Phillies

Before hiring Gabe Kapler, Phillies consulted MLB on his role in Nick Francona controversy

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Before hiring Gabe Kapler, Phillies consulted MLB on his role in Nick Francona controversy

New Phillies manager Gabe Kapler was in the news earlier this year when Yahoo! Sports reported that Major League Baseball was investigating whether the Los Angeles Dodgers had discriminated against an employee.

That employee was Nick Francona, son of current Cleveland Indians manager and former Phillies manager Terry Francona. Nick Francona was an assistant director of player development for the Dodgers. Kapler was his boss.

Francona, a Penn graduate and Afghanistan war veteran, had his contract terminated by the Dodgers in 2016. He made charges of discrimination against the Dodgers and Kapler.

The Phillies carefully investigated the matter before hiring Kapler.

"We were aware of the allegations," general manager Matt Klentak said. "It was public. It was on the internet. So we went into this knowing that something was out there, and we had a variety of conversations, I did and other people with the Phillies did, talking with top level executives with the Dodgers, with executives of Major League Baseball. Major League Baseball has asked that we not comment on the details, but we felt comfortable moving forward (with the hiring) and they've asked that we defer any future questions to the league office."

Kapler declined to comment on specifics of the matter.

"I totally understand why you’re asking the questions," he said at Thursday's introductory news conference (more from that here). "Per Major League Baseball, it’s not something we can address specifically. I will say this: I’ve known the Francona family for a long time and have a tremendous amount of respect for all of them, particularly Terry Francona, who was my manager for several years in Boston. I still hold him in the highest regard and think of him as a mentor.

"But as it relates to this specific question and this specific situation, per MLB, it’s not something that we can address."

Nick Francona currently works for the New York Mets.

Klentak has a relationship with Nick Francona. He was an assistant general manager with the Angels when Francona began his career in baseball.

"I was part of the group with the Angels that hired him there four years ago," Klentak said. "I spent a year working with him. I have a ton of respect for Nick Francona as a person, as a colleague, as a military veteran, and I think the important thing is that we don’t have to choose sides in this.

"I think we can be extremely excited and confident in the future of the Phillies and Gabe Kapler's presence on our staff, while at the same time fully respecting and supporting Nick Francona, who is a great kid, and I think that's an important message."

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.