- Infielder Philip Gosselin won’t make the Phillies, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia relays. It seems the 30-year-old will remain on hand as minor league depth, however. The journeyman has accrued 579 major league PAs, though he didn’t play much at the MLB level from 2017-18, and batted .263/.314/.361.
- Also from Rosenthal’s piece, he provided a sneak peek at an interview conducted with Bryce Harper that will air in full after Fox Sports 1’s broadcast of the Braves/Phillies game on March 30. Within the interview, Harper discussed his lengthy free agent process, including the tidbit that his final decision came down to the Phillies and the Giants. In weighing his options with his wife Kayla, Harper said the couple ultimately decided that Philadelphia was the best fit. “It was nothing against San Francisco. They’re a great organization. It’s a great city,” Harper said. “It just came down to what I felt. And by that point, it was Philly.” Harper also said that the difference between spacious Oracle Park and the more hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park “was never really a factor” in his choice of teams.
The Phillies have released catcher Drew Butera and infielder Andrew Romine, per a club announcement. Both had been in camp on minor-league deals with March 21st opt-out provisions, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia notes on Twitter.
Clearly, the Philadelphia organization had determined that neither player would make its active roster. The 35-year-old Butera, a light-hitting career reserve, had quite a strong offensive showing in camp but did not do enough to top youngster Andrew Knapp for backup duties. Romine, 33, didn’t hit much this spring. He rarely has done much with the bat in the big leagues, but has been trusted to appear at every position on the field.
The Phillies announced Thursday that they’ve released four non-roster invitees to Spring Training: infielders Trevor Plouffe and Gregorio Petit as well as left-handers Edward Paredes and Jeremy Bleich. The Phils also optioned lefty James Pazos and right-hander Drew Anderson to Triple-A.
Plouffe, 32, was the Twins’ primary third baseman from 2013-16 and provided a solid bat with some pop for them during that time. However, he’s struggled with the A’s, Rays and Phillies across the past two seasons, hitting a combined .200/.271/.325 with 10 homers in 325 trips to the plate. He’s picked up some experience playing first base in recent years and has traditionally been a strong right-handed bat against left-handed opponents. In 27 spring plate appearances, Plouffe collected five hits (two homers, two doubles) and drew four walks.
Petit is a more versatile infielder, capable of playing both middle-infield slots, but he doesn’t have near the track record that Plouffe carries. Another former Twins/A’s infielder, the 34-year-old Petit is a career .249/.294/.342 hitter in 493 plate appearances. He went 4-for-15 with the Phils in his limited time in camp.
Paredes, 32, appeared briefly with the Dodgers in both 2017 and 2018, pitching a combined 16 innings with a 4.50 ERA but an outstanding 19-to-2 K/BB ratio. He’s been an extreme fly-ball pitcher in Triple-A and particularly in his limited big league time. Paredes was lights-out in camp, tossing 6 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run while recording an 11-to-2 K/BB ratio.
Bleich made his big league debut last season at the age of 31, though he faced only four batters (retiring one of them). A supplemental first-round pick by the Yankees back in 2008, Bleich is a 10-year minor league veteran with a career 3.64 ERA at the Triple-A level. In nine spring innings, Bleich allowed three runs on six hits and seven walks with 11 strikeouts.
- Phillies right-hander Tommy Hunter and outfield hopeful Roman Quinn are expected to open the 2019 season on the injured list, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. Hunter has been slowed by a flexor strain this spring, while Quinn is sidelined for now due to an oblique strain. Quinn’s placement on the IL buys the Phillies a little bit of time in determining how to sort out their outfield picture. With Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen locked into the corners, the Phillies have four remaining outfielders — Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr and Quinn — with minimal at-bats to go around. That situation is complicated further by the fact that Altherr and Quinn are both out of minor league options. Something will have to give eventually, but until Quinn is up to full strength, the Phillies can continue to keep him and Altherr both in the organization.
The Phillies and Orioles have announced a swap in which the Philadelphia organization acquires international bonus pool spending availability. Young catcher Lenin Rodriguez is heading to Baltimore in return.
