Phillies

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 well positioned to make a run at freed Braves' prospects

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Phillies well positioned to make a run at freed Braves' prospects

Teams all over baseball, including the Phillies, are ready to pounce on a bevy of young international talent that became available Tuesday.

Major League Baseball punished the Atlanta Braves for a host of international signing violations by stripping the club of 13 minor-league prospects (see story). MLB also banished former Braves general manager John Coppolella from working in the game for life.

In the summer of 2016, MLB found the Boston Red Sox in violation of international signing rules and stripped that club of five international prospects. Included in that group was Simon Muzziotti, an outfielder from Venezuela. The Red Sox had initially signed Muzziotti for $300,000 in 2015. He was declared a free agent a year later and the Phillies swooped in and signed him for $750,000. Now 18, Muzziotti played for the Phillies' Gulf Coast League team in 2017.

The list of players set free on Tuesday includes 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan, who received a $4.25 million signing bonus in 2016. Six other players that received signing bonuses of $1 million or more were also set free. The group includes Venezuelan catcher Abrahan Gutierrez, who received a $3.53 million bonus and Dominican infielder Yunior Severino, who received a $1.9 million bonus.

The Phillies are well positioned to make a run at some of these new international free agents and past practice says they will. The club added to its current international signing pool in a couple of trades last summer and has about $900,000 remaining. More money can be acquired in trades and applied to the current pool. A team can also use money from next year's pool — that market opens in July — to sign a player, though those funds cannot be used to augment the current pool.

Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani is the prize of this winter's international market. While the deep-pocketed Phillies have interest in Otani, he is subject to international signing bonus rules and pool limits. Translation: Signing him is not simply a matter of being the highest bidder. The team that gets Otani will likely be a contender in win-now mode with a history of signing Japanese talent. An American League club that could offer Otani at-bats (he wants to hit, as well as pitch) would be the best fit.

So, the Phillies' international splash this winter could come from the fallout of the Braves' signing controversy.

The former Braves' prospects are eligible to begin signing with new clubs on Dec. 5. They are:

Kevin Maitan, SS
Juan Contreras, RHP
Yefri del Rosario, RHP
Abrahan Gutierrez, C
Juan Carlos Negret, OF
Yenci Pena, SS
Yunior Severino, 2B
Livan Soto, SS
Guillermo Zuniga, RHP
Brandol Mezquita, OF
Angel Rojas, SS
Antonio Sucre, OF
Ji-Hwan Bae, SS

MLB Notes: Braves lose 13 international players in sanctions

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MLB Notes: Braves lose 13 international players in sanctions

ATLANTA -- Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred hit the Atlanta Braves with heavy sanctions, including the loss of 13 players, on Tuesday for rules violations committed by the team in the international player market.

Manfred also placed former Braves general manager John Coppolella on the permanently ineligible list. Former Braves Special Assistant Gordon Blakeley, who was the team's international scouting chief, is suspended from performing services for any team for one year.

Manfred said an investigation conducted by Major League Baseball determined the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017 by moving bonus pool money from one player to boost another player's contract.

Most notable among the players the Braves will lose is Kevin Maitan, an infielder from Venezuela who signed for $4.25 million in 2016 (see full story).

Yankees: Judge has left shoulder surgery
NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees say slugger Aaron Judge had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder and is expected to be ready for spring training.

The operation was performed Monday by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. The Yankees say the procedure involved a loose-body removal and cartilage cleanup.

The 25-year-old Judge hit .284 with 52 homers and 114 RBIs in 155 games this season, helping New York make it to the AL Championship Series, where they lost to the eventual World Series champion Astros. He was a unanimous selection for AL Rookie of the Year and finished second to Houston infielder Jose Altuve in the AL MVP race.

MLB: Morgan urges voters to keep steroid users out of HOF
Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep "known steroid users" out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball's steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall's board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

"Steroid users don't belong here," Morgan wrote. "What they did shouldn't be accepted. Times shouldn't change for the worse."

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions (see full story).

Cubs: Venable leaves front office to be base coach
CHICAGO -- Will Venable is leaving the Chicago Cubs front office to be their first base coach.

The former major league outfielder was hired last summer as a special assistant to president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.

The 35-year-old Venable replaces Brandon Hyde, who has been promoted to bench coach for manager Joe Maddon.

The Cubs also announced Tuesday that they had hired Jim Benedict as a special assistant to baseball operations. Benedict spent the previous two seasons as the vice president for pitching development for the Miami Marlins.