Philadelphia Phillies – MLB Trade Rumors 2019-04-24T20:00:04Z WordPress Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Phillies Select Sean Rodriguez, Designate James Pazos]]> 2019-04-24T20:00:04Z 2019-04-24T19:41:43Z The Phillies announced a series of transactions today. Two have 40-man roster implications. The club selected the contract of infielder Sean Rodriguez and designated reliever James Pazos to make way.

Joining Rodriguez on the active roster is righty Enyel De Los Santos. To create space, infielder Mitch Walding and righty Drew Anderson were optioned back to Triple-A.

Rodriguez turns 34 on Friday, so this makes for an early birthday gift. He’s in the starting lineup today at shortstop, representing his first MLB action since he was designated last August by the Pirates. Rodriguez has struggled at the plate in recent seasons but is off to a .267/.327/.622 start with the bat at Triple-A. He’ll help fill in while Jean Segura is sidelined.

As for Pazos, who’s closing in on his 28th birthday, it seems the Phillies have been quite underwhelmed since receiving him via trade over the winter. He was a quality relief piece in 2018 and has plenty of cheap control remaining, but had struggled badly in a Phillies uniform. Over 14 2/3 innings between Spring Training and the start of the Triple-A season, the southpaw has managed just six strikeouts against 11 walks.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nick Pivetta On Demotion; Victor Arano Headed For MRI]]> 2019-04-23T02:49:52Z 2019-04-23T02:49:52Z Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta sat down with The Athletic’s Meghan Montemurro for a candid interview about the difficulty of being optioned to Triple-A and the path he knows he needs to take back to the Majors (subscription required). The 26-year-old expressed disappointment in what he felt was “an early send-down,” though he made clear he respects the decision and understands what he has to improve upon to return. The Phils made no promises about the length of his minor league stay, Montemurro notes, suggesting that Pivetta’s fate is largely in his own hands. Perhaps most interestingly, Pivetta spoke about the emotional conflict of being sent to the minors and having his job taken by close friend Jerad Eickhoff“That’s the brutality of what is baseball,” Pivetta explained. “Your best friends and guys that have really helped you out, they come up and they take your jobs and you can’t feel hardship against those guys because they’re your friends. … The road he had to come back is extraordinary and it’s a feat and it’s a great thing for him. So I’m not ever going to feel down about that.” The interview serves as a good reminder of the oft-overlooked human component of roster transactions we see on a daily basis.

  • It still isn’t clear what’s going on in the inflamed elbow of Phillies righty Victor Arano. He’s due soon for an MRI, but first needs an ultrasound to assess what precise type of imaging to pursue, manager Gabe Kapler tells reporters including Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). The 24-year-old Arano had been off to an interesting start to the season, racking up seven strikeouts against two walks in 4 2/3 innings with an eye-popping 25.0% swinging-strike rate. It’s a small sample, to be sure, but nevertheless a promising development for a young reliever who already showed ample promise last year. He and the Phillies will obviously hope that the elbow issue turns out to be minor.
Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Phillies Place Three On Injured List]]> 2019-04-21T04:22:41Z 2019-04-20T22:31:09Z The Phillies have placed shortstop Jean Segura, infielder/outfielder Scott Kingery and reliever Victor Arano on the 10-day injured list, Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. The team recalled right-hander Drew Anderson, left-hander Austin Davis and third baseman Mitch Walding from Triple-A Lehigh Valley in corresponding moves.

Segura’s IL placement, retroactive to Wednesday, comes as a result of a left hamstring strain. It’ll deprive the Phillies of one of their key offseason additions and someone who has gotten off to a terrific start this year. The 29-year-old’s slashing .328/.384/.476 (130 wRC+) in 73 plate appearances, continuing an impressive run of production that began with the Diamondbacks in 2016.

With Segura unavailable over the past couple days, the Phillies turned to the versatile Kingery at short. After a rough rookie season in 2018, Kingery, 24, opened this year with an exemplary line of .406/.457/.719 (208 wRC+) and two home runs in 35 PA. He’s also dealing with a strained hamstring, but on his right side, and an MRI showed it’s “mild,” per Breen.

The absences of Segura and Kingery will leave shortstop to journeyman Phil Gosselin, at least initially. The club also has the somewhat experienced duo of Andrew Romine and Gift Ngoepe as potential minor league call-ups, but it would need to add either to an already full 40-man roster.

The 24-year-old Arano is now the third Phillies reliever currently on the IL, joining David Robertson and Tommy Hunter. Arano’s battling elbow inflammation, no doubt an ominous-sounding problem for a pitcher. The righty was one of the Phillies’ most successful relievers last year, his rookie campaign, though a horrific spring forced him to begin this season in the minors. He then dominated Triple-A hitters over four innings, which led to a return to the majors April 12. Since then, Arano has combined for 4 2/3 frames in three appearances and allowed two earned runs, both in the Phils’ loss to the Rockies on Thursday, while notching seven strikeouts against two walks.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Phillies Remain Interested In Minor, But No Recent Talks]]> 2019-04-18T16:53:09Z 2019-04-18T16:53:09Z The Rangers received offseason trade interest in lefty Mike Minor but opted to hang onto him to help anchor a thin rotation in 2019. And while USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweeted recently that both the Mets and Phillies are showing “strong” interest in Minor, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News cites three sources in reporting that the Texas organization hasn’t had any recent trade talks regarding the left-hander. It’s likely that the Phillies and Mets have each scouted Minor’s early outings, but other clubs have surely done the same, just as Philadelphia and New York have quite likely scouted numerous other starting pitchers.

