Tag Archives: J.A. Happ

Lefty starting pitching still a priority for Phillies this off-season

Keuchel won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award with the Astros
After agreeing to a deal with the free agent lefty starting pitcher a couple of days ago, the Washington Nationals today announced the signing of Patrick Corbin to a six-year, $140 million deal. Corbin now joins Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in the Nationals starting rotation.
With their own rotation headed by a pair of talented right-handers in Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta, the Philadelphia Phillies are known to be looking for a left-hander as well.
The Phillies appear to have been one of the finalists for Corbin. Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reported  “five years at what is believed to have been a bit over $100 million” as the Phillies offer.
The Phillies have not had a southpaw in their rotation since Adam Morgan made 21 starts in the 2016 season. They haven’t had an effective left-handed starter since Cole Hamels was dealt in late July 2015.
Having lost out on Corbin to a division rival, where might Phillies general manager Matt Klentak turn next in his search?
There are a handful of remaining left-handed starting pitchers who have each been linked to the Phillies in recent weeks. Each one comes with his own question marks and challenges in bringing them to Philadelphia. Let’s examine a few of the better options.


The biggest name is that of San Francisco Giants veteran Madison Bumgarner. The 29-year-old helped lead the Giants to three World Series titles earlier in this decade, and was the Most Valuable Player of the 2014 Fall Classic.

Trade rumors involving MadBum have blazed in the Hot Stove in recent days. (Photo: Arturo Pardavilla III)
Bumgarner made four straight NL All-Star teams from 2013-16, finishing among the top 10 in NL Cy Young Award voting each of those seasons. He also knows how to handle a bat, having blasted 17 career home runs and won a pair of Silver Slugger Awards.
After missing the first three months of the 2018 season with a broken hand, Bumgarner returned to make 21 starts. The North Carolina native is owed just $12 million for next season after which he will become a free agent, so there is not a big contract commitment.
However, he would not come cheap as far as the price to land him. Giants new GM Farhan Zaidi is likely to ask for a player/prospect combination with some real value. It might take something like an Odubel Herrera and Adonis Medina package.


Assuming that Corbin was free agent pitching ‘Plan A’ for Klentak, perhaps the ‘Plan B’ is named Dallas Keuchel, who turns 31-years-old on New Year’s Day 2019.
Keuchel was the Houston Astros seventh round pick in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft. He has spent his entire seven-year big-league career in Houston, and was a key member of the 2017 World Series champions pitching rotation.
Keuchel has a 76-63 career record with a 3.66 ERA, 1.250 WHIP, and 3.72 FIP mark. The Oklahoma native is more of a typical crafty left-hander than a power pitcher, with career 2.76 K/BB and 7.2 K/9 marks.
The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner has won a dozen or more games in four of the last five years, is a 2x NL All-Star, and has won five Gold Glove Awards including this past season.
It is believed that Keuchel will be looking for a four-year deal at an $80 million total. While that is less than Corbin’s total cost, it still takes him out to age 34. The Phillies supposedly balked at a sixth year on their Corbin offer, which would have been his age 34 season.


Any of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams who might be interested can now negotiate with lefty pitcher Yusei Kikuchi during a window that closes on January 5, 2019. He will surely sign prior to that date, and I wrote last month here at Phillies Nation that the Phillies are believed to be one of the teams seriously involved.

Kikuchi is an eight-year veteran lefty in the Japanese Pacific League (Photo: えすぱにぃ )
Kikuchi is 27-years-old, and will turn 28 next June, so a signing team will get him for his prime years. He debuted at age 20 in the Australian Baseball League before making his Japanese Pacific League debut later that same year.
Over his eight pro seasons, Kikuchi has gone 74-48 with a 2.81 ERA and 1.177 WHIP. He has allowed 838 hits over 1,035.1 innings across 163 games, 158 of those as starting assignments. Kikuchi has registered a 2.43 K/BB mark and has struck out exactly eight batters per nine innings.
On top of whatever actual contract value a team such as the Phillies might work out with Kikuchi, they would also be obliged to pay what amounts to a 15-20 percent posting fee to his Japanese team, the Seibu Lions.
Danny Knobler at Bleacher Report quoted an unnamed American League scout who has seen him pitch multiple times as follows on Kikuchi’s talent level:

“At least a third starter. If it all comes together, a highly respected No. 2. Will be one of the better left-handed starters in the big leagues.”

