Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Phillies add Chad Qualls to the bullpen

The Phillies made a solid addition to their bullpen today, signing reliever Chad Qualls to a one year, 1.15 million dollar contract.  Qualls put up some decent numbers (3.51 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) last season, though he was pitching mostly in the pitcher-friendly confines of San Diego.  An 8 year veteran, the Phillies will be his 5th MLB team.  He is capable of pitching a lot of innings out of the bullpen and will be a good 6th or 7th inning option.

With the addition of Qualls, the Phillies appear to have completed their bullpen.  With closer Jonathan Papelbon, set-up guy Antonio Bastardo and Dontrelle Willis, Michael Stutes, Jose Contreras if he ever gets healthy and now Qualls, the Phillies have plenty of depth and versatility to make a solid 'pen.  While it would have been nice to let another young arm or two play a role in the bullpen, it's never a bad thing to have plenty of veteran depth.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Report: Eagles will retain Juan Castillo as Defensive Coordinator

The Juan Castillo experiment will continue for at least another year.  According to Jeff McLane of the Inquirer, the Eagles are going to hire Todd Bowles as their defensive backs coach and keep Castillo as the defensive coordinator.  Bowles, who was the interim head coach for the Dolphins for the final 3 games last season, brings more than a decade of NFL experience as a secondary coach and should help the talented Eagles secondary live up their potential.

As for Castillo, once the Saints hired Steve Spagnuolo, it seemed inevitable that he would be back as D.C.  I am of two minds when it comes to Castillo; on the one hand, he awful in the beginning of the season as the defense looked unorganized and confused; on the other, the defense was awesome down the stretch and Castillo showed real improvement in his game-planning.  Sure, the offenses the Eagles faced were terrible in the final few games but Castillo had the defense clicking in December.  Hopefully, given a full training camp to prepare, Castillo can get the defense rolling starting in Week 1.

It's telling that Andy Reid's job is on the line this season and he is willing to keep Castillo around as the defensive coordinator.  This could either be something that costs Reid his job or a move that makes him look like a genius.  At least the Eagles defensive coordinator in 2012 now has actual experience coaching defense.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Phillies sign Juan Pierre to minor league deal

The Phillies made a solid no-risk addition today, signing OF Juan Pierre to a minor league deal.  Pierre, a 12 year veteran of 5 different teams, will be given an opportunity to win a spot on the Phillies bench in spring training.

The possible upside for Pierre, which would be as a solid 4th or 5th outfielder and decent pinch hitter with some speed, makes this signing a no-brainer.  While Pierre is certainly on the tail-end of his career, he still hit .279 in 639 at-bats with the White Sox last season and is just two years removed from a 68 steal season.  He will never hit for any semblance of power but he could be a useful bench part if he proves his worth in spring training.

The Phillies have certainly made a concerted effort to improve their bench this offseason, replacing several limp bats with veterans who can bring a little pop or a little speed to a pinch hitting situation or late inning defensive substitution.  Time will tell if this leads to more offensive production for the Phils.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

So long: Brad Lidge signs with the Nationals

The Phillies have lost yet another member of their 2008 championship team: Brad Lidge has signed with the Nationals.  Lidge, who will be forever remembered for getting the final out in the World Series, signed a 1 year deal for around a million dollars with the Nationals.  There was some talk that Lidge would return to the Phillies but ultimately the Nats offered him more money and a bigger role in their bullpen.

Lidge will always be remembered in Philadelphia for his perfect 2008 seasons that ultimately led to the first title in the city in decades.  While 2009 was rough and last season was filled with injuries, Lidge leaves under good terms and should get a standing ovation when he returns as a National this season.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Phillies deal Wilson Valdez to Reds

The Phillies bench in 2012 will have one less familiar face: utility infielder Wilson Valdez has been traded to the Reds for lefty pitcher Jeremy Horst.  Valdez spent two seasons with the Phillies and was a mediocre injury replacement for Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Placido Polanco.  While his bat was pretty awful, Valdez was at least a good-to-great fielder that was somewhat useful to have on the bench.

The trade of Valdez may trigger the Phillies to make another move or they could simply rely on Michael Martinez for all of their utility needs.  It would be nice if they could find another bench piece that could give them a few decent at-bats while filling in at the various infield positions.

As for Horst, he made his big league debut last season with the Reds at the age of 26.  He probably won't be a contender for a bullpen role with the Phils and should slide right into the Iron Pigs pen.  What, did you expect the Phillies to actually get a useful player in return for Valdez?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Claude Giroux fights?!?

The Flyers played one of their worst games of the season on Thursday night, losing to the Islanders 4-1, but there was one interesting development in the game: Claude Giroux fought:
He certainly is much better with the stick than the fists.  Perhaps this will help him snap out of his offensive funk.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Phillies avoid arbitration, sign Cole Hamels to one year deal

The Phillies have avoided arbitration with Cole Hamels, signing him to a one year, 15 million dollar contract, according to Jon Heyman of CBS.  This is a significant raise for Hamels, who made 9.5 million last season.

The next step for the Phillies will be to wrap up Hamels long-term, something that may be tricky given all of the other big contract already on the books.  Avoiding arbitration and the headaches and hassle that go with that will help the Phils stay on good terms with Hamels but they will still have to shell out big bucks over a number of years to keep Cole in Philly.

Wilson Valdez also reached an agreement with the Phils, leaving Hunter Pence as the only arbitration-eligible Phillie.  Expect Pence to get wrapped up very soon.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Flyers fall short in thrilling Winter Classic

It was just 1 game of 82 on the schedule but the Winter Classic lived up to all of the hype, producing an exciting game in a beautiful environment.  While the Flyers did end up falling short, losing 3-2 to the Rangers, it was still an experience that the team and the city won't soon forget.

The Flyers got on the board first after Brayden Schenn scored his first NHL goal in the second period of the game.  It was the second time that a Flyer scored his first NHL goal in a Winter Classic as Danny Syvret also accomplished that feat back in 2010.  The Flyers then added a second goal later in the second period after Claude Giroux scored off a pass from Max Talbot but everything went downhill from there for the Flyers.  Not only did the Rangers score just 30 seconds later but they dominated the play for much of the rest of the game, building a 3-2 lead after a pair of Mike Rupp (!!) goals and a Brad Richards tally.

The Flyers had their chances late, including a powerplay and a late penalty shot but Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist proved to be too good, stoning the Flyers on 34 of their 36 shots and playing like the elite goaltender he is.  If only the Flyers could ever have a goaltender as good as Lundqvist....

Things will now get back to normal for the Flyers, who still find themselves in the upper half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture but have been skidding as of late, losing 3 of their last 4.  Perhaps getting away from the HBO cameras will help someone like Ilya Bryzgalov remember how to play hockey again and help the team out of their slide.

The 2012 Winter Classic definitely lived up to everything it was expected to be.  How about we do that again sometime?