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Philadelphia Phillies 2019 season review and player grades

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The 2019 season did not play out as hoped for Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies

 

The 2019 season opened with great expectations and much fanfare for the Philadelphia Phillies. After suffering through seven consecutive non-winning campaigns, this one was finally going to be different.

Phillies owner John Middleton opened up the purse strings in the off-season, allowing for the signing of big ticket free agents Bryce Harper, David Robertson, and Andrew McCutchen.

General manager Matt Klentak swung a few key trades, including a pair especially aimed at improving the everyday lineup by landing a pair of all-stars in shortstop Jean Segura and catcher J.T. Realmuto.

The season began with an exhilarating sweep of the defending NL East Division champion Atlanta Braves in front of raucous crowds at Citizens Bank Park. More than 41,000 showed up for each of those opening series victories.

After the Phillies took all three games by a combined 23-11 score, they appeared to be off and running towards greatness. Following a 7-2 start the club began to level off, finishing April with a 16-13 mark. But that still left them in first place with a one game lead.

In May, the Phillies picked up the pace a bit. They would go 17-11 in the month, and began the month of June still on top of the division while holding a three-game lead.

However, storm clouds had begun to roll in to South Philly. A bullpen that would become decimated by injuries was already weakened by the loss of Robertson. The veteran free agent signing, one of the top relief pitcher in baseball over the previous decade, would appear in just seven games, none after April 14.

Coming off a road trip to Chicago and Milwaukee in which the Phillies went 4-3 against a pair of tough opponents, center fielder Odubel Herrera was arrested for domestic assault on his 20-year-old girlfriend at an Atlantic City casino hotel. Herrera would end up suspended for the season by Major League Baseball.

Less than a week later in the finale of a series in San Diego in which the Phillies were swept by the host Padres, McCutchen suffered a torn left ACL and would also be done for the year. Within a matter of days, the Phillies had lost two-thirds of their starting outfield for the season.

That sweep in San Diego began a June swoon in which the club went just 11-16. Included was a seven-game losing streak during the middle of the month that would be the Phillies longest losing streak of the year. It was part of a stretch of 11 losses in 13 games that dropped them from first place with a two game lead to second place and 6.5 games behind the surging Braves.

The Phillies stabilized a bit in July, going 12-11 over the course of the month. But they were establishing a roller coaster pattern of wins and losses, never able to put together a five-game winning streak all year long.

On the fourth of July, the Washington Nationals pushed past the Phillies in the division standings. By the end of the month they were a half-game behind the Nats in what was becoming a multi-team battle for one of the two National League Wildcard playoff berths.

August was just more of the up and down ride on the 2019 roller coaster. The team went 13-14 during the month, only losing as many as three in a row on one occasion, but unable to win more than four in a row themselves.

The high-point of not only the month but the entire season may have come on August 15. It was certainly the most memorable game and moment.

The Phillies trailed the Cubs by 5-0 into the bottom of the 8th that night at Citizens Bank Park. They got on the scoreboard with a run, but still trailed by 5-1 as the game went to the bottom of the 9th inning.

The club pushed two runs across to make it a 5-3 game, and Harper stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and a chance to play the hero. Did he ever, delivering a walk-off grand slam home run for a 7-5 victory to pull the Phillies within a game of the Cubs in the Wildcard race.

However, they were unable to build any momentum from the uplifting victory. After dropping three of four to end August, the playoff berth that appeared a given during the season’s first couple of months was in serious jeopardy. In fact, the New York Mets had taken their turn in getting hot, pulling within a half-game of the Phillies in the standings as the month ended.

Still, the Phillies entered September with a legitimate chance. They still could have gotten hot – finally – and fought into the postseason. The club began September just three games behind the Chicago Cubs for the final Wildcard spot.

The Cubs would collapse to an 11-16 finish over that final month. Unfortunately, the Phillies would go just 12-16. Following a September 18 victory over Atlanta, the club was still six games over the .500 mark and now within two games of the final playoff berth.

Instead of surging, they slumped. The Phillies dropped eight of their next nine games to fall below the .500 mark for the first time all season and drop completely out of the playoff race. Winning two of their final three, the club would up with an eighth straight non-winning season, finishing exactly at 81-81.

