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2019 Major League Baseball Awards

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Realmuto was honored with his second consecutive career Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Award

 

Major League Baseball has entered its off-season period, but there is still plenty of action surrounding the game. As teams begin to evaluate their future needs and prepare to shop in the Hot Stove free agent market, the game steps back momentarily to honor the best performances from this past 2019 season.

This past week, MLB continued the process of handing out the hardware to the top players from this past season. Winners of both the Silver Slugger Awards and Gold Glove Awards were announced, honoring the top offensive and defensive performers at each position in both leagues.

2019 GOLD GLOVE AWARDS

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Winners are listed below with their position and team. Number of career Gold Gloves won are shown in parentheses.

National League: P – Zack Greinke ARZ (6), C – J.T. Realmuto PHI (2), 1B – Anthony Rizzo CHI (3), 2B – Kolten Wong STL (1), SS – Nick Ahmed ARZ (2), LF – David Peralta ARZ (1), CF – Lorenzo Cain MIL (1), RF – Cody Bellinger (1)

American League: P – Mike Leake SEA (1), C – Roberto Perez CLE (1), 1B – Matt Olson OAK (2), 2B – Yolmer Sanchez CWS (1), SS – Francisco Lindor CLE (2), 3B – Matt Chapman OAK (2), LF – Alex Gordon KC (7), CF – Kevin Kiermaier TB (3), RF – Mookie Betts BOS (4)

Arenado (below right) and Chapman (below left) were further honored when they were each named as winners of the National and American League Platinum Glove Awards. This is the second consecutive Rawlings Platinum Glove for each as the overall top defensive performer in their respective leagues.

Rawlings is not the only sponsor of awards for MLB defensive excellence. The winners were also announced for the Wilson Defensive Players of the Year at each position in Major League Baseball.

The Houston Astros were honored as the Wilson Defensive Team of the Year. Individual winners with their number of career Wilson awards in parentheses were:

P – Zack Greinke HOU (3), C – Roberto Perez CLE (1), 1B – Freddie Freeman ATL (2), 2B – Kolten Wong STL (1), SS – Andrelton Simmons LAA (6), 3B – Matt Chapman OAK (2), LF – David Peralta ARZ (1), CF – Lorenzo Cain MIL (4), RF – Aaron Judge NYY (1)

Perez was further honored as the overall Wilson Defensive Player of the Year.

2019 SILVER SLUGGER AWARDS

The Silver Slugger Awards as the top offensive performer went to:

National League: P – Zack Greinke ARZ (2), C – J.T. Realmuto PHI (2), 1B – Freddie Freeman ATL (1), 2B – Ozzie Albies ATL (1), SS – Trevor Story COL (2), 3B – Anthony Rendon WAS (2), OF – Cody Bellinger LAD (1), Christian Yelich MIL (2), Ronald Acuna Jr.ATL (1)

American League: DH – Nelson Cruz MIN (3), C – Mitch Garver MIN (1), 1B – Carlos Santana CLE (1), 2B – DJ LeMahieu NYY (1), SS – Xander Bogaerts BOS (3), 3B – Alex Bregman HOU (1), OF – Mike Trout LAA (7), George Springer HOU (2), Mookie Betts BOS (3)

The overall top hitter in each league is honored with the Hank Aaron Award. Each MLB team’s radio and television play-by-play broadcasters and color analysts vote for three players in each league, and fans are given the opportunity to vote via MLB’s official website. Fans’ votes account for 30% of the final points, while broadcasters’ and analysts’ votes account for the other 70%.

The winners of the 2019 Aaron Awards were Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels in the American League. It was the second career Aaron Award for each, the second consecutive for Yelich. Trout was previously honored back in 2014.

Prior to Game 4 of the World Series, the winners of MLB’s Relief Pitcher of the Year Award in each league were announced.

Taking the award as the Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year was Aroldis Chapman of the New York Yankees, who was honored for the first time.

The Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year was awareded to Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers, who became just the second relief pitcher to be honored two years in a row.

 UPCOMING AWARDS NOMINEES

The winners of the rest of baseball’s official awards will be announced this coming week. Voting was conducted by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

The following is the awards announcement schedule. You can watch as the honorees are named in a live broadcast on the MLB Network each day at 6:00 pm EST.

