Phillies

Jake Arrieta makes a promise to Philadelphia

Jake Arrieta makes a promise to Philadelphia

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jake Arrieta knows something about rebuilding efforts. He joined the Chicago Cubs during a 96-loss season in 2013. Two years later, he won the National League Cy Young Award and helped the Cubs win 97 games. A year later, the Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years.

Arrieta had 75 million reasons to come to Philadelphia.

Make it 75 million plus one.

"I knew this was an organization that was hungry to win and would do the necessary things to take that step," he said. "I feel like we're not far away. I think rebuild is a loose term. A rebuild doesn't mean you can't win now. 

"I intend to come in here and win right away. Even though we are technically in a rebuild, I think all the players would agree with me that we intend to win, rebuild or not."

The Phillies made a late push over the weekend to sign Arrieta. He is guaranteed $75 million over three years and there is a team option to extend the deal to five years. The Padres, Brewers and Nationals were all in the running for him, according to sources.

Arrieta was introduced in a news conference at the Phillies' spring training site Tuesday morning. A number of players attended the news conference — in uniform. An hour later, Arrieta joined them on the field in uniform.

During the news conference, Arrieta spoke to his new teammates — and the fans.

"A message I want to send to not only the players but to Philadelphia in general and the entire Phillies nation is that what we're going to do here is we're going to promise a fight," the pitcher said. "There is no guarantee you're going to feel good or you're going to have your best stuff or you're going to get a great night sleep the night before. But what we can promise is that we're going to have conviction, we're going to fight and we're going to win at the end of the day.

"I couldn't be happier to be a Phillie. I look forward to getting on the field with my teammates and winning some games."

Though his free agency lingered into March, Arrieta is well conditioned. He had gotten up to 65 pitches in bullpen workouts back home in Texas. He believes he can be ready to pitch during the first week of the regular season. The Phillies have not yet come up with a plan. Regardless, Arrieta projects to reach the 30 starts that he has averaged the last four years.

"My body is in tremendous shape," the 32-year-old right-hander said. "Obviously, I haven't been in a game yet but I'm a quick learner and I like my chances at getting ready."

Phillies catch a break this week vs. Yankees

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Phillies catch a break this week vs. Yankees

WASHINGTON — The Phillies will catch a break this week when the Yankees come to town. Starting catcher Gary Sanchez is likely headed to the DL after coming up lame on a groundball in extra innings Sunday.

Sanchez was trying to leg out a double-play ball in the top of the 10th in Tampa Bay when he injured his groin area. He walked off the field carefully, and after the game, Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters his catcher is likely going on the shelf. Monday's MRI will determine it.

It's a break for the Phils against a ridiculously deep Yankees lineup. Sanchez is hitting just .190, but he's a huge power threat with 14 homers and 14 doubles. Since 2016, Sanchez has 67 home runs despite averaging just 340 plate appearances per season over that span. It's by far the most HR hit by any player with that few PAs.

Even with Sanchez out, the Phils will have to deal with a formidable offense. You've got Aaron Judge batting second with his league-best power and .393 OBP. You've got Giancarlo Stanton, who's heating up and went 5 for 5 with a pair of doubles Sunday. Rookie Miguel Andujar has been better than anyone anticipated, entering the week hitting .284 with 11 homers, 35 RBI and a .836 OPS.

But because the series is at Citizens Bank Park and the Yankees won't have a DH, they likely won't play Aaron Hicks. In effect, the Yankees will be without their regular Nos. 5 and 6 hitters.

The pitching matchups for the series are:

Monday — Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) vs. Jonathan Loaisiga (1-0, 3.12)

Tuesday — Jake Arrieta (5-5, 3.42) vs. Luis Severino (11-2, 2.24)

Wednesday — Zach Eflin (5-2, 3.42) vs. Luis Cessa (0-0, 3.00)

Loaisiga has a great nickname: Johnny Lasagna.

