66 Days ’til Pitchers and Catchers!
Welcome to the first Phillies ICYMI Monday post of the 2019/20 off-season.
To catch up from the disappointing end of the season, we will break this down into a quick recap of old news, and then move on to recent transactions, as well as look forward to this week’s Owners Meetings.
Not long after the season ended, the Phillies made the inevitable move of mitigating the growing P/R headache that had become Manager Gabe Kapler, by relieving him of duty on October 10th.
It then took 14 days for them to announce his replacement in Joe Girardi. The team and it appears most of the phans, see this as getting away from the heavily analytical approach that Kapler came to represent. Girardi is known as using that approach in his past jobs, but at the same time balanced out with the “by the gut” sense that people seem to want.
The team has also hired a new hitting coach, Joe Dillon, and pitching coach Bryan Price, as well as Juan Castro as Infield coach. The rest of the staff stays pretty much the same.
It is hoped that these experienced coaches will work well with Girardi for a fresh approach to both sides of the diamond.
Time will tell.
On Monday, the deadline to tender contracts to Arbitration Eligible players, the Phillies declined to make offers to two of the longest tenured players in 2B Cesar Hernandez, and 3B Maikel Franco. Neither move was a big surprise as the team looks to make way for younger talent in these areas, or in the possibly less expensive FA or trade markets to rebuild their IF.
They did agree to a one year deal with back-up C Andrew Knapp – $710,000 – to avoid arbitration, as well as offering contracts to RHPs Zach Eflin, Héctor Neris and Vince Velasquez, LHPs José Álvarez and Adam Morgan, as well as C J.T. Realmuto. This seals them for 2020, though they will likely look to extend Realmuto during the off-season.
In a smaller transaction the same day they claimed RHP Trevor Kelley off waivers from Boston Red Sox. Kelley had a very good 2019 at AAA Pawtucket, earning International League mid and post season All Star honors, as well as Baseball America‘s AAA All Star list. The 26 yr old sinkerballer was not so hot in his MLB debut season going 8.1 innings in 10 games played, 0-3, 8.64 ERA 9H, 8R – all earned – 5BB, 6K, 2HR. He was scored upon in half of those outings. At this point he may be training camp fodder, or they may find the promise he had at AAA.
All was quiet until Wednesday, the day after we heard that Cole Hamels had signed with the Atlanta Braves for one year, the Phils answered right back with the still officially “reported” deal with former New York Mets FA, RHP Zack Wheeler. The deal is for 5 yrs, $118M.
I am not one who salivates over big numbers on the radar gun, but it is Wheeler’s velocity that is his calling card. Both his fastball (96.8), and his slider (91.2) average over 90 MPH. Mixing in his plus curveball, sinker, and change-up, help him to keep opposing hitters off balance. He was in the top 20 in hard hit average (16th) as well as exit velocity (8th).
Due to seniority he would fall in line behind Aaron Nola, in the rotation. If the pitching roster remained the same, Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, and Vince Velasquez would be vying for the next three spots, but there is plenty of time and dollars, to add to the rotation before mid-February.
On Deck: Winter Meetings
The Phillies still have plenty of holes to fill, especially in the infield, and the pen. Trades, and/or at least the beginnings of talks of trades, and signings can be done there as most of baseball is in one place.
Most associated with the Phils through the rumor mill has been SS Didi Gregorius. He and Girardi know each other well, sharing time with the New York Yankees.
The meeting ends with the Rule Five Draft as detailed by MLB.Com
The Rule 5 Draft involves players who were left off their team’s 40-man roster and were either A. signed at age 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for at least four years or B. signed at 18 or younger and have played for at least five years. A team that selects a player in the Rule 5 Draft pays $100,000 to the team from which he was selected, and the receiving team must keep the player on the Major League 26-man roster or injured list (though the player must be active for at least 90 days) for the entirety of the following season. If the player does not remain on the roster, he must be offered back to the team from which he was selected for $50,000. All players on a team’s 40-man roster are “protected” from the Rule 5 Draft, and only teams with vacancies on their 40-man at the time of the Draft can participate (in reverse order of the previous season’s standings).
The Phillies left unprotected five of their top 30 eligible prospects: OF Jhailyn Ortiz (No. 12), Cs Rafael Marchan (No. 13), and C Rodolfo Duran (No. 17), IF Daniel Brito (No. 23) and OF Cornelius Randolph (No. 28).
Probably the past rule 5 draftee for the Phillies most remembered is Shane Victorino.
The regular season roster is increased to 26 players next year, so the buzz is that there might be more activity here than in the past, as teams go bargain hunting for a bench piece, or a nugget from the vein.
We will have news from those meetings, and any other signings, next week.