Tommy Hunter

How Carlos Santana fits and where he hits

How Carlos Santana fits and where he hits

Carlos Santana's ability to take walks and get on base, coupled with his ability to hit for power, makes him a fit at several places in the batting order.

To wit, last year with the Cleveland Indians, Santana batted leadoff 37 times and cleanup 26 times.

Santana did not hit second in Terry Francona's lineup at all last season.

But that might be where he ends up hitting — at least to start off the 2018 season — for Gabe Kapler.

"I think the two-hole is a really important spot in the lineup — (a guy that) gets on base, comes up with men on base quite frequently," the new Phillies manager said when the new Phillie was unveiled in a news conference on Wednesday. "Carlos can handle the two-hole."

Kapler went on to say that he could envision Santana — who has averaged 24 homers and a .363 on-base percentage the last seven seasons — hitting first or third, as well.

But it's clear that Kapler is considering using the switch-hitting Santana in the two-hole.

Things, obviously, will play out in spring training, and there's a big variable lurking as Cesar Hernandez, and possibly others, remain potential trade chips. But right now, a few days before Christmas 2017, the Phillies' 2018 opening day batting order could look like this:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Carlos Santana, 1B
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Rhys Hoskins, LF
5. Maikel Franco, 3B
6. Nick Williams, RF
7. Jorge Alfaro, C
8. J.P. Crawford, SS

Of course, it's possible that an outfielder other than Hoskins, maybe Williams, could be used in a trade for pitching. That could put Aaron Altherr in the lineup if he's not traded. Crawford could bring some on-base skills to the bottom of the order and he could move up to leadoff if Hernandez is dealt and Scott Kingery is not up yet.

The Phillies' overall on-base percentage is a dreadful .307 since they last made the playoffs in 2011. (Only San Diego, at .303, is worse.) But with the additions of Santana (for three years and $60 million) and Crawford (after the trade of Freddy Galvis) to the lineup in the last week, the Phillies will get on base more in 2018. And Kapler will have a lot of attractive options for constructing his lineup.

• The other day, we wrote about the Santana signing and how it ramped up the Phillies' rebuild. General managers typically will not make dramatic predictions, particularly when talking about expectations for their clubs. (Who needs that pressure?) Nonetheless, Klentak was asked what the Santana signing meant for his expectations for the coming season.

"I expect us to be the best club we can possibly be, given our personnel," he said. "We have a lot of young players, and with that, there's some uncertainty. We know that. Young players don't come with the same track record that a veteran comes with. But we believe that a lot of those players have a chance to take a step forward this year. If some of those players begin to take that step forward, we complement that with Carlos Santana in the middle of the lineup and a new-look bullpen, I don't really want to place limitations on what we may do next year. But I would expect us to be a more exciting team next year, for sure."

• Klentak has addressed the offense with Santana and the bullpen with Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter. There's no use saying he needs to upgrade the starting rotation. He knows that. He has said it a number of times.

Prices for top young starting pitchers like Gerrit Cole and Chris Archer are exorbitant and would put a gaping hole in the Phillies' young core. It's possible that the Phillies will make only a modest addition to the rotation before spring training while gearing up for a July strike on the trade market. If the Texas Rangers fall out of the race, keep an eye on Cole Hamels. Both sides would have interest in a reunion someday.

"We're going to try to add the best pitcher we can," Klentak said. "But the trade market is very expensive for young, controllable starters. The free-agent market for the better starters is expensive in its own way. There's a balancing act here. If you look at our rosters, not only at the big-league level but also at Triple A and Double A, we have a lot of starting pitching prospects and players who are close to big-league ready, and we need to make sure they continue to get those reps and innings that they need to develop to succeed at this level. But at the same time, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to win Week 1 of the regular season next year."

Phillies turn sights to starting pitching after adding relievers at winter meetings

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AP Images

Phillies turn sights to starting pitching after adding relievers at winter meetings

ORLANDO, Fla. — Matt Klentak's trip to the winter meetings netted two veteran relievers, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter.

Now, Klentak's focus becomes starting pitching. He'd like to add at least one before spring training begins, and chances are good that he will.

"We will probably slow down on the reliever front for a little while," the Phillies general manager said on Wednesday, Day 3 of the meetings. "I think for right now, we’ll probably shift our focus back toward the starting pitcher market, see what comes of that and just be patient with it.

"My expectation is that we will have another move before we go to spring training. I would not be surprised if we’re done for the winter meetings, but I would be surprised if we’re done for the offseason."

The Phillies have probed the free-agent market — big-ticket items such as Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta are unlikely — and spent the fall gauging other teams on which starters could become available in trades.

