a top target after what he’s done to the Marlins in the last week. Hellickson has pitched 14 innings over two starts against the Marlins. He has given up just six hits and a run.

“Just executing,” said the pitcher, explaining his success. “In my last two games the ball has been down for the most part. I’ve just gotten a lot of easy outs. The ball's down and not missing too many spots right now.”

Hellickson will be a free agent this winter and does not appear to be in the club’s future plan. Nonetheless, he has steadfastly said he would like to remain with the club for the rest of this season. Phillies management is not opposed to keeping Hellickson. He provides veteran stability and innings to a young rotation. But management would move Hellickson for a player that has the potential to help in the future.

Trade rumors can be distracting for a player. But Hellickson, who has been dealt twice in his career, is locked in.

“It doesn't bother me,” he said. “Once I'm in this locker room — obviously you still see it on TV and stuff — my focus is on helping us win today. Now it's on to the next start. It's been like this for a few years now so it's pretty easy to go out there right now.”

Mackanin said he had no idea what will become of Hellickson’s fate. But if the pitcher stays, he won’t complain.

“At this point, I don’t want to lose him,” Mackanin said. “I wish he could stay here. He’s that solid for us. He’s been like that the whole year.”

The Phillies needed a good pitching effort to pull this one out. Their hitters struck out 13 times, left 11 men on base and went just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

“We don’t show plate discipline,” Mackanin lamented. “We’re taking fastballs early in the count that are hittable pitches. If you’re going to take fastballs early in the count that are hittable pitches, you cannot swing at breaking balls in the dirt. That’s all I can say about that. We have to have more plate discipline.”

On the positive side of that, Franco and Rupp both walked three times, and Franco’s two-out walk in the eighth became the biggest run of the game on a night when Jeremy Hellickson and his status with the Phillies was the biggest storyline.

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Jeremy Hellickson continued to enhance his trade value and Tommy Joseph had the big hit in the Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins on Monday night.

Hellickson shut down the Marlins for the second time in a week. The next time he pitches, it could be for them. The Marlins are one of the teams interested in the veteran right-hander. Scouts from several other contending teams were in attendance for Hellickson’s strong outing.

Joseph’s two-out double in the top of the eighth broke a scoreless tie.

Phillies pitching held the Marlins to two hits. The Phils have 11 shutouts this season.

Starting pitching report
Hellickson pitched six scoreless innings and gave up just a hit and a walk while striking out one. He exited for a pinch-hitter after just 70 pitches. The right-hander has pitched 14 innings and allowed just one run in his last two starts, both against the Marlins. He has lowered his season ERA to 3.65.

Miami’s Jarred Cosart came up from Triple A and pitched five scoreless innings. However, he threw 92 pitches. He allowed three hits, a walk and struck out one.

Bullpen report 
Trade candidate David Hernandez pitched a strong seventh inning for the Phils, picking up the win. Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez closed it out.

Miami right-hander Kyle Barraclough came up big in the top of the seventh inning. He struck out Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos and pinch-hitter Ryan Howard with runners on second and third to preserve a 0-0 tie.

Marlins right-hander Fernando Rodney struck out the first two batters in the eighth then gave up a four-pitch walk to Maikel Franco before Joseph’s two-out double delivered the game’s first run.

Rodney took the loss.

A.J. Ramos was charged with three runs in the ninth, two unearned.

At the plate
The Phillies survived 13 strikeouts, a 1-for-9 performance with runners in scoring position and 11 men left on base to score the win.

The Phils had just six hits. Joseph had a pair of them and now has 25 RBIs in 54 games.

Cesar Hernandez gave the Phils some cushion with an RBI single in the top of the ninth. Miami’s defense fell apart after that and the Phils scored two more runs to put the game away.

Asche had a hit to break an 0-for-26 skid. Bourjos is 0 for his last 17.

Trade talk
Andres Blanco is out for six weeks so he’s no longer a trade candidate, but others are (see story).

Up next
Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) pitches against Miami right-hander Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42) on Tuesday night. Koehler pitched eight innings of two-run ball in beating the Phillies last week at Citizens Bank Park.