The nominees were selected based on regular season performance only.

Nominees are listed in alphabetical order with their position and current team, and I have highlighted my pick as the winner in red.

MONDAY: Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award

NL: Pete Alonso 1B NYM, Mike Soroka P ATL, Fernando Tatis JR SS SD

AL: Yordan Alvarez DH/OF HOU, Brandon Lowe 2B/OF TB, John Means P BAL

TUESDAY: Manager of the Year Award

NL: Craig Counsell MIL, Mike Shildt STL, Brian Snitker ATL

AL: Rocco Baldelli MIN, Aaron Boone NYY, Kevin Cash TB

WEDNESDAY: Cy Young Award

NL: Jacob deGrom NYM, Hyun-Jin Ryu LAD, Max Scherzer WAS

AL: Gerrit Cole HOU, Charlie Morton TB, Justin Verlander HOU

THURSDAY: Most Valuable Player Award

NL nominees: Cody Bellinger OF LAD, Anthony Rendon 3B WAS, Christian Yelich OF MIL

AL nominees: Alex Bregman SS HOU, Marcus Semien SS OAK, Mike Trout OF LAA

Other MLB award winners this season included starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg of the world champion Washington Nationals, who was named as the Most Valuable Player of the World Series.

Howie Kendrick of the Nationals took the NLCS Most Valuable Player honors, while second baseman Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros won the ALCS MVP honors.

Carlos Carrasco of the Cleveland Indians was honored with the Roberto Clemente Award in recognition for his many charitable efforts both stateside and in his native Venezuela. The pitcher was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year and “put in the difficult work to make a return to pitching amid his treatment — all while continuing to give his time, attention and financial assistance to young leukemia patients.”

Mike Trout received the Players Choice Award as the overall Major League Baseball Player of the Year and was also the AL Player of the Year. It was his second American League and first overall honor in voting by his fellow ball players.

Others receiving Players Choice Awards were Anthony Rendon as the NL Player of the Year, Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom as the AL & NL Pitchers of the Year, Hunter Pence and Josh Donaldson as the AL & NL Comeback Players of the Year, and Yordan Alvarez and Pete Alonso as the AL & NL Rookies of the Year.

On Sunday, November 17 at 8:00 pm EST, the MLB Network will take a final look back on 2019 as it presents the Plays of the Year for this past season. That highlights loaded program will re-air a number of times throughout the month of November.

I suppose that after finishing exactly at the .500 mark and in fourth place this season, the Phillies could not have expected much more in the way of award winners than the Gold Glove-Silver Slugger combo taken by Realmuto.

Hopefully the results in the standings and in the postseason, including award winners, are more substantial for the club in the 2020 campaign.

 

MORE RECENT PHILLIES AND MLB PIECES:

Phillies once dealt top prospect pitcher Kyle Drabek to help land Roy Halladay

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Kyle Drabek was the key piece in package to bring Roy Halladay to the Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies completed a big trade this afternoon, landing all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Miami Marlins. As part of the package sent to Miami, the Phillies gave up their top prospect, pitcher Sixto Sanchez.

