Tag Archives: Mike Moustakas

Decision time arrives for Phillies on Franco, Hernandez

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A non-tender of Hernandez could prompt the Phillies to move Segura to second and sign Gregorius for shortstop

 

What has become known as the “non-tender” deadline in Major League Baseball will arrive on Monday at 8:00 pm EST. Teams ostensibly have until that point to offer 2020 contracts to arbitration-eligible players.

For two such players who have been starters with the Philadelphia Phillies for the last five seasons – third baseman Maikel Franco and second baseman Cesar Hernandez – it could mark the end of their time with the ball club.

The actual rule as negotiated with the MLBPA (the player’s union) basically states that all arbitration and pre-arbitration eligible players on the 40-man roster with fewer than six years of big-league service time must be offered (tendered) a contract for the upcoming season (2020) by this deadline or they will immediately  become a free agent.

While Franco has appeared in parts of six MLB seasons he has just 4.157 official years of accumulated service time. Hernandez has appeared in parts of seven seasons, but has just 5.154 official service time years.

Should the Phillies choose to tender a contract to either or both, they would be agreeing to settle on a specific salary amount over the next few months. If they choose to non-tender either or both, the player(s) join the list of available free agents this off-season.

By non-tendering either Franco or Hernandez the Phillies would in essence be waving goodbye.

I am sure there would be public pleasantries from general manager Matt Klentak along the lines of “we really like these guys and appreciate what they brought to the ball club over the last few years, but we felt it was best at this time for both the players and the team that we turn the page.

For me, these two players are little more than reminders of a half-dozen years of mostly losing baseball. Signing and trading them is not a legitimate option. What team is going to surrender anything of real value for either guy?

Saying goodbye to either or both  would then create holes in the lineup. However, they are holes that can be filled by more talented and likely more productive players who are either already on the roster or available via free agency.

SECOND BASE

The simplest and best answer to non-tendering Hernandez would be to finally turn over the everyday second base position to Scott Kingery.

I’ve explained ad nauseam in other pieces and podcasts that second base is Kingery’s natural position. It is where he played during the final two years of his college career and his three minor league seasons. In 2017 he was the Gold Glove Award winner for the minor leagues at the position.

Another option would be to slide the current shortstop, Jean Segura, over to second base. This would mean either making Kingery the everyday shortstop or signing a free agent. The Phillies have been linked to free agent Didi Gregorius in this type of scenario.

Though he has been a shortstop for the vast majority of his eight-year big-league career, Segura was the every day second baseman with the Arizona Diamondbacks during the 2016. He led the National League with 203 hits that season and finished 13th in NL MVP voting.

Though he can athletically handle the position on a short-term basis or in an emergency, Kingery is not a legitimate everyday shortstop. If the club really wants to move Segura, it would be imperative that they sign someone like Gregorius.

THIRD BASE

Cutting ties with Franco would likely mean that the Phillies have decided to go hard after one of the three top available free agents at the position: Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, or Mike Moustakas.

If they non-tender Franco but keep Hernandez, they could also choose to make Kingery the everyday third baseman. However, just as with shortstop, this is not a legitimate spot for Kingery as a regular starter.

Should the Phillies cut ties with both Franco and Hernandez, it almost certainly means that they plan on using Kingery as a regular at one of the three infield positions.

The Phillies might decide that the third base free agents are simply too expensive, and believe that they have the future at the position here already in top position prospect Alec Bohm. In that scenario, maybe they tender Franco, figuring that Bohm will turn him into 2020 in-season trade bait.

The Phillies could also conceivably sign both Gregorius and a new third base free agent. But that is spending a lot of money which could perhaps be better used in paying for the two starting pitchers they also need.

SHORTSTOP

If you choose to non-tender Hernandez and slide over Segura, it opens a hole here. Again, the hole would be filled by either Kingery (less than ideal) or a free agent such as Gregorius.

For me, the best option is to simply keep Segura at short, make Kingery the everyday second baseman, and go hard after a third baseman in free agency.

CENTER FIELD

Kingery played 65 games and made 57 starts in center field during the 2019 season. By the end of the year it was rookie Adam Haseley out there most often. Haseley appeared in 40 games in center field, making 36 starts.

I’ve gone on record that the Phillies should go after a more proven veteran via the trade route, someone such as Jackie Bradley Jr.of the Boston Red Sox.