The culprits? The major injuries to the bullpen and outfield were certainly significant contributors. Both the offensive attack and starting pitching were inconsistent all year long. Klentak’s inability to add an ace-level starting pitcher by the trade deadline was also a factor.

With the disappointing finish, the job security of Klentak, club president Andy MacPhail, and manager Gabe Kapler came into question. Many fans called for the heads of one or all of them on the internet and local sports talk radio.

Earlier this week, I gave my opinion as to what I believe Middleton should do in the Kapler and Klentak situations. I had already commented on MacPhail earlier in the summer. You can read each of those pieces at the links following this piece.

This should have been not only a winning season, but a playoff season. Now, whatever management team is in place will need to fill the holes and attempt to position the Phillies for a winning 2020 season.

The following are my grades for every player who appeared with the club during this 2019 campaign. I factored in not only statistical performance, but also the expectations for the player when the season began.

GRADE: A

Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto

GRADE: B

Aaron Nola, Drew Smyly, Adam Haseley, Andrew McCutchen, Scott Kingery, Corey Dickerson, Brad Miller, Hector Neris, Jose Alvarez, Nick Vincent

GRADE: C

Rhys Hoskins, Cesar Hernandez, Jean Segura, Maikel Franco, Zach Eflin, Ranger Suarez, Adam Morgan, Blake Parker, Seranthony Dominguez, Jared Hughes

GRADE: D

Andrew Knapp, Jay Bruce, Sean Rodriguez, Roman Quinn, Phil Gosselin, Jake Arrieta, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, Edgar Garcia, Mike Morin, J.D. Hammer

GRADE: F

Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Jason Vargas, Juan Nicasio, Nick Pivetta, Cole Irvin, Austin Davis, Pat Neshek, Edubray Ramos

GRADE: I (incomplete)

Nick Williams, Logan Morrison, Jose Pirela, Deivy Grullon, Mitch Walding, Dylan Cozens, Rob Brantly, Enyel De Los Santos, David Robertson, Drew Anderson, Tommy Hunter, Victor Arano, Fernando Salas, Yacksel Rios

 

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What the Phillies should do with Matt Klentak for 2020

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Klentak traded for Realmuto prior to the 2019 season

 

The Philadelphia Phillies announced in late October 2015 the hiring of then 35-year-old Matt Klentak as their new general manager. Despite his relative youth, Klentak had an impressive volume of experience in baseball.

Like many of us, he played the game as a kid. But he was also good enough to continue in the game at the collegiate level, playing all four years at Dartmouth, including the final three as their starting shortstop.

After graduating with his Economics degree, Klentak was hired by the Colorado Rockies in 2003. The following year he moved on to work in the Labor Relations Department of Major League Baseball.

In 2008, Klentak was hired by the Baltimore Orioles as their Director of Baseball Operations. That hiring was made by the Orioles then-President Andy MacPhail, whom Klentak had impressed while helping work on the 2006 MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Neither MacPhail nor Klentak had their contracts renewed by Baltimore following the 2011 season. However, Klentak was not out of work for long, hired that off-season by the Los Angeles Angels as their assistant general manager.

The Halos had a chance to hire Klentak as their GM when the position opened in the midst of the 2015 season but opted to go in another direction. During that same summer, MacPhail joined the Phillies organization.

When that 2015 season ended, MacPhail ascended to the team president position with the Phillies. One of his first orders of business was to hire his old Orioles protege Klentak as the Phillies new general manager.

During this past summer it was revealed in the media that both MacPhail and Klentak had recently received contract extensions. Those extensions would keep MacPhail in his role through 2021, and Klentak in his position through the 2022 season.

Despite those contracts there has been a vocal backlash against both MacPhail and Klentak from an increasingly frustrated Phillies fan base.

Calls have grown over recent weeks as the team fell out of playoff contention for a complete change in the Phillies decision-making regime. Those changes included not only the president and GM, but also on down to manager Gabe Kapler, whose situation I addressed in a piece just yesterday.

I already addressed the situation regarding MacPhail months ago and have repeatedly and publicly called for his ouster. No change in either the GM or managerial positions is going to matter in improving the club over the long haul without a change at the very top.

