11 with connections to the Phillies have a 2019 shot at the Baseball Hall of Fame

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Schilling (R) has already joined Schmidt (L) and Carlton (C) in the Phillies Wall of Fame

Ballots for nominees to the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame class were received this past week by eligible voters with the Baseball Writers Association of America.

There are 35 players on the ballot this year. That total includes 15 holdovers from last year’s ballot and 20 newcomers. Among those nominees there are nine who played with the Phillies at one time or another.
Three returning Phillies players on the BBWAA ballot this year are Curt SchillingBilly Wagner and Scott Rolen.
Schilling spent most of his Phillies career from 1992-2000 as a starter, including as the ace of the 1993 NL pennant-winning squad. Wagner was a lights-out closer for the Phillies during the 2004-05 campaigns. Rolen was the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year and four-time Gold Glove third baseman during his 1996-2002 Phillies years.
The half-dozen newcomers to the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot for 2019 are pitchers Roy HalladayRoy Oswalt, and Freddy Garcia. Infielders Placido Polanco and Michael Young and outfielder Juan Pierre also spent time with the Phillies and are on the ballot this year as position players.

PHILLIES NEWCOMERS TO THE BALLOT

Garcia (34.4 WAR), Young (21.4) and Pierre (17.1) are very likely to fall off the ballot after this round of voting. Any player who does not receive support from at least 5% of the voters is removed from the ballot, and it is hard to imagine either player reaching that mark. Oswalt and Polanco each have a chance to receive at least enough support to remain on the ballot for a second year.
Oswalt was part of the 2011 ‘Four Aces’ starting pitching rotation that led those Phillies to a franchise-record 102 regular season victories. The righty had come over from Houston at the 2010 non-waiver trade deadline following a strong decade with the Astros during which he was a three-time NL All-Star and finished among the top five in NL Cy Young Award five times.
Over a 13-year career in Major League Baseball with three organizations, Oswalt went 163-102 with a 3.36 ERA and 1.211 WHIP. He registered an excellent 3.56 K:BB and accumulated a 50 career WAR mark.
Polanco was obtained in a 2002 trade with the Saint Louis Cardinals for Rolen. He would start at second base for the Phillies from 2002 until being traded to the Detroit Tigers during the 2005 season, making way for Chase Utley to take over the position.
With the Tigers, Polanco became an AL All-Star and won two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2007 ALCS and received AL MVP votes in both 2007 and 2009.
Polanco returned to the Phillies after the 2009 season as a free agent, playing third base from 2010-12. He was a 2011 NL All-Star and captured this third career Gold Glove Award at a second position. Polanco finished with 2,142 hits over 16 big-league seasons with a 41.5 WAR mark.
Halladay has an excellent shot at enshrinement in his first year on the ballot. He accumulated a 64.3 career WAR mark to go along with a 203-105 record, 3.38 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, 3.58 K:BB and a host of signature accomplishments and awards.
The big right-hander was the AL Cy Young Award winner in 2003 with the Toronto Blue Jays and the NL Cy Young Award winner in 2010 with the Phillies. He finished as runner-up for the award with both teams as well.
Halladay was an eight-time All-Star and three-time 20-game winner (won 19 twice) who led his league in innings pitched four times, shutouts four times, and in complete games on seven occasions.
In that 2010 season with the Phillies, Halladay tossed the 21st Perfect Game in MLB history and one of just two postseason no-hitters.

TODAY’S ERA BALLOT INCLUDES TWO MORE FORMER PHILLIES

In addition, 10 individuals are being considered for enshrinement by the Today’s Era committee. One of those individuals is Charlie Manuel, manager of the Phillies 2008 World Series championship team.
Manuel skippered the club from 2005-13, compiling an overall 780-636 mark. His Phillies teams won five consecutive NL East crowns from 2007-11, and back-to-back National League pennants in 2008-09.
In addition, Manuel managed the Cleveland Indians from 2000-02, compiling a 220-190 record with a 2001 AL Central crown. Prior to that he was the hitting coach in Cleveland during the Tribe’s 1990’s heyday as a consistent title contender.
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Charlie Manuel is among 10 nominees to the Hall of Fame through the Today’s Era committee. (Photo: (Chris O’Meara/AP)
The other with Phillies ties on that Today’s Era ballot is Davey Johnson, who is being considered due to his work as a manager as well. He managed the 1986 New York Mets to a World Series championship, and his teams finished in first place during six of his 17 seasons.
Johnson won 1,372 games while skipper of five clubs, which puts him 31st on the all-time career list for managerial victories. Only three men ahead of him on that list are deceased. Seven are either still active or are alive and still could be hired to add to their totals. Just one of those deceased and ahead of him, Ralph Houk, had a winning career record.
Johnson’s ties to the Phillies came as a player during the 1977 and 1978 seasons. The Phillies won the second and third of three straight NL East crowns in those years.
Johnson was mostly a late career bench player at that point, but he did receive a number of starts at first base in September of 1977, and also started Game 1 of the 1977 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He got a number of starts at third base during August of the 1978 season when future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt was battling injury.
Johnson had been a three-time American League All-Star and three-time Gold Glover at second base during the early years of his career with the Baltimore Orioles. He slugged 43 home runs during an NL All-Star campaign with the Atlanta Braves in 1973.
Based on his career managerial wins total and his overall career back to his playing days, Johnson certainly has a better chance at enshrinement than Manuel. That despite the latter’s expected far greater popularity in Philadelphia. Still, I don’t see either man making it, at least not this year.