As with most deals in which a team parts with its number one prospect for a veteran, there was a segment of the Phillies fan base who vocally lamented the inclusion of Sanchez in this trade.
What those fans need to remember is that prospects are one thing and one thing only – an asset for a Major League Baseball organization. That asset could one day come up to the big club and help the team win directly. They could also be utilized as a chip in a deal to help improve the big club. Both are legitimate uses of prospect talent.
A decade ago, the Phillies dealt away another top pitching prospect in a big trade for an all-star. That pitching prospect was named Kyle Drabek, and he was used as a piece to acquire a veteran pitcher named Roy Halladay.
One comment that I read today opined that the talent levels of Drabek and Sanchez were completely different. I also saw someone make the argument that Drabek was dealt for a “Hall of Famer”, while the Phillies “only” got a modest catcher upgrade for Sanchez. I think those arguments are specious and ignore the actual facts and talent levels of the players involved at the time of the respective deals.
Let’s travel back nearly a decade in time. When Baseball America released their 2010 Prospect Handbook, one of the most respected prospect reports in the game, Drabek was rated as the Phillies #2 prospect behind outfielder Domonic Brown.
While some Phillies fans might scoff at that, the fact remains that back then, Brown was considered one of the very top prospects in the entire sport. In fact, Brown would reach a point where he was ranked as the #1 prospect in all of baseball. Three different evaluators from Baseball America released their individual Top 50 Prospects lists in that publication.
Jim Callis ranked Drabek as the #18 overall prospect in the game and the fifth-highest ranked pitcher. John Manuel had Drabek at #16 overall, and the sixth-best overall pitching prospect. Will Lingo placed Drabek at #30 overall and the game’s ninth-rated pitching prospect.
In his scouting report, the son of 1990 NL Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek was said to possess “the organization’s best curveball, a power downer that he can bury or throw for strikes.” There were scouts that gave the pitch a 70-grade. He also threw a fastball that usually ran in the low-90’s with “solid-average life.
Drabek’s athleticism, coordination, and competitiveness were all considered at the top of the charts. In short, the right-hander selected at 18th overall in the first round of the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft by the Phillies was considered as close to a can’t-miss prospect as you can get.
To say that Halladay was a Hall of Famer is disengenous, because he was not one at the time of this deal. At that time, Doc was already 32-years-old and had pitched parts of a dozen seasons with Toronto. He had 148 wins and 1,495 strikeouts, had won a Cy Young Award, and had six AL all-star honors on his record.
That is a strong career, but there are many pitchers with a similar resume who never reach the Hall of Fame. Trying to gauge what a pitcher is going to accomplish after age 32 is a risky proposition at best.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can of course understand how Halladay was elected to the Hall of Fame last month in his first year on the ballot. But at the time of the trade, no one knew that he was going to win an NL Cy Young, finish runner-up the following year, pitch a perfect game, and toss a playoff no-hitter with the Phillies.
Drabek was not traded for a “Hall of Famer”, he was traded as part of a three-prospect package for one of the top starting pitchers in the game, one who was arguably exiting his prime. In fact, Halladay would pitch for just two more full seasons with the Phillies and parts of two more.

Sixto Sanchez becomes the latest top pitching prospect used as a trade chip by the Phillies. (Baseball Betsy)
Also going to Toronto in that trade were another pair of highly-considered prospects, Michael Taylor and Travis d’Arnaud. Those two were considered the Phillies #3 and #4 prospects respectively. Manuel had Taylor as his #23-ranked overall prospect, and the outfielder was in the Top 50 of both Callis and Lingo.
So the Phillies did not “get a Hall of Famer for Drabek” – they got a strong veteran pitcher for a premium prospect package, three of the club’s top four prospects at that time.
In his first season with the Toronto organization, Drabek continued his ascent up the rankings. He became the Blue Jays top prospect by 2011 following a 2010 campaign in which he went 14-9 with a 2.94 ERA and allowed just 126 hits over 162 innings. For that performance, Drabek was named the top prospect in the Double-A Eastern League.
Unfortunately, Drabek’s career from that point out would be derailed by injuries and inconsistency. He would pitch in parts of seven big-league seasons with the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Dbacks compiling just an 8-15 record. Drabek produced a 5.26 career ERA and 1.698 WHIP, allowing 188 hits over 179.2 innings across 43 games, 30 of them starts, with a horrendous 123/117 K:BB ratio.
Taylor played in parts of four big-league campaigns from 2011-14 with the A’s and White Sox. He slashed just .167/.254/.216 with one career home run in 114 plate appearances across 37 games in Major League Baseball.
The lowest-ranked prospect in the deal, d’Arnaud has had the best career. He was dealt by Toronto to the Mets in December 2012 along with Noah Syndergaard and two others in exchange for veteran pitcher R.A. Dickey and two prospects. d’Arnaud has played in parts of six injury-marred seasons, two of those as the Mets primary catcher.
In this present-day deal the Phillies have given up their top overall prospect. Sanchez was ranked as the #13 overall prospect in the game by Baseball America and the #21 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline. They also gave up a 25-year-old catcher with upside potential. The other pieces are, at least at this stage, to be considered negligible.
Maybe Sanchez will turn into Fergie Jenkins, the young pitcher dealt away to the Cubs in spring training of 1966 who turned into a Cy Young winner and Baseball Hall of Famer. Maybe he’ll turn into Carlos Carrasco, traded to the Indians in the Cliff Lee deal in summer 2009 who has gone on to win 79 games and is still going strong today. And maybe he’ll follow in Drabek’s footsteps, never reaching the lofty potential of his present talent.
The point of all of this? Phillies fans should stop sweating the surrender of Sanchez in this deal. Prospects are just that, prospects. The Phillies just used one to land the best catcher in the game today.
Nobody expects Realmuto to pull a Halladay and become a Hall of Famer. He doesn’t need to do that. He does have to give the Phillies two, and hopefully more, quality seasons behind the plate, helping the team return to the perennial contender status which they enjoyed during the days when they dealt away Drabek.

