Phillies

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.

Yankees GM calls Phillies' Rob Thomson one of the best in business

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Yankees GM calls Phillies' Rob Thomson one of the best in business

CLEARWATER, Fla. – According to New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, “the Phillies got one of the best,” when they hired Rob Thomson as bench coach.

“It was tough to see him leave,” Cashman said. “He is a great coach, an exceptional baseball man. His knowledge of the game is off the charts.

“Gabe Kapler has someone at his side that he can trust to have everything lined up properly all the time and that will free up Gabe Kapler to focus on whatever he wants to focus on at the given time. Rob Thomson will keep the rudder steady every step of the way."

Thomson, 54, spent 28 years in the Yankees organization, most recently as Joe Girardi’s bench coach. He was one of five people (along with Eric Wedge, Hensley Muelens and Carlos Beltran) to interview to become Girardi’s successor during the offseason (see story.) Aaron Boone got the job.

Timing worked in the Phillies’ favor in hiring Thomson. There was a lag between when Thomson found out he would not be the Yankees’ manager and Boone’s hiring. The Phillies offered him their bench coach job and he took it.

“He would have been a candidate to return here, without question,” Cashman said. “It would have been the final call of Aaron Boone, but I would have recommended him highly to Aaron Boone. I gave (Phillies GM) Matt Klentak the highest recommendation.”

Thomson described himself as a good self-evaluator. He’s not sure he’d be cut out to manage every team, but he believed he’d have been a good fit for the Yankees job. He knew that organization, its operation and its players well.

“I understand that it’s part of the business,” Thomson said. “Brian and his staff, who are very smart people, had a certain person in mind and it wasn’t me. So you have to move on and refocus.”

Kapler did extensive research on Thomson and said he often heard that Thomson was “the best in the business at planning and running a spring training camp.”

Cashman concurred.

“Gabe Kapler has as good a right-hand man as you can find,” he said.

One plugged-in baseball observer described Thomson as similar to the late John Vukovich – a loyal-to-his-manager baseball taskmaster – only with a little less volume in his voice.

“He’s tough,” Cashman said. “He will be brutally honest. He’ll say what a player needs to hear, not necessarily what a player wants to hear. And he’ll always relate well to players because he always has their best interest at heart.

“The Phillies got one of the best.”

New bench coach Rob Thomson is Yankees’ loss, Phillies' gain

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New bench coach Rob Thomson is Yankees’ loss, Phillies' gain

CLEARWATER, Fla. – It will probably hit Rob Thomson sometime on Sunday. That’s when the New York Yankees visit Spectrum Field, the Phillies’ spring-training home.

Thomson spent 28 seasons in the Yankees’ famous pinstripes, serving in player-development, front-office and coaching roles.

Most recently, he was the bench coach for former Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Thomson was one of five people interviewed to replace Girardi after last season. Aaron Boone got the job, but Thomson wasn’t a free agent for long. The Phillies quickly scooped up the 54-year-old baseball lifer and installed him as new manager Gabe Kapler’s top lieutenant.

On Sunday, Thomson will look across the diamond and see his past.

But all he’s thinking about is the future.

“I feel like I’m part of the Phillies family already,” he said. “The people have been great. They’ve welcomed me right in.

“I’m here to support Gabe in any way I can. I’ve got his back all the time.”

Phillies management wanted a veteran coaching presence around the 42-year-old Kapler, whose only managing experience came a decade ago in the low minors. New pitching coach Rick Kranitz held that position with three other clubs over 10 seasons. New hitting coach John Mallee previously held that position with the Astros and Cubs.

Thomson worked on Joe Torre’s staff before working under Girardi. He lived through the Yankees’ growth as one of baseball’s analytic giants. He's just what the Phillies and Kapler were looking for.

“I ask everybody everything all the time,” Kapler said. “I contacted no fewer than 20 people about Rob and heard nothing even remotely negative. I weigh that more than a six-hour interview. You might nail the interview, but you can’t fake your career.”

Kapler’s most valuable appraisal came from Girardi, who said Thomson was an incredible teammate.

“In my opinion, that’s the best compliment anyone in baseball can give,” Kapler said.

Thomson is a former catcher. He played on the 1984 Canadian Olympic team and in the Tigers' farm system before joining the Yankees’ player development department.

While working on Torre’s staff, Thomson learned the value of trust.

“Joe Torre was really into relationships and gaining trust with a player and that taught me a lot,” Thomson said. “Before you can really help players, they have to be able to trust you.

“With Joe Girardi, he was a little more analytics-driven so that taught me a lot. We’d always looked at numbers but it taught me to really dive into some of the more critical numbers that are around today.

“In a lot of ways, Gabe reminds me of Joe (Girardi) because of his presence and openness to ideas. Those are great qualities for a leader to have.”

Thomson arrives at work pre-dawn in spring training to plan the day. He is known to arrive at noon for a regular season night game. With data study, scouting reports, video, one-on-one coaching and meetings, the preparation for a single game rivals what happens in the NFL – only it happens every day. When game time arrives, Thomson will be at Kapler’s side, making suggestions and offering ideas (see story). He said he takes nothing personal, so Kapler can wave him off any time.

“But I won’t," Kapler said with a laugh. “I need that.”