Tag Archives: Odubel Herrera

Top 10 Philadelphia Phillies players of the decade

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Cole Hamels tossed a no-hitter during his final start with the Phillies at Wrigley Field in July 2015

 

Despite the fact that this decade technically ends with the year 2020 and not the current year of 2019, many sources are using the turn from the 10’s to the 20’s as an excuse to pop out some “end of the decade” pieces and lists.

Who am I to buck that trend?

With that in mind, over the next few weeks, I am going to take a glance back at the 2010’s in Phillies baseball.

It was a decade that began with such promise, with the Phillies as one of baseball’s best teams. But it all fell apart rapidly, with the club degenerating into one of baseball’s worst by the middle of the decade.

During these final weeks of 2019, I am going to examine how and why that happened. I am also going to present a few lists, including the best individual seasons and games from the last ten seasons.

The first look back today at the 2010’s is a list presenting the top Philadelphia Phillies players of the decade. Rather than make it a subjective list, I decided to consult the folks at Fangraphs.

Using their research tools, I came up with the top WAR figure accumulated by each position player and pitcher between the years 2010-19 while with the Phillies. Those players are presented here in order, from 10-1.

10. Odubel Herrera (10.8 WAR)

Herrera won a starting job with the Phillies out of spring training in 2015. He remained the starting center fielder with the team until his suspension at the end of this past May due to a scandalous domestic violence incident. Herrera slashed .276/.333/.423 and produced 60 home runs, 233 RBIs, 294 runs scored, and 56 stolen bases over 2,492 plate appearances. He was a 2016 National League All-Star.

9. Shane Victorino (10.8 WAR)

Tied with Herrera in WAR, “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” was ranked higher here since he accumulated that WAR total over nearly 800 fewer plate appearances. He was the Phillies starting center fielder as the decade began, a position he held until being dealt away at the July 2012 trade deadline. Victorino slashed .267/.336/.433 with 44 home runs, 170 RBIs, 225 runs scored, and 77 stolen bases over 1,665 plate appearances with the club prior to his trade. He won a 2010 NL Gold Glove and was a 2011 NL All-Star, receiving NL MVP votes that season.

8. Carlos Ruiz (10.9 WAR)

The Phillies primary catcher until being dealt way in August 2016 to the Dodgers, “Chooch” was a fan favorite for a decade. While with the Phillies during the 2010’s he slashed .275/.359/.400 with 46 homers, 263 RBIs, 262 runs scored, and 14 steals over 2,625 plate appearances. Ruiz received NL MVP votes each year from 2010-12 and was a 2012 National League All-Star.

7. Cesar Hernandez (11.6 WAR)

Hernandez has been the Phillies starting second baseman since August 2015, so the entirety of the second half of the decade. He made brief appearances in the two years prior as well. Hernandez has slashed .277/.352/.381 with 46 home runs, 253 RBIs, 407 runs scored, and 80 steals over 3,282 plate appearances during the decade. He scored more runs than any other Phillies player during the 2010’s.

6. Jimmy Rollins (16.0 WAR)

The Phillies all-time hits leader, “JRoll” opened the decade as the club’s starting shortstop, a role he had held since the 2001 season. Prior to his December 2014 trade, Rollins slashed .252/.323/.390 over 2,999 plate appearances with the Phillies during the 2010’s. He also had 70 home runs, 266 RBIs, 380 runs scored, and 127 stolen bases. His steals total was the most of any Phillies player during the decade. In 2012, Rollins won his fourth and final career NL Gold Glove.

5. Roy Halladay (16.8 WAR)

The late ace pitcher is the lone Phillies Wall of Famer on this countdown, though he will undoubtedly be joined in that honor by a number of the others over time. “Doc” won 55 games with the club from 2010 through his injury-forced retirement in 2013. Across 103 starts he registered a 3.25 ERA, 1.119 WHIP, and allowed 649 hits over 702.2 innings with 622 strikeouts. Halladay was the 2010 NL Cy Young Award winner, the runner-up in 2011, and in both seasons was a National League All-Star and received NL MVP votes.

4. Aaron Nola (17.2 WAR)

The new Phillies ace, Nola was the club’s first round pick at seventh overall in the 2014 MLB Draft. He debuted the following season, and became a 2018 NL All-Star during a season in which he finished third in NL Cy Young Award voting and received MVP votes as well. Nola has allowed 669 hits over 771.1 innings across 127 starts while striking out 826 opposition batters. He also has career 3.49 ERA and 1.172 WHIP marks to date.

3. Chase Utley (19.1 WAR)

The top position player on the countdown, “The Man” was the Phillies starting second baseman until an August 2015 trade. He slashed .265/.348/.425 with 72 home runs, 331 RBIs, 347 runs scored, and 59 stolen bases in his 2,804 plate appearances with the club during the decade. He was a National League All-Star in both 2010 and 2014.