Cliff Lee: he never wanted to leave Phillies in the first place

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Cliff Lee came and went in 2009 and came back in 2010

During what all fans of the Philadelphia Phillies have been led to believe will be one of the most significant off-season periods ever for the franchise, I’ve been taking a look back at the team’s ‘Hot Stove’ history.

So far we have recalled the signings of Pete Rose (1978), Jose Mesa(2000), and Jim Thome (2002) in free agency. We have also revisited key off-season trades: the 1981 three-way deal that resulted in Lonnie Smith leaving and Bo Diaz arriving, the 1982 trade of future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, and the trading away of Thome.
Probably the most recent important Phillies move during a Hot Stove season came in the middle of December back in 2010. It was then that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. began trying to reverse a huge prior mistake from exactly one year earlier. Both decisions were among the most influential during the 2009-11 period when the club was trying to get back to the World Series.
Those two moves involved a left-handed starting pitcher named Cliff Lee. His pro career had begun after he was drafted three times. Lee finally signed after being selected by the Montreal Expos with their fourth round selection in the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft.
In June 2002, Lee was dealt to the Cleveland Indians as part of a four-prospect package that also included Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips in an overall six-player deal that brought starting pitcher Bartolo Colon to Montreal.

LEE DEVELOPS INTO AN ACE

In Cleveland’s minor league system, Lee showed enough with Buffalo of the Triple-A International League that he was given a two-start cup of coffee with the Indians in September 2002. He went 10.1 innings allowing just six hits over those two outings.
Lee won the 2008 AL Cy Young Award with Cleveland
After beginning the 2003 season back at Triple-A, Lee received a spot start with Cleveland in late June. Then in mid-August he was called to the big-leagues for good. Lee would enter the Tribe’s starting rotation and remain there for the next six years.
Lee would develop into one of the top starting pitchers in the game, culminating in a memorable 2008 season. While the Phillies were driving towards their first World Series crown in nearly three decades, Lee was putting together a Cy Young Award-winning season in Cleveland.
In that 2008 campaign, Lee went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA and 1.110 WHIP. He also had a fabulous 170/34 K:BB ratio over 223.1 innings across 31 starts. In addition to the Cy Young honors, he was an AL All-Star for the first time, and even received AL MVP votes.
Lee was scheduled to become a free agent after the 2010 season, and it became obvious that the Indians would not be able to get him to sign a contract extension. Looking at a rebuilding situation, Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro decided to find a deal for him a year early.