WHICH FORMER PHILLIES MAKE THE HALL OF FAME?

So, who makes it? Which of the 11 individuals with connections to the Philadelphia Phillies franchise is going to gain entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame? My prediction is that three of them will get in – eventually. But I think that each will gain enshrinement at radically different paces.
As I stated earlier, there is a great chance that ‘Doc’ Halladay makes it right away in this, his first year on the ballot. If I were a betting man, I would say that he gets in now. If he doesn’t it will be very close, and he makes it by 2020 at the latest.
Schilling clearly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. His 79.6 career WAR is fourth among all players on the ballot, trailing just Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who are being held up for now only because of suspected PED usage.
He also trails Mike Mussina, the former Orioles and Yankees ace who was named on 63.5% of ballots in his fifth year last time around. That was second only to Edgar Martinez, who should reach enshrinement this time out in his own final year on the ballot.
I believe that Mussina inches closer this year, finishing in the upper-60’s, and then gains entry in either 2020 or 2021. Schilling, who received 51.2% of the vote a year ago, will make it as well, but only after Mussina. He could make it in 2021 or 2022, but may ultimately end up like Martinez, held off by the voters until a final push in his last year on the ballot in 2023.

Scott Rolen will eventually be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but it may take awhile.
Rolen is a more difficult proposition. He only received support from 10.2% of the voters last year, which was just his second time on the ballot. If he finishes that low again or even, gasp, drops off the ballot entirely it will be an absolute crime.
Rolen is sixth among all players on this ballot in career WAR. His 70.2 mark sandwiches between the Coors Field-spiked numbers of Larry Walker (72.7) and the PED-infused 69.4 mark of Manny Ramirez. He is ahead of Martinez, Halladay, and Mariano Rivera, all of whom are likely to make up the 2019 Hall of Fame class.
Among his 17 seasons in Major League Baseball were four shortened by injury. Three of those came during his prime while with the Saint Louis Cardinals, with whom he was the starting third baseman on their World Series championship squad.
Rolen hit .281 over his career and produced 2,077 hits including 316 home runs. He drove in 1,287 and scored 1,211 runs. His 517 doubles are 52nd among all players in MLB history. Rolen was the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year, a seven-time NL All-Star, and a Silver Slugger Award winner.
In addition to being a consistent middle-of-the order presence in the batting orders of four teams, Rolen was one of the greatest defensive third basemen in baseball history. An eight-time third base Gold Glove Award winner, he trails only Brooks Robinson (16) and Mike Schmidt (10) at the hot corner.
Assuming he can stay on the ballot, I see Rolen’s support slowly and steadily rising. He is eligible to remain on the ballot through much of the next decade, until voting for the 2027 class. Hopefully he eventually reaches 75% of the voters. If not, I believe he still makes it one day through the Veteran’s Committee process.
So there you have it. 11 former Phillies being considered this year. Three of them will ultimately be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but only Halladay gets in this year or next. Two more, Schilling and Rolen, will have to wait their turn until sometime in the 2020’s.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Which nominated Phillies will be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Free agent signing of Jose Mesa helped Phillies springboard to 2000’s contention

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Mesa became a record-setting closer with the Phillies in the 2001-02 seasons

Rumors continue breaking nearly every single day during this off-season that the Philadelphia Phillies are ready to make some big moves.

Today came rumors that the club had put relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter on the trade block, joining Carlos Santana there. The team was also once again linked strongly to the two biggest free agent names, shortstop Manny Machado and outfielder Bryce Harper.
It was with all this current activity in mind that just yesterday I began a regular ‘Phillies Hot Stove History’ series in which I plan to re-visit some of the big free agent signings, trades, and other transactions made by the club on this date in off-season history.
That first entry took a look back at a 1981 three-team trade in which the Phillies sent outfielder Lonnie Smith to the Saint Louis Cardinals and landed catcher Bo Diaz from the Cleveland Indians. Within weeks that deal would have permanent ramifications for two of the team’s 1980 World Series heroes, catchers Bob Boone and Keith Moreland.
Today we’ll take a look at a big free agent signing from this date in the year 2000. To fully understand the signing and the reasons that it took place, you need to go back and recall what was happening at that time in Phillies history.