2. Cliff Lee (19.6 WAR)

Lee did not open the decade with the Phillies, having been dealt way to Seattle on the same day in December 2009 that Halladay was acquired. However, he returned as a free agent for the record-setting 2011 campaign and remained with the club until forced into retirement by injuries in 2014. He won 41 games with a 2.89 ERA and 1.085 WHIP, allowing 697 hits over 747.2 innings across 106 starts with 739 strikeouts during the decade. Lee finished third in the 2011 NL Cy Young Award voting and sixth in 2013 and was an NL All-Star in both seasons, also receiving NL MVP votes in 2011.

1. Cole Hamels (25.6 WAR)

Far and away the leader among Phillies players in WAR during the decade, the homegrown Hamels was a primary cog in the starting rotation until being dealt away at the 2015 trade deadline. He won 66 games with a 3.07 ERA over 179 games, 178 of those starts. Hamels allowed 1,038 hits over 1,193.1 innings during the decade while with the club, striking out 1,158 opposing batters. He was a National League All-Star in both 2011 and 2012, and finished among the top eight in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2011, 2012, and 2014.

 

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Philadelphia Phillies current roster and payroll evaluation

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How the Phillies choose to utilize Scott Kingery in 2020 will be the key at a few positions

 

Welcome to the second episode and the first original topic episode for the ‘Ring the Bell’ podcast.

Today, I’ll be covering a pair of topics. We’ll take a look at the Philadelphia Phillies current roster makeup with an eye towards the weak spots and any holes that the team may need to fill this off-season.

Along that same vein, a second topic will be the current salary budget situation as the club enters this important off-season, and how this might affect their pursuit of free agent talent.

There is a lot to cover, so let’s jump right into it.

POSITION PLAYERS

A look at the best possible starting lineup made up of players currently on the roster, from my perspective, would go like this:

1B – Rhys Hoskins, 2B – Scott Kingery, SS – Jean Segura, 3B – Alec Bohm, C – J.T. Realmuto, LF – Andrew McCutchen, CF – Adam Haseley, RF – Bryce Harper

Other position players currently being carried on the Phillies 40-man roster include infielders Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco, and Arquimedes Gamboa. The club is also carrying outfielders Jay Bruce, Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, and Nick Williams. Also on the 40-man are catchers Andrew Knapp and Deivy Grullon.

There are three major question marks which new manager Joe Girardi is going to need to answer, and likely answer prior to spring training. He may need help from general manager Matt Klentak and the Phillies management group in finding those answers.

The questions come at the second base, third base, and center field positions on the diamond.

For a couple of years now, the Phillies have avoided handing over the everyday second base job to Scott Kingery, who won a minor league Gold Glove at the position during the 2017 campaign.

Kingery has proven a valuable and versatile asset while bouncing around from third to second to the outfield in his first two big-league seasons. But it has and remains my position that the Phillies are not getting, and will not get, the best they can from him until they give him the respect of settling into an everyday role on defense.

If Girardi hands the starting job at second to Kingery, that means the club will need to move on from Hernandez, who has been the starter at the position for the better part of the last five years. It solidifies the second base position for the next five years, but also opens up a couple of other situations that will need addressing.

Hernandez will turn 30 years of age next May and is due to become a free agent after next season. He is coming off a pair of mostly solid, if unspectacular, seasons.

Committing to Kingery at second means that center field is wide open. Are you comfortable with Haseley, the eight overall pick from the 2017 MLB Draft, as the starting center fielder for a club with championship aspirations? Frankly, I’m not.

I liked what I saw from Haseley, who turns 24 years of age in April, during a freshman campaign that saw him rise from Double-A to the big-leagues. But I did not see a player who was ready to be a key everyday regular on a World Series team. At least not right now.

However, let’s plug him in there as the starter for now. It would be nice if we could ever rely upon the dynamic Roman Quinn to handle the position. But that ship has sailed. He is simply too injury prone to ever count on at this point. About the best the Phillies could hope would be that the speedster and elite defender would somehow be healthy during September and into the postseason, when his skill set could prove valuable.

Another situation can be found at the hot corner. Franco, who has been the starter for most of the same time that Hernandez has been at second, clearly fell out of favor with former skipper Gabe Kapler.

While it remains unclear what Girardi or the higher-ups in the organization think about him, it might be a good time to say goodbye to Franco as well. He plays most of next season at age 27, arguably just entering his prime, and is under club contractual control for two more years.

The Phillies are likely going to have to make a call on both Hernandez and Franco very soon. The club has until December 2 to decide whether to offer salary arbitration to either or both. The call here would be to simply let them go into free agency. The other option would be to sign one or the other, or both, and then hope to cut a deal in spring training should everyone prove healthy and some other club have a need.

Moving on from Franco and giving Kingery the second base job means that you either hand the everyday role at third base to top offensive prospect Bohm, or you go after a veteran free agent. There are good reasons to go down either path.

Bohm appears ready to me. The 23-year-old has slashed .293/.368/.474 with 21 homers, 63 extra-base hits, and 98 RBIs across 698 minor league plate appearances during his first two seasons after being drafted third overall in 2018. He then starred in the Arizona Fall League and is currently the starting third baseman with Team USA in the Premier 12 tournament.

