Phillies

Jorge Alfaro impresses again, powers Phillies past Athletics in rain-soaked win

Jorge Alfaro impresses again, powers Phillies past Athletics in rain-soaked win

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Jorge Alfaro didn’t hesitate when asked what’s more important to him. 

“Defense, clean games. That’s all I’m thinking about,” the young catcher said early Sunday morning. “If I hit, thank God.”

Alfaro provided the Phillies with a needed bonus at the plate Saturday night, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run homer into the center field bushes in the sixth inning. He also guided seven pitchers to a 5-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics in what turned into a bullpen game thanks to a 1-hour, 46-minute rain delay (see observations)

“The thing I like the most is not so much the hitting — that’s a bonus as far as I’m concerned — because he hit .240 in Triple A,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “The thing I’m most pleased about is game calling. I like the way he calls a game. You want a good defensive catcher.”

The 24-year-old Colombian, acquired from Texas in the 2015 Cole Hamels trade, wasn’t called up until August. But in 21 games, he’s made an impression that puts him in the running with Andrew Knapp and Cameron Rupp to be the team’s No. 1 receiver in 2018. 

"To me, we’ve got three guys competing,” Mackanin said. 

Alfaro, now hitting .317, had a lot on his plate on a dreary evening. Ben Lively allowed two runs and two hits, including Matt Olson’s screeching solo homer, in three innings but didn’t return after the lengthy delay in the bottom of the third. 

But the bullpen continued to shine. Five pitchers combined to throw five hitless innings until Hector Neris (21st save) allowed a solo homer to Jed Lowrie in the ninth. It ended a streak of 18 2/3 scoreless innings by the bullpen. 

“When (Joaquin) Benoit and (Pat) Neshek left, everybody thought our bullpen was going to scuffle,” Mackanin said. “But they’ve been outstanding.” 

Victor Arano struck out two in two innings to get his first major league win, while Holby Milner got two outs and extended his streak of scoreless appearances to 20. It’s the longest streak for a Phillies reliever since J.C. Romero’s 35 in a row in 2007.

“I’ve had two years with the organization and I’ve had the opportunity to learn how they like to pitch,” Alfaro said of the many relievers he also caught at Triple A Lehigh Valley. “I try to make them feel comfortable.”

The Phillies got a run in the third on Ty Kelly’s double and Cesar Hernandez’s single, then tied it an inning later on J.P. Crawford’s RBI single. 

Crawford, starting at third, added a sacrifice fly in the eighth. 

Before Alfaro connected on Simon Castro (1-3), the Phillies wasted a chance in the fifth after Freddy Galvis drew a one-out walk and raced to third on Simon Castro’s wide pickoff throw. 

Nick Williams, who had his 12-game hitting streak snapped Friday, struck out on a chin-high fastball and Rhys Hoskins flew out to left. Hoskins went 0 for 3 with a walk and is 0 for 6 in the series after homering in six straight games. 

“Hoskins hasn’t looked good at the plate the past couple games," Mackanin said, "but I know one thing, that’s not what he’s going to look like. He’s a better hitter than that.” 

Alfaro has homered four times in 21 games. It gives the Phillies something to think about heading into next spring, although September performances can sometimes be deceiving. 

“I’ll take it any way I can get it,” said Mackanin, who has overseen 181 losses over the past two seasons “The test of a player’s ability is stretched out over six months and you have to take that into consideration. We’ve all heard that. You’ve got to take with a grain of salt a spring training performance as well as a September performance, but we’re getting a good idea on the quality of the at-bats we’re seeing.” 

5 Phillies-specific matters to watch during Winter Meetings

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5 Phillies-specific matters to watch during Winter Meetings

ORLANDO, Fla. — Matt Klentak checked off the biggest item on his offseason to-do list when he hired new manager Gabe Kapler in late October. Other than that, it's been a relatively quiet offseason for the Phillies general manager, who is entering his third year on the job.

