This is the first edition of a new feature for this off season. Every Monday I will wrap up the Phillies news from the week past. With just 91 days until pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13, this week we will catch up on all the comings and goings that have taken place since the end of the season.
Phillies Organizational Changes:
One of the 1st off-season announcements, on 11/2, the Phillies named Matt Stairs as their new hitting coach, replacing Steve Henderson. You can read our story about that here. At the same time they noted that all the other coaches invited back have accepted contracts for 2017. Two of those coaches will have new positions. Rick Kranitz, moved from bullpen coach to assistant pitching coach and John McLaren, catching coach, takes over in the pen. They later announced other promotions and new hires in the organization which can all be found on the Phillies site here.
Bye Bye, Ryan and Charlie:
In news that surprised no one, on 11/4 the Phillies announced that they have declined the $23 M option on Ryan Howard. Barring some ridiculous home town discount, or a return ala Dick Allen or Jim Thome, we have seen the last of Ryan in a Phillies Uni, until the inevitable day he gets enshrined in the Phillies WOF. On the same day they also declined Charlie Morton‘s $9.5 M option.
Trying to bring a veteran presence to their bullpen and offense, the Phillies acquired two “professional” players. First on 11/7 they announced the trade for RHP Pat Neshek from the Houston Astros for a PTBNL or cash. They also exercised his club option for the 2017 season. Neshek was 2-2 with a 3.06 ERA (16 ER, 47.0 IP), 0.94 WHIP (33 H, 11 BB) and 43 strikeouts (8.23 K/9.0) in 60 relief appearances in 2016. He was especially good against RH batters who had a .172 average (21-122). That ranked # 12 for AL relievers.
On Veterans day they traded two players who had little future in the Phillies org,, 2B Darnell Sweeney – originally drafted by the LA Dodgers in 2012 and spent all of 2015 in Lehigh Valley after coming to the Phillies in the Chase Utley deal – and disappointing home grown prospect, 1B Darin Ruf, to LA. In return they got “professional hitter” Howie Kendrick. While Kendrick’s 2015 numbers were pedestrian at best – .255, eight HR, 40 RBIs and a .691 OPS last season – the spin by the Phillies and most beat writers is that a lot of this was because of lack of playing time by the Dodgers. For his career he is a .289 hitter with 297 2B, 34 3B, 95 HR, 595 RBI, 111 stolen bases and a .332 on-base percentage in 1,344 games.
Phillies GM Pat Klentak had this to say about Kendrick. “There may not be a more professional hitter than Howie Kendrick. He’s the definition of a professional hitter,” Klentak continued, “He’s been steady his entire career. He’s one of the hardest-working guys in the league, and he can hit anywhere in the lineup and be productive. We believe Howie Kendrick is definitely a candidate to have a bounceback year. A lot of the underlying more advanced statistics would suggest he got a bit unlucky last year.”
It is expected that Kendrick will start everyday in LF, but he is versatile enough that he could also play at 2B if some of the early rumors of trading Cesar Hernandez come to pass.
This nugget on Kendrick was tweeted by the venerable Larry Shenk
Will He or Won’t He:
On 11/7 the Phillies extended a qualifying offer to RHP Jeremy Hellickson. It was a $17.2 M one year offer, and he has until today to accept or become a FA. Most signs seem to point to him going the FA route.
Spring Will Come For The Phillies:
When they announced the 1st day of Pitchers and Catchers to report they also noted that their first workout is Feb. 14, first full squad Feb. 17. first spring training “game” will be against U. of Tampa Feb. 23. The MLB spring opener is vs. the Yankees on 2/25/17.