Tag Archives: Paul Goldschmidt

Phillies welcome in the Saint Louis Cardinals for three late-May games

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The Saint Louis Cardinals visit Philly for three late-May games

Saint Louis Cardinals (26-26) of the NL Central Division in a three-game series scheduled to begin on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies remain on top of the NL East Division standings by 1.5 games, two in the loss column, over the Atlanta Braves. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have been slumping, falling to four games off the pace set by their arch-rival Chicago Cubs.
Earlier this month, the Phillies took two of three games from the Cards in a series at Busch Stadium. Saint Louis won the opener in a 6-0 shutout, then the Phils stormed back for 11-1 and 5-0 wins to take the series.
After a victory on May 1 over the Washington Nationals, the Cardinals sat 10 games over the .500 mark and three games up in their division. But since that time they have collapsed, dropping 16 of their last 22 games.
The main culprit has been their anemic offensive attack, which has put more than four runs on the scoreboard just nine times in that stretch. However, their pitching staff has also allowed the opposition to score in double-digits four times during what has turned into a nightmarish month of May.
The Cardinals scoring offense has produced similar results to the Phillies over the full course of the season. They are averaging exactly five runs scored per game, while the Phillies average is at 4.96 per game.
Saint Louis is 7th and the Phillies 8th ranked in the National League in OPS, and the Cards have slugged three more home runs. They are also much more prone to run, ranking in a tie for 2nd in the NL in stolen bases with 30, while the Phillies 17 steals puts them near the bottom of the league.
The Cardinals pitching staff is 5th in the NL in batting average against (.241), far better than the Phillies staff (.259) rank of 14th in the league. Neither staff is particularly overpowering, with the Phillies hurlers ranking 12th and the Cardinals pitchers 13th in the NL in strikeouts.
I’ve been talking for a couple of weeks now about this crucible of a schedule stretch which the Phillies are currently navigating their way through. To this point they have held their own, going 8-6 against tough opposition over the last two weeks.
This grueling stretch of games against talented teams will head back out on the road following this brief home series with Saint Louis. The Phillies will travel out to face the National League’s top team and the winners of the last two NL pennants, the Los Angeles Dodgers, over the weekend. The stretch will then end early next week with three games at improved San Diego.
Winning series. That’s what it continues to be all about for these 2019 Phillies. Taking at least two of three here against Saint Louis will be important before heading out to the west coast.

SAINT LOUIS CARDINALS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

  • Paul Goldschmidt: The 31-year-old first baseman was traded from Arizona to Saint Louis back in December for three prospects and a draft pick. He is slashing .264/.357/.433 and is second on the club with 10 homers. An NL All-Star for the last six straight seasons. Runner-up for the NL MVP in both 2013 and 2015, 3rd in voting in 2017. Three-time Gold Glover and four-time Silver Slugger Award winner.
  • Marcell Ozuna: The 28-year-old right fielder was acquired during the Miami Marlins fire sale back in December 2017 for four prospects. He is slashing .230/.316/.508 and leads the club with 14 homers and 45 RBIs.
  • Paul DeJong: A 25-year-old shortstop who was runner-up for the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year Award, DeJong has broken out as a potential All-Star this season. He is slashing .295/.396/.518 and has been the club’s most consistent offensive performer, leading the team with 26 extra-base hits and 39 runs scored.

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Yadier Molina: The perennial NL All-Star and possible future Hall of Famer turnes 37-years-old in mid-July. He has been an NL All-Star in nine of the last 10 seasons, and won eight Gold Gloves at catcher over the last 11 years. Molina is hitting .317 over the course of his big-league career against the Phillies, and his 11 homers against them are the most he has hit against any non-divisional opponent. He is hitting .309 with seven of those homers coming at Citizens Bank Park.

SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

  • Adam Wainwright (37): 4-4, 4.82 ERA, 1.414 WHIP, 51 hits allowed over 52.1 IP including 8 HR with a 41/23 K:BB
  • Genesis Cabrera (22): a native of the Dominican Republic, this will be his big-league debut.
  • Dakota Hudson (24): 3-3, 4.22 ERA, 1.631 WHIP, 63 hits over 53.1 IP including 9 HR with a 38/24/K:BB

KEY BENCH & BULLPEN PIECES

  • Harrison Bader: 25-year-old righty bat outfielder slashing .265/.379/.449
  • Matt Wieters: 33-year-old backup catcher formerly starter with Orioles is slashing .333/.346/.458
  • Michael Wacha: 27-year-old righty was just moved to the bullpen after making nine starts
  • Jordan Hicks: 22-year-old second-year righty has 10 Saves as the closer, with a 4.24 ERA and 1.235 WHIP
  • John Gant: 26-year-old righty having strong season with 1.26 ERA, 0.698 WHIP, 31/8 K:BB over 28.2 IP
  • John Brebbia: 29-year old righty also strong with a 1.61 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, 33/10 K:BB over 28 IP
  • Andrew Miller: 34-year-old lefty famous with Indians, 4.19 ERA, 1.397 WHIP, 25/10 K:BB over 19.1 IP

THE SKIPPER

Mike Shildt is in his second season at the helm after taking over around the mid-point of last season. He took over from longtime skipper Mike Matheny with the club just a game over the .500 mark in third place and 7.5 out in the division. Club went 41-28 under his guidance, finishing just three games out of an NL Wildcard berth.
The 50-year old Schildt was a scout and minor league coach in the Cardinals organziation. He was given a chance to  manage with their short-season affiliates back in 2009 and rose through their organizational and coaching ranks, becoming third base coach in Saint Louis in 2017. Schildt was named the interim manager after Matheny was fired, and then in late August 2018 was given a three-year contract and became the permanent skipper.

PHILLY SERIES WEATHER REPORT

This could be a touch-and-go series as far as the Philadelphia weather goes. There is a 90% chance of precipitation on Tuesday and 80% on Wednesday, dropping to 40% or less on Thursday. There is a strong chance of storms just prior to game time for Tuesday’s opener, and then a 90-95% chance of thunderstorms between 7-9pm.
For Wednesday, there is a 60% chance of storms at the scheduled first-pitch time after an afternoon of rain. However, once that system passes the chances or precipitation drop to 15% by 8pm. Thursday looks fine at this point, but with a chance of afternoon storms.

2019 MLB preview and predictions

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Paul Goldschmidt powers up the Saint Louis Cardinals for 2019

 

With the 2019 Grapefruit and Cactus League schedules drawing to a close this week, all eyes are now squarely focused on Opening Day. All 30 teams in Major League Baseball will be playing in the regular season on Thursday.

How will superstars such as Bryce Harper with the Philadelphia Phillies, Manny Machado with the San Diego Padres, and Paul Goldschmidt with the Saint Louis Cardinals fare in their new homes? Which teams will become surprise contenders? Which major injuries will derail a team’s postseason hopes?
Each new MLB campaign comes with its own unique storylines. This year will be no different. Over the coming six months there will be excitement, drama, heartbreak, and controversy as each club plays out its 162-game schedule.
For years now I’ve been looking into my own personal crystal ball to make predictions for MLB’s division winners and individual award winners as well as my picks for the postseason.
A year ago in my 2018 MLB Preview and Predictions piece, I got four of the six divisions correct. I missed out on the Milwaukee Brewers edging my Chicago Cubs pick for the NL Central, as well as the Atlanta Braves, who I had for third place in the NL East.
My NL Wildcards were those Brewers and the Colorado Rockies. So the Braves were the only NL playoff team that I missed. In the AL, I had the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels as those Wildcard teams. Right divison, wrong team, as the Oakland Athletics actually captured an AL Wildcard spot instead of those Halos.
For the Fall Classic, I predicted that the defending champion Houston Astros would repeat by downing the Cubs in five games in a match-up between the two previous World Series titlists.
Those Cubs would end up losing a thrilling 2-1 NL Wildcard Game to the Rockies at Wrigley Field. The Astros returned to the ALCS, but were eliminated in five games by the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
Since I am writing for a Phillies-centric site, a bit of a disclaimer: this piece is not Phillies-centric. There will be plenty of times here at Phillies Nation where we cover the wider story of Major League Baseball. As for our favorite home nine, well, you are going to have to look elsewhere if you want to find a “homer” World Series prediction. At least this year.
Now time to reveal my predictions for the upcoming 2019 season. As always, I would love to hear your own picks in the comments section or on social media. Play ball!

