Meet your new third baseman Phillies fans. In a move that can be best described as bland yet solid, the Philadelphia Phillies signed 1B/3B Wes Helms to a 2 year 5.5 million dollar deal, with a team option for a third season:
Helms, 30, earned $800,000 last season as a part-time player with the Marlins. He signed with the Phillies after receiving assurances that he would get a chance to play every day at third base, the source said.
The Phillies had shown the most interest of any club in Helms, who produced 10 homers, 47 RBI and a .965 on-base/slugging percentage in 240 at-bats last season with the Marlins.
Only once, however, has Helms batted more than 274 times in a season — in 2003 with the Brewers.
Now he has a chance to amass at least 400 plate appearances, if not more. He considers himself a third baseman, as he has said in the past that he ‘loves the hot corner’. However, his defense is less than stellar according to some newer defensive measures such as RAR (runs a player saves above replacement level), which has fluctuated around zero for the past 4 seasons: -2, 4, 1, 0. He’s also only played 59 games at third in the past 2 seasons. Still, he’s expected to be the starter over Abraham Nunez at the spot. Nunez has a great glove at whatever position he plays, but the reason he’s being replaced is his simply anemic bat.
And what about the replacement’s bat? Helms is a player not unlike Alfonso Soriano in that he had his best season ever in 2005. He’s also had some horrible seasons (2002 and 2004) but was hurt in both years. 2003, 2005, and 2006 were all either league average or above it, judging by OPS+ (100 is average):
- 01 – 84
- 02 – 79
- 03 – 100
- 04 – 84
- 05- 112
- 06 – 149
There is an upward trend there. He’s now 30 years old (31 in May), but his past two seasons have been huge improvements over a subpar year in 2004. In that season he lost his biggest attribute, his power. This is where he separates himself from Nunez, who lacks any trace of it. Nunez’s swings create dribblers to second, Helms creates line drives. Helms’ incredible power in 2006 is likely somewhat of an abberation, unless he simply turned on a lightswitch. His 06 Isolated power was .246, which is way out of whack with his career .179. The only player on the Phils with a higher 2006 ISO was Ryan Howard. For a comparison, Nunez’s career ISO is .075.
We know he has power, but does he have patience? Patience is one thing that doesn’t fluctuate near as much as power may from year to year, and his is largelly consistent. It’s not all that special, at .084 walks per AB (I’d say at least .100 is a reasonable amount). Nunez does have the edge here, but his complete lack of power makes him a pitiful hole in the lineup.
My conclusion is that Helms is a definite upgrade at third base. With about 400 at bats I wouldn’t expect a 965 OPS like last season, but I wouldn’t expect a 692 OPS like in 2004. He’s healthy, he’s coming off two above average seasons, and he’s playing a position he enjoys. It’s a decent, if bland, move. I’d have gone for Akinori Iwamura, but apparently the Phils don’t believe he’s worth the money. He certainly would have cost more money, but he also has more upside. Anyway, the Devil Rays have the rights to negotiate with him now so perhaps we should just analyze what we have on the current roster. Helms started with the Braves, then was traded to the Brewers, and is now a Phillie. Let’s hope he builds on his last two seasons, instead of reverting to his 2004 self. I’m willing to risk much more at 3B simply because we have NOTHING there now, and it won’t cost nearly as much money as signing Soriano. This is a cheap upgrade to our worst position. Now it’s time to focus on moving Rowand for some pitching, or some minor league talent. The major negative I see out of this is that it seems to me that Gillick really believes in the career year of some players. Nunez in 2005, Helms in 2006, Soriano in 2006 all had career years and we signed two of them after said career years. We may fill the triumverate, to my dismay.