- The Phillies are now looking to fill their pitching coach spot yet again following Bryan Price’s retirement. Price spent just one season in the role, leaving manager Joe Girardi with a significant leadership void to fill. A former catcher himself, Girardi no doubt will take a leading role in finding the right voice to speak to his hurlers, and a number of names are popping up already, such as Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey and internal candidates Dave Lundquist, Rafael Chaves, and Jim Gott, tweets Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
- This would seem to be a key decision for the future of the Phillies and Girardi, as they’ve long lacked stability in this department. Next season will mark the 5th different pitching coach in the past 5 seasons, notes Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Phillies host of talented hurlers have largely disappointed, as the group of Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez, and Nick Pivetta (now with the Red Sox) have looked like the core of a potential rotation at times, but even augmenting this group with outside additions like Jake Arrieta and Zack Wheeler hasn’t gotten the Phillies where to want to be, record-wise. Phillies pitchers have ranked 14th in the majors in fWAR over the past 5 seasons.
- Tim Naehring has been a popular name for baseball ops openings around baseball like the Phillies and Marlins, but he’s unlikely to leave his role with the Yankees, per Andy Martino of the SNY Network (via Twitter). Connections to Derek Jeter in Miami and Girardi in Philly draw straight lines to Naehring, who is a VP of Baseball Operations in New York. But the role he is in now apparently works for Naehring, and those obvious contacts may be pumping up the possibility of a change.
- Previous reports suggested the Phillies might not be in a hurry to replace former GM Matt Klentak, potentially relying on interim GM Ned Rice to run their day-to-day baseball operations until the end of 2021. That still might be the case, but Philadelphia’s at least doing their due diligence already. Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo is under consideration for the job, per Jon Morosi of MLB Network (Twitter link). He was also in the mix for the Phillies’ GM vacancy back in 2015, when the position went to Klentak. Picollo joined the Kansas City organization in 2006 and has been an AGM under Dayton Moore since 2008.
The Phillies announced that pitching coach Bryan Price has elected to retire. It’s a surprising development, as the longtime big league coach just signed with Philadelphia one season ago.
Price, 58, was in-demand at this time last year. He reportedly spurned pitching coach offers from the Diamondbacks and Padres to take the same position with the Phillies. 2020 marked Price’s 15th season as a major league pitching coach, as he previously served in that capacity with the Mariners, Diamondbacks and Reds.
Of course, Price is more famous for his time as Cincinnati’s manager. He skippered the Reds from 2014-18. That wasn’t a particularly successful stint, as the club managed just a 279-387 record in that span, failing to reach the postseason. Nevertheless, Price remained well-regarded in the industry, as evidenced by the number of opportunities available to him last offseason.
Philadelphia manager Joe Girardi will now hunt for a new voice to lead the pitching staff. Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola present an enviable top two starters with whom to work. Zach Eflin seemingly turned a corner in his age-26 season and Spencer Howard is one of the sport’s most talented prospects.
That said, the Phillies will certainly have some work to do in the coming months. Howard struggled as a rookie, while Jake Arrieta and Vince Velasquez continued to underperform at the back of the rotation. The bullpen was atrocious, contributing to Philadelphia getting left out of the 2020 expanded playoff bracket. Price’s replacement will work on building up depth behind that strong core. As Meghan Montemurro of the Athletic observes (via Twitter), that person will be the Phillies’ fourth pitching coach in as many years.
J.T. Realmuto will be the best catcher on the free agent market this winter – and one of the best players of any measure. The two-time All-Star should have no shortage of potential suitors when the bidding begins. Though their opportunity to filibuster is nearing an end, the Phillies aren’t yielding the floor quite yet. Expect interim GM Ned Rice and President Andy MacPhail to continue their efforts to bring the Oklahoman back to Philadelphia. A true two-way serviceman like Realmuto with elite skills on both sides of the ball will wag the tails of more than a few executives around the game, however.
Realmuto will turn 30-years-old in March of next season, and any team that signs him will have to be aware of the threat the aging curve poses to his long-term productivity. And yet, it’s not as if we haven’t seen productive offensive catchers in the past. Similar performers of the past can provide insight into how well Realmuto may age as he enters his thirties (and how much he might be worth over the life of that next contract), which the Athletic’s Tim Britton explores. Looking at a collection of catchers with similar career arcs to Realmuto’s, Britton lands on either a four-year, $96MM deal or a six-year, $128MM deal as the proper valuation for Realmuto’s services moving forward.
