Tag Archives: Jake Diekman

Philadelphia Phillies in the MLB 2020 free agent market

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Super agent Scott Boras again finds himself in the middle of much of the big Hot Stove season action

 

Welcome to the latest episode of the ‘Ring the Bell‘ podcast. For those simply reading this piece at the website, it doubles as the script for today’s episode.

As I discussed in yesterday’s episode which evaluated the Phillies current roster and payroll situations, the ball club has a number of important needs. General manager Matt Klentak will find himself increasingly under the glare of the spotlight as this Hot Stove season moves along and he attempts to fill those needs.

First, let’s take a minute to run down the list of what I see as those Phillies needs this off-season, in order of importance:

  1. Starting pitching
  2. Starting pitching
  3. Center field
  4. Bench
  5. Bullpen
  6. Third base (?)

That was not a typo in listing ‘Starting Pitching’ twice. It is simply that important, first of all. And also, the club needs two new proven winning veteran starting pitchers, at least one of whom should be an “ace” level rotation arm. Now, let’s take a look at who is available on the free agent market.

STARTING PITCHING

There are two big names here, Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. They should and will be the Phillies top two targets in free agency. Principal owner John Middleton has made the addition of top-level starting pitching a priority for the team, and is prepared to spend top dollar to secure such an arm.

The problem is not going to be one of either money or will power. The problem for the Phillies will be that they are not the only team in search of this level of pitching talent, not by a long shot.

The world champion and division rival Washington Nationals and their World Series opponents, the Houston Astros, are not simply going to let Strasburg and Cole respectively walk away from their ball clubs without a major effort to retain them.

Also, it is publicly known that the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels will be shopping aggressively for this type of arm as well. Speculation is that the San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, and Atlanta Braves are among any number of other teams with the desire and money to land one of these top two starting pitchers.

It’s hard to know what is going through Strasburg’s mind. There has been some speculation that opting out of his contract with the Nationals was purely a strategy to get more money from the only organization he has ever known.

The 31-year-old, 10-year veteran was due to make another $100 million over the next four years in Washington. Some have speculated that he could get another $50 million and another year, at least, on the open market.

While it would not be a surprise to see the Nationals and Strasburg announce a new deal at any point, that is far from a given. The longer he hangs out there on the market, the more clubs are going to his agent, Scott Boras, with interest.

Cole is also represented by the Boras Group. The 29-year-old is the biggest name on the free agent market this winter. I expect to see Boras take him on a tour of interested teams and cities, similar to what we saw happen last year with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Don’t expect to see Cole sign with anyone until February.

While the Phillies will be in the mix for both, their money and genuine interest making them legitimate contenders, they should not be considered the favorites for either pitcher. Cole, a native of Newport Beach, is said to be interested in either a return to SoCal or a spot at the top of the Yankees rotation. Strasburg, a San Diego native, may also go the SoCal route if he doesn’t return to D.C.

It is going to be curious to watch the Phillies pursuit of a top arm, because as I said, what the rotation really needs is two more experienced, proven, veteran starting pitchers.

The longer that Cole remains unsigned, and Strasburg as well for that matter, and the longer the Phillies genuinely believe that they are in the mix for one or the other, then it becomes a somewhat dangerous game.

There is a large group of talented starting pitchers just below the talent levels of Cole and Strasburg. Most if not all of those pitchers are going to sign somewhere earlier than at least Cole will be signing. The Phillies are going to have to commit to one of the next level of pitchers by Christmas, possibly even within the next few weeks.

The most obvious target would appear to be 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels. Turning 36 years of age two days after this coming Christmas, Hamels has already said that he would be open to a return to the club with whom he broke into the big-leagues and first became a star.

Judging by social media, Hamels remains popular with the fan base. And judging by his comments, the feeling is mutual.

MLB Phillies insider Todd Zolecki quoted Hamels earlier this week:

I know Philly is finally trying to make that push. They’re building their roster. If I fit on their roster and their plans, I’d love the opportunity to come back. It’s probably more on their end, though, to reach out and see if I actually do fit in their plans. It would be difficult for me to say, ‘Hey, I want to play there, can you guys make it happen?’ But I’m always willing to play for that team and city and attempt to win a World Series. That’s where I am right now. I just want to have the opportunity to get to the postseason, just so that I can try to win.