So, the question today is, should the Phillies retain Matt Klentak as their general manager?

In evaluating Klentak’s job performance, it is important to understand that the position includes a number of responsibilities that few fans ever see or care about. Let’s assume he is experienced enough to handle those responsibilities competently.

What matters to the fan base is how Klentak performs in actually bringing talent to the baseball organization, especially to the team at the big-league level. In a city like Philadelphia, winning is what matters more than anything.

Most successful rebuilding operations take roughly four years before yielding success. In the four years of the MacPhail-Klentak regime, the Phillies have accumulated an overall 298-350 record. They have not enjoyed a single winning season, let alone reached the MLB playoffs.

Not only that, but the organization appears to have deteriorated at the minor league level as well. In the summer of 2015, the Phillies were widely considered to have a top ten organization where minor league talent was concerned.

This summer, after four years of the MacPhail-Klentak regime making picks in the MLB Draft and bringing in prospects to the system through other methods including via trades and the July 2nd international signing period, the Phillies system is rated near the bottom by most respected evaluators.

Not all of that failure is on Klentak. The fact is that he is restricted in some ways by the need to answer to and coordinate with MacPhail and the scouting staff on the draft and amateur signings process.

There was also a reluctance by Middleton, as advised by MacPhail, to make money available for signing big-name free agents during those first few years.

However, that financial restriction was very publicly lifted last fall when Middleton announced that the Phillies were, as reported by ESPN, “…going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.

So, let’s simply evaluate Klentak on his actual performance since that time in adding talent to the big-league club, and then in reinforcing the team when talent shortfalls became obvious and injuries struck.

The off-season prior to 2019 was considered a success after Klentak signed free agents Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen for the outfield and traded for shortstop Jean Segura and catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Those four moves dramatically increased both the experience and leadership levels of the ball club, as well as the proven talent level available to Kapler in the everyday lineup.

Klentak did not entirely ignore the pitching situation either. He made an astute under-the-radar trade early last December, swapping out relief pitcher Luis Garcia to the Angels for southpaw reliever Jose Alvarez.

Also, in the Segura trade to Seattle, Klentak received veteran right-hander Juan Nicasio, who had briefly pitched with the Phillies in the 2017 campaign.

Finally, in early January he signed one of the best and most consistent relief pitchers of the last decade as a free agent in David Robertson.

The Phillies roster was obviously improved as the regular season got underway, and with the new offensive firepower and deeper bullpen, the club was picked as a postseason favorite by many prognosticators.

Almost from the outset, that bullpen depth was tested by repeated injuries. At various points over the next few weeks and months the Phillies would lose a parade of relievers for the season.

Robertson, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Victor Arano, Seranthony Dominguez. All were expected to be key contributors. The five would combine for just 52 total appearances, less than a full season worth of work.

In late May, Odubel Herrera was lost in a completely unexpected manner after he was arrested for domestic battery on his 20-year-old girlfriend in an Atlantic City hotel room. Herrera would be suspended by Major League Baseball and was done for the entire season.

Within days of that blow to the lineup, the Phillies would also lose McCutchen for the season due to a devastating knee injury and subsequent surgery. They would receive a combined 98 games worth of play from their anticipated starting left and center fielders.

Klentak tried to help fix the Phillies bench with the addition of veteran Jay Bruce.

Klentak did make various moves over the course of the season in attempts to bolster his bench and then cover for those losses to the starting lineup. Those included trades for veteran outfielders Jay Bruce and Corey Dickerson, the purchase of utility man Brad Miller, and the signing of free agent Logan Morrison.

Unfortunately, both Bruce and Dickerson would be lost to the team for large chunks of the season after each initially provided valuable contributions to the club as it struggled to remain in contention.

It would also have been Klentak’s decision to allow rookie Adam Haseley, the club’s first round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, an opportunity to go from Double-A to the big-leagues at age 23 in just his second full year of professional ball to help cover for those outfield injuries.

There were offensive inconsistencies in both approach and results from the players who were actually in the lineup. Klentak acted to address that situation with the removal of hitting coach John Mallee in mid-season.

Trying to cover for the bullpen losses, Klentak purchased reliever Mike Morin, picked up Jared Hughes off waivers, and signed free agents Blake Parker, Fernando Salas, and Nick Vincent.

