Carlos Santana at 3B, Rhys Hoskins at 1B, Bryce Harper in the outfield?

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Carlos Santana at 3B, Rhys Hoskins at 1B, Bryce Harper in the outfield?

Updated: 9:30 p.m.

Wednesday night, the Phillies won their first series over any team other than the Marlins since July 25.

Carlos Santana started and played all nine innings at third base.

The more the Phillies use Santana at third base in a race to win the NL East, the more realistic it seems that we could see him play there next season. It's a more logical and probably more fruitful possibility than eating some of his contract to trade him.

This creates some interesting offseason dynamics. If the Phillies feel comfortable enough with Santana at third base, they could move Rhys Hoskins back to first base and have a natural spot for impending free agent Bryce Harper. (This would obviously mean a trade of Maikel Franco or more of a bench role.)

I've been on record this summer saying I expect Harper to sign with the Phillies. Odds released Wednesday by Bovada have the Phillies as the fourth-most-likely team to land Harper, behind the Cubs, Dodgers and Yankees, in that order.

Playing Santana at third base obviously would not be ideal. But it could be the most ideal setup the Phillies can piece together in 2019 if it means adding Harper and putting Hoskins back at his natural position. The Phils would be worse defensively at third base but better defensively in the corner outfield.

And they'd clearly be a much-improved offensive team.

Could the Santana-third base experiment carry over into next season?

"We're looking at it as a possibility to see how comfortable we feel with it," manager Gabe Kapler said Wednesday. "So far, it looks fine, but we're not going to cover this with a blanket.

"We don't ever expect him to be the best third baseman in baseball, we're just looking for him to catch the ball because we're optimizing for other things.

"I think he's done an admirable job over there under the circumstances. I don't think there's been a whole lot of action that would give us one feeling one way or the other. I think he's caught all the balls that have come his way. There haven't been a whole lot of opportunities for him to range left or right or towards home plate or behind him."

Santana has started just 32 of his 1,065 major-league games at third base. Six of them have come this season with the Phillies. He's played 49 innings there, error-free, after playing 226 innings at the hot corner for the 2014 Indians.

An example of what the Phillies would lose defensively with Santana at third: Last Friday night in the Phils' 14-2 win over Miami, J.T. Realmuto hit a sharp grounder directly at Santana, a potential 5-4-3 double play. Santana bobbled the ball momentarily before firing a strike to second base. The return throw to first didn't result in a double play, the way it likely would have if a more sure-handed third baseman started it.

But, again, under that scenario, the Phillies would have a substantially better lineup. You could be looking at a lineup with Harper batting second, Hoskins at cleanup and Santana in the five-hole. A team can win a division with Santana as its third- or fourth-best offensive player, despite how many Phillies fans feel about him.

The other component of this is that in order to play Santana at third base, you better have an above-average defensive shortstop. Scott Kingery has improved defensively at short but he's not yet an above-average defensive shortstop. There isn't much evidence at the major- or minor-league level that J.P. Crawford can be an above-average defensive shortstop. He flashes brilliance but also makes too many errant throws on routine plays.

Finding that shortstop may require some creativity. Aside from Manny Machado, the best free-agent options are Freddy Galvis, Alcides Escobar and Jose Iglesias — defense-first players who can't hit.

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Joe Maddon hired by Angels, officially off the board for Phillies manager opening

Joe Maddon hired by Angels, officially off the board for Phillies manager opening

The first of the eight manager jobs open across Major League Baseball to begin this offseason has been filled.

The Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday announced the hiring of Joe Maddon. Maddon's contract is reportedly for three years. A native of West Hazleton, Pennsylvania, Maddon has a long history in the Angels organization. Between 1975 and 2006, Maddon played and managed in the team's minor-league system, served as a coach with the Major League club and assumed the role of interim manager.

Maddon has a 1,251-1,068 record as a manager in the major leagues. He led the Tampa Bay Rays to an American League pennant in 2008 and skippered the Chicago Cubs to a World Series in 2016, their first championship since 1908. Maddon will take over an Angels team that finished 72-90 in 2019, led by two-time MVP Mike Trout.

Though Maddon might have appeared to be an attractive name for the Phillies job, Joe Girardi, Buck Showalter and Dusty Baker are the only candidates known for the position at the moment, according to Jim Salisbury. Baker is meeting with Phillies officials Wednesday, and a hire could come quickly, per Salisbury (see story).

USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports Showalter was the runner-up for the Angles job.

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It's clear Phillies want an experienced manager — could a hire come quickly?

It's clear Phillies want an experienced manager — could a hire come quickly?

Phillies officials are busy again Wednesday as they look to fill the team’s open manager’s position.

According to sources, club officials are meeting Wednesday with veteran skipper Dusty Baker.

The meeting comes after team officials interviewed Buck Showalter on Monday. It is believed that club officials also met with Joe Girardi on Monday.

At the moment, these are the only known candidates for the Phillies’ job, though more could emerge. 

Between them, Baker, Showalter and Girardi have 53 years of big-league managing experience and they have won a combined seven manager of the year awards and 13 division titles. Girardi led the New York Yankees to the World Series title in 2009. His club beat the Phillies in six games.

At a news conference Friday, the day after the Phillies announced Gabe Kapler’s firing, team officials were not specific when asked what qualities they were looking for in a new manager. But by focusing on Girardi, Showalter and Baker, the Phillies are clearly looking for big-league experience in their next skipper, and a person with knowledge of the Phillies’ thinking confirmed this.

“They want major-league experience,” the person said. 

If the Phillies’ search is limited to just Girardi, Showalter and Baker, the club could conceivably make a quick hire — maybe as soon as next week. Monday is a scheduled off day between the League Championship Series and World Series. Thursday is a scheduled off day between Games 2 and 3 of the World Series. Major League Baseball frowns on significant announcements during the postseason but it could OK a managerial announcement on an off day.

If the World Series goes seven games, it would end on October 30.

It is not clear who the Phillies’ top candidate is. It very well could be Girardi because of his experience working with a front office that values the use of analytics in building a roster and running a game. The Yankees are one of baseball’s analytic powerhouses. Girardi, however, is a former catcher who also relies on feel in running a game. That balance could be attractive to the Phillies.

Girardi has also interviewed for the Chicago Cubs’ manager’s job and is said to be on the list of candidates for the New York Mets’ opening. Showalter and Baker have not been mentioned, at least publicly, for other openings. Showalter has extensive connections to the Phillies’ front office. He worked closely with several high-ranking Phillies officials during their time in Baltimore. Showalter skippered the Orioles from 2010 through 2018. He is very interested in the Phillies' job and, according to sources, has done homework on the team's roster.

Baker has 22 years of big-league managerial experience and is a three-time NL manager of the year. He last managed the Washington Nationals in 2017 and led that club to 97 wins and the NL East title.

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