Saturday, July 31, 2010

Eagles bring back Tracy White

The Eagles clearly didn't like the depth they had at Training Camp. In yet another move today, the Eagles have brought back linebacker Tracy White. As we all remember from the last two seasons, White is a leader on special teams who also played some in nickel packages. White should be in the mix with rookie linebackers Keenan Clayton and Jamar Chaney for a roster spot. Given his special teams prowess and his team-first attitude, I wouldn't be surprised to see White suited up in Week 1.

To make room for White on the training camp roster, the Eagles have released running back Martell Mallett. Mallett, a star in the CFL last year, was signed back in January but was made expendable with the acquisition of J.J. Arrington. Given that Mallett's biggest strength was catching the ball out of the backfield, something Arrington has already proven he can do in the NFL, he had no shot of making the team.

Over the course of the last two days, the Eagles have traded out Joe Mays and Mallett and replaced them with White and Arrington, players that are better fits for their system. Neither addition is a huge move but they are both slight improvements to the depth at Training Camp.

Update: The Eagles have already brought Mallett back into camp and released fullback Dewayne Wright. Neither will make the team, anyway.

DeSean Jackson carted off practice field, appears to be fine

UPDATE: All indications are that DeSean Jackson tweaked his back but he will be ok. He was seen leaving the locker room under his own power by the Eagles beat writers.

Every year it seems like the Eagles lose someone important during training camp due to an injury. Last year, it was Stewart Bradley who went down early in camp and was done for the season. This year, it could be DeSean Jackson.

Jackson injured himself in practice today after catching a pass and had to be carted off the field. There was no contact on the play but Jackson fell to the turf awkwardly. While there is no word yet on what his injury is, Jackson was seen favoring his right leg. He was able to walk slowly under his own power after getting off the cart and into the locker room.

The Eagles will give an injury update later today. Let's all hope for the best!

Eagles sign veteran WR Kelley Washington

The Eagles continue to wheel and deal as they tweak their training camp roster, this time signing veteran wide receiver Kelley Washington. Washington, who has played 7 years for the Bengals, Patriots and Ravens, is a solid special teams players and appears to be direct competition for Hank Baskett. He's also coming off his best season as a pro last season, where he caught 34 passes for 431 yards. He definitely has a good shot at cracking the Eagles roster especially if he proves his worth on special teams.

Adding Washington gives the Eagles 9 wideouts in camp. After they cut Jared Perry to make room for Washington, here's how I think the depth chart breaks down at receiver:

Locks: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant
Bubble: Hank Baskett, Kelley Washington, Riley Cooper, Chad Hall
Longshots: Jordan Norwood, Dobson Collins

Friday, July 30, 2010

Oswalt struggles in Phillies debut but there is no reason to overreact

As Phillies fans, we've grown accustomed to our newly acquired aces having impressive debuts with our team. About a year ago, it was Cliff Lee who pitched a complete game 4-hitter and gave up only 1 run. Then, on Opening Day this season, Roy Halladay threw a gem of his own, striking out 9 batters and giving up 1 run in 7 innings. Fast forward to tonight's Phillies debut by Roy Oswalt, though, and you saw a much different outcome: Oswalt struggled against the Nationals, giving up 5 runs (4 earned) and 7 hits in 6 innings of work as the Phillies win streak came to an end. That's not what I would call a good first impression on his new team.

Most of you know, however, that there is no reason to panic. In Oswalt, the Phillies have acquired a known commodity who has established himself as an above average pitcher, not someone who is going to fizzle out and be terrible for the entire second half of a season. These types of starts happen to every pitcher, even Lee and Halladay, who weren't dominant pitchers every time they took the mound for the Phillies. For example, take a look back at three starts Lee made back in late August and early September of last season where pitched a total of 15 innings and gave up 17 earned runs. Even our beloved Roy Halladay has also had four starts this season where he gave up 5 or more runs.

My point isn't that Lee and Halladay aren't stud pitchers, though, my point is that bad games happen to every pitcher. You can chalk it up to nerves, chalk it up to trying too hard to impress his new team or just simply say that Oswalt had an off night; whatever the case, don't overreact to this one start and compare it to how J.A. Happ did in his Houston debut (0 runs in 6 innings) and rant about how the Phillies made a bad trade. Bad starts happen to good pitchers and Oswalt is going to do just fine with the Phillies.
(AP PHOTO)

Eagles deal LB Joe Mays for RB J.J. Arrington

Slowly but surely, the Eagles are starting to whittle down their linebacker depth. After entering training camp with 9 linebackers fighting for 6 spots, the Eagles made the quick decision to cut Alex Hall. Now, according to Adam Schefter, the Eagles have traded one of their other linebackers, dealing Joe Mays to the Denver Broncos for running back J.J. Arrington or a conditional 6th round draft pick in 2012 if Arrington doesn't make the team.

While I understand the reason for shedding Mays, who I figured was going to be on the outside looking in as the Eagles finalized their roster, the move to get another running back is an odd one. With LeSean McCoy already holding down the starting running back spot and Mike Bell figuring to be the backup, the Eagles were set to have a battle for third string RB between incumbent Eldra Buckley and rookie Charles Scott. Adding Arrington, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, to the mix jumbles things up a bit. Do the Eagles think Arrington, who rushed for only 654 yards in his 4 seasons with the Cardinals, has what it takes to beat out Scott or Buckley for a roster spot? Sure, Arrington has some nice hands out of the backfield, something we know the Eagles love, but I just can't see him making the squad over a rookie with potential like Scott or a special teams ace like Buckley unless he has a tremendous training camp.

Chalk this one up to a curious trade by the Eagles. Perhaps that's the best player they could get in return for any of their excess linebackers. Personally, I would rather they just take the draft pick although it certainly won't hurt to take a look and see if Arrington can make an impact.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Eagles sign first round pick Brandon Graham

Despite rumors that the team wasn't close to signing him, word has broken late Thursday night that the Eagles have signed first round pick Brandon Graham to a 5 year contract. Graham, the final Eagles draft pick to sign, will be in Bethlehem tomorrow and ready to participate in practice. It's good timing for all involved, considering the first full-team practice is Saturday and the Eagles want Graham to compete for a starting spot on the defensive line. Terms of the contract are not known at this time.

The Eagles have now signed all of their 2010 draft picks. With all of the veterans reporting on time today, every Eagle is signed, sealed and ready to go at Training Camp.

Here is a complete list of Eagles draft picks and their contract status:

Brandon Graham, DE: 5 years, unknown salary, unknown signing bonus.
Nate Allen, S: 4 years, unknown salary, unknown signing bonus
Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE: 4 years, 2.53 million, $740,000 signing bonus
Trevard Lindley, CB: 4 years, 2.31 million, $525,000 signing bonus
Keenan Clayton, LB: 4 years, 2.25 million, $466,790 signing bonus
Mike Kafka, QB: 4 years, 2.25 million, $467,000 signing bonus
Clay Harbor, TE: 4 years, 2.24 million, $453,000 signing bonus
Ricky Sapp, DE: 4 years, 2.0 million, $212,000 signing bonus
Riley Cooper, WR: 4 years, unknown salary, unknown signing bonus
Charles Scott, RB: 4 years, 1.88 million, $90,000 signing bonus
Jamar Chaney, LB: 4 years, 1.85 million, $60,000 signing bonus
Jeff Owens, DT: 4 years, 1.83 million, $44,000 signing bonus
Kurt Coleman, S: 4 years, 1.83 million, $43,400 signing bonus

All salary information comes from the National Football Post. I will continue to update this list as more players are signed and as more salaries are announced.

Roy Oswalt is officially a Phillie

The Phillies have acquired their third ace pitcher in the last 12 months, getting Roy Oswalt from the Houston Astros in exchange for J.A. Happ and prospects Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar. The Phillies will also get 11 million dollars in cash to pay some of Oswalt's salary, which is about 5 million more for 2010 plus 16 million more next season. Oswalt also has a 16 million dollar option for the 2012 season that the Phillies can pick up or buy him out for 3 million dollars.