However, Knobler also quotes a National League scout who stated: “He’s just fair. Not as good as others who have come over and failed.
I have seen a wide variety of potential contract possibilities for Kikuchi that seem to average out to about five years and $50 million total.


There are a number of talented starting pitchers remaining available on the free agent market. Among left-handers with starting experience most likely to be of interest are two who formerly were Phillies property: J.A. Happ and Gio Gonzalez.

Happ might be only the Phillies third or fourth choice, but could still end up a good short-term option. (Photo: Tom Mihalek)
Happ was the Phillies third round pick in the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft and pitched with the club from 2007-10, including a 2009 season in which he finished as runner-up in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Happ was dealt to the Houston Astros along with a pair of prospects in the deal that brought Roy Oswalt to the Phillies. Over a 12-year career, Happ has gone 109-82 with a 3.90 ERA and 1.309 WHIP.
He was outstanding down the stretch last year after being obtained in trade by the New York Yankees from Toronto. Happ went 8-0 with a 2.69 ERA, allowing just 51 hits in 63.2 innings with a 63/16 K:BB ratio over 11 starts.
Gonzalez was the first round pick of the Chicago White Sox in the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft. He was traded to the Phillies in December 2005 as the player to be named later in the deal sending Jim Thome to Chicago in exchange for Aaron Rowand.
Almost exactly one year later the Phillies sent Gonzalez back to the White Sox as part of a deal in which the two teams swapped starting pitchers, Gavin Floyd going to Chicago and Freddy Garcia coming to Philly.
In January 2008 the Chisox included him in yet another deal to bring Nick Swisher from the Oakland Athletics. It was with the A’s that Gonzalez finally broke into the big-leagues from 2008-11.
Following a 2011 season in which he was an AL All-Star, Gonzalez was dealt for the fourth time his career. This time the A’s sent him to the Washington Nationals as the key piece that brought back a four-player package.
With the Nationals, Gonzalez became a rotation mainstay. From 2012 through late this past summer he compiled an 86-65 record with a 3.62 ERA and 1.283 WHIP. He was a 2012 NL All-Star when he finished third in NL Cy Young voting.
Happ is now 36-years-old. Gonzalez is 33-years-old. You might be able to get either pitcher on a two-year contract at something along the lines of $20 million total value.
Among the available right-handed rotation options the most attractive is probably another former Phillies property, Charlie Morton.
How much the Phillies might be willing to spend on a starting pitcher in the free agent market might depend on how much they commit to improving their offense in that same manner.
The Phillies are believed to still be among the front-runners for both outfielder Bryce Harper and infielder Manny Machado. That could complicate their making a move on a big-ticket arm. However, it apparently didn’t slow them down from going after Corbin.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Phillies still want a lefty starter after losing out on Corbin, so who is available?

The Phillies are being linked to numerous deals in this Hot Stove season

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The Phillies are being linked to closer Craig Kimbrel and many other free agents

This past weekend saw the annual holiday shopping season open with the mall-walking and store-hopping zaniness of Black Friday. Today has become known as ‘Cyber Monday’, where the gift-purchasing moves to the internet.

