Philadelphia Phillies – MLB Trade Rumors Tue, 16 Oct 2018 05:27:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Phillies May Have Released Jack Zoellner Had O's Not Traded For Him Sun, 14 Oct 2018 17:12:09 +0000
  • The Orioles made an eyebrow-raising move in August when they traded $750K in international money to the Phillies for minor league first baseman Jack Zoellner. It turns out the Phillies may have released Zoellner had they not found a taker for him, according to Kubatko. Per Kubatko, Philly was “far less enthusiastic about Zoellner” than Baltimore’s front office, which was then led by since-fired GM Dan Duquette. Zoellner doesn’t rank among Baltimore’s top 30 prospects at, and, as Kubatko notes, didn’t stand out in Rookie ball from 2017-18 despite being old for the level.
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    Players Electing Free Agency Tue, 09 Oct 2018 00:20:27 +0000 Quite a few players will hit the open market this fall, and they’ll do so by way of varying mechanisms. The end of the regular season triggered a recent wave of free agents, consisting of a certain subset of players — namely, those who were outrighted from 40-man rosters during the season and accepted minor-league assignments at that time despite having the right to elect free agency. Players in that situation are entitled instead to hit the open market at season’s end, if they were not added back to the 40-man roster in the meantime.

    As conveyed by Matt Eddy of Baseball America, who also covers quite a few other minor moves, these players have now elected free agency:

    Athletics: RHP Raul Alcantara, LHP Danny Coulombe

    Blue Jays: RHP Mike Hauschild, INF/OF Darnell Sweeney

    Braves: LHP Rex Brothers, RHP Miguel Socolovich

    Cardinals: LHP Tyler Lyons

    Indians: RHP Evan Marshall, RHP Alexi Ogando

    Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman, LHP Ross Detwiler, RHP Mike Morin, INF Zach Vincej

    Marlins: OF JB Shuck

    Mets: RHP Chris Beck, OF Bryce Brentz, RHP Scott Copeland, OF Matt den Dekker, INF Ty Kelly

    Nationals: LHP Tommy Milone, OF Moises Sierra, RHP Carlos Torres

    Orioles: RHP Jhan Marinez, INF Luis Sardinas

    Padres: OF Matt Szczur

    Phillies: INF Trevor Plouffe

    Pirates: LHP Buddy Boshers, RHP Casey Sadler, RHP A.J. Schugel

    Rangers: C Juan Centeno, LHP Anthony Gose, RHP Drew Hutchison, INF Tommy Joseph, RHP Chris Rowley

    Rays: INF Brandon Snyder, RHP Ryan Weber

    Reds: C Tim Federowicz, RHP Kevin Quackenbush

    Tigers: INF Dixon Machado, RHP Jacob Turner

    White Sox: RHP Tyler Danish

    MacPhail On Free Agency, Evaluating 2018 Phillies Fri, 05 Oct 2018 14:26:58 +0000
  • Phillies president Andy MacPhail met with the media earlier this week, discussing a number of topics ranging from potential free-agent acquisitions to the team’s disappointing finish (link via Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer). Phils fans have long been clamoring for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado to head to the city of brotherly love, and while MacPhail said he expects the team’s payroll to trend closer to its pre-rebuild heights, when the Phillies had one of baseball’s five highest payrolls, he also spoke somewhat cautiously about being too aggressive in the market. “I guess if you were to invest all you had on one star-type player, then that would be sort of an acknowledgment that you think you may be one player away,” said MacPhail. “Is that really going to solve the problems that I articulated earlier — the defense, playing within our division better, being more consistent, striking out less?” MacPhail did suggest that the Phils will be “active” in free agency but suggested that the inconsistent performance of the 2018 Phillies also makes it difficult to determine exactly how good the roster is, as currently constructed.
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    NL East Notes: Hoskins, Phillies, Mets, Marlins Tue, 02 Oct 2018 14:42:56 +0000 Rhys Hoskins’ move from first base to left field in 2018 didn’t exactly prove to be smooth, as the young slugger turned in one of the worst statistical seasons of any outfielder in baseball (-24 Defensive Runs Saved, -19 Outs Above Average, -11.3 Ultimate Zone Rating). Hoskins has already spoken about a desire to continue to improve, though he did admit when asked by Matt Breen of that he’d prefer to be back at first base in an ideal world. Hoskins emphasized that he’s told both GM Matt Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler that he’ll play wherever he’s asked but spoke about the comfort level he feels at first base as opposed to in the outfield.

    In his season-end press conference, Klentak acknowledged that moving Hoskins back to first base is “something we’ve thought a lot about,” Breen writes, though clearly there are numerous moving parts in that scenario. The Phils experimented with Carlos Santana at third base in September, though he comes with his own defensive shortcomings there, and that shift would render Maikel Franco without a spot. Expected offseason pursuits of marquee free agents Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado also figure to factor into the calculus. Though there are dozens of roads the Phils could take to get there, Klentak stressed that “there is no question” that the team needs to improve its defense.

