Tag Archives: Ian Kinsler

Can the Phillies expect much from Andrew McCutchen in 2020?

There is an old saying that goes something like “Father Time is undefeated.” It’s not actually true, as athletes such as Gordie Howe, Tom Brady, Roger Federer, Brett Favre, and Jack Nicklaus have proven. Baseball has seen the old man taken down by the likes of Randy Johnson, Bartolo Colon, and Jamie Moyer.

But in the overwhelming majority of his battles with professional athletes, Father Time will indeed come out victorious. Professional athletics is a young man’s game. As players push into and through their 30’s, without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s) it is usually impossible for most to keep up for very long with newly arriving, talented youngsters.

In his 20’s, Andrew McCutchen was one of the best baseball players on the planet. He was the first round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2005 MLB Draft at 11th overall out of a Florida high school. Four years later he broke into the big-leagues in 2009 at age 22, finishing fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

For five straight years from 2011-15, McCutchen was an NL All-Star. In 2012 he won the NL Gold Glove Award for center fielders and took home the first of what would become four consecutive NL Silver Slugger Awards. For that performance he finished third in the NL MVP voting.

In 2013, McCutchen was the National League Most Valuable Player, leading the Pirates to the postseason for the first time in more than two decades. He would finish third in that MVP voting once again in 2014 and fifth in 2015.

McCutchen wrapped up his Pittsburgh run with a pair of seasons in 2016-17 that were still solid, but a notch below his MVP-caliber campaigns, and the Pirates dropped out of contender status.

In January 2018 the Pirates traded away their former superstar to the San Francisco Giants. He would move across the country to play with a new team at age 31.

McCutchen was clearly slowed down in the City by the Bay, and was forced to slide over from center to right field. His time in San Francisco wouldn’t last long. With the Giants out of contention he was dealt at the August 31 waiver deadline to the New York Yankees.

In the off-season, McCutchen became a free agent for the first time in his career. The Phillies inked him to a three-year deal on December 12, 2018 and penned him into the starting lineup as their new left fielder, allowing Rhys Hoskins to return to his natural position at first base.

Left field had become a revolving door position over the prior half-decade for the Phillies with Aaron Altherr, Cody Asche, Tyler Goeddel, and Domonic Brown all taking a turn as the starter at various times. While they knew McCutchen was no longer an MVP-caliber player, it was expected that he would provide veteran leadership and hold down the position for a few seasons.

The Phillies went to San Diego in early June in the midst of a west coast road trip with the club in first place in the National League East Division at 33-27. McCutchen was providing not only that leadership but also producing solid offensive numbers with 10 homers, 12 doubles, 29 RBIs, and 45 runs scored.

At that point, McCutchen had filled the role as Gabe Kapler‘s leadoff man perfectly. In fact, he was tops among all leadoff men in Major League Baseball in runs and walks, ranking fifth in on-base percentage and extra-base hits.

Then it all came to an end on what seemed like such an innocent play. McCutchen led off the June 2 opening game in San Diego with a walk. He was on first base when new shortstop Jean Segura popped up to second base. Segura slipped coming out of the batter’s box, and when he regained his footing did not run hard to first base.

The Padres second baseman was veteran Ian Kinsler, who noticed that Segura was not running hard. He decided to let the ball fall to the ground and try for a double play. McCutchen had stayed close to first base, assuming the pop-up would be caught. He suddenly had to run hard for second base, and was caught in a rundown. During the course of that rundown he twisted his knee and crumpled to the ground.

It would turn out that McCutchen had suffered a torn ACL in his left knee. He would miss the remainder of the season.

As the Phillies slumped out of the division lead over the next few weeks, Hoskins was quoted by Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer on the loss of McCutchen: “This guy does more for this clubhouse than maybe he even knows. He’s a presence in this lineup, a presence on the team and the field.

In mid-June, McCutchen underwent surgery to repair a medial meniscus and reconstruct the ACL in his left knee.

It has been a long, arduous process, but McCutchen’s rehab seems to be going well. He was quoted by John Perrotto of Forbes in early December:

There were so many times I tried to sit back and cry about it, but I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I knew I had to stay positive, concentrate on my rehab and come back strong. I feel great. I’m already looking forward to spring training.

