Tag Archives: Matt Klentak

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.

 

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Phillies reportedly looking at right-handed hitting center fielders

As potentially convoluted as the Philadelphia Phillies infield situation could get during the 2020 season, the outfield appears to be fairly set at this point

In right field, Bryce Harper put together an outstanding first season in Philadelphia. As long as he remains healthy, Harper is locked into the starting lineup at the position for years to come.

Andrew McCutchen is the left fielder. The veteran is expected to be 100% recovered from the devastating knee injury and subsequent surgery that ended his own first season with the club in early June. In fact, he responded earlier this week to a piece that I published asking what the Phillies could expect from him in 2020.

In center field, 2017 first round draft pick Adam Haseley will enter spring training as the anticipated everyday starter after appearing in 65 games during his rookie season last summer. Haseley, who turns 24 in mid-April, made 40 of his 65 overall appearances in center field in 2019, including 36 starts.

This morning, MLB insider Jon Morosi revealed that the Phillies may be looking to add a right-handed hitting complement to the lefty-swinging Haseley.

 

On the assumption that general manager Matt Klentak is still willing to look at available options outside of the organization, which players remaining on the free agent market might make the most sense for such a role?

The best available right-handed hitting center fielder is probably Kevin Pillar. Having just turned 31 years of age earlier this week, Pillar is a seven-year veteran.

Pillar has spent most of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays, who dealt him to the San Francisco Giants just one week into the 2019  campaign. He went on to enjoy his best season with 21 homers, 61 extra-base hits, 88 RBIs, 83 runs scored, and 14 steals. Pillar also finished fifth among all MLB center fielders in putouts.

Other available free agents fitting the bill of an experienced center fielder who bats right-handed include Peter Bourjos, Rajai Davis, Austin Jackson, and Juan Lagares. Switch-hitting speedster Billy Hamilton is also available.

The Phillies current outfield depth includes left-handed hitters Jay Bruce, Nick Williams, and Odubel Herrera. The latter is not expected to remain with the club into the 2020 season after a highly publicized domestic violence incident last year.

Even the top two outfield prospects in the minor league system, 2016 first overall draft pick Mickey Moniak and 2016 international signee Simon Muzziotti, are each left-handed hitters. Both can play center field but neither is big-league ready at this point.

The lone player on the Phillies current 40-man roster who fits the bill would be the injury-prone Roman Quinn, a switch-hitter. It is a near certainty that Quinn will make the team and fill a reserve outfield role with as long as he is healthy.

Two players who have big-league experience and who fit the right-handed hitting center field bill were signed by the club this winter to minor league deals. Both Mikie Mahtook and Matt Szczur (pronounced ‘Ceasar’) will come to spring training with a shot at filling the role for the club.

In an emergency, McCutchen could slide over to briefly cover the position. He played in 15 games there in 2019 including 10 starts. But his days as an MVP and Gold Glove caliber defender in center are long over, and it would be best to limit McCutchen’s exposure there considering the knee injury.

It is no secret that the Phillies hope to use last year’s .500 finish (81-81) as a springboard to compete for a postseason berth in 2020. Assuming health and continued positive development, Haseley will get the majority of starts in center field.

For the Phillies in the coming season, having a quality, experienced, right-handed hitting option at the position could prove to be a big help, giving Haseley a break against some tougher southpaw pitchers.

 

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Dwindling free agent pool still includes players to help Phillies

When the off-season began for the ball clubs of Major League Baseball it was my belief that we were in store for a second straight winter of city tours.

At the very least, super agent Scott Boras was going to take the top pitcher, Gerrit Cole, and the top hitter, Anthony Rendon, around the country to a handful of cities for team visits in a repeat of what happened a year ago with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

As we now know, it never happened. This time around, the vast majority of free agents had a good idea where they wanted to play. Negotiations went down fast, with few team visits at all.

The Phillies got involved, as was anticipated. General manager Matt Klentak was able to land two new pieces in shortstop Didi Gregorius and the starting pitcher that everyone knew they needed in Zack Wheeler.

But even with those two additions, the Phillies appear to need a little more. They play in a tough division that includes a two-time defending champion in Atlanta, the defending world champions in Washington, and an improved New York Mets club. All three of those teams finished ahead of the Phillies in 2019.

