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Big Changes in Philly

Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

It comes as no surprise after the Phillies failed to make the 16-team MLB playoffs, but GM Matt Klentak stepped down from his post on Saturday after five years on the job.

Klentak took over a 99-loss roster following the 2015 season, and while the squad has markedly approved since then, they still never finished above .500. The organization hired former Yankees manager Joe Girardi this offseason with what looked like a last-ditch effort to right the ship, but terrible bullpen performance for the second consecutive year led to a 28-32 record.

The Phillies had the fifth highest payroll in MLB this year after adding the big contracts of Zack Wheeler, and Didi Gregorius to a squad that was already paying big money to Bryce Harper, Jake Arrieta, Andrew McCutchen, and Jean Segura. The results of that group have been mixed, and the team has some decisions to make this offseason with J.T. Realmuto and Gregorius headed for free agency, as well as Arrieta’s huge contract coming off the books.[[ad:athena]]

Even entering an offseason of extreme uncertainty due to the continued COVID-19 pandemic issues, the GM job should be very attractive. Philadelphia still has their fair share of stars like Harper, Aaron Nola, Wheeler, Rhys Hoskins, and Alec Bohm, along with a clear picture of immediate team needs with starting rotation depth and a bullpen that posted an eye-popping 7.06 ERA as the highest priorities. For the sake of starting pitcher wins from Nola, Wheeler, Zach Eflin, and Spencer Howard, fantasy managers would welcome more relief help.

MLB Pipeline ranked the Phillies farm system 23rd last month, which is hardly anything to brag about. Still, the recent arrivals of Bohm and Howard add further upside to the roster, and some astute moves on the backend of the roster have a chance to vault Philadelphia’s standing in the NL East in 2021 with the strong core.

Clevinger Could Return for NLDS

San Diego escaped the Wild Card Round against the Cardinals without top two starters Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet. It sounds like they have a shot to get at least Clevinger back for a challenging five-game series against the Dodgers ahead.

ESPN’s Pedro Gomez reports Clevinger could return after he was diagnosed with an elbow injury in late September. The hard-throwing right-hander had an eventful year, suffering a knee injury in spring training and missing time in Cleveland due to a suspension for breaking COVID-19 protocols before he was traded to the Padres. Nevertheless, he did his job while on the mound with a 3.02 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in eight starts between the Indians and Padres, and showed improved control after joining San Diego with 19/3 K/BB in 19 innings.

Clevinger’s return seems critical for San Diego’s chances to defeat their NL West rivals with the lack of rest days in the NLDS series this year. The Dodgers feature a stacked starting rotation, yet the Padres didn’t even employ three traditional starting pitchers for their series against the Cardinals with Clevinger and Lamet absent.

Even if he’s only available for limited innings, Clevinger’s presence could allow the Padres to give their bullpen arms more rest. Of course, the Padres also need better innings out of Wild Card Round starters Chris Paddack and Zach Davies, who both struggled against a Cardinals lineup that isn’t nearly as formidable as the Dodgers.

As for Lamet’s status, he threw off flat ground on Friday, so his return also looks like a possibility. He’s trying to return from a biceps injury suffered on September 25, and after returning from Tommy John surgery in the second half of last season, it wouldn’t be a surprise of the team is more cautious with Lamet than Clevinger.

Regardless of the two pitchers’ statuses, the betting markets seem unimpressed by the possibility of San Diego winning the series as of late Saturday, with the Padres at +210 to win the NLDS series against the Dodgers at PointsBet, implied odds of about 33%.

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Cervelli Calls it Quits

One final good bye to long-time catcher Francisco Cervelli, who is retiring at age 34 after another concussion in late August.

There were reports last year that Cervelli would give up catching after suffering a concussion with the Pirates, before he was released and resumed his career behind the plate with the Braves.

Cervelli retires after a 13-year MLB career with a solid career .268/.358/.382 triple slash and 635 career starts behind the plate. His best season came just two years ago in 2018 with Pittsburgh, when Cervelli hit .259-12-57 with an .809 OPS in 104 games. He was also seen as a masterful pitch framer for much of his career.

For fantasy managers, Cervelli was rarely more than a waiver wire option in two-catcher leagues, but he produced positive returns with his 2018 career year, as well as his 2015 season, when he hit .295 in 510 plate appearances as a newly minted regular for the Pirates.