Phillies

Phillies sign backup catcher Andrew Knapp to one-year contract

Phillies sign backup catcher Andrew Knapp to one-year contract

The Phillies list of arbitration-eligible players has shrunk from nine to eight.

Andrew Knapp and the club have agreed on a one-year deal worth $710,000.

Knapp had been eligible for arbitration for the first time.

Pitchers Hector Neris, Adam Morgan, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin and Jose Alvarez remain eligible for salary arbitration. Catcher J.T. Realmuto is also eligible for arbitration. All are expected to be tendered 2020 contracts by Monday night’s 8 p.m. deadline. Players not tendered contract by the deadline become free agents.  

Infielders Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco are also eligible for salary arbitration. It’s possible that the Phillies will cut ties with both players.

Knapp has been the Phillies’ primary backup catcher the last three seasons. It’s somewhat surprising that he signed before the tender deadline, but there have been rumblings that the Phils are looking to add catching depth and he might not have wanted to risk being non-tendered. The Website www.mlbtraderumors.com had projected Knapp to make $800,000 in 2020.

Knapp, 28, played behind the workhorse Realmuto last season. He had just 160 plate appearances and hit .213.

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Aaron Nola arrives at Phillies training camp

Aaron Nola arrives at Phillies training camp

There’s a great sign at Phillies summer camp on Monday. Aaron Nola has arrived and looks like he is ready to go. 

Nola was working out locally, getting ready to rejoin the Phillies. He appears to be moving well and looks healthy.

Manager Joe Girardi on Saturday did not disclose why Nola had yet to arrive at camp.

"He is not here yet," Girardi said. "We're trying to work our way through that." 

COVID-19 has already had a significant impact on the Phillies. Ranger Suarez, Tommy Hunter, Hector Neris and Scott Kingery are all on the COVID-19 injured list. 

Center fielder Adam Haseley has been away from the team “due to a medical condition,” Girardi told reporters Saturday. “We're trying to work through it and get him here."

If he’s available, Nola would be the Phillies’ presumptive opening day starter for the third consecutive year, this time for a planned 60-game season. He went 12-7 with a 3.87 ERA last season and finished third in NL Cy Young voting in 2018.

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Zack Wheeler is all in to play in 2020 ... for now

Zack Wheeler is all in to play in 2020 ... for now

Zack Wheeler is all in.

For now.

The Phillies' big off-season acquisition on Sunday said he was committed to pitching this season, but he left the door open wide enough to back out.

"Yeah, definitely," Wheeler said when asked if he had considered opting out of the season like several other prominent big leaguers have done.

"We just have to see how things are here at the field and at the stadium. I'm happy with what I see so far. But things could change, especially once our baby's born. I always think about what's going on around me. Is it safe? Is it OK? Literally every single day. I have to just ask myself that. I'm going to continue to keep asking myself that every day."

Wheeler's wife, Dominique, is due to give birth to the couple's first child in about three weeks.

That's an anxious time to begin with.

Now, add in a pandemic.

Sheesh.

"It's a very difficult decision," Wheeler said. "It's something that is still playing in my head. I have to be very careful here at the field, outside of the field, wherever I go. The baby's and Dominique's health is most important to me. So whatever I can do to make sure they are safe, that is the No. 1 goal for me. Baseball comes after that."

Wheeler has expressed his concerns to team officials, including manager Joe Girardi.

Frankly, every person affiliated with the club has the same concerns about the health and safety of their families.

"We've chit-chatted here and there," Wheeler said. "I think they know what position I'm in. I think we are going to sit down and talk about that. But we haven't done it yet. I've been happy with what's gone on so far here (with health and safety protocols). 

"But, yeah, I'm definitely going to sit down with Joe and whoever else just to reiterate that. I'll let them know how I am feeling. Joe's a family guy. Family comes first to him. That's the first thing he told me when I talked to him on the phone right after I signed. 'Family is first.' I know he recognizes that. He knows the situation I'm in. He loves his kids. He's a good guy. He is one of the reasons why I signed here."

There are a number of players in MLB whose wives are expecting. Mike Trout is one and he has expressed reservations about playing and compromising his family's safety.

Wheeler was asked if he believed MLB should step in and make a blanket decision for players whose wives are pregnant.

"Maybe they could have put that label on guys with pregnant wives. I do believe that," Wheeler said. "I think they did a nice job with everything else. But there are a lot of guys with pregnant wives right now, whether it's later on in the pregnancy, early on in the pregnancy, they are at risk. It's a very serious thing as we all know. Maybe they should have thought about that a little bit more. I don't know. Like I said, I can only worry about myself and do as much as I can personally to protect my wife."

Wheeler signed a five-year, $118 million contract in December.

Players who opt out of the season do not get paid their prorated salaries unless they have an underlying health condition that makes playing too risky.

Baseball-wise, Wheeler is on a good track. During the shutdown, he maintained his throwing program back home in Georgia. He got up to 80 pitches in his bullpen sessions at home and faced hitters in camp on Saturday. With the uncertainty surrounding Aaron Nola — he's throwing at a nearby facility but has not joined the team for official workouts — Wheeler could end up starting the season opener July 23 or 24.

That is, if the virus allows for a season opener. 

And all is well at home.

Wheeler expects to take the permitted three days paternity leave once the baby arrives. Then he will need to go through testing and health protocols before rejoining the team. He estimated that he would miss at least a start, maybe two.

The Phillies are prepared for sudden changes in their pitching rotations. Girardi said he'll have relievers piggybacked with each starter and a five-man starting staff with the backup club in Lehigh Valley.

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