The teams of Major League Baseball are also doing some shopping of their own. New rumor logs are being tossed on the Hot Stove fires on a daily basis at this point, keeping baseball fans warm with thoughts of moves by their favorite teams to put them over the top.
To categorize things down in South Philly at the offices of the Philadelphia Phillies as “hot” might actually be an understatement. The team is being linked on a regular basis with almost every half-decent free agent name and trade candidate available.
We have already covered two big names today here at Phillies Nation with my piece on the GM Matt Klentak’s reported talks with Arizona regarding Dbacks superstar Paul Goldschmidt. And our Drew Rhoades wrote of the Phillies interest in lefty reliever Andrew Miller.
The Phillies involvement in the sweepstakes to land one or the other or both of the two biggest-ticket items this holiday season is well known. Both outfielder Bryce Harper and shortstop Manny Machado are apparently at the very top of the Phillies shopping wish list.
However, as Jon Morosi at MLB.com reiterated today, the club is looking down a lengthy holiday shopping list, and they very well could start checking off some other items first, while still trying to pick-up those top prizes.

“The Phillies aren’t waiting on decisions from Harper and Machado as the team ambitiously pursues upgrades to its roster…sources said it’s possible the Phils will sign multiple free agents before Harper or Machado agree to terms.”

Morosi ticked off some names that his sources have revealed are on that Phillies shopping list including pitchers Patrick CorbinNathan Eovaldi and J.A. Happ. The list also includes outfielders A.J. Pollock and Michael Brantley.
Also mentioned by Morosi was the Phillies recently reported interest in closer Edwin Diaz, who the Seattle Mariners say could be available, but for a price. Our Tim Kelly here at Phillies Nation recently wrote that the Phillies were showing interest in both Diaz and Mariners infielder Jean Segura.
Morosi mentions either of the Phillies top two pitching prospects, Sixto Sanchez or Adonis Medina, as likely having to be included in such a deal with Seattle. He also states that if they fail in that pursuit, the club could be adding closers Craig Kimbrel or Zach Britton to their list.

Suffice it to say that as you are out at the stores or at home (or work) on the internet doing your own shopping, Matt Klentak and his team down at Citizens Bank Park are doing their own.

I think it’s fair to say that if you are a Phillies fan, the GM will be stuffing something into your stocking long before Santa ever has a chance to come sliding down your chimney a month from now. Let’s hope that when all is said and done, that Klentak finds himself on our “nice” list, and not our “naughty” list.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Phillies holiday shopping list goes well beyond biggest-ticket items

Phillies targeting lefty pitching this off-season per Jim Bowden

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Former big-league GM Jim Bowden has inside info on Phillies targets

Philadelphia Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and his counterparts across Major League Baseball have now wrapped up the annual GM meetings, held over the last three days in Carlsbad, California.

This morning, Jim Bowden reported for The Athletic that he had reached out to sources inside the Phillies organization, along with the other 29 organizations.
The former GM and MLB Executive of the Year obtained information as to the club’s “biggest needs and priorities for the next month and the remainder of the winter“, and then gave his opinion as to which players the team might target in trades and as free agents.
Two of the needs and priorities for the Phillies would be fairly obvious to any fan who followed the team this past season: improving the offense and defense.
The Phillies ranked 29th of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball in errors committed despite ranking just eighth in total chances handled. This caused the club to also finish 29th in fielding percentage.
Offensively the club finished tied for 21st in runs scored and OPS. Despite a supposed emphasis on reaching base, the Phillies finished tied for 18th in baseball in on-base percentage. They were 15th in home runs and 23rd in stolen bases.
Among the bats that Bowden mentions as being on the Phillies radar are the two biggest free agent names, two frequently linked to the club: Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.
Also mentioned as possible free agent targets for the club in the outfield are Michael BrantleyA.J. Pollock, and Andrew McCutchen. Trade targets in the outfield ranks among those rumored as available are Mitch Haniger and Kevin Kiermaier.
Infielders who Bowden believes that the Phillies will be looking at are free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson and shortstop Jose Iglesias.
Every pitcher attached to the Phillies by Bowden is a southpaw. The list includes free agent lefty starters Patrick CorbinDallas KeuchelGio Gonzalez, Hyun-jin Ryu and J.A. Happ, and left-handed reliever Zach Britton.