This is Kingery’s second-best, though I believe it is a distant second-best, defensive position. He played it during his first two years of college ball. However, a look into the stats reveals that while he occasionally makes a highlight reel play, he also doesn’t make all of the routine plays handled by natural center fielders.

It is possible that the Phillies will choose to tender Hernandez and bring him back for one final season at second base, leaving Kingery out in center field for one more year, with Haseley as a reserve outfielder.

Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors has estimated that Franco would receive $5.7 million and Hernandez $11.8 million on one-year deals with the Phillies for the 2020 season. That $17.5 million could pay the 2020 salary of a strong starting pitcher or one better position player.

This will not be an easy decision for Klentak to make. However, it would be very easy for me. The “KISS” principle is at play here: Keep It Simple Stupid.

These are two limited players for whom there are better options available. Cut the ties. Move on. Look to the future, not at the past.

The Phillies should non-tender both Franco and Hernandez, move Kingery to second, start shopping hard for a third baseman, and start working the phones for a center fielder. One man’s opinion. We’ll find out what the team actually chooses by late Monday.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Should Phillies pursue a top bat over a top starting pitcher?

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Keuchel is a legitimate option if the Phillies choose to, or are forced to, settle below the top-level free agent arms

 

With the ‘Hot Stove’ season now open across Major League Baseball, teams have begun the process of trying to upgrade their roster for the 2020 campaign.

The Philadelphia Phillies are coming off what was a disappointing .500 season in 2019. After a ton of high-profile activity last off-season and a fast start, the club sputtered over the final four months to finish at 81-81.

Most evaluators and fans feel that the biggest shortcoming for the team this past season was the pitching staff. The Phillies failed to get quality outings from their starting pitchers and suffered numerous injuries that depleted their bullpen.

The bullpen could bounce back simply with a return to health by a few of the arms and with a modest free agent signing or prescient trade addition.

But the rotation will be more difficult. There are a pair of ace-caliber pitchers available in Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, and a strong second-tier arm in Zack Wheeler. The Phillies have plenty of money and the incentive to sign any of them.

However, would they actually be smarter to ink a couple of lesser-tier arms, pitchers who do not have a qualifying offer attached, instead spending their big money on another impact bat to fill one of their lineup holes? It’s a legitimate strategy to consider.

If so, which arms could actually improve the rotation and might make the most sense for the club to pursue? And then, what bats might the club be able to add that would significantly upgrade the lineup?

MID-LEVEL ARMS

The Phillies gave 72 combined starts in the 2019 season to a group of pitchers that included Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Jerad Eickhoff, Drew Smyly, Jason Vargas, and Cole Irvin.

The lowest ERA among that group was the 4.45 mark of Smyly, a southpaw who was added as a free agent in mid-July who is now an unrestricted free agent. Each of the others was either near or over the 5.00 mark.

There are a handful of solid starting pitching options available in free agency who do not have qualifying offers attached. They are unrestricted free agents who will not cost anywhere near the price of a Cole or Strasburg contract.

Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu is an injury risk and will turn 33 years of age at the end of spring training. But he could be had for something like a three-year, $54-million deal. For this year’s NL Cy Young Award runner-up who has top of the rotation talent, it could prove a major bargain. Would the Phillies roll the dice?

The Phillies passed on Dallas Keuchel this past season and then watched him become a difference-maker in the rival Braves rotation as Atlanta pulled away in the standings. The lefty turns 32 on New Year’s Day and might be looking for a five-year deal. But if the former NL Cy Young Award winner who also has four Gold Gloves on his résumé would settle for three years at $15 million per?

There is also, of course, Cole Hamels. The former Phillies ace and World Series hero will turn 37-years-old two days after Christmas. The lefty has publicly stated that he would go on a one-year deal. How about the Phillies take him up on that offer at $15 million with incentives and a club option for 2021?

Adding a pair of left-handers from among the Ryu, Keuchel, Hamels group, depending on the price in dollars and years, would likely end up much more affordable and hang much less of a risk albatross around the Phillies necks as would a Cole or Strasburg deal alone.

TOP POTENTIAL IMPACT BATS

It’s very difficult to evaluate where the Phillies 2020 holes will be, simply because the club hasn’t made up its own mind regarding a number of holdover players.

Decisions on Scott Kingery, Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez, and Adam Haseley in particular will determine not only the answers to a number of questions – but also will actually determine those questions themselves.