For the Rangers, it’s difficult to envision trading Minor to the Mets, Phillies or any other team so early in the year — particularly given their own thin rotation. Minor, earning $9.5MM in both 2019 and 2020, will likely be an oft-discussed trade candidate later this summer, when a greater number of motivated buyers is willing to make an offer (and when additional replacement options have potentially emerged within the organization). At present, however, a trade of that magnitude seems unlikely.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Phillies Option Nick Pivetta]]> 2019-04-17T15:34:12Z 2019-04-17T14:19:56Z 10:07am: Reliever Tommy Hunter was pushed to the 60-day injured list, opening the needed 40-man spot. He will not be eligible to return to the majors until the end of May.

9:36am: The club has announced the move and selected the contract of infielder Phil Gosselin. He’ll take the open active roster spot but will also need a 40-man slot, meaning that another transaction is still coming.

9:19am: The Phillies have made an early-season change in their rotation by optioning down struggling righty Nick Pivetta, Matt Gelb of The Athletic is among those to cover via Twitter. He’ll be replaced in the starting five by just-recalled righty Jerad Eickhoff, with a corresponding roster move as yet unknown.

This is a notable move for a variety of reasons. Among other things, the team’s control rights are implicated. Pivetta entered the season with 1.129 years of service and now sits at 1.149. He’ll need to be on the active roster for at least 23 more days this season to pass into a new service class. The demotion all but ends any possibility that he’d be a Super Two player this fall.

Service time considerations surely didn’t drive this decision. The Phils are locked in an intense divisional battle and need every bit of quality they can muster on the MLB roster. Pivetta just hasn’t had it; through four starts and 18 1/3 innings, he has coughed up 17 earned runs on 31 hits with a 16:8 K/BB ratio. His swinging-strike rate has dropped from 12.0% last year down to 8.5% in 2019.

It makes sense to allow Pivetta some time to work things out; likewise, it’s understandable that the club wishes to give Eickhoff an early run in the rotation. He has already shown the ability to be a high-quality MLB hurler, with a 3.87 ERA through 385 2/3 innings. Injuries intervened, but the hope now is that he’s ready to return to his previously established ceiling.

Eickhoff, now 28, certainly had a promising season debut yesterday against the Mets. His velocity was back at its customary 91 mph level. Eickhoff threw four scoreless frames in relief, striking out six while allowing just three baserunners. That stood in contrast to Pivetta’s own, messier effort over the first five innings of a contest that turned out to be a rotation face-off.

This switch is notable, but doesn’t come with particularly high stakes for the team. Pivetta can always be brought back up; he’d be a fascinating multi-inning relief candidate if there’s no need or desire to return him to a starting role later this year. If neither pitcher is up to the task, there are alternatives. Enyel De Los Santos, Ranger Suarez, and Drew Anderson all have 40-man spots, prior MLB experience, and rotation jobs at Triple-A. The summer trade market should offer some opportunities. And there’s always a possibility that the Phils will come back around to still-unsigned veteran Dallas Keuchel, who was a reported target at times over the offseason.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[David Robertson Diagnosed With Flexor Strain]]> 2019-04-17T02:51:51Z 2019-04-17T02:40:24Z April 16: Robertson has been diagnosed with a Grade 1 flexor strain, manager Gabe Kapler said following tonight’s game (Twitter link via the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Breen). He’ll be shut down from throwing for the next couple of days before being reevaluated.

April 15: The Phillies announced Monday that they’ve placed right-hander David Robertson on the 10-day injured list due to soreness in his right elbow. Fellow righty Drew Anderson was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley in his place. Robertson tells reporters that he’s had some on-and-off forearm discomfort and is set to receive an MRI tomorrow, though he’s not overly concerned about the issue at the moment (Twitter link via’s Scott Lauber).

Robertson, 34, signed a two-year contract worth a guaranteed $23MM this winter and has struggled through a slow start to the season. The veteran righty allowed runs in each of his first three appearances with his new club and, overall, has yielded a total of four runs on eight hits and six walks with six strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings of relief. Robertson has thrown just 58 percent of his pitches for strikes in that small sample of innings — a departure from recent seasons when his overall strike rate has sat at 63 percent or better.

Notably, this is the first trip time in his career that Robertson has ever missed time due to an arm injury. He spent about two weeks on the shelf due to a groin strain in 2014 and missed a bit more than three weeks due to an oblique injury in 2012, but he came to the Phillies with a pristine track record in terms of arm health.

