Tag Archives: J.T. Realmuto

Hector Neris: The other important Phillies arbitration case

There is currently some measure of concern and consternation among Phillies fans due to the contract situation involving catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Almost one year ago, the Phillies dealt away catcher Jorge Alfaro, top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, and another young pitching prospect, Will Stewart, to the Miami Marlins in order to obtain Realmuto.

It was a steep price to pay, but it put the best catcher in baseball into a Phillies uniform. Realmuto delivered a 2019 All-Star campaign in which he won both Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards.

The Phillies inherited Realmuto’s contract situation, which called for him to become a free agent following the upcoming 2020 season. After paying the price they did, it was incumbent on general manager Matt Klentak to get a contract extension done with Realmuto, one  that would keep him with the team for years to come.

So far, that extension has not come to pass. The Phillies and Realmuto’s representatives instead exchanged salary figures for a one-year deal to be determined by the arbitration process in February.

Of course, the two sides could let that process play out, put a 2020 contract into place, and then still agree later on a long-term deal. They could also reach such a deal before the arbitration hearing ever takes place.

But one thing is certain. The Phillies must get a deal done with Realmuto. Two years, even two excellent years, will not be enough when considering that price paid. I have to believe a long-term deal will be in place well before the 2020 regular season opens.

Realmuto’s is not the only arbitration case looming for the Phillies, and it is not the only important one. The club also has a hearing scheduled with erstwhile closer Hector Neris.

While most Phillies fans would rightly not consider Neris at the same level of importance as Realmuto, the fact remains that the reliever is also a key piece to the club’s success moving forward.

Neris will turn 31 years of age in June. He has been a member of the Phillies bullpen for six seasons, and has been a key part of their relief mix for the last five of those years.

In 2019, Neris put up excellent overall numbers. Over 68 games he allowed just 45 hits in 67.2 innings pitched with an 89/24 K:BB ratio. The big right-hander had a 2.93 ERA, 1.020 WHIP, and recorded 28 saves.

During the course of his career with the Phillies, Neris has allowed 256 hits over 311.2 innings across 307 appearances with395 strikeouts and 67 saves. He has career 3.29 ERA and 1.161 WHIP marks with an 11.4/3.1 K/BB ratio per nine innings.

Phillies fans frequently have become frustrated with Neris over his occasional blowups, and those do exist. While 53 of Neris’ 68 appearances (78%) in the 2019 season resulted in scoreless outings, he also had three appearances in which he allowed three runs and another three in which he allowed a pair of runs to score.

The season prior, Neris had opened the year as the Phillies closer. While he had nine saves by the middle of May, Neris had also blown a number of opportunities as well. A pair of horrendous outings in June left him with a 6.90 ERA as that month ended, and resulted in a demotion to the minor leagues.

Neris regained his confidence that summer at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, striking out 31 over 19 appearances while allowing just nine hits across 18.2 innings.

When called back to the Phillies in mid-August, Neris was so dominant that he was named the National League Reliever of the Month after just a half-month of work. He allowed no runs and just three hits over nine innings with a 20/2 K:BB.

From the time of his recall on August 15 through the end of the 2018 regular season, Neris allowed 11 hits over 17.2 innings with a 2.04 ERA, a .172 batting average against, and a dominating 35/5 K:BB ratio.

The fact is that Neris is an extremely valuable, experienced relief pitcher in a bullpen that is desperate for just that type of arm.

Neris filed for a $5.2 million salary in 2020 after being paid $1.8 million a year ago. The team filed a figure of $4.25 million. No matter what happens, he will get a healthy raise this year, one that will set him and his family up for life.

With one more year of arbitration eligibility to go, the Phillies don’t have to make a long-term agreement with Neris at this time. But if the two sides can find something reasonable for a three-year deal, something that covers his age 31-33 seasons, that would be more ideal.

One thing is clear, especially when you consider the health and performance problems that the Phillies have experienced with the rest of their bullpen arms over the last couple of years. It is a near certainty that Neris will be a key pitcher over at least the next two summers as the Phillies try to put together a playoff team.

 

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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.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

J.T. Realmuto likely to receive record deal for catchers

Friday was the deadline for all MLB clubs to come to agreements with their arbitration-eligible players. In the event no deal could be reached, both sides were to submit 2020 salary figures on which an arbitrator would make a final ruling at hearings to be scheduled in February.

The Philadelphia Phillies were able to come to an agreement with four of the six players, all pitchers, who were eligible.

