Tag Archives: Cole Hamels

Offensive ending to 2019 a harbinger for winning Phillies in 2020?

There is no arguing that the Philadelphia Phillies 2019 season can rightly be considered a failure. The final 81-81 record and fourth place divisional finish was a major disappointment to an organization and fan base that began the season with lofty expectations.

The Phillies entered the season’s final month with a winning record at 69-65. Though they had fallen to third place by that point, the club was still squarely in the postseason hunt at just 3.5 games behind the second NL Wildcard playoff berth.

Over that final month, the Phillies produced just a 12-16 record, collapsing in both the standings and that playoff hunt. In the end, they finished eight games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for that second NL Wildcard spot.

However, despite the losing record during the month of September 2019, there were positive signs which might bode well for the 2020 Phillies campaign to come.

While much was made last season of injuries to the bullpen and inconsistencies across the starting pitching rotation – and those did indeed exist, and were obvious contributing factors to the final record – one fundamental offensive statistic also reveals a big part of the problem.

In 2019, the Phillies offense finished 14th, or middle-of-the-pack among the 30 teams of Major League Baseball, with 774 runs scored. Seems about what you might expect for a .500 ball club, right?

But when you take a glance only a little bit beyond those overall numbers you find more than just a middling group of run producers. The 2019 Phillies hitters cannot even be considered to have been simply inconsistent. This was actually a truly schizophrenic bunch.

The magic number for the 2019 Philadelphia Phillies turned out to be four. Score four or more runs, and you win the vast majority of the time. Don’t reach that mark and you lose.

The Phillies were 72-23 during the 2019 season in those games in which the offense produced at least four runs scored. That figure was fourth-best in the 15-team National League, trailing only the baseball’s top regular season club, the LA Dodgers, as well as the World Series champion Washington Nationals and the NL Central champion Saint Louis Cardinals.

However, when the Phillies offense failed to reach that four-run mark, the club went just 9-58, a .134 winning percentage that was 14th of the 15 National League clubs.

The deficient pitching was a big part of that latter poor record. When the Phillies offense couldn’t score, the pitching wasn’t good enough to win games on their own.

For some perspective, the franchise-record 102-win Phillies team of 2011 failed to score at least four runs in 78 games. Last year’s club was 11 games better in that regard. The 2011 club with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Raul Ibanez leading the way finished just 13th in the NL in runs scored that year.

But that 2011 Phillies ball club also went 30-48 during games in which their offense failed to score at least four runs. It was the outstanding pitching of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, Vance Worley, and a solid bullpen led by closer Ryan Madson that made such a record possible.

The Phillies addressed their offensive shortcoming that year, acquiring the dynamic bat of Hunter Pence just prior to the trade deadline. The club produced at least four runs in 27 of the first 36 games with Pence in the lineup and nearly doubled their lead in the NL East over that six week period.

The point of all this being that had the 2019 Phillies been able to score at least four runs more frequently – and they averaged 4.78 per game – they would have been a winning ball club. That’s even with their poor pitching. They may even have been a playoff team. Of the top eight teams in average runs scored per game, seven reached the 2019 postseason.

Despite their poor 12-16 record over the month of September, the offense finally began to produce more consistently. During the season’s final month the Phillies set a new franchise record for home runs in a single month by slugging 46 long balls.

It wasn’t just a power surge. Beginning with games of August 27, the Phillies stole 23 consecutive bases without being caught. This was the first such successful stolen base streak by the club in a decade. Their 81.3% success rate overall in 2019 was the fifth-best by any Phillies team since the statistic was first tracked over a half-century ago.

With the increased power linked up to the effective use of speed over that final month, the Phillies offense produced at least four runs in 16 of 28 games. The hitters averaged 6.78 runs scored per game during the month, two more runs per game than over the full season.

Certainly the Phillies 2020 offense cannot be expected to score four or more runs in 90 games, and the team will not average more than 6.5 runs per game. That would be the pace set by the team in September of last season.

