An early offseason outlook for the Phillies

Though this year will likely be painful to watch for Phillies fans, it will be interesting to see how the club tries to develop its talent.

One interesting player to watch may be Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, the Cuban defector whose ascent to the majors was delayed multiple times by shoulder concerns. Though the question of whether he can last a full season in the majors remains to be answered, the Phillies made an interesting move on the depth chart — Gonzalez is no longer listed in the bullpen, but rather as the fifth starter.

With A.J. Burnett and Kyle Kendrick departing, Gonzalez will get another shot at a starting role this year.

Though no move is impending and the team needs a good return, Cole Hamels is on the trade block, and it wouldn’t be surprising if a team needing an ace ponied up the prospects to acquire him.

All that uncertainty means the Phillies will be looking to cobble together a rotation. If Cliff Lee is healthy, he’s the No. 1 or 2, depending on if Hamels is still around. Jerome Williams is a back-end option with a one year deal in place. David Buchanan seems likely to start the year somewhere in the middle of the rotation.

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Trades, the expanded Wild Card and parity

Last week’s quick-hit trade deadline moves were surprising in a lot of ways. A week after the fact, I’d like to outline some of the differences between our expectations and the actual moves.

The Wild Card and parity

We’ve been hearing a lot about the expanded Wild Card in the last few years. It’s part of Bud Selig’s vision for the league where everyone’s in the chase, supposedly creating more excitement and better attendance.

Another bigger aspect of his plan that’s supposed to fall in right alongside that is parity. As a true salary cap (or perhaps, true-er cap) is in place with giant luxury tax implications, teams are encouraged to be in the same range of spending as others. Revenue sharing creates even more of a redistributive feel.

As far as these things contribute to an equaling of the playing field like that of the NFL, Selig has done the job. The Yankees’ empire appears to be crumbling, a topic Joe tackled in this morning’s post, and teams like the Marlins and Royals are no longer the worst in their divisions. (The Royals are five games above .500, while the Marlins are six games out in the Wild Card race.)

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Race for the Postseason: NL East

Over the last two weeks, I previewed the division races in the American League. This week I will be covering the National League. Up first is the NL East. We will organize our discussion by current standings.

Washington Nationals
60-49 | division lead

Following a 2013 season where they fell four games short of a wild card birth and 10 games out of first in the NL East, the Nationals have taken control of a weak NL East.

Washington’s offense has struggled recently.  Denard Span has the highest average on the team at .291, and their team BA of .250 is 19th in the league. Also, Bryce Harper spent three months on the DL earlier this season, which certainly hurt their offensive output.  However, there are some bright spots.  The Nats traded for Asdrubal Cabrera at the deadline, who adds some much-needed power and a decent bat to the lineup (not to mention some flashy fielding). Also, Harper has been been slowly heating up sine his return to the majors, and is now hitting .260 on the season.

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The Aiken affair

Last week, the Houston Astros made history in the worst way by being the first team to not sign the No. 1 overall pick since 1983. It may go down as a historic blunder. The ramifications of not signing Brady Aiken are far-reaching for the organization and a number of its 2014 draftees.

A building plan going to waste

A plan predicated on getting young talent through the draft in high positions that’s not necessarily college talent (those who are generally closer to MLB-ready) depends on timing. Look no further than the Marlins of 1997 and 2003. Two World Series runs were made entirely built on a strategy of using talent that came together at the right time. After winning the championship, they started over due to small-market restrictions.

The Astros already somewhat into their long-term plan, as a chunk of the talent drafted and acquired via trade — Jon Singleton, Jarred Cosart, L.J. Hoes, Domingo Santana and Dallas Keuchel — is already at the major league level. Failing to sign three players, including two of early round potential (one a No. 1 overall) works against the talent-compiling objective.

This year might not be the only aspect of this failure, though. If this year’s performance is any indicator, it appears the Astros might also have whiffed on Mark Appel from last year. His numbers skyrocketed in a bad way this year, as he sits at A+ Lancaster with a 10.80 ERA. The 2013 first round selection has faced a number of injuries, and speculation leads some to say he may have been poorly picked.

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Cuban Crossovers: Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez

This week I’m writing a series on a number of high-profile Cuban players who defected to the MLB, focusing primarily on expectation and payoff, to varying degrees. There is sometimes a tendency to over-hype international players, especially when the comparison is made based on Cuba’s somewhat spotty statistics, but the scouting has been generally solid, and a number of recent signings have worked out for Major League clubs.
Yesterday’s subject, which you can read here, was phenom Yasiel Puig. Monday’s was Jose Abreu.
Today I turn to a man who remains a big question mark: Phillies pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez was more touted than Abreu and Puig, and perhaps about as much as Yoenis Cespedes. He defected from Cuba in 2013 after an unsuccessful attempt in 2012 that left him out of competitive play following the 2011 season.

Last July, reports surfaced saying the Phillies had signed him to a six-year, $60 million deal. It was never confirmed by the organization, and later the terms were released at a much lower 3 years and $12 million. The reason? Concerns over his elbow:

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