With Robertson sidelined for the time being, Anderson will get a look for a third consecutive season. The 25-year-old hasn’t found much success in the big leagues yet but also hasn’t had much of an opportunity; in 15 Major League frames, he’s surrendered 13 runs on 23 hits with a more impressive 13-to-3 K/BB ratio. Anderson has spent the vast majority of his career as a starter and owns a 3.90 ERA with 7.3 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 in 115 1/3 innings (21 starts) at the Triple-A level.

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Phillies Have Yet To Discuss Extensions With Realmuto, Hoskins]]> 2019-04-13T15:50:26Z 2019-04-13T15:50:26Z The Phillies haven’t yet broached the subject of a contract extension with either catcher J.T. Realmuto or first baseman Rhys Hoskins, the two players told reporters (including’s Scott Lauber and Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia).  The duo each expressed interest in remaining with the Phillies over the long term, and neither seemed perturbed by a lack of negotiations.

Realmuto can become a free agent after the 2020 season, though despite mutual interest in an extension from both the catcher and the team, Lauber writes that “neither side feels urgency to rush into anything” since Realmuto only joined the Phillies in February.  It stands to reason that the Phils will wait until the winter to really delve into contract talks, though obviously another All-Star caliber season from Realmuto will only raise his asking price.  There’s even less of a rush to extend Hoskins, as the slugging first baseman is under team control through the 2023 season and isn’t even arbitration-eligible until the 2020-21 offseason.

Looming over this whole discussion, of course, is the state of free agency, as the last two offseasons of slowed activity have resulted in an incredible number of contract extensions signed over the last two months.  The Phillies themselves have already been a part of that action, inking Aaron Nola to a four-year extension worth $45MM in guaranteed money.  The extension flurry has seen both established stars (like Realmuto) and younger pre-arb players (like Hoskins) taking a payday now rather than test what has become an increasingly unfriendly free agent market to veteran players.

Realmuto will turn 30 in March 2021, while Hoskins will turn 31 prior to the 2024 season.  In Hoskins’ case, he stands to make some solid money during his arbitration years if he continues to hit, as the arb process rewards traditional counting stats like home runs and RBI.  A pricey multi-year deal, however, could be harder to come by unless the next collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the players’ union (the current deal expires in December 2021) changes the free agent climate.

I think all of us players have noticed [what’s happened in free agency],” Hoskins said.  “Obviously we hope stuff like that flips by the time that we get there. I don’t know if it will ever get back to where it was, but hopefully it starts trending in the opposite direction of where it is right now. I think a lot of those questions are going to be answered after [2021].”

According to Salisbury, the Phillies previously tried to extend Hoskins prior to the 2017 season, before he had even made his Major League debut.  Philadelphia used a similar approach with another top prospect in Scott Kingery last year, signing Kingery to a six-year, $24MM deal that gave the Phils club options over three of Kingery’s free agent years.

Hoskins’ camp declined those earlier offers, though Hoskins has since changed representation to the Boras Corporation.  As much as Scott Boras is known for taking his clients into the open market, Hoskins reiterated that his agent is perfectly willing to negotiate extensions if they make sense for the player.  It should be noted that Boras has a number of noteworthy extensions on his record, including Xander Bogaerts’ new pact with the Red Sox from just a couple of weeks ago.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Previewing 2019-20’s Opt-Out Clause Decisions]]> 2019-04-13T00:26:41Z 2019-04-13T00:26:41Z Some few contracts include provisions giving the player control over one or more seasons by affording the chance to opt out of the remainder of the deal. Take the bird in hand or see how many you can net from the free-agent bush? Market changes have impacted the math for some players, but the open market still has riches to offer. We don’t know how things will look for any given player at season’s end, but here’s how it’s shaping up at the outset of the 2019 campaign:

Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers: Three years, $43MM: The 2016-17 version of Andrus — and the one we saw through the season’s first two weeks in 2018 — looked every bit like a player who would exercise the first of two opt-out clauses in his contract (which came at the end of the 2018 season). From Opening Day 2016 through April 11 last year, Andrus posted a terrific .301/.352/.459 batting line with 30 homers, 78 doubles, 11 triples and 49 steals through 1318 plate appearances. Paired with his glovework at shortstop, he looked very capable of topping the remaining four years and $58MM on his contract. Unfortunately, he suffered an elbow fracture, missed two months, and returned to hit only .245/.289/.347 in his final 367 plate appearances. An offseason of rest looks to have done him some good, as he’s hitting .380/.392/.500 through 51 PAs. Unlike several players on this list, there’s an actual chance that Andrus could test the open market, though free agency hasn’t been kind to players on the wrong side of 30 in recent years.

Jake Arrieta, RHP, Phillies: One year, $20MM (unless Phillies exercise two-year, $40MM option for 2021-22): Arrieta’s first season with the Phils was solid, if unremarkable. He tallied 172 2/3 innings and gave the team a 3.96 ERA with fielding-independent metrics that didn’t stray too far from that ERA (4.26 FIP, 4.08 xFIP, 4.29 SIERA). The former Cy Young winner’s velocity is down a couple miles per hour from its peak levels, and while Arrieta showed good control and ground-ball tendencies in 2018, he no longer appears to be a strikeout pitcher. Given that he’ll pitch next season at age 34, it doesn’t seem all that likely that the Phillies will sign up to tack on another pair of $20MM seasons. With a strong 2019 effort, it’s possible that Arrieta positions himself to land a two-year deal with a larger guarantee but lower annual rate (e.g. two years, $30MM), so it’s not out of the question that he’d opt out at season’s end, even if seems unlikely at present.