But if the Phillies brain trust wants to give Bohm most of another full season to consolidate his game in Triple-A, there are interesting free agent options available. We’ll look at those in a few minutes.

Another situation which needs resolution is that of Herrera. There is really no way that the Phillies fan base is going to accept his returning to the team after last year’s domestic violence incident. These are different times than even a decade ago.

Herrera needs to find a new home, and Klentak should be able to swing a deal, even if it’s just to bring back cash or a lower-level minor league prospect. If not, the team could just cut him. There are certainly justifiable baseball-only reasons, which is what it would take, to hand him his release. If it were up to me, he never steps foot in Clearwater.

The bench is a genuine area of concern. Saying a final farewell to Herrera, Hernandez, and Franco would cut ties with three key players from the losing teams of the last handful of seasons, but also creates depth issues.

Depth in the outfield comes from Bruce, Quinn, and Nick Williams – the latter of whom could also end up as a valuable trade piece. It would also include Haseley if the Phillies can find a better everyday answer in center. But there is virtually no depth on the infield, and it would be nice if the club could add a better offensive player as a veteran backup catcher than Knapp.

Building a truly competitive bench group will be yet another tricky mission for Klentak this off-season. It will take a creative combination of brave trades and wise free agent signings. I’ll give some suggestions before we wrap this up.

PITCHING NEEDS

In order to become genuine challengers to the world champion Washington Nationals and the two-time defending division champion Atlanta Braves in the National League East Division, the Phillies must add two new starting pitchers to their rotation for 2020 and beyond.

Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, and Jake Arrieta appear to be reliable. However, the latter two would probably best slot in as the 4-5 starter in a contending rotation at this point.

What the Phillies really need is a genuine top-of-the-rotation ace to front the group, and then a proven veteran mid-rotation starter who would come a bit more inexpensively.

In a recent piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bob Brookover quoted GM Mike Rizzo of the Nationals: “Starting pitching is king….for the marathon that is the season you better have some starters that you can run out there and give you a chance to win each and every day.

Klentak must bring in a pair of proven, winning veterans if he wants to elevate the Phillies rotation to a contending level. It’s my bet that principal owner John Middleton has already made this the single biggest off-season mandate, and is willing to again open his substantial wallet to make it happen.

The bullpen is trickier. It’s possible that the Phillies could do little or nothing here and end up with a competitive group in 2020.

Slated to return, assuming health, are the following arms: Right-handers Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Edgar Garcia, and newcomer Robert Stock. The best left-handers on-board are Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez.

They probably cannot hope to get David Robertson back until August at the earliest, and probably not until September. If they actually contend and he is available for the stretch run and postseason, that would be a “found arm” bonus.

Also in the mix would be former or spot-starters Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Enyel De Los Santos, Cole Irvin, and Ranger Saurez. And organizational arms in righty J.D. Hammer and lefty Austin Davis remain.

Velasquez and Pivetta are particularly interesting as potential bullpen weapons. While either could end up as trade bait, either or both could be extremely valuable if they bought into the role fully, and if new pitching coach Bryan Price can work his magic with them.

The Phillies could shop for a more proven bullpen arm to bolster the group, but that should not be a priority from my perspective. There will be a strong arm who floats through the early stages of free agency and ends up being more affordable than he might appear at first blush. There are plenty of arms already on hand to make something competitive work.

None of that discussion of the pitching takes into account either of the Phillies top two pitching prospects, Spencer Howard and Adonis Medina. The latter is already on the 40-man roster and is likely to be ready at some point in the second half of the 2020 season.

Howard could actually push for a role in the starting rotation as early as spring training, and looks like the most talented arm developed by the farm system since Cole Hamels.

SHOPPING LIST AND BUDGET

So, for me anyway, there is a lengthy “To-Do List’ for Matt Klentak this off-season, if the Phillies truly want to contend for a deep October 2020 postseason run.

Two starting pitchers and a starting center fielder. At least three proven veteran bench players – two infielders and a catcher – at least two of those with extra-base pop. And possibly a third baseman and bullpen arm. It’s a daunting task, but it’s what needs to be done in order to catch and pass Atlanta and Washington.

The Phillies currently have $108 million in 2020 salary commitments. Cot’s Contracts projects the club’s 40-man payroll hit for Competitive Balance Tax purposes at $131 million. This would leave them some $76 million below the $208 million CBT threshold.

While there are a few roster machinations which could slightly elevate those financial commitments, those are not substantial. The Phillies have a lot of money to spend if they want. The problem is that they have a lot of needs as well, and with veterans, those needs won’t come cheap.

There will be tremendous competition for Gerrit Cole, the best starting pitcher on the free agent market. With Scott Boras as his agent, you can expect Cole to remain unsigned through a lengthy winter process of shopping and city/team visits, similar to what we saw last winter with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

The Phillies will be in the hunt for Cole, but so are other big spenders like the Yankees, Angels, Padres, Astros and perhaps even the Dodgers.

