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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A step forward for Aaron Nola and a dream come true for Phil Gosselin

A step forward for Aaron Nola and a dream come true for Phil Gosselin

DENVER — Phil Gosselin had been here before, just not in front of 40,530 fans.

“I’ve been up with the bases loaded a lot for the Phillies,” he said late Saturday night in the visiting clubhouse at Coors Field. “It was just in my backyard as a kid and it didn’t really count.”

This one counted.

“It felt good to come through,” he said with a smile.

Gosselin grew up in West Chester, saw his first big-league game at Veterans Stadium wearing a Scott Rolen shirt, and went on to star at Malvern Prep and the University of Virginia. All these years later, after stops on the big-league trail in Atlanta, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Texas, Gosselin helped the team he grew up rooting for — the team that he says made him fall in love with baseball — win a game.

The 30-year-old infielder clubbed a three-run double in the fourth inning to give the Phils a lead that they never relinquished in an 8-5 win over the Colorado Rockies (see observations).

What would that little kid in the backyard think now?

“He would think it was all a dream, to be honest,” Gosselin said. “It was always a goal of mine. I never thought I was that great. I never thought I’d be in the big leagues, if I’m being honest. It was one of those pinch-yourself kind of moments.”

Gosselin signed a minor-league deal with the Phils in December and was recalled from Triple A Lehigh Valley on Wednesday. He got the start, his first with the Phils, at shortstop after the team placed Scott Kingery and Jean Segura on the injured list earlier Saturday (see story). Both have hamstring injuries. Gosselin will likely play shortstop until Segura is eligible to come off the IL next weekend. Kingery will need more time than that.

Gosselin’s three-run double, coupled with Bryce Harper’s three-run home run late in the game, helped make a winner out of Aaron Nola on a night when the right-hander showed signs of being his old self after a rough start to the season. Gosselin’s no-out double was a long fly ball to right-center that kept carrying and carrying before hitting the top of the wall.

“I wasn’t sure if it was going to get off the wall or not,” he said. “I was talking to it the whole way. Luckily, I got enough of it.”

One night earlier, Gosselin entered the game after Kingery injured himself. He stroked a two-out single in the top of the 12th and came around to score on a double by Harper. For a few moments, it looked as if he was going to be one of the stars of an extra-innings win. Then Charlie Blackmon ended all the Phillies’ feel-good storylines with a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning and Gosselin’s hit was just a footnote to what manager Gabe Kapler called a “brutal” loss.

“Good organizations, teams that win, have guys like Gosselin come up and perform in big moments,” Kapler said. “You can't win a lot of games, you can't go to the postseason, unless you have guys from the minor leagues come up and perform. Your non-roster guy that gets a big hit for you. He's been swinging the bat really well. He's earned the right to keep rolling.

“I can only imagine what it's like to grow up in the Philadelphia area as a die-hard Phillies fan and then to come through like he did. He must be on top of the world right now.”

Even beyond the victory, which improved the Phils to 12-8, there was something important to feel good about. Nola had struggled in his previous outings. Though he allowed 10 base runners in 5 2/3 innings, he battled, made big pitches and got big outs — he had nine strikeouts — at crucial junctures of the game.

“His back was against the wall early on,” Kapler said. “He's just a fighter. Nothing fazes Aaron Nola. I know that this has been tough to struggle a little bit. But he showed you why he is such a strong performer. He's able to withstand some of that pressure.

“It was really comforting to see him come out and perform like that for us.”

Nola’s fastball reached 95 mph and his curveball got better and better as the night went on.

“I didn’t get a 1-2-3 inning all night,” Nola said. “There was always traffic on base so I had to bear down and focus on making quality pitches.”

Something to build on?

“Absolutely,” Nola said.

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Phillies 8, Rockies 5: Aaron Nola battles; Phil Gosselin, Bryce Harper lead offense

Phillies 8, Rockies 5: Aaron Nola battles; Phil Gosselin, Bryce Harper lead offense

BOX SCORE

DENVER — The Phillies finally solved the beast of Coors Field in an 8-5 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night.

Aaron Nola delivered a solid start in earning the win and Phil Gosselin and Bryce Harper both drove in three runs.

Gosselin, a West Chester native and former Malvern Prep star making his first start, gave the Phils the lead with a bases-loaded double in the fourth.

The win snapped the Phillies' six-game losing streak in Coors Field, dating to September.

The Phils are 12-8, first place in the NL East.

Colorado is 8-13.

The keys

• Nola showed tremendous intangibles — resilience and toughness. He allowed first-pitch homers in the first and second innings and pitched with traffic on the bases most of the night. But he got big outs when he had to. For instance, he struck out two with the bases loaded to end the third inning, preventing a one-run Colorado inning from getting bigger. He got a big strikeout with a runner on third to end the fourth and stranded two in the fifth.

• Big hits had been scarce for the Phillies in this series, but they got one from Gosselin, a three-run double in the fourth inning.

• Nola helped himself at the plate. His successful sacrifice bunt in the third inning sent Maikel Franco to second and set up a two-out RBI single by Cesar Hernandez.

• Charlie Blackmon is always a thorn in the Phillies’ side. He won Friday night’s game for the Rockies with a two-run homer in the 12th then hit the first pitch Nola threw out of the park to give the Rockies a 1-0 lead in this one. Blackmon had hits in each of his first three at-bats against Nola. Nola struck out the first two batters in the bottom of the sixth but manager Gabe Kapler would not allow the right-hander to face Blackmon again, not in a one-run game. He summoned lefty Adam Morgan and he used his slider-fastball combo to strike out Blackmon and end the inning. Morgan has pitched nine scoreless innings this season. He has allowed three hits and one walk. He has struck out 10.

• Harper made everyone in the Phillies’ dugout breathe a little easier when he smacked a three-run homer in the seventh to turn a one-run lead into a four-run lead. That was big because the Rockies rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth. Hector Neris survived a near game-tying homer by Trevor Story in the eighth en route to a five-out save. Andrew McCutchen clubbed a solo homer in the ninth to give Neris a little extra cushion.

Nola's night

Nola had struggled in his previous three outings so this was a clear step forward. Though he allowed nine hits over 5 2/3 innings, he limited the Rockies to three runs by getting big outs. He struck out nine and really seemed to find his breaking ball late in the outing. He got seven swinging strikes on the pitch. His fastball touched 95 mph. All in all, definitely something to build on.

Transactions

There were lots of them as the Phils placed three players on the injured list. The full recap and what it all means is here (see story).

Up next

Jerad Eickhoff, healthy after dealing with something similar to carpal tunnel syndrome the last two seasons, makes his first start of the new season in the series finale Sunday afternoon. He will face Rockies’ right-hander Jon Gray.

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