Phillies

MacPhail on Mackanin, new manager, pitch-framing, analytics, CBP renovations

MacPhail on Mackanin, new manager, pitch-framing, analytics, CBP renovations

Andy MacPhail sat in the Phillies' media room Tuesday and answered an assortment of questions pertaining to the dismissal of Pete Mackanin, the state of the rebuild, offseason plans and more.

Here are some of the more interesting tidbits from the 45-minute session:

2016 vs. 2017
"I think we did a reversal of what we did last year. We started out good (in 2016), we were playing .500 or better really up until June, got everybody excited early, and then we faltered at the end. This year we stunk in the beginning, we were decent in April and then we were bad for a long time, and then in the last 70 games, we were 35-35, playing .500. 

"Last year in the last 70 games we were 28-42, 14 games under .500. So there's an entirely different feel to the team. Our run differential last year was the worst in baseball at 186 runs. We've cut that in half to 92 and over the second half our run differential was zero, we were essentially a .500 club.

"We were the second youngest team in baseball. Effective [Aug. 31] when the rosters were still at 25, our average age of the roster was 27.03. Only the Padres were younger."

Phillies want to focus even more on analytics
"Our major-league analytics group is going to continue to grow. We've gone from one (person) to 14. I've been a career baseball guy, it's all I've known all my life. It is amazing to me what information can be generated now with the push of a button that I used to slave over for hours. It's incredible. They do the coding in that room and come up with stuff — some of which is proprietary and some of it is not — that to me is pretty remarkable. As we go along, we start to figure out things that say 'Gee, wouldn't it be nice to have that?' 

"All of it emanates from one thing, it emanates from ownership. They have come to us with one thing: seek competitive advantages. If you are not dedicating resources towards payroll, then put it towards finding every competitive advantage you can find and exercising your strength in a different way."

Front office unhappy with Phils catchers' pitch-framing
Specifically, MacPhail mentioned that the Phillies want to use analytics more to help correct an organization-wide problem with catcher framing.

"We don't think as an organization that our catchers' framing is very good. We think we are well-below-average. There are certain technologies that will help you instruct, teach, measure how well someone does that. We need to acquire those technologies to ensure that's an area that gets improved. We think that's an area that needs improvement, significantly. It's a hard thing. You want to take as much subjectivity out of it as you can. The player will likely learn better if he can see tangible results of things he does. Maybe this pitch you took out of the strike zone, maybe you stole one here. It's an ever-evolving thing. 

"There were stories written about (Jonathan) Lucroy, who went from being one of the very best framers one year to one of the very worst the next year. Well, that makes me suspicious. How does a guy go from one of the best to one of the worst overnight? It's something that we continually have to evaluate, keep our eyes on. But it's definitely an area of interest for the organization."

MacPhail told Klentak the Mackanin dismissal would confuse people
"Obviously, I talked to Matt when he came to me and talked about where he was. I probably spent more time with Matt talking to him about sort of the ramifications of his decision as anything. I told him that this is going to confuse people. You just extended the guy when we stunk four months ago and now we're getting better and you make a change. You're going to have to explain that. I also told him the media is going to be surprised by some of this. And my experience would tell me that media does not like to be surprised. They get pretty angry when they get surprised. Just make sure you're ready for that. 

"We also talked about — and you guys have already written it — that the GM only gets so many managers. If you make this move, you're going to increase the scrutiny on yourself. Are you prepared for that? He understood. He's unafraid. He feels like it was the appropriate time. 

"That was not an easy thing for Matt to do. He knew it was the young guy reassigning the old guy ... he understood that had he felt that way and not taken action, he essentially would not have been doing what his job requires him to do."

Remember when Chase Utley yelled at Bob McClure in Baltimore?
"Speaking for myself personally, just my own view, I always expected when we extended Pete that we were eventually going to pass the baton to another manager. Pete took over when the manager before (Ryne Sandberg) quit. The team hadn't really fully committed to a rebuild. They were half-committed. They hadn't gone all the way yet. Pete was in a tough spot. You think about it, and you'd just come off that awful game in Baltimore. You had Utley yelling at McClure and (Jeff) Francoeur pitching. It was pretty bad. Pete has taken us from that point to this point. He's taken us from A to B. If Matt thinks that, OK, I'm at this point, now to get to here, I need a different voice, that's up to Matt and I support his decision. He understands the consequences.

The timetable for naming a new manager
"I think ideally before you get to the GM meetings (early November) you'd like to have your manager in place. To help you kick off the sort of the official acquisition season. You want his input and you want him to be part of that."

Renovations coming to Citizens Bank Park
"We are the oldest park in the National League East, which is a bit of a surprise. So we plan on redoing the field next year. We're going to put in a new PA system. We're going to add new lighting. And then we're going to explore and add different security enhancements, which unfortunately at this day in age are required of us. ...
 
"Upgrades to the fan experience at Citizens Bank Park are essential. We think we have some very exciting things on the horizon. I can't be as detailed as I'd like to be because we haven't secured the necessary government approvals in some cases to do all the things we want. But while our payroll is not at an accustomed level that we've had in the past, then this is the time to make investments in the ballpark and in the fan experience and we hope to be, we're certainly going to do some of that for '18 and some of it in '19."