The two teams had an agreement in place since last night but were waiting on Oswalt's approval of the deal since he had a no-trade clause. Getting Oswalt gives the Phillies a 1-2-3 punch in the rotation that rivals any other rotation in the majors. Sure, Oswalt is about to turn 33 and isn't quite the same dominant pitcher he was back in 2004-2006, but he's still a workhorse that goes deep into games, gets plenty of strikeouts and will keep the Phillies competitive every time he pitches. As long as he stays healthy, a legitimate concern the last few seasons, the Phillies just got themselves a No. 1 pitcher who will slot in third in their rotation.

To get Oswalt, the Phillies did have to give up some good, young players. The toughest player to lose was Happ, who has had a strong start to his career with the Phillies. Look beyond Happ's 14-5 lifetime record, though, and you notice a pitcher who lets a lot of guys on base and constantly has to work his way out of jams. Happ should develop into a nice middle of the rotation guy but he was never going to be an ace with the Phillies.

As for the two prospects in the deal, both has spent the season playing A ball and are a few years away from having any kind of impact in the majors. Gose is an outfielder with some serious speed that seems to be in the mold of fellow Astro and former Phillie Michael Bourn. Villar is a shortstop with a decent glove and very little power. Neither was considered the cream of the crop of the Phillies farm system.

Welcome to Philadelphia, Roy Oswalt. While there will be a number of fans who will complain that he isn't Cliff Lee, Oswalt is not a bad consolation prize. At this point, I think we all understand that Ruben Amaro made a mistake in the whole Lee situation but he is doing the best he can to make the Phillies a World Series team yet again. Say what you will about the job Amaro has done but having Oswalt and pairing him up with Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels for this season and next only further strengthens the Phillies title chances. The fact that Amaro pulled this deal off without giving up much and even got cash to pay Oswalt with from the Astros makes this trade a big win for the Phillies.

Eagles sign safety Antoine Harris

The Eagles made a small move at camp today, signing safety Antoine Harris and waiving safety Brett Johnson. Harris is a 3 year NFL veteran who has played for the Falcons and spent time with the Titans on their practice squad. For his career, he has played in 35 games and made 21 total tackles. Harris, who has had a number of injuries in the last few years, including issues with his groin and knee, likely doesn't have a great shot at making the team. Although he has NFL experience, there is no way he beats out Nate Allen, Quintin Mickell or Quintin Demps for a roster spot, meaning he's left to battle with rookie Kurt Coleman and possibly Macho Harris, if he isn't converted to corner, for the last safety spot. Working his tail off on special teams might be the only way Antoine Harris cracks the roster.

As for the waived Brett Johnson, he was let go because of a hamstring injury. Johnson was previously claimed off waivers from the Bills but never had a realistic chance of making the team.

Oswalt agrees to come to the Phillies

Roy Oswalt has agreed to waive his no-trade clause and come to the Phillies. Apparently the deal is not official just yet so we still have to wait to hear what the Phillies gave up in return but so far the word is that J.A. Happ and two prospects are going to the Astros.

I'll have more when the trade goes official.

Phillies and Astros have deal for Oswalt done but wait for his approval

Roy Oswalt may finally be coming to the Phillies. According to Fox 26 Sports in Houston, the Phillies and Astros have agreed on a deal that will send Oswalt to the Phils but they are waiting for the star pitcher, who has a no-trade clause, to approve the trade. While the report mentions nothing about what the Phillies will be giving up, it has long been rumored that J.A. Happ has been someone the Astros coveted in return.

Given that he has reportedly balked at coming to Philly in the past, this deal is far from official. I'm not sure why he wouldn't want to play for a contender like the Phillies, but Oswalt was given a no-trade clause for a reason and he has every right to exercise it and squash the deal.

While I'll hold off judgment of the deal until something official is announced, having a rotation that begins with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt is insanely good. While we all still wonder what could have been with Cliff Lee, Oswalt is basically the next best available starting pitcher. As long as the Phils don't give up too much, having Oswalt in a Phillies uniform for the next few years will do nothing but increase their title chances.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Domonic Brown lives up to the hype in major league debut

Talk about making an instant impact. In his first major league at-bat, just moments after the crowd at Citizens Bank Park gave him a standing ovation, Domonic Brown showed just why he has everyone in Philadelphia excited, rapping a double off the wall and driving in the first run of his career. It was nearly a perfect debut for Brown, who also had a single and had an RBI on a sac fly, as he helped the Phillies beat the D'backs 7-1 and win their 7th straight game.

While Brown will deservedly get most of the hype after his first game, Roy Halladay was the real reason the Phillies won. Doc was as sharp as ever on Wednesday night, going the full 9 innings and striking out 9 batters en route to his 12th win of the season. While the Phillies hitting has turned around and will get most of the credit for the recent hot streak, it's important to note that the pitching staff has given up only 2.1 runs per game during the 7 game win streak. Even the most inept offense can win plenty of games when your pitching is that hot.

Hopefully you got a chance to catch Brown's debut tonight, it was definitely an event that lived up to the hype. While we all run the risk of getting a little too ahead of ourselves with the kid, it's hard not to get excited about a player with his combination of power and athletic ability. I have a feeling we all just witnessed the beginning of something really special.
(AP PHOTO)

Phillies place Victorino on DL, call up Domonic Brown

Never has an injury brought so much excitement to the Philadelphia sports scene. Due to the abdominal strain he suffered in last night's game, Shane Victorino has been placed on the 15 day disabled list. In his place, the Phillies have called up minor league super-prospect Domonic Brown.

With Victorino out, Jayson Werth will move to center and Brown is expected to get the bulk of the playing time in right. While Brown adds yet another lefty bat to an already lefty-heavy team, he has certainly earned his shot at the majors with the way he is ripping up minor league pitching this season.

While it comes at the expense of Victorino, the fans that have been clamoring for Brown to be in the lineup finally get their wish. While he certainly won't be a savior, let's hope the kid is as good as advertised.

Eagles make early cut of linebacker Alex Hall

The Eagles made a surprise move today, cutting linebacker Alex Hall to make room for Nate Allen at Training Camp. Hall, who came to the Eagles in the Sheldon Brown/Chris Gocong trade, figured to be in the mix for a linebacker spot but instead is the first cut at Camp. Billed as a pass-rushing specialist, Hall is a combo LB/DE that figured to get a look as a 3rd down rusher.

As for why the Eagles cut Hall, Andy Reid believes that Hall is really a 3-4 linebacker and wouldn't be a great fit for the Birds 4-3 system. It's likely the Eagles cut him this early in Camp because they want to give him a shot to catch on with another team but you have to wonder why they traded for him in the first place. Surely the Eagles actually scouted the guy before they made the trade?

Now all that is left from the Brown/Gocong trade are the 4th and 5th round picks they got from the Browns that turned out to be Trevard Lindley and Ricky Sapp. That sure doesn't seem like much in return for a starting corner like Brown. While I didn't have Hall in my initial projection of the Eagles roster, I'm still amazed they cut him this early rather than getting rid of an undrafted rookie player.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Phillies win 6th straight but may lose Victorino

Now this is the Phillies team that we've all been waiting to see! On Tuesday night, the Phillies won their 6th straight game, beating the D'backs 9-5 behind three 2-run homers. With Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth and Cody Ransom providing the home run fireworks, the Phillies looked a lot like the team that has represented the National League in the World Series the last two years.

Not everything went perfectly for the Phillies on Tuesday night, however, as Shane Victorino suffered an injury that forced him to leave the game. Word after the game was that Victorino strained his left oblique muscle and he will be evaluated tomorrow. While all the initial reports are that the injury isn't serious, an injury like this could linger and could force Victorino to go on the disabled list. Should that happen, Jayson Werth will likely move to center (and won't get traded) and prospect Domonic Brown could get his long-awaited call-up to the majors and play in right. With the way Brown has been tearing up Triple A pitching (.340 AVG, 5 HR, 19 RBI in 27 games), he could provide a huge spark to the Phillies offense. Of course, the Phils could also simply start Ben Francisco in right and call up John Mayberry, a right-handed bat that has some experience in the majors and can platoon with Raul Ibanez in left.