Yu Darvish, RHP, Cubs: Four years, $81MM: Darvish’s first season in Chicago was an unmitigated disaster, as a series of arm injuries limited him to just 40 innings of work. His velocity isn’t where it was in previous seasons, and in this season’s small sample of three starts, he’s walked more batters than he’s punched out. It’s hard to envision any scenario in which Darvish opts out of his contract; even if he stormed back to ace status and won an NL Cy Young Award, I’m not sure he’d top $81MM as a 33-year-old free agent with a qualifying offer hanging over his head. The Cubs appear stuck with the contract and will need to simply hope for a rebound.

Jason Heyward, OF, Cubs: Four years, $86MM (assuming he makes 550 PAs): Heyward has had a scalding hot start to the season, mashing at a .351/.444/.676 pace. Through 45 plate appearances, he’s already halfway to his home run total from a 2018 season in which he came to he plate 489 times. Even if Heyward’s bat proves to be rejuvenated to its 2015 levels, however, it’s virtually unfathomable that he’d walk away from the remaining $86MM on this contract. His poor results in his first three seasons with the Cubs still loom large enough that a monster year at the dish would be met with a heavy dose of skepticism, and he’ll turn 30 in August.

Kenley Jansen, RHP, Dodgers: Two years, $38MM: After seven seasons as a near-unstoppable force in the Dodgers’ bullpen, Jansen looked mortal in 2018 when he logged a 3.01 ERA (his first time ever topping 3.00) and 10.3 K/9 (his first time south of 13.0). A strong enough rebound campaign could embolden Jansen to seek out a three-year deal at a lower annual salary than the $19MM remaining on his contract; the Rockies gave Wade Davis a total of $52MM for the same three-year age span that Jansen will be entering (32-34). He’s already rejected one qualifying offer in his career, so he wouldn’t be eligible to receive a second one (even though he landed with the same team that winter).

J.D. Martinez, DH/OF, Red Sox: Three years, $62.5MM: The general expectation in the 2017-18 offseason was that Martinez’s 2017 season (.303/.376/.690, 45 home runs) would be a peak year. Instead, he turned in an arguably even more productive 2018 season with the Red Sox, hitting a ridiculous .330/.402/.629 with 43 home runs in 649 PAs — the second-highest total of his career. Martinez is off to another strong start in 2019, and despite a frosty climate for free agents, one can only wonder if he’d be tempted to once again test free agency if he can post a third consecutive season of 40-plus homers with an OPS north of 1.000. One wrinkle to consider is that barring an unexpected midseason trade, Martinez would have a qualifying offer attached to him this time around; that wasn’t true of his last trip through free agency, as he’d been traded from Detroit to Arizona midseason.

Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals: Four years, $100MM: Strasburg is still a strikeout machine who posts big totals in swinging-strike and opponents’ chase rates, but his 93.1 mph average fastball in 2019 is well south of last year’s 94.5 mph (to say nothing of his career 95.3). The former No. 1 pick was a big part of the Nats’ rotation in 2018 and should be again this year, but he was more good than great last year (130 innings, 3.74 ERA, 10.8 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 43.6 GB%). Moreover, Darvish and a much younger Patrick Corbin are the only two pitchers who have topped $100MM in guarantees over the past two offseasons. Strasburg would be hit with a qualifying offer if he opted out, and he’d be betting against recent trends as a 31-year-old pitcher looking to cash in on a nine-figure contract. He can ask Dallas Keuchel how well that strategy works.