    More from the division…

    • With the offseason upon the Phillies, the focus in Philadelphia will shift from Kapler to Klentak, writes Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. It’ll be a pivotal winter for Klentak’s future in the organization, he notes, as there’ll be pressure to generate more success with this offseason’s group of free agents than there was with last year’s crop. Klentak himself spoke about the performance of last year’s group of free agents, noting that Jake Arrieta, Carlos Santana, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter were fairly productive on the whole — especially relative to other free-agent signings throughout the league. Without improvement, Brookover, adds, the GM could find himself on the hot seat. It’s an interesting example of the importance of sequencing over the course of a given season; in a vacuum, a 14-win improvement for the Phillies looks like a clear victory. And had the team started poorly or even found a more evenly paced route to an 80-82 finish, the narrative would likely be different. Instead, their late collapse adds sizable pressure to improve even when the year-over-year win total has already generally trended in the right direction.
    • Braves assistant general manager Perry Minasian is of interest to the Mets as they continue to compile a list of GM candidates, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post, though there are not yet any firm indications that the Mets have asked permission to interview him. Puma adds that former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is a “strong possibility” to receive an interview, as has previously been suggested, though the timing remains unclear. Initial interviews will be conducted by assistant GM John Ricco and COO Jeff Wilpon, Puma notes, with Fred Wilpon unlikely to be heavily involved in the process until finalists have been selected.
    • The 2019 season will have a different feel for the Marlins than the 2018 season, writes Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. Namely, while the Fish were content to let some players develop at the big league level this past season, there will be more expectations for immediate results next season. Rule 5 picks Elieser Hernandez and Brett Graves will likely spend more time in the minors now that they can be optioned, he notes, while players who struggle (as Lewis Brinson did in the Majors this past season) might be sent back down for more seasoning as the team strives to improve its results. “Obviously, we did some things this year where it wasn’t necessary you had to produce to be here,” said manager Don Mattingly. “But moving forward I have the sense that’s going to change. If you don’t produce, it’s not going to be a year where we’ll let you keep developing. At some point, you’re going to have to produce.”
    East Notes: Phillies, Quinn, Herrera, Yanks, CC, Rays, Jays, Estrada Sun, 30 Sep 2018 03:00:52 +0000 Thanks to the presence of rookie Roman Quinn, Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera has recently shifted from center field to right. It’s unclear whether that alignment will hold up in 2019, but manager Gabe Kapler said Saturday (via Todd Zolecki of that he wants both players to enter next season prepared to handle center. Kapler also suggested that Herrera hasn’t been at top physical condition this season, per Zolecki, saying: “I think he can come into camp in better shape in 2019 than he came in 2018. … This is something that he and I have discussed and will continue to discuss. I think he can be in incredible physical shape. We’ve seen it from him in the past. If you look back a couple years you see a version of him that is fast, athletic, explosive and I think that’s in there and I’m excited about helping him and supporting him to bring that out.”

    Going by fWAR (1.1), this has been a dud of a season for Herrera, who posted between 2.9 and 3.8 in that category from 2015-17. Perhaps Herrera will be an offseason trade candidate, then, though the Phillies would be “selling low” on him, Zolecki points out. He also notes Quinn’s history of injuries could make it all the more difficult to part with Herrera, who’s set to turn 27 in December and has four guaranteed seasons left on the five-year, $30.5MM extension he signed prior to 2017.

    Here’s more from the East Coast…

    • Major League Baseball has issued a five-game suspension to Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia and a three-game ban to Rays right-hander Andrew Kittredge, Daniel Kramer of was among those to report. Both players will serve their suspensions at the beginning of the 2019 season, if they’re upheld through the appeals process. Sabathia was ejected from a win over the Rays on Thursday after throwing at catcher Jesus Sucre, a retaliatory move which served as a response to Kittredge nearly hitting Yankees backstop Austin Romine in the previous half-inning. Sabathia’s ejection may have cost him a significant amount of money, considering he was cruising through five innings and was only two frames away from notching 155 for the season. Had Sabathia reached that mark, he’d have secured a $500K bonus. It’s still possible the 38-year-old will earn that money, though, with George A. King III of the New York Post noting the Yankees could use him for a couple innings Sunday in Boston in a postseason tuneup. However, Sabathia told reporters on Saturday that he’s not interested in doing that (via Erik Boland of Newsday). “Nah, man, the season’s over for me. I’m ready for the lights to come on,” he said.
    • Blue Jays righty Marco Estrada won’t make his scheduled start Sunday on account of a sore back, per Gregor Chisholm of, meaning the pending free agent may have thrown his last pitch as a member of the team. The 35-year-old Estrada, a Blue Jay since 2015, said he’d “love to hear from” the club again and is “comfortable” in Toronto, though he’s not sure whether the club’s interested in re-signing him. Thanks in part to the Jays’ youth movement, not to mention Estrada’s struggles this season, a parting of ways may be in order. Estrada had been a quality starter for the Jays from 2015-17, but he only managed a 5.64 ERA/5.44 FIP over 143 2/3 innings this year.
    Kapler Not Concerned His Style Will Turn Away Free Agents Sat, 29 Sep 2018 19:51:51 +0000
  • Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, a polarizing figure long before his managerial debut this season, faces questions surrounding whether or not prospective free agents will play for him, writes Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Kapler’s innovative style – which attaches the shortest of leashes to most starting pitchers, relies heavily on day-to-day matchups, and is subject to change at the most unconventional of times (Kapler removed Scott Kingery for a pinch-runner in the second inning of a mid-September clash against the Marlins) – has drawn the ire of players and fans alike, but the headstrong skipper isn’t concerned that courted stars will be turned off: “I think free agents want to be treated with respect, I think they want to be shot straight, I think they want to know where they stand, and I think they want a voice,” he said. “That’s something that we do better than any other team, and I think that will come through loud and clear during the process.”
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    East Notes: Eickhoff, Phillies, Cora, Gsellman, Lugo Sat, 29 Sep 2018 15:35:45 +0000 28-year-old righty Jerad Eickhoff gave the Phillies a feel-good story yesterday by tying a club record during his first MLB start in 13 months, as Joe Bloss details in a piece for Eickhoff managed to strike out seven consecutive Braves (eight overall) before allowing a homer to Johan Camargo and a single to Ozzie Albies, prompting an early hook by manager Gabe Kapler. Though Eickhoff was only allowed to throw 54 pitches, he recorded eight of his ten outs via the strikeout and didn’t walk a batter.