Also, it wasn’t as if much of that increased production came from those expected to be regulars in 2020. Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, the club’s two most consistently productive hitters over the course of the season, had fairly normal production levels in September.

Meanwhile, a few of the others had a poor month. Rhys Hoskins slashed just .170/.274/350 over 117 plate appearances. Scott Kingery slashed .191/.232/.393 over 96 plate appearances during September. Jean Segura was .238/.253/.333 during the month. Those three, expected to be regulars in 2020, combined for nine homers, 28 RBIs, 34 runs, and nine stolen bases in September.

One of the biggest run producers for the Phillies during September 2019 was Brad Miller. The utility man received 56 plate appearances during a month in which he slashed .327/.339/.800 with eight home runs, 11 RBIs, and 12 runs scored. Miller played in 66 games and made 26 starts for the Phillies last season after joining the club in mid-June. The 30-year-old is currently a free agent.

The addition of Zack Wheeler to the starting rotation and expected better seasons from both Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta should combine with better health and consistency from the bullpen in the coming season to give the Phillies better results on the mound.

Given reasonable health in 2020 by the key players in the lineup, the increased offensive production of September 2019 could indeed be a harbinger of better days to come. The performances of Hoskins, Kingery, and Segura this coming season will be pivotal in making that happen.

Combine even a modest turn towards those better offensive numbers with a similarly modest increase in performance from the pitching staff, add them to the presence of new manager Joe Girardi, and it all could well add up to that elusive winning record and playoff berth in 2020 for the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

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Phillies should change their policy and procedure on retiring numbers

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There is little doubt that Manuel will be joined on the Wall of Fame by a number of his former players. But should a few of those players also have their numbers retired?

 

On the day after Christmas, Matt Gelb of The Athletic continued a conversation that had previously taken place a few times over the last few years. Gelb published a piece that day in which he brought up the question of the Philadelphia Phillies policy on retiring uniform numbers.

The current Phillies unwritten policy was formulated back in the 1990’s. It holds that in order to be considered for a retired number, a player must be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Former director of public relations Larry Shenk is reported to have told Gelb for the piece that the policy was the result of an understanding between himself and club executives Bill Giles and David Montgomery.

As Gelb quotes Shenk: “We didn’t sit down and hash anything out. We didn’t put anything in writing. We didn’t take any votes. We just said, ‘This is what it’s going to be.’

It was a bad decision made by just three individuals that has now morphed into an unwritten policy to which the franchise continues to cling.

The policy holds to some standard that says a player must wait until (if?) some group of Baseball Hall of Fame voters decides worthiness.

How many times have we seen the Hall voters get it wrong on a player, only to have a Veteran’s Committee right that wrong a decade or two or more later? So a worthy player who was passed over by original Hall voters has to wait until they are old and decrepit, or worse yet, dead, to have their number retired?

It is time for a new, more formalized procedure to be instituted on the issue of retiring numbers of the greatest and most beloved players to wear a Phillies uniform.

The Phillies should have retired both Tug McGraw‘s number 45 and the number 15 for Dick Allen years ago. They should retire the number 10 as soon as possible, for both Larry Bowa and Darren Daulton.

And one day, the Phillies should also retire the numbers 6, 11, 26 and 35 for Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels.

Now, admittedly this is my own personal opinion. However, it is one that is shared by the vast majority of Phillies fans.

More than the specific worthiness of any individual player, the most important item that needs to be addressed is that the Phillies need to publicly announce that their unwritten Hall of Fame enshrinement policy is to be eliminated.

So, how should the Phillies handle the issue of retiring uniform numbers?

Per Investopedia: “According to the Corporate Library‘s study, the average board size is 9.2 members, and most boards range from 3 to 31 members. Some analysts think the ideal size is seven.