From 2017-19 in his ages 30-32 seasons, McCutchen slashed a cumulative .265/.368/.455 and his production over a full season of 162 games would have averaged out to 26 home runs, 32 doubles, 80 RBIs, 98 runs, and 12 stolen bases.

However, the Phillies cannot expect to get 162 games out of McCutchen at age 33, especially coming off major reconstructive knee surgery. In fact, a best-case scenario for the club might involve a left field platoon with the right-handed bat of McCutchen and the lefty-hitting Jay Bruce.

McCutchen is a better defensive player at this point in their careers than Bruce, who will also turn 33 years of age at the start of April. So, while we wouldn’t be talking about a full platoon, Bruce could get 1-2 starts per week on average. Such an arrangement could keep both veterans healthy while maximizing their production.

On Christmas Eve, he and wife Maria welcomed their second child to the world with the birth of Armani X McCutchen. With a new addition to the family and an improving  physical condition, McCutchen is enthusiastic at this point and looking forward to helping the Phillies take a step forward in 2020.

The Phillies are hoping to actually contend over the entire season this time around, pushing for their first playoff berth in nine years. Getting a healthy, productive season from McCutchen would be just one of a number of things that need to go right with the club in order for that to happen.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Manny Machado reportedly opts to stay in the SoCal sun – in San Diego

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Machado will be playing in the SoCal sun for years to come

According to a number of reliable sources, the San Diego Padres have come to an agreement with free agent infielder Manny Machado.

The deal is reportedly for 10 years and $300 million, which would make it the largest total dollar value guaranteed contract in American sports history. There is also reportedly a player opt-out after the fifth year in the deal.
This deal also pushes the Padres, who entered the pursuit late in the off-season as a “mystery team”, over the $100 million total salary mark for the first time in franchise history.
With top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr considered nearly ready at shortstop, the Padres could either play Machado at third base and go with Luis Urias at short for now, or begin 2019 with Machado at short until Tatis is ready.
The Phillies were considered an early favorite for Machado, who met with club officials back in December at Citizens Bank Park. Despite both sides saying all of the right polite things, nothing seemed to ever get close between the Phillies and Machado.
The Chicago White Sox were considered co-favorites for Machado’s services at one point. The Chisox added Machado’s brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, and signed their workout partner Jon Jay in order to help lure the free agent. Chicago reportedly had a seven-year, $175-million dollar offer on the table for the infielder and were confident in their chances.
Don’t be surprised if the White Sox now shift their full focus and resources into a battle with the Phillies in trying to lure Bryce Harper, with the San Francisco Giants and his former Washington Nationals team also still in the hunt.
The Machado contract is certainly going to establish a base in Harper negotiations. It would not be surprising to see the outfielder get something along the lines of a 10-year deal worth between $325-350 million with a similar opt-out.
Robert Raiola, CPA and Director of Sports & Entertainment for the PKF O’Connor Davies accounting and advisory firm speculated just yesterday that such a large contract for both Machado and Harper would likely contain language to protect it from high California taxation.
On Harper/Machado::

Both players will ask for large signing bonus'(SB) as part of contracts. Both players rep live in no tax state. If proper language is included in contracts,(sb) will not be taxed in state where team is based

Deferred comp will likely be part of both deals.

You might ask why a player such as Machado would want to sign long-term with an organization such as the Padres? It’s a logical question, since San Diego has been a perennial loser since entering Major League Baseball as part of the 1969 expansion.
The Padres have participate in 50 seasons and have reached the postseason just five times, during each of the five seasons in which they have won the NL West crown: 1984, 1996, 1998, and 2005-06. The team has experienced just 14 winning campaigns, and has finished with a losing record for the last eight years. Last season, the Padres finished at 66-96 and in the division basement for the second time in three years.
But the San Diego executive team led by chairman Ron Fowler, general partner Peter Seidler, and executive vice-president A.J. Preller are committed to changing the perception of the club. The Padres were recently ranked by Baseball America as having the top minor league talent in the game.
They made an initial splash one year ago when they lured veteran first baseman Eric Hosmer with an eight-year, $144 million free agent contract that lasts through 2015. Earlier this off-season the Padres added veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler with a two-year, $8 million deal.
For the Phillies, this means that all of their eggs are now in one basket. Despite the proclamations of management that the off-season is a success without landing one of the two biggest names, that is not how the fan base sees it. If the Phillies now fail to finalize a deal with Harper they can expect considerable backlash from those fans.

