Phillies

A celebration of life: Thank you, Roy Halladay

A celebration of life: Thank you, Roy Halladay

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jimmy Rollins called it a reunion of the most unfortunate kind.

On the very field where he made his memorable Phillies debut in March 2010, Roy Halladay, the pitcher, the man, the teammate, the husband and the father, was remembered Tuesday evening in a moving celebration of life at Spectrum Field a week after he died in a plane crash just a few miles away in the Gulf of Mexico.

Family, friends, fans, former teammates and the young players he coached on two travel teams and down the street at Calvary Christian High School sat in the stands from dugout to dugout — the turnout was estimated at 2,000 — and listened to emotional and heartfelt remembrances from those who knew Halladay best.

Nine people spoke and that was fitting.

Doc always wanted to go the distance.

Chase Utley, a teammate who won Halladay's respect because the two men shared an intense work ethic and competitive spirit, was one of the speakers. He told the story about showing up the first day of spring training at 5:45 a.m., wanting to be the first one through the door so he could send the right message to his teammates, and much to his surprise finding a sweat-soaked Halladay eating breakfast. Halladay had already completed a pre-dawn workout, which, of course, would be followed by the regular team workout a few hours later.

"I knew then and there, this guy was the real deal," Utley said.

Utley spoke from a stage just behind the pitcher's mound. The stage was adorned with flowered numbers — a red 34 for Halladay's time in Philadelphia, a blue 32 for his time in Toronto — and pictures of the future Hall of Famer in both teams' uniforms. Utley closed his remarks by looking out in front of the stage, where Halladay's wife, Brandy, and the couple's two sons, Braden, 17, and Ryan, 13, sat.

"Your dad ...," Utley said.

The stoic second baseman paused and became emotional.

"... was the best teammate I ever played with and the most fierce competitor I've ever seen. I'm sure all your lives you've heard people praise your dad and tell you how proud they were of him. But in the conversations I've had with him, he was more proud of what you guys have accomplished than what he ever accomplished on the field.

"Brandy, Braden and Ryan, thank you for sharing him with us."

Later, after the tribute, Utley talked about speaking directly to the two Halladay boys.

"That was probably the hardest part," he said. "I have two boys myself. It really hit home.

"Roy meant so much to me. He affected me. He made me better as I have evolved as a player and a person."

Braden and Ryan are both young baseball talents. Former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was one of the speakers and he, too, spoke directly to the boys, promising to peek in on their games.

Manuel also recalled managing the National League All-Star team in 2009 and meeting Halladay, the American League All-Star starter that summer. By that time, the Phillies had already had their eyes on Halladay, hoping to swing a trade with the Blue Jays for him.

"You’d look good in a Phillies uniform," Manuel told Halladay that day.

Halladay was in a Phillies uniform the following spring. He made his spring training debut on March 4, 2010, and pitched two perfect innings with three strikeouts against the New York Yankees. Just three of the 24 pitches he threw that day were balls.

Three.

Halladay went on to pitch a perfect game, a playoff no-hitter and win the NL Cy Young award that season. He finished second in the Cy Young race the following season and helped the Phillies win 102 games. His final two seasons with the club were marred by back and shoulder injuries that ended his career.

Halladay pitched his heart out in an excruciating 1-0 playoff loss against St. Louis that ended the Phillies' 102-win season in 2011. He pitched that game against another big, right-hander, Chris Carpenter. The two were former teammates with the Blue Jays, best friends and fishing buddies. Carpenter was one of the speakers Tuesday and he made you laugh and cry.

"Doc texted me after Game 5," Carpenter said. "I was on the bus. He was in front of his locker. There he was, he'd just pitched his heart out and he wanted to congratulate me and wish me luck the rest of the way. He also said, 'I'm looking forward to our fishing trip in Brazil.'"