    It stands to reason that a strong 2019 spring performance on the part of Eickhoff could have him back in the conversation for a rotation spot next year, though he’s likely to face some stiff competition. A rotation featuring Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin has done well in 2018, and each has accumulated at least 2.0 fWAR to date. That’s to say nothing of any potential offseason rotation additions, which the Phillies could certainly afford to purchase given their massive budget and relatively low 2019 payroll commitments. Still, Eickhoff made an intriguing opening statement to support his case last night.

    More off the coast of the Atlantic…

    • Speaking of the Phillies and their big winter budget, Scott Lauber opens an article for by bluntly stating that John Middleton is “ready to make it rain.” With less than $70MM in salary commitments for the 2019 season, Lauber echoes the oft-heard sentiments that Philadelphia is firmly in the mix to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado (if not both). With that in mind, he embarked on a quest to discover who a panel of experts would prefer to sign. The criteria mentioned in Lauber’s excellent journalistic endeavor operates upon a slew of criteria including pure talent, durability/longevity and organizational fit.
    • Alex Speier of the Boston Globe recently wrote about how manager Alex Cora has changed the organizational culture of the Red Sox in regards to analytics. According to Speier, some front offices last year weren’t on the lookout for authority figures to serve as their club’s skippers as the were trying to identify someone who could “serve as a conduit for data-driven analysis”. Cora’s been able to do just that, as evidenced in a recent defensive shift detailed in Speier’s piece, though that’s far from the only example. “He’s kind of reformed the culture of how we’re going to integrate data into decision-making,” assistant GM Eddie Romero said of the rookie manager.
    • The Mets have elected to shut down right-handers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman for the season, per a report from Anthony DiComo of The decision comes as a result of workload concerns, as the two relievers have combined for 181 1/3 innings on the season. Mickey Callaway offered his thoughts on the subject. “”We feel that those guys have had outstanding years,” he explained. “They both finished with a save, on a strong note. They’ve probably done more than we could have ever asked to this point. And we felt these last three games, we’re going to give these younger guys a shot to go out there and nail down the games for us. We feel this is taking care of them heading into the offseason, so they can come back and be even better next year.”


    Past, Present & Future: National League Closer Turnover Fri, 28 Sep 2018 22:40:26 +0000 While a new breed of pitcher, one who can rack up holds, strikeouts and throw multiple innings, is beginning to emerge as an integral role on a baseball roster, becoming the “closer” is still the ultimate goal for a Major League relief pitcher. The closer gets the entrance music. The closer gets the congratulatory hug from the catcher after the third out, followed by handshakes from every teammate. Closers get paid! Most importantly, being the closer usually means that your manager trusts you above all other pitchers in that bullpen.

    Give up a lead in the seventh or eighth inning and your team still has a chance to pick you up. The later in the game a players fails, the better chance that mistake will stand out to anyone watching. It will be in the headlines. Fantasy Baseball owners will want to know who is “next in line.”  And for a team that has fought tooth and nail to get to the ninth inning with a lead, it can be debilitating if the last pitcher standing can’t close things out. Managers don’t have much patience for blown saves, either. There is a lot of pressure and a lot of turnover, which is why most teams won’t have the same closer in September as they did on Opening Day.

    Here’s a look back at each National League team’s closer situation on Opening Day versus where they are now and where they will be as they head into the offseason. (We ran through the American League earlier this week.)

    [Related: MLB closer depth chart at Roster Resource]

    Arizona Diamondbacks Diamondbacks Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Boxberger
    September 2018: Committee — Yoshihisa Hirano, Archie Bradley, Boxberger

    Future Outlook: The Diamondbacks opted to keep their best reliever, Bradley, in a setup role while plugging offseason acquisition Boxberger into the closer’s role. For the majority of the season, things went according to plan. That duo, along with Hirano and lefties Andrew Chafin and T.J. McFarland, were a strength on a team that led the NL West on September 1. But as the bullpen has fallen apart over the past few weeks, the team has quickly descended in the standings and fallen out of the playoff hunt.

    As a result, the D-backs will head into the offseason with their closer situation somewhat up in the air. Overall, Boxberger, Bradley and Hirano have each been mostly effective and can still be counted on as valuable late-inning relievers. The D-backs will need to decide if they want add a better ninth inning option, though with numerous holes to fill as key players like A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin depart via free agency, the team could decide it has bigger needs.

    Atlanta Braves Braves Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Arodys Vizcaino
    September 2018: Arodys Vizcaino

    Future Outlook: Vizcaino was entrenched as the Braves’ closer to start the season, and he’s seemingly back in as the Braves prepare for their first playoff series since 2013. A.J. Minter proved to be a capable fill-in during both of Vizcaino’s disabled list stints. For a time, he even appeared to be more of a co-closer with a healthy Vizcaino on the roster, presenting a very formidable righty-lefty combination in the late innings.

    With a solid group of relievers, including Minter, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle and Dan Winkler, all under contract for next season and the chance that one or two of their enticing young prospects could help out of the ’pen, the Braves appear to be in good shape in 2019. They could be tempted, however, to bring back free agent Craig Kimbrel, who had 186 saves, four All-Star appearances and won the NL Rookie of the Year award during a five-year stint with the team from 2010-2014.