LEE ACQUIRED BY CHAMPS IN-SEASON

As defending World Series champions, the Phillies were struggling to open up a lead in a tight NL East race in July 2009. A big reason was that the team’s starting pitching was looking a bit fragile.
Cole Hamels, the hero of the prior season, appeared to be going through a World Series hangover campaign. Brett Myers struggled the entire year with injuries. At age 46, Jamie Moyer was getting hit hard. Joe Blanton and rookie J.A. Happ were giving the club innings, but were not the kind of arms that a team looking to repeat as world champions wanted at the front of a rotation.
On July 15, the Phillies signed 37-year-old veteran Pedro Martinez, who had been sitting out the season to that point. It was going to take Martinez a few weeks to get into pitching shape, and in fact he would not join the team’s starting rotation until August 12.
Amaro was still rumored to be hot after both Lee and Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Roy Halladay. Finally, just before the non-waiver trade deadline, Amaro and Shapiro reached a deal. The Phillies would acquire Lee in exchange for a four-prospect package led by pitcher Carlos Carrasco.
Cito Gaston was manager of the Blue Jays at the time. Once the Phillies had traded for Lee, it meant that Gaston was likely to keep his ace in Halladay. Jayson Stark at ESPN quoted Gaston after the Lee deal was announced: “Who knows? They may come back and get [Halladay], too. That’d be a pretty good staff there, wouldn’t it?” How prescient that comment would eventually prove.
The 30-year-old Lee was everything that the Phillies hoped, and more. Over a dozen starts he went 7-4 with a 74/10 K:BB ratio. Martinez went 5-1 over nine starts with a 37/8 K:BB ratio. The two veterans gave the rotation just the shot in the arm that it needed to push the club to its third straight NL East title.
In the 2009 postseason, Lee upped his game. He made two strong starts in a tough NLDS victory over the Colorado Rockies, then a brilliant start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Three of the NLCS.
When Lee shut down the New York Yankees in Game One of the World Series, the Phillies appeared on their way to back-to-back championships. Alas, it was not to be. The team did win his next start in Game Five, but that only kept them alive. The Yanks would take the Fall Classic two nights later.

THE LEE HOT STOVE TRADE

After the season, Amaro resumed his pursuit of Halladay, who was scheduled to become a free agent following the 2010 season. On December 16, 2009 the Phillies acquired Halladay from Toronto in exchange for a three-prospect package.
Amaro had negotiated a four-year contract extension with the 32-year-old Halladay, who thought that he was joining Lee in the Phillies rotation. Instead, Amaro shocked everyone in the Phillies community by dealing away Lee just hours later.
The justification given by Amaro at the time was shaky from the start. He felt that Lee’s contract demands were unreasonable, and also claimed that the Phillies needed to re-stock their farm system after it had been depleted by that summer’s Lee trade and the Halladay aquistion.
However, the package that Amaro obtained from the Seattle Mariners that day of prospect pitchers Phillippe Aumontand J.C. Ramirez and young outfielder Tyson Gillies failed to convince anyone that it improved the organization to the same level as having Lee remain on the big-league pitching staff.
It would prove to be one of the worst trades in Phillies history. Our own Tim Kelly here at PN wrote in August 2018 about comments made by former outfielder Jayson Werth to a local radio station. Included among those revealing remarks were this quote:
…they [the Phillies] offered Cliff a contract at a marginal number, we’ll say. And then he counters at a reasonable counter, far less for what he ends up signing back for. Within that day, a day or two, Ruben freaks out, he can’t believe that they would ask for that type of money – which was under-market for Cliff – and trades him to Seattle. So he was traded to Seattle for a bag of balls and a couple Fungos.”

Halladay would enjoy a memorable 2010 season in which he would capture the National League Cy Young Award while tossing a Perfect Game and a playoff no-hitter. Hamels rebounded with a solid campaign. The rest of the rotation struggled, but Amaro swung a trade to bring in three-time NL All-Star and perennial Cy Young candidate Roy Oswalt from Houston.
The Phillies struggled much of that summer. But then from late August through late September the team went on an incredible run, winning 23 of 27 games to pull away to a fourth straight NL East title.
As for Lee, he would make just 13 starts for the Mariners. With the club struggling and with Lee still scheduled to become a free agent in the coming off-season he was shipped off to the Texas Rangers following a final start for Seattle on July 4.
At the time of that deal, Lee was 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA and had been selected to the AL All-Star team. He would attend the game not as a member of the Mariners, but instead wearing a Rangers cap.
Over the rest of the season in Texas, Lee would go just 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA. He did produce solid numbers otherwise, allowing 103 hits over 108.2 innings with a 96/12 K:BB ratio in 15 starts.
The Rangers won the AL West crown and the American League pennant, reaching the World Series. However, the Phillies were not there to great their former pitcher. Halladay, Werth, and the two-time defending NL champion Phillies had been beaten in six games in the 2010 NLCS by the San Francisco Giants.
San Francisco would then take out the Rangers in five games to capture the first World Series crown for the Giants franchise in 56 years. Lee was rocked in the opener of that Fall Classic in San Francisco. He then would also lose a pitcher’s duel to Tim Lincecum in the Game Five clincher at Texas.

