Phillies

Phillies free-agent target: Josh Donaldson

Phillies free-agent target: Josh Donaldson

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.

Today, we check in on slugging third baseman Josh Donaldson.

The vitals

Donaldson has been one of the game’s premier sluggers the last half-dozen seasons. He’s an above-average defender at third base and an outstanding competitor. He has belted at least 33 homers in four of the last five seasons and led the American League with 123 RBIs in 2015, the year he won the AL MVP for Toronto. He battled injury in 2017 and 2018, signed a one-year, $23 million contract with Atlanta a year ago and went on to prove himself healthy by finishing 11th in the National League MVP voting in 2019. He played 155 games for the Braves and hit .259 with 37 homers, 94 RBIs and a .900 OPS.

Why he fits

At a position loaded with sluggers, Donaldson is still one of the best and the Phillies have a big need. Phillies third basemen ranked 24th in OPS (.725) and batting average (.243) and 22nd in homers (23) among big-league clubs in 2019. Donaldson’s fiery style of play would quickly win him fans in Philadelphia.

Why he doesn’t fit

The injury history, coupled with his age — he turns 34 in December — would be a concern on the long-term deal he is seeking, especially when the Phillies have a young third base prospect, Alec Bohm, scheduled to play at Triple A in 2020. Donaldson is one of three big third basemen on the free-agent market with Anthony Rendon and Mike Moustakas. The Phillies have already shown an interest in Moustakas, whose price tag could still allow the team to pump significant resources into pitching.

The price tag

Donaldson jumped quickly at a one-year deal last year. That won’t happen this year. He is said to be looking for at least three years and you have to figure the average annual value will be in the neighborhood of $25 million. If Donaldson keeps producing like he did in 2019, he’d be worth it.

Scout’s take

“He loves to play. And when he’s healthy, he’s a major difference maker. There’s value in that power. The concern for me would be that it’s a long season and he could fit more in the American League because of the DH.”

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How to watch Phillies' intrasquad game Wednesday night

How to watch Phillies' intrasquad game Wednesday night

The Phillies will again stream their 6:05 p.m. intrasquad game live on their YouTube, Twitter and Facebook accounts Wednesday.

Their intrasquad games will be streamed through Friday. This weekend, the Phillies begin playing exhibition games. They face the Nationals on the road Saturday, the Orioles at home Sunday and the Yankees on the road Monday. The games Sunday and Monday (both at 6 p.m.) will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia and can be streamed live online here or on the MyTeams app.

In last night's intrasquad game, Vince Velasquez pitched well over four innings, incorporating a new cutter.

“He’s looked really good his last two outings,” Girardi said afterward. “I don’t think you can ignore what he’s doing.”

Jean Segura made a flashy play at third base, his new position. Logan Forsythe smashed a line drive that Segura gloved on a short hop, and from a knee, he lofted an accurate throw with plenty on it to Rhys Hoskins for the out. Both parts of the play were impressive and showed his range and instincts at the hot corner.

Scott Kingery hit an opposite-field solo home run, and Bryce Harper hit a 370-foot double off of lefty Jose Alvarez. Alvarez got a big swing-and-miss from Harper on a slider away, then Harper adjusted to foul off the same pitch before winning the matchup.

Kingery is expected to DH again Wednesday night as the Phillies evaluate his readiness for opening day. Kingery rejoined the team Saturday after recovering from a case of coronavirus that did not sound fun.

These intrasquad games are one of the first chances for fans to get accustomed to what baseball will look and sound like in 2020. Third-base coaches running after foul balls. Teammates collecting them by the backstop. It's even given some of the players different vantage points.

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What have Phillies players thought of Joe Girardi so far? J.T. Realmuto and Jake Arrieta weigh in

What have Phillies players thought of Joe Girardi so far? J.T. Realmuto and Jake Arrieta weigh in

Joe Girardi has yet to manage a regular-season game for the Phillies but his players have spent enough time around him to know how he operates. There was the month of spring training in Clearwater and then these last two weeks of Phillies summer camp for players to learn about his personality and how he runs a team.

Two Phillies veterans, Jake Arrieta and J.T. Realmuto, have thoroughly enjoyed Girardi so far and think he can make a real difference in the win-loss column.

"Where we're trying to go, he's already been," Realmuto said last week.

Girardi is the eighth manager Arrieta has played for in the majors and the fifth for Realmuto.

"Joe is very good about making his way around to everyone. He knows what's going on with every group," Arrieta said over the weekend. "He knows where guys are at every point throughout the day and he has conversations with everybody. I've had 10, 15 very personal conversations with him about the game, about family. He's big on those personal relationships and having those conversations to build that personal connection. 

"It's nice to see that. All good managers do that. Joe's been doing it for a long time. He's personable, he's easy to approach. Especially for young players, that's very important to have a manager you know you can go up and talk to about something that might be on your mind, questions or concerns. It's refreshing to see that."

Much has been made of Girardi's blend of old-school gut feel and understanding of the metrics that are more prevalent now than ever before in baseball. The Phillies' previous regime under Gabe Kapler was mostly numbers-based. It's not that Kapler, former pitching coach Chris Young or former hitting coach John Mallee ignored gut-feel, they were just more inclined to go with the data and the odds. That led to many growing pains, from starting pitcher workload to bullpen management to swing instruction.

"One advantage [Girardi] has over the managers I've had in the past — not to speak down on anybody — was what he was able to do in his playing career and also as a manager," Realmuto said. "He's already won a World Series. So many successful playoff seasons. That is something you can't replicate or make up and say I'm a good manager. He's actually done it. 

"That experience gives guys that much more comfort. Being able to talk to him about different situations and scenarios, just knowing he's already accomplished things most of us haven't. That gives him a leg up on the others."

Managers in baseball don't impact games as much as head coaches in the NFL or NBA. There are micro decisions throughout a baseball game but managers are not spending three hours calling plays. Baseball fans know that a manager's most important skill is leading men, creating a positive and comfortable atmosphere conducive to success. Charlie Manuel was one of the best in that regard.

"I think managers are undervalued in baseball," Realmuto said. "Just putting your players in position to succeed is not as easy as it seems. You can look at the numbers all you want and some managers will go 100% off of what the computer tells them to do. Some managers will go all off of feel. Joe has a good understanding of both, not just doing it because the piece of paper tells him but having a feel of what's going on in this hitter's head. How has he done over the last week, is he going to be confident in this situation? 

"Stuff like that will separate him from a lot of others. I definitely think the manager can help win ballgames and is going to make a difference during the season."

Arrieta cherishes having a manager he trusts to more often than not make the right decision of pulling a pitcher vs. leaving him in.

"He knows what he's doing from the first pitch to the time the last out is made," Arrieta said. "He's very good at handling a bullpen, understanding when it's time to get the starter out of the ballgame. That's something I really appreciate and I know the guys in the bullpen do as well. I'm very happy to have him."

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