The organization was struggling mightily at that point. From 1987 through the 2000 campaign the Phillies had finished with a winning record just once, in the magical 1993 run to a World Series appearance.
Aside from that 97-65, first place and pennant-winning miracle, the Phillies had fashioned a horrendous cumulative record of 912-1,128 over the other prior 13 seasons.
To say that it was a long, dark dry-spell would be an understatement. The sustained losing would eventually cost five managers their jobs: John FelskeLee EliaNick LeyvaJim Fregosi, and Terry Francona, as well as general manager Lee Thomas.
But things began to change for the better as a new millennium dawned, even though it hadn’t yet shown up in the win-loss column. The Phillies finished the 2000 season with a 65-97 record, the second-worst during that stretch.
However, new and talented young players were beginning to make their way into the lineup. At age 25, third baseman Scott Rolen would win his second Gold Glove Award that year and was better than a 4-WAR player in each of his first four big-league seasons.
The Phillies first round pick in the MLB Draft just two summers earlier, 23-year-old Pat Burrell busted into the lineup with 18 homers and 79 RBI as a first baseman/left fielder. He would finish fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
26-year-old right fielder Bobby Abreu had his second straight 20-20 season with 25 homers and 28 stolen bases. He slashed .316/.416/.554 with 77 extra-base hits and 103 runs scored and was emerging as a premier offensive threat in the middle of the Phillies lineup.
The catcher was 28-year-old Mike Lieberthal, a future Phillies Wall of Famer who just might be the best all-around backstop in franchise history. A year after capturing the NL Gold Glove Award at the position he had made a second-straight National League All-Star appearance.
In mid-September of 2000, the lineup made room for an exciting newcomer. 21-year-old Jimmy Rollins hit .321 over 14 games and 55 plate appearances and flashed serious leather. That performance set the stage for a career that would see him become the greatest shortstop in Phillies history.

Phillies GM Ed Wade made the decision to bolster his emerging club’s bullpen for the 2001 season, a decision that paid off big-time.
Though the Phillies finished last in Major League Baseball with 708 runs scored and next-to-last in OPS, 44-year-old third-year general manager Ed Wade correctly surmised that he had the position player core to grow into a winner.
Where the Phillies were really lacking was on the mound. The mercurial ace of the staff, Curt Schilling, was dealt away at the non-waiver trade deadline in 2000. In exchange the Arizona Diamondbacks sent first baseman Travis Lee and three pitchers who Wade hoped could help the pitching depth in Vicente PadillaOmar Daal, and Nelson Figueroa.
The team’s second round 1997 MLB Draft pick, lefty starter Randy Wolf, was coming off his first full big-league season and appeared to be at least a long-term mid-rotation mainstay.
After four losing seasons, the notoriously tough Philly fans had seen enough of Francona as the manager. To be fair, this was the future multi-World Series winner’s first chance at an MLB managerial gig, and he wasn’t given much depth of talent to work with.
It was deemed time to give a new voice a chance to wake up both the players and the fan base, and there was one logical choice for the job: Larry Bowa. The former longtime World Series champion Phillies shortstop and coach, Bowa was hired as the new skipper.
Wade believed that if the position players continued to develop as he expected, then one way the Phillies could quickly begin to win was by bringing in major reinforcements for the bullpen.
The Phillies closer during the 2000 season had been 13-year veteran righty Jeff Brantley. He had recorded 23 Saves, but also had unsightly 5.86 ERA and 1.681 WHIP marks. The 36-year-old surrendered 64 hits over 55.1 innings and yielded a dozen home runs.
The primary setup men for Brantley on that 2000 Phillies team were righties Chris Brock and Wayne Gomes. After the Schilling trade, Padilla was used out of the pen on a regular basis as well. To call their performances poor would be an insult to the word.
Brock had a 4.34 ERA and 1.350 WHIP, allowing 21 home runs and 41 walks over his 93.1 innings which included five starts and 68 relief appearances. Gomes had a 4.40 ERA and 1.452 WHIP and had a poor 6.0/4.3 K:BB per nine innings rate. In 28 games, all out of the pen, Padilla had a 5.34 ERA and allowed 40 hits over 30.1 innings with a 21/18 K:BB ratio.

