Phillies

Phillies winter meetings preview: Trades, Rule 5 draft, roster crunch

Phillies winter meetings preview: Trades, Rule 5 draft, roster crunch

The Nation’s Capital will become the center of the baseball world over the next week as the winter meetings get underway Sunday in Washington.
 
The meetings run through Thursday morning, concluding with the Rule 5 draft, and will play out against a backdrop of labor peace as the owners and players agreed on a new five-year labor deal on Wednesday night.
 
Teams looking to make a big score on the free-agent market will find sluggers in Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, quality producers in Dexter Fowler, Justin Turner and Ian Desmond and proven closers in Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman. The trade market features a big name in former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen.
 
As for the local nine, don’t look for a week of head-spinning activity. The Phillies got most of their heavy lifting out of the way early in the offseason when they re-signed starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and traded for outfielder Howie Kendrick and reliever Pat Neshek. Hellickson and Kendrick filled two of the team’s stated needs, a veteran innings guy in the rotation and the proverbial professional hitter.
 
This is not to say the Phils won’t be active at the meetings, or in the days leading up to them or following them, because they likely will be. The team still has some secondary areas that need to be addressed, but as for a big, headline-grabbing move, well, nothing like that appears to be cooking — unless, of course, some team wants to give the Phillies multiples of top talent for one of their young core big-leaguers. As we’ve said before, this team has no untouchables and general manager Matt Klentak is willing talk about any player if the return speeds the team’s rebuild and has long-term impact.
 
With that, let’s take a look at some of the matters facing the Phils as they get set to head to the meetings:
 
Backup shortstop/utility infielder
This is an area the team probably needs to address. There are currently five infielders on the 40-man roster: the four projected starters (Tommy Joseph, Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis) and recent addition Jesmuel Valentin. Valentin is strictly a second baseman and projects to play at Triple A. If the Phils had a long-term opening at shortstop, they could push J.P. Crawford. In a pinch, Hernandez could move over from second and play the position. Still, adding a utility infielder is probably a must and that player might have to come on a minor-league contract because the 40-man roster is full. The door has not been closed on the return of Andres Blanco. Even someone like versatile Emmanuel Burris could return.
 
Bullpen help
Klentak made improving the bullpen an offseason priority so it’s likely that he’s looking to make additions beyond just Neshek. As it stands now, the Phils have just one lefty reliever, promising but unproven Joely Rodriguez, so it’s important that Klentak add at least one more lefty through a signing or trade.
 
Backup catcher
The Phils have had longstanding interest in bringing back A.J. Ellis and they've maintained contact with his representatives, but they already have three catchers on their 40-man roster in Cameron Rupp, Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp. If the roster pinch gets solved, possibly by dealing from a position of depth and including Knapp in a trade or other transactions, Ellis could return. Other than that, it’s possible Knapp could be the big team’s backup catcher with Alfaro working every day at Triple A.
 
Another bat?
The Phils were last in the majors in runs scored (610) and second-to-last in batting average (.240), on-base percentage (.301) and slugging (.385) in 2016 so they really need to add more than just Kendrick if they’re going to make a noticeable improvement in their offense. However, management has made it clear that it wants to keep pathways open for young players to advance to the majors.

Barring a trade, seven of the eight starting position spots are pretty much set. Right field is the exception and that would be a nice landing spot for one of those young players, speedy Roman Quinn. There’s a strong possibility that Quinn will be the opening day rightfielder. However, given his health history, it might be wise to add reinforcements beyond Aaron Altherr. So it would not be surprising to see the Phillies add another bat, possibly from the left side, to their bench.
 
Trade rumors
They go hand-in-hand with the winter meetings. Even before the start of the meetings, the Phils have been connected to McCutchen and even power-hitting Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier in rumors. The feel here is that a deal for either player is unlikely, especially McCutchen, whose defense has become a concern. The Phillies are committed to building a lasting contender with their farm system as the foundation. Acquiring a McCutchen or a Dozier would require giving up multiples of young talent and that’s not the way the Phils want to operate at the moment. They're looking to retain as much young talent as possible.
 
Trade talk
Though the Phillies will be protective of their prospects in trades, the do have money and payroll flexibility. This makes it possible that they could fill a need by taking on salary as long as that salary is attached to a short-term contract. The Phils under Klentak have already done this with Hellickson, Charlie Morton and Neshek. And, as mentioned, if some team wants to send the Phils a big return, players like Hernandez, Odubel Herrera and Hector Neris would be very much in play.
 
The Rule 5 draft
After landing players like Shane Victorino, David Herndon, Ender Inciarte, Herrera and Tyler Goeddel over the last decade or so, the Phils could end up sitting out this year’s Rule 5 draft. It’s not that they wouldn’t like to add a young player to their stocks and build some spring-training competition, more that they’ve already added so many young players that they’re out of room. The Phils added 11 players in maxing out their 40-man roster two weeks ago, thus protecting them from the Rule 5 draft. No other team added more than eight players.