Salas pitched in just three games. But the other four became key members of the bullpen, generally making solid contributions over the season’s final couple of months. The foursome combined to pitch in 91 games, allowing 72 hits over 90 innings with an 83/26 K:BB ratio.

The one area of the ball club that was never properly addressed was the starting pitching rotation. Management, including Klentak, made a bet on the incumbent group of pitchers to improve in the 2019 season. It didn’t happen.

Aaron Nola failed to reproduce his Cy Young contending season of a year ago. Jake Arrieta just plain failed, and then was lost due to injury after 24 starts.

Vince Velasquez was again unable to maintain consistency in a starting role, especially in lasting deep into his outings. Nick Pivetta pitched so poorly that he was eventually relegated to the bullpen on a full-time basis. Jerad Eickhoff returned from injury, then got injured again.

Perhaps the one starter who exceeded expectations was Zach Eflin. Around a horrendous six-start stretch from late June through late July that got him also relegated to the pen, Eflin provided an impressive opening and closing stretch.

Lefty Drew Smyly was a mostly positive addition to the Phillies rotation by Klentak.

Klentak attempted to cover for the losses of Arrieta and Eickhoff and the ineffectiveness of Pivetta by signing Drew Smyly and trading for Jason Vargas in July. That pair of left-handers would make 23 combined starts with the Phillies over the last two months.

Together, Smyly and Vargas went 4-6 and allowed 122 hits over 118 innings with a 111/45 K:BB ratio. Essentially the two provided back-end rotation production when what the team really needed was at least one ace-level starter for the playoff push.

The failure to add at least one high caliber starting pitcher, and more preferably two, was perhaps the single most important and decisive factor in the Phillies ultimately falling short of a 2019 postseason berth.

The loss of McCutchen and Herrera to the lineup, and later of Bruce, Dickerson, and Roman Quinn. The losses of Robertson and the others in the bullpen. Backslide seasons from Nola, Pivetta, Rhys Hoskins, and Maikel Franco. The mediocre production provided by Segura. You simply cannot put any of that on Klentak.

You cannot make a valid argument that the GM didn’t make moves trying to plug the holes in the lineup, on the bench, and in the bullpen. The one area where you can legitimately criticize is the starting rotation. Vargas just wasn’t good enough.

Dallas Keuchel went to division rival Atlanta for reasonable money as a free agent. Marcus Stroman went to the division rival Mets for a reasonable return that the Phillies may have been able to beat earlier by putting a package together led by pitching prospect Adonis Medina.

You can make a legitimate argument that even had they landed either of those two arms rather than doing the Vargas deal, the Phillies might still have fallen short of the postseason. Perhaps. But they would have enjoyed a far better chance.

The argument that over four years, Klentak has failed to put together a winning organization at the big-league level is a legitimate one. However, that it didn’t happen this year was largely due to situations beyond his control. His efforts to plug those holes were largely commendable.

However, the failure to build a farm system that is not ready to inject talent in waves to the Phillies, or to be used as truly enticing trade assets, is problematic. That is especially so when considering the young talent amassed by all of their rivals in the National League East Division.

For me, the time is now for change at the top of the Philadelphia Phillies organization. That begins with club president Andy MacPhail. But it also extends to general manager Matt Klentak. As the top decision makers, they have failed the organization. Both need to go.

Philadelphia native Chaim Bloom of the Tampa Bay Rays would be my choice to run the Phillies baseball operations.

My choice to replace MacPhail would be Philly native Chaim Bloom, a longtime executive with the consistently over-achieving Tampa Bay Rays organization despite being just 36 years of age.

My gut tells me that Middleton won’t be able to admit his mistake in granting them both an early contract extension and throw in the towel on either at this point. Fans will be disappointed by the return of the entire Phillies decision-making regime for 2020.

However, if there were to be such a change at the top, you would likely see Kapler either go as well, or find himself seriously compromised as a new regime took control, perhaps wanting to bring in their own man to take over in the dugout.

There is simply too much talk about the Phillies front office and management in the media and among the fan base for Middleton to leave the situation go unaddressed. Expect there to be some announcement this week or next on the 2020 status of MacPhail, Klentak, and Kapler.