    Chicago Cubs Cubs Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brandon Morrow
    September 2018: Committee — Jesse Chavez, Jorge De La Rosa, Steve Cishek, etc.

    Future Outlook: The offseason signing of Morrow came with significant risk due to his long history of injuries and a heavy postseason workload (14 appearances) with the Dodgers in 2017. And while the Cubs did their best not to overuse him—he made back-to-back appearances just six times and pitched on three consecutive days only once—his season ended in mid-July due to a bone bruise in his elbow and biceps inflammation.

    Pedro Strop was up to the task as the fill-in closer—he had a 1.77 ERA and 11 saves in 13 chances after Morrow went on the disabled list—but a strained hamstring ended his regular season on September 13. He could return for the playoffs. In the meantime, the Cubs have been mixing and matching in the late innings, at times relying on journeymen like Chavez and De La Rosa as they try to hold off the Brewers in the NL Central race.

    Morrow and Strop will be back in the picture in 2018—Strop’s $6.25MM club option will almost certainly be exercised—as will setup men Carl Edwards Jr. and Cishek. Finding a left-hander who can close, if necessary, might be on the team’s agenda. Zach Britton could be a target if that’s the case.

    Cincinnati Reds | Reds Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Raisel Iglesias
    September 2018: Raisel Iglesias

    Future Outlook: Iglesias has had three consecutive good seasons out of the bullpen with 63 saves in 71 opportunities. The Reds, however, have been in last place with less than 70 wins in each of those years, making Iglesias’ contributions less significant.

    If the Reds are confident that they can be a much better team in 2019, it makes perfect sense to hold on to the 28-year-old right-hander—he’s under team control through 2021—and make him available via trade only if they fall out of contention during the season. Since he’s been able to stay healthy as a relief pitcher—not to mention that there is no clear “next in line” closer in the organization—they’re be better off leaving things as they are rather than experimenting with a move back to the rotation. The ninth inning should belong to Iglesias again come Opening Day 2019.

    Colorado Rockies Rockies Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Wade Davis
    September 2018: Wade Davis

    Future Outlook: Despite a few rough patches along the way, the 33-year-old Davis has 42 saves for the first-place Rockies and has been on a roll when it counts the most. In his last 17 appearances, he’s 10-for-10 in save chances with 23 strikeouts in 17 innings and only one earned run allowed.

    Davis is still guaranteed $36MM over the next two seasons—he’ll also get another $14MM in 2021 if he finishes 30 games in 2020—so his mid-season struggles and continued decrease in fastball velocity (95.9 MPH in ’15; 94.9 MPH in ’16, 94.3 MPH in ’17; 93.8 MPH in ’18) are a concern. He has done enough to hold on to the closing job for 2019, but it would be a good idea to have a backup plan in place. Adam Ottavino, the team’s most valuable reliever with a 2.47 ERA, six saves and 33 holds, will be a free agent after the season. Re-signing him or replacing him with a top free agent will be difficult considering that Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw, both disappointments thus far, signed $27MM contracts last offseason. They could rely heavily on Seunghwan Oh, who recently had his $2.5MM option vest for 2019 and has been very good since being acquired from Toronto in July.

    Los Angeles Dodgers Dodgers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Kenley Jansen
    September 2018: Kenley Jansen

    Future Outlook: Jansen allowed six earned runs with two blown saves and a loss in his first seven appearances of 2018. He missed 13 days in August due to an irregular heart beat that will likely require offseason surgery. Upon his return, he allowed seven earned runs with two losses and a blown save over four appearances. And yet, the 30-year-old right-hander has 37 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA for a Dodgers team that is fighting for a playoff spot as we head into the last weekend of the regular season.

    Jansen’s occasional struggles on the mound and health concerns only magnified the team’s inability to replace Morrow, who was their primary setup man and bullpen workhorse last post-season. Setup relievers seem likely to be an area of focus this winter, and the Dodgers will be keeping their fingers crossed that Jansen comes back strong in what will be year three of a five-year, $80MM contract.

    Miami Marlins Marlins Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Ziegler
    September 2018: Co-Closers — Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley

    Future Outlook: It’s not clear why the rebuilding Marlins stuck with the veteran Ziegler through a rocky two-month stint as the closer to begin the season. Even though he had just one blown save in 10 chances when he was removed from the role, he had an ERA near 8.00 and Kyle Barraclough, next in line, had a 1.48 ERA. If they had any reluctance to turn it over to Barraclough, he showed why that might’ve been the case by losing the job two months later.

    After locking down all seven save chances while allowing just one hit over 12 scoreless innings in June, Barraclough fell apart in July. Over his next 13 appearances, he blew four saves and allowed 14 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings before the Marlins decided on a closer-by-committee approach in early August. Steckenrider and Conley lead the team with four and two saves, respectively, since Barraclough was removed from the closer’s role. Both pitchers have an ERA over 5.00 in the second half, however, so it’s very likely that the team will look to find a more reliable option during the offseason.

    Milwaukee Brewers Brewers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Corey Knebel
    September 2018: Committee — Knebel, Jeremy Jeffress, Josh Hader

    Future Outlook: Knebel suffered a hamstring injury during his third appearance of the season, forcing him to the disabled list for a month. By the time he returned, Hader and Jeffress had each established that they were more than capable of picking up the slack if Knebel could not return to his 2017 form. And this did prove to be the case. The 26-year-old Knebel, sharing the closer’s role with Hader and Jeffress, had a 5.08 ERA through August 31st. September has been a different story, however, as Knebel has allowed just four hits and three walks over 13 1/3 scoreless innings with 26 strikeouts. Regardless of how things go in the playoffs, the Brewers appear set with the same trio of late-inning relievers heading into 2019.