The Phillies organization should impanel a standing Honors Board made up of between seven to nine individuals whose responsibility would be to make final decisions on both the annual Phillies Wall of Fame honorees and also on retired numbers. The makeup of that board at any given time should be made public and available on the team’s official website.

Speaking of that Wall of Fame, yes, it is a great honor to be enshrined among the franchise greats. However, there can be little argument that even among Wall of Famers there are those who can be elevated above the rest due to their combination of outstanding individual playing careers, championship pedigrees, and relationships with the fan base.

Jim Bunning has the uniform number 14 retired in his number. Bunning pitched just six seasons in a Phillies uniform, won 89 games with the team, was a 2x NL All-Star while with the club, was the 1967 NL Cy Young runner-up, and never won a championship here.

Meanwhile, Hamels pitched for most of 10 seasons in Philly. He won 114 games in a Phillies uniform, was a 3x NL All-Star, finished among the top 8 in NL Cy Young voting four times, and was the Most Valuable Player of the NLCS and World Series for the Phillies 2008 title-winning team.

Rollins is the franchise all-time leader in hits. The emotional connection that he has with the fan base is similar to what teammates Utley, Howard, and Hamels enjoy, which stretching further back is what Daulton and McGraw enjoyed in decades before them.

Their skipper, Charlie Manuel, is just as beloved as his star players, perhaps even more so, and should have his number 41 retired by the club. He not only piloted the Phillies to the 2008 World Series championship, but also to a 2009 National League pennant, five consecutive NL East Division crowns, and to 780 total victories, more than any other manage in franchise history.

No man has worn a Phillies uniform for more years in more roles than Bowa: world championship player, winning record as a manager after a lengthy losing era, respected and dedicated coach, organizational advisor.

Roy Halladay wore the number 34 and Jim Thome wore number 25, each in parts of four seasons with the Phillies. Each is beloved and respected by the fan base. Retiring their numbers would be popular, and would fit with the current Hall of Fame policy.

But when you consider their actual contributions to the history of the team when matched against the others? Not really a question.

Besides the number 42, which has been retired by all Major League Baseball teams in honor of Jackie Robinson, there are five numbers retired for Phillies greats.

Richie Ashburn (1), Mike Schmidt (20), Steve Carlton (32), Robin Roberts (36), and Bunning (14) have their numbers retired.

In my opinion, those six should be joined by 6, 10, 11, 15, 25, 34, 41, and 45 over the next few years. That would give the Phillies 13 retired numbers. When you consider that the New York Yankees have 22 numbers retired and that the Phillies have been around for 137 seasons, it really isn’t alot.

 

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Philadelphia Phillies December 2019 mailbag

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No one in baseball is more under the spotlight this off-season than Phillies general manager Matt Klentak.

 

Back on Christmas Eve Eve, I asked my social media followers to shoot me out any questions that they might have on the Phillies.

As you might expect, the majority of those ended up in reference to moves the club has made and might still make during this current off-season.

Following are a representative sampling, along with my responses, presented in a question (Q) and answer (A) format.

 

Q: Sean Fitzpatrick (@SeanFit91141350 on Twitter) asks “I’m questioning the configuration of the infield as it stands now. I dont see either Segura or Kingery as a legit third base option, and which one plays second? Do we bring in an outside option?

A: As we sit here in the week between Christmas and New Year’s the Phillies 2020 infield configuration appears that it will feature Rhys Hoskins at first base, Jean Segura at second, Didi Gregorius at shortstop, and Scott Kingery at third base. Kingery is likely keeping the spot warm until top prospect Alec Bohm is ready, at which point Kingery would return to a super-utility role. That assumes he is not needed at another position due to injury.

Q: Robin Heller (@flower_auntie on Twitter) says “I am wondering about who will play third base and how they will address the holes in the rotation!

A: As for third base, see the above answer – though there remain rumors that the Phillies could consider a trade for Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. The starting rotation is currently projected to be made up of Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, and Vince Velasquez.

