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.

Phillies growing analytically, but that's not all

AP Images

Phillies growing analytically, but that's not all

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies have become major participants in baseball’s analytics movement in recent years. Where once there were none, now there are 14 full-timers in the team’s research and development department, and three more full-timers who break down information and deliver it to players and on-field staff.

“But that is not, by any stretch, the only thing we’ve done,” club president Andy MacPhail said on Friday.

“In scouting, particularly in the world of international scouting, we’ve added 17 international scouts. Some of that was making part-time guys in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic full-time, but we also now have full-time scouts in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico and Australia. So it’s not just getting on the cutting edge of analytics, it’s also about doing the traditional things well.”

The Phillies this winter hired Howie Norsetter, formerly the Minnesota Twins' international scouting coordinator, to cover Australia. Recently, Norsetter signed pitcher Kyle Glogoski, a 19-year-old right-hander from New Zealand. He is the first New Zealander signed by the Phillies. He will report to extended spring training in March.

The Phils have also signed an Australian lefty Josh Towls to a minor-league deal.

In a game where analytics continues to grow, “the eye test is obviously critically important or we wouldn’t have added the 17 international scouts,” MacPhail said.

Camp Kapler is a-rockin' with new vibes, new concepts

Camp Kapler is a-rockin' with new vibes, new concepts

CLEARWATER, Fla. — It's still baseball here at Camp Kap. Hit the ball, catch the ball, get the (bleeping) job done, as Lee Elia once said. But under Gabe Kapler, things are just a little bit different.
The sound of music fills the air.
And the men in blue have already arrived.
Just before Phillies pitchers and catchers began their third workout of the spring Friday morning, three umpires, in full gear, emerged from the locker room at Spectrum Field and made the walk over to the Carpenter Complex.
Grapefruit League games don't start for another week, but umpires were on hand to call balls and strikes during pitcher bullpen workouts.
It was a first.
But then again, there will be a lot of firsts under Kapler, the high-energy, uber-positive, 42-year-old new-schooler hired as Phillies skipper in October.
"We're trying to find value at the margins," Kapler said. "How can we find the last little detail that gets us a tiny bit better and gives us one step forward?"
Friday's detail was umpires and batter's boxes painted in the bullpen.
"We're trying to create more game-like conditions," Kapler said.
The manager praised Craig Driver, the team's new bullpen catcher/receiving coach, for suggesting how "powerful" it would be to have umpires provide feedback to catchers on their ability to frame and keep pitches in the strike zone. And, of course, it doesn't hurt the pitchers to get some early feedback.
"I didn't know if I would like it at first, but I did," Jerad Eickhoff said after the workout.
He paused.
"Even though the guy squeezed me a couple of times," he deadpanned.
Kapler has a democratic approach. Pitchers could have said no to having an umpire. None did.
"It was a first for me," Aaron Nola said. "You've got the umpire and the white lines. They told us about it this morning. Everybody liked it."
The umpires were local professionals hired by the club. They will be back again.
While pitchers went through their workouts, music played on the speakers at Carpenter Complex. It is not unusual to have music playing during a workout. It happens nightly during batting practice in every Major League stadium. The Phillies have played music during spring training workouts in other years. Kapler has brought it to a new level. Players have complete input in what they want to hear. Classic rock. Some country. Latin. Pop.

"I want them to be inspired," Kapler said. 

The music is always on in the clubhouse and even in the hallways around the clubhouse.
"It makes every space not boring," said Wes Helms, the former Phillie who is back with the club as a coach at Triple A Lehigh Valley.
Helms played with the Phillies in 2007. He spent four seasons in Atlanta, where Braves manager Bobby Cox famously would not allow music in the clubhouse. Too many different guys with too many different tastes equaled too many problems, Cox believed. He required music-loving players to wear headphones. Cox won 14 division titles, a World Series and is in the Hall of Fame so it's difficult to argue with his methods. 
"The game has changed, the personality of players has changed," Helms said. "As a staff, we have to relate to them on their level so we can get more out of them on the field. I like it. It livens up the atmosphere."
That's Kapler's plan. Create a vibe that makes everyone want to move. Create a work environment that is fun.
"Oh, gosh," Kapler said. "This is a really passionate topic for me. I believe strongly that mood is enhanced by music. One of the ways we decide on the music is we ask all our players: 'What do you like to listen to? What makes you feel strong during your workouts?' We ask them after the workouts. 'Hey, how was the music today? More volume? Less volume? Did you hear something that you liked?'

"When we're surrounded by music, we feel good. We smile more. When we smile more, we're more relaxed at the plate. There is science behind this. It's not a theory. It's been studied. Workplaces are happier and they're more inspired when music is playing."
Kapler's passion for music is a family thing. His dad, Michael, is a piano teacher and classical musician.
"I grew up with music in my house all the time," he said. "And, if you ever come into my office, there will be music playing. In my home, I have music playing all the time. Mostly, because it makes me feel strong.
"If you come into my office, you might hear some John Lee Hooker or, early in the morning, some Norah Jones as I drink coffee. It's eclectic."
Umpires in the bullpen. The sound of music all over the facility. If it helps the Phillies have one more efficient workout here at Camp Kap, then it's all worth it.