New York Mets

Roster review — Phillies just better than Mets, Marlins, Braves

ap-aaron-altherr-rhys-hoskins.jpg
AP Images

Roster review — Phillies just better than Mets, Marlins, Braves

The Nationals are obviously the class of the NL East. Most stars, best lineup, best rotation, much better bullpen than they opened 2017 with.

There's still a lot of offseason to go, but after the Phillies' Carlos Santana signing and Stage 1 of the latest Marlins fire sale, the Phils on paper measure up well with the other three teams in the division.

There still could be a trade in the Phillies' near future that turns an outfielder into a starting pitcher. If the Phils didn't have such a glaring need for starting pitching, one could see them entering 2017 with all three of Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr in addition to LF Rhys Hoskins and figuring out the playing time based on hot/cold streaks and injuries. That need for arms to fill out the rotation, though, makes a trade more likely.

Knowing what we know now, let's take a trip around the NL East, excluding the clear favorites in Washington. This takes into account projected opening day lineups as of the first week of January. The Mets, for example, have Michael Conforto coming off shoulder surgery and Steven Matz recovering from elbow surgery. Neither is likely for the start of the season.

Infield
Phillies: 1B Carlos Santana, 2B Cesar Hernandez, SS J.P. Crawford, 3B Maikel Franco

Braves: 1B Freddie Freeman, 2B Ozzie Albies, SS Dansby Swanson, 3B Johan Camargo

Marlins: 1B Justin Bour, 2B Starlin Castro, SS J.T. Riddle, 3B Brian Anderson

Mets: 1B Dom Smith, 2B Wilmer Flores, SS Amed Rosario, 3B Asdrubal Cabrera

Freeman is by far the best player among these 16. Santana is next.

The Phillies have the best infield of this quartet, with above-average on-base skills at three positions and power at two. 

Outfield
Phillies: CF Odubel Herrera, LF Rhys Hoskins, RF Nick Williams/Aaron Altherr

Braves: CF Ender Inciarte, LF Nick Markakis, RF Ronald Acuña

Marlins: CF Christian Yelich, LF Martin Prado, RF Derek Dietrich

Mets: CF Juan Lagares, LF Yoenis Cespedes, RF Brandon Nimmo

The Marlins have the best centerfielder.

The Mets have the best leftfielder (though Hoskins could have something to say about that in Year 2).

Right field is between the Phillies and Braves. Acuña is a very intriguing 20-year-old who hit .325 with 21 homers, 31 doubles and 44 steals last season across the three highest minor-league levels.

In totality ... again, you have to give this edge to the Phillies. On-base skills at two of three outfield positions and power at two. 

Catcher
Phillies: Jorge Alfaro/Cameron Rupp/Andrew Knapp

Braves: Tyler Flowers

Marlins: J.T. Realmuto

Mets: Travis d'Arnaud

Realmuto is the stud of this group, an underrated catcher who's hit .290/.337/.440 the last two seasons with averages of 31 doubles and 14 homers. He also has good wheels for a catcher. He or Yelich would be next if the Marlins make another trade.

Alfaro has potential but a lot to prove, offensively and defensively. Still, he's not far behind the injury-prone d'Arnaud or longtime backup Flowers.

Rotation
Phillies: Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively

Braves: Julio Teheran, Sean Newcomb, Mike Foltynewicz, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir

Marlins: Dan Straily, Wei-Yin Chen, Jose Ureña, Dillon Peters, Justin Nicolino

Mets: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo

First off, I'd be shocked if that is the Phillies' opening day starting rotation. At the very least, they'll grab one veteran with a better short-term upside than Pivetta or Lively.

Second ... this is clearly a drastic edge to the Mets. Everything — everything — went wrong for their pitching staff last season.

If the Phils add a decent No. 2 or No. 3 starter, they'd be on par with the Braves. Atlanta has more proven commodities, but let's not act like McCarthy or Kazmir are locks to make even 25 starts.

Bullpen (key arms only)
Phillies
: Hector Neris, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Luis Garcia

Braves: Arodys Vizcaino, Jose Ramirez

Marlins: Brad Ziegler, Kyle Barraclough

Mets: Jeurys Familia, A.J. Ramos, Anthony Swarzak, Jerry Blevins

Advantage goes to the Phillies after the offseason additions of Hunter and Neshek, two solid setup men you can pencil in for ERAs between 2.00 and 3.00. With the emergence of Garcia, the Phillies have a strong core four in the bullpen. They just still need a good lefty. (Can Adam Morgan carry a strong second half into 2018?)

The Mets have a solid back-end with Familia and Ramos, but the bullpens of the Braves and Marlins will likely struggle this season.

• • •

The Phillies' additions of Santana, Hunter and Neshek make a ton of sense when you look at the non-Nationals landscape of the NL East and consider the number of games there to be won — 57 in total against the Braves, Marlins and Mets.

The Phils went 39-37 against the division last season. That number should grow closer to the mid-40s in 2018.

