Ron Costello

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Credit Goes to Junior

Let's face it, things are looking up baseball-wise in Philadelphia.

2016 will be an exciting year — young guns competing for roster spots, plenty of strong young arms competing for the rotation and bullpen, plus some extra spending money for a free agent or two. Club payroll is down to $146.8 million and falling.

To use an overused expression: It doesn't get any better than this.

Did you notice the arm on the Cuban right-hander the Phillies  brought in against the Dodgers last week? He struck out 5 in two innings against one of the best hitting teams in baseball. He's been pitching in Guantanamo — get serious, not the US prison — since 2005. The Phillies claimed him off waivers from the Red Sox.

Dalier Hinojosa is 29 and throws smoke! What? Jake, who?

With smoke and mirrors, the Phillies are showcasing Chase Utley as we speak. He'll be gone soon to one of four teams: the Yankees, Cubs, Angels or Astros, via the waiver wire —  as reported here five days before it appeared in the newspapers. I'm just saying.

It would surprise no one if Ryan Howard is riding the same wire, although a costly move for the Phillies considering what's still left on his contract.


Ron's pop quiz question of the week — clear your desks, no talking, and no peeking at your neighbor's papers: Who is second on the team behind the Piece's 19 home runs?

If the Big Piece is on target to hit 30 — ok, let's say 27 or 28 — that's too many taters to discard lightly. If he goes, where will the salamis come from next season?

Maikel Franco is the pop quiz answer with 12, and cover photo youngster, Nick Williams, 21, has plenty of pop and could hit 20-plus, too, next season. Maybe a free agent. Or maybe Dominic Brown?

Come on, I'm only kidding. Lighten up, it's a joke, it's a joke!

Part time player Jeff Francoeur has 10, which brings up another point. Utley, most likely a free agent at season's end, can take a lesson from the 31-year-old Francoeur. Pinch hitting and spot starting could extend Utley's career, just as it has Francoeur's.

Francoeur, now on a one-year, $950K contract, would certainly deserve a 2016 raise — in the neighborhood of $2.5 to $3.5 million. Utley's current contract of $10 million is surely a sweet dream unless the 36-year-old slugger finds Ponce de Leon's fountain of youth and his numbers go north.

Hint: Chase, look in southern Florida.

So here's my advice for Mr. Utley.

Go to the Cubs, Angles, Yankees or Astros and have fun. We'll be following you every day. They want you because of who you are — a leader and a gamer who, when healthy, can flat out hit — and all four clubs have a shot at the post.

Then take a page out of Francoeur's book and re-create yourself for 2016 — sign a one or two-year deal with the Phillies next season to pinch hit and spot start. A club loaded with young players would do well having two experienced veterans — Francoeur on the right,  Utley on the left — on the 25-man in 2016.

Pinch hitters extraordinaire! Two excellent men in the clubhouse — two mentors and teachers.

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