Things are expected to pick up for Klentak and the Phillies this week as baseball's Winter Meetings get underway at Disney. Heck, things should pick up for the entire industry now that the winter's two marquee talents — Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton — have found landing spots. Ohtani, the Japanese phenom, signed with the Angels. Stanton was traded from the Marlins to the Yankees.

As the meetings get going, here are five Phillies-specific matters to keep an eye on:

Middle infield
The Phillies have a young shortstop (J.P. Crawford) and a young second baseman (Scott Kingery) on the way and any clubs looking for a shortstop or a second baseman know the Phillies are willing to deal Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez. In fact, the Phillies have already received offers for both of these players, though none worthy of pulling the trigger on. The Phillies could go into the 2018 season with Galvis and Hernandez on the roster and mix in Crawford at three positions while Kingery percolates in Triple A. But it seems more likely the Phils will move one (maybe both) of their incumbents. Hernandez has three years of contract control so he could have more value than Galvis (he'll be a free agent next winter) on the trade market. The Angels have long liked Hernandez and the Mets are looking for second base help. The Padres are looking for a stopgap shortstop as they wait for prospect Fernando Tatis Jr., but there are free agents out there (Zack Cozart, Alcides Escobar) that would not cost the Padres talent in a deal.

Bullpen
The Phillies' bullpen showed signs of coming together in the second half of last season, but the team would still like to add a veteran who knows his way around the late innings. A Pat Neshek reunion has been discussed internally. A reunion with free agent Juan Nicasio might make sense.

Starting pitching
At the general managers' meetings last month, Klentak acknowledged the need to add a starting pitcher. The Phillies will look to mine the second tier of the free-agent market and will also look to get pitching in a deal for Hernandez or Galvis.

A blockbuster deal
The Phillies' farm system has improved to the point where they have the depth to jump in full-force if the Orioles make Manny Machado available or the Marlins look to trade Christian Yelich. Both players have big fans in the Phillies' front office. The Phils could also bid for a pitcher such as Chris Archer or Gerrit Cole if they become available.

Rule 5 draft
The Phillies have the third pick in Thursday's event and will have room on their roster after outfielder Cameron Perkins and infielder Engelb Vielma clear waivers Monday. The Phillies sneaked outfielder Carlos Tocci through the Rule 5 draft last year. They could lose him this year.

First base coach
The Phillies still have one opening on their coaching staff. Juan Samuel, most recently the Phillies' third base coach, could still end up being retained on the staff and move over to first base. Kapler, in continuing to introduce himself to his new charges, recently met with Phillies players in the Dominican Republic. Front office man Jorge Velandia, a longtime member of the player-development staff, accompanied Kapler on the trip. The Phillies brass likes Velandia's impact in the front office, but he could be an intriguing possibility as the first-base coach. He interviewed for the managerial job before Kapler was hired.

Gabe the Babe
Craig Calcaterra, founder of the HardballTalk blog on NBCSports.com, unveils his annual list of baseball's most handsome managers during the winter meetings. This hilarious feature is hotly anticipated by many in the baseball establishment. Pete Mackanin ranked eighth last year and it was a big topic of conversation in the Phillies' war room. So where will the hunky Kapler land in his first year of eligibility? Keep an eye out for Calcaterra's fifth annual list.

Yankees, Marlins reportedly have Giancarlo Stanton trade in place

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Yankees, Marlins reportedly have Giancarlo Stanton trade in place

MIAMI -- After helping the New York Yankees to five World Series titles, Derek Jeter might help them win another.

The Yankees and Jeter's Miami Marlins have agreed to a trade that would send NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton to New York, pending a physical, a person familiar with the negotiations said Saturday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the teams hadn't announced the agreement.

Second baseman Starlin Castro would go to Miami as part of the trade, a second person familiar with the negotiations said. A third person said the Marlins would also receive prospects Jorge Guzman, a right-hander, and Jose Devers, an infielder who is a cousin of Boston prospect Rafael Devers.

The third person said the deal calls for the Marlins to send $30 million to the Yankees if Stanton doesn't exercise his right to opt out of his contract and become a free agent after the 2020 season.