    New York Mets Mets Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Jeurys Familia
    September 2018: Committee — Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Anthony Swarzak

    Future Outlook: The return of Familia, who missed time in 2017 due to a 15-game suspension and a three-and-a-half month-stint on the disabled list, was supposed to help propel the Mets back into playoff contention. While things have not gone swimmingly for the Mets, Familia’s comeback has actually gone quite well. He posted a 2.88 ERA with 17 saves for the Mets, was traded to Oakland in July and should be headed for a decent payday in free agency this offseason.

    The Mets, coincidentally, will likely be in the market for a closer, although it’s not known whether they or Familia would be open to a reunion. Gsellman has held his own as the primary closer, saving eight of nine games since Familia’s departure, but probably isn’t the long-term answer. Lugo has been terrific out of the ’pen, although his best role could be as a multi-inning setup man for whoever the team’s next closer will be.

    Philadelphia Phillies Phillies Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Hector Neris
    September 2018: Committee – Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Tommy Hunter, etc.

    Future Outlook: Neris was 8-for-10 in save chances with three losses and an ERA over 5.00 in mid-May when manager Gabe Kapler declared that he would no longer have a set closer. It didn’t take long for rookie Seranthony Dominguez to emerge as the most significant part of the group, pitching 14 2/3 scoreless innings with only two hits allowed, no walks and 16 strikeouts to begin his MLB career. He would falter as the season progressed, though, leaving Kapler to rely more on veterans Hunter and Pat Neshek down the stretch.

    Considering that Dominguez was a starting pitching prospect with no experience in the upper minors prior to the 2018 season, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think he can take a big leap forward and solidify the closer’s job for a full season. But with expectations for the Phillies likely to be in the high-to-extremely-high range, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Phillies pursue a more established free agent to close out games.

    Pittsburgh Pirates Pirates Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Felipe Vazquez
    September 2018: Felipe Vazquez

    Future Outlook: Vazquez signed a $22MM contract extension in the offseason and changed his name in April. By the end of May, Vazquez had an ERA near 5.00 and four blown saves. There wasn’t the normal negative buzz that surrounds most closers after blowing a save or two, though. He had only allowed an earned run in four of 24 appearances and the Pirates were playing much better than expected. He was also dealing with forearm discomfort and, of course, was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball in 2017. He earned that long leash. Over his last 44 appearances, the 27-year-old lefty has a 1.77 ERA and 26 saves in 27 chances. Yep– still one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.

    With three games to go, Vazquez is two appearances shy of reaching at least 70 games for the third consecutive season. He pitched both ends of a double-header twice in 2018 and pitched three consecutive days on three occasions, including two days after experiencing the forearm pain. The acquisition of Keone Kela and the emergence of Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez as reliable setup men should help ease Vazquez’s workload in 2019.

    San Diego Padres Padres Depth Chart 

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Hand
    September 2018: Kirby Yates

    Future Outlook: While Hand’s offseason contract extension removed any sense of urgency that the Padres had to trade him, it also made him a much more valuable trade chip. After saving 24 games and posting a 3.05 ERA with 13.2 K/9 in 41 appearances, Hand was traded to the Indians for catcher Francisco Mejia, one of the top prospects in baseball. Yates stepped into the closer’s role, although there was a decent chance that it would be a short stint with 12 days to go until the non-waiver trade deadline and several contending teams potentially interested in acquiring him. The 31-year-old stayed put, though, giving him an extended opportunity to prove himself as an MLB closer. He’s passed the test with flying colors, saving 10 games in 11 chances—he has 12 saves overall—while continuing to strike out more than 12 batters per nine innings.

    The Padres, who currently have 95 losses, aren’t likely to build a legitimate playoff contender during the offseason. However, they’re far enough into their rebuild that they’ll want to go into 2019 with a team that can at least be .500. In that case, holding on to Yates would be smart, although general manager A.J. Preller will surely be willing to pull the trigger on a deal if a team meets his asking price.

    San Francisco Giants Giants Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Hunter Strickland
    September 2018: Will Smith

    Future Outlook: With Mark Melancon on the disabled list to begin the season, the Giants turned to Strickland as their closer. For the most part, he did a fine job, but his days as a closer swiftly came to an end, at least for the near future, on June 18th. Strickland entered the game with a two-run lead over the Marlins, an ERA just over 2.00 and 13 saves in 16 chances. After allowing three earned runs in the eventual 5-4 loss, he punched a door in frustration and fractured his hand. Upon returning in mid-August, Smith had 10 saves and a strong grasp on the closer’s gig.

    Smith will likely be the front-runner to keep the job in ’19 with Melancon also firmly in the mix given his experience and his sizable contract (four years, $62MM). He’s not quite back to his pre-injury form, but Melancon has a 3.08 ERA in 40 appearances.

