Phillies

It’s time for the Phillies to say something about Gabe Kapler’s future

It’s time for the Phillies to say something about Gabe Kapler’s future

Update: No announcement or resolution is expected Wednesday, either.

All right, what's going on here?

It's been more than two days since the Phillies' season ended and we still don't know if manager Gabe Kapler will be back next season.

Maybe the Phillies are going to stick with him and don't feel that an official announcement is necessary because Kapler has a year remaining on his contract.

Or maybe his status is still under review. General manager Matt Klentak hired Kapler and just two weeks ago publicly praised his work. Even after two disappointing seasons, Klentak is no hurry to fire his handpicked manager and put himself directly in the line of fire. It's clear that Kapler's fate is in the hands of owner John Middleton.

According to sources, Middleton has spent much time over the past week seeking opinions about his organization, the work of the front office and the manager in particular.

Middleton was not happy with the way the 2019 season went, not happy that the Phillies' postseason drought is up to eight years. He appears ready to make changes, or maybe we should say more changes because he pushed for the dismissal of hitting coach John Mallee in August.

But the question remains: Will he? If he does, how high will the changes go? Will he make changes at the executive level or will they simply be directed at the field level, where Kapler has posted a 161-163 record in two disappointing seasons?

Middleton is known to be a methodical decision-maker who turns over every stone seeking information when considering a change. But two days after the season has been completed seems to be ample time for him to meet with the people he desired to speak with, even if some of them are players. Twice in the past week, Bryce Harper said he'd be willing to speak with ownership about the season, the team — anything — if he was asked to.

If Middleton intends to make changes, time is ticking for a few reasons.

One, other teams with managerial openings will be able to get a jump on the Phils in interviewing available candidates.

Two, Major League Baseball frowns on teams making significant announcements during the postseason. MLB wants attention to be focused on the events on the field and the teams that are actually playing.

The postseason began Tuesday night with the National League wild-card game. It continues on Wednesday night with the American League wild-card game. The postseason really heats up on Thursday with a pair of NL Division Series games, starting at 5 p.m., Eastern time.

The Commissioner's office would be none too happy if the Phillies — or any other club — were to make news during one of these games. So if you're looking for the timing of a potential announcement these next few days, noontime or before would make sense.

The third reason that the Phillies are on the clock is Kapler himself. He is a very fair guy and a very aware guy. He knows his fate is twisting in the wind and being debated in headlines and on the airwaves. Is it fair to keep him flapping in the breeze? Ditto for some members of the coaching staff who are tied to him. And ditto for the 2.7 million people who came through the turnstiles this season. They want to know, too.

A resolution needs to come soon.

Is Gabe Kapler staying?

Is he going?

What about the rest of the staff?

It's time for the Phillies to say something either way.

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At the Yard podcast: So many questions about Phillies free agency

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At the Yard podcast: So many questions about Phillies free agency

The Phillies free agency questions have been pouring in this offseason and Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman answered some on Monday's At the Yard podcast.

• Does MLB need a free agency deadline?

• Notable early signings last year

• Who will close?

• Future outlook for Aaron Nola

• Astros sign stealing

• What would make 2020 a success for Phillies?

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Phillies free-agent target: Gerrit Cole

Phillies free-agent target: Gerrit Cole

Leading up to baseball’s winter meetings, we will take a daily look at some of the game’s top free agents and how they could potentially impact the Phillies.

We start with pitcher Gerrit Cole, who is bound to sign a record-setting contract.

The vitals

The powerful 29-year-old right-hander and former No. 1 overall draft pick (by Pittsburgh in 2011) is the unquestioned prize of this winter’s free-agent class. He has built an impressive career resume, especially recently. He is 35-10 with 2.68 ERA and 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 65 starts over the last two seasons for the Houston Astros. He is durable and postseason tested. He went 20-5 with an American League-best 2.50 ERA in 33 starts in 2019. He had an 0.895 WHIP and led the majors with 326 strikeouts. For the season, his fastball averaged 97.1 mph, according to Statcast. Only the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard chucked it harder at 98.1 mph. 

Why he fits

Because he’s one of the best pitchers in the game and would immediately make the Phillies better as they try to live up to general manager Matt Klentak’s goal of winning now. Cole would give the Phils an ace who could stand up to Max Scherzer in Washington, Jacob deGrom in New York and the lineup in Atlanta. As an unquestioned No. 1, he’d take pressure off Aaron Nola, who felt some down the stretch in 2019.

Why he doesn’t fit

“If this were major-league Christmas, we would be looking at 30 stockings that clearly wanted a lump of Cole,” agent Scott Boras said of his client as the market opened last week.

The competition for Cole will be intense as teams from the game’s largest markets bid for his services. Cole is from Southern California and word is the Los Angeles Angels are ready to back up the truck for him. The mega-rich New York Yankees also want him. That sets up a nirvana-like situation for Boras, who can play the two markets off each other. The Phillies will be in on Cole — they’ve already touched base with Boras — and they cannot be counted out because they have money and an owner willing to spend. However, given what it might take to sign Cole, the Phillies might be better off spreading their money around and trying to fill multiple holes in the rotation and lineup.

The price tag

Cole is right in the middle of his prime years. There has been speculation that he could fetch $300 million in a long-term deal. He almost surely will eclipse David Price’s $217 million deal with Boston, a record for a pitcher, and could top Justin Verlander’s annual salary of $33 million, also a record for a pitcher. In other words, he’ll be expensive.

Scout’s take

“It took a while, but it looks like he found out how good his stuff is and his success has given him great confidence. He really knows how to utilize that great fastball high in the strike zone.”

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