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Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Paul Goldschmidt among possible Phillies trade targets

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Cleveland willing to entertain offers for veterans including ace Corey Kluber

Much of the talk surrounding the Philadelphia Phillies during these early days of the Hot Stove season has understandably centered on some of the big-name free agents.

The Phillies have a great deal of money available to spend, and so they should be major players for some of the top available talents. However, free agency is just one way in which the team can improve itself.
Earlier this week, Scott Lauber at Philly.com quoted Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, a man squarely on the hot seat this off-season, in regards to the team’s approach:
“Part of the fun of this offseason is we don’t know which way we’re going to go. It could be a starter. It could be a reliever. It could be a hitter. It could be a defender. It could be some combination of that. It could be trades. It could be free agency. To be able to consider any opportunity is exciting.”
The staff at Sports Illustrated released a piece on Friday in which they explored some high-profile names reportedly on the trade block, and then tried to match those players with teams they felt were “Best Fits” for the players.
The Phillies were listed as such in relation to one big bat and a pair of star pitchers. The bat is that of Arizona Diamondbacks impact first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. The pitchers were right-handers Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, publicly placed on the trade block by the Cleveland Indians.

As stated by SI, Goldschmidt would “…easily improve any lineup of any contender. From here, the best fits look to be the Yankees, Rockies, Nationals, and Phillies, with the Astros a potential dark-horse.
Goldschmidt turned 31-years-old in September, so will play at that age all of next season. He is signed through next season at $14.5 million, a bargain for the level of production that his big right-handed bat yields.
Goldschmidt was born in the area in Wilmington, Delaware but he grew up in Texas. Over his eight seasons, ‘Goldy’ has crushed 209 home runs and roped another 267 doubles. His career slash line reads at .297/.398/.532 and he has been a National League all-star in each of the last six seasons.
He has four Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves on his mantle, and was the NL’s Hank Aaron Award winner in the 2013 season during which Goldschmidt led the league in homers and RBI.
While his bat would improve most any lineup, it would be hard to see a genuine fit for Goldschmidt with the Phillies. The team already has Rhys Hoskins, who should be filling the first base position down in South Philly for at least the next half-dozen years.
They also have $40 million committed to Carlos Santana over the next two years, an albatross of a contract for a player whose only decent defensive position would be at first base. Goldschmidt has played no other defensive position other than first base during his big-league career.
In regards to the Phillies possible interest in Goldschmidt, the SI staffers believe it would hinge on the club losing out in the bidding for free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, and finding a way to deal Santana, describing the scenario as follows: “…if they miss out on Harper and Machado both, though they’d have to ditch Carlos Santana somewhere in the process.
The Phillies are absolutely looking to improve their starting rotation this off-season. An experienced, quality arm to slot in between Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta in the rotation would go a long way towards helping the club push up to genuine contending status next year.
The SI staffers rate the Phillies along with the New York Yankees as the two best fits should Cleveland GM Mike Chernoff actually move either Kluber or Carrasco.

Kluber will turn 33-years-old as the 2019 season gets underway next April. After eight big-league seasons, all in Cleveland, he has a career mark of 96-55 with a 3.09 ERA, 1.070 WHIP, and 2.96 FIP. The righty has allowed 1,121 hits over 1,306 innings across 201 games, 196 of those as starts, with a 1,423/277 K:BB ratio.
Anyone who knows anything about pitching statistics realizes that those are true ace-quality numbers. Kluber has won a pair of AL Cy Young Awards and has been an American League all-star in each of the last three seasons.
Contractually he is extremely affordable. Kluber is owed just one more year at $17 million, and then there is a $1 million buyout. However, the team also would have club options for 2020 at $17.5 and 2021 at $18 million.
Carrasco should be familiar to any Phillies fan who knows team history. He was a signed by the club as a 16-year-old out of his native Venezuela back in November of 2003. He rose through the team’s farm system to become one of the Phillies top pitching prospects over the next few years.
At the 2009 non-waiver trade deadline, Carrasco was dealt as the lead piece in a four-prospect package to the Indians in exchange for pitcher Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco.
The deal appeared a steal for the Phillies at first. Lee helped lead the team back to the World Series that October, then returned in 2011 as a free agent, becoming one of the best and most popular Phillies during the post-World Series years.
However, Lee’s career was cut somewhat short by injuries, ending at age 35 in mid-2014. Carrasco meanwhile developed into a top starter in his own right. Over parts of nine seasons he has a 79-62 record with a 3.71 ERA, 1.184 WHIP, and 3.33 career FIP mark.
Carrasco has allowed 1,018 hits over 1,094.1 innings across 207 games, 171 of those as starting assignments. He has a career 1,127/278 K:BB ratio and finished fourth in the 2017 American League Cy Young Award voting.
Contractually, Carrasco is even more affordable than either Kluber or Goldschmidt. He is owed just $9.75 million for next season and then has a buyout at less than $700,000 for 2020. There is also a team option in place at just $9.5 million for that 2020 season during which he would turn 33 years of age.
Each one of these three stars would be financially affordable to the Phillies. Each one would better the team measurably. The real issue would be what would it cost the team in prospects? Both Chernoff in Cleveland and Arizona GM Mike Hazen would be looking for a solid prospect package in return.

