Goalie Watch 2011: On Short-Term Solutions and the Flyers 'Targeting Tim Thomas'

Goalie Watch 2011: On Short-Term Solutions and the Flyers 'Targeting Tim Thomas'

The 2011 Flyers Goalie Watch continues, this time with an interesting item posted at ESPN.com over the Memorial Day weekend featuring a name that will be painfully familiar to all Flyers fans—Tim Thomas.

Veteran hockey scribe Jay Greenberg pens this story, parts of which are somewhat subtly presented while others are notably more direct. The article is immediately declarative in stating the Flyers' interest in Thomas, with its pointed title reading, "Philadelphia targets Tim Thomas."

No question mark at the end. No "likely to," "may," or "should."

Without giving too much away about what's behind the pay wall of this ESPN Insider story, much of the discussion on the Flyers' interest in Thomas is viewable without the subscription, and it boils down to: They want him, because if Boston again makes him available, he'd be a good fit with the timing of the Flyers' plans.

The article mentions the well-discussed Thomas-for-Jeff Carter trade proposed last year, which the Flyers reportedly declined. There was a different perception of Tim Thomas then though, and I admit, even if Carter had not been the Bruins' target at that time, I was hoping the Flyers wouldn't wind up pinning their hopes (and salary cap space) on Thomas. Whether or not he would have been the difference in 2010-2011, I was wrong about Thomas, who provided a good lesson that a goalie's performance in any given season will not definitively tell you what to expect in the next. The Bruins themselves were willing to deal a goalie that would ultimately earn a 2.00 regular season GAA and take them at least to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Would they be willing to again this summer? If so, would they trade him to the Eastern Conference power franchise they've faced in consecutive postseasons?

That part is obviously unknown at this point, but Greenberg's stated reasoning on the Flyers' current interest in Thomas makes sense given what the organization has already publicly said since their ouster early last month. Although the team is likely looking to add another goalie, they don't want to bring in a long-term guy. According to Ed Snider in previous interviews, the team thinks Sergei Bobrovsky is the long-term answer in goal. GM Paul Holmgren had previously said that he believes Bobrovsky "will be the number 1 goalie" but isn't sure when, very much leaving open that it could still be next season. Given the confidence in Bob but uncertainty as to his developmental timing, combined with Snider's insistence that there won't be another goalie carousel next season, a veteran goalie who is not necessarily looking for a long-term deal would presumably be a good fit.

Thomas, 37, has two years remaining on his existing contract.

Greenberg's article additionally discusses a few other goaltending options, the salary cap issues that must be overcome to add a big piece, and other well-traveled Flyers Goalie Watch roads. There are a few interesting items that I'm leaving out because I don't want to provide everything that appears in his article, as well as information that was viewed beyond a pay wall.

But what's also of interest to me is what isn't there. There are no statements regarding the source of the information. Not Holmgren or another Flyers source (no surprise given that, ya know, Thomas is still playing), or even a softly placed "Sources close to the team" or "NHL sources say." And yet, it doesn't read as though Greenberg is just throwing a popular name out there and attaching it to the Flyers, which is often the case this time of year as we've discussed in previous posts. Upon first read, due to the firmness of its few statements as to the Flyers thinking, it leaves the impression he does have some kind of source.

Who that source is, we don't know, but Greenberg is no stranger to the organization. He has been a hockey writer for more than three decades, including 14 years covering the Flyers for the Daily News and the Bulletin from 1975-1989, after which he was on staff at the New York Post. In 2000, Greenberg published a book on the history of the Flyers called Full Spectrum, and he's recently contributed to CSNPhilly.com.

Perhaps that's just the craft of the experienced writer convincingly building a stable narrative on a speculative topic. But in articles like these in which major outlets discuss a team's intentions, a source is often named or alluded to. In this case, I don't think the lack of a mention means there is a lack of a source, and that's what grabbed my attention as much as the subject being Tim Thomas.