THE LEE HOT STOVE FREE AGENT SIGNING

The off-season got underway following that 2010 campaign with Lee entering free agency for the first time in his career. A return to the Rangers was possible, but the New York Yankees were seen by most as the early and overwhelming favorites to land his services.
The Yankees had finished in second place in the AL East in 2010, a game behind the Tampa Bay Rays but had comfortably won what was the lone Wildcard berth available at that time. The Yanks then swept the Minnesota Twins 3-0 in the ALDS, but were beaten by Texas in six games in the ALCS. Adding Lee, and subtracting him from the Rangers, would likely push them to the top of the American League favorites list.
The Phillies were not seen to be a contender for Lee at first. They already had a rotation that would include Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt coming back in 2011. It was projected at that point that Blanton and Kyle Kendrick would make up the back of their rotation.
A formal contract offer was extended to Lee by the Yankees, one that would turn out to be the highest offer that he would receive. It wouldn’t be enough.
Shock waves rolled across the game on December 15, 2010 when, seemingly out of nowhere, it was announced that the Phillies and Lee had agreed to a five-year, $120 million contract. Lee would join Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt in what the baseball world would call the “Four Aces” rotation, one of the best in the history of the game.
In Philadelphia it became known as “Merry Cliffmas”, and Phillies fans were euphoric. They would have a dominating pitching rotation that would give their still-potent offensive attack a chance to win every single day.
Not only was Lee’s signing a surprise gift to Phillies fans, but he also won their hearts forever with what he said upon agreeing to the deal: “I never wanted to leave in the first place.” It turned out that Lee and his wife Kristen had enjoyed their brief 2009 time in Philly so much that returning was a relatively easy decision.
The Phillies of 2011 would not win every day, but it seemed like it at times. That club would set a franchise record with 102 regular season wins, leading the NL East from wire-to-wire and ultimately taking the division crown by 13 games.
Lee went 17-8 with a 2.40 ERA and was named as NL All-Star, finishing third in the NL Cy Young Award voting. Halladay went 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA and finished as the Cy Young runner-up. Hamels was 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA, finishing fifth in that Cy Young Award voting.
Oswalt won just nine games and struggled some with a 3.69 ERA. In fact, he wasn’t even one of the four most effective members of the rotation that year. Neither were Blanton or Kendrick. That status was provided by 23-year-old rookie Vance Worley, who surprised everyone with an 11-3 mark and 3.01 ERA over 25 games, 21 as a starter. Worley would finish third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
When the 2011 postseason opened, the Phillies were clear favorites to capture their second World Series title in four years. But in one of the most disheartening endings in franchise history, they were edged out in five games by the Saint Louis Cardinals in the NLDS.
Lee played a part in that loss. After the offense bailed out Halladay to take Game One, those same bats then provided Lee with an early 4-0 lead in Game Two. But the Cardinals then chipped away, scoring three runs in the top of the 4th inning and one each in the 6th and 7th, rallying for a 5-4 win to tie the series.
The Phillies took a 2-1 series lead behind a strong outing from Hamels in Game Three, but Saint Louis beat Oswalt in Game Four to once again tie the series.
In a decisive Game Five at Citizens Bank Park, a pitching battle for the ages took place. Halladay allowed just one run on six hits. It would be enough to win almost any game. But Saint Louis received an absolute gem from their starter, Chris Carpenter. He would shut the Phillies out on three hits in a complete game.
With two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning and the Cardinals clinging to a 1-0 lead, Saint Louis native Ryan Howard stepped in for the Phillies. On a 2-2 pitch, Carpenter’s 110th of the game, Howard topped a slow grounder to second base. As the final out was being recorded, the big slugger crumpled to the ground, having blown out his Achilles tendon.
It wasn’t obvious yet at that point, but history would show that the Phillies era of contention at the top of Major League Baseball would end with that play.
The 2012 Phillies struggled from the beginning but were still three games above the .500 mark and within 2.5 games of first place as June began. But the team would collapse under the weight of injuries.
