Panotch: Flyers Considering Buyout for Bryzgalov – Should They?

Panotch: Flyers Considering Buyout for Bryzgalov – Should They?

There has been talk of using a compliance buyout on Ilya’s Bryzgalov since the term entered the NHL lexicon. According to Tim Panaccio’s sources, that option may be close to becoming a reality.

According to a report filed by Panotch on Friday, the Flyers’ are indeed weighing whether or not to use the amnesty clause on Bryz this summer. Ed Snider had previously endorsed the controversial netminder, but when asked for comment on this story, the club chairman simply replied, “Ask Paul [Holmgren].”

Bryzgalov, who turns 33 this month, is coming off of his worst season in the NHL, posting a .900 save percentage and 2.79 goals against average. While porous defense in front of Bryz was partly to blame for the awful numbers in 2013, critics feel his play was a big part of the problem as well, and he has been generally lackluster since arriving two years ago.

While the Flyers would still owe in excess of $22 million on his contract, the team would save $5.67 million per year over the next seven against the salary cap with the buyout.

Of course, a sizable chunk of that money would wind up going right back into paying another goaltender to replace Bryz. According to Panotch, the front office could target either the Niklas Backstrom, unrestricted free agent from the Wild, or LA Kings backup and restricted FA Jonathan Bernier.

Backstrom, 35, was earning $6 million per year on his expiring deal. They could trade for his rights and try to sign him to a contract before he hits the market, just as they did with Mark Streit. It's unclear whether he solves the Flyers’ problems though, other than allowing the franchise to get out from under Bryzgalov’s enormous contract. Backstrom is on the downside of his career, and unless he’s available at a significant discount, that seems like throwing good money after bad.

The Wild have expressed an interest in retaining Backstrom, who likewise admitted he hopes to stay in Minnesota, perhaps taking that possibility off the table.

If the Flyers went after Bernier, they might have to strike a deal with the Kings. Panotch suggests a package of Matt Read and more might land Jonathan Quick’s understudy, and the soon-to-be-25-year-old could be in line for a contract commensurate of a starter. Bernier has posted solid numbers in 62 career NHL games, going 29-20-6 with a .912 SV% and 2.36 GAA.

Los Angeles will certainly listen to suitors, but the price in both trade and contract could be steep for a player who’s never had to hold down a starting job. Meanwhile, the intriguing Steve Mason (25) is already on the Flyers’ roster, and 2012 second-round pick Anthony Stolarz (19) has been tearing it up in the OHL. Trading quality players and/or prospects and making a long-term commitment to a somewhat unproven goalie may not be the wisest strategy right this moment.

One reason Panotch gave for the possible change of heart among Flyers’ brass is a growing belief Bryz may want out. He doesn’t have the full support of his teammates, frequently battles the local media, and recently made comments in Russia that garnered negative attention back in Philly.

Of course, why wouldn’t Bryzgalov want his contract bought out? He’s a competitor, so he’d presumably welcome the opportunity to finish what he started here, but if the Flyers go for amnesty, he’ll still see two-thirds of the money from his current contract, plus have the freedom to go out and collect a second paycheck somewhere else.

A final decision has yet to be reached, but until Holmgren says otherwise, we are being led to believe the organization is actually considering this. If Bryz’s presence is really viewed as being that destructive, then it makes perfect sense.

If it’s just a play to save a couple million against the cap while attempting to improve the situation in goal, they might be better served by waiting. The Flyers can get another year out of Bryzgalov and see whether or not he returns to form, then use a buyout next year if they like. In turn, that would give them more time to evaluate Mason and develop Stolarz without getting locked into a contract with another goalie.

What the Flyerrs will decide is anybody’s guess at this point. One league executive told Panoccio he would not be surprised either way. Will you?

>> Sources: Flyers considering buyout for Bryzgalov [CSN]

After epically bad game, Odubel Herrera maintains he's 'making good swings'

After epically bad game, Odubel Herrera maintains he's 'making good swings'

Don't be shocked if Pete Mackanin gives Odubel Herrera the Maikel Franco treatment this weekend after Herrera's epically bad game Thursday afternoon.

Herrera, batting third for the first time since May 9, went 0 for 5 with five strikeouts in the Phillies' 2-1, extra-inning win over the Rockies (see Instant Replay).

He's the first player in the majors this season to go 0 for 5 with five Ks and the first Phillie to do so since Pat Burrell in September 2008.

(And no, that doesn't mean the Phillies are winning the World Series this season.)

Herrera is in a very bad place right now. He's hitting .226 with a .275 on-base percentage, and he has 28 strikeouts with one walk in May.

But you wouldn't know it from talking to him after the game Thursday. Herrera wasn't downtrodden or beside himself. He was typical Odubel, flashing a few smiles and remaining positive.

"I feel that I am making good swings but I'm just missing the pitches," Herrera said. "But I feel I am swinging the bat well. 

"I don't really know what it is exactly. But I am seeing the ball well. I don't know if it's when I charge at the ball or the timing of my swing. It's definitely at that point. Maybe it has something to do with the balance of the bat and my body. 

"Besides being positive, I have to check the video to see what I'm doing wrong and make some adjustment. But I'm staying positive, for sure."

Herrera and Franco, batting third and fourth, went 1 for 10 with seven strikeouts Thursday. They're both hitting below .230. They're supposed to be cornerstone pieces for the Phillies, so it's extremely troubling. Even if the Phillies were winning games recently it would be troubling.