    St. Louis Cardinals Cardinals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Committee — Dominic Leone, Tyler LyonsBud Norris
    September 2018: Carlos Martinez

    Future Outlook: The committee was supposed to be temporary while Greg Holland, who signed a one-year contract in late March, worked his way back into shape with a Minor League stint. Holland, though, was brought to the Majors before he was ready and never looked right with the Cardinals. He walked four in his St. Louis debut and never quite recovered. Norris, as he did in 2017 with the Angels, quickly separated himself from the other closer options and proved to be a steady force in the ninth inning with 28 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA through August. The 33-year-old ran out of gas, though, forcing the team to use a temporary committee in early September. Martinez, who returned from a disabled list stint to pitch out of the bullpen in late August, has emerged as the team’s primary closer as they fight for a Wild Card spot.

    It’s highly unlikely that Martinez, the Cardinals’ Opening Day starter, will remain in the bullpen beyond this season. Barring any injury concerns, he’s just too good as a starting pitcher. Rookie Jordan Hicks, who has dazzled with his 100+ MPH sinking fastball, is a good bet to be the team’s closer at some point. It’s just not certain that the Cardinals will trust him enough at the beginning of the 2019 campaign, which could put them in the market for a stop-gap closer this offseason.

    Washington Nationals Nationals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Sean Doolittle
    September 2018: Sean Doolittle

    Future Outlook: Doolittle was the Nationals’ closer on Opening Day, an NL All-Star selection in July, and he’s the Nationals’ closer as we enter the last weekend of the regular season. You’d figure things went pretty well for the Nats in 2018. But you’d be wrong.

    A stress reaction in Doolittle’s foot forced him out of the All-Star game and out of action for a majority of the second half. When he returned in September, the Nats were out of the playoff chase. Five different relievers, including Kelvin Herrera, picked up saves while Doolittle was out. Brandon KintzlerRyan Madson and Shawn Kelley were all traded, and Herrera suffered a season-ending foot injury in late August.

    Doolittle will be back in 2019—his $6MM club option will surely be exercised—and should jump right back into the ninth-inning role unless the Nats make a bold acquisition for another closer. In all likelihood, they’ll bring in another veteran setup man to help out a group that includes Koda Glover and Justin MillerGreg Holland is one possibility. He has been a pleasant surprise since signing with the team in early August (0.89 ERA in 23 appearances) .

    Nate Jones (if $4.65MM club option is declined)
    Joe Kelly
    Craig Kimbrel
    Ryan Madson
    Andrew Miller
    Fernando Rodney (if $4.25MM club option is declined)
    Sergio Romo
    Trevor Rosenthal
    Joakim Soria (if $10MM mutual option is declined)
    Kapler Discusses Need For Improvement In 2019 Fri, 28 Sep 2018 04:03:20 +0000
  • The Phillies’ season is ending in a veritable free fall, but GM Matt Klentak recently gave skipper Gabe Kapler a vote of confidence. Kapler, however, spoke to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia about his need to improve as a manager and a leader in 2019 and beyond, bluntly stating that he has “a lot of room to grow and improve.” To that end, Kapler is taking the unorthodox step of sending out an anonymous survey to the team’s coaches and others in the organization to evaluate his performance. Kapler candidly suggests that Phillies leadership “fell short” in preparing young players for the rigors of competing in a pennant chase, highlighting that as one of many areas the organization needs to improve moving forward.
  • ]]>
    Klentak: Phillies To Pursue “Significant Changes” This Winter Thu, 27 Sep 2018 15:38:59 +0000 With the Phillies continuing their late-season free-fall, GM Matt Klentak held an interesting Q&A with reporters including Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. Despite improvements, Klentak says, “significant changes are necessary.”

    That conclusion surely sets the stage for a fascinating, high-stakes winter in Philly. The organization has long been expected to be a major factor in the upcoming market. Having made some notable acquisitions last winter and competed for much of the 2018 season, the stakes are raised for a productive offseason.

    Of course, winning the hot stove season isn’t a goal unto itself, so Klentak and company are surely taking a hard look at just how to approach the opportunities to come. As he puts it, “we all need to fight the narrative that it’s a simple fix.”

    That could be read as a plea for media and fans not to fixate on some of the biggest names available this winter. It’s also perhaps an acknowledgment that the roster comes with some challenges — some that have arisen largely by happenstance, others relating to decisions made recently by the organization. At the same time, it’s loaded with interesting talent that makes near-term competitiveness seem quite achievable.

    For now, of course, Klentak isn’t getting into all of the details or expounding upon the team’s specific hopes in the roster-building department. He did note that the organization will be looking to find the change it hopes for not only through the free-agent market, but also in exploring trades and projecting internal improvements.

    In that regard, it’s at least as interesting to contemplate some of Klentak’s comments regarding the season that’s now drawing to a close. As he rightly suggests, the club’s ultimate middle-of-the-road outcomes haven’t strayed far from pre-season expectations. While there was surely a missed opportunity here, given the position the club was in as of mid-August, the organization took its shot at the trade deadline and there’s still clear evidence of progress.

    There are also lessons to be drawn from what Klentak calls “a good year for us to experiment.” Viewed from that angle, perhaps some refinement in approach — roster construction included — is slated for assessment and implementation. For instance, the team’s defensive alignment has produced some worrying outcomes. Making the necessary tweaks will, as noted above, not necessarily simply be a matter of acquiring high-end new players.

    If that all portends a less-than-straightforward upcoming offseason, well, that seems to have been contemplated in advance. “I think in order to take this organization where it needs to go we had to have a year like this, where we pushed the envelope,” Klentak says.

    Having done so, the focus now shifts: from gathering talent, and trying out new ways of deploying it, to achieving the desired bottom-line results. It’s unclear as yet how the Phils will set about re-working their roster to accomplish that, but the possibilities are abundant.

