Phillies

2019 Red Sox should provide Phillies valuable lesson about starting pitching

2019 Red Sox should provide Phillies valuable lesson about starting pitching

The 2018 Red Sox went wire to wire and won the World Series. The 2019 Red Sox have a 1.8 percent chance to make the playoffs because of how brutal their starting rotation has been. 

A rotation that the Phillies and any other team in need of several starting pitchers should take note of.

The Red Sox allocated more than $90 million to their starting pitchers this season, the most in baseball in terms of total dollars and percentage of payroll dedicated to starting pitchers (40 percent).

They extended Chris Sale in March (five years, $145 million), just before his worst major-league season which is already over because of an elbow injury. Sale's deal kicks in next year, and the Red Sox won't admit it but they're almost certainly regretting it already.

They paid Nate Eovaldi $68 million this past offseason and have gotten nothing in return. Eovaldi, who received that contract only because of 22 dominant innings in the 2018 postseason, has been a disaster. Injuries have limited him to just 36⅓ innings and he has struggled as a starter and reliever to the tune of a 6.69 ERA.

Rick Porcello, in the last of a four-year, $82.5 million contract, won the Cy Young award in the first year of that deal and has been bad ever since. His ERA is 5.49 this season and is three percent below league-average the last three years. 

Boston doesn't win the 2018 World Series without David Price. But what if Price's contract, which pays him $96 million the next three seasons, along with the rest of these deals prevent the Red Sox from retaining Mookie Betts? Betts will want more money than Bryce Harper and deserves it. That situation will be interesting to monitor.

Going out and buying a rotation does not always work, and it almost never works long-term. Think about what happened with Roy Halladay. Two great years the Phillies probably would not trade for anything, then two rough years. Cliff Lee? Three very good years upon his return, then he was MIA the final two seasons.

Good pitchers are certainly worth a lot of money but it has to be the right pitcher and the right contract length. Gerrit Cole, a free agent this winter, could command $200 million and his market will be robust. Teams will be tantalized by his continued improvement and insane strikeout rate, which is the perfect way to combat the juiced ball.

But after Cole, no other pitcher on the free-agent market this winter can really be considered a "safe" bet. Confident in Madison Bumgarner the next four years? Cole Hamels the next two? Will a team have any idea which version of Zack Wheeler, Wade Miley, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi or Alex Wood they are getting?

Not to say the Phillies should avoid the starting pitching market. They cannot. It's not even an option. They need 60 percent of a starting rotation and probably more than that since few teams ever go through 162 games with the same five starters. 

But going out and spending $200 million on Cole, $40 million on Hamels and another $40 million or so on one of the mid-rotation pieces will not guarantee that the Phillies turn into a 95-win team in 2020. 

The Red Sox best starting pitcher this season has been Eduardo Rodriguez, a 26-year-old, cost-controlled lefty they acquired from the Orioles at the 2014 trade deadline for a half-season of Andrew Miller. That's the kind of trade no team in the Orioles' position ever wants to make anymore, because the Rodriguezes of the world, if they pan out, become the most valuable pieces in baseball. Young, cheap arms without wear and tear who can approach 200 quality innings.

The Phillies need to find their Rodriguez — none of Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin or Vince Velasquez turned into one — as much as they need to sign a recognizable name. Splurging on Cole seems unlikely only because the Phillies just committed more than $400 million last offseason and if they sign Cole, it would limit the number of times they can add another superstar during this window.

The Padres, who were just in town, had a couple intriguing arms the Phillies should (and probably will) call about this winter: lefty Joey Lucchesi and righty Dinelson Lamet. San Diego has a lot of young pitching but is in need of offense at positions other than first base, shortstop and third base. 

Pittsburgh's Joe Musgrove is another mid-rotation piece under cost control who could better help a team like the Phillies than the Pirates.

As thin as the Phillies are on pitchers, they must be creative this offseason, not just free-spending.

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Spencer Howard, Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott, Mick Abel represent Phillies in Top 100 prospects rankings

Spencer Howard, Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott, Mick Abel represent Phillies in Top 100 prospects rankings

Four Phillies made MLB.com's latest Top 100 prospects list released this week, including a newcomer to the list in Mick Abel.

