Phillies Do Well In Locking Up Blanton, Victorino

Friday, January 22, 2010
Posted By admin 12:55 PM

The Philadelphia Phillies are probably linked to the term “cost certainty” more than any other team. The Phillies have truly made a concerted effort in recent past to lock up their core of talented arbitration-eligible players, with stars Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard being the most prominent examples from last offseason.

The club continued the trend this week by first locking up starter Joe Blanton to a three-year, $24-million contract extension. Before doing so, Blanton was reportedly asking for $10.5-million in arbitration, which seemed outrageous at first glance. Clearly, locking up the hefty right-hander to those numbers is a better alternative than going to court and risking losing at that price. Plus, the Phillies get their beloved “cost certainty” with another player.

As far as performance goes, Blanton is essentially a tick above league-average starting pitcher. He went 12-8 with a 4.05 ERA and 105 ERA+ in 195.1 innings pitched in 2009. While those numbers hardly jump out off the page, he did take a full season in the inferior National League to his liking, producing the highest strikeout per nine innings rate, 7.51, of his career. Overall, his performance was worth just under $10.1-million according to FanGraphs’ WAR dollar conversion metric. The 28-year-old righty should provide similar production over the duration, and, given his durability, was worth the money that he accepted.

According to Craig Calcaterra of NBC’s Circling the Bases blog, Philadephia on Thursday was also able to work out a three-year deal, $22-million deal with center fielder Shane Victorino. Victorino is well worth this type of investment. He is a career .284/.358/.445 hitter who has excellent speed. The Flying Hawaiian has provided tremendous value to the Phillies to this point of his career, producing at least 2.5 wins above replacement—a random Triple-A player who is easily to obtain—since he earned regular playing time. All the while, he has made pennies until getting a bump up to $3.1-million in his first time through arbitration last winter.

It is worth pointing out that Victorino’s defense has gone on a concerning downward trend. While he won a Gold Glove, he actually graded out -4.1 runs below average in the metric Ultimate Zone Rating in '09; his UZR has now dropped four straight seasons. The stat can be misleading in a small sample size, however, and odds are he is a bit better than it suggests. Even with the defensive regression, he should earn his salary with relative ease. Indeed, assuming he stays healthy and provides at least 2.5 wins like he has every year since 2006, Philadelphia will come out swimmingly and buys out his first season of free agency.

It is not a tremendous discount, by any stretch, but the Phillies did well with Victorino. And, while I am not crazy about Blanton as a pitcher, he was worth locking up and the money was pretty fair, also.

Ruben Amaro has made some mistakes since taking over as Philadelphia general manager, from bragging that he does not pay attention to UZR to even the decision to part ways with stud lefty Cliff Lee. But Amaro deserves credit for making some sound decisions as well, turning me into more of a believer in his abilities as time passes.