Phillies have something real in Adam Haseley

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Haseley has enjoyed a fine rookie season with the Phillies

 

For the Philadelphia Phillies, an injury-marred season is now winding down to a disappointing finish. It appears more likely with each passing day that there will be no postseason baseball at Citizens Bank Park.

For an eighth straight year there will be no cool October nights filled with playoff drama for fans to enjoy as the calendar and the weather turns to fall.

However, there will always be some positive developments to be taken away from even the most disheartening campaigns. For fans of the Phillies, the play of rookie outfielder Adam Haseley should be one such positive.

Had it not been for the devastating torn left ACL to Andrew McCutchen‘s left knee that prematurely ended the veteran outfielder’s season at the start of June, we probably would not be talking about Haseley in this manner.

In the immediate aftermath of the McCutchen injury, the Phillies promoted Haseley for the first time to help provide some outfield depth in the short term. It was only an emergency measure, and Haseley would play in just two games before being returned to the minor leagues.

The club had traded for veteran Jay Bruce to bolster their bench. Now, Bruce was going to be forced into an everyday role. Unfortunately, after more than a month of solid play, Bruce was also lost to injury.

Haseley had been enjoying a strong season in the minor leagues, one that saw the 23-year-old receive his first promotion to the Triple-A level. He was slashing .275/.360/.481 with 10 home runs, 26 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs, and 38 runs scored.

That production, combined with his display of maturity as a person, resulted in the Phillies bringing Haseley back to the majors. Within days of his return, Bruce suffered a strained right oblique. Returning three weeks later, an arm injury would immediately put Bruce back on the Injured List until early September.

It has been the combination of injuries to McCutchen and Bruce that has opened the door for Haseley to receive far more playing time in Major League Baseball than the Phillies could even have imagined when the season opened.

The youngster struggled for awhile to find his footing while adjusting to pitching talent at the highest level of professional baseball. On August 25, he was hitting just .233 over his first 129 plate appearances.

It was two days later that things began to turn for Haseley. A two-hit night at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates started a streak of three straight multi-hit games, and it all began to click.

Over the last 17 games, Haseley has slashed .327/.431/.531 with a half-dozen extra-base hits and eight runs scored in 58 plate appearances.

In addition to a more consistent level of offensive production, Haseley has begun to put together an impressive highlight reel of fantastic defensive plays.

Haseley has mostly appeared in center field, making 25 starts there with another four appearances in the middle of the Phillies outfield. However, manager Gabe Kapler has not hesitated to use him on the corners either. Haseley has appeared in 18 games out in left field (14 starts) and nine games in right field, including seven starts.

Even with the emergence of veteran Corey Dickerson as an impact player following his acquisition at the July 31 trade deadline and the return of Bruce, Haseley has remained an almost daily fixture in the Phillies lineup.

This is exactly the level of play that a team expects from their top draft picks. Haseley, an Orlando, Florida native, was the Phillies selection at eighth overall in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of the University of Virginia.

One area in which Kapler has been somewhat babying the lefty-hitting Haseley has been in facing southpaw pitching. Scott Lauber at The Philadelphia Inquirer recently quoted the Phillies manager on his thinking in limiting his rookie outfielder’s exposure to left-handers:

He has historically hit left-handed pitching, but we are trying to kind of ease him into this role with some sensitivity and try to set up Hase for success. One of the ways to do that is to try to look for the matchups that might be especially difficult and give him a break in those matchups.

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In looking forward to next season and beyond the question will be, how do the Phillies envision Haseley’s role? Bryce Harper will be manning right field for the foreseeable future. McCutchen will be ready to return in spring training and is signed for at least two more years through the 2021 season. Bruce is signed through next season and should also be back.

Have the Phillies seen enough to hand Haseley the everyday starting center field role for the 2020 season? Will they try to re-sign Dickerson and use Haseley as a backup across all three outfield positions for the next couple of years?

Whatever their ultimate long-term plans, the Phillies seem to have found something in Haseley. Whether he can become a star, even an everyday player for a truly contending team, remains debatable. But he has demonstrated the talent to be counted on as a valuable contributor for years to come.