Despite the bad news about Victorino, you can't help but get excited about how well the Phillies are playing. Their 6 game winning streak has pulled them to just 3.5 games behind the Braves and only 2 out in the Wild Card. With Roy Halladay taking the mound tomorrow, the Phillies look poised to continue their run back into contention.

Eagles sign Nate Allen to 4 year contract

And then there was one: the Eagles have signed second round pick Nate Allen to a 4 year contract, leaving first round pick Brandon Graham as the only unsigned Eagles draft pick. Allen, the player the Eagles picked with the "Donovan McNabb pick", was smart to sign and get himself into training camp as soon as possible because he has a real shot at being the starting free safety for the Birds. As for Graham, the Eagles hope to get him signed as soon as possible but reportedly aren't anywhere close to getting a deal done.

Here is a complete list of Eagles draft picks and their contract status:

Brandon Graham, DE: No contract yet
Nate Allen, S: 4 years, unknown salary, unknown signing bonus
Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE: 4 years, 2.53 million, $740,000 signing bonus
Trevard Lindley, CB: 4 years, 2.31 million, $525,000 signing bonus
Keenan Clayton, LB: 4 years, 2.25 million, $466,790 signing bonus
Mike Kafka, QB: 4 years, 2.25 million, $467,000 signing bonus
Clay Harbor, TE: 4 years, 2.24 million, $453,000 signing bonus
Ricky Sapp, DE: 4 years, 2.0 million, $212,000 signing bonus
Riley Cooper, WR: 4 years, unknown salary, unknown signing bonus
Charles Scott, RB: 4 years, 1.88 million, $90,000 signing bonus
Jamar Chaney, LB: 4 years, 1.85 million, $60,000 signing bonus
Jeff Owens, DT: 4 years, 1.83 million, $44,000 signing bonus
Kurt Coleman, S: 4 years, 1.83 million, $43,400 signing bonus

All salary information comes from the National Football Post. I will continue to update this list as more players are signed and as more salaries are announced.

Sigh of relief: Rollins will only miss a few days

Forgive me for jumping to conclusions but after word got out that Jimmy Rollins was limping after last night's game, given how things have gone for the Phillies this season, I figured J-Roll would be headed to the disabled list. Good news came out today, though, that Rollins merely bruised his foot when he fouled a pitch off, meaning he will only miss a few days and will not be put on the DL.

While there is always a possibility the injury worsens for Rollins and he misses extended time, I think it's safe to say the Phillies dodged a bullet on this one. Sure, being without Rollins as the team is gaining momentum will hurt for a couple of days but the Phils couldn't afford to have another regular miss significant time and hope to keep their playoff hopes alive. As we have seen, having to rely on Wilson Valdez and Greg Dobbs to play every day is just murder on the offense.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Projecting the 2010 Eagles 53 man roster, Ver. 1.0

With Training Camp getting under way, it's time to start taking a look at how the Eagles roster will shape up. With all the turnover this offseason, there are going to be some interesting battles amongst a slew of young, hungry players working their tail off to make the team.

This post is my first attempt at predicting what the Eagles 53 man roster will look like for the first game of the season and I will update it every week or so right up until the Eagles make their final cuts. Below the roster list I have also listed several players who are on the bubble and I gave reasons why they might not make the team. Feel free to help me out, and as this is my first pass at predicting the roster this season, let me know if I'm leaving anyone off or if you agree or disagree with my choices.

Offense:
QB(3): Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick, Mike Kafka

RB(3): LeSean McCoy, Mike Bell, Charles Scott

FB (1): Leonard Weaver

WR(5): DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Hank Baskett, Riley Cooper

TE(3): Brent Celek, Cornelius Ingram, Clay Harbor

LT(2): Jason Peters, King Dunlap

LG(2): Todd Herremans, Max Jean-Gilles

C(2): Nick Cole, Dallas Reynolds

RG(2): Stacy Andrews, Mike McGlynn

RT(2): Winston Justice, Fenuki Tupou

Defense:
DE(6): Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Juqua Parker, Darryl Tapp, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Ricky Sapp

DT(4): Brodrick Bunkley, Mike Patterson, Trevor Laws, Antonio Dixon

LB(6): Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims, Moise Fokou, Omar Gaither, Akeem Jordan, Keenan Clayton

CB(5): Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hanson, Macho Harris, Trevard Lindley

FS(2): Nate Allen, Quintin Demps

SS(2): Quintin Mikell, Kurt Coleman

Special Teams:
K(1): David Akers

P(1): Sav Rocca

LS(1): Jon Dorenbos

Likely to start season on injured list: Jamaal Jackson, Victor Abiamiri
Jackson will hopefully be back at starting center by midseason. As for Abiamiri, when is he not hurt?

Players on the bubble:
RB: Eldra Buckley
The drafting of Charles Scott has pushed Buckley off the roster. While Buckley is the better special teamer, Scott is a big, bruising runner who will be a nice compliment to LeSean McCoy.

WR: Jordan Norwood, Chad Hall
The Eagles went with 6 receivers last year but I don't see them going that route this time. Expect Chad Hall, who looks like he could be a great return guy, to get a close look, but I don't see him beating out Riley Cooper. Norwood looks like a lock to be a practice squad guy for another year.

TE: Martin Rucker
As long as Cornelius Ingram is healthy, the Eagles have to keep him as the backup over Rucker.

OL: A.Q, Shipley, Greg Isdaner, Austin Howard
There will be plenty of competition for the last offensive line spot between Dallas Reynolds and these three players. I gave the edge to Reynolds simply because he's been around the longest but look for Shipley to make a strong push to be the backup center.

DL: Jeff Owens
Not enough room for the rookie from Georgia.

LB: Joe Mays, Alex Hall, Jamar Chaney
Wow, the Eagles linebackers are incredibly deep. Or, maybe they are just all equally mediocre? In the coming weeks, the picture should get a lot clearer but the Eagles have 9 guys with a legitimate shot of making the team. Since I can't see them keeping more than 6, there are going to be three tough cuts. Despite being a great 7th round pick, Chaney is the most likely to go, followed by Joe Mays, who blew his chance to make an impact last season. As for Alex Hall, I see the Eagles finding a way to keep the hybrid DE/LB around but right now there aren't any open spots.

CB: Dimitri Patterson, Geoff Pope
No more room at CB but Pope could be a practice squad guy.

P: Ken Parrish
I'm very tempted to put Parrish on the roster and dump Rocca, but the incumbent has to be given the nod. For now.

That's the team as I see it. Did I leave anyone off? Who needs to be cut? Discuss in the comments section.

A new era of Eagles football begins today!

Happy Training Camp Day! With rookies and selected veterans reporting today, it's only a matter of hours before the Eagles take the field for their first practices of the new season. With all the changes since last season, including the jettison of several veterans, the Eagles are hoping to rebuild on the fly, infusing a bunch of youth while still remaining competitive.

Just for a refresher, here's a look at some of the comings and goings this offsesason:

Additions: LB Ernie Sims, RB Mike Bell, DE Darryl Tapp, WR Hank Baskett, DE Alex Hall, DE Brandon Graham, S Nate Allen

Subtractions: QB Donovan McNabb, RB Brian Westbrook, WR Kevin Curtis, CB Sheldon Brown, LB Chris Gocong, S Sean Jones, DE Chris Clemons, LB Will Witherspoon, DE Darren Howard, OL Shawn Andrews, WR Reggie Brown, DE Jason Babin

Look for much more Eagles coverage here at ATPS in the coming days!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Happ returns to help suddenly hot Phillies

That's called a winning streak, folks. On the heels of Roy Halladay shutting the Rockies down in a 6-0 win on Friday, Kyle Kendrick had a strong outing of his own on Saturday to help the Phillies win big yet again, 10-2. While the big story of both games might be the re-emergence of the offense (coincidentally getting hot after the team switched hitting coaches), the Phillies also got two very solid pitching performances, one expected and the other a nice surprise. Whether the couple of days in the minors made a difference or not, Kendrick certainly looked like a much better pitcher than he did earlier in the week when he was shelled by the Cardinals.

