Phillies

Everything in Phillies' world is on pause, even J.T. Realmuto contract discussions

Everything in Phillies' world is on pause, even J.T. Realmuto contract discussions

Trying to hammer out a contract extension with J.T. Realmuto was one of the most important items on the Phillies' to-do list this month, but that, like everything else in the baseball world, is now on hold because of the coronavirus health crisis.

General manager Matt Klentak has a policy of not commenting about ongoing negotiations, but he did confirm Tuesday that talks with Realmuto's representatives have paused.

Realmuto is signed for 2020 at $10 million. The urgency for both sides to reach agreement on a contract extension would ramp up when opening day arrives. At the moment, there is no firm date for starting the season. All anyone knows is that it won't happen until at least May 11 — and that's not a sure bet.

Realmuto is eligible for free agency at the end of the season. The Phillies have made it known that they'd like to lock him up long term. Realmuto figures to at least match the largest average salary ever given to a catcher — Joe Mauer's $23 million per season — in a multi-year deal. He could look to maximize his payday on the free-agent market but that would come with the risk of playing out the season without the security of an extension. Time will tell.

Klentak reported that "less than 20" players have remained in the Clearwater area for informal workouts at the team's training facility. The remainder of the players have followed through on Major League Baseball's recommendation to head home. Players who have stayed are working out at staggered times to avoid large groups.

On the minor league side, players have been sent home with the exception of some who are rehabilitating injuries and a handful from Venezuela.

"The priority in the last 72 hours has been making sure that all of our players are safe," Klentak said. "It's been a group effort, a very collaborative effort to get everybody home.

"We've encouraged every member of the Phillies, whether staff or player, to get where you need to be. There's no judgment. Everybody should feel comfortable making their own personal decisions and being safe."

It remains unclear how teams will proceed with some transactional business during baseball's pause. For instance, four players in Phillies' camp on minor-league deals — pitchers Francisco Liriano and Anthony Swarzak and position players Neil Walker and Logan Forsythe — can opt out of their contracts on Thursday, not that there are any other teams in operation to go to at the moment. The union and MLB are still discussing whether opt-outs still apply at this time.

Matters of player compensation and scheduling — what will the new season look like when it's green-lighted? — are also being discussed.

Klentak said there was "no update" on the condition of ailing reliever Seranthony Dominguez, who suffered a setback in his recovery from an elbow injury and could be facing season-ending surgery before the season even starts.

"We are still working through that," Klentak said. 

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Only 3 teams gained more value than Phillies from 2019 to 2020

Only 3 teams gained more value than Phillies from 2019 to 2020

The valuation of the Phillies franchise is up to $2 billion, according to Forbes. It’s an 8 percent increase from last year.

The only teams in the majors to experience a higher percentage year-over-year increase than the Phillies are the Yankees, the World Champion Nationals and the Orioles. Seven teams saw no gain or lost value: the Marlins, Pirates, Royals, Athletics, Indians, Tigers and Diamondbacks.

The Yankees are valued at $5 billion, leading the league for the 22nd straight year.

At $2 billion, the Phils’ valuation is eighth-highest in the majors. They are behind, respectively, the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs, Giants, Mets and Cardinals.

The only team with a current valuation below $1 billion is the Marlins at $980 million. Miami was the only team to lose money in 2019, according to Forbes.

MLB’s total revenue in 2019 was $10.5 billion. More than 30 percent of that was from gate receipts, which baseball would not have in 2020 if games are played in empty stadiums. That was the largest chunk, followed by national TV deals, local TV deals and sponsorships.

The Phillies’ 13-year investment in Bryce Harper and the resulting increase in attendance and merchandise sales played an obvious role in the increase but the terms of rights deals are one of the biggest drivers of organizational values.

League-wide, profits have never been higher, which puts MLB in a position to at least withstand the pain of a shortened 2020 season. Forbes estimates that coronavirus concerns will cost U.S. pro sports leagues $5 billion.

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What must Scott Kingery do to make the next leap Phillies need?

What must Scott Kingery do to make the next leap Phillies need?

Scott Kingery hit his first major-league home run two years ago today, a solo shot to left-center at Citizens Bank Park against Reds left-hander Cody Reed.

Kingery's first two weeks in the majors went well but his rookie season was a slog after that. He expanded the strike zone a ton, struck out more than you'd like and barely got on base when the hits weren't falling.

Kingery took a big step forward last season at age 25. He missed a month between April 19 and May 19 with a hamstring injury but hit .347 from opening day through June 1. 

In the month of June, he was an extra-base hit machine with nine doubles, a triple and seven home runs in 114 plate appearances.

August was another productive month for Kingery. He hit .287 with 13 extra-base hits and an .825 OPS. 

All told, it was a solid second season from Kingery. His .788 OPS was exactly the league average, and his extra-base hit total increased from 33 to 57 in just 16 additional plate appearances. When you factor in the strong defense he has played at six different positions, the value is easy to see.

Kingery has started games at second base, third base, shortstop and all three outfield spots. No major-leaguer since 1958 has amassed as many plate appearances in his first two seasons (984) while playing all those positions. That's not just a random fact — it illustrates the rarity of a player being not just a super-utility player but a super-utility starter, and how doubly rare it is for a player to begin his career in that role. 

In 2020, whenever the season begins, Kingery will likely be at second base for the majority of the season. Things can change quickly, though. If Jean Segura suffers an injury, Kingery could shift to third base. If Didi Gregorius gets hurt, Kingery or Segura would slide over to short. If there are injuries in center field, Kingery would likely be the next man up after Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley.

Kingery's versatility is a good thing, not a bad thing, though it probably cost him some offensive effectiveness over his first two seasons. Kingery remarked this offseason that by preparing for so many different positions, there have been many nights in his first two big-league seasons that he felt spent by game time.

His biggest issue at the plate is his constant expansion of the strike zone. Kingery knows it. It's a goal of his to be better at laying off of pitches he has no chance of making good contact with.

Through two seasons, Kingery's strikeout-to-walk ratio is ugly. He's whiffed 273 times and taken 58 walks. No Phillie has struck out that many times in his first two seasons since Pat Burrell in 2001 — but Burrell also walked 75 more times than Kingery has.

Last season, 24% of the pitches Kingery saw were low and away off the plate. He swung at those low-and-away pitches nearly 30% of the time and hit just .127. Obviously, that is a zone a hitter would rather leave alone. 

Kingery's selectivity must improve for him to reach a higher offensive level. There are 118 players with as many plate appearances as him the last two seasons and Kingery ranks 108th in walks.

The Phillies are not relying on Kingery to be their offensive centerpiece or even their sixth-best hitter. However, they'd be so much stronger as a lineup if Kingery could maneuver his way closer to the top of the order and produce. If Kingery could provide consistency in the 2-hole, it would allow someone like J.T. Realmuto or Didi Gregorius to move into more of a run-producing role. And even if Kingery does stay in the 7-spot in the lineup for most of the season, he has a chance to lengthen the Phillies' lineup and turn it into one of the NL's best if he can build on his sophomore season.

Kingery had a .315 on-base percentage last season. The league average was .323. Had he reached base just 10 more times in his 500 plate appearances, he'd have been at .334, which is the same as Realmuto's OBP the last three seasons.

It's a realistic target for Kingery, who does not need to become the next Chase Utley to be valuable or to live up to the $24 million contract he signed before ever playing a major-league game.

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