It doesn’t appear as though GM Matt Klentak feels that there are “holes in the rotation” – though you and I would disagree with him. Arrieta needs to prove that he can stay healthy and produce past May. Eflin and Velasquez have been consistently inconsistent.

Wheeler was a great signing. But we went into this off-season believing that the Phillies needed two new starting pitchers of the type who had proven to be winners at the big-league level. There is still plenty of time to bring in another arm via free agency or trade.

Among free agents remaining, perhaps Klentak would consider taking a shot on Alex Wood, if the 28-year-old southpaw keeps hanging out on the market and his price is reasonable. The Phillies have also been linked to Arizona lefty Robbie Ray.

Q: Dan McElhaugh on Facebook asks “You (Phillies) need to address the bullpen and get another starter. What are you doing about it?

A: I addressed the starting pitchers above. However, you also have to consider that top pitching prospect Spencer Howard is close to big-league ready and will likely impact the rotation at some point in 2020. He is probably going to start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and assuming health and success there we should see him by the second half of the season, at the latest.

The bullpen is a tough question. There actually are the makings of a decent group here. But much of that depends on them being healthier than last year’s group. Right-handers include Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Edgar Garcia, Trevor Kelley, Robert Stock and possibly even Nick Pivetta or prospect Adonis Medina.

Among lefties the club currently has Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Austin Davis, and Cristopher Sanchez. You could even see minor league starters Cole Irvin, Ranger Suarez, and JoJo Romero slide into a pen role.

There are a number of veteran relievers remaining on the free agent market including Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, Francisco Liriano, and Fernando Rodney. Any of them would help upgrade the bullpen. Klentak may be waiting to see if any can eventually come dirt cheap.

Q: JBFazz1213 (@JBFazz1213 on Twitter) stated “Very Disappointing if the Phillies don’t sign Dellin Betances because of the Luxury Tax.

A: As we now know, the Phillies indeed did not sign Betances, who received a one-year deal at $10.5 million guaranteed from the division-rival New York Mets which can rise to $13 million based on incentives. He also received two player option years, though if he proves himself healthy it is likely that Betances re-sets his value and returns to the free agent market next fall.

Having previously pitched his entire career in the Big Apple with the Yankees, he has a number of ties to New York. Likely of most importance were that the doctors who treated his shoulder injury and his Achilles injuries are located there. Those injuries, especially the September Achilles, are likely most of the reason that the Phillies and any number of other ball clubs in need of bullpen help were not involved.

Q: Wally Potter on Facebook asks “Why does the Phillies farm system have a bad history of producing quality starting pitching ? More specific within the last 40 years.”

A: Back in July of 2019, Dan Roche of NBC Sports Philadelphia did a nice piece on this very subject. In that piece, Roche listed the top 10 homegrown Phillies pitchers over the last four decades as ranked by Baseball-Reference WAR value.

Those ten arms belong to, in order, Cole Hamels, Aaron Nola, Kevin Gross, Randy Wolf, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson, Don Carman, Kyle Kendrick, Hector Neris, and Ricky Bottalico.

It’s not a bad list, but there is a major and obvious flaw. Nola and Neris are “now” arms on the current roster. Hamels, Myers, Madson, and Kendrick were all pitchers with the 2008 World Series champions and were with the club for a number of years around that magical season.

What you are left with are Gross, Carman, and Ricky Bo as the only pitchers developed out of the Phillies farm system from the late-1970’s through the mid-2000’s who had any real impact on the ball club.

Roche estimates that the Phillies have drafted upwards of 1,000 pitchers over the last 40 years and stated “Even by blind luck, a team should be able to do better than the Phillies have.

The answer to the “why” is difficult to explain. That poor history comes under various regimes led by eight different general managers and a number of higher executives.

Perhaps that poor homegrown pitching record is beginning to change. If you make the history just of the last dozen years or so, you get seven of the above 10 names. You also get arms such as current top pitching prospect Spencer Howard and former top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, the centerpiece of the J.T. Realmuto deal.