We won't know for sure whether the Flyers will try to trade for Thomas or at least kick the tires with Boston again until the postseason ends and the player movement window opens, and perhaps we won't even know after that. The article doesn't state that Thomas is the only option the Flyers are targeting, nor even the first; several other possible options are mentioned. But the prevailing notion I tend to agree with in the report isn't so much the team's interest in Thomas, but their interest in a short-term but stable answer. It's been on my mind since first hearing the comments of the GM and the Chairman on Bobrovsky. If Bob is believed to be the goalie of the future, why sign an expensive free agent to a long-term deal? Gambling on a goaltender's future performance is scary enough.

Meanwhile, I could also imagine Ed Snider saying the same thing most of us were as the Flyers got swept out of the second round by the Bruins… What's it going to take to get THAT guy in our net?

We'll hold off on delving into whether or not a deal for Thomas is the right fit for the Flyers until we hear more, and possibly until the information comes from a named source. The evaluation of any such deal would heavily involve what the team had to give up both to pry Thomas loose and free up any needed cap space. The "Insert Thomas" part has its obvious advantages.

For now, we're just adding another name to the 2011 Flyers Goalie Watch, but also taking a look at the Flyers' possible short-term line of thinking when it comes to the acquisitions market.

Photo: Greg M. Cooper-US Presswire

Eagles camp Day 6 observations: The pads finally go on

Eagles camp Day 6 observations: The pads finally go on

It kinda looked like football today!

After months of watching Eagles run around in shorts, the pads went on this morning. No, the team didn’t go live (tackling to the ground), but the pads were popping some and it actually resembled the real game way more than the previous days' sessions. The plan is to go three days with pads before a day without them.

A few guys – Nolan Carroll, Rueben Randle, to name a few – left practice early thanks to injuries, but it didn’t appear any of the injuries were serious (see story).

Here are some observations from Saturday’s practice:

• The much-anticipated first play of 11-on-11s was won by left defensive end Vinny Curry, who blew past right tackle Lane Johnson and would have had a sack if not for that pesky red jersey Sam Bradford was wearing.

How did Curry feel today?

“Hot," he said. "Hot."

You don’t look hot.

“I got my crop top on, you know what I mean,” he said, showing off his green shirt with midriff showing. “It was fun though, man. I got a lot to learn. I’ve got a long way to go.”

• After Curry got a chance to show his stuff with the first team, Marcus Smith flashed with the twos. Yes, that Marcus Smith. On the first play, he beat Matt Tobin, who has been working at left tackle. It’s obviously early and he’s the fourth-best defensive end on the roster, but the switch to the 4-3 defense could actually make him a serviceable NFL player. He’s better going downhill. Smith looked good in 1-on-1 drills against Dennis Kelly later.

• My favorite drills in training camp are offensive line vs. defensive line 1-on-1s. It’s high entertainment between the two biggest and strongest positions on the field. Fletcher Cox is unstoppable in these drills and will be until Brandon Brooks is healthy enough to practice. He’s used to going against monsters from his time in Houston against J.J. Watt. Today, Cox wasn’t stoppable.

Rookie Alex McCalister looks like a string bean and was no match for Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Rookie Destiny Vaeao had a nice power move on Dillon Gordon. Brandon Graham beat Malcolm Bunche with a sweet move to end the drill, which brought plenty of cheers from his defensive line teammates.

• Play of the day belongs to Randle. He made an incredible one-handed grab on a ball from Sam Bradford during individual drills. Randle has been getting looks with the first-team offense and has looked good. Unfortunately, he left early with cramps.

• If you’re looking for a bunch of quarterback analysis today, I don’t have much for you. All three were certainly better than they were in Friday’s disaster, but didn’t get a chance to really air the ball out. The biggest longball play of the day came in 7-on-7s when Carson Wentz aired it out to a diving Josh Huff, who made a great grab. Huff did have a glaring drop today, though.

Bradford had a really nice pass to Chris Givens during 11-on-11s. Bradford also had a great pass – of about 45 yards – to Xavier Rush, who dropped what should have been a touchdown.

• Trey Burton is the forgotten tight end. Yes, he’s third on the depth chart but Brent Celek isn’t getting any younger and Burton is showing some real pass-catching ability this training camp, especially for someone with just three career receptions. He made a great catch on a high ball today.