So, I will proceed in the way that I see best for the Phillies future. That means Kingery plays second base every day, both Hernandez and Franco are gone, and Haseley becomes a bench player or starts in center field every day at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

What that means is the Phillies have holes to fill in center field and at third base. The center field hole cannot be filled in free agency, at least not by anyone who would be a marked improvement on Haseley.

If the Phillies wish to add a championship caliber center fielder it will have to be done via trade. In past articles, I have advocated for the club going after Boston Red Sox defensive whiz Jackie Bradley Jr.

Whether it would be Bradley or some other target, filling this position with a more proven veteran is something that general manager Matt Klentak needs to make a priority. Klentak needs to find his Garry Maddox for Willie Montanez trade. Phillies fans should well recall that important May 1975 trade with the San Francisco Giants.

However, filling the third base hole can indeed be done through the free agency route. In fact, there are three different players available, all at different commitment levels of years and dollars

Anthony Rendon is the top available hitter. Turning 30-years-old next June, he would likely come at a price tag of $30-35 million over as many as seven years. Rendon would bring elite, Gold Glove-caliber defense and a clutch middle-of-the-order bat to the lineup, but at a premium price that would tie up the position for years.

Josh Donaldson is a former AL MVP who turns 34 in two weeks. He is a proven middle order hitter who remains a top glove man at the hot corner. Donaldson played on a one-year deal this past season in Atlanta. It will likely cost a three-year, $75 million commitment this time around.

A third option at third base would be 31-year-old Mike Moustakas. He is nowhere near the caliber of defender at the hot corner as the first two, and is not as reliable a hitter or run producer either. However, at a notch below both Rendon and Donaldson he would also come cheaper. He might even go for a one-year deal at $10-12 million, allowing the Phillies to remain committed to Alec Bohm over the longer term.

 

Even if he can successfully fill the holes in center field and at third base, as well as add two more veteran starting pitchers, Klentak still has more work to do this off-season. He needs to add a couple of better veteran bench options, as well as perhaps adding another strong reliever. Get all that accomplished and the Philadelphia Phillies are legitimate 2020 postseason contenders.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Phillies win another series as Jake Arrieta shuts downs the Brewers

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Jake Arrieta pitched the Phillies past Milwaukee at Miller Park

This was shaping up to be the type of  game that has bedeviled the Philadelphia Phillies all season. Build a lead, fail in chances to put it away. Watch the opposition come back late. Take a small lead into the last inning. Home opponent rallies to a walkoff win against the bullpen.

Three times already this season the opposition has done it. Walked off with a win in their final at-bats. It just happened four days ago in Chicago, for goodness sakes. And here we were again. Phillies build a 4-0 lead. Two on, one out in the top of the 7th inning. Nothing to show for it.
The Milwaukee Brewers (29-24) used a solo homer off the bat of Mike Moustakas in the home 7th to get on the scoreboard. Then a leadoff single by Eric Thames in the bottom of the 8th was followed one out later by an RBI double from Orlando Arcia. Suddenly it was a 4-2 game with the tying run at the plate.
But something different would happen this time. The bullpen didn’t blow the game, at least in part because they weren’t in the game. Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta was still in there, and manager Gabe Kapler was showing faith in the veteran right-hander. Arrieta rewarded that faith, retiring the final two batters in the frame and keeping the lead at 4-2.
And then the Phillies bats did something they have done very seldom this season. They struck a late blow against the opposition. Actually, a couple of late blows. Big blows. After Jean Segura led off the top of the 9th with a base hit, Rhys Hoskins followed two batters later by blasting his 13th home run of the season out high and deep to left-center field.

Just like that, the Phillies had breathing room at 6-2. And then to put an exclamation point on their apparent resolve to put this one away, J.T. Realmuto immediately followed by drilling his 8th homer of the season over that same left-center field wall.