Howard wouldn’t return until July and was never the same dominating slugger. Chase Utley wouldn’t begin his season until late June, and at age 33 was beginning his own slow decline. Both Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, the latter obtained just a year earlier to bolster that 2011 team, were traded away at the non-waiver deadline as Amaro threw in the towel.
Lee would pitch well in both 2012 and 2013 as the Phillies tried unsuccessfully to quickly rebuild. He went 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA, made the NL All-Star team, and finished sixth in National League Cy Young voting in the 2013 season. Incredibly, less than a year later his career would be over.
The 2014 season opened with Lee as the Phillies primary trade candidate. At 35-years-old he still had that season and then 2015 to go on his contract, with a $25 million salary owed both years. There was a $27.5 million club option or $12.5 million buyout for the 2016 season as well.
He began the year as the Opening Day starter. Over his first 10 starts through mid-May he went 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA and a 61/9 K:BB ratio in what seemed a typical Lee season. But following a May 18 win over the Cincinnati Reds he was placed on the disabled list with discomfort in his left pitching elbow.
The Phillies tried to bring him back as the non-waiver trade deadline approached, hoping to find a deal, but he was hit hard in two late July starts. Then on July 31, the exact date of the deadline, he was given a final chance to show that he was healthy and could help someone.
It appeared to observers that things had started out well that night at Nationals Park. Through 2.2 innings, Lee had allowed just one hit and walked no one, striking out four Washington Nationals batters. And then it ended, just that suddenly.
With two outs in the third inning, Lee delivered his first pitch to Denard Span and walked off the mound, tapping his left arm. It turned out that he had been experiencing discomfort while warming up before the game, and then when warming up before each inning. This time it wouldn’t go away.
‘It was there every throw and I just felt like if I kept throwing something was going to snap and I just wanted to make sure that didn’t happen,” Lee said per Sports Illustrated via the AP following that game.
He tried to come back for the 2015 season but was able to throw just two innings at spring training in Clearwater. Lee would spend that entire season on the disabled list after suffering a left common flexor tear. After the season ended the Phillies declined his option for 2016, and his career was over.
In February 2016, when it was becoming obvious that Lee would never pitch again, Grant Brisbee at SB Nation wrote a fantastic piece on the pitcher who he correctly called “one of the best pitchers of his generation.” In that piece, Brisbee described what it was like for a batter facing Lee:
Watching a pitcher move inside and out, up and down, is absolutely symphonic. But it’s even more entertaining to watch the hitters panic, knowing that the baseball can dart a foot away from the plate if it doesn’t bore right in on their damned thumbs. The hitter is acutely aware that the pitcher on the mound can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and there’s a split second to determine if the ball is going to hurt him, be hittable or be so unhittable that it will make him look like an idiot if he swings.
Over parts of five seasons with the Phillies, Lee recorded a 48-34 record with a 2.94 ERA, 1.089 WHIP, and 2.85 FIP. He yielded just 777 hits over 827.1 innings across 118 starts, surrendering just 80 home runs while registering a 21.6 WAR mark.
He also produced an other-worldly 813/124 K:BB ratio, made a pair of NL All-Star teams, and finished among the leaders in Cy Young voting twice. In his time with the Phillies, Lee led the National League in shutouts in 2011, and twice led the league in both the K/BB and BB/9 categories.
Cliff Lee was one of the most popular players on a team populated with those types of individuals, the greatest Phillies team to never win a world championship. That popularity has never waned.
His being traded away in December 2009 may have kept the 2010 Phillies from winning another World Series crown. But neither was his return as a free agent in December 2010 enough to make that happen for a record-setting Phillies team in 2011.
It remains possible that one day we’ll be watching Lee enjoy an induction ceremony to the Phillies Wall of Fame. For the millions of fans who packed Citizens Bank Park during the final years of that heyday, it would be a well-deserved honor.