Perhaps the more likely “Cole” that the Phillies could bring in would be former 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels. The lefty turns 36 years of age just two days after Christmas and is clearly past his prime. However, he knows how to pitch in Philly and remains popular with the fan base, is a proven veteran winner, and is a southpaw. On a reasonable three-year deal, he could slot into that #3-4 starter role.

Other starting pitching names the Phils will look into should include Stephen Strasburg at the top of the market, and mid-market arms like Zach Wheeler, Jake Odorizzi, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Rick Porcello. Perhaps even veteran lefty Madison Bumgarner.

Longtime Yankees reliever Dellin Betances might make for an intriguing addition as a new closer with the Phillies.

If the Phillies decide to go hard after Anthony Rendon as their new third baseman, they would likely be betting heavily that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will include the National League going to a Designated Hitter as soon as the 2021 season. This would allow for the club to fit in all of Rendon, Bohm, and Rhys Hoskins to their lineup.

Landing Rendon would likely take them out of the running for Cole or Strasburg, and perhaps put their pitching focus on a combination like Wheeler and Hamels, or any two of the more mid-market arms previously mentioned. Other potential third base targets would be Mike Moustakas and Josh Donaldson, each of whom would come far cheaper than Rendon.

An interesting outfield depth piece would be Corey Dickerson. The Phillies would certainly love to have him back, and judging by social media posts, so would the fan base. However, Dickerson is not an everyday center fielder. Neither is McCutchen at this stage of his career. So Dickerson would be more of a fourth outfielder. He will likely command too much money and will get an everyday role offered from someone.

An interesting catcher option could be former Phillies prospect Travis d’Arnaud. Turning 31 in February, he has the combination of offensive and defensive skills the club needs from a backup, and finally stayed healthy in 2019.

There really are no interesting center fielders on the free agent market this off-season, so if the Phillies do want a better option there, they are likely going to have to trade for it.

However, one roll-of-the-dice name could be Japanese free agent Shogo Akiyama. A star with Seibu in the Japanese Pacific League for the past nine years, Akiyama turns 32 years of age in April. He is a solid hitter with a career .301 average, and is a power-speed combination guy. The dice roll, of course, would be how his talent translates to America, especially considering he is moving past his prime.

Among the interesting veteran bench options in free agency, former Phillies outfielder Hunter Pence and an infielder who proved to be a Phillie killer a year ago, Starlin Castro. Also among free agent infielders are Jonathan Schoop, Eric Sogard and Jose Iglesias.

THE WRAP

There is much to be done this winter. But the mandate from Middleton and the fan base is clear: the 2020 season cannot be another .500, or God forbid, losing campaign. It is time to win, and Klentak knows it. His job is now squarely on the line.

Join me tomorrow when I’ll take a much more detailed look into the free agent market. We’ll go over specifics on those mentioned today and even more names who could slot into Phillies positional needs.

I hope you’ll come back and listen then. And in the meantime you can visit the @philliesbell sites on Twitter and Facebook for continuing Phillies information. Talk to you next time, and until then, God bless you and yours.

Philadelphia Phillies 2019 season review and player grades

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The 2019 season did not play out as hoped for Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies

 

The 2019 season opened with great expectations and much fanfare for the Philadelphia Phillies. After suffering through seven consecutive non-winning campaigns, this one was finally going to be different.

Phillies owner John Middleton opened up the purse strings in the off-season, allowing for the signing of big ticket free agents Bryce Harper, David Robertson, and Andrew McCutchen.

General manager Matt Klentak swung a few key trades, including a pair especially aimed at improving the everyday lineup by landing a pair of all-stars in shortstop Jean Segura and catcher J.T. Realmuto.

The season began with an exhilarating sweep of the defending NL East Division champion Atlanta Braves in front of raucous crowds at Citizens Bank Park. More than 41,000 showed up for each of those opening series victories.

After the Phillies took all three games by a combined 23-11 score, they appeared to be off and running towards greatness. Following a 7-2 start the club began to level off, finishing April with a 16-13 mark. But that still left them in first place with a one game lead.

In May, the Phillies picked up the pace a bit. They would go 17-11 in the month, and began the month of June still on top of the division while holding a three-game lead.

However, storm clouds had begun to roll in to South Philly. A bullpen that would become decimated by injuries was already weakened by the loss of Robertson. The veteran free agent signing, one of the top relief pitcher in baseball over the previous decade, would appear in just seven games, none after April 14.

Coming off a road trip to Chicago and Milwaukee in which the Phillies went 4-3 against a pair of tough opponents, center fielder Odubel Herrera was arrested for domestic assault on his 20-year-old girlfriend at an Atlantic City casino hotel. Herrera would end up suspended for the season by Major League Baseball.

Less than a week later in the finale of a series in San Diego in which the Phillies were swept by the host Padres, McCutchen suffered a torn left ACL and would also be done for the year. Within a matter of days, the Phillies had lost two-thirds of their starting outfield for the season.

That sweep in San Diego began a June swoon in which the club went just 11-16. Included was a seven-game losing streak during the middle of the month that would be the Phillies longest losing streak of the year. It was part of a stretch of 11 losses in 13 games that dropped them from first place with a two game lead to second place and 6.5 games behind the surging Braves.