It appears that Klentak is ready to hold third base for top prospect Alec Bohm, plugging in super-utility guy Scott Kingery for a few weeks until Bohm is deemed fully ready. And it looks as if Klentak wants to see what former first round pick Adam Haseley can do with an everyday opportunity in center field.

If those things are absolutely true, then the Phillies would not be shopping around for any more starting caliber position players. But they still have needs in the bullpen and on the bench, and another starting pitcher, preferably a left-handed veteran, couldn’t hurt.

So, considering those as the Phillies needs and knowing that the free agent market has seriously dried up, are there any players remaining available who could help the club, and who Klentak might actually still consider inking to a deal?

Earlier this week, Hall of Fame scribe Jayson Stark put out what he considered to be an All-Unemployed Team, with each of the players still out there as available free agents:

And just yesterday, former big-league general manager Jim Bowden published a piece for The Athletic on the top remaining free agents. He listed the Phillies as a “best fit” for two of those, third baseman Josh Donaldson and relief pitcher Will Harris.

Donaldson would appear to be a longshot at best. In fact, there is a very real possibility that the slugger will be manning the hot corner and hitting in the middle of the lineup for an NL East rival once again next year. Both the Braves, with whom he played in 2019 on a one-year contract, and the Nationals are considered the front-runners to land the services of the veteran.

Harris is an intriguing possibility. The 35-year-old right-hander is a veteran of eight big-league campaigns. He was a 2016 All-Star, won a World Series ring with the Houston Astros back in 2017, and has been one of baseball’s top relievers over his last five seasons spent in a Houston uniform.

This past year, Harris allowed just 42 hits over 60 innings with 62 strikeouts across 68 appearances. He also has 23 games of postseason experience on his resume.

Other free agents also still remain who at least fit the mold of what the Phillies could use. They include veteran left starters Drew Smyly and Alex Wood and relievers Steve Cishek, Daniel Hudson, Brandon Kintzler, and Hector Rondon.

For bench bats there are players such as Starlin Castro, Brian Dozier, and Ben Zobrist. If the Phillies do consider a move on a position player who could start, center fielder Kevin Pillar might prove to be a nice fit.

At this stage it would appear that shoring up the pitching staff with a veteran back-end starter and at least one veteran bullpen arm are the best bets for possible additions.

However Klentak chooses to fill in his roster over the balance of the off-season, as the calendar flips to 2020 there remain players out there on the market who could help the Phillies in the season to come.  Those names may not be sexy, but every contending team needs key contributing-level players as well.

 

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Philadelphia Phillies December 2019 mailbag

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Phillies making under-the-radar additions to bolster depth

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Nine-year big-league veteran Harrison could become a super-utility bench option for the 2020 Phillies

 

Not every signing by your favorite Major League Baseball team during the off-season is going to be of the mega-contract superstar variety.

While the Philadelphia Phillies have inked a long-term agreement with starting pitcher Zack Wheeler and a one-year deal with shortstop Didi Gregorius, the club has also shopped in the bargain bin in hopes of bolstering their bench, bullpen, and minor league depth.

The first such move came on October 30 when the Phillies claimed hard-throwing righty reliever Robert Stock off waivers from the San Diego Padres.

Stock turned 30 years of age on November 21. He was the second round choice of the Saint Louis Cardinals in the 2009 MLB Draft out of the University of Southern Cal.

Having pitched in parts of two big-league seasons with the San Diego Padres, Stock still cannot become a free agent until after the 2024 season and is not even arbitration-eligible until after 2021.

Stock signed with San Diego two years ago as a free agent. He then delivered for the Padres in his MLB debut in the 2018 season when he saved nine games and allowed 37 hits over 39.2 innings across 32 appearances with 38 strikeouts and a 2.50 ERA.

In 2019, Stock’s season ended in early July due to biceps tendinitis. His fastball has been timed at 100 mph and over, and averages 98. If healthy, he has the talent to make the team out of spring training and impact the Phillies bullpen.

On November 20 (my birthday present?) general manager Matt Klentak made his first trade of the off-season. It wasn’t a blockbuster. He obtained 24-year-old lefty pitcher Cristopher Sanchez from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for second base prospect Curtis Mead.

Sanchez is a Dominican southpaw who struggled during his first five minor league seasons. But last year across three levels he finally seemed to be putting it all together. He allowed 58 hits over 75.2 innings across 24 appearances, 10 of those starts, with a 73/26 K:BB ratio.