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Tommy Hunter Shut Down For Three Weeks]]> 2019-04-07T04:14:18Z 2019-04-07T04:14:18Z
  • Phillies reliever Tommy Hunter has been shut down from throwing after receiving a PRP injection in his right arm.  (’s Todd Zolecki was among those to report the news.)  Hunter won’t resume throwing for three weeks, so factoring in those days plus the time Hunter would require to get into game readiness after missing much of Spring Training, the veteran righty might not be back in the Philadelphia bullpen until late May or perhaps early June.  A flexor strain sidelined Hunter during the spring, and while the injury wasn’t thought to be overly serious at the time, it will result in a lengthy absence for the 32-year-old.  Hunter was a solid contributor for the Phils last season, posting a 3.80 ERA, 3.40 K/BB rate, and 7.2 K/9 over 64 relief innings in the first year of a two-year, $18MM contract.
    • Phillies reliever Tommy Hunter has been shut down from throwing after receiving a PRP injection in his right arm.  (’s Todd Zolecki was among those to report the news.)  Hunter won’t resume throwing for three weeks, so factoring in those days plus the time Hunter would require to get into game readiness after missing much of Spring Training, the veteran righty might not be back in the Philadelphia bullpen until late May or perhaps early June.  A flexor strain sidelined Hunter during the spring, and while the injury wasn’t thought to be overly serious at the time, it will result in a lengthy absence for the 32-year-old.  Hunter was a solid contributor for the Phils last season, posting a 3.80 ERA, 3.40 K/BB rate, and 7.2 K/9 over 64 relief innings in the first year of a two-year, $18MM contract.
    • Japan used to be seen as something of a last resort for players that couldn’t crack the Major Leagues, though as The Athletic’s Peter Gammons writes (subscription required), more and more players are returning from stints in Nippon Professional Baseball capable of thriving at the MLB level.  Colby Lewis, Ryan Vogelsong, Miles Mikolas, and Ryan Brasier are some of the pitchers who revived or kickstarted their careers while playing in Japan, which some players and executives feel is a more conducive environment than Triple-A.  NPB not only offers a higher level of competition, but just competition in general — players are playing to win in pressurized games in front of large crowds, rather than the more developmental nature of the minor leagues.  Plus, players can earn much more in guaranteed NPB deals than in playing for meager minor league salaries or even minimum-level Major League contracts, and the extra security allows more focus on performance.  “I’m not looking over my shoulder after every outing,” said Frank Herrmann, who is in his third season as a star reliever for Rakuten Golden Eagles after tossing 135 1/3 innings for the Indians and Phillies between 2010-16.  “When you are that ’4A guy,’ a bad outing or even an extra-inning game in which you did your job could potentially be a demotion to the minors. That’s a grind mentality.”
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Offseason In Review: Philadelphia Phillies]]> 2019-04-07T02:56:45Z 2019-04-07T02:55:47Z This is the latest post of MLBTR’s annual Offseason in Review series, in which we take stock of every team’s winter dealings.

    Time will tell if the Phillies’ offseason spending splurge ends up being fruitful or perhaps “a little bit stupid.”  But arguably no team in baseball made a bigger push towards contending in 2019 than Philadelphia, as a number of headline-grabbing transactions should have the club battling for the NL East title.

    Major League Signings

    • Bryce Harper, OF: Thirteen years, $330M
    • Andrew McCutchen, OF: Three years, $50MM (includes $3MM buyout of $15MM club option for 2022)
    • David Robertson, RP: Two years, $23MM (includes $2MM buyout of $12MM club option for 2021)
    • Total spend: $403MM

    Trades And Claims

    Notable Minor League Signings


    • Aaron Nola, SP: Four years, $45MM (includes $4.25MM buyout of $16MM club option for 2023)

    Notable Losses

    [Phillies organizational depth chart | Phillies payroll information]

    Needs Addressed

    Chronologically, the Bryce Harper signing was the last of Philadelphia’s major winter moves, as the contract wasn’t finalized until early March.  But we’ll begin here, since speculation about Harper dominated not just the offseason as a whole, but specifically the Phillies’ plans.  It was no secret that the Phils were aiming to land either Harper or Manny Machado, as perhaps no team was better positioned both payroll-wise and competitive desire-wise to make such an enormous signing happen.

    It wasn’t always clear how many teams were involved in the markets for Harper and Machado, though the Phillies were a constant fixture both on the rumor mill and in behind-the-scenes negotiations.  Once Machado ultimately signed with the Padres for ten years and $300MM, the stage was set for the Phillies and Harper to finally find common ground.  The Athletic’s Matt Gelb and’s Tom Verducci both penned outstanding chronicles of the Phillies/Harper talks, and the clincher for the Phillies was their willingness to give Harper the very long-term commitment (with no opt-outs or options, and a full no-trade clause) he was seeking.  The result was a 13-year/$330MM deal that stood as the single largest contract in baseball history, until Mike Trout’s extension with the Angels set a new standard a few weeks later.

    By all accounts, Harper is prepared to be a Phillie for life, giving the team a new high-profile face of the franchise for this next decade-plus.  Harper was willing to sacrifice some average annual value that he could have found elsewhere on a shorter-term deal, yet his top priority was both security and firmly setting down roots for the remainder of his career.  It could also be interpreted as a reaction to the slower nature of the modern free agent market — after hearing whispers about his impending free agency for years, and going through the process once, Harper was all too ready to never test the market again.

    Harper was the final touch (or, to borrow from a groaner of a Scott Boras pun, the harp in the orchestra) on a transformative offseason for the Phillies.  GM Matt Klentak had an open checkbook and seemingly just about free rein to turn an 80-win team into a contender for the National League pennant.

    Klentak’s first big swing wasn’t a signing, however, but rather a five-player trade with the Mariners that addressed multiple problems for the Phillies in one fell swoop.  Philadelphia unloaded first baseman Carlos Santana and his contract, opening up first base for Rhys Hoskins to return following Hoskins’ ill-fated sojourn as one of baseball’s worst defensive left fielders in 2018.  The savings on Santana’s remaining two years/$35MM created more flexibility to take on the $58MM/four years still owed to Jean Segura, who immediately upgrades what had been a very shaky shortstop position for the Phillies.  The trade also saw Philadelphia add bullpen depth in Juan Nicasio and James Pazos, while former top prospect J.P. Crawford (once thought to be the shortstop of the future) headed to Seattle.

