Phillies

Phillies-Mets observations: Homers help deliver 6-2 win

Phillies-Mets observations: Homers help deliver 6-2 win

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Pete Mackanin's farewell weekend began with a 6-2 win over the New York Mets on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The win left the Phillies at a game under .500 (36-37) since the All-Star break. They went 29-58 before the break. They are 15-12 in the month of September.

This improvement did not save Mackanin's job. He was fired from the manager's position earlier Friday, but will finish out the season and move to a front-office advisory position after the season (see story).

• Rookie Ben Lively got the win in his final start of the season. He gave up two runs, both on solo homers, over six innings. He struck out just one batter, but walked none. The quality start was Lively's 10th in 15 starts this season. He has a knack for pitching around trouble and keeping his team in games. He finished with a 4.26 ERA in 88 2/3 innings in the big leagues and will surely get a long look to be in the rotation in spring training.

• Lively was visibly angry with himself after allowing a first-inning home run to Jose Reyes on an 0-1 fastball, but he got it together and pitched well. The kid's got some toughness to him.

• Maikel Franco, Jorge Alfaro and Cesar Hernandez all homered for the Phillies. Franco's was a two-run shot in the second inning on a 3-1 fastball from Matt Harvey. The pitch tailed right into Franco's happy zone on the inner half of the plate and he did some damage. Alfaro's homer against Hansel Robles in the sixth was a bomb — 423 feet to center.

• Robles also gave up a homer to Hernandez in the sixth inning. He came inside on the next batter, Freddy Galvis, and that prompted home plate umpire Marvin Hudson to issue warnings to both benches. The Phillies have had problems with Robles in the past. Tommy Joseph, who was not in the lineup, stood on the top step of the dugout as warnings were issued. He looked ready to take a run at Robles. Joseph was the Phillies' opening day first baseman but he's been relegated to reserve duty down the stretch and he has a history of concussions — five of them — but he was ready to go if things escalated and that says something about him as a teammate.

• Lively left with a 6-2 lead and the bullpen did the rest. Adam Morgan was first with another scoreless inning. He has given up just two runs in his last 26 innings. He struck out two to raise his total to 32 in his last 26 innings. Luis Garcia and Edubray Ramos followed Morgan with a pair of scoreless frames. Over the last 31 games, the Phillies’ 'pen has given up just 30 runs in 110 1/3 innings. That's an ERA of 2.44. 

• The Phillies have hit 171 homers, their most since 2009 when they slugged a National League-high 224. The Phils have hit 101 homers at home, their most at Citizens Bank Park since they had 108 in 2009.

• Henderson Alvarez (0-1, 3.60) pitches against Mets right-hander Seth Lugo (7-5, 4.72) on Saturday night. Alvarez is auditioning for future employment. He pitched five shutout innings last weekend in Atlanta. The right-hander is coming back from shoulder surgery. It might make sense for the Phillies to try to keep him in the organization on a minor-league contract next season. Pitching depth is always needed. Alvarez, however, will surely seek a big-league deal somewhere.

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Let the record show that on a snowy Friday afternoon 10 days before Christmas 2017, the Phillies ramped up their rebuild.

Dramatically.

What other conclusion can be drawn after the club went out and signed Carlos Santana, one of the best offensive players on the free-agent market? With the signing, confirmed by multiple baseball sources, general manager Matt Klentak has attached a new level of importance to the 2018 season.

Just a couple of days ago at the winter meetings in Orlando, Klentak spoke of how 2018 was going to be a time to "find out" more about the team's young core of players. Who would continue to take a step forward? Who would fall by the wayside?

But now that Santana is here, 2018 doesn't feel like it's just a find-out season. It feels like a season in which the Phillies can continue to find out about players — separate the studs from the duds — and also start nibbling around that second National League wild-card spot.

Sure, a lot has to go right for that to happen.

And one of the things that has to go right is Klentak has to land a starting pitcher to slot in around Aaron Nola and the rest of the staff, which has the look of a bunch of No. 4 and No. 5 starters — until someone steps forward.

