Phillies

Bryce Harper hysteria mounts for Phillies as Manny Machado mania ends

Bryce Harper hysteria mounts for Phillies as Manny Machado mania ends

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies officials started daydreaming about the possibility of putting Manny Machado in red pinstripes a couple of years ago. They tried to trade for him in July. They hosted him as a free agent at Citizens Bank Park in December, wined and dined him in Center City and subsequently made him multiple contract offers.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Phils' long pursuit of the Gold Glove infielder ended.

General manager Matt Klentak got a phone call from Machado's agent, Dan Lozano. Machado was ready to move on a contract offer from the San Diego Padres, later reported to be worth $300 million over 10 years.

Did the Phillies want to stay in the game?

"There's a certain value that we believe a player brings and we were willing to be aggressive," Klentak said in a meeting with reporters later in the day. "If the reports are true, then this contract will exceed our valuation and sometimes you have to be willing to walk away.

"We've made no secret. We're really happy for Manny. We like the player. I think San Diego will be a very good fit for him. We made our bid, put our best foot forward and he ended up signing with the Padres.

"Over the course of four months, we had ongoing dialogue. We were certainly engaged with Danny throughout and Manny would have been a good fit, but again, you have to draw the line somewhere. The Padres are getting a great player."

Klentak would not say what the Phillies' best offer was. He shook his head "no" when asked if he would have done anything differently during the negotiations.

According to sources, Machado had been coveted by the Phillies' baseball operations and analytics staffs. Both believed that in this free-agent market, he offered the best possible roster upgrade because he is an elite defender at third base in addition to being a top offensive talent.

But news of Machado's decision was not met with disappointment in all circles of the Phillies organization and it certainly was not met with disappointment by the fans.

The folks in the box office have favored this winter's other big free agent, Bryce Harper, over Machado, whose controversial comments in October about not hustling created concerns about how he'd be received by hard-nosed Philadelphia sports fans.

Harper remains the overwhelming free-agent choice of the fans, and Machado's decision to play in San Diego, coupled with the Phillies' desire to make a big free-agent score in this winter of stupid money, puts enormous public pressure on the club to land the 26-year-old outfielder.

Klentak was asked if he'd spoken with Harper's agent, Scott Boras, in the wake of the Machado news.

"I'm not going to answer that," he said.

It is difficult to imagine the opportunistic Boras not having reached out to the Phillies after Machado's signing. Phillies officials met with Boras and Harper in Las Vegas in January and the two sides remain in contact. In fact, there has been an uptick in conversation between the two sides recently.

All along, observers of this free-agent drama have believed that Machado would sign before Harper. Now that Machado has set the bar, Harper will try to jump over it. There is some industry thought that he is seeking $326 million, which would put him above the $325 million that Giancarlo Stanton got in a contract extension with the Miami Marlins.

The White Sox, Giants and Nationals, along with the Phillies, have had interest in Harper. But can any other team play in the neighborhood of $300 million? The White Sox said they weren't willing to go that high for Machado. The Giants' interest seems tied to a short-term deal. The Nats reportedly offered $300 million to retain Harper in October, but there are questions about whether the offer still exists after a busy winter of transactions in Washington.

The Phillies are very leery about bidding against themselves. That caution might have hurt them in their bid to sign Machado. It could hurt them in their quest to land Harper. By the same token, they could be rewarded if they remain patient on Harper because it is very difficult to identify which teams are really in on him. This might be a field of just one.

Klentak would not say what the Phillies' valuation of Harper is. He would not discuss what the "walk-away" point would be on Harper, though there clearly would be one.

The Phillies have largely had a productive offseason. They got better with Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto. But from Day 1, this offseason was about landing one of the big ones and there's only one of them left. Gulp.

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The first look at the 'new' Phillie Phanatic

The first look at the 'new' Phillie Phanatic

Things have ground to a halt in Philadelphia in the 48 hours since Jim Salisbury reported the Phillie Phanatic was set for a makeover of sorts. 

There’s been anger, there’s been sadness, agony, but more than anything else a sense of confusion in the city. Not confusion why. That’s all explained here. It’s been more of a philosophical why. “Why is this happening to me and to those I hold dear?”

The changes, though, aren't too significant. If you're a die-hard, you'll probably notice several of the differences, but all fans will still recognize our jolly ol' fella from the Galapagos Islands.

The first look at the “new” Phanatic will be this afternoon when the Phillies host the Pirates at 1 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia ...

... but here’s a preview. 