Looking to follow up with a strong outing of his own will be J.A. Happ, who will be making his first start for the Phillies since April 15th. As you may recall, Happ made a pair of starts back in April, gave up zero earned runs in 10+ innings, then suffered a strained forearm and missed three months. While the Phillies will continue to search for a starting pitcher to add to the rotation, putting Happ back into the mix at least gives the team someone they can trust. While Happ has had his issues with allowing too many runners on base, he did put up some great numbers in 2009 (12-4 record, 1.23 WHIP, 2.93 ERA) and a performance anywhere close to that will be a big boost for the Phils.

With Happ's return, the Phillies have dropped Vance Worley, who was originally called up when Kyle Kendrick was sent down, back to the minors. Worley made his major league debut on Saturday and had a perfect inning and struck out 2 hitters. While he made a leap from Double A to the majors, the hard-throwing Worley could be someone to keep an eye on as a possible Phillies bullpen piece in the coming months or for next year.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Phillies fire hitting coach Milt Thompson

The Phillies have found their scapegoat for their seemingly endless hitting woes: hitting coach Milt Thompson has been fired. Given how poorly the Phillies have been hitting since about mid-May, it's hard to blame them for looking for a change, though I doubt Thompson is at fault for the team-wide slump. It's debatable how much of an impact hitting coaches really have on a group of professionals, anyway. When the Phillies were at their peak offensively in the previous few seasons, I doubt many gave any credit to Thompson. Now that they can't hit, the hitting coach gets the axe. Such is the life of a coach, I guess.

Replacing Thompson will be Lehigh Valley hitting coach Greg Gross, who previously had the job with the Phillies when Larry Bowa was the manager. Gross, who played 10 seasons with the Phillies in the early eighties, was a lifetime .287 hitter in the majors with zero pop. Hopefully the team will respond to a new coach although a rebound in hitting will have less to do with who the coach is and more to do with a bunch of good hitters finally playing to their abilities.

Flyers re-sign forward Darroll Powe

To win a Stanley Cup, you need role players. According to CapGeek.com, the Flyers have brought back one of their role players, signing restricted free agent Darroll Powe to a one year deal worth $725,000. The contract will give him a slight raise over the $550,000 he made last season and will once again allow him to be a restricted free agent when it expires.

While Powe will never put up big offensive numbers, he is a solid 4th line forward who can kill penalties. Given that Blair Betts is likely to miss the first part of the season as he recovers from surgery, the Flyers will need a guy like Powe in the lineup. When Betts comes back, look for Powe to rotate being scratched with guys like Dan Carcillo and Jody Shelley.

In all, this is a solid signing for the Flyers because it gets them one step closer to getting rid of Riley Cote. As the team currently stands, they only have around $300,000 in cap space but once Cote is cut or sent to the minors, the Flyers will have close to $900,000 to work with.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sixers sign center Tony Battie

In a move to add more depth to their frontcourt, the Sixers have signed free agent center Tony Battie. Terms of the contract are not known at this point but you can bet it's only a one year deal for something close to the veteran minimum.

While Battie isn't an exciting addition, he is a 12 year veteran who will be happy with a limited role off the bench. Given that the Sixers really only had one other true center on the roster in Spencer Hawes, they needed another warm body and Battie fits the bill. Battie, 34, should get a couple of boards and be a "veteran presence" on the Sixers. For his career, Battie has played for the Nuggets, Celtics, Cavaliers, Magic and Nets and averaged 6.4 points per game and 5.3 boards per game.

With that addition, the Sixers now have 14 players on the roster. I would bet that Jason Kapono and/or Willie Green will be sent packing any day now.

Guards:
Jrue Holiday
Evan Turner
Lou Williams
Willie Green
Jodie Meeks

Forwards:
Andre Iguodala
Thaddeus Young
Elton Brand
Andres Nocioni
Marreese Speights
Jason Kapono
Jason Smith

Center:
Spencer Hawes
Tony Battie

End of an era? Moyer to the DL as Phillies pursue pitching help

We may have seen the last of Jamie Moyer in Philadelphia. According to Todd Zolecki on Twitter, the Phillies will place Moyer on the disabled list due to the left elbow strain he suffered against the Cardinals on Tuesday. The injury is believed to be similar to the one J.A. Happ suffered that kept him out for three months, meaning Moyer's season could very well done. Since Moyer's contract also runs out at the end of this year, it's possible that he won't be suiting up for the Phillies ever again. While you can bet he will try to continue his career if he is able to, this would certainly be a sad way to see Moyer leave the Phillies.

As for who will replace Moyer in the rotation, the Phillies are expected to call up Happ, who was pulled early from his start at Lehigh Valley and will probably join the team shortly.

Of course, bringing up Happ is only one piece of the puzzle since the Phillies have another rotation spot to fill. According to Jayson Stark of ESPN, the Phillies are working on a major trade that could see them bring in a top starting pitcher and then ship out Jayson Werth in a separate trade to get some prospects in return. The pitching names rumored to be targeted include top pitchers like Roy Oswalt and Dan Haren as well as lesser choices like Ben Sheets and Jeremy Guthrie. Look for the Phillies to try to bring in someone who they will have under contract for at least another season beyond this year since bringing in a rental would be a waste of their resources.

Should the Phillies deal Werth, minor league sensation Domonic Brown will step into his spot and play every day. While Brown is yet another lefty bat to add to an already lefty-heavy team, with the way he is tearing up Triple A he deserves a spot on the big club.

Expect the Phillies to make these moves quickly and not wait until the trade deadline; Ruben Amaro needs to get something done quickly if he wants to keep the Phillies rapidly diminishing playoff hopes alive.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Phillies starting pitching woes continue: Moyer strains elbow

With the demotion of Kyle Kendrick, the Phillies were already on the lookout for a new starting pitcher. While the team could turn to J.A. Happ or bring back Nelson Figueroa to fill in, rumors are swirling that Ruben Amaro is close to making a deal for a top-flight pitcher, with the names Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt being tossed around.

Well, now things are about to get even more interesting as Phillies might have two rotation spots to fill: Jamie Moyer, who left Tuesday's game after just one inning, has a strained left elbow. While there has been no initial word as to whether Moyer will miss any time, I would be willing to bet that Moyer will miss at least his next start and could easily find himself on the disabled list.

Moyer hasn't exactly been great this season but his injury puts the Phillies in a tough position, basically forcing them to make a deal for some rotation help and bring Happ back to the team whether he is ready or not. Being forced to make a trade is not a position you want to be in; you can bet that other teams around the majors will try to take advantage of your desperation. As I've said all along, as long as Amaro doesn't move Domonic Brown, I'm all for the Phillies making the necessary moves to improve their rotation.

Add all of this speculation to the rumors surrounding the possible trade of Jayson Werth and we have the makings of a very interesting week and a half before the trade deadline. Of course, if the Phillies keep losing games, there might not be much of a point to them doing anything.

Phillies dump Kendrick to minors

After his weak showing last night against the Cardinals, it was probably only a matter of time before the Phillies made this move: Kyle Kendrick has been demoted to Triple A. In his place, the team has called up Andrew Carpenter from Lehigh Valley.

Kendrick hasn't been terrible for the Phillies this season, posting a 4.82 ERA, but he also isn't someone you can rely on every 5th day, especially if you have a team trying to make a playoff run. The curious thing about the move, however, is that the Phillies really don't have anyone on the roster that can replace Kendrick in the rotation. While Carpenter was the pitcher called up, I can't imagine the Phils want to hand a rotation spot to a guy who has made one major league start.