 

10 weeks to go, Phillies begin priming for 2019 playoff push

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Rhys Hoskins (L), Bryce Harper (R) lead Phillies attack

There are now 10 weeks remaining in the 2019 Major League Baseball regular season. That makes for the perfect beginning of a countdown. So, each Monday over these next ten weeks, I’ll update you on exactly where the Phillies stand in their attempts to return to the MLB postseason.

The last appearance by the Phillies in the MLB playoffs ended with first baseman Ryan Howard crumped on the ground at home plate after striking out to end the club’s disheartening defeat in Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Saint Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park.
That loss by a Phillies team that had won 102 games in the regular season became the swan song for a once-great aging championship team. Every starting position player was over the age of 30, with the exception of right fielder Hunter Pence. Three of the pitchers who made up the club’s vaunted “Four Aces” starting rotation were over 32 years of age.
Over the next half-dozen seasons, management would begin the process of slowly and systematically turning over the roster in what became a major, lengthy rebuilding program, one that would ultimately include a change in that management structure itself.
That rebuilding program took a major step forward in this past off-season when half the everyday lineup was turned over. Newcomers Bryce HarperJ.T. RealmutoJean Segura, and Andrew McCutchen brought excitement at the outset of the season that hadn’t been seen down in South Philly since those halcyon days way back at the start of the decade.

Ryan Howard is helped off field after crumpling to ground at end of winner-take-all defeat to Cardinals in the 2011 NLDS.
The Phillies bolted out of the gate, took over first place in the NL East Division on April 25, and held that top spot until June 12. Prior to Independence Day, the club was never lower than second place in the division standings.
But the Phillies have pretty much been treading water for the last two months. McCutchen was lost for the season, blowing out his knee and taking a huge piece out of the lineup. Since May 25, the Phillies record is just 21-27, and they have fallen to third place.
There have been some signs of life over the last week or so. Against tough competition in the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers, and through this past weekend series at steaming hot Pittsburgh, the Phillies have won five of their last eight games, including three of the last four.
Here is where the Phillies currently stand in both the division and wildcard races. Also included are the schedules for this week of any other club in reasonable contention.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST DIVISION

  1. Atlanta Braves  60-41 (KC – 2, at PHI – 3)
  2. Washington Nationals 52-46 (COL – 4, LAD – 3)
  3. Philadelphia Phillies 52-48 (at DET – 2, ATL – 3)

NATIONAL LEAGUE WILDCARD (TWO AVAILABLE)

  1. Washington Nationals 52-46 (COL – 4, LAD – 3)
  2. Milwaukee Brewers 53-48 (CIN – 3, CHC – 3)
  3. Saint Louis Cardinals 51-47 (at PIT – 4, HOU – 3)
  4. Philadelphia Phillies 52-48 (at DET – 2, ATL – 3)
  5. Arizona Diamondbacks 50-50 (BAL – 3, at MIA – 3), San Francisco Giants 50-50 (CHC – 3, at SD – 3)

As the MLB trade deadline approaches, Phillies center field target emerges

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Jackie Bradley Jr would slide perfectly into Phillies center field

As the July 31 trade deadline approaches in Major League Baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies have a number of holes that could use filling if the club wants to seriously take a run at the 2019 postseason.