MESA GOES FROM STARTER TO CLOSER THROUGH FIVE TEAMS

Mesa had originally signed with the Toronto Blue Jays as, believe it or not, a 15-year-old outfielder out of the Dominican Republic all the way back in 1981.
In early September of 1987, Mesa was sent by Toronto to the Baltimore Orioles as the player-to-be-named-later in a deal that had netted the contending Jays a veteran starter in Mike Flanagan.
Mesa received a cup-of-coffee with his big-league debut that very month, making a half-dozen appearances for a horrendous Orioles team that was playing out the string. He would return to the minors for the next couple of seasons, working as a starting pitcher.
From 1990-92, Mesa made 43 appearances with the Orioles, 42 of those as a starter. Then on July 14, 1992 came what would become his big career break. Mesa was dealt by Baltimore to Cleveland for speedy outfield prospect Kyle Washington.
With the Indians, Mesa remained in the rotation at first, with 48 of his first 49 appearances in the Tribe uniform coming as a starting pitcher. It was in 1994 that Indians manager Mike Hargrove made the decision to switch the big right-hander to the bullpen. It would prove to be a career-making move.
His 1994 switch to the bullpen was successful but was also cut short by the player’s strike. When play resumed in 1995, Mesa was made the closer for an Indians team on the rise.
Cleveland would capture the next five consecutive American League Central Division titles. Mesa became an all-star, representing the Tribe in both the 1995 and 1996 Mid-Summer Classics.
In that 1995 season, Mesa would have a career year. He led all of baseball with 46 Saves and 57 games finished. His other numbers were tremendous: 1.13 ERA, 1.031 WHIP, 49 hits surrendered in 64 innings over 62 games. For that performance he finished as runner-up in the AL Cy Young Award voting to Randy Johnson.
The Indians would lose the World Series that year to the Atlanta Braves in six games, shut down in the opener by future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux and then twice by future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine. Mesa earned the win in Game 3 out of the pen.
After being knocked out in the ALDS by the Orioles in 1996, the Indians returned to the Fall Classic in 1997. This time they would face the upstart Florida Marlins, who had a pair of 1993 Phillies heroes on the roster in Darren Daulton and Jim Eisenreich.
The two teams battled through seven epic games, and that final Game 7 went to the bottom of the 9th inning with the Indians ahead by 2-1. With Cleveland just three outs away from their first World Series championship in nearly a half-century, Hargrove motioned down to the bullpen and called for his lights-out closer.
Mesa surrendered a base hit to Moises Alou, but then struck out Bobby Bonilla swinging. Two outs away. The next batter, Charles Johnson, dropped a line single into right field with Alou rolling around to third base as the tying run.
On a 1-1 pitch, little second baseman Craig Counsell lined a ball to right field. It was caught for the second out but was deep enough to score Alou for a tie game.
Hargrove had his horse in the game and decided to ride him longer. Mesa got the lead batter, but then surrendered two more hits in the bottom of the 10th. After striking out John Cangelosi for the second out, Hargrove made the decision to pull Mesa, who had thrown 39 pitches.
Veteran starter Charles Nagy came on to get the last out in the 10th and end that threat. With the score still knotted at 2-2 in the bottom of the 11th, Nagy continued on.
The Marlins then put together another threat without hitting a ball hard. A ground single, an error by second baseman Tony Fernandez, and an intentional walk loaded the bases with two outs. Up stepped 21-year-old shortstop Edgar Renteria. On the second pitch, he lined a clean single to center field and Counsell gleefully scampered home with the series-winning run.
The following year, Mesa seemed to fall apart. After 44 games his ERA had more than doubled and his strikeout rate was falling for a third straight season. As the non-waiver trade deadline approached, Indians GM John Hart decided to deal the pending free agent, sending him along with veteran infielder Shawon Dunston to the San Francisco Giants.
After finishing the season with San Francisco, Mesa became a free agent and signed a two-year, $6.8 million deal with the young and talented Seattle Mariners.
In the second year of the deal, the 2000 Mariners led the AL West Division from late June through late September but fell a half-game short of the Oakland A’s for the division crown. As the American League Wildcard team, they swept the Chicago White Sox 3-0 in an ALDS, but then were eliminated by the New York Yankees in six games in the ALCS.
Mesa wasn’t really wowing anyone at that point in his career. After recording 33 Saves his first season in Seattle he lost the closer job. Over the two seasons with the Mariners, Mesa had a cumulative 5.18 ERA and 1.701 WHIP.

