Pete Mackanin's 2018 season wish? A 'stabilizer' at top of Phillies' rotation

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Pete Mackanin's 2018 season wish? A 'stabilizer' at top of Phillies' rotation

Pete Mackanin’s wish last September for the 2017 season? The manager wanted to sign an established hitter to insert into his lineup after the Phillies finished second worst in the majors with a team batting average of .240.

For the 2018 season? Mackanin said Wednesday he wants an established arm to help stabilize the front of his rotation alongside right-hander Aaron Nola.

“We could always use more pitching, more hitting, more everything,” Mackanin said. “Managers always want more. We want to do better than we have the last couple of years. I think it would behoove us to get a bona-fide starting pitcher. We have a lot of guys who showed some good signs — (Ben) Lively, (Jake) Thompson and (Nick) Pivetta. To move forward, we need a stabilizer at the top.”

Mackanin said Pivetta had impressed him with his growth throughout the season after being a “nervous wreck” for his first few starts.

Mackanin gave the example of major-league veteran Matt Kemp. At the trade deadline in 2016, the Padres dealt him to the Atlanta Braves, who finished the season batting .255 as a team. Entering Wednesday's action, they were hitting .263 this season, the sixth-best mark in the majors.

The Phils have acquired veterans with sizable salaries to support their rotations in the past. It’s not difficult to imagine the club doing it again — either by trade or free agency — this offseason because it has only one player, Odubel Herrera, secured to a long-term deal.

“Having a proven starter would help,” Mackanin said. “That was the reason that we got guys like (Aaron) Harang, (Jeremy) Hellickson and even (Clay) Buchholtz, who got hurt, was just to have someone that is proven at the top of the rotation somewhere. I think it is important that we take a step forward next year. Having a guy you can look up to and count on takes a lot of pressure off of the other guys.

“At this point, I would prioritize a pitcher. I am not talking about a slew of pitchers but I am talking about a stabilizer. I’d like to see someone you can count on. For various reasons, mainly injuries, no one has been that guy other than Nola.”

Nola leads the team with 12 wins, a 3.54 ERA and 184 strikeouts, a reliable arm in this Phillies rotation.

While Mackanin is interested in bolstering the top of the rotation, he is unsure of the intentions of general manager Matt Klentak this offseason. He will soon find out.

“We are having a meeting on Saturday with the staff to discuss what the plans are moving forward,” Mackanin said. “After that meeting, I will understand more about what the plans are. I would like to move forward and enhance the team.”

Roy Halladay deserves to be a 1st-ballot Hall of Famer

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Roy Halladay deserves to be a 1st-ballot Hall of Famer

Fans in Philadelphia didn’t get to enjoy Roy Halladay for very long. He had two stellar seasons, followed by two injury-plagued years that ended his playing career.

Halladay died in an aircraft accident one year ago. On Monday, Halladay was named among 35 players on the ballot for the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame (see story).

Customarily, players have to wait five years for Hall of Fame eligibility. If a player dies, they're eligible six months after their death. There has been one exception to this rule in the last 65 years: Roberto Clemente was inducted in 1973, after dying in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972.

There are a handful of worthy names on this year’s ballot. And while Roy Halladay was forced into early retirement at 36, he is a pitcher with virtually no equals during his 15-plus major league seasons.

Halladay's death last year hit the Philadelphia sports community hard. His starts with the Phillies were appointment viewing, the likes of which the city hadn’t seen since Curt Schilling dominated teams in the 1990s.

And although fans in Philadelphia only saw two seasons of Halladay's excellence on the mound, his prime lasted a decade — the 2002 through the 2011 seasons.

Here are Halladay's ranks among all MLB pitchers during that span:

Wins — 170 (1st)

Win percentage — .694 (1st)

Complete Games — 63 (1st - by 30!)

Shutouts — 18 (1st)

K/BB Ratio — 4.57 (1st)

ERA — 2.97 (2nd)

ERA+ — 148 (2nd)

Innings — 2194.2 (2nd)

He also made eight All-Star teams, won two Cy Young Awards and finished in the top 5 in Cy Young voting seven times in that 10-year span.

From the years 1995 through 2017, Halladay has more complete games than any pitcher (67). Here's the thing: Halladay only pitched from 1998 through 2013.

Being the best pitcher in baseball for a season is a feat. Being the best pitcher in baseball for an entire decade is something that is truly special. Remember how great Tim Lincecum was at the start of his career? He also won two Cy Youngs. Lincecum didn't even make it to 10 full seasons in the big leagues before a degenerative hip injury derailed his career.

The end of Roy Halladay's baseball career, and his life, occurred far too soon. Voting him into the Baseball Hall of Fame next year would not be.

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James Paxton trade affects Phillies in several ways

James Paxton trade affects Phillies in several ways

The Yankees are getting James Paxton from the Mariners, as first reported by Jon Heyman of Fancred. It's a move that has a few ramifications for the Phillies.

The Mariners are acquiring pitching prospect Justus Sheffield, OF Don Thompson-Williams and RHP Erik Swanson for Paxton, who is 30 years old and perpetually hurt but so good when he's on the mound. Paxton has a 3.42 career ERA with even better earned run estimators — he limits the homers, strikes out more than a batter per inning, all that good stuff.

The move potentially crosses Patrick Corbin off of the Yankees' list, ridding the marketplace of a top bidder for the top free-agent pitcher.

That's not a certainty, though. The Yankees could still look to sign Corbin to a lucrative deal, putting together a rotation of Corbin, Paxton, Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka.

Paxton was a name that teammate Jim Salisbury mentioned a few weeks ago in reference to the Phillies' search for a top-of-the-rotation lefty starter (see story). Robbie Ray was the other, and with the D-backs potentially exploring Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke trades, them moving Ray is a good bet this offseason.

As for Corbin, it just doesn't seem the Phillies will be the team that outbids all others. As the top pitcher on the market, he's still in line for nine figures. While free agency has been reined in the last few years, there have still been eight starting pitchers since 2015 to get contracts of at least $100 million: Yu Darvish, David Price, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann.

Perhaps if the market comes back to the Phillies with Corbin as it did with Jake Arrieta, they'd pounce. But it's unlikely with every team always in the mix for pitching.

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