Q: d dask (@DocD19 on Twitter) wanted me to “Ask Matt Klentak if he is allergic to southpaws?

A: I am not sure regarding the topic of Klentak’s allergies. But I get it. Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, and Hyun-Jin Ryu were all available as free agents this time around. Any would have been a perfect fit for the Phillies rotation – especially our old hero Hamels on a one-year deal. The exact reasons why the GM didn’t get any of those arms to Philly is perplexing, to say the least.

Q: DDNAGS (@DDNAGS1 on Twitter) opined “They will not win with the current roster. Ask Matt Klentak when he is going to get off his big ass and make a couple trades? We don’t need all these scrubs he always signs.

A: Well, that’s simply wrong. Klentak signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen last off-season. He signed Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius this off-season. They had a .500 roster prior to the recent moves and on paper appear to be improved. So, it would seem that, given health, they are already good enough to “win with the current roster.
Now, if you are talking about winning enough to reach the playoffs, maybe even contend for a division crown, and beyond that, a world championship, I get it.
It is my contention that the Phillies need a more proven center fielder, a left-handed veteran starting pitcher, another veteran bullpen arm with a successful track record, and another bench bat with pop from the right side similar to what Jay Bruce brings from the left. Let’s see what the GM does between now and the start of the season.

Q: PhilliesCurveballMachine (@phillies_the on Twitter) asks “Will a “culture change” in the clubhouse under the new coaching staff really make a difference in the team’s intensity/ focus/ “hustle” this season? And will this translate into wins? Why/how?

A: When you talk about a “culture change” inside the Phillies clubhouse, you specifically mention the change of managers from Gabe Kapler to Joe Girardi. Honestly, we’re not going to know how the club responds. But I expect that a proven winner with a championship pedigree will be more influential and regarded more positively than a rookie with a cheerleader personality.

There is another major change inside the clubhouse, with a pair of starting players gone in Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco. This year should find Realmuto, McCutchen, and Harper stepping into even more vocal leadership roles. I don’t know about you, but that prospect elicits more confidence from me.

I am expecting that Girardi will simply not tolerate any lack of hustle. He is not only going to be willing to make an example out of any player, but also have the confidence and support from management to bench anyone for any reason.

This comes from the popularity of his hiring, the unpopularity of the general manager, the fact that Girardi is just beginning what should be at least a three-year run in the dugout, and his own confidence based on his experiences as a championship-winning player and manager.

Now, will this change in style and substance result in more victories? I think it will have some effect. However, the team has to stay mostly healthy, especially where its biggest stars are concerned, and needs to receive actual improved performance from a few players. Any more positive attitude needs to be backed by positive performances.

Q: Andrew (@Andrew201711 on Twitter) asks “With the roster as it stands , I don’t see the Phils doing any better than third place …. your thoughts ?

A: For me the big thing right now is that factor of health. If the roster as currently assembled remains healthy, they can contend for a postseason berth. If they stay healthy, get improved performances from a few players such as Adam Haseley, Hoskins, and Arrieta, and if Klentak can make a couple of big in-season moves, they can win the division.

All of that said, the Braves are two-time defending NL East champions with a talented young core. The Nationals are defending World Series champions. Both teams have solid overall rosters. The Mets have improved their already tough pitching staff in both talent and depth this off-season. All three of those teams finished above the Phillies in the 2019 standings.

It is way too early for me to make any predictions. A lot can still change on not only the Phillies roster, but that of their division rivals. But right now you can make a legitimate argument for the club finishing anywhere from first to fourth in the National League East Division in the 2020 season.

That’s it for the mailbag this time around. I’ll open it up once again as spring training gets underway in February. Between now and then, you can always hit me up on social media: @philliesbell on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

Phillies top seasonal performances of the 2010’s

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Bryce Harper‘s 35 homers in 2019 were the most by a Phillies player for any season during the 2010’s decade

 

Two weeks from today will be New Year’s Eve and we will be formally ringing out 2019 as well as the decade of the 2010’s.