Agreeing to one-year deals with the club were projected starting pitchers Vince Velasquez ($3.6 million) and Zach Eflin ($2.625), and a pair of lefties in Jose Alvarez ($2.95) and Adam Morgan ($1.575) who will each pitch out of the bullpen.

A number of star players around the big-leagues agreed on contract figures with their clubs and will avoid the arbitration process. Those include Mookie Betts, who set a new one-year arbitration-eligible record by agreeing to a $27 million deal with the Boston Red Sox.

Betts’ deal with the Bosox beats the $26 million agreed to just one year ago by the Colorado Rockies and superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado. However, within weeks of that agreement, Colorado and Arenado tore it up and agreed to an eight-year, $260 million extention.

The Phillies failed to come to an agreement on a 2020 contract with two players, presumptive closer Hector Neris and All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto. Figures were exchanged with both, with Neris seeking $5.2 million and the club offering $4.25, while Realmuto sought $12.4 million with the Phillies offering an even $10 million salary.

As this news broke, the doom-and-gloom segment of the Phillies fan base took to the intrawebs to complain. That’s putting it mildly in many cases. Here are some representative samples of what was blasted across Twitter:

The Phillies won’t pay their Silver Slugger, Gold Glove winning BEST CATCHER IN BASEBALL $2.4M, but they’ll pay a man who’s lowest ERA the last 3 years was 4.85 $3.7M. I’m literally sick to my stomach right now.” (@zachary_east412)

Wow this is pathetic, a guy you want to sign long term, your going to go to arbitration over 2 million dollar difference but able to settle with Vince Velasquez???? This team is completely dis functional. Now I know why we haven’t heard from management, they can’t face the fans.” (@Oreillymike23)

In any business you lock up your best assets and ensure they’re taken care of. Wouldn’t blame JT for walking when he’s a UFA and escaping this sideshow of an organization.” (@romeobluesnoine)

My response to those folks would be simple. Calm down. Slow your roll. Take a chill pill. Don’t worry. Relax.

A year ago, the Phillies exchanged figures with pitcher Aaron Nola. Entering his age 26 season, Nola was coming off a Cy Young caliber campaign. Many in the fan base similarly wrung their hands and banged out many an exasperated comment on their keyboards.

And then on the day of their scheduled arbitration hearing, Nola and the Phillies announced a contract agreement taking their star hurler through 2022 with a club option for 2023. Crisis averted. Hand-wringing and keyboard-bashing for naught.

The same thing will happen now with Realmuto. The Phillies have already expressed publicly that they want to do a long-term deal with the player many regard as the top catcher in the sport. Realmuto has publicly expressed a desire to remain with the ball club for years to come. It will get done.

There are a few scenarios that could play out, with either the Arenado or Nola scenarios most likely. Either they go to an arbitration hearing, a one-year contract is awarded, and they continue to negotiate until reaching a new longer deal as with Arenado. Or they hash out a last-minute contract ala Nola.

The other scenario is that it doesn’t take that long. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has certainly been in communication with Realmuto’s representatives at BBI Sports Group. I would be willing to bet that a great deal of groundwork has already been laid on a long-term deal.

Scott Lauber at the Philadelphia Inquirer broke down the contract possibilities well in his piece today on the subject:

Realmuto is older than Joe Mauer and Buster Posey when they signed $184 million and $167 million extensions, respectively. And they were also former MVPs. But he compares favorably to St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who signed a five-year, $75 million extension at age 29 before the 2012 season. Allowing for eight years of inflation, Realmuto seems likely to want something in the neighborhood of five years and $100 million.

A five-year contract would take Realmuto through his age 33 season. Molina was an All-Star caliber catcher through age 35. Posey stayed at that level into his age 31 season,  Mauer into his age 30 campaign, before both switched largely to first base (as well as DH in Mauer’s case.)

The Phillies previously received solid, starting-caliber contributions from Carlos Ruiz through his age 35 season, though the last really strong result for “Chooch” came at age 33 in 2012.

For the Phillies to make a bet on Realmuto, who keeps himself in excellent physical condition and who has appeared in at least 125 games in each of his five full big-league seasons, through age 33 in 2024 does not seem like a very risky proposition.

That 2024 roster has $49 million total salary committed at this point, owed to Bryce Harper and Zack Wheeler. Look for Realmuto to become the third with a $20+ million deal that year in what would be the final guaranteed season of a long-term contract which he will reach with the club in the coming weeks.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

What the Phillies need from Bryce Harper in 2020

A year ago at this time, Kayla and Bryce Harper were still going through the process of deciding where they wanted to spend the bulk of the prime years of their adult lives.

