Cesar Hernandez

Phillies mailbag delivers answers about Ruben Amaro and potential trades

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Phillies mailbag delivers answers about Ruben Amaro and potential trades

For the sixth straight year, October is a quiet month for the Phillies. Yes, they made news by dismissing Pete Mackanin as manager, but the bright lights and excitement of playoff baseball still feel distant.

It will be interesting this fall and winter to monitor the Phillies' managerial interview process and then to see how much money they spend. Team president Andy MacPhail certainly seemed content to lower expectations when he spoke last week.

As we await the exciting period of the offseason, let's take a look at some of the more pressing questions.

Before getting to your individual questions, I'll answer the few dozen tweets and e-mails I received about Ruben Amaro Jr. possibly being the Phillies' next manager with an absolute, unequivocal IT WILL NOT HAPPEN.

Think about this logically ... this is the same front office that replaced Amaro. GM Matt Klentak and owner John Middleton want the Phillies to be a more analytical organization. Amaro, in his tenure as GM, did not come close to fitting that description. 

There's also the perception of it, which the Phillies will not ignore. They know what it would look like to the fanbase if they brought Amaro back as manager. It would feel like more of the same, and it would alienate the fans who are just starting to come back and get excited by all of the Phillies' young players.

Amaro does seem likely to get a managerial job someday but not here, not now. If anything, the reason you might be seeing his name pop in rumors is because the Phillies want to do him a solid and help get his name out there for future managerial openings.

The Phillies need to add two starting pitchers this offseason and probably three. They just don't have enough consistency at that spot in the organization. We hear the word "depth" a lot with the Phillies, but depth doesn't mean the Phils are in good shape. 

Yes, you could start Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin ... but are you ever going to begin that game feeling confident in your starting pitcher? There are health concerns with Velasquez and Eflin, repertoire concerns with Lively and Thompson, control concerns with Pivetta, and Eickhoff took a big step back in 2017.

Alex Cobb is out there in free agency. So is Lance Lynn. So are Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, who will make substantially more.

Darvish and Arrieta will probably make too much money and the Phillies don't want to pay big for past performance. So let's cross them off.

With Cobb and Lynn, the Phillies would be wise to closely monitor the market. At this point in the fall, nobody ever predicts that a starter will linger in free agency until he has to sign a one-year, prove-it deal, and yet it happens every offseason. I'm not saying these two will have to do that, but it's a possibility if their market doesn't materialize.

I fail to see the harm in signing someone like Cobb to a three-year, $48 million deal with a fourth-year vesting or mutual option. Yes, he's had Tommy John surgery, but there are risks with literally any pitcher a team ever signs or acquires.

But also keep an eye on the trade market. The Phillies sound much more likely to trade for a starting pitcher than sign one. Names to keep in mind: Chris Archer, Marcus Stroman, Gerrit Cole, Jake Odorizzi. 

I found the phrasing of this question pretty funny. Patience certainly seems harder for older fans than younger ones. My answer is I simply did not understand MacPhail's lowering of payroll expectations for 2018. The Phillies have a bunch of exciting young players, but if they brought back this very same team next season they'd probably win about 75 games. Is that going to entice anyone in that juicy 2019 free-agent class?

You need to move the needle more next year. Why wouldn't you? The Phillies went 35-35 in their final 70 games and could push closer to .500 with a little more help next season.

I can't see it, but I think Tommy Joseph has a better chance to be on the 2018 roster than Freddy Galvis or Cesar Hernandez. Why? Because Hernandez and Galvis will have much more trade value. Joseph at this point is basically a platoon DH, meaning only a small group of teams will have interest and a fit for him. 

If the Phillies' only option is getting a negligible return for Joseph, then why not just keep him and use him as a right-handed bench bat? He's inexpensive and could at least offer some pop off the bench.

That's a tough one. I'd keep both. But if I had to keep only one, it would be Kingery because I think he has a higher offensive ceiling, and because Crawford's reputation should result in a bigger trade return. Though, again, I don't advocate trading either player. Kingery and Crawford should be the Phillies' middle infielders for the next seven seasons.

The Twins had a season nobody would have expected. And I highly doubt they make the playoffs next season. This just seemed like a fluky, nobody-believes-in-us season that you see once every few years. 

The Brewers are closer to the Phillies. Jimmy Nelson is essentially their Aaron Nola. He had a breakout year before an unfortunate late-season shoulder injury while diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt.

Milwaukee also has a lights-out closer (Corey Knebel), and received unexpected production from Travis Shaw (31 HR, 101 RBIs) in the middle of the order. The Brewers are another team that I think regresses next year, especially since Nelson is expected to miss much of the season.

The Yankees are in a different spot. They held on to Aaron Judge, who was a better prospect than anyone the Phillies had. Gary Sanchez turned out better than expected. Brian Cashman swung some amazing trades, particularly with Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. They're just in a different situation because they had more talent in the organization during this period than the Phillies did.

He meant stats. I'll say Hoskins next season hits .275/.380/.560 with 36 homers and 110 RBIs.

There is benefit to keeping one, especially if you believe in one of them more than you believe in Maikel Franco. Let's start with Hernandez. He's been incredibly consistent the last two seasons, hitting .294 both years with OBPs of .371 and .373. He'll have trade value, but there's also value in knowing what you have. With Hernandez, the Phillies know what they have: A high-OBP leadoff hitter who unfortunately doesn't steal enough bases.