If the Phillies don't have a trade in the works for another starter, the other likely scenario is that the team thinks J.A. Happ is finally ready to re-join the team. While Happ hasn't pitched particularly well in the minors in his rehab starts, the Phillies might feel comfortable enough in his mechanics to toss him back in the mix.

Either way, it looks like we won't be seeing Kyle Kendrick with the Phillies again for awhile. While he isn't to blame for the Phillies struggles this season, he also hasn't exactly helped.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Flyers deal Simon Gagne to the Lightning

The Flyers have finally gotten themselves under the cap, trading Simon Gagne to the Lightning in exchange for defenseman Matt Walker and a 4th round draft pick. So ends the Philly career of the longest tenured Flyer.

For the Flyers, this move was all about moving salary and not about what they were getting in return. Considering Gagne is injury-prone and set to make 5.25 million next year and will be a free agent after next season, the Flyers were lucky to get anything in return. So, while Walker and a draft pick aren't anything to get too excited about, understand that everyone in the NHL knew the Flyers needed to dump salary so they weren't about to give up anything good to get Gagne.

With the trade, the Flyers are now about a million dollars under the salary cap. Matt Walker will make 1.7 million dollars for the next three years and will, at best, be the Flyers 7th defenseman. While Walker, a 7 year veteran, is a big, physical d-man, there is a chance the Flyers will look to bury him in the minors and let Oskars Bartulis remain the 7th d-man, giving them even more salary cap space. Either way, my hope is that the Flyers next move will be to dump Riley Cote, who is currently the Flyers 13th forward, and finally sign restricted free agent Darroll Powe to take his place.

Losing Gagne, who has spent 10 years with the Flyers, is a little painful, but it was the right move for the Flyers. Sure, it would have been nice to see Gagne spend his entire career in the Orange and Black but he was going to be leaving town as a free agent at the end of next season, anyway. Given how much Gagne makes, he was the right player to move to get the Flyers out of their salary cap mess.

So long, Simon and thanks for all you did with the Flyers. I will always wonder how good you could of been if all those injuries hadn't slowed you down.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Phillies stumble out of second half gate, lose 3 of 4 to Cubs

Remember all those good feelings we had about the Phillies heading into the All-Star break after they swept the Reds? Yeah, that's all gone now after the lowly Cubs trashed the Phillies on Sunday night, 11-6, to give them a 3-1 series win. It would have been a four game sweep, too, if Cubs closer Carlos Marmol hadn't lost his ability to throw a strike on Saturday.

It's hard to put too much blame on Phillies ace Roy Halladay, who gave up 5 earned runs in 6 innings on Sunday, considering the offense once again didn't show up until the game was over. The bullpen didn't do anyone any favors, either, as J.C. Romero and David Herndon took a relatively close game and turned it into a Cubs blowout. Sure, if Halladay had been his usual self and only gave up a run or two, the Phils would have easily won, but not even Doc is perfect every time out.

With a 4 game series against the first place Cardinals starting on Monday, things look grim for the Phillies once again. While they are still 5 games above .500 and there is still plenty of season left, the Phils find themselves 5 and a half games behind a Braves team that doesn't know the meaning of the word slump. All season long, we've been using the injury excuse when explaining why this Phillies team hasn't played up to their ability. Now, with the exception of Chase Utley, everyone is back for the Phillies, so when are they going to start winning again?

I'm not quite ready to write off this season for the Phillies but I'm much closer to that point than I ever thought I would be in mid-July. There is still plenty of time for the Phils to right the ship, but if they are going to start making up ground in the division, they need to start beating up on bad teams like the Cubs. When they don't do that, they put themselves in the position of needing to win a handful of games against good teams, like Cardinals and Rockies, their opponents for the next eight games. That's a pretty big order for a team that can't hit and has spotty pitching at best.

A third straight World Series appearance sure seems like a pipe dream now, doesn't it?
(AP PHOTO)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Phillies activate Polanco, dump Juan Castro

The Phillies continue their return to health today as they have activated Placido Polanco from the disabled list. Polanco, who hasn't played since June 25th due to elbow issues, will be a welcome sight for a Phillies offense that continues to struggle to score runs. Perhaps having a table-setter like Polanco back at the top of the lineup will spark their stagnant attack.

To make room for Polanco, the Phillies have released Juan Castro. Castro was a disappointing bench player this year, hitting only .198 in 54 games, and was made expendable after being outplayed by Wilson Valdez. After being signed in the offseason for $700,000, Castro was brought in to take Eric Bruntlett's utility role with the hopes that he could provide a little more bat to go with his defensive versatility. Why the Phillies felt they needed to sign the 38 year old Castro when anyone from the minors could have filled his role will remain a mystery.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Phillies activate Durbin as bullpen returns to full strength

With the return of the versatile Chad Durbin, who was activated from the disabled list today, the Phillies bullpen is at full strength for the first time all season. To make room for Durbin, the Phils designated Nelson Figueroa for assignment, meaning they will continue to keep Rule 5 pickup David Herndon on the roster. While most would love to see Danys Baez removed from the roster at some point, the Phillies bullpen is stronger now than it has been all season now that guys like Mike Zagurski and Antonio Bastardo (who was activated from the DL and sent to the minors) aren't in the picture.

Now that everyone is back, here are the bullpen roles for the team:

Long relief:
Chad Durbin

Lefty:
J.C. Romero

6th inning:
David Herndon
Danys Baez

7th inning:
Jose Contreras
Chad Durbin

Setup man:
Ryan Madson

Closer:
Brad Lidge

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Charlie Manuel manages NL to All-Star victory

Leave it to the genius of Charlie Manuel to finally break the stranglehold the American League has had on the All-Star Game. Okay, so Manuel really didn't have that much to do with it and probably over-managed the game if anything, but he is the skipper behind the first National League win in the All-Star Game since 1996. While it wasn't a particularly thrilling game, the NL did win 3-1 and therefore have earned the home field advantage in the World Series.

As for the rest of the Phillies at the game, neither Ryan Howard nor Roy Halladay did anything of note. Howard started the game at DH and ended up 0 for 2 with a strikeout and a groundout. Given that both of his at-bats were against lefties, including one against former Phillie Cliff Lee, you couldn't really expect much from Howard. As for Halladay, he pitched 2/3rds of an inning and gave up a pair of hits before being pulled out of the game by Manuel. He only threw 17 pitches but that was plenty in a game that means almost nothing.

As a Phillies fan, I have always rooted for the NL in the All-Star Game and I am therefore thankful that the American League's long winning streak is finally over. While I also think that making the game count for something is beyond stupid, it's nice to know that the Phillies will get home field advantage if they get to their third straight World Series.

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Eagles sign WR Riley Cooper; top 2 draft picks remain unsigned

WR Riley Cooper became the latest Eagles draft pick to sign today when he agreed to a 4 year contract with the Birds. With his signing, the Eagles now only have 2 draft picks left to sign, their top two picks, Brandon Graham and Nate Allen. Expect it to be a little while yet before Graham and Allen sign considering no first round picks for any team have signed yet and only one second roneunder has sigd.

Here is a complete list of Eagles draft picks and their contract status:

Brandon Graham, DE: No contract yet
Nate Allen, S: No contract yet
Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE: 4 years, 2.53 million, $740,000 signing bonus
Trevard Lindley, CB: 4 years, 2.31 million, $525,000 signing bonus
Keenan Clayton, LB: 4 years, 2.25 million, $466,790 signing bonus
Mike Kafka, QB: 4 years, 2.25 million, $467,000 signing bonus
Clay Harbor, TE: 4 years, 2.24 million, $453,000 signing bonus
Ricky Sapp, DE: 4 years, 2.0 million, $212,000 signing bonus
Riley Cooper, WR: 4 years, unknown salary, unknown signing bonus
Charles Scott, RB: 4 years, 1.88 million, $90,000 signing bonus
Jamar Chaney, LB: 4 years, 1.85 million, $60,000 signing bonus
Jeff Owens, DT: 4 years, 1.83 million, $44,000 signing bonus
Kurt Coleman, S: 4 years, 1.83 million, $43,400 signing bonus

All salary information comes from the National Football Post. I will continue to update this list as more players are signed and as more salaries are announced.