Severino is one of the AL's toughest customers. 

Cessa has not started a game this season and has a 4.54 ERA in 14 career starts.

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Report linking Padres to Maikel Franco seems like no coincidence

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Report linking Padres to Maikel Franco seems like no coincidence

WASHINGTON — It doesn't seem like a coincidence that Ken Rosenthal's report of the Padres' interest in Maikel Franco came after Franco's best game of the season Saturday.

Franco has been available for quite a while and no team has bit. Saturday, a few hours after Franco went 4 for 4 with three key hits and scored twice (see story), Rosenthal reported San Diego's interest.

While one 4-for-4 game won't sway a front office, the Padres do make sense as a Franco destination. They won't be competing for a little while, they don't run high payrolls and they have an unsettled 3B situation. 

Second-year third baseman Christian Villanueva has hit 16 home runs in 230 plate appearances for San Diego this season (including a major-league-best 11 vs. lefties) but he's batting .230 with a .300 OBP and has hit .173 since May 2.

Power, .230 batting average, .300 OBP ... sounds like Franco, doesn't it?

Gabe Kapler talked on Friday about the "fixes" the Phils need to see from Franco (see story), namely putting the ball in the air more. It's strange, but for a player who swings and misses and chases bad pitches as much as Franco, he does not strike out much. Since the start of 2016, 92 percent of major-leaguers have a higher strikeout rate.

Yet when Franco makes contact, it's often been weak contact. Groundballs to the left side. Pop flies to the shallow outfield. The Phillies want him to get away from that and focus on driving the ball more. Perhaps that will mean a few more K's as a result, but they'll take it if it's accompanied by more consistent pop.

Replacing Franco

The Phillies right now wouldn't trade Franco without first having a ready-made replacement. Maybe that's Adrian Beltre, maybe it's Royals rental 3B Mike Moustakas. 

But if the Phils don't first acquire a third baseman, it would make no sense for a team in contention to trade away its starting third baseman while J.P. Crawford is on the DL.

They're not going to move Franco only to replace him with Mitch Walding.

Potential return from Padres

In Rosenthal's report, he mentions San Diego relievers Brad Hand, Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen.

First things first, you're not getting Brad Hand straight up for Maikel Franco. That's crazy talk. Hand, a lefty, has been one of baseball's best relievers the last three seasons, posting a 2.53 ERA in 189 appearances with 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings. He led MLB in games pitched in 2016, made the All-Star team in 2017 and leads the NL in saves this season.

Hand is one of San Diego's best trade assets, if not its best. The Padres would be looking for more in return than a third baseman with a .300 career OBP who is an average-at-best defender.

Yates, a righty, is having by far the best season of his five-year career. He has a 0.90 ERA in 30 innings with 36 strikeouts. Prior to 2018, he had a 4.78 career ERA and was extremely homer-prone.

Stammen, who Phillies fans will remember from his days with the Nationals (2009-15), has reestablished himself as a setup man in San Diego. He has a 2.02 ERA this season with impressive strikeout and walk rates. Last season, he did it over a full year, posting a 3.14 ERA in 80⅓ innings.

Hand is too much for the Padres to give up for Franco, but from a Phillies perspective, neither Yates nor Stammen should be enough. Neither setup man would change the complexion of the Phils' bullpen. Neither Yates nor Stammen would come here and be viewed as more reliable than a Tommy Hunter, for example, or higher than fourth or fifth on the Phils' bullpen pecking order. The fact that both are under control past this season helps, but the Phils have talent in the bullpen, even if it's struggled in June. 

Perhaps one of those relievers and a minor-leaguer of intrigue would get a deal done, but it seems unlikely the Phils would part with Franco straight up for a successful reliever with a brief track record.

And lastly, as trustworthy as Rosenthal is, this could be an example of wishful thinking on the part of someone in the Phillies' front office, leaking a little info to a well-known reporter to drum up interest in Franco after his best game of the season.

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