• It looks like Jordan Matthews’ struggles catching the ball are well behind him. He’s been very solid this summer. He made a few great catches early. On one, he leaped up and snagged the ball around Jordan Hicks and Malcolm Jenkins. A few minutes later, he made another good catch on the sideline.

• Wentz used a hard count to draw off the defense in 11-on-11s. Hard counts. Remember them?

• Earlier this week, Reuben Frank wrote about Wendell Smallwood and that despite his small physical stature, he plays big (see story). Well, we saw it on Saturday. In the open field, instead of trying to go around Jalen Mills, Smallwood lowered his shoulder and tried to go through him. That’s a nice way to start the practices in pads.

• As the pads went on, Blake Countess’ helmet cam was gone, but one appeared on Chase Daniel. It looks like the Eagles are going to keep testing these things out this training camp. Here’s what the camera looked like when it was on Countess:

• Tomorrow’s practice at 10 a.m. will be open and free for all fans at the Linc. No tickets required, just show up for first-come, first-serve seating. Fans can park in K Lot starting at 7 a.m. and gates open at 8 a.m. Enter on 11th street or Darien Street entrances.

What might you see? Well, things are getting a little feistier now that the players are able to hit each other.

When will they start getting under each other’s skin?

“Maybe tomorrow,” Curry said with a smile. “You never know when. You never know who’s having that hot, sweaty, bad day. You just never know. That’s the beauty of training camp."

Pros, cons and likely prospects of a Vince Velasquez trade with Rangers

Pros, cons and likely prospects of a Vince Velasquez trade with Rangers

Vince Velasquez just turned 24 in June.

He's under team control for the next five years and won't start making a lot of money (in baseball terms) until about 2020.

He has a big fastball that averages 93.7 mph, the 10th-best velocity of any NL starting pitcher.

He can be really, really good at times — the 16-strikeout shutout of the Padres, the 10-strikeout game against the Marlins, scoreless performances against the Mets, Indians and Diamondbacks.

And even when he's not at his best, like Friday night in Atlanta, Velasquez can succeed because his stuff is that good. He's made 18 starts this season and allowed two runs or fewer 11 times.

All of these things make him valuable to the Phillies. And all of these things make him attractive to every other team in the majors.

It doesn't seem likely that the Phils will ultimately pull the trigger and trade Velasquez to the Rangers, who are in "deep discussions" with the Phils on a deal, according to CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury (see story). But Texas has such an intriguing group of prospects that it makes sense for the Phillies to listen.

Velasquez, for all of his strengths, has not proven yet that he can be a durable, 180- to 200-inning starting pitcher. He's never even reached 125 innings at any level in the minors. There have been numerous games this season in which his pitch count has soared — either because of a lack of control, his occasional nibbling around the plate or a lot of foul balls. The result has been some early exits. That was a knock on Velasquez when he was in Houston and he hasn't yet fully outgrown it.

That's why it could make sense for the Phils to trade him. Perhaps they believe they'd be selling high on a guy who's shown so much talent and promise but not the type of consistency of a No. 1 or No. 2 starter.

Obviously, it makes sense to move him only if the return is strong. And the Rangers could certainly offer a strong package if they decide Velasquez is their guy.

The names you'll see thrown around a lot as the Aug. 1 trade deadline approaches are power hitting third baseman Joey Gallo, infielder Jurickson Profar and outfielders Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara.

Mazara is a pipe dream. The Rangers refused to include him in last summer's Cole Hamels trade, and he's only increased his worth to them this season by hitting .282/.334/.417 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs for a first-place team. He'll be a top-three finisher for AL Rookie of the Year. It's almost impossible to envision the Rangers trading away a valuable piece of their major-league roster for Velasquez. It would be a wash, at best.

Gallo and Profar are more realistic targets for the Phillies in a Velasquez trade. Gallo, 22, has some of the best raw power in the minors, true grade-80 power. The 6-foot-5, left-handed hitter bashed 23 homers in the minors last season, 42 the year before and 40 the year before that. Initially, that power translated to the majors when Gallo was called up last June. He hit homers in each of his first two games and had five in his first 50 at-bats before pitchers adjusted. So far in 136 big-league plate appearances, he's hit .192/.287/.408 with seven homers and 63 strikeouts.