Having turned just 23-years-old exactly one week ago, if Sanchez continues the progression he showed while rising from Low-A to Triple-A last season the Phillies could have a helpful bullpen arm from the left side. That always has value.

Klentak brought in a familiar name to most baseball fans on November 26 when he signed infielder Josh Harrison to a minor league contract with a spring training invitation.

Harrison has appeared in parts of nine seasons in Major League Baseball, the first eight of those with the Pittsburgh Pirates with whom he was a two-time National League All-Star.

After signing a one-year deal to play with the Detroit Tigers last season, Harrison went down in May with a strained hamstring. The Tigers released him as he was still rehabbing in early August.

He has tremendous versatility. Harrison has appeared in 431 games at second base, 266 at third base, 66 in right field, 46 in left field, and 37 games at shortstop. A friend of Andrew McCutchen‘s from their days together in Pittsburgh, Harrison has a great chance to break camp with the Phillies as a super-utility bench player.

On December 2, Klentak continued adding to his potential bullpen mix when he claimed right-hander Trevor Kelley off waivers from the Boston Red Sox.

Kelley is a 26-year-old who was Boston’s 36th round selection in the 2015 MLB Draft out of the University of North Carolina. Over parts of five solid minor league seasons he allowed 213 hits over 247 innings across 171 appearances with 228 strikeouts.

Finally getting a big-league shot this past summer, Kelley was largely unimpressive. He was beaten up by the Toronto Blue Jays in a one-game stint on July 2, then was scored upon in four of nine September appearances with the Red Sox. He is likely headed for Triple-A to serve as Phillies organizational depth.

As the Winter Meetings were coming to a close on December 12, the Phillies brought back utility man Phil Gosselin, inking him to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training in Clearwater.

Gosselin slashed .262/.294/.308 with three doubles, seven RBIs, and five runs scored over 68 plate appearances. He appeared in 44 games with the 2019 Phillies, playing in six games in left field, five at shortstop, and one game at third base.

With parts of seven big-league seasons under his belt and experience at every position in the field other than center field and catcher, Gosselin should fill the same role as a year ago. Barring major injuries, he will head to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and serve as an experienced veteran should help be needed with the Phillies – hopefully on a short-term basis.

Then on Wednesday the club announced the signing of five-year big-league veteran outfielder Mikie Mahtook to a minor league deal with a spring training invite.

Mahtook was the first-round choice of the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2011 MLB Draft out of Louisiana State University. He made his big-league debut in 2015 with Tampa and then was traded to the Detroit Tigers in January 2017.

Mahtook has appeared all across the outfield during his time in the majors. He has 116 games in left field, 112 in center, and 61 games out in right field. He has a career .235/.292/.405 slash line.

During his best season, Mahtook got 379 plate appearances and appeared in 109 games during 2017 with the Tigers. He produced a dozen home runs, scored 50 runs, and hit .276 that year, showing that he can be a legitimate contributor to a big-league ball club.

Assuming that all of their other options are healthy, Mahtook would appear to be the outfield version of what Gosselin is to the infield. He would go to Lehigh Valley and become insurance in case of multiple injuries to the Phillies active roster.

The same can be said for 30-year-old Matt Szczur. The Cape May, New Jersey native and Villanova University alum also signed a minor league deal. He has experience in parts of five big-league seasons, four of those with the Chicago Cubs.

Szczur appeared in 107 games and received 200 plate appearances with the Cubs during the 2016 season in which Chicago finally broke the ‘Curse of the Billy Goat’ and won the World Series. He received a ring, but was not part of the postseason roster.

Over his career, Szczur has appeared in 147 games in left field, making 43 starts. He has 62 games in right field with 27 starts, and 56 games in center with 30 starting assignments. He has a career .231/.312/.355 slash line.

None of these deals resulted in excitement from the fan base or increased season ticket sales. In fact, there were many negative comments on social media from those fans, who understandably want every signing and trade to be for an obvious impact player or pitcher.

However, these are the exact moves that every organization across Major League Baseball makes during each off-season. They are designed to add players with some talent and/or experience to the organizational mix. Some won’t survive spring training and will be released. Some will end up as organizational depth in the minor leagues.

And maybe, just maybe, one or two will prove to be inexpensive additions to the 2020 Philadelphia Phillies big-league roster for Opening Day.

 

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