Red Sox name Alex Cora manager; Mets offer job to Mickey Callaway

usa-alex-cora-red-sox.jpg
USA Today Images

Red Sox name Alex Cora manager; Mets offer job to Mickey Callaway

BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox have hired Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora to be their new manager.

The team made the announcement on Sunday, a day after Cora's Astros reached the World Series.

Cora replaces John Farrell, who was fired this month despite winning back-to-back AL East titles. Farrell's teams won the 2013 World Series, finished last twice and then in each of the past two years won the division but got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

A native of Puerto Rico, Cora is the first Hispanic manager in Red Sox history.

He played 14 years in the major leagues before retiring in 2011, including parts of four seasons with the Red Sox. He was a member of Boston's 2007 World Series team.

Cora has never managed before.

Reports: Mets offer manager job to Indians coach Callaway
NEW YORK — It appears the New York Mets have settled on their choice for a manager.

Several media outlets are reporting the team has offered the job to Cleveland Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway. The New York Post was the first to report the Mets were in talks with Callaway, saying a deal is being finalized.

When contacted Sunday, multiple Mets officials declined to comment.

With his contract set to expire, Terry Collins stepped down at the end of the season after seven years as Mets manager and accepted a position as a special assistant to general manager Sandy Alderson.

The 42-year-old Callaway has been Cleveland's pitching coach for the past five seasons under highly successful manager Terry Francona. Led by ace right-hander Corey Kluber, the Indians led the major leagues with a 3.30 ERA this season, one year after reaching the World Series.

Callaway has never managed at any professional level.

With touching sendoff, Phillies send Pete Mackanin out with a day he'll never forget

With touching sendoff, Phillies send Pete Mackanin out with a day he'll never forget

BOX SCORE

Lineup card in hand, Pete Mackanin began his final pregame walk to home plate as Phillies manager. A ripple of applause rose in the stands and swelled with every step Mackanin took. By the time he was done handing his lineup card to the umpires, the applause had become a standing ovation and it accompanied Mackanin all the way back to the dugout, where his players, without planning or coaxing, spilled out to salute him on his last day as the team's skipper.
 
"I almost started crying," the 66-year-old baseball lifer said when it was all over Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. "It was really special. It meant a lot to me. I looked at (bench coach Larry) Bowa and said, 'Is this for me?' He said, 'Yeah, tip your cap.' I didn't know what to do.
 
"My wife and son were in the stands in the second row and I couldn't look at them. I knew my wife would be crying. I didn't want to start crying myself."
 
Three days after being told he would not manage the club in 2018, Mackanin's team blew out the New York Mets, 11-0, in the season finale (see observations). The beginning and end of the game dripped with symbolism, from the touching sendoff of the outgoing manager to the eighth-inning, three-run, inside-the-park home run by Nick Williams, one of the exciting rookies that helped the growing team post a 37-38 record after the All-Star break.
 
"What a way to end that game with an inside-the-park home run," Mackanin said. "A great day for the Phillies, a great day for me. It was really special, probably one of the best days of my career.
 
"I can't remember all the run scoring, but it's been a special day for me. I want to thank the fans for coming out all season."
 
Mackanin took over as Phillies manager when Ryne Sandberg resigned in late June 2015 and recorded a 174-238 record as skipper. The rebuilding team endured a difficult first half this season, going 29-58 before the All-Star break, but played well under Mackanin down the stretch. The Phils went 16-13 in September.
 
For the season, the Phillies were 66-96 and finished third from the bottom in the majors. They will pick third in the draft next year.
 
The strong finish was not enough to save Mackanin's job. General manager Matt Klentak came aboard in October 2015 and inherited Mackanin as skipper. They had a good working relationship, but Klentak said Friday he wanted a new voice and new style to lead the team. Mackanin will stay on as a front-office adviser.
 
"We have a lot of good-looking young talent that we can be proud of and look forward to the future with," he said.
 
Some of that young talent was on display Sunday. Maikel Franco, who has yet to put his talent together in a consistent way, slugged a three-run home run, his 24th of the season and 49th over the last two. Odubel Herrera clubbed his 42nd double. Williams punctuated the day with his inside-the-park homer. Starting pitcher Nick Pivetta survived five walks and a hit batsman to register five scoreless innings and seven strikeouts in earning the win.
 
Williams finished with 12 homers and 55 RBIs in 83 games. Rhys Hoskins sputtered to the finish line. He went just 7 for 52 (.135) with 19 strikeouts and 11 walks over the final two weeks, but, oh, those 18 home runs in his first month in the majors electrified the town and helped the Phillies do a lot of winning over the final weeks of the season.
 
"One thing I'm real happy about is the players never quit," Mackanin said. "They played hard and played with energy. I'm real proud of them for that.
 
"Some of the players who were with us from the beginning of the year showed improvement and with the emergence of a couple of the young guys, it gave us a spurt of energy and a more positive attitude. Looking forward, if you combine those two things then there's a lot of things we can feel good about going into next year."
 
Mackanin said he would keep the lineup card from his last game as Phillies skipper as a memento.
 
And, of course, that pregame salute from the fans and the players will always hold a special place in his heart.
 
"I'll remember it forever," he said.