Phillies

Manny Machado and Bryce Harper aren't feeling Philadelphia, according to report

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Manny Machado and Bryce Harper aren't feeling Philadelphia, according to report

The baseball world goes into a brief slumber during the period between Christmas Eve and New Year's. Last year at this time, a few minor moves were finalized by teams on Dec. 26, and Wade Davis signed a multi-year contract with the Rockies on Dec. 29, but other than that, there weren't any moves of consequence until mid-January.

Obviously, at this point, the decisions of both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will come in the calendar year 2019. And the longer the Phillies go this offseason with a roster including neither, the more antsy and worried fans are going to get. It's already evident, the unease from a fan base that was expecting at least one of the stars to put pen to paper and join the Phillies.

It's interesting how much the narrative has shifted this offseason and it's again why you can't put much stock in random gossip at the beginning of free agency. Remember when anonymous executives were telling a few national baseball reporters that the Phillies were the heavy favorite to get Machado/Harper and that the entire MLB offseason ran through them? 

That eventually shifted to the more measured sentiment that maybe the Phillies don't get one of them, despite the money they're willing to spend. The Phils cannot force anyone to sign with them, all they can do is offer the most money, which at the end of the day, they probably will for Machado.

The latest bit of info from Joel Sherman of the New York Post won't make anyone around here feel much better.

"Word is neither player particularly likes Philadelphia and both would have preferred the Yankees, who have shown little interest in Harper," Sherman wrote Wednesday.

Machado liked Philly enough earlier this month to make it his third visit in a week that included prior stops to hear the sales pitches of White Sox and Yankees. And if/when the Phillies offer him upwards of $300 million, Machado and agent Dan Lozano will like that too. If nothing else, it will give them leverage. 

And if, at the end of the day, all Machado's camp seeks is leverage from a deep-pocketed team, what else can the Phillies do? 

It's been clear since midseason that Machado would like to be a Yankee. Truth be told, that's where I expect him to land at this point, and I can already envision the introductory press conference with him donning a Yankees cap and saying, "This is where I always wanted to be. All those years playing the Yankees 20 times a year, I knew this was the right fit for me."

The Phillies will likely need to outbid the Yankees to get Machado but there's a limit to everything. They're not going to outbid the Yankees by $100 million over the same number of years under contract, for example, despite the Phils' desperation to land a star. Nor should they need to. If it requires beating the Yankees' offer that substantially, then it shows the player never really wanted to be here, to begin with.

The same four teams continue to hover around the talks for Machado and Harper. The Phillies and Yankees are the two likeliest spots for Machado; the White Sox and Dodgers are the two likeliest spots for Harper.

It would make things interesting if Machado were to sign first with the Yankees. Then, with no star infielder on the board, the Phillies' attention would shift to Harper, creating a bidding war against the Dodgers and White Sox that might be easier to win, and one that doesn't include a strong preference from Harper, at least none that has been made as public as Machado's affinity for the Yankees.

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Roman Quinn sidelined again, high-priced David Robertson out for next season

Roman Quinn sidelined again, high-priced David Robertson out for next season

The injured list is Roman Quinn’s unfortunate home away from home. And now, the 26-year-old outfielder is back there for the third time this season.

Quinn suffered a strained right groin muscle in the ninth inning of Friday night’s game at Citizens Bank Park. It is a similar injury to the one that forced him to spend a month on the IL earlier this season, though not as severe.

The injury comes at a time when Quinn’s exciting talents seemed to be coming together. He was hitting .368 with a 1.139 OPS in 13 games in August. He had a double, a triple, three homers and was 4 for 4 in stolen base attempts.

There is probably enough time left in the season for Quinn to make it back, but it’s safe to say he’ll miss at least a couple of weeks and that's a loss to the Phillies' lineup.

Injuries have been a huge and frustrating issue for the likable switch-hitter who was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2011 out of the Florida panhandle town of Port St. Joe.

Quinn has missed significant time in his minor- and major-league career with a torn quadriceps, a torn Achilles tendon, a strained elbow ligament, a torn ligament in his middle finger, a concussion and a broken toe. He missed the start of this season while recovering from an oblique strain suffered in spring training then went down with a groin injury in May.

With Quinn out, the Phillies will likely turn to Adam Haseley more often in center field.

The Phillies filled Quinn’s roster spot by adding reliever Jared Hughes. He was picked up off waivers from Cincinnati earlier in the week.

There was more injury news Saturday. As expected, Jake Arrieta will have season-ending surgery to clean up a bone spur in his elbow (see story). The surgery will happen before the end of the month and he’ll have plenty of time to get ready for spring training. Arrieta is under contract for $20 million next season.

David Robertson will not be ready for spring training. In fact, he probably will not pitch next season. The team said he had Tommy John surgery on Thursday. That typically requires a recovery of at least 14 months. 