Kapler then finally turned to his bullpen, and lefty veteran Jose Alvares closed things out with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th, striking out Moustakas swinging to end it. The Phillies (31-21) thus put the finishing touches on a 7-2 victory at Miller Park on Saturday evening, clinching the series on the road against a tough opponent.
The win also moved them to 10 games over the .500 mark for the first time since August 31 of last season. And combined with a loss by the second place Atlanta Braves, it pushed the Phillies lead in the National League East Division standings out to 2.5 games, three in the loss column.
The Phillies had built their early lead by chipping away for single runs in four of the first five innings. In the 1st, Andrew McCutchen remained hot by leading off with his 8th home run of the year.
In the top of the 2nd, singles by Scott Kingery and Odubel Herrera and a walk to McCutchen loaded the bases with two outs. Segura followed by working his own free pass from Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin, forcing in Kingery with a run to make it 2-0.
With two outs in the 3rd, Cesar Hernandez stayed hot as well, ripping his 5th homer of the season out on a line to right-center. In total, the Phillies homered a season-high four times in the game. They made it 4-0 when Hoskins doubled with one out and Hernandez drove him home with a two-out RBI single in the top of the 5th inning.
Arrieta was masterful in holding the powerful Brewers lineup off the board for the first six innings. He would earn his 5th win of the season, tying Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin for the staff lead. It was also his staff-high seventh Quality Start of the year.
“Preserving the bullpen is what the best teams do,” said Arrieta after the outing per MLB.com’s Andrew Wagner. “You reap the rewards of that late in the season in July, August and September. Doing it on the road, winning the series, with a chance to sweep them tomorrow is really good for our ball club.”
The Phillies will send Eflin out in Sunday afternoon’s series finale. He’ll be opposed by right-hander Brandon Woodruff, who has been the best starting pitcher this season for the Brew Crew. It would be nice to see the Phillies hitters smell the sweep and really go for the jugular on the Milwaukee hurler.

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING PERFORMANCE

  • Jake Arrieta (PHI): Win (5-4), 8 IP, 5 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts, 100 pitches (62 for strikes)
  • Jhoulys Chacin (MIL): Loss (3-6), 5 IP, 7 hits, 4 earned runs, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts, 107 pitches (67 for strikes)

PHILLIES NUGGETS PLAYER OF THE GAME: JAKE ARRIETA

The Phillies veteran right-hander was masterful in tossing his seventh Quality Start of the season. It was an important outing for a couple of other reasons as well. He had fared poorly in his most recent two outings prior to Saturday, so it was nice to see him bounce back with such a dominant effort against a good offense. And it also gave the bullpen a much-needed rest in the middle of the most difficult part of the schedule.

TICKET IQ NEXT GAME


Phillies long-term answer at third base just might be Maikel Franco

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With rumors swirling, Franco hopes to prove he is the third base answer

There were rumors floating around during much of the off-season that the Philadelphia Phillies were possibly going to be moving on from third baseman Maikel Franco.

It would be understandable if that theory grew from the possible signing of young superstar infielder Manny Machado. If the Phillies indeed were to sign Machado, and if he were to agree to play third base with Jean Segura staying at shortstop, then Franco would clearly be expendable.
However, such speculation should never have been considered as likely. For one thing, the Phillies had a number of realistic competitors for the services of Machado. For another, Machado had already made it known publicly that he wanted to play shortstop. Also, the Phillies were involved in the pursuit of Bryce Harper, and were unlikely to sign both players.

None of that stopped folks such as NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Corey Seidman from making statements such as this one regarding the Phillies incumbent third baseman:
It’s difficult to see, short of replacing Franco with someone like Machado or Mike Moustakas, why this would necessarily be the case. Neither Phillies management nor manager Gabe Kapler has done or said anything to indicate that “Franco is not their 3B of the future.
The public pursuit of Machado doesn’t say that at all. What that says is that management recognizes that the team desperately needs a truly dynamic bat for the middle of their order. It speaks to the impact talent of Machado, not to any lack of talent regarding Franco.
Though he was able to play in 10 games, Franco missed most of last September with various injuries. Despite ultimately playing in just 131 games he banged 22 home runs in 433 plate appearances. He also hit a career-high .270 while raising his OBP by 30 points, his slugging percentage by 58 points, and his OPS by 90 points from the 2017 season.
Had he been given the health of his first two full years as the Phillies starting third baseman, Franco was on a 30-homer, 90+ RBI pace last season before that final month.
Defensively, Franco did indeed experience a poor season. Of the 30 players who saw a minimum of 500 innings at third base in 2019, Franco ranked just 26th in Fangraphs defensive rankings at the position. That is down from 23rd in 2017 and 10th in the 2016 season.
With increased work and better conditioning there is no reason that Franco cannot at least maintain a league-average level of defensive play at third base. Offensively, only four big-league third basemen reached the 30-homer mark a year ago. Franco’s projected RBI total had he remained healthy would have put him among the top five at the position.