The whiffs will always be a part of Gallo's game. To me, he has Chris Carter written all over him — a lot of homers, a lot of strikeouts, low batting average. Gallo could be better than Carter (the Brewers' first baseman) because he plays a more important position and will hopefully be more than a .217 career hitter like Carter. But you also have to keep in mind that the Phillies already have Maikel Franco at third base. If Gallo was traded here, he'd likely play either first base or left field.

It's hard to say right now whether or not Gallo is more valuable or a better fit for the Phils than Velasquez. Usually, it makes sense to go with the everyday player over the pitcher who can make an impact at most twice a week. But, as stated above, Velasquez can give you six quality innings even when he's not "on." He has the most upside of any of the Phillies' young starting pitchers, including Aaron Nola.

Profar, who is somehow still just 23 after years atop prospect lists and a few injuries, would seem to be a better fit. He's a multi-dimensional player who has impressed scouts for years for a reason. He can play every infield position in addition to left field, he has the look of a .300 hitter, and his power is developing.

A switch-hitter, Profar has hit .301/.356/.440 for the Rangers in 181 plate appearances this season with four doubles, two triples and five homers. It's been a while since his last full season in the minors, but in 2012 he hit .281 with an .820 OPS, 14 homers and 62 RBIs as a 19-year-old everyday shortstop at Double A.

The opinion here is that Profar will be a better major-league hitter than Phillies top prospect J.P. Crawford.

There is, however, a vast financial difference between Profar and Gallo. Profar will go to salary arbitration in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before becoming a free agent. Gallo, like Velasquez, won't start making meaningful baseball money until around 2020.

But a team like the Phillies that has deep pockets and so much open payroll space moving forward should be more concerned with receiving the right player than playing the cost benefit game.

Another thing to consider here is that the Rangers kind of need Profar. He's been playing every day for them and playing well at second base, third base and shortstop. He played Friday night in left field. He's started a bunch of games at first base, too, and figures to get some more reps there with Prince Fielder out for the season and Mitch Moreland having just an OK year.

Brinson is another name to keep in mind. A right-handed centerfielder, he was Texas' first-round pick in 2012. He had a terrific year at three different levels in 2015, hitting a combined .332/.403/.601 with 31 doubles, eight triples and 20 homers. He's struggled this season at Double A Frisco, hitting .227 with a .692 OPS in a hitter-friendly environment.

The Rangers also have some other pieces who could help the Phillies, but you'd figure any deal for Velasquez would have to include one of these three. Otherwise, it just makes no sense to even entertain the idea of a trade.

And really, if the Rangers are willing to include one or more of those three young players, they could get any team in the majors to listen to an offer for a starting pitcher. A package centered around two of them might be enough for Chris Sale. Maybe one of them could net Atlanta's Julio Teheran. Velasquez is really good, but so are the combinations of trade packages the Rangers can put together.

Eagles Injury Update: Nolan Carroll, Rueben Randle leave practice early

Eagles Injury Update: Nolan Carroll, Rueben Randle leave practice early

The Eagles' first day of training camp in pads wasn’t without some minor casualties.

Cornerback Nolan Caroll left early with a sore ankle and wideout Rueben Randle left early with cramps. Both are considered day-to-day.

After Carroll left the field, Eric Rowe got some first-team reps with the defense. Randle was having a very good day, standing out with a one-handed grab, before going inside.

Undrafted wide receiver Marcus Johnson, from Texas, went inside early with a quad injury. Corner Ron Brooks (cramps) also went in early.

The Eagles started the day without starting right guard Brandon Brooks (hamstring) and starting running back Ryan Mathews (ankle). Neither have practiced since the whole team got together for the first full-squad on Thursday.

Darren Sproles continues to get most of the first-team reps at running back, with Kenjon Barner filling in. Veteran Stefen Wisniewksi has been taking Brooks’ spot at right guard.