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“One thing’s for sure, Harper is going to get more than Machado.”

With Manny Machado off the board, @JimBowdenGM predicts Bryce Harper’s potential contract and destination.

The pressure is now on, and the focus now appears clearly on one prize, the top prize: Bryce Harper. There will be increased competition from at least the White Sox. It is now time for the Phillies ownership and management to put up or shut up and bag the big game name in what has been an agonizingly lengthy off-season free agent hunt.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as BREAKING: Padres reportedly land Manny Machado

Jumping in as late suitors, Padres will make a pitch to Bryce Harper

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San Diego Padres GM A.J. Preller will make a late pitch for Bryce Harper

Last week’s big news on the Manny Machado free agency front came when it was revealed that the San Diego Padres were the previously rumored ‘mystery team’ to enter the race for the young superstar free agent infielder.

Now today comes word from perhaps the most reliable MLB insider in the business that the Padres are tossing their hats into the ring for Bryce Harper as well.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweeted out the following message this morning:
Early in the off-season, San Diego was considered a long-shot to land either of the big names. The logic behind that thinking was that the Padres were probably at least a couple of years away from contending status in the National League West Division.
However, as this off-season has developed their organizational strategy has clarified. The Padres selling point is that they are considered to have one of the top, if not the very top, group of minor league prospects in the game today.
Harper or Machado would theoretically be signing long-term, possibly as long as a decade. So the superstar(s) would be part of an incremental improvement right away, and then become the centerpiece of a genuine long-term contender that would emerge over the next couple of years.
Just yesterday, Jack Dickey at Sports Illustrated described that San Diego system as follows: “The farm system is as flush as any in recent memory; just days ago, MLB.com ranked 10 Padres prospects among the game’s top 100, with five of them, including No. 2 overall prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr., expected to contribute as major leaguers in 2019.
Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler, president of baseball operations Erik Greupner, and executive vice-president/general manager A.J. Preller are now exploring every avenue to turn around the fortunes of a franchise that hasn’t won the division since back-to-back NL West crowns in 2005-06.
The Padres have not experienced a winning season since 2010, and have finished no higher than third place in the division since that point. The club finished in the NL West basement twice in the last three years. They have experienced just 14 winning seasons in the 50-year history of the franchise.
Believing that the gems in their minor league system are for real, that San Diego brain trust appears ready to make a sincere attempt to write a better story for their future. They began this off-season jumping into the free agent game back in December by signing pitcher Garrett Richards and second baseman Ian Kinsler.
Landing Harper and/or Machado and adding them to a core group that also includes first baseman Eric Hosmer (29), outfielders Wil Myers (28) and Hunter Renfroe (27) and those talented, emerging prospects led by Tatis, Francisco Mejia, and Luis Urias would theoretically make the Padres at least a dangerous team in the short-term.
In the longer term, improving the pitching staff will be the key to San Diego getting and staying competitive. That will be true even if they are able to somehow reel in both Harper and Machado. Fortunately, nine of the top dozen prospects in what is considered baseball’s #1 system are all pitchers. That group should reach the bigs at various points over the next 2-3 years.
We’ll learn how serious the San Diego bid for the two free agents was as the process finally draws to a close at some point. It is entirely possible that allowing the Padres into the process this late in the game is simply a ploy by the agents to drive up the final contract value for their clients.
Many Phillies fans have begun expressing extreme frustration at the lengthy process. That frustration draws partly on the club’s collapse last summer, partly from the losing of the last half-dozen years after a decade of huge success, and partly from the Phillies genuine interest in pursuing the two talents.
What we somehow need to keep in mind is that these are two 26-year-old young men who are likely trying to make a decision that will affect the major portion of the next decade of their lives, both on a professional and personal level.
Whichever organization either Harper or Machado choose to sign with is likely going to become the place they perform during the entirety of their prime playing years. It will become the team with whom they are likely to become most identified for the rest of a potential Hall of Fame history.
Tonight’s meeting in Las Vegas between Harper and the Padres contingent is, for now, just one more step in what has been a long off-season negotiation process. Why anyone ever thought that actually signing one of two generational talents was going to happen quickly is anyone’s guess.

