Tag Archives: Xander Bogaerts

Phillies president Andy MacPhail hedging bets on free agent activity

By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA - Andy MacPhail, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15991405
Phillies president Andy MacPhail
(Photo: Keith Allison)
The Phillies brain trust has been making the rounds over the last few days trying to defend the 2018 rise and collapse, and handle media and fan questions regarding their plans to better the team for the 2019 season.
On Tuesday it was Andy MacPhail’s turn in front of the cameras and microphones. One comment made by the team president is really sticking in my craw and is likely doing the same with most Phillies fans who picked up on the it.
Tim Kelly here at Phillies Nation highlighted that comment in his own piece on MacPhail’s presser just yesterday:

“This isn’t the last year that major league baseball is ever going to be played. So you’re not going to throw every resource you have at this year because there’s the following year as well.”

For me, that attitude is problematic. First, if this season demonstrated anything it was that the Phillies are now walking a very fine line. They finished just below the .500 mark at 80-82 and were exactly middle of the pack in the National League East Division in third place.
Over the season’s first four months they were a tease, somehow finding a way to overcome glaring shortcomings in the most fundamental aspects of the game to actually contend. Over the final two months, those glaring shortcomings finally caught up to them, and the predictable collapse occurred.
But was it inevitable, or was the team simply unwilling to pay the price it would take to inject some real life, and real talent, into a lineup that was desperate for both? And is that unwillingness a sign that the current management team is incapable of pulling the trigger and actually going for it?
Manny Machado was there for the taking at the trade deadline when the Phillies were still contending as far as the standings were concerned. And yet in a piece for Phillies Nation back in mid-July, I quoted Jon Heyman at Fancred Sports who commented that Phillies management was suffering from “too much timidity” in their pursuit of the superstar.
The Baltimore Orioles ended up dealing him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a package led by outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz. Frankly, the other four prospects are likely to prove insignificant over the long run. None was ranked highly within the Dodgers minor league system.
Diaz is not going to be a superstar. He will likely be a big-leaguer, and probably a starting outfielder. The Orioles at least got something of long-term value for a superstar who they were going to inevitably lose. But could they have gotten a bit more?
The Phillies were not going to, nor should they have, traded either Sixto Sanchez or Scott Kingery in what was potentially a rental-only Machado trade. However, would a package led by J.P. Crawford and Adonis Medina have gotten it done? Would the Orioles have taken those two at the front along with a couple of lesser prospects over Diaz? How about Crawford and Zach Eflin or Nick Pivetta?
We’re probably never going to know just how hard the Phillies actually pushed in the Machado talks with Baltimore. But we do know that they didn’t get it done, that the offensive attack continued to sputter, that the shortstop position continued to be manned by a rookie seeing his first-ever significant professional time at the position, and that the team collapsed.
A month from now the World Series will have ended, and Major League Baseball’s “Hot Stove” season will begin. Dozens of players of varying levels of value will become available on the free agent market. The Phillies have the resources to bring in significant talent for the 2019 campaign.
It should be obvious to the Phillies brain trust of MacPhail, controlling owner John Middleton, and general manager Matt Klentak that the Atlanta Braves have passed them in present talent. Also, both the Washington Nationals and New York Mets within the division are right now in at least as good a position, possibly better.

