Phillies

Maikel Franco appears to be latest unhappy piece in Gabe Kapler's lineup puzzle

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USA Today Images

Maikel Franco appears to be latest unhappy piece in Gabe Kapler's lineup puzzle

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Maikel Franco arrived at Tropicana Field on Friday afternoon, looked at the Phillies lineup card and learned he would not start for the second time in three games.

Sitting in the clubhouse, the third baseman said he was not upset.

An hour later, his body language seemed to say something different.

During batting practice, Franco had about a 12-minute conversation with manager Gabe Kapler near first base. Franco, at times, appeared emotional as he spoke with Kapler. First baseman Carlos Santana, a fellow Dominican who has become a mentor to Franco, and Diego Ettedgui, the team’s Spanish language translator, were also involved in the discussion. Kapler, who is committed to “communicating relentlessly” with his players, initiated the conversation. He confirmed that the topic was about playing time.

Franco, one of the most personable and upbeat players on the team, brushed off a question about the conversation after batting practice. He said it was about something “outside of baseball.” Earlier, he had vowed to do his pregame work and be ready if called upon.

“Of course, I want to play but this is something I can’t control,” he said.

While it's commendable that Franco did not want to make waves, the matter once again illustrated how potentially unwieldy Kapler’s plan to get all of his players game reps may end up being. Franco sat in favor of Scott Kingery, whose play warrants being in the lineup. But Franco was hot, driving in 11 runs in the first four games of the team’s recent 5-1 homestand, before sitting out the fifth game and taking an 0-fer in the sixth game.

Among Phillies players, only Santana had a history (1 for 2) against Jake Faria, Tampa Bay's starter Friday night.

Kapler was asked if he saw something in the matchup that led him to sit Franco.

“Nothing specifically," he said. "We just really wanted to get a few other people in the lineup."

Franco will likely play Saturday night at third base or as the designated hitter. But then what happens to Kingery? Will he bump shortstop J.P. Crawford, who the team is committed to developing, someone in the outfield, or perhaps second baseman Cesar Hernandez?

It’s a nightly lineup puzzle for Kapler and 11 games into the season it has made some players unhappy, starting with Odubel Herrera on opening day, to Nick Williams and his computer lineup comment, and now to Franco, who despite saying otherwise, clearly isn’t happy to see his hot bat be placed in the fridge.

Kapler remains consistent: He says this can all work and that everyone is going to get the reps needed to be happy, healthy and productive.

Time will tell.

As for Franco, who had some rhythm going before his absence from the lineup …

“We actually think that he’ll have plenty of opportunities to get into those rhythms and he'll likely play in a nice little stretch going forward,” Kapler said. “It’s just a big puzzle and we want to make sure everybody is getting into the lineup. Every day we’re going to come to the ballpark and one person is not going to play that day and we understand that’s going to be tough and we’ll address with the players individually and remind them that they’re going to play a lot going forward and have opportunities to get into really good rhythms.”

Surprising how many NL teams let Justin Bour slip to Phillies

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AP Images

Surprising how many NL teams let Justin Bour slip to Phillies

The Justin Bour-Matt Stairs comparison has been a popular one in the days since the Phillies surprisingly acquired Bour from the Marlins. Big, burly, power-hitting, left-handed first basemen.

But in several other ways, this move was different. 

• Bour is 10 years younger than Stairs was when the Phils traded for him in 2008. 

• Bour was acquired the second week of August; Stairs was acquired at the end of August. Stairs had just 19 regular-season plate appearances with the Phils in 2008. Bour should be able to double that pretty easily.

• Stairs was under contract for the following season. Bour is under contract the next two seasons after this one.

That last point was why it was so surprising that various NL teams let Bour slide through the waiver order and make it to the Phillies. 

A refresher: Once August hits, in order to trade a player, a team must first place him on waivers. The waiver queue is based on the inverse order of the standings in that player's league. So when Bour is placed on waivers, the worst team in the NL gets first dibs. If he passed through every NL team unclaimed, the worst AL team would get next crack at him and so on. (More on August trade rules here.)

It would have been one thing if Bour was a rental. In that case, he would have made sense only for contenders.

But Bour isn't a rental. He was awarded a $3.4 million salary this season, his first of arbitration eligibility. He's under team control each of the next two seasons and figures to make an estimated $14 million in 2019 and 2020 combined.

That's not a ton of money for a starting-caliber first baseman who has an .821 OPS since 2015 with 31 homers per 162 games.

Where were the Mets? Where were the Rockies? The Pirates?