2019 NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS

MOST VALUABLE PLAYERPaul Goldschmidt, Saint Louis
Contenders: Bryce Harper PHI, Nolan Arenado COL, Christian Yelich MIL, Ronald Acuna ATL, Cody Bellinger LAD
CY YOUNG AWARDStephen Strasburg, Washington
Contenders: Max Scherzer WAS, Noah Syndergaard NYM, Jack Flaherty STL, Aaron Nola PHI, Patrick Corbin WAS
ROOKIE OF THE YEARVictor Robles, Washington
Contenders: Alex Reyes STL, Fernando Tatis Jr. SD, Nick Senzel CIN, Luis Urias SD, Chris Paddack SD
MANAGER OF THE YEARDave Martinez, Washington
Contenders: Joe Maddon CHC, Dave Roberts LAD, Dave Martinez WAS, Gabe Kapler PHI
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEARCorey Seager, Los Angeles
Contenders: Yu Darvish CHI, Alex Reyes STL, Josh Donaldson ATL, Andrew Miller STL
2019 AMERICAN LEAGUE AWARD WINNERS
MOST VALUABLE PLAYERCarlos Correa, Houston
Contenders: Giancarlo Stanton NYY, Mike Trout LAA, Mookie Betts BOS, Alex Bregman HOU, Francisco Lindor CLE
CY YOUNG AWARDChris Sale, Boston
Contenders: Gerrit Cole HOU, Blake Snell TB, Justin Verlander HOU, Trevor Bauer CLE, James Paxton NYY
ROOKIE OF THE YEAREloy Jimenez, Chicago
Contenders: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.TOR, Josh James HOU, Danny Jansen TOR, Yusei KikuchiSEA
MANAGER OF THE YEARBrad Ausmus, Los Angeles
Contenders: Aaron Boone NYY, A.J. Hinch HOU, Bob Melvin OAK, Kevin Cash TB, Alex CoraBOS, Terry Francona, CLE
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEARByron Buxton, Minnesota
Contenders: Gary Sanchez NYY, Miguel Cabrera DET, Aaron Sanchez TOR, Jonathan Schoop MIN
2019 MLB DIVISIONAL & WILDCARD PREDICTIONS
NATIONAL LEAGUE
NL EAST: Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York, Miami
Since their franchise moved to Washington, the Phillies and Nationals have never been involved in a genuine NL East campaign where both were contenders. That changes this year and likely for years to come, and the Harper move adds a next level of spice to the budding arch-rivalry. But the Braves also have a lot of good young talent. I’ve been referring to the Mets as the “Mess” for years. Something always seems to go wrong, and until they prove it on the field, I’ll say the same this year. The Marlins are simply a rebuilding non-factor for the most part. This should prove to be a division where key injuries go a long way towards deciding things each year for awhile.
NL CENTRAL: Saint Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh
A contending Cardinals team is nearly as certain as death and taxes. The arch-rival Cubs and defending division champ Brew Crew should each again be strong. This looks a bit like the NL East to me, a real three-team dog fight that may only be settled by key injuries and big September head-to-head battles. The Reds are better, but not good enough. The Bucs also have talent, just not enough to keep up with the leaders here. This could well be baseball’s “black and blue” division in 2019, with no truly easy divisional opponents.
NL WEST: Los Angeles, Colorado, San Diego, Arizona, San Francisco
The Dodgers have won six straight divisional crowns and eight of the last 11 in the west. You want to be the best? Gotta beat the best. The Rockies are talented and the Padres are coming, but Los Angeles still looks to me like they have enough of everything – assuming health of their key performers. The Dbacks and Giants may need to start more seriously thinking about major rebuilding plans or face years of non-contention here.
NL WILDCARDS: Philadelphia, Chicago – welcome back to the MLB postseason, Phillies Nation! Oh, and how would you like to try an Aaron Nola – Cole Hamels winner-take-all pitching match-up on for size?
AMERICAN LEAGUE
AL EAST: Boston, New York, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Baltimore
The Bosox and Yankees could each well win 100 games again this year. Last year, Boston’s 108 victories gave them an eight-game cushion on their arch-rivals. I think it will be much closer this time around. The Rays almost always put up more of a fight than anyone believes, so much so that we now expect it. The Jays have possibilities down the road, but not in 2019. If you are looking for a current sad-sack story in the AL, well, there should prove to be plenty of seats available all summer at gorgeous Camden Yards in Baltimore. It’s worth the ride, Philly.