Stanton has a no-trade clause in his record $325 million, 13-year contract and has indicated he will approve the trade, one of the people said. St. Louis and San Francisco said Friday that Stanton had vetoed deals to them.

As for the physical, injuries curtailed Stanton's season in four of the past six years, but he played a career-high 159 games in 2017 and led the majors with 59 homers and 132 RBIs.

If the Yankees complete the trade with Jeter, their former captain and the new Marlins CEO, the Bronx Bombers would pair Stanton with Aaron Judge, who led the AL with 52 in his rookie season. That would give them a one-two punch to rival Ruth-Gehrig or Mantle-Maris, making for must-see batting practice.

Judge sent a tweet to Stanton showing a clip from the movie "Step Brothers" with Will Ferrell saying, "Did we just become best friends?"

Obtaining the 28-year-old Stanton would be reminiscent of the Yankees' acquisition of AL MVP Alex Rodriguez from Texas after the 2003 season for second baseman Alfonso Soriano. Rodriguez signed a $275 million, 10-year contract after the 2007 season that ran through age 42; Stanton's deal runs through age 38.

An eight-year veteran with 267 home runs, Stanton has never played on a winning team and might now go to a club that hasn't had a losing record since 1992. The Yankees reached Game 7 of the AL Championship Series this season in the first full year of a youth movement.

New Yankees manager Aaron Boone, along with the front office, would have to sort where Stanton will play. He has played his whole big league career in right field, as has Judge. The Yankees also have the option of using one of them as a designated hitter.

Stanton is owed $295 million over the final decade of his record $325 million, 13-year contract. The All-Star right fielder led the majors in homers and RBIs, but his salary will rise to $25 million in 2018.

Jeter is expected to reduce payroll by at least 20 percent to $90 million or less. The Marlins shed $38 million of salary through 2020 by trading two-time All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon to the Seattle Mariners on Thursday for three prospects.

Castro, who hit .300 with 16 home runs this year, could replace Gordon at second base -- or might also be dealt by Miami because of his contract. He's due $10 million in 2018 and $11 million in 2019 plus a $16 million club option for 2020 with a $1 million buyout.

Gary Denbo, the Marlins new vice president of scouting and player development, spent the past eight years with New York and oversaw a farm system that ranks among the best in baseball. Guzman went 5-3 this year with a 2.30 ERA for Class A Staten Island. Devers, who just turned 18, batted .245 with 16 steals in 53 games for two teams in the low minors.

More Marlins deals are possible at the winter meetings beginning Sunday in Lake Buena Vista; Castro and outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna possibly are on the trading block.

The Yankees' payroll for purposes of baseball's luxury tax was about $209 million this year, and owner Hal Steinbrenner has vowed to reduce it below next year's $197 million threshold, which would reset the team's base tax rate from 50 percent to 20 percent in 2019. That would put the Yankees in better position for next offseason's free agent class, which includes Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and possibly Clayton Kershaw.

Stanton counts as $25 million for the luxury tax, but trading Castro cuts New York's tax payroll by $8,801,786. Rodriguez ($27.5 million) comes off the payroll after this year, and five high-priced Yankees have become free agents: CC Sabathia ($20 million), Matt Holliday ($13 million), Michael Pineda ($7.4 million), Todd Frazier ($4,918,033) and Jaime Garcia ($4,961,721).

New York could trade third baseman Chase Headley ($13 million), expendable because of prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who counts as $21,857,143, appears to be superfluous in an outfield that includes Stanton, Judge, Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner. Ellsbury is owed $21,142, 857 in each of the next three years as part of a deal that includes a $21 million team option for 2021 with a $1 million buyout.

After missing out on Japanese right-hander Shohei Ohtani, the Yankees are expected to seek starting pitching to bolster a rotation currently projected to include Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery and Luis Cessa.

Stanton would take a cut in take-home pay for his games in the Bronx. While Florida has no state income tax, New York State has an 8.82 percent top rate on income and New York City a 3.876 percent top rate. But he might make up the difference in new endorsements.