The Mets have no offense. At first base, they've been playing Wilmer Flores, who is not the long-term answer. Prospect Dom Smith has hit .193 in 257 big-league plate appearances and has also had a poor season at Triple A. 

If you're the Mets, a team that acts as a small-market club with little money to spend, why not take a flier on Bour for a modest price over the next two seasons? Is anyone awake in Flushing?

The Rockies, a contender, haven't gotten great production from first base. It's been a combination of Ian Desmond and left-handed hitting Ryan McMahon. Against righties, Bour is an upgrade over both.

When Bour was placed on waivers at the beginning of the month, Pirates 1B Josh Bell was on the DL. Bell, a switch-hitter the Pirates are high on, has been a league-average first baseman since getting to the majors. He's been good against right-handed pitching but Bour has just been better, with a career OPS 73 points higher. 

The money

It will be interesting to see whether the Phillies keep Bour around past this season. If he produces as a pinch-hitter and fits in, he'd be a valuable bench bat to have. He'd be valuable insurance for Carlos Santana.

One of the things to really like about Bour is his production against pitching within the division. He's 8 for 21 (.381) with two homers, a double and three walks against Jacob deGrom. Yes, that Jacob deGrom. Bour has been one of the very best hitters in the league against deGrom during the righty's stellar career.

Bour has gone a respectable 5 for 17 (.294) vs. Noah Syndergaard. 

He's reached base in 17 of 28 plate appearances vs. Julio Teheran. 

He's 8 for 15 with two homers and a double against Mike Foltynewicz.

He has a homer and a .385 OBP in 26 plate appearances vs. Stephen Strasburg.

This all matters moving forward in a division with so many high-quality starting pitchers.

The Phillies are a deep-pocketed team that could afford to pay Bour $5.5 million or so next season as a non-regular. Not every team is in that position but the Phils are. Aside from their arbitration-eligible players, the Phils have just six players under contract for 2019: Jake Arrieta, Santana, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Odubel Herrera and Scott Kingery.

Their decision whether to keep Bour around, trade him or non-tender him will obviously be affected by their pursuit of top free agents like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. It will also be affected by how the Phils approach the pending free agency of Wilson Ramos and Asdrubal Cabrera, two players who make even more sense to retain because of the positions they play.

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Phillies are just another team to Freddy Galvis — wink, wink

Phillies are just another team to Freddy Galvis — wink, wink

SAN DIEGO – Deep down inside, this had to be sweet for Freddy Galvis.

But outwardly?

Just another day. Just another game. Just another team.

Galvis, traded from the Phillies to San Diego in December, has haunted his former club in six games this season. He is 10 for 22 with nine RBIs. Five of them came this weekend as the Padres took two of three from the Phillies.

Galvis, 28, launched the first grand slam of his career in the third inning Sunday to help lead a 9-3 Padres’ win over his old team. The grand slam was a 409-foot bomb – in Ted Williams’ hometown – against Jake Arrieta.

“Freddy Galvis has swung the bat against us very well all year long,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Give him some credit for continuing to swing the bat well and putting good at-bats together.”

Galvis signed with the Phillies in the summer of 2006. He was just 16 at the time. He spent a dozen years in the organization, rising to become the team’s regular shortstop for three seasons after Jimmy Rollins moved on.

Galvis never got on base enough for a Phillies management team that took over before the 2016 season, and he was traded for pitching prospect Enyel De Los Santos last winter. The Phillies shortstop position has been in flux since with J.P. Crawford, Scott Kingery and now Asdrubal Cabrera all playing there this season. Manny Machado will be a free-agent target this winter and could be the next to hold down the position — the Phillies hope.

Meanwhile, Galvis plays on. He is having a typical Freddy Galvis season, hitting .237 with some pop — eight homers and 48 RBIs. His on-base percentage is just .296. His defense remains top-shelf.

Galvis harbors no hard feelings against his old team for moving on without him. He said he understands the business of the game.

But still, that grannie against Arrieta had to feel awfully good, right?

“No, I treat those guys like any another team,” Galvis said. “Play hard, play ball and that’s it.”

Galvis was asked how he was able to treat a team he’d spent so much of his life with as just another club.

“I guess I’m a pro,” he said. “I’m a professional. That’s what I am. I just play the game the right way and that’s it.”

Still, it is not lost on Galvis that he has put up big numbers against the Phillies this season.

Ten hits, nine RBIs …

“Good one, huh?” he said with a smile.

Yeah, pretty good.

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