A few weeks back, I presented a WAR-based list of the top 10 Phillies players of the past decade. With this piece, I’m going to look at individual seasonal performances.

Who provided the top home run seasons, stolen base seasons, strikout seasons during the course of the last 10 years of Phillies baseball?

Just another way to capture a period of time in franchise history. So, here are the top 10 individual season performances in a variety of categories by Phillies players during the 2010’s decade.

HOME RUNS

  1. Bryce Harper, 2019 – 35
  2. Rhys Hoskins, 2018 – 34
  3. Ryan Howard, 2011 – 33
  4. Ryan Howard, 2010 – 31
  5. Rhys Hoskins, 2019 – 29
  6. Domonic Brown, 2013 – 27
  7. Jayson Werth, 2010 – 27
  8. J.T. Realmuto, 2019 – 25
  9. Maikel Franco, 2016 – 25
  10. Marlon Byrd, 2014 – 25

RBIs

  1. Ryan Howard, 2011 – 116
  2. Bryce Harper, 2019 – 114
  3. Ryan Howard, 2010 – 108
  4. Rhys Hoskins, 2018 – 96
  5. Ryan Howard, 2014 – 95
  6. Maikel Franco, 2016 – 88
  7. Rhys Hoskins, 2019 – 85
  8. Raul Ibanez, 2011 – 84
  9. J.T. Realmuto, 2019 – 83
  10. Domonic Brown, 2013 – 83

RUNS

  1. Jayson Werth, 2010 – 106
  2. Jimmy Rollins, 2012 – 102
  3. Bryce Harper, 2019 – 98
  4. Shane Victorino, 2011 – 95
  5. J.T. Realmuto, 2019 – 92
  6. Cesar Hernandez, 2018 – 91
  7. Rhys Hoskins, 2018 – 89
  8. Odubel Herrera, 2016 / Jimmy Rolllins, 2011 – Ryan Howard, 2010 – 87

STEALS

  1. Ben Revere, 2014 – 49
  2. Juan Pierre, 2012 – 37
  3. Shane Victorino, 2010 – 34
  4. Jimmy Rollins, 2012  / Jimmy Rollins, 2011 – 30
  5. Jimmy Rollins, 2014 – 28
  6. Odubel Herrera, 2016 – 25
  7. Shane Victorino, 2012 – 24
  8. Ben Revere, 2013 / Jimmy Rollins, 2013 – 22

BATTING AVERAGE

(min. 300 PA’s)

  1. Carlos Ruiz, 2012 – .325
  2. Juan Pierre, 2012 – .307
  3. Ben Revere, 2014 – .306
  4. Ben Revere, 2013 – .305
  5. Carlos Ruiz, 2010 – .302
  6. Placido Polanco, 2010 – .298
  7. Odubel Herrera, 2015 – .297
  8. Jayson Werth, 2010 – .296
  9. Cesar Hernandez, 2017 / Cesar Hernandez, 2016 – .294

WINS

  1. Roy Halladay, 2010 – 21
  2. Roy Halladay, 2011 – 19
  3. Cliff Lee, 2011 / Aaron Nola, 2018 / Cole Hamels, 2012 – 17
  4. Cole Hamels, 2011 / Cliff Lee, 2013 – 14
  5. Aaron Nola, 2019 / Aaron Nola, 2017 / Jeremy Hellickson, 2016 / Cole Hamels, 2010 – 12

STRIKEOUTS

  1. Cliff Lee, 2011 – 238
  2. Aaron Nola, 2019 – 229
  3. Aaron Nola, 2018 – 224
  4. Cliff Lee, 2013 – 222
  5. Roy Halladay, 2011 – 220
  6. Roy Halladay, 2010 – 219
  7. Cole Hamels, 2012 – 216
  8. Cole Hamels, 2010 – 211
  9. Cliff Lee, 2012 – 207
  10. Cole Hamels, 2013 – 202

