- The Phillies will be without hard-throwing right-handed relief prospect Victor Arano for at least one month, per CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. The 22-year-old, who averaged about 94 mph on his fastball in 2016, has been diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. While surgery hasn’t been recommended, Arano did receive a platelet-rich plasma injection that will sideline him for the bulk of Spring Training. Though he was never likely to break camp with the Phils, it’s still discouraging for the team to see the promising young see his development set back. Last season, Arano posted brilliant numbers between Class-A Advanced and Double-A, working to a combined 2.26 ERA with 10.7 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9 across 79 2/3 innings of work. Arano rated 23rd among Phillies prospects entering the season, per MLB.com, while ESPN’s Keith Law rated him 16th. “If there’s a Ken Giles in the system right now, it’s him,” Law wrote of Arano.
- Andy MacPhail’s career in baseball spans several decades, but the Phillies’ president is leading the charge to help modernize his organization, writes MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. MacPhail, who took charge of the Phillies following the 2015 season, explained to Zolecki the myriad changes that are being made all throughout the organization. Improvements not only to the team’s analytics department but also to nutrition programs in the minor league ranks and a new facility opening in the Dominican Republic are just some of the changes that have been ushered in. MacPhail also sounded intrigued by the Rays’ recent decision to push back the start times of their spring workouts for players and cited an interest in sleep science studies. Beyond that, he noted that the Phils will be looking to hire a replacement for EVP/COO Mike Stiles, who will be retiring in June, though there’s been no determination on whether they’ll go with an internal or external hire.
Giants lefty Will Smith has been shut down for a week after experiencing inflammation in his pitching elbow, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News was among those to report (Twitter links). Fortunately, an MRI has already returned clean, so it seems there’s no worry of a major injury. But while it’s still early, San Francisco’s plan to get Smith ready for Opening Day is already on a tight timeline, Baggarly notes. So long as he can progress after his rest, Smith will be given six spring appearances in preparation for the season.
Here’s more from the National League:
- The Brewers, like the Rays, kept tabs on Matt Wieters up to his agreement with the Nationals, according to MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Though Milwaukee GM David Stearns wouldn’t acknowledge whether an offer was made, he acknowledged that there was contact. “I would say we have regular contact with many agents, including Scott,” Stearns explained. “So Matt’s name came up, and we made sure we understood where the market was for him and what the potential fits were. But nothing really beyond that.”
- Infielder Stephen Drew likely won’t see as much time with the Nationals as he could have elsewhere, but as Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com writes, he nevertheless chose to reprise his role as a key reserve in D.C. His comfort with the team came into play, along with family considerations. Drew also discussed his bout of vertigo last year, which occurred due to an ear infection. He dealt with symptoms through the postseason and into the offseason, but seems to be back to normal as camp opens.
- While Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco is entering only his second full season in the majors, there’s still plenty at stake, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. Refining his approach at the plate and work in the field certainly seem to be on the agenda, and whether he can successfully turn his talent into consistent productivity could have a major impact on the organization’s plans. Salisbury suggests that a player such as Manny Machado could become a serious consideration for the team — he’ll be a free agent after 2018 — depending upon how Franco progresses. While it’s obviously too soon to factor in players such as Machado in any meaningful way, as Salisbury acknowledges, Philadelphia is no doubt already thinking about where Franco will end up in the long run. It does seem worth noting that, even if he isn’t able to lock down the job at third for the foreseeable future, he could ultimately be a candidate to shift across the diamond to first base.
- In the weeks between the opening of free agency in November and Andres Blanco’s December re-signing with the Phillies, the utility infielder refused to entertain other teams’ advances, he told Matt Gelb of Philly.com. “Just wait. They will call,” Blanco advised his agent, referring to the Phillies. They finally did – with a $3MM offer – in part because Blanco’s a respected figure in the team’s clubhouse and a favorite of manager Pete Mackanin, per Gelb. It helps that the 32-year-old has also been quite productive in Philadelphia, having slashed .274/.337/.457 in 523 plate appearances since 2014.
- The Phillies seem inclined to hand the ball to righty Jeremy Hellickson when they start play this season, as Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “He’s probably got the best chance to be our Opening Day starter,” said manager Pete Mackanin. Hellickson, who took the organization’s $17.2MM qualifying offer rather than testing the open market, will be aiming to replicate a solid 2016 season and then test free agency without being saddled with draft compensation. (Under the new CBA, he won’t be eligible to receive a second qualifying offer.)