    What is clear is that Klentak will continue to head up the baseball operations department for his fourth season, while Gabe Kapler will remain at the helm of the dugout. It’ll certainly be fascinating to see what direction the club takes this winter and how it translates onto the field in 2019.

    Aaron Altherr Diagnosed With Torn Toe Ligament Wed, 26 Sep 2018 05:14:33 +0000 Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr has been diagnosed with a torn ligament in his big toe, per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia (via Twitter). He suffered the injury on Monday when crashing face-first into the left field wall while chasing a ball that ultimately cleared the fence. The Phillies were optimistic about Altherr coming into the season after a .272/.340/.510 showing in 2017, but he struggled out of the gate with -0.7 fWAR before being sent back to AAA in July. The injury may factor in to some extent to the Phils’ decisionmaking process this offseason, when Altherr reaches arbitration for the first time. Altherr has struggled with consistency and health across three seasons in the majors, but this year set the low-water mark as he closes out the 2018 campaign with an ugly slash line of .181/.295/.333 over 285 plate appearance. Philly could non-tender him in November; conversely, he’s unlikely to break the bank the first time through arbitration, and with money to spend, Philadelphia may prefer staying the course to see if the 27-year-old can regain the pop he flashed in 2017.

    Phillies Notes: Santana, Franco, Hoskins, Eickhoff Tue, 25 Sep 2018 14:33:34 +0000 The Phillies have started Carlos Santana at third base 10 times down the stretch and received a total of 70 innings of play from him there, and Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia explores the possibility of Santana shifting to the hot corner on a full-time basis in 2019. Doing so would allow the Phils to move Rhys Hoskins from left field back to first base, dramatically improving the outfield defense. Santana, 32, tells Salisbury that he’s open to the idea, while manager Gabe Kapler adds that it’s something the Phils will evaluate after the season. Philadelphia’s expected run at Manny Machado figures to have an impact on their left-side infield alignment, and Salisbury speculates that the team could again explore the trade market for Maikel Franco this offseason.

    Defensive metrics have actually given a favorable review to Santana’s minuscule sample of innings, but it still seems unlikely that he’d turn in quality results over a full season. I’d add, however, that he’d be replacing another below-average defender in Franco; if the Phillies believe the difference between Franco and Santana at third base is more or less negligible, then they could overwhelmingly bolster the rest of their defense by moving Hoskins to first base in favor of an average or better defender in left.

    More out of Philly…

    • Speaking of Hoskins, the 25-year-old chatted with The Athletic’s Matt Gelb about his recent decision to hire agent Scott Boras (subscription required). Part of the thinking, per Hoskins, was actually about his desire to improve his defense in the outfield. Gelb notes that Boras has 10 trainers and a pair of fitness facilities, which appealed to Hoskins as he seeks to improve his performance in the outfield. “There’s only so many different drills you can do,” said Hoskins. “Jump rope, ladder, whatever. But some guys just have a different way of communicating that or they focus on different things within the movement.” He added that he heard “nothing but good things” from the players he spoke to about using Boras’ trainers. Gelb writes that Boras has expressed an openness to discussing a contract extension for Hoskins this offseason, though historically his clients have typically not gone that route.
    • It’s been an injury-ruined season for Jerad Eickhoff, but Kapler told reporters that he’s a candidate to start one of the final games of the season after rejoining the team as a reliever earlier this month (link via Matt Breen the Philadelphia Daily News). Eickhoff met with numerous specialists to evaluate nerve damage that was leading to numbness in his hands this summer and, at one point when doctors were having a difficult time making a diagnosis, wondered whether his career could be in jeopardy. “I don’t know if there’s a guy that the clubhouse pulls more for than Jerad Eickhoff,” said Kapler. “I think he’s pretty deeply cared for and he worked his butt off to get back to this position.”
    Quick Hits: Wong, Nola, Phillips, Sano Sun, 23 Sep 2018 20:01:12 +0000 Per a tweet from Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong received some bad news recently. An MRI showed damage in Wong’s knee that might need to be addressed in the offseason, though there’s no official word on that either way. The general belief from the Cardinals’ camp, Wong included, is that the aforementioned knee damage may be contributing to the recurring soreness in his hamstring. There’s also some concern that the severity of the damage could lead to a strain. Despite this issue, Wong’s still put up the most productive season of his career thus far, in part due to outstanding defensive marks that include 21 Defensive Runs Saved and a 19.8 UZR/150.