Also on Bowden’s list as Phillies pitching targets are Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi and Seattle Mariners left-hander James Paxton, rumored to be available on the trade market.
We’ve covered the Phillies interest in a number of these players already here at Phillies Nation this off-season. Continue to follow us as the days and weeks move along, and more and more of these logs are tossed onto the Hot Stove fires. We’ll have all of the most reliable Phillies rumors and reports, as well as stories on any deals that actually get done.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Lefty pitching reportedly among Phillies top priorities this off-season

A reunion with Charlie Morton might make free agent sense for Phillies

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Morton could make sense on a short-term free agent deal

The MLB Hot Stove has now finally been lit with dozens of free agents now eligible to negotiate with any team. The Philadelphia Phillies are widely considered to be one of the leading contenders to strike it big in the market this off-season.

In addition to big hitters such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the Phillies are in need of at least one more proven veteran starting pitcher for their rotation of they wish to contend in the 2019 season.
One name now being connected to the club is that of Charlie Morton. The Phillies obtained the right-hander from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a December 2015 trade for low-level prospect pitcher David Whitehead.
Unfortunately for the Phillies, Morton made just four April starts in the 2016 season. He suffered a torn left hamstring during his April 23 start in Milwaukee while running to first base on a sacrifice bunt attempt, and was done for the season.
For the $8 million paid to Morton that year the Phillies received 17.1 innings. He allowed 15 hits, just one of those a home run, with a 19/8 K:BB ratio over the four outings.
The team and Morton had a mutual $9.5 million option for the 2017 season, but the Phillies declined, reportedly against the opinion of some on the coaching staff, and instead paid him a $1 million buyout. He then became a free agent, signed with the Houston Astros, and became one of the American League’s most consistent starters over the last two seasons.
During the Astros run to the 2017 World Series championship, Morton made a half-dozen postseason appearances. In the title-clincher against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Morton was called upon to provide four innings in relief and was on the mound for the final out.

Morton will turn 35-years-old in just over a week. With the Phillies supposedly looking at starting pitching options, the MLB Trade Rumors site has listed them as their choice to bring back Morton in free agency. They are predicting a two-year, $32 million deal.
Per Tim Dierkes of MLBTR, the Phillies and Washington Nationals might end up as the leading contenders for his services:
Morton will entertain many two- or even three-year offers on the open market, especially unencumbered by a QO.  If he doesn’t return to the Astros, Morton has cited proximity to his wife’s family in Delaware as a major factor.  That could put the Phillies and Nationals as frontrunners.
Among the other starting pitchers who the Phillies could look at signing in free agency are Boston Red Sox postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi, lefty Patrick Corbin, righty Dallas Keuchel, and former Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ.
The Cleveland Indians will reportedly put Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco on the trade market, but it’s hard to see the Phillies coming up with a deal that big.
The 2019 Phillies pitching rotation will include Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. That would leave Vince VelasquezNick Pivetta, and Zach Eflin battling youngsters such as Enyel De Los Santos for two spots in the spring should the club successfully land a starting pitcher via free agency or trade.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Would the Phillies consider a second go-around with Charlie Morton

What if the Phillies are unable to land any impact talent this off-season?

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Phillies GM Matt Klentak is squarely on the hot seat this Hot Stove season

One of the most highly anticipated and important ‘Hot Stove’ seasons in Philadelphia Phillies history is about to get underway. Dozens of players across baseball are now free agents, and by this weekend they will be able to negotiate with the Phillies and other ball clubs.