The Phils pushed their number of protected players to 11 because they were fearful the new Collective Bargaining Agreement could increase roster size from 25 to 26 and an extra spot would make it easier for teams to carry a Rule 5 player. In the end, rosters stayed at 25. Maybe that will help the Phils retain one of the players they chose not to protect. Among that group is left-handed-hitting outfielder Andrew Pullin. There is much rumble around baseball that the Phillies could lose him. Relievers Hoby Milner and Miguel Nunez, outfielder Carlos Tocci and first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi are also names to watch on Thursday.
 
Of immediate concern
Teams have until 8 p.m. Friday to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players or let them become free agents. The Phillies have four such players: Galvis, Hernandez, outfielder Cody Asche and reliever Jeanmar Gomez. Galvis and Hernandez will be tendered contracts. Asche and Gomez are on the fence. Gomez had 37 saves before struggling over the final weeks of the 2016 season. It’s possible the Phils could look to sign him before the tender deadline to a deal below his arbitration salary, projected to be $4.6 million by MLBTradeRumors.com. If Asche is non-tendered, the Phils could pick up a roster spot for a winter-meetings acquisition or a Rule 5 pick.

Bryce Harper: Not signing J.T. Realmuto would be 'terrible and sad'

Bryce Harper: Not signing J.T. Realmuto would be 'terrible and sad'

Bryce Harper never stopped working out after baseball shut down. He hit three times a week back home in Las Vegas.

So it really wasn't surprising to see Harper launching balls into the empty seats at Citizens Bank Park on the first official day of the Phillies' restart Friday.

And it wasn't surprising to see him wearing his new favorite T-shirt, the one with teammate J.T. Realmuto's name and number 10 on the back.

The shirt was a giveaway last August and giveaways are always plentiful in the clubhouse. Harper wore one under his uniform a number of times late last season and is rocking it again during preparation for the new season. He has worn it three days in a row during workouts at Citizens Bank Park.

Harper is pretty shrewd when it comes to messaging. Look at the way he instantly connected with Philadelphia by embracing civic icons like the Eagles and the Phanatic last year.

Is there a message in his donning the Realmuto shirt three days in a row — with cameras catching it all? After all, Realmuto could become a free agent after the season and Harper, who's here for another dozen years, has long been on record as saying he'd like to see the Phillies lock up the catcher with a long-term deal.

"No message," Harper said after Friday's workout. "But I think J.T. is a great player. 

"If the Phillies don't end up signing him back, which would be terrible and sad, I think there's a lot of other teams out there that are going to want to sign the guy. He's a Gold Glove-caliber catcher every year, he's a great person, a great player. I mean everybody in this organization from the top down wants to see him in red pinstripes for the rest of his career and hopefully we can make that happen."

The Phillies and Realmuto were in the midst of negotiations when the game shut down in March. The two sides are now permitted to talk again, but general manager Matt Klentak has said the landscape is different because no games and no fans have equaled no revenues for the last three months. Klentak still hopes to get something done with Realmuto, maybe even by the season opener later this month. But the player is now a lot closer to free agency than he would have been in March and free agency can be enticing to a player. To be determined is whether the reduction in revenues throughout the game and the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic will hurt the market for free agents this winter.

Message or not, Harper will continue to wear his Realmuto jersey. It's not hard to spot. It's white with maroon lettering. Pretty much everyone else on the field Friday wore red.

"I wore that underneath my jersey last year," Harper said. "It was actually a cut-off version. I wore it pretty much the whole second half of the season. It was T-shirt day at the ballpark and I wanted one. I stole one for this year as well because it was very comfortable underneath my jersey and I think it gave me a little bit of good luck."

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MLB spring training 2020: Chronicling Phillies’ first workout live from Citizens Bank Park

MLB spring training 2020: Chronicling Phillies’ first workout live from Citizens Bank Park

Happy Fourth of July weekend!

Happy Baseball!

We're back at Citizens Bank Park on this picture-perfect Friday morning for the start (or restart) of Phillies training camp — three weeks of workouts and intrasquad games before the 60-game sprint-to-October commences later this month.

I started the morning in the garden, where I whipped up a fresh five-gallon batch of critter repellent. Red pepper flakes, cayenne, chili powder, dish detergent, milk, a few eggs, a whole head of garlic. Fill with water and let that stuff sit in the sun and get all funkalicious. Sprinkle some around the garden every night. Guaranteed to keep the deer away. Picked a zuke and a summer squash on my way out the door and headed for the ballpark — with a quick stop at Wawa for a 16-ounce cup of rocket fuel.

It's good to be back and I hope everyone stays healthy so we can see this thing through.

The goal here is to provide some live or semi-live observations throughout this first workout. Keep checking back for updates.

Here we go:

9:45 a.m. — I checked into CBP. Had my temperature taken through a face imaging device. 98.2. I signed a waiver. Good to go.

9:50 a.m. — Arrived in press box. Same great view of Center City. Field is green and gorgeous. Reporters are restricted from wandering so this is where I'll be observing from. Shoot. I forgot my binocs. 

10 a.m. — Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer arrives in press box. He is wearing shorts. Legs are quite unathletic and he has apparently been taking the quarantine seriously because he hasn't gotten much sun.

10:04 a.m. — The grounds crew has finished prepping the field. Music is playing over the PA system. The ball bags are on the field. The batting cage is out. 