Hamels then went on to say, according to Zolecki, that he would even be willing to play on a one-year contract:

I’m not there to handcuff somebody or an organization…I can do one year here and there and just play as long as I can play. I think that’s what will help give me an opportunity to play on teams that are trying to go to the postseason. If you need one guy, I can just kind of bounce around. Obviously, if the Phillies were interested in longer than one, I’d entertain that, too. But I think I want the opportunity to have as many opportunities to get to the postseason and try to win. I’ll go every year. I’ll prove myself. I don’t mind having my back against the wall. I think I perform better like that anyway. It just keeps me more accountable.

This just seems to make too much sense. Hamels is clearly interested in a return to the Phillies. The fans would love to have him back. He has the talent and experience that the club is looking for, and he has something else going for him – Hamels is left-handed. The club has not had a truly effective southpaw in their rotation since, well, since Hamels left in 2015.

No longer in his prime, this could absolutely work on a one-year deal with a club option for another year or two. The Phillies, as long as all the medicals check out, should waste no time with this decision. Klentak should be on the phone with Hamels agent today.

If they just can’t work something out, or don’t want Hamels for some reason, there are other interesting arms.

Available free agent left-handers include 30-year-old, 4x NL All-Star and former World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner…32-year-old, 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel…33-year-old Korean native and 2019 NL All-Star Hyun-Jin Ryu…29-year-old, 2017 NL All-Star Alex Wood.

Available right-handers would include 29-year-old, former first round MLB Draft pick Zack Wheeler…31-year-old, 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello…30-year-old, 2019 AL All-Star Jake Odorizzi.

There are a few dozen other possibilities as well. But frankly, anyone other than the pitchers mentioned already would be a disappointing addition.

The Phillies would be wise to take Hamels up on this word, and wrap him up to fill the 3-4 slot in their starting rotation for 2020. Then they can concentrate all of their efforts into trying to land one of the really big fish.

CENTER FIELD

There are a lot of Phillies fans who seem to think that the club is okay here with either Scott Kingery or Adam Haseley. Frankly, if you truly want to be a contending team, I think that is just crazy talk.

Kingery has handled himself admirably out there for someone who is not a natural outfielder. Haseley deserves much credit for rising from Double-A to a regular big-league role last season.

But neither is the answer for a contending Phillies ball club.

Kingery needs to be handed his natural second base position and allowed to play it every single day, barring some situational need or emergency. Haseley would be well served getting more everyday plate appearances at Triple-A or serving a fourth outfielder apprenticeship in 2020.

There has been some chatter on social media about the team bringing back free agent outfielder Corey Dickerson, who excelled with the Phillies following his arrival from Pittsburgh at this past season’s trade deadline.

Yes, Dickerson hit .293 with eight homers and 34 RBIs in just 137 plate appearances with the Phillies. Extrapolate those numbers over a full season and you have something like a 35 homer, 120+ RBI campaign.

However, the 30-year-old Dickerson is a free agent for the first time. He is going to parlay that performance into a nice, well-deserved payday. And he is, unfortunately, not a center fielder. Just 27 of his 571 big-league games in the outfield have been played in center.

If you are thinking of putting him in left field and having Andrew McCutchen slide over to become the everyday man in center field for the Phillies, you really need to think again.

McCutchen is now 33-years-old and has not played center field regularly in either of his last two seasons. He is coming off major knee surgery as well.

While he can spot-start or slide over temporarily during a situational or emergency need, as he did for 10 starts and 15 total games this past season with the Phillies, he is no longer the player who won a 2012 Gold Glove Award as a center fielder.

Roman Quinn is also not the answer. I love Quinn’s tool set and have been publicly in his corner for a few years now. But even someone who is as big a fan as I am has limits. Quinn has proven that he simply cannot remain healthy long enough to be a reliable starting option.

No, what the Phillies really need is a new center fielder, someone from outside the organization. Unfortunately, there really are not quality options available this year in free agency.

You have a premier defender such as Juan Lagares. There is pure base stealing speed in Billy Hamilton. There is an aging veteran such as 34-year-old, 5x AL All-Star, 4x AL Gold Glove Award winner Adam Jones.

None of those is a realistic option. Jones played just one game in center last year for the Dbacks, and two years ago with Baltimore he was rated as one of the worst regular center fielders in the game defensively by Fangraphs.

Lagares will turn 31-years-old in spring training and has just a .254/.297/.361 career slash line in 2,119 career big-league plate appearances. With a slash of just .242/.297/.326 over 3,089 plate appearances, Hamilton is even worse with a bat in his hands.

There is no answer available in free agency. If the Phillies want to improve in center field, it is going to have to come via trade.

During this past season, I wrote that a worthy trade target could be found in Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. He turns 30 years of age early in the 2020 season and can become a free agent after next year.