AL CENTRAL: Cleveland, Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City
I truly believe that they are no longer at the level of the American League’s ‘Big Three’ ball clubs. But something tells me that Terry Francona is once again going to get the most out of his team. The Twins have been the fashionable pick as a surprise American League contender. If that turns out true, I believe it will have to be for a Wildcard berth. The Chisox have a ton of serious young talent coming, but it may take another couple of years to pull it all together. I just don’t see any scenario where either the Tigers or Royals contend here for the next few years.
AL WEST: Houston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, Texas
The Astros won the first World Series in franchise history two years ago, were good enough to win it last year, and remain one of the favorites in 2019. Everyone else here is fighting for Wildcard relevance. With Mike Trout locked up for the rest of his career, look for the Angels to do everything in their power to start putting more pieces in place around him to truly contend. The A’s over-achieved last year. I don’t believe in them doing it again at that level. And there is just not enough talent in either Seattle or Texas for a playoff push, and may not be for a few years to come.
AL WILDCARDS: New York, Los Angeles
2019 MLB PLAYOFFS & WORLD SERIES
Two years ago, I predicted that the Washington Nationals would finally end years of postseason frustration and capture the first-ever World Series title in franchise history, defeating the Boston Red Sox in seven games. It didn’t happen as the Nats were edged out by the Cubs in a five-game NLDS.
Now with Harper gone to the division-rival Phillies, some might think that the Nationals best chances to win are over. Not so. There is plenty of talent and veteran leadership remaining in the nation’s capital. What was already the best starting rotation in the NL may have gotten better and deeper. And the Nats will replace Harper with the dynamic Robles, my NL Rookie of the Year choice.
I’m going to pick Washington to finally win a playoff series. It will be the first since the move to D.C. from Montreal, and only the second in franchise history. Not only that, but the Nats take it a step further, finally pushing their way into the Fall Classic behind strong pitching and a versatile lineup.
After the Phillies and Aaron Nola win the NL Wildcard Game over the Cubs the local crew is dispatched in an emotional NLDS by the Nationals. The Cardinals knock the Dodgers off the National League perch. And then the Nats take out Saint Louis in the NLCS.
The American League should once again be dominated by a Big Three made up of the defending world champion Boston Red Sox, their arch-rivals the New York Yankees, and the 2017 champion Houston Astros.
I’ll be stunned if the American League pennant winner does not come from one of those three ball clubs. Honestly, I cannot pick between those three. The Yanks overpower Mike Trout and the Angels in the AL Wildcard Game, then dispatch the Astros in an ALDS. The rival Bosox take out the Indians in the other ALDS, setting up a classic rivalry ALCS.
Picking a winner in a Yankees-Red Sox series is always a tricky proposition. But repeating is very difficult, and something is telling me that the Yanks, who have not been back to the World Series since their 2009 win a decade ago over the Phillies, are ready to power their way back to the Fall Classic.
And then, much to the chagrin of Harper and the Phillies, I am going to predict that the Washington Nationals erase their name from the list of seven MLB teams to never win a World Series. Call it Washington in six games over the Bronx Bombers.
And there we have it, my 2019 Major League Baseball preview and predictions. Feel free to leave your own picks in the comments section, and let’s get ready to play ball.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as Matt Veasey’s 2019 Major League Baseball preview and predictions