    Barring a sudden downturn from Segura, or Crawford blossoming into a superstar for the M’s, this deal looks like a solid win for Philadelphia.  Since Santana had become an extraneous asset for the Phils and it seemed like they were ready to move on from Crawford, the team essentially ended up adding Segura, Nicasio (owed $9MM in 2019) and a controllable arm in Pazos for only an additional $32MM in new money.  That’s a more than reasonable price for Segura, who has been one of the game’s best middle infielders in recent years — to put Segura’s value into perspective, his 11.9 fWAR since the start of the 2016 season is the virtual equivalent of Harper (12 fWAR).

    With Hoskins now back at first base, this cleared the way for Andrew McCutchen to return to Pennsylvania as the Phils’ new left fielder.  It’s been a few years since McCutchen’s superstar prime with the Pirates, though the veteran is still a solidly above-average bat.  McCutchen’s defense is also no longer the detriment that it was in his later years as a center fielder, as he posted respectable glovework metrics as a right fielder last season with the Giants and Yankees.  Perhaps the only thing eyebrow-raising about this signing was McCutchen’s $50MM price tag.  Only six free agents received more in guaranteed money this winter, though in a vacuum, it doesn’t seem exorbitant for a durable and productive player’s age 32-34 seasons.  The Phillies probably didn’t mind spending a few extra million to address an outfield need before the Winter Meetings were over.

    After the bullpen got some attention in the form of Nicasio, Pazos, and a trade with the Angels to acquire southpaw Jose Alvarez, a bigger name joined the relief corps when David Robertson inked a two-year, $23MM deal.  Robertson figures to serve as the Phillies’ primary closer this year, though Seranthony Dominguez and Hector Neris can step into the ninth inning if Robertson is deployed in a critical situation earlier in the game.

    In the same way that the Phils chose to deal Crawford for an established star at shortstop, Jorge Alfaro went from being a future building block at catcher to a new member of the Miami Marlins in another blockbuster trade.  It was Philadelphia who finally ended up with J.T. Realmuto, ending over 18 months of rumors about where the Marlins would eventually send the All-Star backstop.  Miami was known to be asking for a haul in return for Realmuto, and the Phillies’ successful offer was nothing to sneeze at — Alfaro, top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, intriguing 21-year-old pitching prospect Will Stewart, and $250K in international bonus money.

    It’s a lot to ask for just two years of Realmuto’s services, though Alfaro is still raw as a contact hitter, and Sanchez has had some injury problems in his young career.  Plus, given the recent trend of star players taking extensions rather than wanting to take the free agent plunge, the Phillies have to feel good about their chances of keeping Realmuto beyond the 2020 season.  Even for just the short-term, of course, Realmuto provides an enormous boost just by dint of being the best catcher in the sport.  Realmuto is coming off his best season yet, hitting .277/.340/.484 with 21 homers over 531 plate appearances in 2018.

    Speaking of extensions, the Phillies also signed young ace Aaron Nola through at least the 2022 season.  Nola’s deal is a four-year pact worth $45MM in guaranteed money, and could be worth $56.75 in total value if the Phillies exercise a club option for 2023.  The extension covers all three of Nola’s arbitration-eligible seasons and up to two of his free agent years, making it a fantastic investment for the Phils in locking up a 25-year-old right-hander who finished third in NL Cy Young voting last season.

    As MLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted at the time of the extension, Nola could have been lined up to earn in the range of $30MM just through his three arbitration seasons, had he won his then-pending arb hearing that was canceled by the news of the extension.  For the Phillies to gain two additional years of control for up to only $26-$27MM more is a nice result for the team.  From Nola’s perspective, he can still hit free agency after his age-30 season and locks in a life-changing payday now — no small matter for a pitcher who has a UCL scare in 2016.

    Questions Remaining

    It’s hard to argue that the Phillies won’t be better in 2019 than in 2018, given both the quality and sheer volume of their offseason additions.  The trouble is, the rest of the NL East didn’t stand pat.  The Nationals and Mets also made several notable moves, while the Braves had something of a quieter winter but are still the reigning division champions with an exciting batch of young talent.  Philadelphia conducted its winter business with an eye towards long-term success, though if the club falls short in 2019, there will certainly be debate as to whether the Phillies could’ve taken some extra steps.

    Given the long list of new faces, it’s hard to accuse the Phillies of only taking half-measures, though in this respect the team is something of a victim of its own promises.  The previously-linked Matt Gelb piece contains an amusing section about how owner John Middleton’s notorious “stupid money” comment added pressure to the front office, and made the Phillies a popular target both for player agents looking for suitors and for rival teams looking to trade a hefty contract.  Also, when a team spends its offseason checking in on seemingly every available free agent or trade candidate, fans and pundits can’t help but coming up with what-if scenarios.

    For instance, since the Phillies addressed almost every other area of their roster, it is perhaps a little surprising that the rotation was left untouched.  This wasn’t for lack of trying, as the Phils had talks with free agents Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Yusei Kikuchi, Dallas Keuchel and others, while also exploring trades for the likes of Indians ace Corey Kluber.

