Philadelphia Phillies – MLB Trade Rumors 2020-10-20T01:21:22Z WordPress TC Zencka <![CDATA[Phillies Exploring Pitching Coach Possibilities]]> 2020-10-19T16:47:04Z 2020-10-19T16:47:04Z
  • 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.
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    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Phillies Considering J.J. Picollo For GM]]> 2020-10-19T02:24:35Z 2020-10-19T02:24:35Z
  • 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.
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    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Phillies Pitching Coach Bryan Price Retires]]> 2020-10-19T00:06:19Z 2020-10-19T00:06:19Z 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.

    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Latest On The Catching Market, Realmuto, Sánchez]]> 2020-10-15T02:22:44Z 2020-10-15T02:22:44Z 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.

    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Joe Morgan Passes Away]]> 2020-10-12T15:55:19Z 2020-10-12T14:59:59Z 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.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Phillies Notes: MacPhail, Front Office, Payroll]]> 2020-10-10T18:53:19Z 2020-10-10T18:53:19Z 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.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Adam Morgan Undergoes Flexor Tendon Surgery]]> 2020-10-09T19:05:07Z 2020-10-09T18:15:44Z 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.

    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Latest On Phillies GM Search]]> 2020-10-07T15:44:17Z 2020-10-07T15:41:46Z 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.

    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Rhys Hoskins Undergoes Tommy John Surgery]]> 2020-10-05T19:45:23Z 2020-10-05T19:43:19Z 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.

    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Latest On Phillies’ General Manager Transition]]> 2020-10-04T14:33:26Z 2020-10-04T14:23:16Z 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.

    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Matt Klentak Steps Down As Phillies GM]]> 2020-10-03T21:11:48Z 2020-10-03T21:11:00Z 4:11 pm: Team President Andy MacPhail, who was instrumental in Klentak’s initial hiring, will remain in that position, Middleton confirmed to reporters (including Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer). MacPhail will be involved in the search for the club’s next GM, the owner added.

    3:03 pm: The Phillies announced that Matt Klentak has stepped down as the team’s general manager. He’ll remain in the organization in another position. Assistant general manager Ned Rice will take over on an interim basis while the club conducts a formal search for Klentak’s replacement.

    I have stated publicly that winning is what matters, not just in Philadelphia but in all cities and in all sports,” Phillies managing partner John Middleton said in the accompanying press release. “While Matt made many significant contributions to the organization, we did not accomplish our goal of playing baseball in October. Consequently, we have mutually agreed to allow new leadership to head Baseball Operations.

    Previously an assistant GM with the Angels, Klentak took over the Phillies’ baseball operations department in October 2015. He inherited an organization somewhat in flux. The club’s massive success at the tail end of the previous decade was squarely in the rearview mirror. Outgoing GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. had already kicked off a rebuild, but the organization was surely anticipating some growing pains coming off a 63-99 season.

    That proved to be the case, as the Phillies’ revamped roster struggled through a pair of miserable years in 2016-17.  By 2018, though, the organization was ready for a push toward contention. Philadelphia brought in Gabe Kepler to manage that offseason and saw core young players like Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery cement themselves as everyday players. The club even added Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana on three-year free agent deals, moves that proved ill-fated when Arrieta struggled and Hoskins proved incapable of adequately playing left field to open a spot for Santana at first base. Philadelphia didn’t make the playoffs that year, but their 80-82 record was a fourteen-win improvement over the prior season and seemingly positioned them on the verge of a breakthrough.

    Clearly, the organization felt they were just a few players away from putting themselves over the top. The Phillies swapped out youngsters like J.P. Crawford and Sixto Sánchez for established everyday players Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto. To top it off, Philadelphia broke the bank for Bryce Harper, inking him to a record 13-year, $330MM free agent contract in February 2019.

    Unfortunately, those offseason splashes didn’t translate into on-field improvement. Philadelphia plateaued at 81-81 last season, leading to Kapler’s ouster in favor of Joe Girardi. As Middleton noted, Klentak’s big ticket acquisitions generally performed well. Harper, Realmuto, Segura and fellow free agent addition Andrew McCutchen all turned in solid to very strong seasons, but the club never found answers in the rotation behind Aaron Nola.

    To Klentak’s credit, he attempted to fix that deficiency over the offseason, signing Zack Wheeler to a five-year deal. Wheeler was highly productive in year one, while Zach Eflin locked himself in as a capable #3 starter. Yet again, though, the team as a whole fell flat. Weighed down by an atrocious bullpen, Philadelphia went just 28-32 in this year’s shortened season and missed the expanded playoff field, punctuated by a season-ending sweep at the hands of the Rays. Ultimately, the team’s lack of productivity despite plenty of high-priced acquisitions proved too much for Middleton to ignore.