Talks fall apart between Phillies and Dbacks on Paul Goldschmidt

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Goldschmidt is one of baseball’s most dynamic hitters but may not fit Phillies needs

Another day, another rumor involving the Philadelphia Phillies and an available big name ball player. This time that player is Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

It was earlier this month that I first wrote here at Phillies Nation on the Phillies interest in Goldschmidt. At that time the club was being considered a “best fit” by the staff at Sports Illustrated for such a deal.
Goldschmidt is due to become a free agent following the 2019 season. The Dbacks could wait and see what unfolds during that 2019 campaign before making any final decision on trading their superstar. If they aren’t in contention, they would likely look to move him as the non-waiver deadline approaches next July.

Dealing him now would yield a greater package in return. Whatever team was able to obtain Goldschmidt would have his services for the entirety of that 2019 season if they desire and would have a chance to woo him into signing a longer-term deal.

However, there appears to have been a snag in the Phillies talks with Arizona. The report on the potential deal and that snag came from insider Jayson Stark of The Athletic today via Twitter:
You can add the to the list of teams that spoke with the about Paul Goldschmidt.

A source says the teams discussed a package that would have included Zach Eflin & several young players. But the deal fell apart when the Phillies tried to add Carlos Santana

420 people are talking about this

As Stark stated, pitcher Zach Eflin was one piece in the conversations between Phillies GM Matt Klentak and his counterpart in Arizona, Mike Hazen.
No specific names of the “young players” discussed was made available. You could certainly speculate and not likely be far off to feel that it was some combination of Maikel FrancoJ.P. Crawford, and any combination of outfielders Aaron AltherrNick Williams, or Roman Quinn.
What specifically regarding Santana might have caused any Phillies-Dbacks deal to fall apart is open for speculation. Perhaps it was Klentak trying to push Hazen to take on some of Santana’s contract. He is owed $40 million over the next two seasons. Goldschmidt is due to make $14.5 million next year.
Dealing Santana is more and more becoming obviously high on the Phillies list of priorities. Shedding any or all of the money owed to him over the next two years would certainly help the club financially. They would love to spend that money in other places, and are already looking to return Rhys Hoskins to first base.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Phillies talks on Paul Goldschmidt reportedly fall apart over Carlos Santana

Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Paul Goldschmidt among possible Phillies trade targets

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Cleveland willing to entertain offers for veterans including ace Corey Kluber

Much of the talk surrounding the Philadelphia Phillies during these early days of the Hot Stove season has understandably centered on some of the big-name free agents.

The Phillies have a great deal of money available to spend, and so they should be major players for some of the top available talents. However, free agency is just one way in which the team can improve itself.
Earlier this week, Scott Lauber at Philly.com quoted Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, a man squarely on the hot seat this off-season, in regards to the team’s approach:
“Part of the fun of this offseason is we don’t know which way we’re going to go. It could be a starter. It could be a reliever. It could be a hitter. It could be a defender. It could be some combination of that. It could be trades. It could be free agency. To be able to consider any opportunity is exciting.”
The staff at Sports Illustrated released a piece on Friday in which they explored some high-profile names reportedly on the trade block, and then tried to match those players with teams they felt were “Best Fits” for the players.
The Phillies were listed as such in relation to one big bat and a pair of star pitchers. The bat is that of Arizona Diamondbacks impact first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. The pitchers were right-handers Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, publicly placed on the trade block by the Cleveland Indians.

As stated by SI, Goldschmidt would “…easily improve any lineup of any contender. From here, the best fits look to be the Yankees, Rockies, Nationals, and Phillies, with the Astros a potential dark-horse.
Goldschmidt turned 31-years-old in September, so will play at that age all of next season. He is signed through next season at $14.5 million, a bargain for the level of production that his big right-handed bat yields.
Goldschmidt was born in the area in Wilmington, Delaware but he grew up in Texas. Over his eight seasons, ‘Goldy’ has crushed 209 home runs and roped another 267 doubles. His career slash line reads at .297/.398/.532 and he has been a National League all-star in each of the last six seasons.
He has four Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves on his mantle, and was the NL’s Hank Aaron Award winner in the 2013 season during which Goldschmidt led the league in homers and RBI.
While his bat would improve most any lineup, it would be hard to see a genuine fit for Goldschmidt with the Phillies. The team already has Rhys Hoskins, who should be filling the first base position down in South Philly for at least the next half-dozen years.
They also have $40 million committed to Carlos Santana over the next two years, an albatross of a contract for a player whose only decent defensive position would be at first base. Goldschmidt has played no other defensive position other than first base during his big-league career.
In regards to the Phillies possible interest in Goldschmidt, the SI staffers believe it would hinge on the club losing out in the bidding for free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, and finding a way to deal Santana, describing the scenario as follows: “…if they miss out on Harper and Machado both, though they’d have to ditch Carlos Santana somewhere in the process.
The Phillies are absolutely looking to improve their starting rotation this off-season. An experienced, quality arm to slot in between Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta in the rotation would go a long way towards helping the club push up to genuine contending status next year.
The SI staffers rate the Phillies along with the New York Yankees as the two best fits should Cleveland GM Mike Chernoff actually move either Kluber or Carrasco.