Lefty Corbin should be the type of arm that the Phillies are trying to land for their rotation. (Photo: Bob James)
For the Phillies to fix what is wrong with their everyday lineup and compete over the next decade they are going to need to convince multiple talented free agents in their prime years to come to play their home games at Citizens Bank Park.
This off-season, a trio of perfect free agents happen to be available. Those would be the 26-year-old Machado, soon-to-be 26-year-old outfielder Bryce Harper, and 29-year-old southpaw starting pitcher Patrick Corbin.
The Phillies could take the field for the next half-decade or more with an infield featuring Rhys Hoskins, Kingery, Machado, and Maikel Franco. They would have Harper and his prodigious power in right field and in the middle of their batting order.
On the mound they would have the left-handed Corbin pitching between righties Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta at least for the 2019 season, and beyond depending on how they handle Arrieta’s contract option.
As MacPhail says, yes, there is “the following year as well.” Among the players scheduled to become free agents following the 2020 season who will be under-30 at that point are shortstop Xander Bogaerts, pitcher Gerrit Cole, outfielders Nick Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna, and the crown jewel of the class, third baseman Nolan Arenado.
And the year after that, well, that’s the one every Phillies fan has been waiting for, when outfielder Mike Trout will finally become available at age 29.
If you’re worried about the Phillies having to pay their own young core players, don’t worry too much. Kingery signed a six-year deal back in spring training this year. That deal takes him through the 2023 season, with three addition option years, all at an affordable price.
The Phillies are going to have to pay Hoskins and Nola big money at some point to keep them around. But that point doesn’t come for some time. Hoskins has two more seasons to play before he is even arbitration eligible, and cannot become a free agent until he reaches age 31 in five more years.
Nola is the more pressing deal. He is arbitration-eligible this off-season and in line for at least a hefty raise on a one-year contract. He becomes a free agent at age 29 after four more seasons.
The reality is that the Phillies are not likely to win out in the bidding for both Machado and Harper. But they should absolutely be trying their hardest to land both of these young superstars.
If they happen to win out on both, great. The future gets built around those two and the homegrown guys, and maybe the team tries to figure out a way to also fit in Trout in a couple of years.

It might seem nice to wait for Arenado, but who says he’ll still be available next year? (Photo: Keith Allison)
If they fall short and only land one, they can perhaps go after Arenado or Bogaerts next year. But they need to try right now.
The Phillies cannot allow this upcoming off-season to slip by and not significantly improve the roster with impact players who will excite the fan base. 
There is no guarantee that the best 2020 free agents won’t sign extensions before the Phillies ever get a shot at them.
Last winter, Klentak largely failed with the Carlos Santana contract. He gave $60 million guaranteed dollars to a player who would be performing in his ages 32-34 seasons when he already had a young, star-caliber player in Hoskins at the first base position.
For seven years from 2011-17 when he was actually in his prime with Cleveland, Santana averaged 24 homers, 80 RBI, and 78 RBI with a .249/.363/.445 cumulative slash line.
This year with the Phillies, Santana had 24 homers, 86 RBI, 82 runs scored, and a .229/.352/.414 slash line. As he ages over the next two years, fans and management should expect those numbers to only regress.
The Phillies cannot make the mistake again of giving big money to a limited offensive player who is past his prime. Both Machado and Harper are superstar-caliber, not limited players, both in their primes where they will be for years to come.
In his own piece on the issue just yesterday, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia opined that it could take an eight-year, $300 million dollar deal to land each of Harper and Machado.
That would be $75 million for each of the next eight years for the two, taking them roughly through their age 34 seasons. That is totally appropriate, the Phillies have the money, and considering the other commitments both now and for the next handful of seasons it is doable while paying everyone else.
Salisbury quoted MacPhail on the financial angle:

“There has been some speculation about what we’re going to do which I find to be just someone just didn’t put a paper and pencil together and do the math.”

The Phillies brain trust needs to do more than go “star chasing”, as Sixers Brett Brown put it. (Photo: TastyPoutine)
Well, I’ve put a paper and pencil together, and the math is absolutely doable. But is this group capable of selling themselves, their vision, and the Phillies future to players like Machado and Harper? I am not quite sure that is doable.
I didn’t expect MacPhail to come out and make the Brett Brown mistake, saying that the Phillies would be going “star-hunting” this coming off-season. 
But I also didn’t need someone hedging their bets and trying to diffuse fan disappointment should he and the brain trust fail to make the needed significant upgrades.
MacPhail was wrong. You do have to throw every resource you have at this year. There is an old saying, throw enough “stuff” (not the word) at the wall, and some of it will stick.
If the Phillies throw every resource they have at their current problems, some of those resources will yield talent for years to come. Many of the problems will get answered. Perhaps enough to make a difference and push the club to contending status next season and beyond.
Stop making excuses before the fact. Go out and do your job and bring a winning team to a city and fan base that did not deserve what happened over the last half-dozen years. You have plenty of resources at your disposal, but do you have the ability to fix the problems? We’ll soon find out.

