Tag Archives: Stephen Strasburg

With Zack Wheeler on board, updating the latest Phillies rumors

The Baseball Winter Meetings open on Sunday, December 8 in San Diego and the ‘Hot Stove’ season in Major League Baseball is already fully underway with hot new rumors coming out every day.

The Philadelphia Phillies were expected to be one of the most active teams in free agency and perhaps in the trade market as well during this off-season period.

With his job squarely on the line, general manager Matt Klentak is under the spotlight, tasked with filling a number of holes in order to elevate his now .500 team to a genuine 2020 contender.

The Phillies landed one of the top starting pitchers on the free agent market in right-hander Zack Wheeler. Reports this afternoon are that he will receive a five-year contract with a total value at over $110 million.

There were also reports that Wheeler had received a higher offer from the Chicago White Sox than the $118 million total dollars which he will receive from the Phillies.

However, Wheeler’s wife is a Jersey girl, and that appears to have been a decisive factor once the offers were relatively close. The Phillies also beat out the Chisox for Bryce Harper last off-season.

The Phillies have been linked to a number of top free agent names to this point. They cannot possibly land every big name that the fan base is hoping to add. However, they surely will be successful in luring at least one or two talented veterans.

Let’s take a quick look at the very latest rumors involving the Phillies interest and involvement in the pursuit of the most interesting players available.

Starting Pitchers

Cole Hamels – He was “the people’s choice”, as Phillies fans wanted him back. Hamels also telegraphed that he wanted to return and was willing to settle for a one-year deal to return to the club with whom he starred for a decade.

It turns out that he got that deal – but from the division-rival Atlanta Braves. It was announced this afternoon that Hamels and the Braves had agreed to a one-year, $18 million deal.

Time to turn the page here, Phillies fans. We’ll get to cheer him again one day at his Wall of Fame ceremony. But before then, count on him getting booed strongly next season at Citizens Bank Park.

Gerrit Cole – The Yankees are making a big push to land Cole. However, many believe that the Newport Beach, California native genuinely wants to pitch on the west coast. The Phillies have the money to be in this discussion, but I just don’t see the interest on his part.

The Dodgers, Angels, and Padres are probably going to end up as the finalists for Cole, with the Yankees trying to shove their way in with lots of money and that old Bronx Bomber prestige and history.

Stephen Strasburg – After meeting with Cole on Tuesday, the Yankees are spending their Wednesday meeting with Strasburg. If they feel that Cole is committed to the west coast, Strasburg could become New York’s main target, which could blow any other team out of the water…assuming the big righty is interested in pitching in the Bronx.

There have been no major rumors involving a Phillies link to either Cole or Strasburg, unless you count this afternoon’s generic “the Phillies are looking at Strasburg” tweet from Jon Heyman.

My guess is that the club has already been informed by their agent, Scott Boras, that the Phillies would be secondary options for the two biggest pitching prizes.

Madison Bumgarner – Back in May, MadBum put the Phillies on his no-trade list. However, that was strategic per Rosenthal. Bumgarner didn’t want to leave San Francisco, and listed as many teams as he could who appeared likely to go after him at that time.

Rosenthal did a nice sales pitch for Bumgarner earlier today on MLB Network. It has been about a week since any talk linking him with the Phillies. But Jon Morosi reported that reps of the player and team have been in touch, and Morosi also stated that the Phillies are “actively interested” in the veteran lefty.

Hyun-Jin Ryu – The Phillies could really use a left-hander, if not two, for the starting rotation. Scott Lauber lumped the Korean southpaw in with Wheeler and MadBum this afternoon as a possible Phillies target.

Dallas Keuchel – Well, since the Braves snatched Hamels, perhaps the Phillies could snatch up Keuchel, who pitched last season in Atlanta?

After he shut the Phillies down in a September start for the Braves, Keuchel called out Phillies management for not going after him when the pitcher was available and the club had a need per Jim Salisbury at NBC Sports Philadelphia:

I mean, if you don’t come calling what is there for me to be mad about? I think a lot of those guys over there in the front office are second-guessing themselves, and, I mean, I would too.