    Philadelphia is the second team to look for a new baseball operations leader this offseason. Angels’ GM Billy Eppler was let go last weekend. After the hiring of Kapler, a first-time manager, didn’t work out, the Phillies turned to the more experienced Girardi. Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link) anticipates the club will similarly target a long-tenured front office executive after Klentak’s first GM job came up shy of expectations. The Phillies should have plenty of interested suitors, given the club’s high-quality core and generally aggressive ownership.

    First on the docket for any new baseball ops head could be a call with Realmuto’s camp. The All-Star headlines this year’s free agent class at catcher; the two sides have had extension talks in the past, and it stands to reason any incoming executive would similarly have interest in keeping Realmuto in the fold.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Latest On Matt Klentak]]> 2020-09-30T03:03:23Z 2020-09-30T03:02:51Z The Phillies hired Matt Klentak as their general manager before 2016. They were amid a four-year playoff drought then, and they haven’t gone to the postseason since. Even in 2020, a year with expanded playoffs, the Phillies finished just 28-32 and didn’t go anywhere, so Klentak’s job security seems to be in question. With that in mind, Phillies owner John Middleton is deciding what to do with Klentak, Matt Gelb of The Athletic reports. Meanwhile, a team source told Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer that the club’s likely to retain Klentak.

    The Phillies haven’t had a single above-.500 campaign under Klentak, whose clubs’ best season came during an 81-81 effort in 2019. Manager Gabe Kapler then fell on the sword, leading Klentak and the rest of Philly management to replace him with Joe Girardi, but the bottom-line results certainly weren’t better this past regular season. The Phillies never got more than four games over .500 in 2020, and they finished with seven losses in their final eight games en route to another failed campaign.

    There’s no doubt the Klentak-led Phillies have come up short of expectations; to Klentak’s credit, though, he has been in charge since they’ve brought in some of their premier players. Outfielder Bryce Harper, who signed what was then a record contract worth $330MM over 13 years, joined the club on Klentak’s watch heading into 2019. The Phillies also added well-compensated veterans such as Zack Wheeler, Andrew McCutchen and Didi Gregorius in free agency, and they’ve traded for the likes of J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura. For whatever reason, though, those pickups haven’t led to the Phillies earning another playoff berth.

    Regardless of whether Klentak remains at the helm after this season, the Phillies will have to work to keep Realmuto and Gregorius – a pair of pending free agents. The Phillies are in for a difficult winter as they try to keep those two, who will be among the best available players at their positions.

    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Hunter Pence Announces Retirement]]> 2020-09-26T19:52:07Z 2020-09-26T18:54:54Z Longtime big league outfielder Hunter Pence announced he’s retiring from baseball (Twitter link). This brings to an end a fourteen-year career spent with four teams, although he’ll surely be remembered most for his time with the Giants.

    Pence originally broke into pro ball in 2004, selected by the Astros in the second round out of the University of Texas-Arlington. Notably “awkward and unorthodox” as a prospect, in the words of Baseball America, Pence nevertheless played himself into top prospect status by 2007. He broke into the big leagues with a bang, hitting .322/.360/.539 en route to a third place finish in the National League Rookie of the Year voting that season. Pence continually produced over his time in Houston, earning his first two All-Star nods there, before the struggling Astros shipped him off to the Phillies at the 2011 trade deadline for four prospects.

    He continued to perform well in Philadelphia, hitting .289/.357/.486 over parts of two seasons, but the Phillies lost in the Division Series in 2011 and were en route to a playoff miss in 2012. Pence again headlined a deadline deal, this one sending him to San Francisco. His midseason acquirer fared much better the second time around, as the Giants erased a pair of big playoff deficits against the Reds and Cardinals before sweeping the Tigers in the 2012 World Series.

    Set to reach free agency after the 2013 season, Pence instead re-upped with the Giants that September. Already a highly productive and popular player, that extension set the stage for Pence to become permanently identified with the San Francisco organization. He combined for a .280/.335/.464 line between 2013-14, garnering down ballot MVP support each year. He was perhaps even more instrumental in the Giants’ 2014 World Series run than he’d been in 2012, going 12-27 with a home run in San Francisco’s seven-game triumph over the Royals.