Red Sox vanquished in ALDS, but they’ll be back

The Boston Red Sox should contend once again in 2018

The Houston Astros came from behind, scoring twice in the 8th and once in the 9th inning, then held off a last-ditch rally to down the Boston Red Sox by a 5-4 score on Monday afternoon.

The victory advances Houston into the American League Championship Series for the first time since the 2005 postseason. The defeat in front of more than 37,000 mostly disappointed fans at historic Fenway Park sends the host Red Sox home for the winter.

Over the last decade and a half, those Fenway faithful and the team they love have enjoyed the greatest period of sustained success in franchise history. In those last 15 seasons, the Red Sox have reached the postseason nine times, capturing three World Series titles.

But more importantly for the future of the team is that the prospects for long term future success appears to be just as bright as those recent victorious campaigns.

The Red Sox are blessed with one of the most talented group of young players in Major League Baseball. Half of their projected lineup of position players will spend all of the 2018 season at or below 25 years of age.

That core group and their 2018 season age includes shortstop Xander Bogaerts (24), third baseman Rafael Devers (21), left fielder Andrew Benintendi (23), and right fielder Mookie Betts (25) as everyday starters.

Boston will also be starting a 28-year old Jackie Bradley in his prime. Likely to see the bulk of the catching duties, Christian Vazquez will be just 27 years old.

The club has a couple of young wildcards who are likely to help in some way, at some point in the 2018 season. 24-year old Sam Travis could well push for more time at first base. And it could still all click for Boston’s 26-year old former first round draft pick, catcher Blake Swihart.

Bottom line, there are a ton of good, young, talented position players who will be returning to the Red Sox next season. Those players are likely to continue to get better with age and experience.

On the mound, lefties Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz and righty Rick Porcello will all pitch the entirety of next season at age 29. Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will turn just 25 years of age as the season opens.

There will be a group of talented right-handers, all no more than age 30, who will be returning to make up the bulk of the bullpen. These include Matt Barnes (27), Heath Hembree (29), Joe Kelly (29), and 28-year old Carson Smith.

The normally lights-out closer, Craig Kimbrel, will turn 30 years old at the end of May. He is due to become a free agent following the 2018 season, and will be an interesting situation to watch develop.

That young core is likely to continue to be supported by a group of strong veterans, most especially second baseman Dustin Pedroia, DH Hanley Ramirez, and pitcher David Price.

If there is a big question mark, it may be whether or not manager John Farrell will be asked to return following the disappointing playoff defeat. For me, it shouldn’t even be a question. In his five years at the helm in Boston, Farrell has guided the club to a cumulative 432-378 mark. The Red Sox have won three AL East crowns and a World Series under 55-year old. Farrell should definitely be back.

The Boston payroll will continue high, so the opportunity to add high-priced free agents is not likely here. However, there is already plenty of talent. The club is likely to look for little more than a more experienced lefty reliever this off-season. The minor league prospect talent could bring back something to fill any hole that may pop up during the year.

The Boston Red Sox are set to continue their recent string of successful seasons in 2018. Having won three of the last five AL East crowns, they will again be a top contender in the division next year. And with more experience under their belt, the young core should be expected to keep them a leading contender for years to come.

Red Sox continue fighting off Yankees, who lower own magic number

Pedroia scores tie-breaking run in Boston’s victory

The Boston Red Sox took 15 innings to gain a win on Friday night over the host Tampa Bay Rays. But win they did after scoring seven times in the top of the 15th, going on to a 13-6 victory.

The victory lowered Boston’s “Magic Number” for clinching the American League East Division crown to 13 over the New York Yankees.

The Yankees had earlier kept the pressure on their longtime arch-rivals with an 8-2 win in the Bronx over the Baltimore Orioles.

With that win, New York remained three games behind Boston. However, the Yanks also lowered their own “Magic Number” to just 10 in order to clinch at least an AL Wildcard playoff berth.

In Tampa, Dustin Pedroia led off the top of the 15th for Boston by reaching on an error. The result left him as only the third batter in the history of the Red Sox to go 0-9 in a game. Three singles, a double, and another error later, and the Bosox had completed their seven-run outburst.

