'Dre Rumor of the Day: To Clippers for Chris Kaman

'Dre Rumor of the Day: To Clippers for Chris Kaman

Well, at the very least, it seems like Rod Thorn and Ed Stefanski are
legitimately shopping longest-tenured Sixer Andre Iguodala this
off-season. Mere days after he was rumored to be one half of a swap with
Golden State's Monta Ellis, a new proposal has trickled down the
pipeline: One sending him to Los Angeles for odd-Clipper-out Chris
Kaman. An all-star center two seasons ago, Kaman spent much of last year
injured and lost his starting spot to the younger, more athletic, more
defensively inclined DeAndre Jordan, who makes for a better fit
alongside Clips franchise power forward Blake Griffin than does Kaman.
He was effective but inconsistent upon his return, leading to rumblings
that he might be deemed expendable by L.A. brass for the team's future.

In many ways, this is a deal that makes sense on both sides. While
Kaman isn't quite the first-option scorer that Ellis is, he is a
legitimate offensive weapon, scoring 18.5 points a game on 49% shooting
in 34 minutes a game two years ago. More importantly, he's a legitimate
center, a seven-footer with post moves and a jump shot, who rebounds
well (if not spectacularly) and blocks a shot or two a game. Meanwhile,
Iguodala is exactly what the Clippers need—a versatile, defensive-minded
small forward who can defend, pass, and like just about everyone else
on that team, dunk. And with Blake and shooting guard Eric Gordon
entrenched as the top two scoring options for the Clips for years and
years to come, 'Dre could finally focus doing all those things he does
well, without being called on to any of the things he doesn't.

But while Iguodala seems a virtual no-brainer for the Clips—with
him, I'd be pretty shocked if they missed the playoffs last year—Kaman
on the Sixers is a little more of a mixed blessing. Though he can
score—better than Spencer Hawes, certainly—he's not really the
first-option scorer the Sixers need, more of a complementary piece. And
on defense, he's not a huge upgrade over Hawes—in fact, he's not a
particularly high-IQ player, and is prone to lapses in effort and
concentration, hardly the defensive anchor we need in the frontcourt.
And finally, on a team where youth and athleticism is still the core
strength, Kaman is neither particularly young (29 last April) or
particularly athletic (not a complete stiff, but there's a reason the
Clips prefer DeAndre Jordan so much).

All that said, there are advantages to dealing for Kaman beyond what
he does on the court. His deal, which pays him a little over 12 million
next year, expires at the end of the season, two years before
Iguodala's weighty contract finally lapses. He could be hugely valuable
as an expiring contract at next year's trade deadline, or he could help
the Sixers be players in the 2012 off-season—or merely offer them some
relief if they go heavy with the spending this summer. Ultimately, it's a
lower-risk, lower-reward move than dealing for Ellis would be—one that
doesn't lock the team into any long-term commitment or threaten to
interfere with any of their core players, but one which will, barring a
huge leap from some of their young guys, be relatively unlikely to be
the move that helps the Sixers take the next step.

Ultimately, of the two deals, I think I like the
swing-for-the-fences Ellis deal a little more, though both have their
advantages and would be, in my opinion, better than keeping Iguodala
around for another season. The one thing that does worry me about both
deals is that neither help the team in terms of young talent or draft
picks—neither really helps the team start the rebuilding process
straight-up, but rather offers them quality players who might just end
up keeping the Sixers afloat in mediocrity for one more season. Perhaps I
like the Ellis deal more because it has a greater chance of either
elevating the team to the next level, or screwing them up
completely—hopefully guaranteeing that at the very least, we wouldn't be
seeing another 41-41 season.

Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies’ roster

Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies’ roster

TAMPA -- When Phillies camp opened earlier this month, Brock Stassi was considering mentioning his ability to play the outfield to manager Pete Mackanin.

Though he’s played mostly first base during his six seasons in the Phillies' system, Stassi has been used occasionally in left field. He’s also played the position in winter ball in Latin America. Even going back to high school, Stassi played center field.

As it turned out, Stassi didn’t need to have that conversation with Mackanin. The manager actually approached the player early in camp and told him he planned to get him some time in the outfield as well as at first base.

Mackanin and the Phillies' front office value versatility and they want to have it on their bench. Stassi has come to his second big-league camp as a serious candidate to win a job on the bench. His left-handed bat -- which he showed off with a solo homer in Friday’s 9-4 Grapefruit League loss to the Yankees -- would be attractive to the Phils. So would his versatility.

And if the ability to play first base and outfield isn’t enough versatility, Stassi can actually offer something else.

He can pitch.

In fact, the Cleveland Indians drafted him as a pitcher after his junior year at the University of Nevada in 2010.

Stassi returned to school for his senior year in 2011 and was a two-way player. The Phillies selected him in the 33rd round of the draft that year as a hitter, even though on draft day there was some confusion.

“Initially, I was announced as a left-handed pitcher then they changed it to outfielder,” Stassi said. “Then I got to Williamsport (the Phillies’ New York-Penn League team) and had a first baseman’s mitt in my bag, and I was like, ‘All right, let’s go. You’re going to be playing first.’”

Stassi’s minor-league managers in the Phillies' system have always been aware of his pitching background. He has made nine pitching appearances during his time in pro ball, including four with Triple A Lehigh Valley last year. All were in relief in long extra-innings games.

“I got a win and a loss,” Stassi said.

He recalled the loss with a big laugh.