In order to get any of the three, we would likely again be looking at a team trying to acquire top Phillies pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez. You might have one or all of the Phillies top hitting prospects including Alec BohmAdam Haseley, and Mickey Moniak in such a package.
As SI related in their piece, Cleveland may not deal either arm in the end. The Indians are a top AL contender, and want to continue as such. “Being “willing to listen” doesn’t equal “actively shopping,”…this one seems like it would need a seriously perfect package in order to come to fruition.
Until actual free agent contracts are agreed to and trades are made, the Phillies are going to continue to be linked to most of the top available names. We’ll be here reporting on it all for you at Phillies Nation as the Hot Stove continues to heat up this fall and winter.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Phillies called ‘best fit’ in trades for Paul Goldschmidt, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco

Cliff Lee Wants to Play in 2016

The Philadelphia Phillies will not be reuniting with former rotation stalwart Cliff Lee.

Despite recent pronouncements that he is interested in trying to continue his big league career, the former ace lefty is not going to get that opportunity with a rebuilding Phillies club next spring.
CBS Sports baseball insider Jon Heyman has recently reported that Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, is seeking a shot with any team that the pitcher feels would be a good fit for him.
There are any number of road blocks in the way of Lee ever returning to pitch successfully in Major League Baseball, the most obvious being his ability to compete at the highest level of competition. 
He has not thrown a pitch in the big leagues since walking off the mound in the third inning at Nationals Park on July 31st, 2014.

Cliff Lee has been throwing and he’s received medical clearance. If he finds the right fit, he will pitch in 2016.

Being given medical clearance by a doctor to make the attempt does not in any way mean that the now 37-year old’s balky elbow will hold up once he actually starts to pitch again. He has already tried this twice, and failed both times.
It’s not as if the Phillies are so loaded with talent that they couldn’t use Lee in the rotation to begin the 2016 season, and then as a trade chip later if he somehow proved healthy. 
The club made the decision that $12.5 million was too much to pay a guy in order to have him show up at spring training for another shot.
The Phillies had Lee under contract at $25 million for the 2016 season, but instead wisely used their option to buy him out at a $12.5 million price tag. 

