Phillies

Mike Trout extension makes Bryce Harper deal look even better — and not because of the $

Mike Trout extension makes Bryce Harper deal look even better — and not because of the $

Just within the last month, the baseball world has seen Manny Machado sign a 10-year deal, Nolan Arenado sign an eight-year extension, Bryce Harper sign a 13-year deal and Mike Trout re-up for 12 total years.

Tuesday's stunner with Trout gave Phillies fans yet another reason to love the Harper deal. Not necessarily because it's for $100 million less — Trout is the superior player and has been much more consistent year to year, so it stands to reason he'd make so much more than Harper. But because it's yet another potential superstar free agent who's already off the board. 

If the Phillies didn't sign Harper when they did, it would have become increasingly difficult for them to land that game-breaking superstar over the next few years, when their window to win is so wide open. It was crucial to get this superstar now, while guys like J.T. Realmuto ($5.9 million), Rhys Hoskins (less than $1 million) and Aaron Nola ($4.5M) are as inexpensive as they currently are.

Next winter's class

The top-end group of free agents after the 2019 season potentially includes Xander Bogaerts (27), Paul Goldschmidt (32), Anthony Rendon (30), Jose Abreu (33), maybe Matt Carpenter (34), maybe J.D. Martinez (32), Nicholas Castellanos (28) and Yasiel Puig (29).

As in, not the same caliber of players, not as young as Harper and Machado this offseason, or both. The Nationals are expected to re-sign Rendon. The Cardinals probably won't let Goldschmidt walk away after trading two good young pieces for him in December. The Red Sox are unlikely to let Martinez walk if he opts out of his deal. 

The other guys — Castellanos, Puig, Abreu, Carpenter — are not stars. They don't have the talent and certainly aren't the draws that Harper is.

Guys keep re-upping

With Arenado and Trout staying put, the next superstar position player free agent will be Mookie Betts after the 2020 season ... if he doesn't extend first. It would make zero sense for a team as rich and successful as the Red Sox to let Betts, their best player, walk. You may see Boston lose Bogaerts this offseason if the price tag rises to a number that would make it harder to keep Betts. 

George Springer? He's also set for free agency after 2020, but again, very good player, just not a superstar. 

Jacob deGrom and Trevor Bauer, two of the best seven starting pitchers in baseball, are also set for free agency after 2020. It's unclear whether the Mets will be able to keep deGrom, and the Indians sure don't look like they'll be breaking the bank for Bauer, a notorious headache. Both are clear difference-makers, just not everyday contributors. DeGrom will be 32.5 years old if/when he hits free agency.

Three years out

The 2021-22 free-agent class looks impressive now, but again, some guys might not reach that point. Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager all could be out there. Same with Noah Syndergaard and a few stud veteran pitchers like Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber and Zack Greinke.

A team in the Phillies' position wasn't going to kick the can down the road for three more seasons but they may have been forced to if they didn't land Harper. The other option would have been trading away a lot of young talent for a good player on a bad team, but that would have further thinned the farm system and made it harder for the Phillies to extend their window beyond, say, five years.

Instead, the Phillies are well-positioned to win now and win in the future, and they could use that 2021-22 free-agent class to supplement their core rather than define it.

While the Trout fantasy ended on Tuesday, it at least gives the city even more of a reason to focus on the guys who are already here. This team, if things break right over the next handful of years, could find itself in position to win it all, even though the prodigal son never came "home."

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Phillies' bullpen struggles again in predictable loss to Yankees

Phillies' bullpen struggles again in predictable loss to Yankees

This was predictable.

Baseball is an everyday sport. Rhythm and repetition are key. Long layoffs are poison.

The Phillies had eight days off by the time they took the field to face Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees on Monday night. In the end, the Phils suffered a 6-3 loss to fall to 1-3 in the 60-game season.

The Phils' long layoff, of course, was the result of the team coming in contact with the COVID-19-stricken Miami Marlins two weekends ago.

With Monday night's win, the Yankees improved to 8-1. That's the best record in the majors.

The Yankees entered the game with 17 homers, which tied them with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the most in the majors. The Yankees clubbed three more in this game, including two against starter Jake Arrieta.

Arrieta's night

It wasn't great. But it wasn't bad, either.

The right-hander, making his first regular-season start in nearly a year, pitched five walk-free innings and struck out four. He allowed seven hits and three runs. He threw 78 pitches and hit 94 mph on the radar gun.

After the game, manager Joe Girardi said he removed Arrieta because it was the right-hander's first time out and he's still building his workload. Though he believed he could have kept going, Arrieta said he understood Girardi's decision.

Arrieta, whose season was ended by elbow surgery last year, showed some good movement on his two-seam fastball down in the zone, especially in the third and fourth innings when he registered four straight strikeouts.

Arrieta got in trouble early in the game with a couple balls up in the zone and two of them ended up over the wall. Four of the seven hits he allowed were for extra bases.