It’s past time for the Phillies to move on from Cesar Hernandez at second base

By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA - Cesar Hernandez, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41010340
Cesar Hernandez during 2018 season
(Photo by Keith Allison via Wiki Commons)
If you want to go ahead and say that this has been a roller coaster of a season for Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez then you would be on a really exaggerated summer coaster ride.
What this season has demonstrated as well as any in recent memory is exactly what I was saying about him before it even began – it’s time for him to go.
Hernandez has some of the most empty and inconsequential offensive statistics in the game, his defense is nothing special, and at age 29 next season he should not be considered a piece for a future contending Phillies ball club.
This season began with Hernandez hot. Over the Phillies first 43 games through May 19 he was slashing .282/.392/.448 with six homers, 15 RBI, 34 runs scored and nine stolen bases. That would represent the roller coaster upward climb.
Then on May 20, Hernandez wrapped up a road trip in Saint Louis by going 0-3. It was the start of that roller coaster drop-off. And unlike most roller coasters, this one would not be over quick, nor would it lead to a series of thrilling ups and downs.
From that May 20 game through nearly the entirety of summer, Hernandez’ performance would plummet through a prolonged, nauseating, lineup defeating drop.
Across 93 games through September 3, Hernandez hit just .237 with a .309 slugging percentage. Over more than twice the number of plate appearances as in his quick start he hit one fewer home run and stole one fewer base.
It’s not as if Hernandez has been playing outstanding defense. His 1,217.2 innings played is the third-most of anyone at second base in all of Major League Baseball this year. According to Fangraphs he ranks just 12th on their Advanced Defensive Index and 13th in Defensive WAR at the Keystone.
And still, manager Gabe Kapler kept writing his name into the starting lineup. Hernandez has started 138 of the Phillies 146 games through Friday night.
Hernandez made $5.1 million this season and will be arbitration-eligible this coming off-season. He will most certainly be looking for a raise, possibly to the $10+ million per year mark. He cannot become a free agent until after the 2020 season.

There will be a bevy of free agent second basemen or players who could be used at the position who will be hitting the market this winter. The list includes potentially enticing names like Brian DozierDJ LeMahieuJed LowrieDaniel MurphyIan Kinsler, and Asdrubal Cabrera. But each has already reached age 30, and all will be hoping for expensive contracts at multiple years of commitment.
With two years remaining until his own free agency, and with those years coming in his ages 29 and 30 seasons, it is entirely possible that Phillies GM Matt Klentak could convince some contending general manager to give up a young prospect with reasonable upside in a trade for Hernandez.
Corey Seidman for NBC Sports Philadelphia speculated earlier this month on a possible return for Hernandez:

“At this point, the Phillies won’t be able to find great value for Hernandez. But they should be able to land a reliever coming off a good year from a team in need of a second baseman.”

The Phillies have their future at the position already in-house. Scott Kingery won a minor league Gold Glove at second base just last year when he hit .304 with 26 homers, 29 doubles, 29 steals, and 103 runs scored with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