The Phillies stabilized a bit in July, going 12-11 over the course of the month. But they were establishing a roller coaster pattern of wins and losses, never able to put together a five-game winning streak all year long.

On the fourth of July, the Washington Nationals pushed past the Phillies in the division standings. By the end of the month they were a half-game behind the Nats in what was becoming a multi-team battle for one of the two National League Wildcard playoff berths.

August was just more of the up and down ride on the 2019 roller coaster. The team went 13-14 during the month, only losing as many as three in a row on one occasion, but unable to win more than four in a row themselves.

The high-point of not only the month but the entire season may have come on August 15. It was certainly the most memorable game and moment.

The Phillies trailed the Cubs by 5-0 into the bottom of the 8th that night at Citizens Bank Park. They got on the scoreboard with a run, but still trailed by 5-1 as the game went to the bottom of the 9th inning.

The club pushed two runs across to make it a 5-3 game, and Harper stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and a chance to play the hero. Did he ever, delivering a walk-off grand slam home run for a 7-5 victory to pull the Phillies within a game of the Cubs in the Wildcard race.

However, they were unable to build any momentum from the uplifting victory. After dropping three of four to end August, the playoff berth that appeared a given during the season’s first couple of months was in serious jeopardy. In fact, the New York Mets had taken their turn in getting hot, pulling within a half-game of the Phillies in the standings as the month ended.

Still, the Phillies entered September with a legitimate chance. They still could have gotten hot – finally – and fought into the postseason. The club began September just three games behind the Chicago Cubs for the final Wildcard spot.

The Cubs would collapse to an 11-16 finish over that final month. Unfortunately, the Phillies would go just 12-16. Following a September 18 victory over Atlanta, the club was still six games over the .500 mark and now within two games of the final playoff berth.

Instead of surging, they slumped. The Phillies dropped eight of their next nine games to fall below the .500 mark for the first time all season and drop completely out of the playoff race. Winning two of their final three, the club would up with an eighth straight non-winning season, finishing exactly at 81-81.

The culprits? The major injuries to the bullpen and outfield were certainly significant contributors. Both the offensive attack and starting pitching were inconsistent all year long. Klentak’s inability to add an ace-level starting pitcher by the trade deadline was also a factor.

With the disappointing finish, the job security of Klentak, club president Andy MacPhail, and manager Gabe Kapler came into question. Many fans called for the heads of one or all of them on the internet and local sports talk radio.

Earlier this week, I gave my opinion as to what I believe Middleton should do in the Kapler and Klentak situations. I had already commented on MacPhail earlier in the summer. You can read each of those pieces at the links following this piece.

This should have been not only a winning season, but a playoff season. Now, whatever management team is in place will need to fill the holes and attempt to position the Phillies for a winning 2020 season.

The following are my grades for every player who appeared with the club during this 2019 campaign. I factored in not only statistical performance, but also the expectations for the player when the season began.

GRADE: A

Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto

GRADE: B

Aaron Nola, Drew Smyly, Adam Haseley, Andrew McCutchen, Scott Kingery, Corey Dickerson, Brad Miller, Hector Neris, Jose Alvarez, Nick Vincent

GRADE: C

Rhys Hoskins, Cesar Hernandez, Jean Segura, Maikel Franco, Zach Eflin, Ranger Suarez, Adam Morgan, Blake Parker, Seranthony Dominguez, Jared Hughes

GRADE: D

Andrew Knapp, Jay Bruce, Sean Rodriguez, Roman Quinn, Phil Gosselin, Jake Arrieta, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, Edgar Garcia, Mike Morin, J.D. Hammer

GRADE: F

Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Jason Vargas, Juan Nicasio, Nick Pivetta, Cole Irvin, Austin Davis, Pat Neshek, Edubray Ramos

GRADE: I (incomplete)

Nick Williams, Logan Morrison, Jose Pirela, Deivy Grullon, Mitch Walding, Dylan Cozens, Rob Brantly, Enyel De Los Santos, David Robertson, Drew Anderson, Tommy Hunter, Victor Arano, Fernando Salas, Yacksel Rios

 

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What the Phillies should do with Matt Klentak for 2020

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Klentak traded for Realmuto prior to the 2019 season

 

The Philadelphia Phillies announced in late October 2015 the hiring of then 35-year-old Matt Klentak as their new general manager. Despite his relative youth, Klentak had an impressive volume of experience in baseball.

Like many of us, he played the game as a kid. But he was also good enough to continue in the game at the collegiate level, playing all four years at Dartmouth, including the final three as their starting shortstop.

After graduating with his Economics degree, Klentak was hired by the Colorado Rockies in 2003. The following year he moved on to work in the Labor Relations Department of Major League Baseball.