Abel, drafted 15th overall by the Phillies in June, was the cutoff, ranking 100th. The top high school pitcher taken in this year's draft, Abel's fastball, breaking ball, changeup and control have drawn rave reviews. 

He was one of only four 18-year-olds in MLB.com's Top 100.

"Abel generally throws strikes and he gets as high marks for his maturity and makeup as he does his stuff. He's only going to get stronger and throw harder as he physically matures, a big reason why he was the first prep arm in the 2020 class to come off the board," part of the scouting report read.

The Phillies had two prospects in the 30s, Alec Bohm at 32 and Spencer Howard at 37. It is a little surprising that Bohm is ahead of Howard given Howard's closer proximity to the majors and the potential that Howard could be an ace or No. 2 starter. Howard is actually ranked three spots lower than he was prior to the season. Bohm moved up two spots.

Howard could debut for the Phillies as soon as this weekend.

The other Phillie in the Top 100 is 2019 first-round pick Bryson Stott, their soon-to-be-23-year-old shortstop. Stott was ranked 98th, 11 spots below his preseason rank. 

From MLB.com:

"While none of Stott's tools jump off the page as obviously plus, he can do a lot of things very well. The one tool that has the chance to be plus in time is probably his hit tool. He makes a ton of contact and can drive the ball to all fields, working counts and drawing a ton of walks as well."

Bohm and Stott are, like Howard, in the Phillies' 60-player pool and working out at their satellite site in Lehigh Valley.

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Phillies 28-man roster: Who might they cut Thursday?

Phillies 28-man roster: Who might they cut Thursday?

Wednesday, the Phillies took part in one of MLB's on-the-fly adjustments to the 2020 season, a 7-inning doubleheader.

Thursday brings another. On Thursday, teams will have to trim their rosters from 30 players to 28. Rosters will remain at 28 players for the rest of the regular season and postseason, according to multiple national reports. 

This is a different process than MLB laid out prior to the season, when the plan was to have teams trim from 30 to 28 after two weeks and then from 28 to 26 after another two weeks. The change is a response to how MLB's first two weeks have gone, with the Phillies, Marlins and Cardinals all sitting entire weeks because of COVID-related concerns. (Unlike the other two teams, the Phillies sat despite none of their players testing positive.)

When the Phillies make their two roster moves Thursday, they'll have played only six games and will have had far less of an opportunity than most of the league to declare which two players on their 30-man roster are most expendable. 

The Phillies have carried 16 pitchers and 14 position players to this point. It is likely that one cut will come from the bullpen and one from the bench. The Phillies' schedule moving forward — 56 games in 54 days beginning Wednesday — and the presence of the DH lessening bench usage would seem to make it more worthwhile for the Phils to keep 15 pitchers.

The Phillies' five bench players are Roman Quinn, Andrew Knapp, Phil Gosselin, Neil Walker and Kyle Garlick. 

Knapp, the backup catcher, isn't going anywhere. 

Quinn is one-half of a centerfield timeshare (at least until someone seizes the job, which Adam Haseley may be doing) and is almost certainly staying put as well. Even if Haseley wins the job outright early this season, Quinn has bench value as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner.

Walker is a switch-hitter who can play five different positions, which is also valuable off the bench.

Gosselin is too hot offensively to lose right now. 

The position player on the bubble is probably Garlick, a corner outfielder with pop and an ability to hit lefties. Garlick, who has options left and could be sent to Lehigh Valley without being removed from the 40-man roster, made his first start as a Phillie in Game 1 of Wednesday's doubleheader, batting ninth as the designated hitter. 

In the bullpen, it's still too early to make out a clear hierarchy. It could be Austin Davis or Cole Irvin, who are clearly behind Jose Alvarez and Adam Morgan among Phillies lefties. It could be Ramon Rosso, who was erratic in his first and only appearance so far this season. The Phillies' lack of right-handed velocity in the bullpen could keep him around, though. The Phillies have played so few games to this point that a reliever could potentially separate himself with a strong showing in the doubleheader.

Stay tuned Thursday.

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