Flyers sign Dan Carcillo to one year contract

Being over the salary cap isn't stopping the Flyers from signing players: restricted free agent Dan Carcillo has signed a one year contract worth 1.075 million to remain with the team. Agreeing to a contract at this time means that the Flyers have avoided arbitration with Carcillo. This contract is a small raise from the near 900,000 Carcillo made last year and will make him a restricted free agent again after next season.

The Flyers are now about 2.5 million dollars above the cap and they still have to sign restricted free agent Darroll Powe. There has been very little talk of on the Simon Gagne trade front, which could mean something is imminent or it could mean that nothing is going on. Moving Gagne's 5.25 million dollar salary would give the Flyers about 2 million dollars after signing Powe to add one more piece to the team.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Phillies sweep their way to the All-Star break

You really couldn't have asked for a better finish to a rollercoaster first half of the Phillies season. Facing the NL Central leading Reds, the Phillies rode a strong performance by Cole Hamels on Sunday to win their second consecutive 1-0 game and complete a four game sweep of Cincinnati.

Pitching was once again the story as Hamels scattered 6 hits and 3 walks in 7 and 2/3rds innings. He didn't have his best stuff but he did manage to work his way out of some tight jams, including a bases-loaded and no outs situation in the 4th inning. Once Hamels was pulled in the 8th, the bullpen trio of Jose Contreras, J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge held on, allowing only one batter to reach base as they shut the door on the game.

The win capped a great series against the Reds where the Phillies seemed to get every key hit and catch every break. Given that the Phils only outscored the Reds 15-10 in the entire series, it's remarkable they were able to sweep all four games.

Now the Phillies enter the All-Star break with some real momentum. While some may argue that the All-Star break comes at the wrong time for the suddenly hot Phillies, I think any time off this banged up group can get is time they can use to heal and gear themselves up for a second half where they are going to have to be great if they want to make the playoffs. With the 4.5 game deficit they face in the division and 1.5 game deficit they face in the Wild Card, the Phillies are going to have to do some serious damage if they want to make the playoffs for the 4th straight year. More solid pitching performances like they have had over the last few days and a little more hitting will go a long way towards making that happen.

Report: Michael Vick banned from leaving Pennsylvania

I've made a point of avoiding the Michael Vick situation the last few weeks, hoping that it would blow over and not have an effect on the football field. Unfortunately, the time where it might effect the Eagles has come: probation officials have reportedly banned Michael Vick from leaving the state of Pennsylvania while they continue to investigate his role at a shooting after his birthday party.

How long he will be banned from leaving the state and what this means for Eagles road games this season is unclear. Chances are, if he is still not allowed to leave Pennsylvania when the season starts, he will be able to clear each of the Eagles road games with probation officials and still play in every game.

While rumors continue to persist that the Eagles might cut Vick at any time, they have spent so much time defending him over the last few weeks that it seems likely they will stick with him as their backup quarterback. If this ban from leaving the state lingers for too long, though, the Birds would be wise to formulate a backup plan at backup quarterback. Let's just hope Kevin Kolb doesn't get hurt this season.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Phillies make history with 3rd straight walk-off win

Good times at the old ballpark, huh? For the third game in a row, the Phillies finished off the Reds with a walk-off hit, as Jimmy Rollins supplied the late heroics when he singled home Carlos Ruiz in the 11th inning to give the Phils a 1-0 win. It was the first time in team history that the Phillies have won three straight extra innings games with a walk-off hit.

Of course, since the game was 0-0 heading into the 11th inning, there was a lot more to this game than just Rollins' walk-off hit. Travis Wood of the Reds, making just his third start in the majors, had a perfect game through 8 innings before Ruiz broke it up with a lead-off double in the 9th. Wood went on to finish off the 9th inning without any more damage but was pulled from the game and ended up with a no-decision.

The Phillies nearly got as dazzling a pitching performance from Roy Halladay, who also threw 9 innings and gave up 5 hits, walked 1 and struck out 9. It was just another solid performance by Halladay, who isn't getting any run support from the Phillies, who have scored more than 3 runs in support of Doc just once in his last 12 starts.

Let's see if the Phillies can make it four walk-offs in a row tomorrow as they play their last game before the All-Star break. Or, how about they win 10-2 and save us from the late-game heart attacks for a change?

(Photo via Philly.com)

Back to back walk-off homers for the Phillies!

Brian Schneider! Ryan Howard!! It's amazing what a pair of walk-off home runs can do for team morale. Let's hope the Phillies finally have their "swagger" back!(AP Photos)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Nikolai Zherdev officially signs with Flyers: 1 year, 2 million

It had been rumored over the last few days but it is finally official: the Flyers have signed forward Nikolai Zherdev to a 1 year, 2 million dollar contract. Zherdev will now step into one of the top two lines for the Flyers and is an immediate 30 goal threat.

You can read more of my thoughts on the shifty winger in my previous post, but at the minimal price of 2 million dollars, it's hard not to call this a great signing. If Zherdev turns into a reliable scorer then the Flyers have a steal; if he completely flops, he could easily be waived since it's only a one year deal. Call it the perfect low-risk, high-reward deal.

With this signing, the Flyers are now almost 1.5 million dollars over the cap. There is another move to be made to shed salary, whether it's actually dealing Simon Gagne or it's making a bigger deal with Jeff Carter or one of the defensemen, because the Flyers still have to sign another forward or two to round out the roster. With restricted free agents Dan Carcillo and Darroll Powe still hanging out there, the Flyers will need to get at least 4 million dollars off the books to bring them both back. The signing of Zherdev also eliminates any thoughts that the Flyers could bring in another goaltender unless one of the remaining free agent netminders (Marty Turco?) wants to take a massive pay cut to play in Philly.

Forget the Yankees, Cliff Lee traded to the Rangers

That didn't take long. After trade talks between the Yankees and Mariners fell apart, the Rangers have swooped in and grabbed former Phillie Cliff Lee. The Rangers had to give up quite a package, including top prospect Justin Smoak and three other minor leaguers, but they ended up with the best pitcher that is going to get dealt this season.

While some Phillies fans might still be upset that Lee didn't end up coming back to Philly, having him dealt to the Rangers is probably the next best thing as the deal keeps him out of the NL and away from the hated Yankees. While the Rangers do get that much closer to a World Series contender, the chances the Phillies will actually ever face Lee are very slim.

Bottom line, Cliff Lee was never coming back to the Philly. The Phillies may have had some talks here and there with Seattle about Lee but they could never have matched the package that the Rangers ended up offering to the Mariners. What you can get upset about as a Phillies fan, though, is the fact that the Mariners just got more for Lee than they had to give up to get him before the season. Ruben Amaro looks pretty bad for not holding out and getting more in return for a hot commodity like Cliff Lee.

Sorry Phillies fans, Cliff Lee is going to the Yankees (or not)

UPDATE: Or not. Apparently talks between the Yankees and Mariners have fallen apart. Jon Heyman reports that the Mariners don't like the Yankees offer.

Those dreams of Cliff Lee returning to the Phillies appear to be over: word around baseball is that Lee is about to be traded to the Yankees for a couple of prospects, including catcher Jesus Montero.

While your initial reaction is one of depression at the fact that the Phillies won't be getting Lee back and dismay that he's going to the hated Yankees, it's much better that Lee is going to the Yankees than to any team in the National League. Sure, we all dispise the Yankees and can't stand that a player we like is going there but could you imagine if Lee went to the Mets or Braves and the Phillies had to face him multiple times this year?

The trading of Cliff Lee also seems to have increased the chances that the Phillies will be dealing Jayson Werth for a starting pitcher. One possible trade that has already been discussed is dealing Werth for Yankees pitcher Javier Vazquez, who will be the odd man out in the New York rotation with the acquisition of Lee. Hopefully the Phillies set their sights a little higher than Vazquez; if Dan Haren is available, I'd love to see the Phillies do whatever it takes, short of prospect Domonic Brown, to get Haren.