It’s worth mentioning, Realmuto’s future viability could benefit from a rule change or two. If the designated hitter stays in the National League, for instance, Realmuto’s next club could keep him fresh into his thirties while still allowing his bat to play. He is one of the rare catchers whose bat could conceivably play at DH. But there’s also the possibility of electronic strike zones, which could lessen the detriment that aging has on a catcher’s defensive performance.
But electronic strike zones aren’t coming next season, and it’s hard to know when exactly they may enter everyday use. It’s that very issue that threatens the employability of bigger-body backstops like Gary Sánchez, Wilson Ramos, and Jorge Alfaro, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman provides this interesting insight from an anonymous executive, “When the automated strike zone comes maybe you can have a DH catch because framing will mean nothing or maybe if we give the catcher an earpiece and can feed him every pitch, game calling will mean nothing. But we are asking catchers to make 150 decisions a game and have deep relationships with every pitcher and more than ever you cannot throw the defensive component away.”
Each of Sánchez, Ramos, and Alfaro lost playing time down the stretch and in the playoffs to better defensive catchers. Sánchez in particular faced a rather public “benching.” As the playoffs wore on and Sánchez struggled to light a fuse at the plate, the Yankees increasingly went with Kyle Higashioka as their primary receiver. Sánchez has another round of arbitration this winter after making a full-scale salary of $5MM in 2020, but the Yankees are likely to try and move him before the contract tender date of December 2nd, writes Sherman.
Given the state of the game amid the pandemic, rampant revenue losses make for a more uncertain winter than any in recent memory. The number of teams capable of luring J.T. may be limited if the price for entry is in the neighborhood suggested by Britton. James McCann and Mike Zunino represent the “best of the rest,” though the trade market could add a player like Sánchez to grease the wheels. Take another look at our free agency preview, provided here by MLBTR’s Steve Adams, but it’s certainly going to be interesting to see the length, duration, and location of Realmuto’s next deal.
In a year defined by loss, the baseball community was hit with more heartbreak this morning. Baseball legend, Hall of Famer, and one of the greatest second baseman of all-time Joe Morgan has passed away at the age of 77, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (via Twitter). The Cincinnati Reds released a statement of condolences, as many around the baseball community have already started to share stories and praise Morgan’s character and career.
Morgan played in the major leagues for 22 seasons for the Colt.45s/Astros, Reds, Giants, Phillies, and A’s, most recognizably as a member of the Big Red Machine from 1972 to 1979. Even on a team stacked with all-time greats like Johnny Bench and Pete Rose, Morgan stood out, not only for his iconic wing-flap batting stance, but for his MVP-turn on the field. His acquisition prior to the 1972 season turned Sparky Anderson’s Reds into the juggernaut that we remember them as today. Led by Morgan’s triple slash of .292/.417/.435 – a 9.3 rWAR season – the Reds won the pennant in his first season with the club, falling to the A’s in the seventh game of the World Series.
That was just the beginning for Morgan and the Reds, however. Morgan won MVP honors in back-to-back seasons in 1975 and 1976, leading the Reds to World Series victories in both seasons. He was a 10-time All-Star and 5-time Glove Glove Award winner. A refined eye at the plate contributed to a stellar .392 career OBP and 100.5 rWAR, 31st all-time. Morgan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990 with 2,517 hits, 268 home runs, and 2,649 games played from 1963 to 1984. He is a member of both the Astros’ and Reds’ Hall of Fame. The Reds also retired Morgan’s #8 in 1987, not long after the end of his playing career.
The gregarious and always respectful Morgan took on a second life as a broadcaster after his playing career. Morgan was part of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast team along with Jon Miller from 1990 until 2010, when he took on a role as special adviser for the Reds’ baseball operations department.
We at MLB Trade Rumors extend our condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of Morgan. Morgan will forever be an remembered as a baseball legend.
As Andrew McCutchen celebrates his 34th birthday today, let’s check out some Phillies-related items…
- Though owner John Middleton recently gave a strong public endorsement to team president Andy MacPhail, multiple sources tell the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Scott Lauber that Middleton would prefer MacPhail either retires from his post a year early, or at least steps away from baseball operations duties. Such a move would allow for a smoother transition for a front office that is searching for a new GM after Matt Klentak stepped down from the post, as a new president of baseball operations and GM could both be hired in tandem, as opposed to hiring a general manager now and then a new president next offseason. Staying with the combo of MacPhail as president and interim GM Ned Rice through 2021 “would seem anathema to Middleton” considering that he clearly feels changes are needed for the Phils.