Again, it wasn't great. But it was definitely something to build on for Arrieta, who needs to deliver behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler if this team is going to have any chance of making the postseason. 

Bullpen problems

The bullpen was predicted to be this team's weakness and, so far, the predictions are accurate.

Deolis Guerra, an offseason waiver claim from Milwaukee, picked up Arrieta in the sixth inning with the Phillies trailing just 3-1. Things got out of hand quickly. Guerra walked the first batter he faced then hit the next batter. Two batters later, Gio Urshela launched a three-run homer to left against Guerra to increase the Yankees' lead to 6-1. Those extra runs were important because the Phillies scored twice in the late innings.

The bullpen has come up small in two of the Phillies' three losses. Eight days earlier, in an 11-6 loss to Miami, the Phillies' 'pen gave up seven runs in six innings.

The Phils did get some good work out of the 'pen Monday night from veterans Tommy Hunter and Jose Alvarez. They both pitched a scoreless inning.

Cole's night

The right-hander, who signed a nine-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees in the offseason, won for the third time in as many starts with his new club. He allowed five hits, including a homer to Jay Bruce, and a run over six innings. He walked one and struck out four.

Spencer Howard time?

With Tropical Storm Isaias bearing down on the East Coast, Major League Baseball proactively postponed Tuesday night's game between the Phillies and Yankees. It will be made up as part of a doubleheader Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park. First game is 4:05 p.m. The second game will start no more than 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. Both games will be seven-inning affairs and the Yankees will be the home team in the first game.

Doubleheaders always cause scheduling issues with the starting pitching. The Phils will use Nola and Wheeler in Wednesday's doubleheader and will need another starter in the subsequent days. 

So, it might make some sense for the Phillies to bring up top prospect Spencer Howard later in the week, perhaps or Sunday's start against Atlanta.

Before Monday night's game — and before Tuesday night's postponement had been announced — Girardi was asked if there were any plans to bring Howard.

"Our discussions have been more about how he's doing as opposed to an exact date if we're going to call him up," Girardi said. "It's been more how he's doing and making sure he's pitching. I believe he threw on Friday (at the Phillies' reserve camp in Lehigh Valley). He made a start there and threw the ball pretty well, which is obviously encouraging. But as far as a date of calling him up, we have not come to a conclusion on that."

Having pitched on Friday, Howard would be on full rest Wednesday.

Up and back

The Phillies began their day with COVID-19 saliva testing then hit the road for New York at about 11:30 a.m. They took five buses (for social distancing reasons) to Yankee Stadium and arrived at about 1:30 p.m. The plan was to check into a hotel after the game, but that plan was scrubbed when Tuesday night's game was postponed. The Phils bused home after the game.

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Phillies' Andrew McCutchen is 'upset' and 'angry' about Marlins' COVID-19 outbreak

Phillies' Andrew McCutchen is 'upset' and 'angry' about Marlins' COVID-19 outbreak

Phillies left fielder Andrew McCutchen isn't one to hold his tongue.

He spent the Phils' unexpected week off, because the Marlins experienced a team-wide COVID-19 outbreak during teams' season-opening series, tweeting almost daily about missing the game.

And when he was given the opportunity to express his feelings about being sidelined for a week for circumstances out of his hands, McCutchen spoke his mind.

The Athletic's Jayson Stark asked McCutchen during a podcast appearance on Monday if he was angry at the Marlins players who left the team hotel. Here's what McCutchen said:

"I was upset at everything that's transpired through that — whoever decided to step out or not necessarily follow the health and safety protocol," he said. "That upset me. What made me angry was that we, as the Phillies — we were the ones that ended up having to pay for that. ... We followed all of the health and safety protocols. We knew that was important. We understood that's what we needed to do to be able to play this game. And we did everything right. And we paid for it.

"And so for me, that was upsetting. I'm sitting here at home, watching 28 to 27 to 26 other teams play, and we're sitting at home — all (testing) negative by the way. And we have to watch this happen while we did nothing wrong. So for me, that was very upsetting. It was very upsetting that we did everything right, and we were still the ones paying for it."

It's hard to find fault in McCutchen's frustration.

Frankly, any player would be justified in being at least slightly angry with the Marlins. Derek Jeter admitted on Monday some Miami players did indeed 'let their guards down' during their time in Atlanta. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic demands attention and diligence from everyone, pro athletes included, in order to keep each other safe.

And it's probably doubly frustrating for McCutchen, who turns 34 later this year after a year off from the game. McCutchen only has so much playing time left in his baseball career, and will need players to protect the league's safety for the rest of the season so he can keep playing.

The Phillies resumed play Monday night in the Bronx aginst the Yankees, and will hopefully be able to play out the rest of their 60-game season. 

If something derails that path, it sounds like McCutchen won't be to blame.

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