Phillies scout Sal Agostinelli honored as a Scout of the Year

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Scouts are they silent key to an organization’s success, and Phillies have one of the best

For the everyday fan, baseball scouts are the forgotten people in their favorite organization. But it is the work performed by these individuals that can often spell the difference between winning and losing specific games or series, and success or failure over the longer term.

As the 2018 Winter Meetings opened today in Las Vegas, Nevada, an awards luncheon was held to honor various individuals for their work behind the scenes of the game. Four men were honored as Scouts of the Year, with one of those from the Philadelphia Phillies organization.
Sal Agostinelli was born and raised in the Bronx, New York on September 4, 1961. A baseball fan and player from his earliest days, Agostinelli played both high school ball and in college at Slippery Rock University.
A solid hitting catcher, Agostinelli was selected by the Saint Louis Cardinals in the 22nd round of the 1983 MLB Amateur Draft. Over the next four years he would rise through the Cardinals organization, reaching Triple-A Louisville by 1987. He then received an invite to spring training for 1988 with the big club.
After a struggling season in 1988 during which he hit just .206 at two levels, Agostinelli was released by Saint Louis. He wouldn’t stay unemployed for long. The Phillies signed him and sent him to AA-Reading where he spent the entirety of the 1989 season.
Over the next three years, Agostinelli drifted up and down the Phillies organizational ladder, taking various turns at Reading, High-A Clearwater, and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Though he received an invitation to spring training with the Phillies in 1991, he was never able to impress enough to receive a call to the big-leagues.
After one final appearance in a game with Reading in 1992, Agostinelli retired as a player at age 30. Over 10 minor league seasons he had accumulated a .245/.333/.290 slash line.
The Phillies didn’t think that Agostinelli would be able to help them as a player. But he had impressed with his knowledge of the game and his ability to get along with people. The Phillies asked him to take a coaching job and he accepted, spending time with both the short-season affiliate at Martinsville, Virginia and at Reading.
The next year, Agostinelli became a scout. From 1993 through the 1996 season he worked in the Phillies organization as an area scout, evaluating high school and college players in preparation for the June amateur draft.

Impressed with his work, the Phillies offered Agostinelli the position as their International Scouting Director in 1997. In this role he would oversee a staff covering places outside of the United States and its territories such as the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Japan, and Korea.

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The Scout of the Year Award is open to all levels of the scouting profession with 25 years of scouting experience. It honors a lifetime of scouting excellence at all levels. There can be up to four honorees in a given year, and Agostinelli was one of four recognized today.
Agostinelli has been the recipient of honors previously for his work in the game. In 1995 he was elected to the Slippery Rock University Hall of Fame.
In 2012, John Jay University’s baseball team honored him as the 10th recipient of their Lou DeMartino Lifetime Achievement Award. This award is named for their 1974-99 head coach and is given annually to a person in the baseball community who has dedicated years of his life to baseball.
In 2015, the Phillies honored Agostinelli as the recipient of their Dallas Green Award. First handed out in 2011, the award recognizes an amateur or pro scout who best exemplifies the Phillies standard for scouting while demonstrating the same loyalty, work ethic, dedication and passion as the award’s namesake.
Green, who passed away in March 2017, stated the following at the time of Agostinelli receiving his namesake award, per Stephen Gross of The Morning Call:

“Sal really jump-started the international scouting program that we have today. He’s been instrumental in our two schools in the Dominican and Venezuela, setting them up, getting them running and going down there and bringing the kids along.” ~ Dallas Green

Agostinelli is also involved with the development of amateur players, running a youth baseball training operation out of Long Island, New York. The organization includes an indoor baseball academy and a summer camp, as well as tours and tournaments
Agostinelli has signed a number of players who went on to play in Major League Baseball including Carlos CarrascoFreddy GalvisCesar Hernandez, and Carlos Silva. He is also credited with helping discover popular Phillies all-star catcher Carlos Ruiz.
Now comes the latest honor for this 57-year-old baseball lifer who has been a key member of the Phillies organization, one that most fans have never heard of, for more than a quarter-century.

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