In 2008, Klentak was hired by the Baltimore Orioles as their Director of Baseball Operations. That hiring was made by the Orioles then-President Andy MacPhail, whom Klentak had impressed while helping work on the 2006 MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Neither MacPhail nor Klentak had their contracts renewed by Baltimore following the 2011 season. However, Klentak was not out of work for long, hired that off-season by the Los Angeles Angels as their assistant general manager.

The Halos had a chance to hire Klentak as their GM when the position opened in the midst of the 2015 season but opted to go in another direction. During that same summer, MacPhail joined the Phillies organization.

When that 2015 season ended, MacPhail ascended to the team president position with the Phillies. One of his first orders of business was to hire his old Orioles protege Klentak as the Phillies new general manager.

During this past summer it was revealed in the media that both MacPhail and Klentak had recently received contract extensions. Those extensions would keep MacPhail in his role through 2021, and Klentak in his position through the 2022 season.

Despite those contracts there has been a vocal backlash against both MacPhail and Klentak from an increasingly frustrated Phillies fan base.

Calls have grown over recent weeks as the team fell out of playoff contention for a complete change in the Phillies decision-making regime. Those changes included not only the president and GM, but also on down to manager Gabe Kapler, whose situation I addressed in a piece just yesterday.

I already addressed the situation regarding MacPhail months ago and have repeatedly and publicly called for his ouster. No change in either the GM or managerial positions is going to matter in improving the club over the long haul without a change at the very top.

So, the question today is, should the Phillies retain Matt Klentak as their general manager?

In evaluating Klentak’s job performance, it is important to understand that the position includes a number of responsibilities that few fans ever see or care about. Let’s assume he is experienced enough to handle those responsibilities competently.

What matters to the fan base is how Klentak performs in actually bringing talent to the baseball organization, especially to the team at the big-league level. In a city like Philadelphia, winning is what matters more than anything.

Most successful rebuilding operations take roughly four years before yielding success. In the four years of the MacPhail-Klentak regime, the Phillies have accumulated an overall 298-350 record. They have not enjoyed a single winning season, let alone reached the MLB playoffs.

Not only that, but the organization appears to have deteriorated at the minor league level as well. In the summer of 2015, the Phillies were widely considered to have a top ten organization where minor league talent was concerned.

This summer, after four years of the MacPhail-Klentak regime making picks in the MLB Draft and bringing in prospects to the system through other methods including via trades and the July 2nd international signing period, the Phillies system is rated near the bottom by most respected evaluators.

Not all of that failure is on Klentak. The fact is that he is restricted in some ways by the need to answer to and coordinate with MacPhail and the scouting staff on the draft and amateur signings process.

There was also a reluctance by Middleton, as advised by MacPhail, to make money available for signing big-name free agents during those first few years.

However, that financial restriction was very publicly lifted last fall when Middleton announced that the Phillies were, as reported by ESPN, “…going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.

So, let’s simply evaluate Klentak on his actual performance since that time in adding talent to the big-league club, and then in reinforcing the team when talent shortfalls became obvious and injuries struck.

The off-season prior to 2019 was considered a success after Klentak signed free agents Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen for the outfield and traded for shortstop Jean Segura and catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Those four moves dramatically increased both the experience and leadership levels of the ball club, as well as the proven talent level available to Kapler in the everyday lineup.

Klentak did not entirely ignore the pitching situation either. He made an astute under-the-radar trade early last December, swapping out relief pitcher Luis Garcia to the Angels for southpaw reliever Jose Alvarez.

Also, in the Segura trade to Seattle, Klentak received veteran right-hander Juan Nicasio, who had briefly pitched with the Phillies in the 2017 campaign.

Finally, in early January he signed one of the best and most consistent relief pitchers of the last decade as a free agent in David Robertson.

The Phillies roster was obviously improved as the regular season got underway, and with the new offensive firepower and deeper bullpen, the club was picked as a postseason favorite by many prognosticators.

Almost from the outset, that bullpen depth was tested by repeated injuries. At various points over the next few weeks and months the Phillies would lose a parade of relievers for the season.

Robertson, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Victor Arano, Seranthony Dominguez. All were expected to be key contributors. The five would combine for just 52 total appearances, less than a full season worth of work.

In late May, Odubel Herrera was lost in a completely unexpected manner after he was arrested for domestic battery on his 20-year-old girlfriend in an Atlantic City hotel room. Herrera would be suspended by Major League Baseball and was done for the entire season.

Within days of that blow to the lineup, the Phillies would also lose McCutchen for the season due to a devastating knee injury and subsequent surgery. They would receive a combined 98 games worth of play from their anticipated starting left and center fielders.

Klentak tried to help fix the Phillies bench with the addition of veteran Jay Bruce.

Klentak did make various moves over the course of the season in attempts to bolster his bench and then cover for those losses to the starting lineup. Those included trades for veteran outfielders Jay Bruce and Corey Dickerson, the purchase of utility man Brad Miller, and the signing of free agent Logan Morrison.

Unfortunately, both Bruce and Dickerson would be lost to the team for large chunks of the season after each initially provided valuable contributions to the club as it struggled to remain in contention.