Kluber will turn 33-years-old as the 2019 season gets underway next April. After eight big-league seasons, all in Cleveland, he has a career mark of 96-55 with a 3.09 ERA, 1.070 WHIP, and 2.96 FIP. The righty has allowed 1,121 hits over 1,306 innings across 201 games, 196 of those as starts, with a 1,423/277 K:BB ratio.
Anyone who knows anything about pitching statistics realizes that those are true ace-quality numbers. Kluber has won a pair of AL Cy Young Awards and has been an American League all-star in each of the last three seasons.
Contractually he is extremely affordable. Kluber is owed just one more year at $17 million, and then there is a $1 million buyout. However, the team also would have club options for 2020 at $17.5 and 2021 at $18 million.
Carrasco should be familiar to any Phillies fan who knows team history. He was a signed by the club as a 16-year-old out of his native Venezuela back in November of 2003. He rose through the team’s farm system to become one of the Phillies top pitching prospects over the next few years.
At the 2009 non-waiver trade deadline, Carrasco was dealt as the lead piece in a four-prospect package to the Indians in exchange for pitcher Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco.
The deal appeared a steal for the Phillies at first. Lee helped lead the team back to the World Series that October, then returned in 2011 as a free agent, becoming one of the best and most popular Phillies during the post-World Series years.
However, Lee’s career was cut somewhat short by injuries, ending at age 35 in mid-2014. Carrasco meanwhile developed into a top starter in his own right. Over parts of nine seasons he has a 79-62 record with a 3.71 ERA, 1.184 WHIP, and 3.33 career FIP mark.
Carrasco has allowed 1,018 hits over 1,094.1 innings across 207 games, 171 of those as starting assignments. He has a career 1,127/278 K:BB ratio and finished fourth in the 2017 American League Cy Young Award voting.
Contractually, Carrasco is even more affordable than either Kluber or Goldschmidt. He is owed just $9.75 million for next season and then has a buyout at less than $700,000 for 2020. There is also a team option in place at just $9.5 million for that 2020 season during which he would turn 33 years of age.
Each one of these three stars would be financially affordable to the Phillies. Each one would better the team measurably. The real issue would be what would it cost the team in prospects? Both Chernoff in Cleveland and Arizona GM Mike Hazen would be looking for a solid prospect package in return.

In order to get any of the three, we would likely again be looking at a team trying to acquire top Phillies pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez. You might have one or all of the Phillies top hitting prospects including Alec BohmAdam Haseley, and Mickey Moniak in such a package.
As SI related in their piece, Cleveland may not deal either arm in the end. The Indians are a top AL contender, and want to continue as such. “Being “willing to listen” doesn’t equal “actively shopping,”…this one seems like it would need a seriously perfect package in order to come to fruition.
Until actual free agent contracts are agreed to and trades are made, the Phillies are going to continue to be linked to most of the top available names. We’ll be here reporting on it all for you at Phillies Nation as the Hot Stove continues to heat up this fall and winter.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Phillies called ‘best fit’ in trades for Paul Goldschmidt, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco

NLDS Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks over Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodger Stadium hosts the first two games of a 2017 NLDS

Through four games of the 2017 Major League Baseball postseason, home teams are 4-0. Those hosts have outscored the visiting squads by a 31-14 margin to this point.

For my prediction in this National League Division Series to come true, that is going to have to come to an end. I am picking the Arizona Diamondbacks to top the NL West Division rival Los Angeles Dodgers in what some might consider an upset.

I say “some”, because knowledgeable baseball fans who have been following these teams know that, despite the Dodgers finishing with a better overall record, the Dbacks have actually been the better team for some time.

Guided by second-year skipper Dave Roberts, the Dodgers finished with an MLB-best record of 104-58. That was 11 games better than Torey Lovullo and his Diamondbacks, who had to settle for the top NL Wildcard position.

But as late as August 25, that Dodgers lead had ballooned up to 21.5 games. Over the next month, LA collapsed, losing 20 of their next 25 games. The Dodgers did ultimately recover their equilibrium at the end, winning 10 of their final dozen.

The Dbacks, meanwhile, were nearly polar opposites. They won 20 of 25 between August 21 and September 16 to take complete command of a Wildcard playoff berth.

In that NL Wildcard Game, held on Wednesday night, Arizona blitzed out to an early 6-0 lead over the division-rival Colorado Rockies. The Diamondbacks ultimately powered their way to an 11-8 victory in the slugfest that many had predicted.

The Dodgers offensive attack is led by two of the top young players in the game today in second-year shortstop Corey Seager and rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger.