- Of the 20 Phillies players who are free agents, arbitration-eligible, or controlled by club options for 2021, The Athletic’s Matt Gelb figures only three (arb-eligibles Rhys Hoskins, Zach Eflin, and Andrew Knapp) “are locks to return” next season. Any of the other 17 could conceivably be non-tendered or let walk depending on what kind of budgetary cuts are coming to the Philadelphia payroll, or how the Phils might need to reallocate funds to pursue other needed roster upgrades. J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius are among that group of 17 players, so others could be let go to free up the funds necessary to re-sign at least one of that duo.
Oct. 9: The Phillies announced that Morgan has undergone a flexor tendon repair procedure and will require six to nine months to recover.
Oct. 8: Phillies left-hander Adam Morgan is set to undergo surgery on his throwing elbow tomorrow. Morgan’s wife Rachel revealed the news in a post on her Instagram past, and NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury added that the surgery will address a flexor pronator injury. Salisbury estimates a six-to-eight month recovery time for Morgan, based on past timelines for other injured pitchers undergoing similar procedures.
This isn’t the first time that Morgan has dealt with such an injury, as injured list stints for both a forearm strain and a flexor strain limited Morgan to 29 2/3 innings pitched in 2019, and the latter flexor problem ended his season after July 31. The southpaw did spend some time on the IL this season due to shoulder soreness, yet while Morgan’s elbow didn’t cause him to miss any time this season, there were some red flags.
Morgan averaged only 91.6 mph on his fastball in 2020, a drop from his 92.6mph velocity in 2019 and a further decline after topping the 94mph threshold in both 2017 and 2018 (his first two seasons as a full-time reliever). In the small sample size of 13 innings, Morgan posted a 5.54 ERA, 11.1 K/9, and 2.67 K/BB rate this season. He also had career-worst totals in BB/9 (4.15) and HR/9 (2.08), though ERA predictors were generally satisfied with his work — Morgan had a 4.04 xFIP and 3.81 SIERA, each significantly below his real-world ERA.
After being converted to relief pitching, Morgan delivered some solid results for the Phillies in 2017, 2018, and even in his injury-shortened 2019. The lefty posted a 3.97 ERA, 9.6 K/9, and 2.84 K/BB rate over 133 2/3 innings over those three seasons. If the Phils have confidence that this elbow surgery will help Morgan get back on track, they could have interest in retaining him given the club’s dire need for bullpen help.
Morgan earned $1.575MM this season and is line for only a modest raise in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility. He wouldn’t represent a big investment for Philadelphia, but by the time the non-tender deadline rolls around in early December, the team might not yet know if Morgan’s recovery will be on the shorter end or longer end of that 6-to-8 month timeframe. As such, Morgan might not be tendered a contract, though the Phils (or another team) could then explore signing him to a less-expensive deal.
The Yankees have a couple of “assistant GM-types” that the Phillies might look into if they decide not to stick with interim GM Ned Rice for the 2021 season, Jon Heyman posits on his new podcast with Tony Gwynn Jr. There still remains a decent chance that the Phillies give Rice the year in the GM seat, however.
If they do decide to look outside the organization, Heyman submits someone like Jim Hendry – not an AGM, but a special assistant to GM Brian Cashman – to receive consideration from the Phillies to fill their GM vacancy. It’s been a bit since Hendry’s name surfaced for a GM opening, but the former Cubs’ executive does have ties to Team President Andy MacPhail, as well as manager Joe Girardi. MacPhail promoted Hendry to the GM role in Chicago way back in 2002. He served as the Cubs’ GM until after the 2011 season. He was hired on as a special assistant to Brian Cashman in 2012.
Hendry’s relationship with Girardi could prove an important element, and that holds for any new candidate coming into Philadelphia. Girardi is respected in the organization and heading into just the second year of his deal. For the Phillies to hit the ground running with a new lead man in the baseball ops department, they would prefer to do so without having to reset in the dugout yet again.