For the pitcher, this means he is going to be getting paid a nice salary next year, no matter what happens.
Lee simply does not fit into the Phils’ rebuilding plans under Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak. 
With the team already turning the page on players such as Jimmy RollinsChase UtleyCole Hamels, and Jonathan Papelbon, and with the team counting the days until it sheds the Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz contracts, the new regime is not looking backwards.
A month ago, Lee finally sold his swanky Rittenhouse Square condominium, which had been on the market since back in April of this year, for a reported $6.55 million. 
So the pitcher himself is quite obviously satisfied that his ties to Philly, which had been so strong at one time for he and his family, are irrevocably cut.
For any team that gives him a shot, it means very little financial risk. With Lee already drawing that $12.5 million from the Phils, a signing club would likely only have to offer him an incentive-laden one-year deal.
So who might give him that shot? There are a number of contending teams, certainly a Lee requirement at this late stage of his career, who could use his type of potential skill set and experience.
The San Francisco Giants are fishing around for arms, and Grant Brisbee at SB Nation’s “McCovey Chronicles” feels they could be the perfect fit:
“The right fit?” writes Brisbee. “Like a big ballpark with a strong defensive team that features a Hall of Fame manager, highly regarded pitching coach, and plans to contend? I’d argue that the Giants are the best fit for a pitcher like Lee, especially if he’s quietly thinking beyond 2016.
Other teams who could eventually be in on Lee would likely include the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, and New York Mets. 
All are potential contenders, all have mid-back end rotation openings, all would have little to lose by giving him a shot.
Despite the sad ending to Lee’s tenure in Phillies pinstripes, his stay with the team has to be considered a success. 
Alex Reimer at Forbes.com, in a piece critical of long-term deals for starting pitchers, described the Lee contract and outcome perfectly just a couple of weeks back:
“In December 2010, the Phillies signed Lee to a five-year, $120 million deal. He was spectacular in four of those five seasons, posting a 2.89 ERA and 133 ERA+. Given that Lee was 32 at the time of the signing, he was probably content taking fewer years as long as his yearly salary remained high.”
“The short-term nature of this contract saved the deal, because if Lee had signed a six-or seven-year agreement, he would still be on the Phillies books even though he missed all of 2015 with a flexor tendon tear.”
Lee originally came to the Phillies at the 2009 MLB trade deadline, as the club was trying for a repeat of their 2008 World Series championship. 
Lee came from the Cleveland Indians along with Ben Francisco in exchange for four prospects, including pitcher Carlos Carrasco, who remains in the Tribe rotation today.
The Phillies did repeat as National League champions with Lee, but lost the World Series in six games to the New York Yankees. 
Lee was outstanding in that postseason, going 4-0, including wins in Game One and Game Five of the Fall Classic over the Bronx Bombers.
Following that 2009 season, the Phils acquired another ace in Roy Halladay. But instead of adding Halladay to Lee and Cole Hamels to create a formidable rotation, then-GM Ruben Amaro dealt Lee away on the same day to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for three prospects who never amounted to a thing.
In July of the following 2010 season, the Mariners traded Lee to the Texas Rangers in exchange for four prospects, none of whom ever really panned out. 
Lee helped the Rangers to the World Series that season where Texas lost in five games to the San Francisco Giants.
A free agent following that 2010 season, Lee was one of the hottest commodities on the market, and the Phillies did not appear to be on the radar, with the Yankees the clear front-runners for his services in the eyes of most.
But just 10 days before Christmas, most of Philly was elated and the wider baseball world stunned when “Merry Cliffmas” occurred, and Lee did indeed sign back with the Phillies. 
It turned out that Lee and his wife had loved it here all along, and had never wanted to leave in the first place. Lee became even more of a fan favorite after that decision. 
In all, over parts of five total Phillie seasons, Lee went 48-34 with a 2.94 ERA, a 1.089 WHIP, and a 2.85 FIP mark. He allowed 777 hits in 827.1 innings across 118 starts, with a 813/124 K:BB ratio.
He joined a dominating pitching rotation that included Halladay and Hamels, along with Roy Oswalt, with the group becoming known as the “Four Aces” and leading the club to a franchise-record 102 victories in the 2011 season. 
Lee was, however, whacked around in his lone postseason start during the stretch, taking the loss in Game Two of the disappointing 2011 NLDS defeat at the hands of the Saint Louis Cardinals.
While Lee will not be returning to the Philadelphia Phillies, he left an indelible mark on the fans of Philadelphia. 
Flippant, smart-alecky, roguishly handsome, he took an assassin’s demeanor and arsenal with him to the mound.
He will always be remembered well here, and undoubtedly welcomed back and cheered again at a Citizens Bank Park appearance, whether in an opposition uniform or at some future reunion ceremony.

Broxton Ain’t This Bad, Phillies Fans

Carlos Ruiz took a hard slider from Dodgers’ closer Jonathan Broxton and shot it on one big hop off the wall in left-center field in the 9th inning at Citizens Bank Park last night. Jayson Werth easily scored the tying run, and right on his heels was Ben Francisco with the winning run as the Phillies rallied from 9-2 down entering the bottom of the 8th and 9-6 entering the 9th to defeat LA by a 10-9 score.

As all Phillies fans (and Dodgers fans) are well aware of by now, this latest incredible late rally to overcome Broxton and the Dodgers is not the first time that it has happened, not by a long shot.

Flashback #1: October 13th, 2008: National League Championship Series game four in Los Angeles. The Phillies are leading by 2 games to 1, but the Dodgers are winning by 5-3 after 7 innings and appear ready to wrap up the 4th game to tie the series, with the next one on their home turf as well. But in the top of the 8th, Shane Victorino rips a 2-run homer off reliever Cory Wade to suddenly tie the game. When Carlos Ruiz follows with a single off Wade, manager Joe Torre goes to his bullpen and calls on big flame-throwing Jonathan Broxton to shut the Phils down. Phils’ manager Charlie Manuel counters with the free-swinging veteran lefty pinch-hitter Matt Stairs, who blasts what turns out to be a game-winning 2-run homer off Broxton. The Phils wrap up the series the following day.