This is the latest in a strong of transactions in which the O’s have spun off international spending capacity. The club missed on some top targets and obviously felt unable to put its remaining funds to productive uses.
Rodriguez, who’ll soon turn 21, has not seen much game action in the lower minors since signing for a $300K bonus. Over the past four seasons, he’s a .263/.369/.367 hitter in 444 plate appearances — more than half of which came in Venezuelan Summer League ball way back in 2015.
- Nathan Eovaldi re-signed with the Red Sox on a four-year, $68MM contract in December, but only after the right-hander drew serious interest from elsewhere. The Angels and Phillies “really wanted” Eovaldi, per Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, though the feeling wasn’t mutual. During the free-agent process, Eovaldi informed his agency, ACES, he only wanted to sign with the Red Sox or his hometown Astros, according to Bradford. But the Astros, despite the questions in their rotation, didn’t pursue the 29-year-old. “Houston is home for me,” Eovaldi told Bradford. “I would have had more talks with the Astros but they just didn’t want any part of it so they were out of the question. While Eovaldi added that he was “a little surprised” the Astros ignored him, he’s happy to be back in Boston after helping the club to a championship in 2018.
With each bump and bruise this time of year comes the potential for missed time during the regular season, perhaps especially so for those late signees getting delayed starts to their Spring Training. As Opening Day fast approaches, let’s get the lowdown on a few injury reports from camp…
- Rockies righty Antonio Senzatela has an infected blister on his right heel and will be out “a while,” per manager Bud Black (via the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders). Senzatela, 24, was competing for the final spot in Colorado’s rotation with Chad Bettis, who now appears to have the role on lock. The Venezuelan-born righty had made just eight starts above the high-A level before opening the 2017 season with the team, and again played a major role in the club’s wild card-run last season. His fastball-heavy repertoire is devoid, at this point, of a true swing-and-miss pitch, so perhaps the 6’1 righty could indeed use further minor league seasoning. Still, despite some sophomore regression, Senzatela’s been reasonably effective thus far in his young MLB career, and the Rockies are almost certain to require his services at some point this season.
- Padres righty Jacob Nix has been shut down with right arm soreness, per MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell. Nix, 23, shares with Senzatela the same allergy to missing bats, but was a legitimate candidate for the fifth spot in a wide-open San Diego rotation. Once the victim of a too-clever Astros draft scheme, in which the team agreed to terms with the young righty but was forced to renege after a bonus-pool shortage resulting from the Brady Aiken fiasco, Nix has long flashed top-of-the-rotation tools but struggled with consistency. Last season’s debut was a disaster: the 6’5 righty was torched to the tune of a 7.02 ERA/5.83 FIP with 8 HRs allowed in just 42 1/3 IP. He, too, is due for a longer minors simmer, having made just one start above the AA level in his young career thus far.
- Bryce Harper is day-to-day with ankle swelling, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan (via Twitter). Harper was hit by a pinch in yesterday’s Phillies game, though even by this morning the swelling had reduced. All tests came back negative, per Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer (via Twitter), while a number of reporters quote manager Gabe Kapler as projecting confidence in Bryce’s ability to be ready by Opening Day. All in all, this appears to be much ado about nothing, but as is the case with any injury, it’s worth tracking for aftereffect. Due to the late date of his signing, Harper has seen limited action in spring thus far, going 0-5 with three strikeouts, three walks, and a stolen base, though the focus here is obviously not yet on production. The Phillies season opens less than two weeks from today with their home opener against the Braves on Thursday, March 28th.
- Tigers presumptive right fielder Nick Castellanos remains out of the lineup for the time being, per MLB.com’s Jason Beck (via Twitter). Castellanos is likely to return to Grapefruit League play within a couple of days. He was seen taking batting practice in the cage today and at least provided cursory affirmation that tests on his bruised left hand revealed no significant damage, per Chris McCosky of the Detroit News (via Twitter). Castellanos has been bandied about often here at MLBTR this winter as a trade candidate, which appears likely to continue as there have been no extension talks between the right-handed slugger and the club.