If I’m Klentak, I’m on the phone looking to see if we can find a reasonable match in trade for the 2018 Gold Glove Award winner and ALCS Most Valuable Player.

THIRD BASE

Don’t count me among those who feel that the Phillies need a third baseman. Again, this is assuming the club does what I think it should do – give second base to Scott Kingery, and cut ties to Maikel Franco by not offering him arbitration.

If I’m running things, top offensive prospect Alec Bohm is starting at third base on Opening Day 2020. I let him know that right now.

When Bohm’s season ends following the conclusion of the Premier 12 tournament, at which he is Team USA’s starter at the hot corner, I tell him to go home and enjoy the holidays. Just keep working out and stay in shape. Don’t report to Clearwater until early February. And be mentally ready for your role as the Phillies starting third baseman.

Now, that’s me. The club could actually go in a number of directions. They could offer a contract to and bring back Franco as the starter, at least to begin the season. Then let him try to hold off Bohm for as long as he can.

Or the club could offer a contract to Cesar Hernandez, cut ties with Franco, give the third base job to Kingery, and fill center field some other way. Once Bohm is deemed ready, they could either slide Kingery back to center if no good option has emerged, or work out some king of position-sharing scheme involving the players. That option seems too messy.

Another option would be to cut ties with Franco and sign a free agent. There are a handful of interesting options if the Phillies try to take this route.

In order of talent, those free agent options would be Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, and Mike Moustakas.

Rendon will be expensive and would tie up the position for years, meaning that the Phillies would either be banking on the NL getting a DH as soon as the 2021 season, or they would be considering a trade of either Bohm or Rhys Hoskins. I love Rendon as a player, but with Bohm nearly ready, this just doesn’t seem like the right move.

Donaldson just played on a one-year deal with Atlanta at a $23 million salary. He’ll turn 34-years-old a month from today. Perhaps the Phillies could lure him with a similar one-year offer? That would mean Bohm at least starts the season back at Triple-A.

The 31-year-old Moustakas is a bit trickier. He played with Milwaukee this past season at $7 million and received a $1 million buyout of his contract for next year, rather than the Brewers committing to his $11 million mutual option.

Moustakas is going to be seeking a multi-year offer from some team. He is still young enough that someone is likely to make that kind of offer in order to add a 35-homer bat to their lineup. I am betting it won’t be the Phillies.

Again, my choice here is to give the job to Bohm, spend your free agent money on pitching, and move on from the old, losing Franco-Hernandez infield combination.

BENCH

Putting together a bench group that includes at least a few veteran options for new manager Joe Girardi, preferably options that can hit the ball, will be another Klentak challenge.

The Phillies are already slated to have Jay Bruce return. He should help out as a pinch-hitter, on the outfield corners, and could even turn out to be a lefty-hitting backup first base option, giving Hoskins a blow against a few tougher right-handed pitchers. Girardi should be able to get him plenty of at-bats to keep him sharp and happy.

Assuming the Phillies move on from both Franco and Hernandez, as well as Odubel Herrera, that leaves other outfield depth options as Roman Quinn and Nick Williams. The infield would need help. There are a bunch of interesting options who could fit the bill:

The club could try to re-sign 30-year-old Brad Miller, who appeared in 66 games with the Phillies this past season. Miller played four different positions, mostly at third base and in left field, and produced a dozen homers in just 130 plate appearances.

38-year-old Ben Zobrist can play second base and an outfield corner. He even covered shortstop for one game last season with the Cubs.

Starlin Castro turns 30 at the end of spring training. He played both second and third this past year with the Marlins, and even held down shortstop, where he was a former starter, in three games.

At age 36, Howie Kendrick showed just how valuable he can be in a part-time role while helping the Nationals win their World Series. Kendrick, who played in 39 games with the 2017 Phillies, saw time at first, second, and third this year in Washington.

30-year-old Derek Dietrich ripped 19 homers in 306 plate appearances while covering first, second, and left field this year in Cincinnati. He even appeared in one game at the hot corner, and has played in 146 career games there.

33-year-old Eric Sogard hit .290 while playing five different positions between stops in Toronto and Tampa Bay this past season.

Former popular Phillies outfielder Hunter Pence turns 37 in April, and enjoyed a bounce-back campaign in which he was named to the American League All-Star team. His bat, outfield glove, and infectious enthusiasm could be a perfect mix for this team’s bench group.

The Phillies could use a reliable backup catching option, and yesterday I mentioned one of their former prospects as a possibility. That would be 31-year-old Travis d’Arnaud, who finally stayed healthy this past season and showed off his fine combination of offensive and defensive skills.