Good luck with the Yankees, Cliff Lee. Hopefully the Phillies get a chance to beat you in the World Series.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Phillies news and notes: Madson is back, Werth to be moved?

Lots of news coming from the Phillies today as they look to finish out the first season on a positive note in a four game series with the Reds:

*Ryan Madson has been activated. Madson, who last pitched in late April, has been on the disabled list for almost two months after he broke his toe when he kicked a chair in frustration. Madson will be a welcome sight to the ragged Phillies bullpen. To make room, the Phillies sent Mike Zagurski back to the minors. Big Mike just doesn't seem ready for the majors right now.

*Carlos Ruiz began his rehab assignment yesterday. Expect Chooch to be back right after the All-Star break.

*Brian Schneider is back in the lineup tonight. Apparently his thumb is feeling a lot better; let's hope that's the last we've seen of Dane Sardinha.

*Finally, the biggest news of the day is something Buster Olney tweeted: the Phillies are talking with teams about the possibility of trading Jayson Werth with the hopes that the team could acquire a starting pitcher in return. This is a move that seems more and more likely to happen every day, what with Werth being a free agent at the end of the season and the Phillies slowly slipping further and further back in the division. While I would hate to see Werth go, if he's going to leave at the end of the season anyway, I would love for the Phillies to be able to turn him into Dan Haren or another starting pitcher of that ilk.

RDS.ca report: Simon Gagne refuses to waive no-trade clause

With the Flyers still closing in on signing Nikolai Zherdev, they are still working on that little matter of clearing some salary off the books to make room for the enigmatic winger. While it seemed like a foregone conclusion last week, it appears that Simon Gagne won't be the player that is moved off the roster.

In a video that's in French on RDS.ca, Gagne apparently talks about how he has not waived his no-trade clause. I say "apparently" because I don't know French, but I'm going with what those on Twitter like Dustin Leed (@HockeyGuy_DLEED) are saying when they relay that a rough translation of what Gagne says is "I have a no trade clause and I did not waive".

So, if Gagne refuses to be traded, which he has every right to do, what will the Flyers do now to move salary? With high-priced forwards Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell having no-trade clauses and Mike Richards getting one soon, that doesn't leave many players left for the Flyers to trade. Short of getting Hartnell to waive his no-trade clause, it's looking more and more like Jeff Carter is going to be moved. Given how center-heavy the Flyers are and how much they could likely get for him in a trade, moving Carter's 5 million dollar salary might have been the smart thing to do all along.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Flyers reportedly close to signing winger Nikolai Zherdev

The Flyers have gone to Russia in their search for a winger to play on their top lines, reportedly signing Nikolai Zherdev, the former Blue Jacket and Ranger who played in the KHL last year. Zherdev, a Ukrainian, has been a solid offensive player in his 5 years in the NHL, scoring 20 goals three times and averaging 28 assists a season. The Flyers have yet to confirm reports that they have signed Zherdev and contract details are not known at this time.

In Zherdev, the Flyers have just picked up a player with a ton of offensive talent but who also has some questions marks about his work ethic. Throughout his career, Zherdev hasn't shown much drive to play hockey and has often taken shifts off, something that is not going to endear himself to Flyers fans. Zherdev also isn't much for playing defense, so you can consider him a one-dimensional player that's extremely dangerous on the offensive end.

Without knowing the terms of the contract, it's difficult to speculate on what the signing of Zherdev means for the future of Simon Gagne, although it's probably safe to say Gagne is going to be shown the door at any moment. Since Zherdev is such an offensive player, he will need to play on one of the top two lines, preferably with someone like Mike Richards that can help make up for Zherdev's defensive shortcomings. With the Flyers already having enough skill players to fill out the top two lines, someone has to go and Gagne is still the most likely target. As for the salary cap implications and what this Zherdev signing means to guys like Dan Carcillo and Darroll Powe, we have to wait and hear just how much the Flyers have left to spend.

In signing Nikolai Zherdev, the Flyers have taken a flier on a player who can be truly dynamic if he has his head on straight. Hopefully Zherdev sees his return to the NHL as his last chance to make good in North America and puts in the work necessary to make him a good player. I'd call the signing a risky move with a ton of upside; the Flyers could have just added a 30 goal scorer.

Update: Apparently, Zherdev has yet to sign officially. Word from Anthony SanFilippo is that a deal with the Flyers should be done within 24 hours.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Flyers in contract discussions with Arron Asham

Just when you thought he was gone, the Flyers might be pulling him back in. According to John Boruk of CSN, the Flyers have entered contract talks with unrestricted free agent forward Arron Asham, who many thought was going to be an ex-Flyer after the team signed Jody Shelley on July 1st. While Asham made $640,000 last season with the Flyers, he's looking for a raise and has been in contact with several teams, including the Sharks, Kings and Coyotes.

That the Flyers are suddenly interested in bringing back Asham is somewhat curious. Given that the Flyers already signed Shelley for just over a million a season, he seemed like the logical choice to replace Asham's grit but not his skill. Well, as much skill as Asham provided with his 10 goals. What the discussions with Asham could signal, though, is that the Flyers have soured on the idea of bringing back restricted free agent Dan Carcillo, who filed for arbitration and is looking to make a million bucks next season. The Flyers might be thinking that if they are going to spend a million bucks, they might as well give it to Asham.

No matter how this shakes out, I can't see the Flyers carrying three "grit" forwards like Shelley, Carcillo and Asham; there simply isn't enough skill there to play them all. With Shelley already on the roster, that means the Flyers are going to choose between whatever arbitration brings with Carcillo or trying to convince Asham to spurn other suitors and come back to Philly. Of course, as they are making that choice, there is still that little matter of clearing some salary space. Things on the Simon Gagne trade front have been a little too quiet if you ask me.....

Carcillo files for salary arbitration

With the Flyers less than a million dollars away from the salary cap and still needing to sign another forward or two, they are going to have to get creative as they fill out the remainder of their roster. With the team still intending to sign restricted free agents Darroll Powe and Daniel Carcillo, the Flyers are going to have to move some salary off the books to make room.

Carcillo, who made $937,500 last year, has filed for salary arbitration. After having one of the more productive offensive seasons of his career, you can bet Carcillo will be looking for a bit of a raise. Seeing as the Flyers gave Jody Shelley over a million bucks, Carcillo has a good case for making at least that much. Arbitration hearings are held from July 20th to August 4th. The Flyers will likely be talking with Carcillo up until that point in an effort to avoid arbitration.

Darroll Powe has not filed for arbitration but I would expect him to get a contract offer somewhere slightly above the $520,000 he made last year.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Three Phillies named to 2010 All-Star Game

The All-Star teams were announced today and three Phillies are going to Anaheim: Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay. Utley was voted in as a starter at second base but will not be playing due to injury, Halladay was voted in by the players and Howard was added to the roster by NL manager Charlie Manuel.

While it's hard to argue with the inclusion of Utley or Halladay to the roster, you can bet plenty around baseball will complain about Howard's selection. With Manuel having a say in who makes the team and Howard's power numbers being down this year, many will argue that Manuel just picked his own guy, especially when you consider that Joey Votto, who has better numbers than Howard in nearly every category, was left off the team.

Placido Polanco almost made the All-Star team as well but was beaten out in the final stretch of fan voting by David Wright. It's just as well, Polanco wouldn't be able to play due to injury, anyway.

Click here to see the full rosters for both leagues.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Flyers reportedly make contract offer to Ilya Kovalchuk

Here's a strange Flyers rumor for you: according to EuroFlyer on Twitter and later confirmed in a Russian newspaper in a find by Ryan Bright of Philabright.com, the Flyers are one of a handful of teams that have made a contract offer to free agent forward Ilya Kovalchuk. According to the report, the Flyers, along with the Avalanche and Kings and team from the KHL, have all offered contracts to Kovalchuk and he is currently mulling over his options. Curiously, the Islanders, a team that is reportedly getting close to signing Kovalchuk, isn't mentioned at all in this report.