My guy straight up pelvic thrust his way into weight redistribution. Forever a scientific marvel.

The snout is smaller and a bit of a different shape. The tail is longer with a different color at the end. New shoes and socks. New scales(?) on the arms. And it looks like he’s seeing a new optometrist.

There are definite springtime vibes in Philly, across Florida and Arizona and in each of the major-league cities. Baseball is back and in a few short hours, we’ll get the crack of the bat and the big green guy's usual hijinks.

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Will more changeups equal more fun for Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta in 2020?

Will more changeups equal more fun for Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta in 2020?

LAKELAND, Fla. — Nick Pivetta says it doesn’t matter what role he pitches in this season, that he just wants to have fun playing baseball — that’s something that was missing last season — and help the Phillies win games.
 
But deep down inside, Pivetta desires another chance to pitch in the starting rotation. That’s why he spent his off-season working on his changeup.
 
“Every day,” he said. 
 
“I need a fourth pitch to make this starting rotation,” he added. “For me to take my next step, that's the pitch I'm going to have to have.”
 
Pivetta made his spring debut in the Phillies’ exhibition opener Saturday against the Detroit Tigers. In two innings of work, he threw 35 pitches. Seven of them were changeups. He will continue to work on the pitch all spring as he competes for the fifth starter’s job against Vince Velasquez and dark horse candidate Ranger Suarez.
 
Pivetta is 18-28 with a 5.42 ERA in 71 starts for the Phillies over the last three seasons. The clock is ticking on the 27-year-old right-hander. It’s time for him to turn some of his huge potential into consistent performance. The Phillies thought they were going to get that from Pivetta last year. They awarded him with the second start of the season, but he was sent to the minors just a few weeks later. He eventually made it back to the majors and bounced between the rotation and the bullpen. Along the way, he butted heads with manager Gabe Kapler and struggled to adapt to some of the philosophies of pitching coach Chris Young. Baseball wasn’t much fun. It never is when you have a 5.38 ERA.
 
It’s a clean slate for Pivetta now. Joe Girardi is in as manager. Bryan Price is in as pitching coach. Pivetta is upbeat.
 
“I just want to have fun playing baseball,” he said after his outing Saturday. The Phillies and Tigers played to an 8-8 tie on a chilly Florida day.
 
Using a more compact delivery and shorter arm action — he said he’s simply trying to be “more efficient” — Pivetta enjoyed a 1-2-3 first inning with his fastball reaching 96 mph. He allowed two doubles, two singles and two runs in the second inning. Two of the hits were soft.
 
Girardi has said the competition for the fifth job won’t begin in earnest until the pitchers have made a couple of starts and broken in their spikes. But Girardi liked what he saw of Pivetta his first time out.
 
“His velocity was good,” Girardi said. “He used his fastball down in the zone and up in the zone well. I thought his curveball had bite to it. His slider was pretty consistent. He threw some changeups. I thought his tempo was great. To me, you can really build off that. I don’t necessarily look at the early numbers, right? He didn’t walk people. He was ahead in the count. You start doing that and your location gets better as you get more innings under your belt and you’ve got something.”
 
Girardi had watched a lot of video of Pivetta. He liked the more compact delivery.
 
“I think his fastball is going to get on people, especially as he starts to use his off-speed more," Girardi said.
 
Girardi also liked what he saw of Pivetta’s spring project, the changeup.
 
“I think it’s a weapon for him that he needs to learn how to use to right-handers and left-handers,” the manager said. “I think he’ll continue to develop it. We’ve got time to develop it down here and we’ll see how it goes.”
 
Pivetta lost confidence in his changeup last season and threw it just 1.2 percent of the time. When he landed in the bullpen, he threw mostly just fastballs and curveballs.
 
So far in camp, pitchers have raved about their dealings with Price, whose style is to have pitchers work to their strengths. 
 
Pivetta recalled his first conversation with Price this winter. The two spoke about the importance of improving the pitcher’s changeup.
 
“With Price, when I first talked to him on the phone, something that really clicked with me was just making sure the pitch is down in the zone,” Pivetta said. “Just make sure it's down. Let the pitch do its work.
 
“Bryan is really, really good. I've really enjoyed Bryan. He has a lot of really good knowledge. I look forward to continuing to get to know him more on a personal level and really dive into the knowledge he has. He has such a vast and long history in major league baseball.”
 
The Phils host Pittsburgh in Clearwater on Sunday. Aaron Nola will start. Velasquez will get the ball Monday against Baltimore.

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