More veteran backstop options who could add an alternative to Andrew Knapp include 37-year-old Russell Martin, 34-year-old Matt Wieters, 32-year-old Bryan Holaday, 36-year-old Robinson Chirinos, 34-year-old Jonathan Lucroy and a half-dozen or so others.

These are just a representative sample of the dozens of names who could fill out a veteran bench for the Phillies.

BULLPEN

As I mentioned on yesterday’s podcast, assembling a bullpen is a tricky proposition from year to year. The Phillies pen was decimated by injuries this past season, but most of those arms should be back in 2020.

They could do nothing, and still end up with an effective group. However, adding someone as a strong, veteran back-end option couldn’t hurt. Dellin Betances, Will Smith, Steve Cishek, Will Harris, and Pedro Strop are just a few of the couple dozen veteran relievers available.

And how about this possibility: lefty Jake Diekman? Wouldn’t it be sort of ironic if the Phillies brought back both Hamels and Diekman, who they traded away together in 2015, in the same off-season? Diekman turns 33 in January, and struck out 84 batters over 62 innings this past season as a southpaw out of the pen.

Again, as with third base, I don’t feel this is an area of desperate need. But if the Phillies want another bullpen arm, there are plenty from which to choose.

WRAPPING IT UP

Well, that’s a look at the free agent market. The Hot Stove season is officially underway. Free agents can sign with any team at this point, though signings of the bigger names are likely to take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

And those free agent ranks are only going to swell when the December 2 deadline passes for teams to offer arbitration, which is the decision that the Phillies will need to make on Franco and Hernandez.

As we move through the off-season, this podcast will focus occasionally on rumors regarding the club, and I’ll certainly be talking and writing about any big signings.

I hope you’ll come back tomorrow, when I’ll be talking about the MLB Award winners to this point, as well as the nominees for the major awards to be handed out next week, including the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards in each league.

Remember, you can follow any written pieces or podcast episodes through links at the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds @philliesbell. I hope you’ll stop by and enjoy. Until next time, God bless you and yours.

Phillies agree to 2019 contract with pitcher Jerad Eickhoff

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Eickhoff will provide rotation insurance to the 2019 Phillies

After reaching a one-year deal with arbitration-eligible reliever Hector Neris this afternoon, the Phillies have now reportedly agreed to a contract with another pitcher as well.

This time it was 28-year-old right-hander Jerad Eickhoff, who missed nearly all of the 2018 season due to a lat injury that had also bothered him early in the 2017 campaign.
A native of Evansville, Indiana, Eickhoff was the Texas Rangers pick in the 15th round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of Olney Central College in Illinois.
Rising through the Texas farm system, Eickhoff reached the Double-A level. Then at the trade deadline on July 31, 2015, Eickhoff was one of four prospects dealt to the Phillies from the Rangers in exchange for pitchers Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman.
Eickhoff quickly reached Philadelphia, making his big-league debut with the Phillies by tossing six shutout innings at Miami less than a month after the trade. He would make eight total starts over that final month-and-a-half, with the last four of those as seven-inning Quality Start efforts.
As a member of the starting rotation in 2016, Eickhoff went 11-14 with a 3.65 ERA and 1.160 WHIP. He allowed just 187 hits over 197.1 innings across 33 starts that year with a 167:42 K/BB ratio.
During a 2017 season interrupted first by the lat injury and later by an injured finger, Eickoff slipped to a 4.71 ERA and 1.523 WHIP over 24 starts.
Eickhoff made eight starts across three minor league levels as he worked his way back in the 2018 season. Then over three September appearances with the Phillies he allowed 10 hits over 5.1 innings, striking out 11 opposition batters but walking none.
On October 1, Eickhoff underwent carpal tunnel surgery. In her fine piece on that situation, Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic quoted new Phillies pitching coach Chris Young: “…with Eick, it’s how much trust we all have in the person that gives me very little doubt that he’s going to come back and be as good or better than he was.”