    Of course, it wasn’t simply Pence’s productivity that made him so revered, both among diehard Giants’ loyalists and many baseball fans generally. He played with an endearing energy and exuberance. Coupled with his oft-awkward hitting mechanics and general lack of gracefulness on the diamond, Pence brought something of an everyman feel to the sport that resonated with outside observers, teammates and coaches.

    Unfortunately, that high-energy style of play caught up to him in his 30’s. After 2014, Pence only once again managed to exceed 110 games in a season. He continued to produce when healthy up through 2016, but he seemingly hit a wall thereafter. Pence struggled through a pair of poor years with the 2017-18 Giants, seemingly ending his time with the organization (and putting his career in jeopardy).

    Forced to settle for a minor-league deal with his hometown Rangers entering 2019, Pence remade his swing at age 36. He rebounded to post a .297/.358/.552 line over 316 plate appearances in Texas last year, picking up his fourth and final All-Star trip in the process. That also inspired the Giants to offer a major league deal last winter, setting the stage for a tremendous return story.

    Unfortunately, that was not to be. Pence got off to an abysmal start and was released after just 56 plate appearances. That’ll mark his last work in the big leagues, although it’s fitting that his final games came in the orange and black.

    All told, Pence will hang up the spikes with a .279/.334/.461 line over 7006 plate appearances, good for a 115 wRC+. He hit 244 home runs, 324 doubles and 55 triples, while stealing 120 bases. Pence was worth around 31 wins above replacement, in the estimation of both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference. He’s obviously most notable for being an integral part of two World Series winners in San Francisco and for the infectious joy he spread to teammates and fans alike. MLBTR congratulates Pence on a stellar career and wishes him the best in retirement.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Greg Bird Tested Positive For COVID-19]]> 2020-09-23T20:39:23Z 2020-09-23T20:39:23Z The Phillies signed Greg Bird to a minor league contract Sept. 15, but the first baseman tested positive for the coronavirus upon physical entry after that, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Consequently, the Phillies did not place Bird on their 40-man playoff roster. Fortunately, though, none of the Phillies at the team’s alternate site were exposed to Bird.

    The Phillies signed Bird as a potential insurance policy at first base, where starter Rhys Hoskins hasn’t played since Sept. 12 because of a UCL injury in his left arm. It now seems likely the Phillies, who are battling for a playoff spot, will have to go the rest of the regular season without Hoskins. They’ve used a mix of Alec Bohm, Phil Gosselin and Jay Bruce in Hoskins’ place, while Jean Segura has taken over for Bohm as their primary third baseman and Scott Kingery has slid in for Segura at second.

    Meantime, it’s very much up in the air whether Bird will ever play for the Phillies, though the main hope for now is that he’ll be able to recover well from this illness. Once a well-regarded Yankees prospect, Bird burst on the scene in 2015, but a series of health issues have derailed his career since then. The 27-year-old took 522 trips to the plate from 2017-19 but could only muster a .194/.287/.388 line, and Bird didn’t stick with the Rangers for long after they signed him over the winter.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Rhys Hoskins Unlikely To Return Before End Of Regular Season]]> 2020-09-23T19:30:28Z 2020-09-23T19:28:53Z The Phillies are fighting for their playoff lives, but they’ll have to do so without one of their best hitters, as manager Joe Girardi said Wednesday that first baseman Rhys Hoskins is a long shot to return before the regular season draws to a close (Twitter link via Todd Zolecki of Hoskins, out with a UCL injury in his non-throwing arm, took some dry swings today but isn’t yet ready to face live pitching.

    It’s been a rough go of it on the injury front for the Phillies. Star catcher J.T. Realmuto was recently sidelined for more than a week due to hip trouble, and Bryce Harper has dealt with back discomfort in recent weeks. Both Harper and Realmuto are in tonight’s lineup and playing at less than 100 percent, per Girardi, which will likely be the case through season’s end. Harper is serving as the DH. Realmuto is at first base.

    Hoskins, 27, has bounced back from a last year’s down season (by his standards). Through 185 plate appearances in 2020, he’s batted .245/.384/.503 with 10 homers, nine doubles and a hefty 15.7 percent walk rate. His output at the plate has been 39 percent better than that of a league-average hitter by measure of wRC+.

    The Phillies aren’t dead in the water yet, but a four-game losing streak — capped by another bullpen meltdown and a walk-off loss against the Nats last night — hasn’t helped their chances. But at 27-29, the Phils are only a game back in the loss column to the three teams ahead of them in playoff standings (Cincinnati, Milwaukee and San Francisco. FanGraphs still gives them a one in three chance of making the postseason, but they’ll need to right the ship in a hurry — and likely see some of those previously mentioned competitors stumble — to secure their spot.