Shortstop Xander Bogaerts had four hits for Boston. Mookie Betts and Mitch Moreland each had three, while four other Red Sox registered multi-hit games.




“Our guys have done such a good job as we’ve gotten into some of these really long games, almost marathon-type games, and they don’t quit, they keep digging for a little extra,” Boston manager John Farrell said per Connor Mount for MLB.com following the game.

Meanwhile, up in Yankee Stadium, a two-run homer off the bat of Didi Gregorius broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the 5th inning. The Yankees then put together a three-run rally in the bottom of the 7th, and got a solo home run from Greg Bird in the bottom of the 8th to put it away.

“We have to bear down in these last couple weeks and go for the playoffs,” Gregorius said per Roger Rubin for MLB.com following the game. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”

Luis Severino pitched eight strong innings for New York, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out seven. The 23-year old raised his record to 13-6 on the season with the victory.



Both series continue through this weekend. Next week, the Red Sox will stay on the road, visiting both Baltimore and Cincinnati for three games each. 

The Yankees will remain at home to open next week against Minnesota, with the Twins battling for their own playoff lives in that AL Wildcard race. New York ends the week by traveling north to Toronto to face the Blue Jays in what will be their final road trip of the regular season.

WBC 2017: Who Are The Netherlands?

When the 2017 World Baseball Classic began, the team representing The Netherlands was certainly not considered to be among the tournament favorites.
After all, we’re talking about The Netherlands. You know, the Dutch?
Isn’t that Holland? When you think of them, wouldn’t you tend to think of windmills, dikes, tulips, and chocolates more than hardball?
On the grander world stage, The Netherlands that most people think about refers to the main constituent nation in Western Europe.
They may be one of the smallest nations in Europe, but The Netherlands are tremendously influential. For instance, it is home to Europe’s largest seaport at Rotterdam.
At The Hague, the nation is a host city to the United Nations, and home of the World Court. The official capitol city of Amsterdam is one of the most populous regions in Europe, and gave us the likes of Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh.
But the nation of The Netherlands is also a “kingdom”, a constitutional monarchy which also encompasses countries of the Caribbean region, including Aruba, Curacao, and St. Maarten. They are part of an area often referred to as The Netherlands Antilles.

DUTCH CARIBBEAN BASEBALL INFLUENCE

Many of the top players with The Netherlands national team in the 2017 WBC hail from these islands. They include MLB all-stars in shortstop Xander Bogaerts from Aruba and closer Kenley Jansen of Curacao.
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop, shortstops Andrelton Simmons and Didi Gregorius, and IF/OF Jurickson Profar are all from Curacao as well.
A member of the coaching staff is very familiar to American baseball fans. Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven is from Utrecht, the fourth largest city in The Netherlands that lies about 32 miles south of Amsterdam.
Former Atlanta Braves star Andruw Jones is from Curacao. He played with The Netherlands teams in both the 2006 and 2013 World Baseball Classic. Jones is another coach with the 2017 version of the squad.
The manager for The Netherlands is Hensley Meulens. He was the 1990 AAA International League Most Valuable Player while with the Columbus Clippers in the New York Yankees farm system. Meulens enjoyed a seven-year big league career. He has spent the last seven seasons as the San Francisco Giants hitting coach, helping the club win three World Series championships.

NETHERLANDS INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCES

Starting play in Pool A of this year’s WBC, the Dutch went 2-1 against South Korea, Israel, and Chinese Taipei. Advancing to the second round, the club again went 2-1 against Japan, Israel, and Cuba.
That overall 4-2 performance in Pool play allowed The Netherlands to advance into the semi-finals of the WBC for the second consecutive time. The Dutch were eliminated in the first round in 2006, and the second round in 2009.
In 2013, the team simply couldn’t overcome Japan. They were mercy-ruled by the Japanese by a 16-4 score in the second round. Reaching the semis, Team Japan again dumped The Netherlands, though this time by a more competitive 10-6 final.
Despite last night’s extra-innings defeat at the hands of Puerto Rico, The Netherlands can still medal in this competition. If Japan (6-0) defeats the US (4-2) in tonight’s other semi-final, both the Americans and the Dutch would finish 4-3. The two would finish tied for 3rd place. If the US wins, The Netherlands finish in fourth place.
In other international competitions over the years, The Netherlands have fought hard. The Dutch won the 2011 World Cup. They finished fifth at both the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. They have captured 22 Gold Medals at the European Championships, and are the defending champs.
So as you can see, while The Netherlands might not have been the first nation that you thought of when figuring on WBC favorites, they are certainly capable of putting a talented baseball team on the field.