Jim Salisbury at NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Eickhoff received a $975,000 deal for 2019. That would nearly double his salary from what he has earned in each of his first three big-league seasons.
It’s hard to know what Eickhoff’s exact role will be in the coming season for the Phillies. He is likely to come to spring training battling returnees Nick PivettaVince Velasquez, and Zach Eflin for one of the final three spots in the starting rotation.
The Phillies could also still add a veteran left-hander to their rotation via trade or free agency as well. Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta will front the rotation, assuming both remain healthy.
More likely is that Eickhoff begins the year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, providing veteran experienced insurance in case of injuries to the Phillies rotation. There he would be in a mix with pitchers such as Enyel De Los Santos and Ranger Suarez, who each made their big-league debut in the 2018 season.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Jerad Eickhoff agrees to one-year contract with Phillies

Important off-season dates for the Phillies and Major League Baseball

Rob Manfred leads MLB into a big off-season
It has finally arrived, one of the most anticipated Major League Baseball off-season periods in years. Fans of the Philadelphia Phillies have been led to believe that the team will be a major player in the free agent market during this ‘Hot Stove’ season.
As of 9:00 a.m. EDT on Monday morning the contracts expired for dozens of players. They are now free to negotiate for deals covering 2019 and beyond. Their former team has exclusive negotiating rights for the first five days. After that, it’s on to the open market.
The list of available names at this point includes Bryce HarperManny MachadoJosh DonaldsonCraig KimbrelMichael BrantleyPatrick CorbinAndrew McCutchenDallas Keuchel, and World Series MVP Steve Pearce among dozens of others.
The list of big names could increase by midnight on Halloween, as star pitchers Clayton Kershaw and David Price have until that point to decide whether or not to exercise player options on their contracts. If either or both turns down the option, they would also join the free agent ranks.
A number of players who appeared with the Phillies during the last few years are also available as free agents. That list includes Freddy GalvisWilson RamosAsdrubal CabreraClay BuchholzCharlie Morton, and Jake Diekman.
Other names available on the market and very familiar to Phillies fans from their time with the team include outfielder Hunter Pence, starting pitcher J.A. Happ, and reliever Ryan Madson. The latter two own World Series rings from the Phillies 2008 championship team.
Here is an exhaustive list of the important dates to look for as we move through the MLB off-season and into the start of the 2019 season:
OCTOBER 31: Halloween. Okay, okay. Besides candy, the majority of contract options must be exercised by teams or players for the following season. Already picked up were team options on players such as Madison Bumgarner and Carlos Carrasco. Shortstop Elvis Andrus exercised his player option. The big name here is Clayton Kershaw with the Dodgers. He has until the clock strikes midnight after the trick-or-treaters are tucked in bed to make his decision.
NOVEMBER 2: This is the deadline by which MLB teams must tender a qualifying offer (click link for detailed explanation) to eligible free agents. The one-year offer this season would be for $17.9 million. For example, the Nationals could make a qualifying offer to Harper. He could accept and play with them next year on a contract worth $17.9, or decline and become a free agent. If a qualifying offer is made, players have 10 days maximum to make their decision. However, players acquired in mid-season deals cannot have such an offer made. Therefor, the Dodgers cannot make a qualifying offer to Machado. He is automatically headed to free agency.

Phillies are expected to be major players in the bidding for free agent Harper.
NOVEMBER 3: The date on which the full and open free agency period will begin. This would, for instance, be the earliest that the Phillies could formally negotiate with Harper or Machado. It is also the earliest that free agents can sign with a new team, though you won’t see that happen in most instances since the player would need to negotiate a contract first. That would likely happen after entertaining multiple offers.
NOVEMBER 4: Rawlings and Major League Baseball will announce the winners of the 2018 Gold Glove Awards.
NOVEMBER 5: Finalists will be announced by MLB for each of the major awards, including the Most Valuable Player in each league, the Cy Young Award, the Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year. Also, the MLB Executive of the Year will be announced on this date.
NOVEMBER 6-8: GM meetings held in Carlsbad, California. Big deals don’t usually happen here, but the groundwork is often laid for those consummated later, including at the later Winter Meetings.

NOVEMBER 7: Winners of the Wilson Defensive Players of the Year announced.
NOVEMBER 8Silver Slugger Award winners announced.
NOVEMBER 8-15: MLB Japan All-Star Series tour with games against stars from NPB.
NOVEMBER 11: The IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association of America) begins announcement of their annual MLB award winners with the AL & NL Top Relief Pitcher honors. The IBWAA will announce their further award winners over the next few days on the same schedule as the BBWAA.
NOVEMBER 12: The BBWAA official NL and AL Rookie of the Year Awards announced.
NOVEMBER 12: Deadline for free agents to accept or reject any qualifying offers that may have been extended. Those who accept will play for their 2018 ball club again next season at a $17.9 million salary. Players who reject the offer will have draft pick compensation attached to any new team signing them as a free agent.
NOVEMBER 13: The NL and AL Manager of the Year Awards announced.