Playing most of the upcoming 2019 season at just age 26, Franco cannot become a free agent until after the 2021 season. He is signed for this season at $5.2 million. That makes him a solid financial fit considering the team is still out shopping.
The Phillies have other positions at which money would be far more wisely spent right now. They could still use a more veteran option for the starting pitching rotation such as Dallas Keuchel. And they really could still use a more proven, dynamic bat such as that of Harper’s for the middle of their order.
To me, there is no reason to change from Franco to Moustakas at this time. And in fact, our Tim Kelly reported just two days ago here at Phillies Nation that the team signing the former Royals third sacker is becoming increasingly unlikely.
Now if next off-season the Phillies should find that either Nolan Arenado or Anthony Rendon is actually available as a free agent, we can re-visit the discussion at that point.
Whether Franco is the Phillies “third baseman of the future” is a question that his performance and health during this coming 2019 season will play a large part in answering. But short of general manager Matt Klentak landing a genuine superstar in Machado, he should remain the Phillies third baseman of the present.

Phillies reportedly still involved in Corey Kluber trade discussions

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Kluber is one of baseball’s few genuine ace-caliber starting pitchers

Phillies Nation was rocked by a report on Boxing Day that the two high-profile free agents who the club has publicly pursued with big contract offers this off-season, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, may hold a negative opinion of the city, the Phillies organization, or both.

MLB insider Joel Sherman made the statement, writing the following in the New York Post: “Word is neither player particularly likes Philadelphia…
That statement must be taken with a bit of a grain of salt for a number of reasons. The biggest, of course, is financial. The odds are that if either superstar turns down the Phillies, they would almost certainly be leaving tens of millions of dollars and multiple years of security on the table.
Then you have the source itself. Sherman is a New York guy. Of course, he would prefer to have Machado or Harper playing in his town, where he could enjoy watching them play and reporting on their exploits.
Finally, you have the statement itself. “Word is?” Where does this “word” come from exactly? And neither guy “particularly likes Philadelphia?” What does that even mean? Do they both hate Philly? Do they hold such a negative opinion that they would never play here? Do they even have a negative opinion at all, or are they simply ambivalent about our town?
Set aside the extremely questionable nature of the report, and let’s assume that it is completely accurate on its face. Neither Harper or Machado wants to play in Philly. Both go to a place they really do want, neither deciding to take the “stupid money” that John Middleton is offering. What next for the Phillies?
As Sherman’s report came out on the day after Christmas, at the same time another report was being released by Jon Paul Morosi at MLB.com that again linked starting pitcher Corey Kluber to the Phillies. The Cleveland Indians have been dangling their ace, hoping to land a package of younger players and prospects in return.
While Morosi’s sources have the San Diego Padres as the current front-runners and the Dodgers perhaps a close second in a possible Kluber deal, the Phillies are indeed again lurking and involved.
Tribe GM Mike Chernoff is reportedly looking for a package led by a young, MLB-ready player with upside potential and a couple of solid prospects. Nick Cafardo at The Boston Globe stated the following on the Kluber situation last week:

“…from what we’re hearing, the Indians won’t deal him unless they get value-plus. There would have to be an overpayment of prospects and young players to get a deal done.”

While Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery would certainly be off the table, a Phillies package could lead with any or a combination from among Maikel FrancoNick WilliamsOdubel Herrera, and Roman Quinn.
Any starting pitcher not named Aaron Nola or Jake Arrieta could go. From the prospect ranks, anyone below top prospect Sixto Sanchez should be in play.

All this highlights is the continuing fact that Middleton has made an open checkbook available to general manager Matt Klentak in order to help improve the team. It is now up to Klentak and president Andy MacPhail to entice impact players, difference-makers on the field who will also draw fans, to accept that money.
My take is that, despite New York media wishes, the Phillies are still very much in on Machado and Harper. But the team is also talking other deals, with a potential trade for Kluber just part of that overall strategy to improve the roster for 2019 as best they can.
There are plenty of options still available beyond those mentioned. At third base there is Mike Moustakas. Or you could wait a year and go after Nolan Arenado. At shortstop you could likely roll the dice on a one-year deal with an option on Troy Tulowitzki.
In the outfield, perhaps a short-term deal with A.J. Pollock or Carlos Gonzalez, one that bridges you the two years until Mike Trout becomes a free agent and we are all thrown into an apoplectic frenzy that will make all of this Harper-Machado nonsense look like child’s play.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Corey Kluber reportedly still in play for Phillies