10:05 a.m. — There is some action in the visiting dugout. A coach has popped his head out. For spacing reasons, both clubhouses are being utilized. 

10:15 a.m. — A grounds crew member is nailing the rubber spike scraper to the mound. 

10:16 a.m. — Black Smoke Rising by Greta Van Fleet is playing on the PA system. Hmm.

10:17 a.m. — Catching coach/bullpen catcher Bob Stumpo is heading out to the 'pen with a big equipment bag.

10:26 a.m. — Joe Girardi emerges briefly on the field. He's in shorts and a T-shirt, big cup of Joe in his hand. Yes, he is masked.

10:27 a.m. — The grounds crew is putting down tarps around the batting cage.

10:29 a.m. — Good to see Brookie.

10:30 a.m. — Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love is playing. Ah, the '80s.

10:40 a.m. — Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin pop out of the dugout. Looks like they're heading to the concourse for some conditioning work. The concourse is being used as a work area to ease overcrowding in the weight room.

10:45 a.m. — The view from teammate John Airport...

10:50 a.m. — Grounds crew is watering the infield dirt. So relaxing and mesmerizing. Anybody who's ever done it knows what I'm talking about. 

10:53 a.m. — Just noticed — only one flag flying in center field. The Stars and Stripes. No championship flags, state or city flag.

10:54 a.m.Andrew McCutchen just walked from the stands down into the dugout. He is masked. Looks like he's spent some time in the weight room.

11:04 a.m. — J.T. Realmuto and Andrew Knapp have taken the field and are loosening up their hoses.

11:06 a.m. — Several coaches — Dusty Wathan, Juan Castro, Bobby Meacham, Mike Calitri — are on the field playing catch. Distanced and masked. Not all players are wearing masks, but they are distanced.

11:07 a.m. — Just saw a fist bump. Call the cops.

11:15 p.m. — Batting practice commences. McCutchen, Realmuto and Knapp in the first group. Wathan is pitching. Jukebox Hero is playing over the PA. 

11:20 a.m. — McCutchen hits one into the left field seats.

11:22 a.m. — Realmuto hits one out to right-center.

11:23 a.m. — Jake Arrieta is walking through the outfield. He's doing some stretching. He's wearing a muscle shirt and looks ready to dent some skulls.

11:27 a.m. — Realmuto powers two in a row into the left field seats. Line drives. 

11:35 a.m. — First round of BP is complete. Standard fare.

11:36 a.m. — Realmuto and Knapp are putting the gear on. Looks like Arrieta is getting ready to throw a 'pen.

11:40 a.m. — Realmuto and Knapp are doing receiving drills with the aid of a pitching machine. Stealing low strikes. 

11:42 a.m. — McCutchen is long tossing. Interested to see how he moves in outfield drills, if they are on the docket.

11:43 a.m. — Realmuto and Knapp headed to the bullpen to catch Arrieta and I'm not sure who the other guy is. Players are not wearing numbers.

11:45 a.m. — Arrieta indeed set to throw a bullpen.

11:46 a.m. — McCutchen headed to left field for drills.

11:54 a.m. — McCutchen is taking fly balls in left. He looks a lot better than he did in March. Still detecting a slight hitch in his giddyup, but he looks to be on the right course with three weeks to prepare.

Noon — Phil Gosselin in the cage taking some hacks.

12:01 p.m. — Really could use a za.

12:03 p.m. — Adam Morgan and Vinny Velo are playing catch. There are extra catchers here.

12:12 p.m. — Some new artwork in the press box. Pretty cool. 

12:14 p.m. — Adam Morgan and Vinny Velo are throwing in the bullpen. A Josh Harrison sighting. Looks like Zach Eflin might be preparing to throw a 'pen.

12:16 p.m. — Rhys Hoskins appears for BP. Lotta hair.

12:17 p.m. — Phil Gosselin dons first baseman's mitt and takes ground balls at the position. Kinda interesting.

12:20 p.m. — Now playing: Pour Some Sugar on Me. One lump or two?

12:21 p.m. — Coaches/staff are wearing masks. Most players are not, at least on the field while doing drills. They are wearing them when they head to the concourse for conditioning, etc. There's a lot of action going on behind the scenes. 

12:26 p.m. — Bryce Harper is in the batting cage. He's wearing his No. 10 Realmuto T-shirt. Hoskins is hitting in this group, too. Jean Segura, too. I know that short stroke.

12:32 p.m. — Harper hits three bombs in five swings, one the opposite way.

12:35 p.m. — Segura is hitting with a mask on. One of the few players wearing one on the field.

12:54 p.m. — Roman Quinn sighting. He's headed up to the concourse with a bat in his hands. Must be a tee and a net up there. Again, it's out of my view.

12:55 p.m. — Hoskins, Segura and Josh Harrison getting in some infield work. Segura is at third. Hoskins at first. Harrison at second.

1 p.m. — Things seem to be winding down, at least in the early session. Hoping to chat with some of the participants in a little while. So we'll call this a wrap for now. Thanks for following along. Happy baseball, happy gardening, stay safe. And, Breen, get some sun on those legs.

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