Carpenter told of how, as young, aspiring players, he and Halladay would fish late at night during spring training and fantasize about one day being as good as Roger Clemens and Pat Hentgen. He talked about fishing trips to South America, how Halladay would bring his glove so he could get his offseason throwing in, and how, on a 100-degree day, Halladay took a dip in the piranha-infested Amazon River.

"Dude, get back in the boat, you’re going to get eaten by something," Carpenter recalled telling a backstroking Halladay.

Carpenter also got to the core of Halladay — the determination, the drive, the persistence — when he talked of his friend's early-career struggles and the demotion from the majors all the way to Single A. That event was the watershed moment in Halladay's career. He changed his pitching mechanics and found a new mindset thanks to his work with sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman.

"When he came back, you could see it in his face and his body language that he was going to dominate," Carpenter said. "He said he would never be that bad again and he became the best of our generation."

Phillies owner John Middleton spoke and said that Halladay transcended sports.

"Knowing Roy is one of the great privileges in my life," Middleton said. "The man made the ballplayer, not the other way around. We all wanted to win for Doc. No one wanted to let him down because we always knew Doc would never let us down."

Dozens of former teammates and officials from two teams were on hand for the tribute. Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick, Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino, Ruben Amaro, Rich Dubee, Pat Gillick, David Montgomery, Jose Bautista, Cito Gaston, Brad Lidge and Raul Ibanez were there. Scott Rolen, a Phillie who became a teammate of Halladay's in Toronto, was there. Carlos Ruiz, Halladay's beloved catcher was there. He cried as he spoke about learning of his friend's death.

"Doc will always be in my heart," Ruiz said after the tribute.

George Poulis, the legendary Blue Jays athletic trainer who stretched Halladay's arm before starts, told of a pre-start routine the two shared.

"Before he'd head out to warm up, I'd say, 'Doc, have a good one,'" Poulis said. "If I got distracted working on another player, he would stand there until I said those words."

Poulis paused, fighting back emotion.

"Doc, have a good one," he said. "I will miss you from the bottom of my heart."

Halladay's dad, Roy, spoke beautifully about his son. Brandy spoke for 18 heartbreaking minutes about her husband and how she beat him in billiards on their first date and ping-pong on their second.

"Roy Halladay does not like to lose," she said, a hint of a smile breaking through the tears.

Brandy Halladay urged the mourners to take nothing for granted and to hug their family members tightly. A few minutes later, she looked down at her two sons and spoke of their dad.

"I still get to see him every day because I look at you," she said.

Vince Nauss of Baseball Chapel concluded the tribute with some beautiful words. He also spoke at the celebration of Dallas Green's life back in March. He's one of the best.

Rollins was right, with so many former teammates, coaches and officials from the Phillies on hand, it was like a reunion, albeit a very sad one.

Moments after the tribute concluded, Rollins spoke of learning of Halladay's death in a text message from Ryan Howard, who was also on hand for the service. Rollins grieved and tried to come to terms with the news until finally going to bed at about 1 o'clock that night. His said his wife, Johari, was a little too far over on his side of the bed and gave him a little kick as if to say, "Move over." Jimmy said he wasn't going to move over, not on that night. He felt compelled to move closer to his wife and give her a hug.

"Like Brandy said, hug your family a little tighter," Rollins said.

Giancarlo Stanton a major long shot as Phillies prioritize pitching over hitting

Giancarlo Stanton a major long shot as Phillies prioritize pitching over hitting

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Phillies are a big-market team with plenty of financial might and flexibility.

So, naturally, they will land Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton and the $295 million that remains on his contract this offseason.

Not so fast.

General manager Matt Klentak acknowledged Monday at baseball's annual GM meetings that the Phillies do have the financial strength and flexibility to consider big-ticket items this winter.

But it doesn’t sound as if a big bat is his priority.

"Our position-player group is young, it's growing and it has shown promise," Klentak said. "I think we have an obligation to the players and to the franchise to let that play out, as a general rule. The most important thing for us in 2018 is that our young players continue to grow and develop and get the reps they need at the major-league level.