I personally think Hernandez will be a better player the next five years than Franco. So there's a reason to keep him around. Maybe it makes the most sense to keep Hernandez at second base and put Kingery at third. It really all depends on what kind of trade offers the Phillies get for Hernandez.

Phillies-Mets observations: Homers help deliver 6-2 win

Phillies-Mets observations: Homers help deliver 6-2 win

BOX SCORE

Pete Mackanin's farewell weekend began with a 6-2 win over the New York Mets on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.

The win left the Phillies at a game under .500 (36-37) since the All-Star break. They went 29-58 before the break. They are 15-12 in the month of September.

This improvement did not save Mackanin's job. He was fired from the manager's position earlier Friday, but will finish out the season and move to a front-office advisory position after the season (see story).

• Rookie Ben Lively got the win in his final start of the season. He gave up two runs, both on solo homers, over six innings. He struck out just one batter, but walked none. The quality start was Lively's 10th in 15 starts this season. He has a knack for pitching around trouble and keeping his team in games. He finished with a 4.26 ERA in 88 2/3 innings in the big leagues and will surely get a long look to be in the rotation in spring training.

• Lively was visibly angry with himself after allowing a first-inning home run to Jose Reyes on an 0-1 fastball, but he got it together and pitched well. The kid's got some toughness to him.

• Maikel Franco, Jorge Alfaro and Cesar Hernandez all homered for the Phillies. Franco's was a two-run shot in the second inning on a 3-1 fastball from Matt Harvey. The pitch tailed right into Franco's happy zone on the inner half of the plate and he did some damage. Alfaro's homer against Hansel Robles in the sixth was a bomb — 423 feet to center.

• Robles also gave up a homer to Hernandez in the sixth inning. He came inside on the next batter, Freddy Galvis, and that prompted home plate umpire Marvin Hudson to issue warnings to both benches. The Phillies have had problems with Robles in the past. Tommy Joseph, who was not in the lineup, stood on the top step of the dugout as warnings were issued. He looked ready to take a run at Robles. Joseph was the Phillies' opening day first baseman but he's been relegated to reserve duty down the stretch and he has a history of concussions — five of them — but he was ready to go if things escalated and that says something about him as a teammate.

• Lively left with a 6-2 lead and the bullpen did the rest. Adam Morgan was first with another scoreless inning. He has given up just two runs in his last 26 innings. He struck out two to raise his total to 32 in his last 26 innings. Luis Garcia and Edubray Ramos followed Morgan with a pair of scoreless frames. Over the last 31 games, the Phillies’ 'pen has given up just 30 runs in 110 1/3 innings. That's an ERA of 2.44. 

• The Phillies have hit 171 homers, their most since 2009 when they slugged a National League-high 224. The Phils have hit 101 homers at home, their most at Citizens Bank Park since they had 108 in 2009.

• Henderson Alvarez (0-1, 3.60) pitches against Mets right-hander Seth Lugo (7-5, 4.72) on Saturday night. Alvarez is auditioning for future employment. He pitched five shutout innings last weekend in Atlanta. The right-hander is coming back from shoulder surgery. It might make sense for the Phillies to try to keep him in the organization on a minor-league contract next season. Pitching depth is always needed. Alvarez, however, will surely seek a big-league deal somewhere.

Tonight's lineup: Herrera leads off as Hernandez sits

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Tonight's lineup: Herrera leads off as Hernandez sits

With eight games left in the Phillies' season, Pete Mackanin is still playing to win.

After dropping the series opener in Atlanta, 7-2, Friday, Mackanin made several changes to his lineup for Game 2 tonight. His first change is at the top of the order, as Cesar Hernandez sits and Odubel Herrera moves up to the leadoff spot.

The decision to rest Hernandez appears based on his poor career numbers against Atlanta's starter, Julio Teheran. Hernandez is 3-28 against Teheran, while Herrera is 5-23. Teheran is 1-2 this season against the Phillies. He won his previous start against them on Aug. 30, allowing just one run and striking out eight in 6 2/3 innings pitched. 

Herrera has no hits and six strikeouts in his last 12 at-bats. He's also been chasing a lot of pitches outside of the strike zone and has only one walk since Sept. 9. At .281, his batting average is the lowest it has been since Aug. 6.  

J.P. Crawford, who has looked smooth at third base, shifts to second base to accommodate the change. Maikel Franco slots back in at third.

Mackanin's final change is swapping catcher Jorge Alfaro for Cameron Rupp. With the Phillies getting an extended look at Alfaro, Rupp's playing time has recently decreased. This is his first start since Sept. 17 against Oakland.

In his second start for the Phillies, Henderson Alvarez won't have to do much to better Ben Lively's outing Friday night. Lively conceded six hits and five runs before recording an out. Alvarez's start Sunday, when he allowed four runs in five innings, was his first major league game in the past 28 months. An All-Star in 2014, Alvarez's career was derailed by injuries. 

Below is Saturday's lineup:

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, RF
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, LF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. J.P. Crawford, 2B
8. Cameron Rupp, C
9. Henderson Alvarez, P

And the Braves' lineup:

1. Ender Inciarte, CF
2. Ozzie Albies, 2B
3. Nick Markakis, RF
4. Tyler Flowers, C
5. Matt Adams, 1B
6. Dansby Swanson, SS
7. Rio Ruiz, 3B
8. Jace Peterson, LF
9. Julio Teheran, P