Hanley and the Panda to Boston

The Boston Red Sox have agreed to longterm contracts with a pair of big name free agents, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo ‘Kung Fu Panda’ Sandoval.

MLB sources have told the Boston Globe that both deals are for 5 years, with Ramirez’ in the $90 million and Sandoval in the $100 million range.

This is as clear a sign as any that the Bosox are not happy with having followed up their 2nd World Series title in 3 years in 2013 with their 2nd last place finish in 3 years in 2014.

While the adding of big name free agents is exciting for a fan base, the more important factors involve how those players will actually fit your current needs. The fact is that the Red Sox already owned a number of exciting offensive options, both in established players and in high-ceiling prospects.

The acquisition of both Ramirez and Sandoval brings a ton of risk to the organization at great monetary cost without addressing their most glaring need.
They still need at least two more established, talented starting pitching options than they currently possess. And they could use more reliability in the pen as well.

The risk side involves both players physical ability to perform through the contracts. Hanley, who turns 31 years old next month, has missed big chunks of 2 of the last 4 seasons with injuries, not including a piece of this last 2014 season. Sandoval, one of the game’s proven “clutch” postseason hitters, is limited offensively over the course of a 162-game season. He also has a chronic weight issue that is only going to affect him more as he approaches and passes age 30.

Ramirez is going to play left field, and Sandoval will play 3rd base. With Cuban signee Rusney Castillo expected to take over the everyday role in centerfield, and with Yoenis Cespedes in right, this creates a blockade for a number of young players and prospects deserving of and ready for increased playing time.

Mookie Betts is clearly ready to play every day. He can play 2nd base, where Dustin Pedroia is entrenched, or in the now-jammed outfield. Jackie Bradley Jr is perhaps the best defensive outfielder in the game today. He has not yet shown he can hit on a consistent basis, but he appears ready for at least a shot at an every day role.

Catcher Blake Swihart just before and 3rd baseman Garin Cecchini just after Opening Day each turn 23 years old, and are both nearly ready. Will Middlebrooks is 26, and certainly ready for an everyday 3rd base role. Every one of these 5 youngsters is now blocked for the foreseeable future. Panda blocking the 3rd sackers, and 24-year old Christian Vazquez as catcher.

Kung Fu Panda joins Hanley in beefing up Bosox lineup

There is much speculation that with these signings, that the Red Sox may renew pursuit of a pitcher, such as the Phillies’ available ace Cole Hamels. If they led such a deal with young shortstop Xander Bogaerts and included any 2 of these other 5, the Phils likely pull the trigger. 24-year old pitchers Matt Barnes and Allen Webster are two other potential prospects figuring in such trade talks.

Some Boston fans would love the Phillies to take Cespedes for Hamels. That is a pipe dream. Cespedes is indeed talented. However, he turned 29 last month, and becomes a free agent after next season. Neither of those things fits into the Phillies stated rebuilding plans. If he were to agree to an affordable extension, then perhaps he works as a piece along with a couple of the prospects, but that is not likely to happen.

Whatever happens with the Phillies and Red Sox, Boston clearly needs to do something big, probably a couple somethings, involving the addition of pitching if it truly wants to come back immediately to Series contention from it’s last place finish in what is becoming an increasingly competitive division and league.

What they have shown with the signings of their one-time prospect Hanley Ramirez and the Panda are that they are not content to wait for the dice-roll development of admittedly talented kids. Now we likely will see which of those kid prospects they are willing and able to part with in order to fix the remaining pitching holes.