It’s time for the Phillies to commit and turn second base over to Kingery. (Photo by: Lauren McLaughlin)
Yes, Kingery struggled during his rookie season this year in Major League Baseball. The 24-year-old has slashed just .227/.268/335 with seven homers, 33 RBI, 10 steals, and 51 runs scored over 448 plate appearances across 134 games.
However, this was Kingery’s first taste of big-league life, and it arguably came under extreme duress. After playing just two minor league games at shortstop, Kingery was asked to become the Phillies starter at that vital position for much of this season.
Kapler has started him 90 times at shortstop and played him in 106 total games there. Meanwhile, Kingery has seen action in just four games at his natural second base position, with only two starts. He hasn’t gotten a start there since April 16 and has not played the position at all in the last three months.
As I described in a piece earlier this month, Kingery has been mishandled this year by the Phillies. I believe grossly so. As I wrote in that piece: “Put him at second base, and he will thrive. His record tells the tale. The proof is in the pudding. Pac-12 Player of the Year. Paul Owens Award winner. Minor league All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner.
I also believe that with a full year of MLB experience under his belt, and with the increased comfort level that would come in returning to his natural position, that Kingery will begin to thrive offensively next season.
During spring training back in March the Phillies signed Kingery to a six-year contract. It gave him more guaranteed money than any drafted player who had never played in MLB in the game’s history. They were presumably showing some level of commitment to Kingery and a belief in his abilities.

In the last 10 days, Hernandez has again heated up somewhat. Over nine games during that time he has hit .343 with a .415 on-base percentage. But it is too little, too late to salvage his season, let alone his Phillies career.
The improved stretch might indicate to some that the Hernandez roller coaster has finally bottomed out and is rising again. But the fact is that his numbers remain empty. He has no home runs, one stolen base, and two runs scored in those games.
It is time for the team to fully commit. It is time to dump Hernandez and turn the page from another failed 2012-17 player. Hand the starting job at second base to Kingery for the 2019 season and beyond, taking another step towards a brighter Phillies future.

Twins win, draw closer to AL Wildcard as pursuers all lose

Gibson’s solid outing helped Twins draw closer to playoffs

It’s become monotonous to call them the “surprising” Minnesota Twins. After all, it’s been five months now that Paul Molitor’s club has been a solid contender in the American League.

The Twins have been in control of the second AL Wildcard berth for weeks now. Last night behind an excellent start on the mound from Kyle Gibson and the timely hitting of Brian Dozier, Byron Buxton, and Max Kepler, they drew closer to clinching a place in the postseason.

Minnesota downed the depleted and demoralized host Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park by a 7-3 score. Meanwhile, their nearest pursuers in the playoff race all lost. The LA Angels were shut out by Houston 3-0, the Texas Rangers dropped a 4-1 decision at Oakland, and the Kansas City Royals were edged 7-6 by the Chicago White Sox.

The result of all that Friday night action is that the ‘Magic Number’ has dropped to just 6 for Minnesota to clinch the franchise’ first playoff berth since being swept out of the ALDS in both 2009 and 2010.

Gibson went seven strong innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits. The 29-year old right-hander struck out six and walked two in raising his record to the 12-10 mark. Those dozen wins leave him one shy of his career high of 13 set back in the 2014 season.

These two games were big for us and the next two are as well,” Gibson said per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger after the Twins second straight victory in Detroit. “Coming off a rough series in New York, we definitely wanted to get one or two there and getting zero hurt a little bit. But these games were big to get the ship going in the right direction and hopefully we can keep it going.




Kepler banged his 19th home run of the season, a solo shot, in the top of the 3rd inning off Tigers starter Daniel Norris (4-8) to tie the game.

After falling behind again 2-1, Buxton lined a two-run double to left in the top of the 4th to push the Twins on top. He then scored on a base hit by Kepler, making it a 4-2 lead for Minnesota after four innings.

Run-scoring hits by Eduardo Escobar in the top of the 5th and Robbie Grossman in the 6th stretched that lead out to a 6-2 margin. In the bottom of the 6th, Ian Kinsler tagged Gibson for his 21st homer of the year, the solo shot cutting the Twins lead down to 6-3 at that point.

In the top of the 9th, Dozier got that one back by cracking his 32nd home run of the year. Matt Belisle came on to retire three of the four batters he faced in the bottom of the 9th to close out the victory.

I think the guys played a fairly loose game,” Molitor said per Bollinger. “We know we’re in for a fight and these guys have played us tough the last few years, and probably dominated us in some regards. There’s a lot on the line and we have to find a way to keep playing good baseball.

His team will continue the series in Motown on Saturday and Sunday. Then it’s off to Cleveland for a real test against the defending AL champion Indians, who have the best record in the American League. The Twins wrap the regular season next weekend back home at Target Field with three more against the Tigers.