The Phillies have a ton of money to spend. It is possible that controlling owner John Middleton and his partners could make upwards of $100 million available to GM Matt Klentak in order to add new players via free agent signings and/or trade acquisitions.
There has been a great deal of speculation among the fan base on which players the Phillies might target. Bryce HarperManny MachadoCraig Kimbrel or another elite reliever? Patrick Corbin or some other proven starting pitcher?
For a variety of reasons, both the team itself and those of us who cover the Phillies like to talk and write about the possibilities. Adding the right couple of players, after all, could vault the club to contending status entering the 2019 season.
That kind of talk is exciting. It gets us excited. It gets fans excited. When fans are excited, they like to read about the team. Obvious then why we writers like to drum up scenarios in which the Phillies sign talented ball players.
But just once, and only once because I too like to remain positive, let’s whisper softly the words that no one really wants to consider: what if the Phillies are unable to sign anyone this off-season? By that, I mean anyone of consequence. No Harper. No Machado. No Kimbrel or Corbin or Josh Donaldson or J.A. Happ?
This is, after all, a very real possibility. While the Phillies indeed have tremendous financial resources available, they are not the only team with such resources. They are not the only team that wants to get better on the field. They are not the only team that would like to add a drawing card to their roster.
Let’s say that Clayton Kershaw stays with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The two sides have already agreed to extend their negotiating window by a couple of extra days in hopes of working out an extension. That is a very strong possibility.
And let’s say that Corbin ends up going home to the New York Yankees, which seems a foregone conclusion in the minds of many evaluators. That would be two prime arms off the market.

Imagine a scenario in which the Braves get Harper and the Brewers get Machado. Two NL contenders improve. (Arturo Pardavila III and Ian D’Andrea)
Who else might be a serious suitor for Harper and Machado? There are a number of possibilities. Among contending teams, the Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves appear to be in just as good a financial position as the Phillies.
The Braves are already ahead of the Phillies as the two teams build back from a half-decade of losing. Atlanta won the division going away this year and have some fascinating young talent. Let’s say they add a big basher like Harper to their lineup.
Let’s say the Brew Crew decides to dangle a boatload of cash at Machado in order to get him to give up his shortstop ambitions and play third base for them. And that’s just two competitors. There will be more suitors for both players.
Happ, Kimbrel, Donaldson, Andrew McCutchenDallas KeuchelNathan Eovaldi all decide they would rather play elsewhere.
You see, it takes more than having a lot of money to throw around. It takes someone on the other side willing to accept your money. There’s an old saying: it takes two to tango. Maybe the players take a look at what the Phillies have and simply don’t see enough opportunity to win.
Players love money. We all do. But the vast majority of competitive ball players also want a legitimate opportunity to play in October. To experience the joy of winning a World Series. To earn a ring. To ride on a parade float.

Phillies fans will rake Matt Klentak over the Hot Stove coals if he can’t get big things done this off-season.
What if Middleton and Klentak cannot convince any of the better free agents to sign on with the 2019 Phillies? So maybe you come to spring training with the same young players who spent much of 2018 playing down at Citizens Bank Park.
Maybe you add a second-tier free agent to the mix, someone like lefty pitcher Gio Gonzalez or a 33-year-old Carlos Gonzalez. Or, gulp, Freddy Galvis to improve your defense at shortstop.
How would Phillies fans feel – how would you feel – if Gabe Kapler‘s 2019 lineup on Opening Day was made up of Carlos SantanaScott KingeryJ.P. CrawfordMaikel FrancoJorge Alfaro, and some outfield mix of Odubel HerreraAaron AltherrRoman QuinnNick Williams, and Rhys Hoskins?
Do you think that the Phillies could expect to overtake the Braves and Nationals and hold off a re-tooling Mets squad simply with individual improvements from their own young players? Because I can guarantee you, that is how it would be sold to you.
The Phillies finished in third place on merit this past season, and barely at that. Had the Mets been healthy all year, the Phillies would likely have finished in fourth place. Those are the facts.
The Phillies had one of the worst defensive teams in baseball, and Klentak today alluded to Hoskins returning to left field and another year of a further aging Santana as his first baseman. The Phillies had one of the worst run-producing lineups in the game. How much does that improve if no impact players are added to the mix?
And so, you see what I am getting at here. You see how important the Phillies signing a couple of impact players is for this off-season. Not one. At least two. Because if the Phillies brass should crap out, well, that worst-case scenario would indeed be bleak.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Phillies 2019: the worst-case scenario could be bleak