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.

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.

Phillies add 4 pitching prospects to 40-man roster

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Phillies add 4 pitching prospects to 40-man roster

The Phillies added four promising pitching prospects to their 40-man roster on Monday. In a corresponding move, they subtracted a notable name.

Right-handers Franklyn Kilome, Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Taveras and lefty Ranger Suarez were all added to the roster, protecting them from being selected by another club in next month's Rule 5 draft.

The Phillies also added an infielder, Engelb Vielma, to the roster. He was claimed off waivers from the San Francisco Giants.

To make room for these additions, the team needed to clear three spots on its roster, which had been at 38. Left-handed pitcher Elniery Garcia cleared waivers and was sent outright to the minor leagues while right-handers Alberto Tirado and Mark Appel were designated for assignment. The Phillies will try to trade Tirado and Appel before placing them on waivers. If they clear waivers, they could stay in the system.

The Phillies cut Appel loose after he'd struggled with injury and ineffectiveness during two seasons in the organization. The 26-year-old right-hander from Stanford University had twice been a first-round draft pick, by Pittsburgh in 2012 and by Houston — No. 1 overall — in 2013. The Phillies acquired him from the Astros as part of the package for Ken Giles in December 2015, but he never lived up to his huge potential.

"A lot of the tools that Mark showed as an amateur that led to him being the No. 1 overall pick are still there," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. "He has simply struggled with performance. It's certainly not for lack of effort on his part. We think the world of the kid and wish him well. It was a tough decision."

Tirado, 22, was acquired from Toronto in July 2015 as part of the return for Ben Revere. He arrived with a fastball that could reach triple digits on the radar gun and that promise earned him a spot on the 40-man a year ago. Tirado suffered a shoulder injury early last season and struggled in the minors.

All four of the pitchers that the Phillies protected are products of the team's international scouting department. Taveras, 24, was a standout at three levels in the minors last season and could be in the picture in Philadelphia in 2018. He led the system in strikeouts in 2016 and 2017.

"He knows how to get guys out and often times that comes via the strikeout," Klentak said. "No matter where he pitches, he rises to the occasion and puts up a strong performance."

Kilome, 22, and Dominguez, 22, are both power arms who project to see significant time at Double A in 2018. Suarez, 22, should also get to Double A at some point in 2018. He had a 2.27 ERA in 22 starts at two levels of Single A ball in 2017.

"He may have been the breakout pitcher of the year for the Phillies," Klentak said. "We'd always heard a lot about him and this year he took his performance to another level.

"We're really excited for all four of these guys. All have worked extremely hard and they are all deserving of being added to our roster. Our international scouting operation, Sal Agostinelli and his group, continues to crank out players. They've done a great job. These four pitchers have earned this through their work ethic and performance. By no means is this the ultimate goal for them, but it's one step closer. We believe really strongly in the futures of these four pitchers."

Vielma, 23, is a top defensive shortstop who can also play second and third base. He was waived by Minnesota in September and claimed by the Giants, who let him go in a roster crunch.

"He's an intriguing claim," Klentak said. "He adds depth to our infield."

The Phillies’ roster is at 40. The team will have to clear space if it wants to add a player in next month's Rule 5 draft. Last November, the Phils added 11 players to the 40-man roster and still lost lefty reliever Hoby Milner to Cleveland. Milner failed to make the Indians' opening-day roster, returned to the organization in March and ended up making 37 appearances for the big club after coming up in late June. He was one of 12 rookies to make their big-league debut with the Phillies in 2017.

Notable players who were not protected include outfielders Carlos Tocci and Andrew Pullin and pitcher Brandon Leibrandt.

"One of the byproducts of a strong system is every year there are some tough omissions," Klentak said. "There are always tough calls. But we look at that as a good problem to have."