    As the season starts, however, the Phillies will run back their same core group of Nola, Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, and Vince Velasquez.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as this starting five delivered generally quality results last season.  Nola looks to be the only true frontline starter of the bunch, however, as Arrieta has taken a step back from his ace days with the Cubs, and the rest of the young arms are talented but lacking in experience.

    Robertson, Alvarez, and Nicasio weren’t the only relievers on the Phillies’ target list, as they also looked far and wide for bullpen arms.  This search took them in some interesting directions, as Philadelphia reportedly had interest in signing Nathan Eovaldi as a reliever, which seems like it a bit of a head-scratcher since Eovaldi was getting starting offers from seemingly half the league.  Edwin Diaz was also considered by the Phillies before Seattle dealt Diaz elsewhere within the NL East, and free agent closer Craig Kimbrel was also linked to the Phils in rumors.

    After Harper signed, some reports suggested that Philadelphia could turn its attention to Keuchel or Kimbrel, though the Phillies only seemed interested in either pitcher on a short-term commitment.  Over a month after those reports, Keuchel and Kimbral are both still available should the Phillies want to pounce.  While there hasn’t yet been any indication that Keuchel or Kimbrel would be willing to settle for one-year deals, you have to figure that possibility must exist now that Opening Day has come and gone.  Either pitcher could be waiting until after the draft (so teams no longer have to surrender picks to sign them, as per the qualifying offer) to finally agree to a prorated deal, potentially just covering the remainder of 2019 so they could try again in the 2019-20 free agent market.

    Rather than signing a coming-in-cold Keuchel or Kimbrel, however, there’s nothing stopping Philadelphia from adding to its rotation or bullpen via a midseason trade.  The Harper/McCutchen signings left the Phils with something of an outfield surplus, so the likes of Nick Williams or (when healthy) Roman Quinn could be dangled in a deal.  The farm system has been thinned out by the losses of Crawford, Sanchez, and Alfaro, though some interesting prospects remain if the organization again wants to move more young talent in another win-now strike.

    Beyond just the question of 2019, of course, is how the Phillies’ biggest signing will play out over the next 13 seasons.  The Harper-or-Machado debate will quite possibly rage for years to come.  Harper has been slightly more valuable (31.3 fWAR in 3980 career PA to Machado’s 30.4 fWAR in 4102 career PA) thus far, though Machado has been the more durable player and has been a premium defender at third base.  Harper’s defensive metrics cratered last season, which Boras claims was due to lingering effects from Harper’s knee problems in 2017, though it stands out a pretty noteworthy red flag.

    Will Harper be ultimately worth a 13-year commitment?  If the Phillies win a World Series or two during his tenure, the “flags fly forever” argument might outweigh any struggles Harper has in the final years of that deal.  Going by past examples of 10+ year contracts, Derek Jeter’s ten-year, $189MM pact with the Yankees is the only deal that stands out as an unqualified success for the team that originally made the signing.

    The sheer length of the agreement, however, means that Harper’s AAV is just over $25.38MM per season.  This helps the Phillies for luxury tax purposes, as even after their spending spree, the team’s projected Competitive Balance Tax number (as estimated by Roster Resource) is currently just under $191.4MM, still a good ways below the $206MM tax threshold.  Signing a Keuchel or a Kimbrel even on a prorated contract might put the Phils over that threshold, which is another reason the club could prefer wait until the trade deadline for further additions.

    Beyond just the new players on the roster, the higher expectations will put more pressure on the incumbents to up their game.  The Phils are lacking in center field depth, adding even more importance to Odubel Herrera’s ability to bounce back from a disappointing 2018.  Cesar Hernandez is also looking to rebound from a subpar season, though an injured foot in the second half of the year may have been the biggest culprit to Hernandez’s drop in production.

    Maikel Franco spent much of the winter as, essentially, Schrödinger’s Third Baseman — both the Phillies’ in-house starter at the hot corner and also the player expected to be shipped out of town at a moment’s notice if Machado was signed.  Ironically, San Diego was the team most closely linked to Franco in trade rumors before the Padres themselves landed Machado.  Franco is now again slated for the bulk of third base time, with Scott Kingery standing out as the superutility option at third, second, shortstop, and in the outfield.

    Since Kingery, Williams, and Altherr all underachieved last year, the Phils added to their bench depth by signing veterans Sean Rodriguez, Andrew Romine, Shane Robinson, and Phil Gosselin to minors deals.

    2019 Season Outlook

    There’s a possibility the Phils make a significant improvement in the win-loss column but not in the NL East standings, given what their division rivals accomplished in the offseason.  Philadelphia has at least gotten itself back into the conversation as a legitimate postseason contender, however, and as it wouldn’t be a surprise if the front office again gets aggressive come the trade deadline.

    How would you grade the Phillies’ offseason moves? (Link for app users.)