- The Braves may be without their ace until “mid/late April,” per the Athletic’s David O’Brien (via Twitter). Mike Foltynewicz has missed most of Spring Training with a sore elbow after a breakout season. Folty was stellar in 2018 as he went 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA (3.37 FIP) over 183 frames. There was much speculation about the Braves bolstering their rotation this winter, either via free agency or by bundling their prospects in a trade, but they mostly hung tight despite losing Anibal Sanchez – who enjoyed a different variety of 2018 breakout – to the rival Nationals. The Braves have plenty of depth to cover, but much of their standing pat must have been predicated on a healthy Folynewicz leading the charge again in 2019. Atlanta will lean on Julio Teheran, Kevin Gausman, and Sean Newcomb to hold down the fort until Folty’s return.
Offseason additions of Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen have left the Phillies with an overcrowded outfield mix that will likely lead to some roster shuffling. As The Athletic’s Meghan Montemurro examines at length (subscription required), the Phils now have five outfielders — Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr and Dylan Cozens — all on the 40-man roster beyond their two big-name pickups. Both Herrera and Quinn are currently nursing minor injuries, but they’re also the two most logical options for center field. Williams, meanwhile, isn’t viewed as an option in center, per manager Gabe Kapler, which severely clouds his future with the team. Williams does have minor league options remaining, but he could also hold appeal as a trade asset marketed to other clubs in search of outfield help. (The same could be true of Herrera, but he’s owed $24.5MM through 2021 and had a down season in 2018.) Of the Phillies’ current outfielders, both Altherr and Quinn are out of minor league options, which only enhances the likelihood of some roster moves in the next couple of weeks.
Bryce Harper just launched his tenure as the Phillies’ biggest star, but he’s already considering how to use his gravitational pull to the team’s advantage. In an interview yesterday with Philadelphia SportsRadio 94WIP, Harper made clear he intends to help the Phils land another big fish in free agency:
“If you don’t think I’m gonna call Mike Trout to come to Philly in 2020, you’re crazy.”
That comment was sufficient to spur the Angels to raise the matter with Major League Baseball, Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times reports. The league has been in touch with both teams and is looking into the matter, per ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan (Twitter link). Unsurprisingly, “significant discipline” is not anticipated.
Tampering is prohibited by operation of MLB Rule 3(k), which prohibits “negotiations or dealings respecting employment, either present or prospective, between any player, coach or manager and any Major or Minor League Club other than the Club with which the player is under contract.”
While Harper’s comments seem innocuous enough on the surface, they are of the same ilk as others that have drawn some rebuke in the past. David Ortiz received a warning letter from the from the commissioner’s office after advocating for Edwin Encarnacion to replace him as the Red Sox’ DH. The Yankees admonished Aaron Judge for telling Manny Machado he’d “look good in pinstripes.”
Those situations didn’t warrant a fine, though that avenue is available to commissioner Rob Manfred. The National Basketball Association has doled out penalties and issued stern words on the subject, a reflection of the fact that the league’s fundamental player market structure — more star-driven with shorter, more heavily regulated contracts — is more susceptible to actual interference.
What action will be taken in Harper’s case, if any, remains to be seen and resides largely in Manfred’s discretion. It’s hard to imagine that Harper’s words are of much real-world import, though perhaps there’s cause to nip things in the bud. For the Halos, the last thing they want to see is a two-year-long public recruiting pitch from Harper and others as they try to figure out a way to keep Trout in town for the rest of his career. And for the league, there’s an interest in preventing even this sort of mild tampering from becoming a more frequent issue.
Structuring a penalty that actually disincentivizes these kinds of public comments would be tricky. Any symbolic punishment of Harper would serve only to further publicize his comments. It might also ingratiate him to his new fans in Philly, who are already themselves pining for Trout. A warning letter may seem toothless, but it’s perhaps the most sensible formal action for Manfred to take in this case.