Not only where would the outfielder play his baseball games for the next decade or so, but where would they have children, raise their family, and involve themselves in the community?

The Harper’s chose Philly, setting off a surge of enthusiasm within the frustrated fan base. He would join fellow newcomers Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, and David Robertson with a refurbished Phillies squad for the 2019 season.

Finally, after seven years out of the playoffs, the Phillies would return to play in October baseball.

As we now know, it didn’t work out as planned. Robertson pitched in seven games before his season ended with an elbow surgery that may keep him out for all of 2020 as well. McCutchen was lost for the year at the start of June with a torn ACL in his left knee.

The Phillies struggled to an 81-81 finish, continuing a now eight-year streak of non-winning seasons. They also finished the year in fourth place in the NL East Division standings, 16 games behind the division champion Atlanta Braves, a dozen in back of the eventual World Series champion Washington Nationals, and eight games off the pace for the final NL Wildcard playoff berth.

In his first season with the Phillies at age 26, Harper slashed .260/.372/.510 with 35 home runs, 36 doubles, 114 RBIs, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases.

Harper joined Baseball Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Chuck Klein as the only players in Phillies franchise history to record a season with at least 35 homers, 100 RBIs, and 15 steals. Only Jim Thome, who blasted 47 long balls back in 2003, ever hit more home runs in their first season with the ball club.

Performing consistently in clutch, Harper provided a .357 batting average with runners in scoring position, the fourth-best mark in the NL. He was also fourth with 15 game-winning RBIs, a personal career high. His overall 114 RBIs were also a career best.

In all of baseball, Harper was one of only two players  with at least 30 homers, 110 RBIs, and 95 walks. His total of 99 walks was fifth in the National League. He recorded a five-hit game at Colorado on April 19, the first Phillies player in seven years to reach that total.

Harper was the first Phillies player since Pat Burrell in 2002 to reach 70 extra-base hits and 110 RBIs in the same season. His 42 extra-base hits at home was the second-highest ever at Citizens Bank Park behind only the 44 ripped by Chase Utley back in 2006. He became the first Phillies player since Jayson Werth in 2010 to deliver at least 290 total bases.

Prefer your stats with a more analytical slant? Harper finished with a 4.2 WAR value, second on the club only to Realmuto’s 4.4 mark. Harper’s 5.54 Win Probability Added was the second-highest of his eight-year career, behind only the 6.18 mark that he put up in his 2015 NL MVP season with Washington. In all of Major League Baseball, only MVP’s Mike Trout and Cody Bellinger and NL finalists Christian Yelich and Anthony Rendon finished with a higher WPA mark.

On August 15 against the Chicago Cubs at Citizens Bank Park, Harper provided the season’s single biggest highlight when he delivered a walkoff grand slam. He delivered that unforgettable blast against a southpaw specialist, Derek Holland, who hadn’t allowed a home run to a left-handed hitter in the previous 261 plate appearances against him.

In fact, those lefty pitchers didn’t bother him much at all relative to other left-handed hitters. Harper homered 15 times off southpaws, the second-highest figure  in baseball behind only Bellinger. From August 3 to the end of the season he hit .348 with nine homers, 24 RBIs and a 1.194 OPS against lefties.

Defensively, Harper was consistently outstanding, and became a finalist for the NL Gold Glove Award in right field. His 13 outfield assists equaled the total of his prior three seasons combined, and were tied for the NL lead, just one off the overall MLB leader. His nine defensive runs saved ranked third in the National League.

So, what more does Harper have to do for his part in the 2020 season in order to help finally push this club to a contending level? It should be obvious at this point. The answer is, of course, nothing. That’s right. Nothing.

If Harper stays healthy it would not be at all surprising that in his prime at age 27 and with a full season in Philly under his belt, we could see him take his game to an even higher level in 2020. In fact, Harper should enter the season as a leading contender for the National League Most Valuable Player Award.

That is really all the Phillies need from Harper in 2020, and it is largely out of his hands. That factor of his remaining healthy, avoiding anything more than a couple of minor physical tweaks here and there. He stays healthy, he will do his part.

In order to finally record not only their first winning season since 2011, but to reach the postseason and bring the excitement of October playoff baseball back to South Philly this year, the Phillies need more from everyone else but Harper and Realmuto.

 

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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.