There have been no rumors linking the pitcher and the team. But if the Phillies aren’t seriously looking at him at this point, they have to be letting their egos get in the way.

Infielders

Didi Gregorius – The hottest name linked to the Phillies thus far this off-season, Gregorius is a favorite of new manager Joe Girardi from his years with the Yankees.

While I personally don’t think Gregorius is a major upgrade over incumbent shortstop Jean Segura defensively, he would bring more pop to the Phillies lineup.

Salisbury reported this morning that “the Phils are engaged in talks with free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius.” It would appear to be more than speculation or rumor at this point.

Cutting ties with Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco opens two spots on the Phillies infield. The club already has the potential to fill second base with Scott Kingery. Watching how they choose to align the 2020 infield will be one of the more interesting Phillies situations this off-season.

Josh Donaldson – The Phillies have a hole at third base with the Franco non-tender. Kingery is not a good option on an every day basis. Top prospect Alec Bohm is nearly ready, and could push his way to Philly no later than mid-summer of the 2020 season.

So, the question becomes would the Phillies shell out big bucks and tie up third base for multiple years. That is what it will likely take to land Donaldson, who played on a one-year contract in Atlanta last season and is not likely to settle for such a deal again.

There have been no real rumors linking the team and player other than a Monday tweet from Morosi that the Phillies were “maintaining contact” with reps for both Gregorius and Donaldson.

Anthony Rendon – While a big ex-Nationals reunion joining Bryce Harper with Strasburg and/or Rendon would be wonderful on the field, it likely wouldn’t work on the Phillies balance sheets.

Rendon is going to be the highest-priced position player free agent this off-season. The Dodgers have already met with he and Strasburg, and many feel that Rendon will end up with the Texas Rangers, with whom he has also already met.

Two weeks ago, Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philly called Rendon “the perfect fit” for the Phillies. However, there has been nothing to really link the team and player directly to this point.

In my opinion and that of most others, the Phillies need to add not one, but two more proven veteran starting pitchers to their rotation.

The Phillies have successfully landed Wheeler with a lengthy contract at a high salary. Should they now fall short on the other arms listed previously you can expect them to shop for a pitcher in the “third tier” of free agents.

Were that to happen, arms such as Rick Porcello, Tanner Roark, Alex Wood, and Julio Teheran to get a longer look from the club. But this is not what the Phillies want or need, not really.

Wheeler adds a much-needed talented arm. He gives them a nice 1-2 punch with Aaron Nola. What would go well now would be a battle-tested and still talented left-hander. Someone like Bumgarner.

 

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.

 

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2019 Major League Baseball Awards

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Realmuto was honored with his second consecutive career Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Award

 

Major League Baseball has entered its off-season period, but there is still plenty of action surrounding the game. As teams begin to evaluate their future needs and prepare to shop in the Hot Stove free agent market, the game steps back momentarily to honor the best performances from this past 2019 season.

This past week, MLB continued the process of handing out the hardware to the top players from this past season. Winners of both the Silver Slugger Awards and Gold Glove Awards were announced, honoring the top offensive and defensive performers at each position in both leagues.

2019 GOLD GLOVE AWARDS

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Winners are listed below with their position and team. Number of career Gold Gloves won are shown in parentheses.

National League: P – Zack Greinke ARZ (6), C – J.T. Realmuto PHI (2), 1B – Anthony Rizzo CHI (3), 2B – Kolten Wong STL (1), SS – Nick Ahmed ARZ (2), LF – David Peralta ARZ (1), CF – Lorenzo Cain MIL (1), RF – Cody Bellinger (1)

American League: P – Mike Leake SEA (1), C – Roberto Perez CLE (1), 1B – Matt Olson OAK (2), 2B – Yolmer Sanchez CWS (1), SS – Francisco Lindor CLE (2), 3B – Matt Chapman OAK (2), LF – Alex Gordon KC (7), CF – Kevin Kiermaier TB (3), RF – Mookie Betts BOS (4)

Arenado (below right) and Chapman (below left) were further honored when they were each named as winners of the National and American League Platinum Glove Awards. This is the second consecutive Rawlings Platinum Glove for each as the overall top defensive performer in their respective leagues.