MESA BECOMES PHILLIES RECORD-SETTING CLOSER

This was the man who Wade signed to anchor his new bullpen. Mesa would take this new opportunity to close as a re-birth, and he would prove to be born-again-hard, at least for the first two seasons of his deal.
In the 2001-02 campaigns with the Phillies, Mesa saved 42 and 45 games respectively. In 2001 he registered a 2.34 ERA over 71 games. In 2002 his ERA was at the 2.97 mark across 74 games. He yielded just 130 hits over 145 hits during the two seasons with just nine home runs allowed.
Wade didn’t stop his bullpen rebuild with Mesa alone. On November 30, 2000, he added a veteran left-hander to the mix by signing free agent Rheal Cormier. The 33-year-old became the primary southpaw out of the pen, pitching in 60 games and allowing just 49 hits over 51.1 innings.
On December 15, 2000, Wade would further bolster the pen, bringing back former Phillies all-star closer Ricky Bottalico to serve as Mesa’s primary setup man. Over 66 games, ‘Ricky Bo’ would allow just 58 hits across 67 innings.
Adding this new trio of veteran pitchers to the maturing position player mix worked perfectly. The Phillies very nearly went from worst-to-first. They led the NL East at the MLB All-Star Game break and as late as July 16.
The club continued to fight, never falling more than 3.5 games behind the six-time defending division champion Atlanta Braves. After winning the opener of a key three-game series in Atlanta on October 2, the Phillies were just a game out.
However, the Braves recovered to win the next two straight and open a three-game lead. Despite the Phillies sweeping a season-ending three-game weekend series in Cincinnati, the club would finish two games shy of Atlanta for the division crown.
Still, the Phillies 86-76 mark was their first winning season since the 1993 team. They would slip slightly to 80-81 during the 2002 season, Mesa’s second as closer, but would then begin a string of nine consecutive winning campaigns that would include the second World Series title in franchise history.
The 2003 Phillies would win 90 games and finish just five games off the NL Wildcard pace after a late September swoon. But in the final season of his contract, a now 37-year-old Mesa would prove ineffective.
In that 2003 campaign his ERA swelled to 6.52 and he allowed 71 hits over 58 innings. During an injury-riddled September, Mesa appeared in just a half-dozen games and was awful when he pitched, surrendering nine earned runs on nine hits over four innings.
Mesa’s contract was up, but his career was not yet over. Neither, in fact, were his days in Philadelphia. Mesa would again emerge as a strong closer in the 2004 season, saving 43 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He spent the 2005 season again in Pittsburgh, recording the 300th Save of his career. He then hooked on with the Colorado Rockies for the 2006 season at age 40.
In 2007, Mesa signed with the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers to bolster their bullpen as a 41-year-old veteran. However, after 16 ineffective appearances, the Tigers released him. Six days later he re-signed to give it one more shot with the Phillies.
The 2007 Phillies were a team on their way to the first of what would be five straight NL East Division crowns. Mesa, who had been there at the beginning of this great era in the team’s history, was back as it was finally all coming to full fruition.
He became a regular piece out of manager Charlie Manuel‘s bullpen over the rest of that season. In 40 games, Mesa allowed just 34 hits over 39 innings and surrendered just two home runs.
On August 5, 2007 in Milwaukee he registered his lone Save of the season, the 321st and final of his big-league career. He is currently 20th on the all-time MLB career Saves list. On September 18 at Saint Louis he earned the Win, the 80th and final of his career.
Mesa did get to take the mound for one final postseason appearance that year, but it was not a successful swan song. The Colorado Rockies swept the Phillies out in three straight games.
During Game 2 at Citizens Bank Park, Mesa came on top pitch the top of the 6th inning with Colorado already on top by 6-3. He lasted just four batters. After walking the first two, Yorvit Torrealba drilled a two-run double, upping the Rockies lead to 8-3. Mesa then retired pitcher Josh Fogg on a sacrifice bunt. It would prove to be the final batter he would face in the big leagues.
Prior to Mesa signing with the team back in December 2000, the Phillies all-time career Saves record was held by 1987 NL Cy Young Award winner Steve Bedrosian with 103. Over his first three years in Phillies pinstripes, Mesa broke that record by saving 111 games. The one more that he tacked on in 2007 left him with the Phillies record of 112 career Saves.
That record would last for more than a decade until another big free agent closer signing, Jonathan Papelbon, would set the new and current Phillies career Saves mark of 123 over his three seasons with the team.
It was on this date 18 years ago that Wade’s plan to push the team forward by bolstering his bullpen began to take shape with the free agent signing of Mesa. That signing has to be considered a complete success with Mesa becoming the club’s all-time Saves leader.
With Mesa as the closer and the subsequent additions of Cormier and Bottalico, the Phillies 2001 bullpen was indeed greatly improved. That trio was a major reason that the team finally emerged from more than a dozen years at the bottom of the standings. The Phillies would use that 2001 contending season as a springboard to a decade of success.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Phillies Hot Stove History: The 2000 Jose Mesa free agent signing

Relievers Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek being shopped by Phillies

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Tommy Hunter now among those reportedly being shopped by the Phillies

The MLB Hot Stove season is in full swing as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches. The Philadelphia Phillies appear to be involved in a new rumor every single day, and today is no different.