"I couldn't handicap the way it'll happen or even if it'll happen," Klentak said. "I think we're continuing to stay engaged with some agents. There's a few teams we've talked to about trades, some short-term options, some more controllable options. I just don't know.

"We've said as an industry and the Phillies have talked about this for a long time: it's so important to be able to develop your own starting pitchers because to acquire them in a trade is incredibly expensive in terms of player capital and to acquire them in free agency is incredibly expensive in terms of total dollars. Maybe never in our history has it been more important to develop starting pitchers."

In recent seasons, the Phillies have added starting pitchers (Jeremy Hellickson, Charlie Morton, Clay Buchholz) near the end of their contracts. The Phils could still do that and have the money to take on a salary dump. But there would be merit to taking on a younger pitcher who has more contractual control, and the Phillies have the prospects to get in the hunt for Chris Archer, Gerrit Cole or Michael Fulmer, three pitchers who fit this profile.

The Phillies have a logjam in the middle infield with J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery pushing Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez. Galvis and Hernandez are both available for trades. Officials from other clubs say the Phillies have been aggressive in shopping Galvis. The Phils will look to get pitching for Galvis, but the return might not be robust because he is a rental player who will be a free agent after the 2018 season. Hernandez figures to bring a better return because he has three years of contractual control remaining. A person from a club that has spoken to the Phillies about Hernandez said the Phils are looking for two pitchers for him.

Another starting arm is needed to complement a group of starters that includes Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson and Ben Lively.

It's possible the Phils could also look for a veteran outfielder to come off the bench. But it's just as possible that the Phils give in-house prospect Roman Quinn a chance to be that guy. Quinn, a dynamic, speedy switch-hitter, has been plagued by injuries throughout his minor-league career, including last season when he missed significant time at Triple A with an elbow injury. He will turn 25 in May. It might be time to bring him, even if it means filling a reserve role.

"This is a year we want to find out about our young kids," Klentak said. "If we can find out about Roman Quinn, we would like to do that. On the flip side, if we have a chance to bring in a great makeup, complementary player that can help our young kids and show them the ropes a little bit, then we’d be open to that, too. That’s not likely to be an early offseason venture."

Also, as the rest of the offseason plays out, the Phils will monitor the availability of Miami outfielder Christian Yelich. The Phils have long liked Yelich and would certainly try to make a play for him. But as much as the Phillies like the player, Klentak has made it clear he's not in a hurry to subtract core players and prospects. That could hurt the Phillies' chances because it would take a big package of talent to get Yelich.

Notes
The Phillies pick third in the Rule 5 draft on Thursday morning. They will likely make a pick, but there's a strong possibility they will make it for another club and quickly trade the player. If the Phils lost someone in the draft, it could be outfielder Carlos Tocci or lefthander Brandon Leibrandt.

Klentak hinted that hard-throwing pitching prospect Seranthony Dominguez would begin transitioning to the bullpen in spring training. Mark Appel will also make the move to the bullpen.

Source: Phillies finalizing 2-year deal with Tommy Hunter

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USA Today Images

Source: Phillies finalizing 2-year deal with Tommy Hunter

Matt Klentak keeps adding to his bullpen.

The Phillies are finalizing a two-year deal with reliever Tommy Hunter, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury on Tuesday night.

The experienced right-hander will join veteran righty Pat Neshek, who is on the verge of re-signing with the Phillies, multiple sources said on Monday (see story).

Hunter, 31, has played for five teams over parts of 10 seasons. In 61 games (58 2/3 innings) with the Rays in 2017, Hunter posted career bests with a 2.61 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and .202 opponents' batting average, to go with 64 strikeouts and 14 walks. He started his career as a starter after he was taken in the first round of the 2007 draft by the Rangers. Since 2013, he has come out of the bullpen, compiling a 3.12 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.

In 2011, Hunter was traded to the Orioles from Texas when current Phillies president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail was in Baltimore. MacPhail left the Orioles after the 2011 season.

Hunter and Neshek will complement an already promising group of Hector Neris, Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Edubray Ramos and Hoby Milner.

"I think if we can run out a bullpen of seven or eight guys that are all high-leverage type arms, then we can start matching up in the fifth or sixth inning," Klentak said Monday at the winter meetings. "If there are days when our young starters throw 100 pitches to get us through five or six innings, we shouldn't be in a position where that’s taxing our bullpen because we have the ability to carry an eighth bullpen member next year. We shouldn’t be in a position where we lose our competitiveness in the sixth inning because we should have a deep bullpen where we start throwing really good players out there early in the game. If it turns out that’s the best way for us to improve our run prevention, then that’s the way to do."