It would also have been Klentak’s decision to allow rookie Adam Haseley, the club’s first round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, an opportunity to go from Double-A to the big-leagues at age 23 in just his second full year of professional ball to help cover for those outfield injuries.

There were offensive inconsistencies in both approach and results from the players who were actually in the lineup. Klentak acted to address that situation with the removal of hitting coach John Mallee in mid-season.

Trying to cover for the bullpen losses, Klentak purchased reliever Mike Morin, picked up Jared Hughes off waivers, and signed free agents Blake Parker, Fernando Salas, and Nick Vincent.

Salas pitched in just three games. But the other four became key members of the bullpen, generally making solid contributions over the season’s final couple of months. The foursome combined to pitch in 91 games, allowing 72 hits over 90 innings with an 83/26 K:BB ratio.

The one area of the ball club that was never properly addressed was the starting pitching rotation. Management, including Klentak, made a bet on the incumbent group of pitchers to improve in the 2019 season. It didn’t happen.

Aaron Nola failed to reproduce his Cy Young contending season of a year ago. Jake Arrieta just plain failed, and then was lost due to injury after 24 starts.

Vince Velasquez was again unable to maintain consistency in a starting role, especially in lasting deep into his outings. Nick Pivetta pitched so poorly that he was eventually relegated to the bullpen on a full-time basis. Jerad Eickhoff returned from injury, then got injured again.

Perhaps the one starter who exceeded expectations was Zach Eflin. Around a horrendous six-start stretch from late June through late July that got him also relegated to the pen, Eflin provided an impressive opening and closing stretch.

Lefty Drew Smyly was a mostly positive addition to the Phillies rotation by Klentak.

Klentak attempted to cover for the losses of Arrieta and Eickhoff and the ineffectiveness of Pivetta by signing Drew Smyly and trading for Jason Vargas in July. That pair of left-handers would make 23 combined starts with the Phillies over the last two months.

Together, Smyly and Vargas went 4-6 and allowed 122 hits over 118 innings with a 111/45 K:BB ratio. Essentially the two provided back-end rotation production when what the team really needed was at least one ace-level starter for the playoff push.

The failure to add at least one high caliber starting pitcher, and more preferably two, was perhaps the single most important and decisive factor in the Phillies ultimately falling short of a 2019 postseason berth.

The loss of McCutchen and Herrera to the lineup, and later of Bruce, Dickerson, and Roman Quinn. The losses of Robertson and the others in the bullpen. Backslide seasons from Nola, Pivetta, Rhys Hoskins, and Maikel Franco. The mediocre production provided by Segura. You simply cannot put any of that on Klentak.

You cannot make a valid argument that the GM didn’t make moves trying to plug the holes in the lineup, on the bench, and in the bullpen. The one area where you can legitimately criticize is the starting rotation. Vargas just wasn’t good enough.

Dallas Keuchel went to division rival Atlanta for reasonable money as a free agent. Marcus Stroman went to the division rival Mets for a reasonable return that the Phillies may have been able to beat earlier by putting a package together led by pitching prospect Adonis Medina.

You can make a legitimate argument that even had they landed either of those two arms rather than doing the Vargas deal, the Phillies might still have fallen short of the postseason. Perhaps. But they would have enjoyed a far better chance.

The argument that over four years, Klentak has failed to put together a winning organization at the big-league level is a legitimate one. However, that it didn’t happen this year was largely due to situations beyond his control. His efforts to plug those holes were largely commendable.

However, the failure to build a farm system that is not ready to inject talent in waves to the Phillies, or to be used as truly enticing trade assets, is problematic. That is especially so when considering the young talent amassed by all of their rivals in the National League East Division.

For me, the time is now for change at the top of the Philadelphia Phillies organization. That begins with club president Andy MacPhail. But it also extends to general manager Matt Klentak. As the top decision makers, they have failed the organization. Both need to go.

Philadelphia native Chaim Bloom of the Tampa Bay Rays would be my choice to run the Phillies baseball operations.

My choice to replace MacPhail would be Philly native Chaim Bloom, a longtime executive with the consistently over-achieving Tampa Bay Rays organization despite being just 36 years of age.

My gut tells me that Middleton won’t be able to admit his mistake in granting them both an early contract extension and throw in the towel on either at this point. Fans will be disappointed by the return of the entire Phillies decision-making regime for 2020.

However, if there were to be such a change at the top, you would likely see Kapler either go as well, or find himself seriously compromised as a new regime took control, perhaps wanting to bring in their own man to take over in the dugout.

There is simply too much talk about the Phillies front office and management in the media and among the fan base for Middleton to leave the situation go unaddressed. Expect there to be some announcement this week or next on the 2020 status of MacPhail, Klentak, and Kapler.

As the MLB trade deadline approaches, Phillies center field target emerges

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Jackie Bradley Jr would slide perfectly into Phillies center field position

 

As the July 31 trade deadline approaches in Major League Baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies have a number of holes that could use filling if the club wants to seriously take a run at the 2019 postseason.