Rawlings is not the only sponsor of awards for MLB defensive excellence. The winners were also announced for the Wilson Defensive Players of the Year at each position in Major League Baseball.

The Houston Astros were honored as the Wilson Defensive Team of the Year. Individual winners with their number of career Wilson awards in parentheses were:

P – Zack Greinke HOU (3), C – Roberto Perez CLE (1), 1B – Freddie Freeman ATL (2), 2B – Kolten Wong STL (1), SS – Andrelton Simmons LAA (6), 3B – Matt Chapman OAK (2), LF – David Peralta ARZ (1), CF – Lorenzo Cain MIL (4), RF – Aaron Judge NYY (1)

Perez was further honored as the overall Wilson Defensive Player of the Year.

2019 SILVER SLUGGER AWARDS

The Silver Slugger Awards as the top offensive performer went to:

National League: P – Zack Greinke ARZ (2), C – J.T. Realmuto PHI (2), 1B – Freddie Freeman ATL (1), 2B – Ozzie Albies ATL (1), SS – Trevor Story COL (2), 3B – Anthony Rendon WAS (2), OF – Cody Bellinger LAD (1), Christian Yelich MIL (2), Ronald Acuna Jr.ATL (1)

American League: DH – Nelson Cruz MIN (3), C – Mitch Garver MIN (1), 1B – Carlos Santana CLE (1), 2B – DJ LeMahieu NYY (1), SS – Xander Bogaerts BOS (3), 3B – Alex Bregman HOU (1), OF – Mike Trout LAA (7), George Springer HOU (2), Mookie Betts BOS (3)

The overall top hitter in each league is honored with the Hank Aaron Award. Each MLB team’s radio and television play-by-play broadcasters and color analysts vote for three players in each league, and fans are given the opportunity to vote via MLB’s official website. Fans’ votes account for 30% of the final points, while broadcasters’ and analysts’ votes account for the other 70%.

The winners of the 2019 Aaron Awards were Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels in the American League. It was the second career Aaron Award for each, the second consecutive for Yelich. Trout was previously honored back in 2014.

Prior to Game 4 of the World Series, the winners of MLB’s Relief Pitcher of the Year Award in each league were announced.

Taking the award as the Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year was Aroldis Chapman of the New York Yankees, who was honored for the first time.

The Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year was awareded to Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers, who became just the second relief pitcher to be honored two years in a row.

 UPCOMING AWARDS NOMINEES

The winners of the rest of baseball’s official awards will be announced this coming week. Voting was conducted by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

The following is the awards announcement schedule. You can watch as the honorees are named in a live broadcast on the MLB Network each day at 6:00 pm EST.

The nominees were selected based on regular season performance only.

Nominees are listed in alphabetical order with their position and current team, and I have highlighted my pick as the winner in red.

MONDAY: Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award

NL: Pete Alonso 1B NYM, Mike Soroka P ATL, Fernando Tatis JR SS SD

AL: Yordan Alvarez DH/OF HOU, Brandon Lowe 2B/OF TB, John Means P BAL

TUESDAY: Manager of the Year Award

NL: Craig Counsell MIL, Mike Shildt STL, Brian Snitker ATL

AL: Rocco Baldelli MIN, Aaron Boone NYY, Kevin Cash TB

WEDNESDAY: Cy Young Award

NL: Jacob deGrom NYM, Hyun-Jin Ryu LAD, Max Scherzer WAS

AL: Gerrit Cole HOU, Charlie Morton TB, Justin Verlander HOU

THURSDAY: Most Valuable Player Award

NL nominees: Cody Bellinger OF LAD, Anthony Rendon 3B WAS, Christian Yelich OF MIL

AL nominees: Alex Bregman SS HOU, Marcus Semien SS OAK, Mike Trout OF LAA

Other MLB award winners this season included starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg of the world champion Washington Nationals, who was named as the Most Valuable Player of the World Series.