While there is some basis for this rumor since the initial source appears to be Kovalchuk's agent, there is almost no chance that Kovalchuk signs with the Flyers. While the Flyers do appear set to move Simon Gagne, they don't nearly have enough cap space to give Kovalchuk the huge contract he is after. In order to get in the 8 or so million dollar range that Kovalchuk is reportedly after, the Flyers would have to move another big contract, like Jeff Carter's, off the books. I just can't see them moving out two top-6 forwards just to bring in Kovalchuk.

Sure, it would be nice to have a 6-time 40 goal scorer like Ilya Kovaclhuk in Philadelphia, but don't hold your breath. While the Flyers might have made some kind of offer, you can bet it was not nearly enough to entice Kovalchuk; you have to wonder why the Flyers even bothered.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Goodbye Gagne? Flyers winger waives no trade clause

With the Flyers sitting less than a million dollars from the salary cap and still needing to sign a forward or two, you knew someone had to go. That someone might turn out to be Simon Gagne, who, according to Anthony SanFilippo on Twitter, has been asked by the Flyers and agreed to waive his no trade clause. While no trade appears to be imminent, moving Gagne would help the Flyers clear up some cap space so they could fill out their remaining roster and still have some money left over to pursue a goalie.

While he is a fan favorite, Gagne, who was drafted by the Flyers back in 1998 and has played 10 years in the Orange and Black, is the perfect target for the Flyers to trade. With a contract that will pay him 5.25 million for just one more year before making him an unrestricted free agent, the best time to move Gagne is now, especially considering Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux also have one year left in their deals and will be looking for contract extensions next offseason. While some think Carter, who doesn't have a no trade clause, should be the one to be moved, you have to factor in that Carter is 5 years younger than Gagne and hasn't had the injury history.

As a fan who has enjoyed rooting for him for the last decade, part of me hopes Gagne stays in Philly. As a fan of the Flyers team, however, it makes too much sense not to trade Gagne while the Flyers can still get a decent package for him and then fill in the remaining holes on the roster.

Parting with Gagne will be such sweet sorrow. While I would hate to see him go, if they make the right deal, the Flyers will be better off in the long run.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Phillies injury update: Utley out 8 weeks, Polanco out 3-4

The Phillies beat writers have spoken and it isn't good news: Chase Utley has had his surgery and will be out for 8 weeks. Yikes. Also, an official timetable for the return of Placido Polanco was announced: he will rest for the next two weeks and will likely not return for 3-4 weeks.

That means we have several weeks of Wilson Valdez and Greg Dobbs ahead, folks. Ruben Amaro better hit the phones.

Flyers sign tough guy Jody Shelley

In their first head-scratching move of the day, the Flyers have signed forward Jody Shelley to a 3 year deal worth 1.1 million dollars per season. Shelley, a 9 year NHL veteran, is a physical player that loves to drop the gloves every chance he gets. He doesn't do anything offensively, having scored just 49 points in 538 career games with the Blue Jackets, Sharks and Rangers in his career.

Why the Flyers felt the need to add another tough guy to the mix and why they had to give him over a million dollars per year is beyond me. With no real skills besides being physical, Shelley doesn't bring enough to the table to be anything more than a 4th line player who gets just a few minutes of ice time per game.

With Shelley brought in, Arron Asham's days as a Flyer are over. Joining Asham on the list of former Flyers might be restricted free agent Dan Carcillo, who could be the odd man out with Shelley taking over as enforcer. Although Carcillo does have considerably more skill than Shelley, there simply might not be enough room on the team for another agitator.

The Flyers are now dangerously close to the cap and still need to sign at least two more forwards. Everything appears to be setting up for a trade to clear some cap space.

Utley to have surgery, miss 5-6 weeks

The road to a third straight World Series appearance just got a whole lot tougher. Word has come out today that Chase Utley, who injured his thumb sliding into second base on Monday, will need surgery to repair a torn ligament. While there has been no official word on how long he will be out, David Murphy of Philly.com believes Utley will miss 5-6 weeks.

No matter how you look at it, this is a huge blow for the Phillies. While Utley hasn't quite been the hitter we've been used to over the last few years, his departure leaves a gaping hole in the lineup for an extended period of time. In his absence, and with Placido Polanco also out, the Phillies are forced to turn to a combination of Greg Dobbs, Wilson Valdez and Juan Castro on a daily basis. Expect the Phils to actively be trying to acquire someone who can play second or third base in the coming days.

With Utley out for about two months and Polanco shelved for an undetermined amount of time, the Phillies infield is in shambles. There is no way a team can contend for the playoffs with players like Wilson Valdez playing every day. About the best the Phils can hope for now is to tread water until Utley comes back in August and then make a playoff push then.

Flyers add more defense, sign Sean O'Donnell

And the defenseman trend continues for the Flyers. According to Bob McKenzie of TSN, the Flyers have signed 39 year old veteran defenseman Sean O'Donnell to a 1 year, 1 million dollar contract.

O'Donnell is a 15 year NHL veteran who has played over a thousand games for the Kings, Wild, Bruins, Coyotes and Ducks. A solid stay-at-home defenseman, O'Donnell is aging but still has plenty left to contribute. A very physical player, O'Donnell also has been remarkably healthy for the last few seasons and has had a positive plus/minus in nearly every season of his career.

With O'Donnell in the mix, the Flyers are now set on defense with Chris Pronger, Matt Carle, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Mezsaros as the top 5 and O'Donnell and Oskars Bartulis battling for the 6th spot. It's looking increasingly likely that the Flyers will go with this group on defense and hope they hold down the fort in front of Michael Leighton. Considering how strong this defense looks on paper, I'd say that's not a bad strategy.

All about D: Flyers re-sign Coburn

The Flyers are making it their offseason goal to strengthen their defense. After acquiring defenseman Andrej Mezsaros, their was some initial speculation that the Flyers might no longer be attempting to re-sign restricted free agent Braydon Coburn. That speculation didn't last long, however, as new quickly broke that Coburn signed a 2 year, 6.4 million dollar contract with the Flyers.

This contract is a nice raise for Coburn, who now has a cap hit of 3.2 million over the next two seasons. He joins Kimmo Timonen, Chris Pronger, Mezsaros and Matt Carle as Flyers d-men making over 3 million per season. I'd say they were making an effort to ensure their defense is one of the best in the league for the next few seasons.

With Coburn now under contract, the Flyers have two restricted free agents left that they are sure to sign: Dan Carcillo and Darroll Powe. After those two are signed, the team will likely be too close to the cap to sign any other players, including adding another goalie. As I've said before, if they want to sign another goalie they are going to have to trade a forward.

Flyers acquire defenseman Mezsaros from Lightning

Moments before NHL free agency began, the Flyers struck with their first big move of the offseason, acquiring defenseman Andrej Mezsaros from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a 2012 second round pick. Meszaros is a big (6'2'', 220), young defenseman who comes to the Flyers with a hefty 4 million dollar per year cap hit through the end of the 2013/14 season.

After trying and failing to sign Dan Hamhuis, it was clear the Flyers were on a mission this offseason to add a 5th solid defenseman into the mix. Mezsaros is that guy, and at only 24 and signed for the next 4 seasons, he's going to be in a Flyers jersey for several years. While he doesn't put up big offensive numbers (143 points in 379 career games), he is a big-time hitter and is exactly the kind of big, tough d-man that the Flyers and their fans love.

With Mezsaros added to the mix, what will the Flyers do next this offseason? Given they just used up 4 million dollars in cap space, it looks like the Flyers will have to move one of their expensive forwards off the roster if they plan to re-sign Braydon Coburn and bring in another goalie. This could also be the one big move the Flyers make because if they simply re-signed Coburn and fellow RFA's Darroll Powe and Dan Carcillo and added another cheap forward at one million per year, they are going to be right up against the cap. Of course, the offseason is just under way so who knows what else the team has in the works; certainly, no one saw this Mezsaros deal coming.