Phillies

Phillies hire Gabe Kapler as manager

Phillies hire Gabe Kapler as manager

Update: Monday, 4:40 p.m.

The Phillies made it official on Monday afternoon: Gabe Kapler is their new manager.
 
Kapler, who has never managed in the majors, beat out Dusty Wathan, the Phillies' highly successful Triple A manager, for the position. Former Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell, who led that team to a World Series title in 2013, was the other finalist for the job.
 
According to sources, Kapler, who is known for his progressive, out-of-the-box thinking, wowed club officials with his energy and intellect during the interview process. A former outfielder for 12 seasons in the majors, Kapler has served as director of player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2014. He had been considered for that club's manager's job two years ago. The position went to Dave Roberts, who now has that team in the World Series.

"Gabe has a track record of leadership, winning, progressive thinking and working with young players, and we fully believe that he is the right person to guide this organization into the future," GM Matt Klentak said in a statement.
 
At 42, Kapler becomes the youngest Phillies manager since the team hired 37-year-old Terry Francona before the 1997 season. He is also the first Phillies manager since Francona without previous ties to the organization. Larry Bowa, Charlie Manuel, Ryne Sandberg and Pete Mackanin had all played or worked in the organization before being hired to manage the club.

"I'm equal parts honored, humbled and excited by the opportunity with the Phillies, an elite franchise in a city rich in history, tradition, sports excellence and with amazingly passionate fans," Kapler said in a statement. "I believe there is no better place to build a winning environment, and I take that task very seriously."
 
It is not a surprise that the Phillies hired an outsider. John Middleton, the team's controlling partner, has spoken several times over the last few years about the importance of bringing change and outside perspectives to the organization. That started with ownership's hiring of Andy MacPhail as club president in June 2015 and Matt Klentak as general manager in October 2015. Klentak's top lieutenants, Ned Rice and Bryan Minniti, were also hired from outside the organization.
 
Kapler brings something else that is important to Middleton and the front office. He is educated in the language of analytics and committed to using them in all phases of the game. The Phillies were one of the last teams to embrace the use of analytics, but are now a powerhouse in that area with a 14-man staff that is slated to grow.
 
Analytics is not the only area where the Phillies are seeking to develop competitive advantages. The club has also become devoted to nutrition initiatives and that is one of the out-of-the-box areas that Kapler is committed to.
 
Kapler's only managerial experience came at the Single A level in the Red Sox organization in 2007, but that, obviously, was not seen as a weakness by Klentak. The 37-year-old general manager began his search for a new manager after reassigning Mackanin to the front office during the final week of the 2017 season. Klentak said he was looking for a new voice and a new style to lead a young Phillies roster. He was also clearly looking for someone who aligned philosophically with a young front office committed to the use of analytics. Now he has his guy in Kapler.

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.