Howie Kendrick of the Nationals took the NLCS Most Valuable Player honors, while second baseman Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros won the ALCS MVP honors.

Carlos Carrasco of the Cleveland Indians was honored with the Roberto Clemente Award in recognition for his many charitable efforts both stateside and in his native Venezuela. The pitcher was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year and “put in the difficult work to make a return to pitching amid his treatment — all while continuing to give his time, attention and financial assistance to young leukemia patients.”

Mike Trout received the Players Choice Award as the overall Major League Baseball Player of the Year and was also the AL Player of the Year. It was his second American League and first overall honor in voting by his fellow ball players.

Others receiving Players Choice Awards were Anthony Rendon as the NL Player of the Year, Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom as the AL & NL Pitchers of the Year, Hunter Pence and Josh Donaldson as the AL & NL Comeback Players of the Year, and Yordan Alvarez and Pete Alonso as the AL & NL Rookies of the Year.

On Sunday, November 17 at 8:00 pm EST, the MLB Network will take a final look back on 2019 as it presents the Plays of the Year for this past season. That highlights loaded program will re-air a number of times throughout the month of November.

I suppose that after finishing exactly at the .500 mark and in fourth place this season, the Phillies could not have expected much more in the way of award winners than the Gold Glove-Silver Slugger combo taken by Realmuto.

Hopefully the results in the standings and in the postseason, including award winners, are more substantial for the club in the 2020 campaign.

 

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Philadelphia Phillies in the MLB 2020 free agent market

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

STARTING PITCHING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MLB Phillies insider Todd Zolecki quoted Hamels earlier this week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CENTER FIELD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIRD BASE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BENCH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BULLPEN

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

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

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

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

WRAPPING IT UP

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

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

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

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

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

Bryan Price brings tremendous experience as new Phillies pitching coach

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Price has been a pitching coach and manager in MLB for two decades

 

Just days after officially hiring Joe Girardi as their new manager, the Phillies have filled one of the key open positions on his coaching staff.

Bryan Price, who most recently served as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds from 2014 into the 2018 season, has been hired as the Phillies new pitching coach.

Price brings tremendous experience to the job. He previously served as pitching coach with the Seattle Mariners (2000-06), Arizona Diamondbacks (2007-09), and the Reds (2010-13) in addition to his managerial term in Cincinnati.

Girardi and Price have a recent link. Back in the summer, the Phillies new skipper was named as the manager of Team USA for the upcoming international Premier 12 tournament. Price was scheduled to be his pitching coach.

However, on taking the Phillies job, Girardi was replaced as Team USA manager by Scott Brosius. It remains unclear whether Price will remain with Team USA through the Premier 12 tourney, which kicks off the qualifying process for the 2020 Summer Olympics and runs from November 2-17, 2019.

The Mariners pitching staff led the American League in ERA in the 2001 season, earning Price the USA Today Baseball Weekly Pitching Coach of the Year Award. In 2007, his Dbacks staff finished fourth in ERA in the National League and helped the club reach the NLCS. For that performance, Price was named as the Major League Baseball Coach of the Year by Baseball America.

With the Reds, Price guided a pitching staff that twice finished among the top five in National League ERA. However, his managerial stint did not prove as successful. Cincinnati went just 279-387 in parts of five seasons, and he was ultimately fired after a 3-15 start in 2018.

Price was involved in a highly publicized and controversial incident in April of 2015 when he went on an expletive-laden rant against the Cincinnati media after a reporter published what Price felt was information regarding an injury to catcher Devin Mesoraco which put the Reds at a competitive disadvantage.