Santana's deal is for three years and $60 million, according to sources. Three years is a nice get — i.e., it's not cripplingly long — for a 32-year-old (in April) who hits for power, produces runs and does what Klentak likes best: controls the strike zone. (You could say that Klentak added two players who control the strike zone to his lineup Friday as the trade of Freddy Galvis to San Diego for strike-throwing pitching prospect Enyel De Los Santos cleared the way for J.P. Crawford to be the regular shortstop.)

The Phillies need to do everything within reason to make sure that the first of Santana's three seasons with the club isn't about simply inching the rebuild forward. The Nationals are the class of the NL East, but the rest of the division ranges from ordinary to awful. The Phils, with an improved offense and bullpen (Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter), can play with the Braves and Mets and clean up on the Marlins, the jewelry store that became a pawnshop, in agent Scott Boras' words.

It's just up to Klentak to get more starting pitching, and he's on the case. He admitted that at the winter meetings. He is particularly fond of young starters with years of control remaining on their contracts. Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer and Michael Fulmer fit this description. It takes talent to get pitchers like that. The Phillies have enough depth of prospects to get one of these guys and their reserves of expendable talent just grew with the Santana signing.

Santana, a switch-hitter who has averaged 25 homers, 85 RBIs and a .810 OPS in eight seasons, is going to be the team's primary first baseman. Rhys Hoskins is going to be the primary leftfielder. That means the Phillies suddenly have a young outfielder that they could deal. Maybe they try to capitalize on Nick Williams' strong half-season in the majors and package him for an arm. Or maybe it's Odubel Herrera or Aaron Altherr.

However it plays out, you can be sure that Klentak will be creative. You can rule nothing out with this guy. The other day, we poo-pooed the Phillies signing Jake Arrieta, who is looking for a long-term deal approaching $200 million. But if Arrieta lingers out there until February and is looking for a two-year landing spot, hey, maybe.

We wouldn't even put it past Klentak to entertain the idea of using Santana at third base a little bit — he did play 26 games there in 2014 — and trading Maikel Franco. The Giants were sniffing around, gathering intel on Franco at the winter meetings. There has to be a reason for that. Also at the meetings, an official from a rival club said the Phillies weren't as aggressive as he expected in trying to move Cesar Hernandez. Could it be that Hernandez would get some time at third if Franco were to be moved? Hernandez is still a trade chip, but he doesn't need to be cashed in until July and by that time Scott Kingery should be here.

There are a lot of ways this thing can go. And with the signing of Carlos Santana — which won't become official until he passes a physical next week — the Phillies have guaranteed that the remainder of this offseason will be a busy one.

It has to be.

The stakes have changed for 2018. The rebuild is still in place, but it has been ramped up. Matt Klentak has improved the bullpen and the offense. Now he has to attack that starting pitching and he has the trade weapons to do it.

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

The Phillies' busy Friday continued with a pricey free-agent signing.

The Phils have agreed to a three-year, $60 million deal with former Cleveland Indian Carlos Santana, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury.

It is by far the most expensive contract the Phillies have given out under the Matt Klentak-Andy MacPhail regime.

They had the money. When the offseason began, the only player the Phillies had signed to a multi-million dollar deal was Odubel Herrera.

Santana, 31, has always been a high-walk power hitter. From 2011 through 2017, he walked between 88 and 113 times each season, all while maintaining relatively low strikeout totals for a man with such power and plate selection.

In 2016, Santana set a career high with 34 home runs. Last season, he hit .259/.363/.455 with 37 doubles, 23 homers and 79 RBIs.

This addition provides the Phillies with much-needed pop to protect Rhys Hoskins and also gives the Phils added versatility. Santana is a switch-hitter who came up as a catcher, but he hasn't caught since 2014. The last three seasons, he has played primarily first base. In his eight seasons, Santana has also started 26 games at third base and seven in right field.

The move likely means Hoskins will play left field, and it could facilitate another Phillies trade of an outfielder such as Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr or Odubel Herrera.