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Will losing deter free agents from joining Phillies? Gabe Kapler weighs in

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Will losing deter free agents from joining Phillies? Gabe Kapler weighs in

DENVER — Sometimes you look at the mounting losses and wonder why Bryce Harper would want to be part of this.

Or Manny Machado.

Or Patrick Corbin.

The Phillies will be active in this winter’s free-agent market. They have the money. They have the desire. If you know owner John Middleton, you might call it an obsession.

But lately there’s been a feeling that all the Phillies’ losing — another loss Tuesday night made it 31 in the last 46 games — coupled with the unorthodox managerial stylings of Gabe Kapler might be a turnoff to free agents.

We don’t particularly buy this narrative because 1) the signing of one or two key free agents could help turn the losing around next season and 2) in free agency it’s all about the Benjamins and the Phillies have lots of them.

Kapler, whose team led the NL East on Aug. 5, does not believe the shine has worn off the Phillies as a free-agent destination.

“I think it’s likely a more attractive destination because I think people are very aware of the resources that the Philadelphia Phillies have,” Kapler said. “I don’t think that there’s any shortage of information on how we intend to be especially competitive in 2019.

“I think it’s really important to not respond to, and when I say not respond I mean not evaluate, based on a 45-game stretch. We haven’t played good baseball for quite some time. You cannot argue with that fact. It’s unacceptable. But it’s a fact. You also cannot argue with the fact that we played very good baseball for a half-plus of the season. And finally, you can’t argue with the fact that we have tremendous resources and a very young and talented core group of players. So if you look at all of those things combined, I think you have an especially attractive destination.”

No changes on coaching staff

Kapler said his entire coaching staff would return next season. All are under contract for 2019.

“I love our staff,” Kapler said. “I think they’ve done a tremendous job. They’ve worked especially hard all year long. They look out for each other and I think they are already seeking process improvement for 2019.”

The game

The Phillies gave up 10 runs for the second straight night in a 10-3 loss to the Rockies.

The Phils have lost six in a row and are 6-17 in September. They are under .500 for the first time since April 9. They had been 15 games over .500 on Aug. 5. The Phils need to win four of their remaining five games to finish with a winning record.

Odubel Herrera drove in the Phillies’ first run. He also dropped a ball in right field and did not run hard on a ground ball in the first inning. In other words, Odubel being Odubel.

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Phillies lose 2 players and another game, fall to .500 on the season

Phillies lose 2 players and another game, fall to .500 on the season

BOX SCORE

DENVER – The Phillies have not announced their starting pitching rotation for the final weekend of the season, so there’s no official word on whether ace Aaron Nola will pitch again in 2018. He had been scheduled to make his final start on Friday. It’s possible he could move back a day, picking up some extra rest, and pitch Saturday. It’s possible he could be shut down. It’s possible he stays on turn and pitches Friday.

More will be known in the next day or so.

One guy who will not pitch this weekend is Zach Eflin. He was removed from an ineffective start in the third inning Monday night. After the game – an ugly 10-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies – manager Gave Kapler announced that Eflin was removed from the game because he was experiencing soreness in his left side.

Eflin, who gave up five hits and five runs, said he’d been managing the issue for a couple of starts, but it flared in this game. He will travel back to Philadelphia on Tuesday to be examined by team doctors and it's safe to say his season is over.

Eflin, 24, finishes at 11-8 with a 4.36 ERA in 24 starts. The highlight of his season was the month of June. He was arguably the team’s MVP that month, going 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in five starts.

The Phillies did not add starting pitching at the trade deadline and the team collapsed shortly afterward. The club is likely to add starting pitching this winter. Nola and Jake Arrieta’s spots in the rotation will be safe. Eflin will come into camp and compete for a spot in the back half of the rotation. He has the tools to be a successful big-league starter, but needs consistency.

Phillies are dropping

Literally and figuratively. 

In addition to Eflin, outfielder Aaron Altherr went down Monday night when he crashed face-first into the left-field wall trying to make a catch. He suffered a sprained right toe and a bruised right knee. He was also being evaluated for a concussion.

With six games left, he is probably done for the season.

Where they stand

The Phillies have lost five in a row. They are 15-30 since being in first place in the NL East on Aug. 5. They were 15 games over .500 then. They are now at .500 with six games to play and a sixth straight losing season is looming.

A bright spot

Roman Quinn continued to audition in center field. He made a long run and a diving catch in Coors Field’s spacious outfield in the first inning and jetted around the bases for a triple in the eighth. Quinn has game-changing speed. If he can stay healthy — a challenge, always — he could be this club’s opening day centerfielder next season.

And speaking of auditions …

Carlos Santana played third base again. Is there something to this? (see story)

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Carlos Santana at third base in 2019? He’d be open to it

Carlos Santana at third base in 2019? He’d be open to it

DENVER – Carlos Santana started at third base for the 10th time this month for the Phillies on Monday night.

It almost feels like a tryout.

An evaluation.

Manager Gabe Kapler began giving Santana starts at the position in early September because it allowed him to get Justin Bour’s bat in the lineup at first base.

Recently, Kapler has used Santana at third as a way to improve the Phillies’ outfield defense. With Santana at third, Rhys Hoskins can move from left field to his natural first base and Kapler can use a stronger defender in left. On Monday night, he used an outfield of Roman Quinn in center, Odubel Herrera in right and Aaron Altherr in left. It was all about covering the vast green that is the Coors Field outfield.

It’s no secret that Hoskins has struggled defensively in left field. The idea of moving him back to first base next season has been discussed by club officials. Hoskins would be more comfortable there and the Phils could seek a defensive upgrade in left.

But what do you do with Santana, who is signed for two more years at $40 million. The Phils have discussed dealing him this winter, but that might be difficult. Could playing him at third base in 2019 be the solution?

“It’s something that we’ll sit down with a little bit more perspective and a little less emotion and evaluate when the time is right,” manager Gabe Kapler said Monday.

There are variables to consider when weighing the possibility of using Santana at third base full time. One is Manny Machado. The Phillies are going to make a free-agent run at him this winter. He would look good at third base, but he might want to play shortstop and the Phils would probably be open to that to get him. Another is Maikel Franco. He had some big downs and some big ups in 2018. Will the Phils keep him or look to deal him? The guess here is they will look to move him.

The other matter to consider is Santana’s defense. He does not have good range. Would the Phils, already a poor defensive team, be able to live with Santana’s defense at third? They seem to be gathering answers this month.

“I think his performance thus far at third base has been good,” Kapler said. “I don’t know how predictive that is of what we might get from Carlos at third base moving forward.”

Santana, 32, actually began his pro career as a third baseman in the low minors with the Dodgers in 2005. He eventually was moved to catcher and then first base with the Indians.

How would he feel about playing third base next season?

“I’d be open to it,” he said. “I’m prepared for any situation. All I care about is being in the lineup every day. It doesn’t matter if I’m at first or third.”

Rockies 10, Phillies 1

The Phillies, staggering to the finish line, lost their fifth straight game and are now 15-30 since leading the NL East by 1½ games on Aug. 5. They were 15 games over .500 on that date. They are now 78-78 with six games to play. It is the first time they’ve been .500 since April 10. A sixth straight losing season looks to be in the cards.

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