Seager, was the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year. He also won a Silver Slugger a year ago, and has been an NL All-Star in each of his first two big league seasons. This year he slashed .295/.375/.479 with 22 homers, 77 RBI, and 85 runs scored.

Bellinger is the odds-on favorite to follow him in winning those ROY honors. He slashed .267/.352/.581 after his late-April promotion. The 22-year old slammed 39 homers, drove in 97 runs, and scored 87 times. He logged 37 games in left field, but just four of those came after June.

Third baseman Justin Turner was a first-time NL All-Star this year at age 32. He slashed .322/.415/.530 with 21 homers in just 130 games.

The Dodgers attack also features 26-year old right fielder Yasiel Puig, who enjoyed the best season of his five-year career. The Cuban native belted 28 home runs, second on the club to Bellinger.

Catcher Yasmani Grandal and left fielder Chris Taylor add pop, each surpassing the 20-homer mark this year. And the strong veteran presence of Chase Utley, Curtis Granderson, Andre Ethier, and Logan Forsythe should prove valuable in a tough series.

On the mound, Roberts will send the best pitcher on the planet out to the mound in the opener. Clayton Kershaw missed the entire month of August, and was a bit inconsistent in a half-dozen starts during the month of September.

Kershaw will be followed to the mound by 37-year old righty Rich Hill for Game Two, and then trade deadline acquisition Yu Darvish toes the rubber for Game Three in Arizona.

Roberts has also announced that lefty Alex Wood will start Game Four. There had been consideration to using him as a weapon out of the bullpen, bringing the ace Kershaw back on short rest.

Obviously logic says that any pitcher that’s used to a routine and going on regular rest is probably stronger, and has a better chance of success,” said Roberts in a press conference published by the LA Times. “I just think that with the guys that we have in our clubhouse, the guys who can take the ball, in this case Alex Wood, for us it’s a no-brainer.

Lovullo will matchup 25-year old righty Taijuan Walker, a big trade acquisition last November, against Kershaw. The Dbacks manager has yet to announce who will take the mound on Saturday.

With his top two starters, Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray, both logging multiple innings in the Wildcard Game, it could be either right-hander Zack Godley or lefty Patrick Corbin getting the Game Two nod. However, Ray threw just 34 pitches on Wednesday, and he could end up being the choice as well.

The Arizona lineup is led by first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who slashed .297/.404/.563 with 36 homers, 120 RBI, 117 runs scored, and 18 steals. The NL MVP runner-up in both 2013 and 2015, the 5x NL All-Star should be a strong contender for those honors once again.

The Dbacks received a huge lineup boost at the trade deadline with the acquisition of right fielder J.D. Martinez from the Detroit Tigers. In 62 games with Arizona, Martinez slashed .302/.366/.741, banging 29 homers and driving in 65 runs in that time.

Slugging third baseman Jake Lamb banged 30 homers and knocked in 105 runs. Center fielder A.J. Pollock slugged 14 homers while scoring 73 times and swiping 20 bases in just 112 games. He is one of the most underrated players in the game today.

To some extent last year, but especially in this current postseason, the importance of effective arms out of the bullpen has revealed itself to be more important than ever. Both teams have a variety of such weapons from which to choose.

Lovullo will have righties Jimmie Sherfy, David Hernandez, Archie Bradley, closer Fernando Rodney, and possibly Godley ready out of his bullpen. From the left side he can call on the trio of Andrew Chafin, Jorge De La Rosa, and possibly Corbin.

Roberts will likely lean heavily on right-hander Brandon Morrow, and has one of the best closers in the game available in Kenley Jansen. Starter Kenta Maeda is likely to be used out of the pen from the right side as well.

From the left side it’s likely to be a pair of Tony’s, Cingrani and Watson, seeing most of the action, though starter Alex Wood could also be called upon.

This was not at all an easy call for me. I don’t like making gut calls, and this is purely a gut call in what I see as a tight series.

But the Diamondbacks took 11 of the 19 games between the two squad this season. That includes a late August sweep at Chase Field, and then an early September sweep at Dodger Stadium. They are in no way intimidate by the champions of their division. The addition of Martinez, particularly in giving Arizona a righty hitter against tough lefty Dodgers pitching, has proven an equilizer.

I am calling it Dbacks in four games. I think they find a way to steal one of the first two, though beating Kershaw in the opener will be a tall order. Then I see them easily capable of sweeping in front of their home fans out in the desert.