Last week’s hot rumor was that the club was “shopping the hell” out of first baseman Carlos Santana. Now comes word that the Phillies have two more of the veteran free agents signed last off-season, relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, on the trade blocks.
A 38-year-old right-hander who brings a dozen years of experience in Major League Baseball with a half-dozen different organizations, Neshek first came to the Phillies in a November 2016 trade with the Houston Astros.
Neshek was flipped at the 2017 non-waiver trade deadline to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for a trio of prospects led by infielder Jose Gomez, who now ranks #16 on MLB.com’s top Phillies prospectslist. Neshek became a free agent that fall and re-signed with the Phillies on December 15, 2017.

Hunter is a 32-year-old right-hander who has also pitched with a half-dozen different MLB organizations across his 11-year big-league career. He signed with the Phillies as a free agent the same day as Neshek last December.
Neshek is owed $7.75 million for next season with a $7 million team option for 2020. There is also a $750k club buyout for that season. Hunter has $9 million owed to him next year and then he will become a free agent.
The first word that the two relievers were being shopped around came today via Jon Heyman on Twitter:
phillies not only have carlos santana on the block, as @Ken_Rosenthal said but also tommy hunter and pat neshek. the relievers had solid years, but with so many quality bullpen arms on the free agent market, timing for trades may not be easy

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The Phillies wouldn’t mind having either reliever return to the team in the 2019 season. Each had a solid year with the club in 2018 and could be expected to continue providing solid experience and results next year.
However, the free agent market is flooded with relief pitchers in this current off-season. If the Phillies could get a team or teams to take on the nearly $17 million owed to the two veterans for 2019, they would likely be able to sign a couple of new free agents at an even better price who could provide similar results.
Among the more attractive arms on the market are Craig KimbrelAndrew MillerZach BrittonAdam OttavinoKelvin Herrera, and Joakim Soria. Some of those pitchers would be expensive. But there are deals to be had among some three dozen available and experienced relief pitchers.

Of course, therein lies the rub. Any potential trade partner could also sign a more affordable free agent from among the many available options. The Phillies would likely have to either eat some of the salary or toss in a prospect to get a deal done.

Looking back at a key Phillies off-season trade on this date 37 years ago

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Bo Diaz slides home during Game Two of the 1983 World Series 

The Philadelphia Phillies are expected to be big players during this current ‘Hot Stove’ season in Major League Baseball.