"Now, as far as the offseason, the question is, what can we do for those players to put them in the best position to achieve that growth? That could come in the form of veteran players we bring in to surround them. It's going to come in the form of creating the coaching staff and the environment to help support these players. Some combination of that is the answer. It's more likely that we add pitching than hitters."

Stanton's power bat would no doubt look good in the middle of the Phillies' lineup. And the Phils, with just Odubel Herrera signed beyond 2018, could afford him. That's why Stanton has been so frequently linked to the Phillies. That's why any and all big-ticket players will be linked to the Phillies this winter.

"I understand why the narrative exists," Klentak said. "As an organization, the Phillies have been very disciplined over the last few years to get out from some of the contracts that we had and to not invest long term in players while we were going through the rebuild. The result of that now is a lot of financial flexibility moving forward. So I understand where the narrative would come from — because we have this financial flexibility, we should spend money.

"That very well may happen. This offseason is the first time since I've been here that we will explore contracts of more than one year with free agents. Now, is that two years or is that 10 years? Or is it something in between? That will all depend on the market and the individual players. As we get closer to contention and once we're contending, then yeah, that's when we start to use our payroll muscle to augment the club. This year, it could go either way. I have no doubt that we'll make some additions to our club. Whether those come in the form of shorter-term contracts or trades or long-term contracts remains to be seen."

The Phillies could look to do some business on the second tier of the free-agent pitching market. Trading for starting pitching seems to be their preference.

"I can't sit here and guarantee that we're going to add a starter," Klentak said. "I can't sit here and guarantee that we're going to add two. But I'm also not going to say we don't need one."

The Phils have middle-infield depth with shortstop J.P. Crawford and second baseman Scott Kingery about to supplant Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez. One or both of the incumbents could be moved for pitching this offseason. Hernandez, who drew some trade interest last winter, could have more value than Galvis because he is three seasons away from free agency. Galvis will be eligible for free agency after next season. The Angels had interest in Hernandez last winter and could again this winter.

Klentak said rival clubs are well aware of the Phillies' middle-infield surplus.

"A number of teams have checked in on that," he said. "Now, does that mean we will receive an offer that we think is fair value for one of those players? That I don't know. Do we have an obligation to the franchise to explore that? We do."

Klentak said that the team recently re-signed infielder Pedro Florimon to a minor-league contract. He could end up being important depth if the Phillies trade Galvis or Hernandez, especially because Kingery is not expected to arrive in the majors until May, at the earliest.

In addition to building a roster, Klentak and new manager Gabe Kapler continue to build a coaching staff. Dusty Wathan will be the third base coach and John Mallee the hitting coach. Rick Kranitz will be on the staff, perhaps as pitching coach, but his role has yet to be specified. Klentak said more staff hirings could come later this week.

Giancarlo Stanton, Shohei Otani, Freddy Galvis' exit? Busy offseason awaits Phillies

Giancarlo Stanton, Shohei Otani, Freddy Galvis' exit? Busy offseason awaits Phillies

The arrival of the annual general managers' meetings, which begin Monday in Orlando, Florida, serves as the unofficial starting point for baseball's offseason.
 
Globally, it will be a busy winter with an international star, Japan's Shohei Otani, hitting the open market, and a proven major-league star, Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, hitting the trade market.
 
Locally, the Phillies will look to continue to make strides in a rebuild that saw them send a handful of players to the major leagues in 2017 and post a 38-38 record over the final 76 games.
 
General manager Matt Klentak is entering his third year on the job. As he heads to the GM meetings, let's examine of a few of the items that could pop up on his offseason to-do list:
 
More change?
Klentak made his boldest move yet as GM when he hired unproven Gabe Kapler as manager earlier this month. Kapler brings the fresh style and youthful voice that Klentak said he was looking for when he reassigned Pete Mackanin to the front office.
 