INNINGS

  1. Roy Halladay, 2010 – 250.2
  2. Roy Halladay, 2011 – 233.2
  3. Cliff Lee, 2011 – 232.2
  4. Cliff Lee, 2013 – 222.2
  5. Cole Hamels, 2013 – 220
  6. Cole Hamels, 2011 – 216
  7. Cole Hamels, 2012 – 215.1
  8. A.J. Burnett, 2014 – 213.2
  9. Aaron Nola, 2018 – 212.1
  10. Cliff Lee, 2012 – 211

SAVES

  1. Jonathan Papelbon, 2014 – 39
  2. Jonathan Papelbon, 2012 – 38
  3. Jeanmar Gomez, 2016 – 37
  4. Ryan Madson, 2011 – 32
  5. Jonathan Papelbon, 2013 – 29
  6. Hector Neris, 2019 – 28
  7. Brad Lidge, 2010 – 27
  8. Hector Neris, 2017 – 26
  9. Jonathan Papelbon, 2015 – 17
  10. Seranthony Dominguez, 2018 – 16

 

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With Zack Wheeler on board, updating the latest Phillies rumors

The Baseball Winter Meetings open on Sunday, December 8 in San Diego and the ‘Hot Stove’ season in Major League Baseball is already fully underway with hot new rumors coming out every day.

The Philadelphia Phillies were expected to be one of the most active teams in free agency and perhaps in the trade market as well during this off-season period.

With his job squarely on the line, general manager Matt Klentak is under the spotlight, tasked with filling a number of holes in order to elevate his now .500 team to a genuine 2020 contender.

The Phillies landed one of the top starting pitchers on the free agent market in right-hander Zack Wheeler. Reports this afternoon are that he will receive a five-year contract with a total value at over $110 million.

There were also reports that Wheeler had received a higher offer from the Chicago White Sox than the $118 million total dollars which he will receive from the Phillies.

However, Wheeler’s wife is a Jersey girl, and that appears to have been a decisive factor once the offers were relatively close. The Phillies also beat out the Chisox for Bryce Harper last off-season.

The Phillies have been linked to a number of top free agent names to this point. They cannot possibly land every big name that the fan base is hoping to add. However, they surely will be successful in luring at least one or two talented veterans.

Let’s take a quick look at the very latest rumors involving the Phillies interest and involvement in the pursuit of the most interesting players available.

Starting Pitchers

Cole Hamels – He was “the people’s choice”, as Phillies fans wanted him back. Hamels also telegraphed that he wanted to return and was willing to settle for a one-year deal to return to the club with whom he starred for a decade.

It turns out that he got that deal – but from the division-rival Atlanta Braves. It was announced this afternoon that Hamels and the Braves had agreed to a one-year, $18 million deal.

Time to turn the page here, Phillies fans. We’ll get to cheer him again one day at his Wall of Fame ceremony. But before then, count on him getting booed strongly next season at Citizens Bank Park.

Gerrit Cole – The Yankees are making a big push to land Cole. However, many believe that the Newport Beach, California native genuinely wants to pitch on the west coast. The Phillies have the money to be in this discussion, but I just don’t see the interest on his part.

The Dodgers, Angels, and Padres are probably going to end up as the finalists for Cole, with the Yankees trying to shove their way in with lots of money and that old Bronx Bomber prestige and history.

Stephen Strasburg – After meeting with Cole on Tuesday, the Yankees are spending their Wednesday meeting with Strasburg. If they feel that Cole is committed to the west coast, Strasburg could become New York’s main target, which could blow any other team out of the water…assuming the big righty is interested in pitching in the Bronx.

There have been no major rumors involving a Phillies link to either Cole or Strasburg, unless you count this afternoon’s generic “the Phillies are looking at Strasburg” tweet from Jon Heyman.