    Other news and rumors from around the league…

    • Matt Gelb of The Athletic tweets that the Phillies were “deep in meetings” this morning to plot the club’s final eight contests of the season. Gelb notes that Aaron Nola will pass 200 innings today (and in fact, has, as of me writing this sentence), which could spell the end of the season for the club’s emergent ace. Some in the organization had suggested earlier in the season that the Phillies were planning to limit Nola to 185 innings on the season, but contender status necessitated them to increase that total. Now, though, Philadelphia is no longer playing with October in mind, which may help to explain why Gelb ponders aloud whether today could be Nola’s last start of 2018.
    • Speaking of innings caps, Orioles rookie right-hander Evan Phillips won’t pitch again this season, per Roch Kubatko of He’s reached an innings limit after hurling a career-high 63 relief frames on the season between the Orioles, Braves and the Triple-A affiliates of the two clubs. Phillips, 24, has allowed 11 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings in Baltimore; he became part of the Orioles organization by way of the deadline deal that sent Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to the Braves.
    • A magnetic resonance imaging exam didn’t turn up any new leads as to the cause of Miguel Sano’s knee discomfort, Mike Berardino writes as part of a piece for the Pioneer PressTwins manager Paul Molitor provided some words on the subject, which must be frustrating for club and fan base alike. “We tried to eliminate things that might be sources or causes of the aggravation that he continues to feel,” said Molitor. “A little bit of a puzzle that we haven’t been able to solve yet in terms of the discomfort he continues to experience. We’re hoping with treatment and maybe a little bit more rest, we’ll be in a better place come Tuesday.” Sano has only appeared in the lineup once since September 4th, which comes as another black mark on a miserable follow-up to the three strong campaigns with which he began his career.
    NL East Notes: Braves, Bruce, Mets, Phillies Sun, 23 Sep 2018 14:58:27 +0000 Last night, the Braves became the first NL team to clinch a 2018 division title. Braves fans interested in a look back on the season and some of the biggest contributing factors to the club’s surprising season might consider giving this piece by Mark Bowman of a read. Atlanta officially eliminated the division-rival Phillies from the NL East race with its best starter, Mike Foltynewicz, on the mound; Bowman describes Folty as the Braves’ “most significant acquisition made within the first year of the rebuild”. “It was very different knowing what’s at stake, but at the same time you can’t get overhyped, like I tended to do in the past with bigger games,” Foltynewicz said of his performance. “To be able to do it in front of our home crowd was pretty special.” The soon-to-be 27-year-old right-hander was acquired as part of the January 2015 trade that sent Evan Gattis to the Astros. The resume of his breakout season includes 178 innings of 2.88 ERA ball, 193 punchouts and a 1.11 WHIP.

    While the Braves prepare for the playoffs, here are a few notes regarding the NL East teams looking towards 2019…

    • A poor start to the 2018 season for Mets free agent signee Jay Bruce manifested itself in a .212/.292/.321 batting line with just three home runs through the middle of June. But since coming off the disabled list on August 24th, he’s looked a lot more like his old self. As Tim Britton notes in a piece for The Athletic, Bruce is hitting .256/.347/.523 with six blasts in 98 plate appearances, which more closely resembles the 2017 season that he considers the best of his career. Britton believes that Bruce will be an integral part of the 2019 Mets plans, whether as their everyday first baseman or right fielder, but suggests that the Bruce signing ought to be a “learning experience” for the organization. That’s because one of the risks of signing players in their 30’s is that even those with largely healthy track records, like Bruce and teammate Todd Frazier, come with increased injury risk.
    • Bruce’s late-season performance extending into 2019 is one thing the Mets will be counting on if they hope to contend next season; Joel Sherman of the New York Post breaks down a laundry list of other things that need to go right for the club in order for to support those hopes. In fact, Sherman believes that the Amazins don’t necessarily need to rebuild, and have a shot to contend again right away if they play their cards right. He posits that the Mets should be willing to listen to trade offers on their starters, but also lists a host of potential free agent targets that could shore up the roster. That list includes lefty reliever Zach Britton, versatile infielder Eduardo Escobar, and catcher Wilson Ramos.
    • Have quick hooks in late-season games by rookie Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler cost Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez valuable development opportunities? That’s a question Matt Gelb attempts to answer in an article for The Athletic. Pivetta, for instance, faced just 20 batters in his Friday start, and has faced an average of just 21 batters in each of his 10 starts since August 1st. “You know, the way that the game has been going and the way that Gabe has been coaching, at the end of the day the most I can do is just go as long as I can,” Pivetta said. “It’s up to him when he takes us out.” Velasquez has been yanked even sooner in many cases, including being plucked from his Thursday starts after just three innings during which he allowed three unearned runs. The quick hooks, Gelb opines, make it more difficult to judge Pivetta and Velasquez ahead of 2019, and cost them valuable experience that could come in handy down the road. Perhaps it’s worth noting that the Phillies’ bullpen allowed 10 runs combined in those two contests while taking the loss in each against the division-rival Braves.
    Jose Bautista Wants To Play In 2019 Sun, 23 Sep 2018 01:11:42 +0000 Phillies pending free agent Jose Bautista tells FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (video link) that he plans to continue his career in 2019, which would be his age-38 season. Bautista would like to suit up for a contender next year, Rosenthal says.

    Considering his output dating back to 2017, Bautista may not be in position to dictate the type of team he plays for next season. While he was among the game’s most feared sluggers as a Blue Jay from 2010-16, Bautista’s now set to finish up his second straight less-than-stellar offensive campaign. Still, Bautista has been roughly average this year by FanGraphs’ wRC+ metric (101), having compiled an unusual .199/.339/.370 line in 384 plate appearances as part of a National League East tour that has seen him play for the Braves, Mets and Phillies.

    While he’s not exactly a defensive standout, Bautista has racked up plenty of action in the outfield and at third base, and that versatility impressed Mets manager Mickey Callaway, Rosenthal notes. Further, Rosenthal adds that Bautista has been a valuable mentor during his short stay in Philadelphia – which acquired him from New York less than a month ago.

    Since the end of 2015, his last great season, Bautista has totaled just 1.5 fWAR in 1,588 PAs. Bautista’s days as a quality regular appear to be over, then, though he could continue serving as a useful bench bat in 2019. The right-hander has long offered similar offensive production against both same-handed and southpaw pitchers, which has been the case this season, and still possesses respectable power (12 home runs, .171 ISO) and patience (15.9 percent walk rate). And with a .344 expected weighted on-base average against a .317 wOBA, Statcast suggests Bautista has deserved somewhat better than the middling offensive output he has posted in 2018.