Robertson, 34, signed a two-year, $23 million deal with the Phillies in December. He ended up pitching just 6 2/3 innings over seven appearances before landing on the IL with a sore elbow in April.

The Phillies have sunk some serious money into veteran relievers and gotten little in return because of injuries. Pat Neshek, 38, signed a two-year, $16.25 million contract before the 2018 season. He pitched in just 30 games last season and 20 this season. He has only pitched once since May 23 and likely will not pitch again for the Phillies. Tommy Hunter, 33, signed a two-year, $19 million deal before the 2018 season. He pitched in 65 games last season but just five this season because of an elbow injury that required surgery.

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Phillies are 4-0 since changing hitting coaches. 'Of course, Charlie’s had an impact,' says one of team’s hottest hitters

Phillies are 4-0 since changing hitting coaches. 'Of course, Charlie’s had an impact,' says one of team’s hottest hitters

Baseball is a game most accurately measured over the long haul, not in short snippets. So we probably won’t know for a couple of weeks or more exactly what impact Charlie Manuel is having on the Phillies’ offense.

But with nothing but a short snippet to work with thus far, we can definitely say this:

So far, so great.

Take it from sizzling J.T. Realmuto.

“Of course, Charlie's had an impact,” Realmuto said after the Phillies slugged their way past the San Diego Padres, 8-4, at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night.

“Just having him in the dugout, being able to walk by him and have him say something as simple as, ‘Hey, stay short.’ He's a guy that everybody in this clubhouse looks up to so we're definitely glad to have him.”

The Phillies have matched a season-high with four straight wins, all on this homestand, and all coinciding with the dismissal of hitting coach John Mallee and the insertion of Manuel into that role.

Officially, Manuel has been in the dugout for three games. In those three games, the Phils have pounded out 35 hits, including seven homers and eight doubles, and scored 26 runs.

Not bad for a club that went 2-5 on its most recent road trip, scored one or zero runs in three of the five losses and was the victim of a one-hitter and a three-hitter.

“There’s a lot of confidence and looseness in our at-bats,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We’re not forcing it right now. There’s not a whole lot of pressing going on. I think guys are just in an easy state of mind.”

How much of that has to do with Manuel’s arrival?

“I think Charlie has done a great job of keeping it loose,” Kapler said. “He’s great to talk to. He’s got an incredible demeanor. It’s always nice to look over and see him in the dugout with us. He’s a real calming presence and I think he’s only had a positive impact.”

The Phils had 12 hits, including homers by Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Roman Quinn, in Friday’s night win. The victory put the Phils in a tie with the Chicago Cubs for the second NL wild card spot. Both teams are 64-58. The Phillies took three from the Cubs earlier this week, capped by Thursday night’s wild 7-5 win in which Harper clubbed a game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.

Harper hit a three-run homer to put the game out of reach Friday night. He has seven homers and 17 RBIs over his last nine games. Harper is up to 90 RBIs, putting him in the top 10 in the NL.

“It's a lot of fun to watch from this side,” Realmuto said. “I've seen it a lot from the other side (when he was with the Marlins) in recent years. When Bryce gets hot, he's one of the most exciting players to watch, as you guys are seeing right now.

“These last four nights have been a ton of fun, really. Kind of putting our tough stretch behind us and going out there, we have a lot more confidence than we've had in the past couple weeks so it makes for more fun baseball and that's when you win. You go out there and you have fun, let loose a little bit, you enjoy the crowd. Obviously, they're into it. They've been a blast for us the last four games so we're just riding that emotion, just got to keep going.”

Realmuto is as hot as Harper. He had a homer, a double and a single and is hitting .313 (51 for 163) with 16 doubles, 8 homers and 29 RBIs over his last 44 games.

“We’ve talked about our offense and how when guys clicked together it could be the catalyst to win a lot of baseball games,” Kapler said. “And I think we're seeing that Bryce and J.T. can carry us, but we’re also getting contributions up and down the lineup.”

If Rhys Hoskins can get going when he returns to the lineup — he did not start because of a sore hand Friday night, but will be ready to start Saturday — the Phillies could have three hot hitters. And they could use even more than that because if they’re going to make a run over the final 40 games, they will need to out-hit other clubs. The pitching is just too suspect to carry this team.

Nonetheless, the Phillies got a good start from Vince Velasquez on Friday night. He pitched shutout ball through the first five innings before being bitten by the dreaded third-time-through-the-lineup bug.

Velasquez needs to continue to deliver good starts to keep the Phillies in this thing. Ditto for the rest of the rotation. Zach Eflin returns to the rotation on Saturday. He has stretches where he pitched well for a month. The Phillies could certainly use one right now.

“What we need is quality starts,” Kapler said. “We’re not looking for eight innings and zeroes every night. What we’re looking for is to be in games. If we’re in games, we have the kind of offense that can win those games, so we just want very competitive starts from our starters. We feel confident that Zach can help us compete (Saturday night).”

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