My guess is that the club has already been informed by their agent, Scott Boras, that the Phillies would be secondary options for the two biggest pitching prizes.

Madison Bumgarner – Back in May, MadBum put the Phillies on his no-trade list. However, that was strategic per Rosenthal. Bumgarner didn’t want to leave San Francisco, and listed as many teams as he could who appeared likely to go after him at that time.

Rosenthal did a nice sales pitch for Bumgarner earlier today on MLB Network. It has been about a week since any talk linking him with the Phillies. But Jon Morosi reported that reps of the player and team have been in touch, and Morosi also stated that the Phillies are “actively interested” in the veteran lefty.

Hyun-Jin Ryu – The Phillies could really use a left-hander, if not two, for the starting rotation. Scott Lauber lumped the Korean southpaw in with Wheeler and MadBum this afternoon as a possible Phillies target.

Dallas Keuchel – Well, since the Braves snatched Hamels, perhaps the Phillies could snatch up Keuchel, who pitched last season in Atlanta?

After he shut the Phillies down in a September start for the Braves, Keuchel called out Phillies management for not going after him when the pitcher was available and the club had a need per Jim Salisbury at NBC Sports Philadelphia:

I mean, if you don’t come calling what is there for me to be mad about? I think a lot of those guys over there in the front office are second-guessing themselves, and, I mean, I would too.

There have been no rumors linking the pitcher and the team. But if the Phillies aren’t seriously looking at him at this point, they have to be letting their egos get in the way.

Infielders

Didi Gregorius – The hottest name linked to the Phillies thus far this off-season, Gregorius is a favorite of new manager Joe Girardi from his years with the Yankees.

While I personally don’t think Gregorius is a major upgrade over incumbent shortstop Jean Segura defensively, he would bring more pop to the Phillies lineup.

Salisbury reported this morning that “the Phils are engaged in talks with free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius.” It would appear to be more than speculation or rumor at this point.

Cutting ties with Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco opens two spots on the Phillies infield. The club already has the potential to fill second base with Scott Kingery. Watching how they choose to align the 2020 infield will be one of the more interesting Phillies situations this off-season.

Josh Donaldson – The Phillies have a hole at third base with the Franco non-tender. Kingery is not a good option on an every day basis. Top prospect Alec Bohm is nearly ready, and could push his way to Philly no later than mid-summer of the 2020 season.

So, the question becomes would the Phillies shell out big bucks and tie up third base for multiple years. That is what it will likely take to land Donaldson, who played on a one-year contract in Atlanta last season and is not likely to settle for such a deal again.

There have been no real rumors linking the team and player other than a Monday tweet from Morosi that the Phillies were “maintaining contact” with reps for both Gregorius and Donaldson.

Anthony Rendon – While a big ex-Nationals reunion joining Bryce Harper with Strasburg and/or Rendon would be wonderful on the field, it likely wouldn’t work on the Phillies balance sheets.

Rendon is going to be the highest-priced position player free agent this off-season. The Dodgers have already met with he and Strasburg, and many feel that Rendon will end up with the Texas Rangers, with whom he has also already met.

Two weeks ago, Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philly called Rendon “the perfect fit” for the Phillies. However, there has been nothing to really link the team and player directly to this point.

In my opinion and that of most others, the Phillies need to add not one, but two more proven veteran starting pitchers to their rotation.

The Phillies have successfully landed Wheeler with a lengthy contract at a high salary. Should they now fall short on the other arms listed previously you can expect them to shop for a pitcher in the “third tier” of free agents.

Were that to happen, arms such as Rick Porcello, Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, and Julio Teheran to get a longer look from the club. But this is not what the Phillies want or need, not really.

Wheeler adds a much-needed talented arm. He gives them a nice 1-2 punch with Aaron Nola. What would go well now would be a battle-tested and still talented left-hander. Someone like Bumgarner.

 

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