Principal owner John Middleton will take part in the owner’s meetings. He will have some big financial decisions to make this off-season.
NOVEMBER 14: The NL and AL Cy Young Awards announced.
NOVEMBER 14-15: MLB owner’s meetings held in Atlanta, GA. Usually just off-field matters discussed here.
NOVEMBER 15: The NL and AL Most Valuable Players announced.
NOVEMBER 19: The NL and AL Comeback Players of the Yearannounced.
NOVEMBER 20: The AL Designated Hitter of the Year Award announced. Also, my birthday, a far more important event.
NOVEMBER 20: Deadline for MLB teams to add eligible minor league players to their 40-man roster in order to protect those prospects from the Rule 5 Draft.
NOVEMBER 26-29: Meeting of the MLBPA in Dallas, TX. The player’s union key figures are already gearing up for the expiration of the current CBA, which still has three years to run.
NOVEMBER 30: The non-tender deadline. This is the deadline for teams to offer contracts to arbitration and pre-arbitration eligible players.
DECEMBER 9: The Baseball Hall of Fame’s “Today’s Game” committee (1988-present) gets their turn this year. This is the date on which they will announce whether or not they have selected anyone from that period for enshrinement. Leading contenders being considered include Mark McGwireWill ClarkDavid Cone, and Bret Saberhagen.
DECEMBER 9-132018 Winter Meetings will take place at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, NV.
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The Flyin’ Hawaiian was a big pickup for the Phillies in the December 2004 MLB Rule 5 Draft.
DECEMBER 13Rule 5 Draft. The Phillies have cashed in big at previous Rule 5 Drafts with players including Grover Cleveland Pete AlexanderShane VictorinoPinky WhitneyClay Dalrymple, and Odubel Herrera.
JANUARY 8-13, 2019Phillies Vacation to Paradise trip to the Bahamas. Six days at the Royal Bahamian Resort & Spa with Greg LuzinskiRhys HoskinsScott Kingery, the Phanatic, and more.
JANUARY 11: Contract salary figures must be exchanged by this date between teams and those players eligible for arbitration. Despite the exchange of arbitration figures, the teams and players are still free to continue negotiating to try and reach an agreement up until the actual arbitration hearing. Those will take place at individual dates set by the arbitrators.
MID-JANUARY 2019: Results of the voting by the BBWAA for the Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2019 will be announced. Leading contenders for enshrinement include Mariano RiveraEdgar Martinez, and Mike Mussina. Among the interesting candidates who should receive wide support are Barry BondsRoger Clemens, and the late former Phillies star pitcher Roy Halladay.
FEBRUARY 1-20, 2019: Salary arbitration hearings will take place during this period.
FEBRUARY 13, 2019: Spring training camps open for most teams with pitchers and catchers due to report.
FEBRUARY 21, 2019: Play begins in the Cactus League in Arizona.
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Before you know it the Phillies and their fans will return to Clearwater, Florida for spring training 2019.
FEBRUARY 22, 2019: Play begins in the Grapefruit League in Florida. The Phillies will open play that afternoon by visiting the Tampa Bay Rays at the Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida.
FEBRUARY 23, 2019: Phillies first home spring training game at 1:05PM EST hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida.
MARCH 20-21, 2019MLB Opening Series in Tokyo, Japan between the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners.
MARCH 23, 2019: Ninth annual Phillies Charities 5K.
MARCH 25, 2019: Phillies close spring training by hosting the Tampa Bay Rays at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida.
MARCH 28, 2019: Opening Day for the Phillies and all other teams across Major League Baseball. The Phillies will open up by hosting the defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park.
Keep following us here at Phillies Nation all during the fall and winter months. We’ll be covering and giving our take on all of the top news regarding the ball club, especially any free agent signings. You’ll also get to enjoy a number of Phillies history pieces over the off-season, including my own “Philography” series of Phillies biographies.

Phillies may still have one final playoff push left in their 2018 season

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Asdrubal Cabrera’s addition failed to help Phillies stay in contention

Frankly, I’m tired of thinking in terms of what this 2018 Philadelphia Phillies ball club can’t get done. 