“I shook off Logan,” he said, referring to catcher Logan Moore, another candidate pushing for a spot on the Phillies’ bench. “I shook to the fastball against a lefty. It wasn’t the right move and Logan won’t let me forget that. The guy hit a triple. Then I got hit with a comeback one-hopper right on the butt. It was like a 14-inning game.”

Stassi throws a fastball, curveball and changeup.

“My fastball is like 84,” he said with a laugh.

Many position players in a big-league clubhouse were pitchers at some point in the baseball journey. Roman Quinn, who broke into pro ball as a shortstop and is now a centerfielder, was used as a closer in high school and hit 94 mph on the radar gun.

“I believe it,” Stassi said. “That guy’s got a cannon. I had to catch him when he was playing shortstop. He’d come charging in on a close play and he’d let one loose and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ And even from the outfield he’s got a cannon.”

Stassi’s arm doesn’t bounce back the way it used to when he pitched in college.

“Every time I have to pitch now I’m hanging for like two weeks,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t grab the baseball and gut out an inning if Mackanin ever needed it.

“Hey, if that’s what it takes,” he said.

Figuring out the Phillies’ bench at this point of camp is a little like solving a Rubik’s Cube. There are many possible combinations. Infielder Andres Blanco is a sure thing and outfielder Aaron Altherr seems like a good bet. So does outfielder Chris Coghlan.

Andrew Knapp, Ryan Hanigan, Bryan Holaday and Moore are the candidates for backup catcher. Knapp can also play first base. And it’s not out of the question that the Phils would carry three catchers.

They could fill the perceived final spot on the bench with an infielder such as Pedro Florimon or another outfielder such as Daniel Nava, Andrew Pullin or Cameron Perkins. Or it could be Stassi, whose versatility is a plus.

“There’s a lot I like about Stassi,” Mackanin said.

Stassi comes from a baseball family. His brother, Max, is a catcher with the Houston Astros. They played for their dad, Jim, at Yuba City High School near Sacramento, California. Jim was a catcher who reached Triple A during his playing days in the Giants system.

“My dad always talked about the value of versatility in high school,” Brock said. “He preached it to the whole team. You might have two second basemen and they’re pretty equal, but you want both bats in the lineup so you might have to play outfield. It’s good to be able to do it. Don’t take it as a knock that you’re not at your normal position -- you’re in the lineup.”

In addition to wearing several different gloves, Stassi can swing the bat. He was Eastern League MVP in 2015 when he hit .300 with 15 homers, 90 RBIs and a .863 OPS for Double A Reading. He hit .267 with 12 homers, 58 RBIs and a .806 OPS at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season.

Stassi has been described as “a grinder” by members of the Phillies’ player-development staff, and that’s a compliment. More than one thousand players were selected ahead of him in the 2011 draft. His signing bonus was just $1,000. He’s never appeared on one of those Top 10 prospect lists and never been on a 40-man roster, never mind appeared in a big-league game. But he’s continually moved up the ladder and now, at age 27, is under serious consideration to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench.

And maybe -- if needed in a pinch -- in the bullpen, too.

“Oh, man, it would be a dream come true,” Stassi said. “Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Just the path that I’ve taken -- I've had to earn everything, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It would be really awesome to make this team.”

Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

TAMPA -- The Phillies’ bats were slow getting started in the Grapefruit League opener Friday afternoon. The Phils did not have a baserunner through the first six innings in a 9-4 loss to the New York Yankees at Steinbrenner Field.

“First game, I’m just happy we got at-bats because the pitching is always ahead of the hitting this early,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said afterward.

Outfielder Cameron Perkins had the Phillies’ first hit, a single up the middle in the seventh inning. He added a solo homer in the ninth inning.

Perkins, 26, was the Phillies’ sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft out of Purdue University. He graduated from Southport High School in Indianapolis, the same school that produced Phillies great and Hall of Famer Chuck Klein.

A right-hander hitter who eschews batting gloves, Perkins hit .292 with eight homers and 47 RBIs at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season. He is not on the 40-man roster but was invited to camp for a look-see. He is considered a longshot to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench, but will certainly improve his chances if he keeps swinging it like he did Friday.

“I don’t think about it,” Perkins said of his bid to make the club. “All I can do is what I did today -- get my opportunity and make the most of it.”

Brock Stassi, another candidate for a job on the Phillies’ bench, also homered.

On the pitching side
Right-hander Alec Asher, who projects to open in the Triple A rotation, started for the Phils. He pitched two innings, allowed a home run to Didi Gregorius and struck out two.

Asher made big strides with his sinker last season. He’s added a cutter now.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta debuted with two scoreless innings. He gave up a hit, walked one and struck out three. The Phillies acquired Pivetta from Washington from Jonathan Papelbon in July 2015. He projects to open in the Triple A rotation, but first will pitch for Team Canada in the WBC in March.

“It’s a lifelong dream for me, right up there with whenever it is that I get my first start with the Phillies,” Pivetta said.

The bullpen
Mackanin has said he’d like to have two left-handed relievers in his bullpen. The Phillies have just one -- Joely Rodriguez -- on their 40-man roster, although it’s possible that Adam Morgan could be shifted from starter to reliever later in camp.

The Phils have brought two veteran lefties -- Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos -- into camp on minor-league deals to compete for a job. Burnett made his debut Friday and gave up a triple, a sacrifice fly and a home run in his inning of work.

Luis Garcia was tagged for four hits and three runs in his spring debut.

Up next
The Phillies host the Yankees in Clearwater on Saturday afternoon. Morgan will start for the Phils against right-hander Adam Warren.