The struggles of the pitching staff are well known to all Phillies fans. The starting rotation could use two more reliable, veteran arms. The bullpen, struggling through numerous injuries all season, could use better options as well.
Among the reserve position players, a more reliable, veteran backup is needed at catcher. In addition, the club could use a more talented veteran bat with some pop than is currently available off the bench for manager Gabe Kapler.
The glaring need in the everyday lineup can be found out in center field. That is the one position that immediately jumps out as an area where improvement is needed.
During this season, the Phillies suffered the unexpected loss of the incumbent starter, Odubel Herrera, to his legal troubles and league suspension stemming from a domestic violence incident. It is not likely that he is ever going to appear in a Phillies uniform again, at least not if the fan base has anything to say about it.
Andrew McCutchen sliding over was a possibility, and the veteran actually filled in a number of games when Herrera had suffered an April injury. But McCutchen was also lost for the season when he suffered an ugly knee injury which required surgery. He will not return until spring training of next year.
Kapler has been trying to get by with a combination of the perpetually out-of-position Scott Kingery and the perpetually injured Roman Quinn. Also, youngster Adam Haseley has been given a shot when healthy.
But if the Phillies are serious about getting to the 2019 postseason and making a legitimate further run by 2020, they need a more proven answer in center field. Enter my suggestion as a potential trade target, Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bradley is a 29-year-old Virginia native who was the Red Sox pick at 40th overall in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of South Carolina. He made his big-league debut in the 2013 season, and is now in his fourth season as Boston’s full-time starter in center field.
He is not a big hitter, carrying a career slash line of just .237/.319/.405 over nearly 3,000 plate appearances. He has demonstrated some pop in the past, with a 26 homer-87 RBI campaign during his lone AL All-Star season back in 2016. He has modest speed, topping off with 17 stolen bases a year ago.
What Bradley brings to the Red Sox, and what he would bring to the Phillies were they to find a deal, is truly elite defense in the middle of the outfield. You see, for my money, Bradley is as good a defensive center fielder as I have ever seen. That is not a statement to be taken lightly when I got to see Garry Maddox roam the outfield every day for a decade in a Phillies uniform.
Bradley has won just one Gold Glove Award. That came for his work last year. And that is a flat-out crime, no disrespect to players such as Byron Buxton, Kevin Kiermaier, Brett GardnerKole Calhoun or Nick Markakis, each of whom has taken home one of those plaques awarded in the American League since the 2014 season.
With a defensive outfield of McCutchen in left, Bradley in center, and Bryce Harper in right, the 2020 Philadelphia Phillies would put one of the top defensive groups in the game out there day after day. This season, Bradley would help cover for some of left fielder Jay Bruce‘s defensive shortcomings.
On a championship contender with multiple offensive weapons, a defensive whiz as good as Bradley can be part of the lineup. The Phillies should have those weapons already in place with Harper, McCutchen and Bruce joining shortstop Jean Segura, catcher J.T. Realmuto, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, second baseman Scott Kingery and third baseman Maikel Franco – or top prospect Alec Bohm at the hot corner.
The present group has not produced as consistently as they are capable of during this 2019 season. I still expect them to elevate their individual and collective games over the final two and a half months. Much more should certainly be expected of them over the longer haul in the next couple of years.
Bradley can be a free agent after the 2020 season. The Phillies would have him for a run this year and next, unless they chose to extend him. If the Phillies could ink Bradley to a two-year extension, carrying him through 2022 and his age 32 season, that could be ideal.
The top overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft, Mickey Moniak, would turn just 24-years-old in May of 2022. He is a center fielder who has begun to look like a potential big-league regular. Should that development path continue at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, then Moniak may be ready. But spending a year serving as a backup to acclimate could also prove valuable.
As a price for Bradley, the Red Sox, like most other clubs, would probably be looking at young pitching. Perhaps a combination of Adonis Medina with one of the more experienced arms such as Nick Pivetta or Vince Velasquez would get it done.
Why would Boston do it? First, the Red Sox can cover the position by sliding over left fielder Andrew Benintendi, who could be a strong center fielder in his own right. In return for a player who they could lose to free agency 15 months from now they would get a pair of live arms.
The Red Sox could call up one of the top power bats in the minor leagues, Bobby Dalbec, to play in left with the Green Monster behind him. Or Dalbec could play first, with Michael Chavis flipping to left. Boston could also shop for a short-term power bat to man the position.
Boston is currently sitting in third place in the American League East Division, nine games behind the arch-rival New York Yankees. They are 1.5 out as part of a five-team scrum within three games of one another in the AL Wildcard race.
The Phillies need more than this, I know. They still have to go out and get better quality pitching of their own. That is going to prove extremely difficult in the present market, with a number of contenders looking for the same thing, a few of whom seem better positioned to land the more talented and experienced available arms.
Fill in your holes. Try to make a run in 2019, but also keep an eye towards 2020 and the following couple of seasons as well. That is what a Bradley deal would be all about. Fill that center field hole with a truly elite defender, and move on to  filling the next hole. Pick up the phone, Matt Klentak, and give Boston GM Dave Dombrowski a call.