The 57-year-old Price is a native of San Francisco. He was the eighth round choice of the California Angels in the 1984 MLB Draft as a pitcher out of the University of California-Berkeley, the 190th player selected overall.

Price reached the Double-A level in the Angels organization before being released following the 2016 season. After taking a year off in 2017, Price signed with the Seattle Mariners and eventually reached Triple-A. Over a five-year minor league career he accumulated a 31-19 record with a 3.74 ERA across 90 games, 75 of those as starting assignments.

Price has other prior Phillies connections besides his brief period with Girardi in preparation for their Team USA assignment. Phillies Wall of Famer Pat Gillick hired Price as the pitching coach in Seattle when Gillick was the general manager of the Mariners.

Phillies 2008 World Series hero Jamie Moyer was a pitcher on those Mariners’ staffs under Price.

If I was looking for a pitching coach, he’d be at the top of my list.~ Jamie Moyer

“He’s a student of the game and he cares about his pitchers,” Moyer said per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I think first and foremost that’s what jumps out about him — how much he cares about his pitchers. He was a first-time pitching coach when he came aboard and we had a lot of veterans on that team. He quickly earned their trust with great communication and with a lot of give and take. His style was basically, ‘What do you do well and what can we do with it to make you better?’

On Monday, prior to the announcement of Price’s hiring, Girardi had commented on the pitching coach position. “Just as important is a real ability to relate to the pitchers, sometimes the struggles they’re going through, and that there’s a deep relationship there,” Girardi said per Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The pitching coach has a tough job because there’s so many pitchers that they deal with. But he has to know each one of them really well, and they have to trust him, and that’s really important.

Based on his long history of success as a pitching coach and Moyer’s comments, it appears that Price fits that need for a strong communicator well. He looks like a perfect fit for the new Phillies coaching staff, which now seeks a similar strong addition for the hitting coach position.

Per Matt Gelb at The Athletic, Price turned down at least two offers to coach elsewhere before taking the job with the Phillies. One concern that he had was the ability to infuse the game’s new shift towards analytics with his more natural old-school style approach.

What I don’t know, I can learn,” Price said per Gelb. “But one thing I won’t forget is the fundamentals of pitching — of competitiveness and preparation and the detailed work that is really the lifeblood of being a competitive major-league pitcher. There are just essentials to it that aren’t going to be defined by a spreadsheet or technology that tells you if you’re doing it right or wrong. A reasonable mind says they both have a place. To think that one thrives without the other, it doesn’t. I can tell you, in pitching, there’s no uniformity.

Now, who exactly will be the pitchers under his tutelage during the 2020 season? The Phillies staff finished 17th in ERA, 20th in OPS against, and  22nd in batting average against among the 30 teams in Major League Baseball this past season.

Given health, the starting rotation in 2020 is almost certain to include Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. Based on the majority of his performances combined with his age and upside potential, Zach Eflin would also seem a lock. Top pitching prospect Spencer Howard is likely to make a strong push for a rotation spot as well, possibly as early as spring training.

More questionable are the fates of Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta. Each is talented, but neither has been able to establish themselves as a reliable starting pitcher for the Phillies. They both could end up as trade candidates this off-season, or end up in the bullpen if better options are found.

I don’t speak for the Phillies in any way, shape or form. I’m new to the organization,” said Price per Gelb. “We had a good talk about philosophy. We will use our analytics and technology department in a very strong and positive way. But I think the pitching coach’s job is to help extract as much talent and build as much confidence in the group as possible through relationship building. It’s through building trust. It’s through sharing experience and knowledge. We give these guys a goal of becoming something special, instead of something that’s specialized.”

Most observers believe that the Phillies are going to need to add two new, veteran arms to that rotation in free agency in order to compete against talented Washington and Atlanta teams in the NL East. At least one of those new starting pitchers needs to be ace-caliber, someone such as Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg.

That will be the primary job of general manager Matt Klentak this off-season, providing pitching talent of a caliber that can help the Phillies to become winners and return to the postseason for the first time nine years.

 

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