Yankees Vice President of Baseball Operations Tim Naehring and Vice President of Domestic Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer are two other names that Heyman suggests the Phillies might take a look at from the Yankees front office.
The Phillies announced that first baseman Rhys Hoskins underwent a successful Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL in his left elbow last week. He’s expected to be sidelined for four to six months.
It’s an unfortunate development for the 27-year-old. Recovery from this procedure isn’t as severe for a position player as it would be for a pitcher, but both player and team were surely hoping he wouldn’t need to go under the knife.
Before going down with the forearm injury that ended his season, Hoskins had a strong year at the plate. He hit .245/.384/.503 over 185 plate appearances, a marked improvement in the on-base and power departments over his 2019 campaign. He’s also in line for a substantial raise, as he’ll go through the arbitration process for the first time this winter. As a middle-of-the-order fixture, Hoskins should remain quite a bargain from a contractual standpoint.
The four-to-six month timetable opens up the possibility Hoskins won’t be available out of the gate next season. It’d take his coming in at the early end of that recovery timetable to have an uninterrupted spring training. As far as recent precedents go, Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks underwent the same procedure last October and would not have been ready to return until June. Notably, however, Hicks’ procedure was on his throwing arm (Hoskins’ is not) and initially called for a more significant eight-to-ten month recovery timeline.
Phillies GM Matt Klentak stepped down on Saturday after five seasons running baseball operations in Philadelphia. Despite making an impact on the hot stove with significant free agent spending on stars like Bryce Harper, Zack Wheeler, Didi Gregorius, and Andrew McCutchen. The trade for J.T. Realmuto brought in the premier catcher in the game, one of just a couple of backstops capable of managing a staff while wielding a middle-of-the-order bat. He also brought in presumptive third baseman of the present-and-future Alec Bohm with the third overall pick of the 2018 draft.
Klentak’s record wasn’t spotless. The David Robertson signing fell apart due to injuries. He doled out large sums to Michael Saunders and Carlos Santana, only to move on after disappointing starts. First overall draft pick in 2016 Mickey Moniak hasn’t developed into a superstar as one might expect from a 1-1 pick.
But the darkest mark on Klentak’s record was a failure to make the playoffs during his five years in charge. The Phillies have the second-longest playoff drought in the game. Despite many successful moves, the Phillies disappointed year after year, leaving principal owner John Middleton somewhat befuddled. As successful as Realmuto has been for the Phillies, for example, Sixto Sánchez’s success has to be particularly galling. One of the pieces used to acquire Realmuto from Miami, Sánchez helped the Marlins leapfrog the Phillies into the playoffs this year. Realmuto’s time in Philadelphia, meanwhile, could already be reaching an end – he’s an unrestricted free agent this winter.
With Klentak demoted, the Phillies are considering their options for how to fill out the head of the baseball operations department moving forward. They could look to hire a head of baseball operations as well as a GM. They could wait to bring in a head of baseball ops until Team President Andy MacPhail retires at the end of 2021, per The Athletic’s Matt Gelb. MacPhail’s impending retirement is very much a part of Middelton’s decision-making.
The pandemic complicates all significant hiring decisions, of course, and it could be some time until the Phillies make a final decision. There was a roughly 6-week hiring process to bring in Klentak, but his replacement could take more than a year to find, per Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer (via Twitter). 37-year-old Ned Rice has been elevated to the interim GM position for now, and it’s on the table that Rice could serve in the role for the entirety of next season.
Middleton spoke highly of Rice, saying in a quote provided by Gelb, “One of the reasons that we chose Ned is because he has by far the most breadth of experience in the organization other than Matt and frankly the most depth as well. For example, he put together the presentation for Bryce Harper when we flew out to Las Vegas the first time. He was involved with all the meetings, discussing strategy and tactics of when to make offers and what the offer should be, analyzing the offers that Scott (Boras) put out and how we should respond. He has significant experience, and his input in that process is invaluable.”
On the surface the process might feel disjointed, but it’s entirely within the realm of reasonable solutions for the Phillies to take their time in deciding the management structure moving forward, especially considering the complicated nature of a mixed-bag tenure like Klentak’s. Middleton remains the unequivocal head of the organization and traditional concerns about continuity and organizational clarity are mitigated somewhat because of the presence of MacPhail and Rice. More important for the Phillies is that whoever comes in next has a clear plan in place with benchmarks that Middleton can use to measure the success of the program.