- Werth’s decision to leave the Phillies for a seven-year, $126MM free agent deal from the Nationals after the 2010 season generated a lot of controversy at the time, directed at both the Nats for seemingly overpaying and at Werth for leaving a contender to join a perennial also-ran. In hindsight, however, Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer observes that Werth made the right choice in leaving the Phils just before their decline began, and just before the Nationals grew into an NL East power. “My focus was on winning, but at the time that’s not really what it looked like. Everybody was like, ’The Nats were crazy, Werth is money hungry’ and whatever else was said,” Werth said. “Honestly, I was in a position to pick and choose what I wanted to do. What I thought was cool about the Nats was that it was a total underdog situation, but they had good owners…and a core group of players with a high ceiling. It was a situation where I thought we could build something.”
- Sticking with the NL East closer theme, Phillies skipper Pete Mackanin feels that right-hander Jeanmar Gomez “deserves” to be the team’s closer, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Mackanin acknowledged that Gomez had a dreadful drop-off in production late in the 2016 season but likened his faith in Gomez to the faith former manager Charlie Manuel showed in Brad Lidge back in 2009. “Charlie showed [Lidge] confidence and stayed with him,” Mackanin said, referencing a dismal season for Lidge (7.21 ERA in 58 1/3 innings). “I think it was the right thing to do.” Mackanin did acknowledge that both Hector Neris and Edubray Ramos have “shown closer’s stuff,” but he stressed that Gomez is the current closer. The 29-year-old Gomez carried a 2.97 ERA into the 2016 season’s final month before being shelled for 17 earned runs in his final eight innings.
Phillies president Andy MacPhail shared his thoughts on the status of the organization’s rebuild with MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. Expressing his agreement with the offseason maneuverings of GM Matt Klentak, MacPhail emphasized that he’s expecting tangible progress, but won’t necessarily reduce his assessment to the team’s win-loss record. Notably, MacPhail suggested that the organization could be readying to further open its substantial pocketbook next winter. The organization’s fairly significant investment in short-term veterans this winter was driven by ownership’s determination to improve the on-field product, he indicated, and it seems that yet further spending is contemplated for the future. MacPhail acknowledged that the Phillies could “absolutely” boost their payroll into the top half or third of the league by the 2018 season.
- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin’s contract runs through 2017 with a team option for 2018, but GM Matt Klentak remains mum on an extension or an exercise of Mackanin’s option, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury writes. “We have time to do that,” says Klentak. “Obviously last year we talked about his status in spring training and I’m sure the time will come when we’ll sit down and talk about it again.” The Phillies signed Mackanin to his current contract last March. Salisbury points out that there’s no danger of Mackanin losing his job at this time after the Phillies improved from 63 to 71 wins in 2016, so Mackanin’s contract now qualifies as a “low-priority item.”
FEB. 7: Coghlan’s contract comes with a $3MM major league salary and $1MM in incentives, tweets FanRag’s Jon Heyman.
Coghlan is settling for a minors pact on account of a subpar 2016 spent between the Athletics and Cubs, with whom he won the World Series. The 31-year-old hit a meager .188/.290/.318 across 300 plate appearances (and went hitless in eight postseason PAs), which represented a sharp decline from his output with the Cubs from 2014-15. Coghlan combined for a quality batting line of .265/.346/.447 and 5.7 fWAR over that two-year, 935-PA stretch.
Prior to his first of two stints with the Cubs, Coghlan spent the initial five years of his career as a member of the Marlins, who selected him in the first round of the 2006 draft. The lefty-swinging Coghlan won the National League Rookie of the Year with the Fish in 2009 on the strength of a .321/.390/.460 showing in 565 trips to the plate, though he never came close to replicating that success over his final four years in Miami.
Defensively, Coghlan has primarily been an outfielder during his career – mostly left field – but he does bring some infield experience. Despite his versatility, he’ll seemingly face an uphill climb in securing playing time with the Phillies. While Coghlan’s a more established option than reserve outfielders Aaron Altherr and Tyler Goeddel, the team is all set in center field with Odubel Herrera, and it has added a pair of somewhat pricey corner outfielders this offseason in Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders. Philadelphia also has Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez locked in at third and second base, the two infield spots where Coghlan has most frequently lined up, and Andres Blanco as a backup infielder.
- The Phillies have made some solid offensive upgrades, as David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer feels the additions of Howie Kendrick, Michael Saunders and Chris Coghlan give the Phils “a fighting chance at fielding a middle-of-the-pack offense this season.” There’s really nowhere to go but up for the Phillies (who scored the fewest runs in baseball in 2016) but they did add some lineup versatility and veteran experience, and they retained flexibility in their rebuilding process since none of the trio are guaranteed beyond 2017.