The struggles of the pitching staff are well known to all Phillies fans. The starting rotation could use two more reliable, veteran arms. The bullpen, struggling through numerous injuries all season, could use better options as well.
Among the reserve position players, a more reliable, veteran backup is needed at catcher. In addition, the club could use a more talented veteran bat with some pop than is currently available off the bench for manager Gabe Kapler.
The glaring need in the everyday lineup can be found out in center field. That is the one position that immediately jumps out as an area where improvement is needed.
During this season, the Phillies suffered the unexpected loss of the incumbent starter, Odubel Herrera, to his legal troubles and league suspension stemming from a domestic violence incident. It is not likely that he is ever going to appear in a Phillies uniform again, at least not if the fan base has anything to say about it.
Andrew McCutchen sliding over was a possibility, and the veteran actually filled in a number of games when Herrera had suffered an April injury. But McCutchen was also lost for the season when he suffered an ugly knee injury which required surgery. He will not return until spring training of next year.
Kapler has been trying to get by with a combination of the perpetually out-of-position Scott Kingery and the perpetually injured Roman Quinn. Also, youngster Adam Haseley has been given a shot when healthy.
But if the Phillies are serious about getting to the 2019 postseason and making a legitimate further run by 2020, they need a more proven answer in center field. Enter my suggestion as a potential trade target, Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bradley is a 29-year-old Virginia native who was the Red Sox pick at 40th overall in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of South Carolina. He made his big-league debut in the 2013 season, and is now in his fourth season as Boston’s full-time starter in center field.
He is not a big hitter, carrying a career slash line of just .237/.319/.405 over nearly 3,000 plate appearances. He has demonstrated some pop in the past, with a 26 homer-87 RBI campaign during his lone AL All-Star season back in 2016. He has modest speed, topping off with 17 stolen bases a year ago.
What Bradley brings to the Red Sox, and what he would bring to the Phillies were they to find a deal, is truly elite defense in the middle of the outfield. You see, for my money, Bradley is as good a defensive center fielder as I have ever seen. That is not a statement to be taken lightly when I got to see Garry Maddox roam the outfield every day for a decade in a Phillies uniform.
Bradley has won just one Gold Glove Award. That came for his work last year. And that is a flat-out crime, no disrespect to players such as Byron Buxton, Kevin Kiermaier, Brett GardnerKole Calhoun or Nick Markakis, each of whom has taken home one of those plaques awarded in the American League since the 2014 season.
With a defensive outfield of McCutchen in left, Bradley in center, and Bryce Harper in right, the 2020 Philadelphia Phillies would put one of the top defensive groups in the game out there day after day. This season, Bradley would help cover for some of left fielder Jay Bruce‘s defensive shortcomings.
On a championship contender with multiple offensive weapons, a defensive whiz as good as Bradley can be part of the lineup. The Phillies should have those weapons already in place with Harper, McCutchen and Bruce joining shortstop Jean Segura, catcher J.T. Realmuto, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, second baseman Scott Kingery and third baseman Maikel Franco – or top prospect Alec Bohm at the hot corner.
The present group has not produced as consistently as they are capable of during this 2019 season. I still expect them to elevate their individual and collective games over the final two and a half months. Much more should certainly be expected of them over the longer haul in the next couple of years.
Bradley can be a free agent after the 2020 season. The Phillies would have him for a run this year and next, unless they chose to extend him. If the Phillies could ink Bradley to a two-year extension, carrying him through 2022 and his age 32 season, that could be ideal.
The top overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft, Mickey Moniak, would turn just 24-years-old in May of 2022. He is a center fielder who has begun to look like a potential big-league regular. Should that development path continue at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, then Moniak may be ready. But spending a year serving as a backup to acclimate could also prove valuable.
As a price for Bradley, the Red Sox, like most other clubs, would probably be looking at young pitching. Perhaps a combination of Adonis Medina with one of the more experienced arms such as Nick Pivetta or Vince Velasquez would get it done.
Why would Boston do it? First, the Red Sox can cover the position by sliding over left fielder Andrew Benintendi, who could be a strong center fielder in his own right. In return for a player who they could lose to free agency 15 months from now they would get a pair of live arms.
The Red Sox could call up one of the top power bats in the minor leagues, Bobby Dalbec, to play in left with the Green Monster behind him. Or Dalbec could play first, with Michael Chavis flipping to left. Boston could also shop for a short-term power bat to man the position.
Boston is currently sitting in third place in the American League East Division, nine games behind the arch-rival New York Yankees. They are 1.5 out as part of a five-team scrum within three games of one another in the AL Wildcard race.
The Phillies need more than this, I know. They still have to go out and get better quality pitching of their own. That is going to prove extremely difficult in the present market, with a number of contenders looking for the same thing, a few of whom seem better positioned to land the more talented and experienced available arms.
Fill in your holes. Try to make a run in 2019, but also keep an eye towards 2020 and the following couple of seasons as well. That is what a Bradley deal would be all about. Fill that center field hole with a truly elite defender, and move on to  filling the next hole. Pick up the phone, Matt Klentak, and give Boston GM Dave Dombrowski a call.