Flashback #2: October 19th, 2009: Stop me if you think you’ve heard this all before. National League Championship Series game four, this time in Philly. The Fightin’s are again leading by 2 games to 1, but again the Dodgers lead late, and this time it seems that time is about to run out for the Phillies. There are two outs with two runners on base as shortstop Jimmy Rollins steps in against Broxton. One more out and the Dodgers tie the series up. Instead, Rollins turns on a Broxton fastball and shoots it up the right-centerfield gap, splitting the outfielders. Both runners score as the Phillies and their delirious fans at Citizens Bank Park celebrate yet another miracle over Broxton and the Dodgers. The Phils blitz LA two nights later and advance to the World Series for the 2nd straight season.

So all that leads up to last night’s dramatics, which are only slightly less incredible due to the stakes being a bit lower in a regular season matchup as opposed to a pivotal playoff game. But for the 2010 Phillies, every win is important as they attempt to maintain some momentum and stay close to the front-running Atlanta Braves while waiting for their numerous injured players to recover. The Braves were off on this Thursday night, and as the Phils entered their half of the 8th trailing by that 9-2 margin it appeared as if a loss was about to sink them to 3 games back in the NL east division race.

They put together a little rally and closed the gap to 9-6, and still down by that margin as they came to the plate in their half of the 9th there was some hope. Torre again called on his big closer Jonathan Broxton. Now at this point, some Phillies fans who don’t know better might be asking “Why?” Well, as it turns out, Broxton is really good at what he does. He does everything you want a closer to do, from giving up fewer hits than innings pitched, to striking out more than a batter per inning, to striking out about 3 hitters for every walk allowed. His fastball comes in at a consistent 96-98mph, he saved 36 games a year ago and has 21 more already this year. He is the prototypical big armed closer that every team loves to have.

Jonathan Broxton is good, Phillies fans. Joe Torre knows it, and didn’t hesitate to call on his big horse of a closer once again to try and finish the Phillies off last night.

When Broxton grazed Placido Polanco’s jersey to put the leadoff man aboard, the crowd remembered, and rose to roar and remind Broxton. An epic battle followed with newcomer Mike Sweeney, who worked a walk on a full count pitch. Jayson Werth then walked fairly easily, with Broxton appearing to come more unnerved as each pitche missed the strike zone. At one point, Torre went to the mound and clearly asked his closer “Due you trust your stuff?”. He must have gotten the right answer at the time, because he left the clearly struggling pitcher in the game.

So with the bases loaded, Broxton induced Ben Francisco to bounce a ground ball to 3rd baseman Casey Blake. It appeared to be a relatively easy double-play grounder, the kind the Dodgers closer would happily trade a Phillies run for in order to get the two outs. But instead of two outs and a 9-7 lead, all hell broke loose for the Dodgers closer – again. Blake anticipated the ball’s bounce, and somehow it stayed down on him, rolling under his glove and into left field as both Polanco and Sweeney scored to cut the lead to 9-8. Oh, and there was still nobody out.

Werth was now the tying run at 2nd base and Francisco was the game-winner at 1st as catcher Carlos Ruiz stepped into the batter’s box. Ruiz has begun to put together a nice little season for himself as he has developed fully into an integral part of the Phillies’ lineup, and has also fashioned himself a well-deserved reputation as a clutch hitter. That the Phillies announcers even considered the idea that Manuel would have Ruiz bunt the runners over was ludicrous, but they said it anyway.

There would be no bunting from the Phillies catcher. On a 1-1 pitch, Broxton unfurled a hard, low slider, and Ruiz was right on it, driving it deep into the left-centerfield power alley where it one-hopped high off  the wall. Werth held up momentarily to ensure that the ball wouldn’t be caught, and so as he romped home with the tying run there was Francisco flying on his heels with the winner. The Phillies rushed from their dugout and mobbed the heroic “Chooch” as the half of the crowd that hadn’t left early erupted in pandemonium all around them.

For the Dodgers and Jonathan Broxton it was yet another disastrous, epic meltdown for the ages. How many disastrous meltdowns for the ages can one team and one pitcher have against any one other ball club anyway? While rightfully celebrating a great victory, the Phillies and their fans simply cannot hope that they will continue to catch Broxton like this in key moments of big games. He is simply too good, too talented, to allow this to keep happening.