I really don’t think they are a playoff team just yet. But I’ve also always been a glass-half-full guy. So, it’s time to examine the possibilities once again.
Much has been made of the Philadelphia Phillies sudden inability to win a series. They have now lost nine in a row going back to an early-August four-game sweep of Miami at Citizens Bank Park.
What you may not realize is that it was exactly one month ago today that the team’s 2018 hopes had crested. Fans had little reason to suspect what was about to happen next and unfold over this past calendar month.
On Wednesday morning, August 8, the Phillies woke up in Phoenix, Arizona as a first-place team. They were tied in the loss column with the Atlanta Braves, but had played and won three more times. Their lead was at two games in the loss column for an NL Wildcard playoff berth.
The club had defeated the host Arizona Diamondbacks the previous night by a 5-2 score when Nick Pivetta matched Dbacks ace Zack Greinke pitch for pitch. What had been a 1-0 pitcher’s duel was busted open with a four-run rally in the top of the eighth against former Phillies reliever Jake Diekman.
It was a sixth victory in seven games for the team. The lone defeat had come in the series opener on a 14th inning walkoff. The last defeat prior to the winning stretch had been a 13th inning walkoff at the hands of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The Phillies were winning baseball games and playing good teams tough on a regular basis. And there were signs that the club might finally be scoring runs on a consistent basis, something which had eluded them for much of the season. The Tuesday night victory was the fifth straight in which the club had scored at least five times.
Then on that Wednesday night the Phillies were shutout by Arizona’s lefty ace Patrick Corbin. No shame there. Corbin was an NL All-Star this season and was emerging as one of the top pitchers in all of baseball.
After an off-day the Phillies moved on to San Diego to face the Padres, the last place team in the West Division and owners of the worst record in the entire National League. Once again, they were shut out, this time by rookie Jacob Nix.
Those consecutive white-washings proved to be the beginning of a month-long 9-17 collapse leading up to last night’s opener at Citi Field in New York.
The month of losing had left the Phillies staring up at a three-game deficit to Atlanta in the division and had dropped them four games off the final Wildcard pace with four teams between them and that last-chance playoff spot.
But here we sit on Saturday morning, September 8, and the Phillies are still very much alive. The Braves faced a tough schedule this week, playing the Red Sox and Diamondbacks. They have gone just 1-4 to this point. Atlanta has lost seven of their last 10 overall, nine of their last 14 games.
With the Phillies 4-3 win over the Mets last night coupled with a Braves 5-3 loss to Arizona the division deficit has been cut to just two games in the loss column. There are still 22 games remaining for the Phillies this season, including seven of the final 11 as head-to-head battles with Atlanta.
The Phillies still have not resolved a huge negative issue that has plagued the team all year long. They still are not scoring on a consistent basis. 
Prior to last night the lone Phillies victory of the past week came when the offense erupted for nine runs in Miami. But in the other four games, all losses, the team managed to score just a single run in each.
Management tried to help by bringing in veterans Asdrubal CabreraWilson Ramos, and Justin Bour to bolster the attack and provide greater depth. It really hasn’t helped very much.

Cabrera arrived and played in his first game on July 28. The club lost the first three games in which he played. That was followed by a five-game winning streak. But then the month of losing began immediately afterwards. Over 36 games he is slashing .235/.273/.419 with a .692 OPS.
Ramos was injured when the Phillies acquired him from Tampa Bay and didn’t play in his first game until August 15. The Phillies have gone 9-13 since then. Ramos has hit well, slashing .375/.426/.604 with a 1.030 OPS. However, he has only played in 15 of those 22 games, including just a dozen starts.
Despite all of the offensive struggles, the Phillies have something fundamental that could still help them win the division this season: math. There is no way that this team is going to continue to play down to the .346 winning percentage of this last month. That math is going to eventually turn back in their favor.
Here is what the Phillies need to do at this point. They need to keep fighting, game to game. They need to believe again, something that Kapler had them doing well up until a month ago.
They need to remain within no worse than a couple of games out, as they are right now, for the next 10 days. That would get the Phillies into the final stretch of games with the Braves with their 2018 fate right in front of them in their own hands.
At this point, the Phillies are what they are: inconsistent offense, mediocre defense. But there are also just three weeks left in the regular season, and they are right there battling for the division crown.
I’ve been as critical of the Phillies over this last month as anyone. Mistakes have been made, both in putting this team together and in managing it during the season. 
I truly believe with just a couple of different decisions, and with handling some of these players just a little differently, that it could have been even better at this point.
But we all know that for the last five years it has been much, much worse. Losing, last place, bottom-feeding, ugly baseball with little hope for a brighter future. 
That is not where we are now. This team is clearly ready to win. They’re hungry for it, and they were able to find a way to do it for most of the year.
Former Phillies superstar shortstop and team leader Jimmy Rollins was asked about the current mostly young Phillies squad and quoted this week by Scott Lauber of Philly.com on the importance of developing a winning mindset:

“This late in the season, it’s about the win-loss column, but in the beginning, you have to believe you can win. It’s like, ‘I know we’re going to win.’ And once you get that mentality — it starts with the first guy, through the staff, through upper management, to the last guy in the bullpen — you know something good is going to happen. You have to learn how to think, ‘I am not going to lose.’ “

If someone told me back in Clearwater during spring training in March that the Phillies could be two games out of the division lead with three weeks to play, I would have been ecstatic. I would have been excited for the season ahead.
That is how Phillies fans should feel right now. Ecstatic at the results of this 2018 season. Excited at the possibilities for the future. And by the future, I don’t mean next year or the next decade. I mean for these next three weeks.
Possibilities are still very real for this current Phillies team, warts and all. There is no reason that this team can’t suddenly get hot again for a couple of weeks and push the Braves, maybe even pass them, before those two late-September series arrive.
The last of those regular season games with the Braves is scheduled for Sunday, September 30. The Phillies no longer have to play well for 162 games to make the playoffs. They just need to play well for most of the 22 games remaining. 
If they have three mostly good weeks in them, we could still see a return of ‘Red October’ baseball to Citizens Bank Park.

Jerad Eickhoff should be a long term workhorse in Phillies rotation

The surprising Eickhoff looks like a long term mid-rotation starter
At the 2015 MLB trade deadline, the Philadelphia Phillies shipped their ace starting pitcher Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers.
It was a crucial deal for the Phillies rebuilding program, coming as the team was dismantling the 2008 world champions and moving on from a core that had captured five straight NL East crowns.
In return for Hamels and hard-throwing reliever Jake Diekman, the Phillies received a package of five prospects. The Phils also agreed to take on the contract of injured pitcher Matt Harrison.
Those five prospects were the key to the deal for the Phillies. Those players were catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams, and pitchers Jake ThompsonAlec Asher, and Jerad Eickhoff.
No disrespect at all to Eickhoff, but he was easily the least well-known of the prospects. But having turned 25 years old just weeks prior to the deal, he was also the closest to being ready to help the Phillies in the short term.

BREAKING INTO THE BIG LEAGUES

It wouldn’t take long for Eickhoff to begin contributing in Philadelphia. Called up to make his big league debut just three weeks later, he delivered six strong innings in defeating the Miami Marlins.
Phillies
Eickhoff would remain in the Phillies starting rotation for the balance of that 2015 season, essentially replacing Hamels. He delivered Quality Starts in seven of his eight outings, allowing just 40 hits over 51 innings with a 49/13 K:BB ratio.
That performance virtually assured the right-hander of a rotation role at the outset of the 2016 season. Last year, Eickhoff went 11-14 with a 3.65 ERA and 1.160 WHIP in his first full season.
Over 33 starts, Eickhoff would allow 187 hits in 197.1 innings with a 167/42 K:BB ratio. In a season of inconsistency from most of the Phillies players, Eickhoff was both consistent and durable.
His performance wasn’t lost on Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, who was quoted early in spring training by CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury:
“He’s a pretty darn good pitcher right now…Eickhoff is the kind of guy you can count on. He throws strikes. He knows what he’s doing.”

SLOW START TO THE 2017 SEASON

Eickhoff has yet to register a win in the 2017 season, but that is hardly the fault of the pitcher. Over his first half-dozen starts, Eickhoff has allowed just 32 hits in 36 innings with a 33/13 K:BB ratio.
In five of his six starts, the righty has given Mackanin at least 5.2 innings. He lasted five full in the other, allowing just two hits while striking out seven against the Atlanta Braves.
The Phillies snapped a six-game losing skid with a comeback victory over the Washington Nationals on Sunday. Following an off-day today, Eickhoff will climb back on the hill at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night.
That next start will come against the Seattle Mariners (15-17), marking the first time that he has faced a club from the AL West Division.
Eickhoff will be looking to get himself back on track after two straight rare sub-par outings. He allowed nine earned runs over 11.1 innings in his last two starts against the high-powered Dodgers and Cubs.

KEY PART OF THE PHILLIES FUTURE

Turning 27 years of age this coming July, Eickhoff still has two more seasons before he is arbitration eligible. He cannot become a free agent until after the 2022 campaign.
While Eickhoff is not a true ace-caliber starting pitcher, he is something that every rotation in baseball needs. He is a reliable workhorse. He takes the ball every time that his turn comes, and delivers a quality outing most times out.
Considering his age, contract status, and big league history to date, the Phillies appear to have gotten a steal in that Hamels deal. Eickhoff is already paying off solidly. He should still be figuring prominently in the Phillies rotation as some of the other pieces of that deal begin to join him in the coming months and years.