It's likely Kapler won't be the only bit of change that hits the Phillies this offseason. With shortstop J.P. Crawford having arrived in the majors and second baseman Scott Kingery on target to arrive a month or so into the 2018 season, Klentak will be all-ears listening to offers for his middle-infield tandem of Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez. The goal would be to bring back the team's No. 1 need — starting pitching. 

Hernandez might have more value than Galvis because he still has three years of contractual control. Galvis will be a free agent after next season. It seems likely that at least one these players will be moved, but if the Phils don't find the value they are looking for, they could enter next season much the way they ended this past season: With Galvis, Hernandez, Crawford and Maikel Franco sharing time at three infield positions. It's not a perfect solution but something a progressive front office that has stressed versatility and giving its manager options could consider for at least a while.
 
Starting pitching
Klentak has added starting pitching each of his previous two winters and, despite having built some mid- to back-end rotation depth, he will probably be looking for it again. The Phils' farm system has improved enough in talent and depth that Klentak could look to move prospects if he can get in the hunt for a top, under-control starter such as Chris Archer or Gerrit Cole. Club president Andy MacPhail has spoken time and time again about the risks of signing high-mileage free-agent pitchers and paying for past performance. Given that, and the fact the Phillies still have ground to cover in their rebuild curve, it seems unlikely that the team will be in on Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish. Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, both mid-range free agents, received qualifying offers from their teams so signing them would cost the Phillies a second-round draft pick. It's difficult to see the Phillies, who have put such a premium on building through the draft, doing that. Klentak could look for another salary dump in the Jeremy Hellickson, Charlie Morton, Clay Buchholz mold, though that hasn't worked out well in the past, or get creative in a trade to bring in a starter he likes.
 
A big trade?
The Phillies have the money and the young talent to consider a trade for a young difference-maker who fits long term, so it's always worth keeping an eye on Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado to see if he becomes available for a trade a year before he's set to hit the free-agent market. Machado has many admirers in the Phillies organization. He has admirers all over baseball, for that matter.
 
As for Stanton, who will be traded … as intoxicating as it would be to see that power bat in cozy Citizens Bank Park, it's just hard to see it happening. He is owed $295 million through 2027, his age 37 season, and would cost the Phillies several top prospects and/or young major leaguers. It would be easier to see the Phillies making an all-out push for Stanton if they were further down the road in their rebuild and had pitching. But right now, at least from this vantage point, it appears to be a long shot.
 
Smaller trades, the bullpen
Kapler made a point to say how much he likes the talent in the Phillies' bullpen, but that probably won't stop Klentak from adding a piece or two. On his way out the door in July, Pat Neshek made a point of saying that he'd like to come back. That could be an interesting free-agent possibility.
 
Catcher Jorge Alfaro is out of options and the Phils seem committed to giving him a serious look behind the plate, and Rhys Hoskins is set to take over full-time at first base. This could leave Cameron Rupp and Tommy Joseph as trade candidates. Franco has been mentioned as a trade possibility, but the Phils seem committed to giving him more time to either develop or build trade value.
 
Otani?
At 23, Otani, the pitcher/outfielder known as the Babe Ruth of Japan, is the kind of young talent the Phillies are trying to build around. You can bet that the Phils will get in line to shell out the $20 million posting fee that it will take to obtain negotiating rights with Otani. But is signing him realistic? His age makes him subject to international signing-bonus limits and with only about $1 million remaining in their pool, the Phils can't match up with the Rangers (who've been angling to get Otani for years) and Yankees, two teams that have over $3 million remaining in their pools and can offer Otani the chance to pitch and swing the bat (he'd like to do that) as an occasional designated hitter. Because of his age and the international bonus limits, teams cannot throw a huge contract at Otani so there won’t be a bidding war. (He will make his initial financial score in an endorsement deal.) He is likely to choose a team that has a history with Japanese players and one where he can win immediately. It's difficult to see that being the Phils.