Through both free agent signings and trades, if there aren’t a half-dozen interesting players swapped on and off the roster by spring training, fans of the team will be extremely disappointed.
With that in mind, today I’ll begin a regular ‘Phillies Hot Stove History’ series. In it, we’ll take a look back at some of the big free agent signings, trades, and other transactions made by the club on this date in history.
It was on November 20, 1981, 37-years-ago today, that the Phillies finally decided to turn the page at their catching position by swinging a three-team trade.
That deal involving the Cleveland Indians and Saint Louis Cardinals would ultimately have ramifications that reached up to Chicago and out to California as well.
Bob Boone, a future Phillies Wall of Famer, had turned 34 years old just a day earlier. Boone had been the club’s sixth round pick all the way back in the 1969 MLB Amateur Draft out of Stanford.
Boone made his big-league debut in 1972 and became the Phillies starting catcher the following year. For his outstanding play that first season, Boone finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.
He would remain the starter right on through the 1980 World Series-winning campaign, capturing a pair of NL Gold Glove Awards and being named as a National League All-Star three times.
It was a combination of age, decreased production, and a younger player coming up through the system that finally began edging Boone out during the 1981 season.
That younger player was Keith Moreland, the Phillies seventh round pick in the 1975 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Texas. Moreland first broke into the big-leagues for a cup of coffee in 1978 and 1979.
In the 1980 World Series campaign, Moreland grew to become a key piece of manager Dallas Green‘s bench. He appeared in 62 games, 39 of those as Boone’s catching backup.
The Phillies captured their first-ever World Series championship against the Kansas City Royals that October. During that Fall Classic, Moreland started three of the six games behind the plate.
During the following strike-shortened 1981 season, the 33-year-old Boone caught in 75 games and a 27-year-old Moreland in 50. The writing was on the wall.
Boone would end up being sold to the California Angels on December 6, 1981. Two days later, Moreland was dealt away along with reliever Dickie Noles and pitching prospect Don Larsen to the Chicago Cubs. The Phillies received veteran righty starting pitcher Mike Krukow in return.
It was the trade two weeks earlier to bring in Diaz that allowed the Phillies to make those two moves. Baudilio Jose ‘Bo’ Diaz was born in Venezuela on March 23, 1953, apparently with a baseball in his hand.
At age 14, Diaz played with Venezuela’s Little League national championship team. The team was unable to travel to the United States for the finals due to a July earthquake which devastated the city of Caracas.
Diaz was good enough that he would be signed by the Boston Red Sox at age 17 in December 1970. That began a long, slow climb through the Boston farm system. He finally got a cup of coffee with the Bosox in 1977.
During spring training for the 1978 season, Diaz was included in a big trade between Boston and the Cleveland Indians. That deal was highlighted by the exchange of a pair of pitchers, with Rick Wise headed to Cleveland and future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley going to Boston.
Diaz would spend the next three seasons as a backup catcher in Cleveland, the first two seasons to Gary Alexander and then one year to Ron Hassey.
During that 1981 work stoppage campaign, the righty-hitting Diaz split the role in an even platoon with the left-handed batting Hassey. Diaz started red-hot, hitting .356 with 25 RBI in June. That start earned him a berth on the American League All-Star team.
Phillies general manager Paul Owens was trying to keep the veteran Phillies, winners of the NL East in four of five seasons between 1976-80 and a playoff team during the strike-shortened split 1981 season, as a contending ball club.
Owens believed that Boone was aging past his prime as a catcher. He knew that Moreland was an attractive piece who could possibly bring back the veteran pitcher in trade that the GM believed the Phillies still needed. And he liked what he saw both at and behind the plate from the 28-year-old Diaz during that 1981 campaign.
The big trade came down on Friday, November 20. In the deal, the Phillies would obtain Diaz from the Indians and send 26-year-old outfielder Lonnie Smith to the Cardinals. The Cards then sent pitchers Larry Sorensen and Silvio Martinezto Cleveland.
As a final part of the deal, the Phillies would send pitching prospect Scott Munninghoff to Cleveland on December 9 as a player to be named later.
Diaz would excel as the Phillies starting catcher for the 1982 season. He played in a career-high 144 games, starting 135 of those. At the plate he hit .288 with 18 homers, 29 doubles, and 85 RBI. Diaz finished second that year only to Montreal Expos all-star Gary Carter as a combined offense and defensive catcher in new computer rankings.
Unfortunately, the Phillies fell short of their team goal. The club held the lead in the NL East as late as September 13, but losses in 11 of their next 16 games left them three games behind Smith and the Cardinals in the final standings.
Compounding the Phillies frustrations, that Cardinals team would go on to win the World Series with Smith playing a key role. He finished as a close runner-up to Dale Murphy in the NL MVP voting and was a National League All-Star after hitting .307 with 51 extra-base hits, 68 steals, and a league-leading 120 runs scored.
Smith had finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting with the 1980 champion Phillies. But many around the team believed that he was simply a speedy outfielder who would never fully harness his talents.
In the end, they were wrong. Smith would enjoy a 17-year career in Major League Baseball, one that would see him win a third World Series in 1985 with the Kansas City Royals. He produced a career .288/.371/420 slash line with nearly 1,500 career hits 909 runs scored, and 370 stolen bases. He received NL MVP votes as late as 1989 with the Atlanta Braves.
Diaz and the Phillies would gain a measure of revenge during the following 1983 campaign. Dubbed the “Wheeze Kids” due to the age of most of their key players and as a nod to the youthful 1950 NL champion ‘Whiz Kids’, those 1983 Phillies would pull away down the stretch to reclaim the NL East crown.
Diaz caught 136 games that season with 15 homers and 64 RBI. On April 13, slammed one of only 11 “ultimate grand slams” in MLB history. With the Phillies trailing the New York Mets by 9-6 with two outs in the 9th inning and the bases loaded at The Vet, Diaz ripped a walk-off grand slam to win the game.
As the Phillies were pulling away down the stretch, Diaz had yet another memorable game. On September 28 at Wrigley Field he produced a five-hit game that included a pair of home runs as the Phillies romped the host Cubs by 13-6 to clinch the division title.
In Game Four of the NLCS, Diaz delivered two hits as the Phillies romped the Los Angeles Dodgers by 7-2 at Veteran’s Stadium to take the pennant and advance to the World Series.
The Phillies would capture the first game of that Fall Classic against Baltimore only to see the Orioles charge back to win the World Series in five games. Diaz would prove one of the few solid hitters for the team during the series, batting .333 with a pair of multi-hit games.
Diaz would open the 1984 season as the Phillies starting catcher, but it would prove to be a lost season for the 31-year-old in a year that would ultimately see his time in Philadelphia come to an end.
A pair of knee injuries kept him to just 27 games, nearly half of those coming over the season’s first few weeks. In his absence, 27-year-old Ozzie Virgil Jr took over behind the plate and produced 18 homers and 68 RBI.
Virgil would rip 19 home runs the following year and become a 1985 National League All-Star for the first of two times in his career. Diaz would be gone during that 1985 season, dealt to the Cincinnati Reds in early August as part of a mostly nondescript five-player trade.
Diaz’ story and life would ultimately have a tragic ending. On November 23, 1990 – 28 years ago this Friday – he was killed in an accident in Caracas. While adjusting a satellite dish on the roof of his home, the dish fell on him, crushing his head and neck. Diaz was just 37-years-old and left behind a wife and two sons. He was inducted to the Venezuela Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
So, it was 37 years ago on this very date that the Phillies swung a fascinating trade, one that brought them a new starting catcher who would help lead them to an NL pennant. But that deal also sent away a talented young outfielder who would enjoy a long, championship-winning career.
As a bit of a post-script to this particular trade, Boone would prove to be far from finished. He would enjoy seven full seasons with the Angels as their starting catcher. He would then play two more in Kansas City, the first of those as the Royals starter behind the plate.
Boone would win five more Gold Glove Awards during that time, four of those in a row from 1986-89 during his ages 38-41 campaigns. During the 1983 season when Diaz was helping the Phillies to the NL pennant, Boone was himself an American League All-Star catcher.
Diaz undeniably made contributions to a Phillies pennant winner. But would the franchise have ultimately been better off keeping Smith and Boone instead of making that trade with Cleveland and Saint Louis?
It’s often easy to judge these things with the 20/20 hindsight of history. However, that history can also serve as a warning. It remains one of the oldest but most wise of sayings: those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are destined to repeat them.
These are the deals from the Phillies past that we will examine as we move forward during this ‘Hot Stove’ series. The hope is that as we look back on the nostalgia of the past, the present Phillies management will be making wise moves which end up helping to improve the current and future versions of the team.