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Let the record show that on a snowy Friday afternoon 10 days before Christmas 2017, the Phillies ramped up their rebuild.

Dramatically.

What other conclusion can be drawn after the club went out and signed Carlos Santana, one of the best offensive players on the free-agent market? With the signing, confirmed by multiple baseball sources, general manager Matt Klentak has attached a new level of importance to the 2018 season.

Just a couple of days ago at the winter meetings in Orlando, Klentak spoke of how 2018 was going to be a time to "find out" more about the team's young core of players. Who would continue to take a step forward? Who would fall by the wayside?

But now that Santana is here, 2018 doesn't feel like it's just a find-out season. It feels like a season in which the Phillies can continue to find out about players — separate the studs from the duds — and also start nibbling around that second National League wild-card spot.

Sure, a lot has to go right for that to happen.

And one of the things that has to go right is Klentak has to land a starting pitcher to slot in around Aaron Nola and the rest of the staff, which has the look of a bunch of No. 4 and No. 5 starters — until someone steps forward.

Santana's deal is for three years and $60 million, according to sources. Three years is a nice get — i.e., it's not cripplingly long — for a 32-year-old (in April) who hits for power, produces runs and does what Klentak likes best: controls the strike zone. (You could say that Klentak added two players who control the strike zone to his lineup Friday as the trade of Freddy Galvis to San Diego for strike-throwing pitching prospect Enyel De Los Santos cleared the way for J.P. Crawford to be the regular shortstop.)

The Phillies need to do everything within reason to make sure that the first of Santana's three seasons with the club isn't about simply inching the rebuild forward. The Nationals are the class of the NL East, but the rest of the division ranges from ordinary to awful. The Phils, with an improved offense and bullpen (Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter), can play with the Braves and Mets and clean up on the Marlins, the jewelry store that became a pawnshop, in agent Scott Boras' words.

It's just up to Klentak to get more starting pitching, and he's on the case. He admitted that at the winter meetings. He is particularly fond of young starters with years of control remaining on their contracts. Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer and Michael Fulmer fit this description. It takes talent to get pitchers like that. The Phillies have enough depth of prospects to get one of these guys and their reserves of expendable talent just grew with the Santana signing.

Santana, a switch-hitter who has averaged 25 homers, 85 RBIs and a .810 OPS in eight seasons, is going to be the team's primary first baseman. Rhys Hoskins is going to be the primary leftfielder. That means the Phillies suddenly have a young outfielder that they could deal. Maybe they try to capitalize on Nick Williams' strong half-season in the majors and package him for an arm. Or maybe it's Odubel Herrera or Aaron Altherr.

However it plays out, you can be sure that Klentak will be creative. You can rule nothing out with this guy. The other day, we poo-pooed the Phillies signing Jake Arrieta, who is looking for a long-term deal approaching $200 million. But if Arrieta lingers out there until February and is looking for a two-year landing spot, hey, maybe.

We wouldn't even put it past Klentak to entertain the idea of using Santana at third base a little bit — he did play 26 games there in 2014 — and trading Maikel Franco. The Giants were sniffing around, gathering intel on Franco at the winter meetings. There has to be a reason for that. Also at the meetings, an official from a rival club said the Phillies weren't as aggressive as he expected in trying to move Cesar Hernandez. Could it be that Hernandez would get some time at third if Franco were to be moved? Hernandez is still a trade chip, but he doesn't need to be cashed in until July and by that time Scott Kingery should be here.

There are a lot of ways this thing can go. And with the signing of Carlos Santana — which won't become official until he passes a physical next week — the Phillies have guaranteed that the remainder of this offseason will be a busy one.

It has to be.

The stakes have changed for 2018. The rebuild is still in place, but it has been ramped up. Matt Klentak has improved the bullpen and the offense. Now he has to attack that starting pitching and he has the trade weapons to do it.

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

Source: Phillies agree to $60 million deal with Carlos Santana

The Phillies' busy Friday continued with a pricey free-agent signing.

The Phils have agreed to a three-year, $60 million deal with former Cleveland Indian Carlos Santana, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury.

It is by far the most expensive contract the Phillies have given out under the Matt Klentak-Andy MacPhail regime.

They had the money. When the offseason began, the only player the Phillies had signed to a multi-million dollar deal was Odubel Herrera.

Santana, 31, has always been a high-walk power hitter. From 2011 through 2017, he walked between 88 and 113 times each season, all while maintaining relatively low strikeout totals for a man with such power and plate selection.

In 2016, Santana set a career high with 34 home runs. Last season, he hit .259/.363/.455 with 37 doubles, 23 homers and 79 RBIs.

This addition provides the Phillies with much-needed pop to protect Rhys Hoskins and also gives the Phils added versatility. Santana is a switch-hitter who came up as a catcher, but he hasn't caught since 2014. The last three seasons, he has played primarily first base. In his eight seasons, Santana has also started 26 games at third base and seven in right field.

The move likely means Hoskins will play left field, and it could facilitate another Phillies trade of an outfielder such as Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr or Odubel Herrera.