Mackanin was elusive when asked if he'd consider benching Herrera Friday. But there's no real reason to believe it would do any good anyway. There's a fine line between giving a player time to clear his head and preventing him from having chances to bounce back.

"You know what, let me enjoy this. We'll discuss that tomorrow. Let me smile for a while," Mackanin said. 

"It's a tough decision. That's a tough decision. You wonder if he needs to be in there seeing pitches and batting or does he need time off? I'll think about that."

Herrera did say that he and Franco have leaned on each other during this rough period. They talk and try to motivate each other every day, but right now the results aren't there. Both are swinging wildly at too many pitches out of the strike zone and just making it too easy for opposing pitchers. When that's coming from the middle of your order, you're going to have problems scoring runs. 

On this date a year ago, Herrera was hitting .327 with a .901 OPS. Franco was hitting .260 with a .748 OPS.

Some of the struggles are because of pitchers adjusting to Herrera and Franco as the book on them expands. 

When asked if that's the case for his two young players, Mackanin referenced the Phillies' own adjustment to Rockies slugger Charlie Blackmon.

"I was pretty happy we got to Blackmon, that guy is a heckuva hitter and we pitched him really well today. There's an example of what you're talking about," Mackanin said. "Little by little, we're going to get there. We're going to start playing better."

Like Herrera and Franco, Mackanin has no choice but to think positive and hope for the best. It's a long summer, after all.

Instant Replay: Phillies 2, Rockies 1 (11 innings)

Instant Replay: Phillies 2, Rockies 1 (11 innings)

BOX SCORE

Tommy Joseph hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning Thursday to score Michael Saunders and snap the Phillies' five-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Rockies.

The win is their first victory in a game not started by Jeremy Hellickson since May 1. It also prevented the Phillies from being swept by Colorado.

At 16-29, the Phillies have the second-worst record in the majors. The Rockies, 32-17, have the second-best record in the majors.

Starting pitching report
Vince Velasquez pitched well, allowing one run over five innings to a stacked Rockies lineup, but he again had a short outing because of a high pitch count.

Velasquez put nine men on base and struck out seven. He threw 94 pitches, 70 for strikes.

After Velasquez's last start in Pittsburgh, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said the right-hander's secondary pitches simply need to improve, that he needs to be able to show more than just a mid-90s fastball.

On Thursday, Velasquez threw 72 fastballs, 14 curveballs, four sliders and four changeups. The Rockies swung through only two of those 22 off-speed pitches and went 4 for 6 when putting them in play.

Mackanin left Velasquez in to hit for himself with runners on first and second and no outs in the bottom of the fifth and Velasquez popped out on a sacrifice attempt. Many fans have already questioned the decision, but let's keep in mind Velasquez has handled the bat well. He's 6 for 17 (.353) on the season and tied for the major-league lead in hits among pitchers. He had an infield single in his first at-bat.

Rockies left-hander Tyler Anderson continued the theme of mediocre starting pitchers stymying the Phillies. Anderson allowed just one run on six hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts.

In the series, Rockies starting pitchers allowed three runs in 27 innings. They had a 1.00 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and more than a strikeout per inning. And these four starters — Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, Tyler Chatwood and Anderson — entered the series with a combined 5.27 ERA.

Bullpen report
Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Gomez each pitched one scoreless inning. It's understandably been overlooked during the Phillies' skid, but the bullpen is finally in a groove. Over their last seven games, Phillies relievers have allowed just two earned runs in 22 2/3 innings for a 0.79 ERA.

Neris threw 10 pitches, all of them strikes. He's allowed one run in 9 2/3 innings since his meltdown at Dodger Stadium.

At the plate
Before the walk-off hit, Joseph stayed hot with a home run off the ivy wall in dead-center to start the bottom of the seventh.

Joseph is hitting .329 in May with six doubles, six homers, 15 RBIs and a .657 slugging percentage. The only first basemen in the majors with a higher slugging percentage this month are Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour and Paul Goldschmidt.

Joseph has now played 148 games with 498 plate appearances in the majors — slightly less than a full season. He's hit .255 with an .804 OPS, 28 home runs and 23 doubles. Those numbers are just above the league average for first basemen over that span.

Batting third, Odubel Herrera went 0 for 5 with five strikeouts. He's the first player in the majors this season to do that and the first Phillie since Pat Burrell in September 2008. Herrera is hitting .226 with a .275 OBP. 

Maikel Franco returned to the lineup after a two-game benching and went 1 for 5, singling up the middle in his first at-bat and flailing at a low-and-away, two-strike breaking ball to strike out with two on and one out in the eighth inning. He then struck out on three pitches to lead off the 11th.

Cameron Rupp walked three times, raising his on-base percentage from .330 to .345.

Up next
The Phillies start a three-game series at home against the Cincinnati Reds, who they haven't seen since the opening week of the season.

Friday, 7:05 p.m. — Aaron Nola (2-1, 3.52) vs. Bronson Arroyo (3-4, 6.75)

Saturday, 4:05 p.m. — Jerad Eickhoff (0-5, 4.70) vs. Scott Feldman (3-4, 3.99)

Sunday, 1:35 p.m. — Zach Eflin (0-2, 5.36) vs. Amir Garrett (3-3, 6.00)