ESPN to open 2019 Sunday Night Baseball at Citizens Bank Park

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The ESPN Sunday Night Baseball team will open 2019 at Citizens Bank Park

We are still four months away from the opening of the 2019 Major League Baseball season. But as we move through this off-season, Phillies fans will be clutching at any news of the team to help make it through these cold months.

Today comes word that the Phillies have been chosen by ESPN to host the network’s first Sunday Night Baseball telecast of that 2019 season. The game on Sunday, March 31, 2019 at Citizens Bank Park will have a 7:00PM EDT start time.

 

That information first came out on Monday afternoon in a Tweet from Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic.
Montemurro followed up that this will be the first time that the Phillies have led off the Sunday Night Baseball coverage since the 2009 season, with the team as defending World Series champions at that time.
The Phillies’ game against the Braves on March 31 at CBP has been chosen as MLB’s first Sunday Night Baseball game of the season. Will be a 7 p.m. start on ESPN.

 

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This time around the Phillies will be hosting the division-rival Atlanta Braves. The Phillies and Braves battled for the lead in the National League East Division over most of this past summer.
The Phillies spent most of July at the top of the division with the Braves doing the chasing. Atlanta finally passed the Phillies on August 14 and pulled away to win the division. The Phillies actually faded to finish in third place, falling behind the Washington Nationals by the end of the season.
The Braves are likely to enter 2019 as favorites to successfully defend their division crown. However, the Phillies are believed to be major players for a handful of big-name impact free agents who could quickly change that line of thinking.
The Phillies and Braves are scheduled to open their 2019 season with a 3:05PM game on Thursday, March 28, 2019. The two teams are then scheduled to meet again on Saturday, March 30 with another afternoon game scheduled to begin at 4:05PM.
ESPN has been broadcasting the Sunday Night Baseball program since the start of the 1990 season. Matt Vasgersian handled ESPN’s play-by-play duties this past season, with former softball star Jessica Mendoza and MLB all-star Alex Rodriguez joining him on the broadcasts as color commentator and analyst respectively.

 

We may still have months to go before that Sunday night, but those months will indeed pass. Before you know it, it will be time to head down to South Philly to enjoy a Phillies game at our beautiful ballpark. Or you can just stay home and enjoy the games on TV, including this broadcast from ESPN.