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Decision On Altherr, Williams Looming As Quinn Nears Return]]> 2019-04-05T13:54:10Z 2019-04-05T13:54:10Z The Phillies will soon face a decision with regard to their outfield when Roman Quinn returns from the injured list, writes Matt Breen of Quinn, who played nine innings in a rehab game yesterday, is out of minor league options and will need to be added to the active roster. Given his speed and ability to play all three outfield slots, the organization will retain the soon-to-be 26-year-old. That means either optioning Nick Williams to Triple-A Lehigh Valley or designating fellow out-of-options outfielder Aaron Altherr for assignment. Parting ways with Altherr is the “most likely scenario,” per Breen, though the organization seemingly would prefer to find a way to keep him. As Breen further notes, losing Altherr on waivers and the seeing Quinn go down with another injury would leave the Phils without a backup center fielder on the 40-man roster. Between non-roster journeyman Lane Adams starting the season in Triple-A for the Phils and the number of outfielders designated by other organizations over the course of a season, though, a short-term injury to Quinn could probably be patched over.

    George Miller <![CDATA[East Notes: Hot Seat Managers, Orioles, Bundy, Pedroia]]> 2019-03-31T18:52:24Z 2019-03-31T18:45:59Z Following an offseason that featured an arms race between several of the NL East’s contenders, expectations are higher than ever for the Braves, Mets, Nationals, and Phillies. For that reason, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post, there will be no excuses for managers Gabe Kapler, Dave Martinez, and Mickey Callaway this time around. The trio of rookie managers all endured disappointing 2018 seasons, but with their ballclubs making significant additions in the winter, the new year comes with heightened pressure to deliver and win now. It bears mentioning that first-year Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen was not part of the front office that hired Callaway prior to last season. Though it’s still early to speculate about managerial turnover, the developing bloodbath in the NL East will be a story to watch throughout the season and into the winter.

    Here are some other notes from the East…

    • Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy, once an uber-prospect with tantalizing potential, has undergone well-documented struggles in recent years, culminating in his surrendering 41 home runs last season. Jon Meoli of The Baltimore Sun details new pitching coach Doug Brocail’s plan to implement changes that will help Bundy return to the form that brought him success earlier in his career, including his career-best 2016 season.
    • Also in Baltimore, new skipper Brandon Hyde has thus far refrained from anointing a closer and does not intend to do so anytime soon, writes Meoli. Though Mychal Givens, who finished the 2018 season in the closer role after the midseason trades of Zack Britton and Brad Brach, appeared the best candidate to close, Hyde’s Orioles are comfortable sticking to a committee approach for the foreseeable future.
    • Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who has been dealing with left knee inflammation and began the season on the IL, will begin a rehab assignment on Thursday with the Class-A Greenville Drive, per Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. Pedroia has been receiving at-bats in extended spring training; the timetable for his return to MLB action is yet unknown.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Phillies Re-Sign Andrew Romine To Minor League Deal]]> 2019-03-25T18:22:38Z 2019-03-25T18:22:38Z The Phillies have re-signed veteran utilityman Andrew Romine to a minor league pact, tweets Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. He’s in Major League camp today and will head to minor league camp tomorrow before opening the season in the minors (presumably with Philadelphia’s Triple-A affiliate in Lehigh Valley).

    Philadelphia released Romine late last week, but this new arrangement allows them to keep him without paying him the $100K retention bonus he’d have been due as an Article XX(B) Free Agent (essentially — a player with six-plus years of MLB service who finished the previous season on a Major League roster but took a minor league pact in the offseason). That may sound harsh, though it’s a rather common practice in this type of instance.

    Romine, 33, doesn’t bring much to the table offensively, but few in the league can match his defensive versatility. He’s played every position on the field at the MLB level and has at least 200 big league innings at each of first base, second base, third base, shortstop, corner outfield (left and right combined) and in center field. Romine appeared in 17 games with the Phils earlier this spring and hit .270/.325/.378 through 40 plate appearances. He’s a career .235/.291/.301 hitter in 1323 Major League plate appearances and has a .721 OPS in more than 3000 career trips to the plate in Triple-A.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Philip Gosselin Won't Make Philies ]]> 2019-03-24T00:31:42Z 2019-03-24T00:31:42Z
  • Infielder Philip Gosselin won’t make the Phillies, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia relays. It seems the 30-year-old will remain on hand as minor league depth, however. The journeyman has accrued 579 major league PAs, though he didn’t play much at the MLB level from 2017-18, and batted .263/.314/.361.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Giants Were Bryce Harper's Second Choice]]> 2019-03-23T14:48:33Z 2019-03-23T14:48:33Z
  • Also from Rosenthal’s piece, he provided a sneak peek at an interview conducted with Bryce Harper that will air in full after Fox Sports 1’s broadcast of the Braves/Phillies game on March 30.  Within the interview, Harper discussed his lengthy free agent process, including the tidbit that his final decision came down to the Phillies and the Giants.  In weighing his options with his wife Kayla, Harper said the couple ultimately decided that Philadelphia was the best fit.  “It was nothing against San Francisco. They’re a great organization. It’s a great city,” Harper said.  “It just came down to what I felt. And by that point, it was Philly.”  Harper also said that the difference between spacious Oracle Park and the more hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park “was never really a factor” in his choice of teams.
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