Phillies

Citing huge losses in revenue, Phillies make salary cuts

Citing huge losses in revenue, Phillies make salary cuts

Projecting losses of "substantially more than $100 million," Phillies ownership on Monday instituted salary cuts for its top-earning employees.

The cuts, effective immediately, apply to employees earning more than $90,000 per year. Employees making $90,000 or less are not subject to cuts.

"Our senior executives have made significant and deep non-payroll expense cuts across the organization, but even with their best efforts, the Phillies will lose substantially more than $100 million this year," managing partner John Middleton wrote in a letter that was emailed to full-time employees and obtained by NBC Sports Philadelphia.

"These staggering losses have forced ownership and senior management to make difficult but necessary decisions, as have other clubs and businesses confronted with the impact of Covid-19, to protect the financial viability of our organization and to ensure our future. All of us, beginning with me, must make sacrifices."

Employees making over $90,000 will have a percentage of their pay reduced on a graduated basis; the higher the salary, the bigger the cut. The reductions will continue through October 31, the end of the team's fiscal year. In his letter, Middleton stated that he would forego his compensation for the balance of the year.

"While I remain hopeful that we will see baseball at Citizens Bank Park this summer, any games played will almost surely be played without fans in the ballpark which is regrettable," Middleton wrote. "The absence of fans creates an enormous financial challenge, as approximately 40 percent of our total annual revenue is generated by attendance — tickets, food and merchandise concessions, parking and sponsorships. With no fans in the stands, these sources of revenue evaporate."

Middleton stated that employees would be treated the same, whether they were on the baseball side or the business side.

In recent weeks, Phillies ownership pledged it would not cut jobs or employee benefits through October. Employees from some other teams have not been so fortunate. 

The Los Angeles Angels, Oakland A's, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays and Cincinnati Reds are teams known to have issued furloughs. Many other teams, including high-profile clubs such as the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers have instituted pay cuts. According to reports, 80 percent of Cubs employees have been subject to a 20 percent pay cut and Dodgers employees making over $75,000 have been cut up to 35 percent. Red Sox employees making over $50,000 have received cuts ranging from 20 to 30 percent.

"This salary reduction plan does not come close to eliminating our 2020 losses," Middleton wrote. "As a result of the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Buck and Middleton families must now invest an additional $100 million in the Phillies over the next year to ensure the continued stability of the club. During these uncertain and distressing times, our decision-making must address both short-term and long-term financial ramifications, especially since none of us knows when and how this pandemic will end. Our success historically has been defined by a culture of collaboration, and I am asking all of you to continue working with me to meet this challenge."

As the calendar turned to June on Monday, Major League Baseball and the players union continued to negotiate a way to bring the game back for a shortened season this summer. The sides remain apart on financial issues. A resolution must come in the next week or so if a season is to commence in early July.

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Has Vince Velasquez taken the lead in the Phillies' No. 5 starter derby?

Has Vince Velasquez taken the lead in the Phillies' No. 5 starter derby?

Vince Velasquez, looking to earn one more shot in the Phillies’ starting rotation, might have taken a step in that direction in an intrasquad game Tuesday night.

The right-hander was impressive in four unstructured innings of work. (We call it unstructured because he faced an extra batter in some innings to get his pitch count up.) He gave up two hits and a walk and did not allow a run. He struck out six.

Velasquez, who turned 28 in June, apparently did not just put his feet up and wait for baseball to return during the shutdown.

He spent time adding a cutter and improving his changeup. He used both pitches effectively in Tuesday night’s outing. He still has that power fastball and a breaking ball. A deeper, more consistent mix might allow him to finally unlock the tantalizing potential he has shown since arriving in the organization as part of general manager Matt Klentak’s first big trade in December 2015.

“I thought his cutter was good,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s been a good pitch for him. It’s allowed him to use both sides of the plate.”

Velasquez has had two strong outings in intrasquad action over the last week. He is battling Nick Pivetta for the final spot in the rotation. The runner-up in the competition will start the season in the bullpen.

After Tuesday night’s intrasquad game, Girardi was asked if Velasquez has moved into the lead in No. 5 starter’s derby.

“He’s looked really good his last two outings,” Girardi said. “I don’t think you can ignore what he’s doing.”

Velasquez went 7-8 with a 4.90 ERA in 33 games, 23 of which were starts, last season. Inconsistency and the inability to get into the middle innings with a reasonable pitch count led a move to the bullpen. Eventually, a need arose in the rotation and Velasquez found himself back there. That’s where he wants to stay, but time may be running out. The Phils have Spencer Howard on the way and in a short, 60-game season can’t afford to give Velasquez a long leash if he continues to be inconsistent.

It’s time to cash in on that potential.

A change in pitching coach might help Velasquez. Bryan Price believes in moving the ball up and down in the strike zone. The previous regime, trying to capitalize on Velasquez’ power, stressed pitching up in the zone.

Last week, catcher J.T. Realmuto spoke optimistically about Velasquez. Realmuto sensed that Velasquez was doing more “pitching” than “throwing.”

There is a difference.

“He worked on a new pitch during the quarantine, mixing in a cutter now, and he's using his changeup a lot more than he has in the past, so just the pitchability from him,” Realmuto said. “I was talking with Bryan Price about it. We're not going to be so one-dimensional with him. We're going to move the ball around the plate, pitch up and down, mix the changeup in, mix that cutter in. He's always had that curveball. He’s looked really good. I expect big things from him.”

We’ve heard that before about Velasquez. The clock is ticking. Maybe this is the year something clicks. The Phillies certainly won’t complain if it is.

While Velasquez is trying to win a spot in the rotation, Zack Wheeler’s spot is safe. He faced 19 hitters and did not allow a run in the intrasquad game. He is in line to start the second game of the season — family life permitting. Wheeler is due to become a dad in the next couple of weeks and that real-life event will sideline him for at least a start, maybe two. This is why guys like Velasquez, Pivetta, Cole Irvin and others are having their innings stretched out. There may be starter's innings available even after the fifth starter’s job is settled.

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Yasiel Puig joins the NL East

Yasiel Puig joins the NL East

About nine months after free agency opened, Yasiel Puig has finally found a home. He agreed Tuesday to a deal with the Braves, which means the Phillies could see him 10 times in 2020.

The Braves are still a contender but were reeling and needed to make some sort of move to add more talent to their roster. Over the last two weeks, they've seen superstar Freddie Freeman and top reliever Will Smith test positive for COVID-19, while Nick Markakis and Felix Hernandez have opted out of the season.

Puig, 29, will likely play right field and bat in the spot Markakis would have occupied. The Braves still have a strong outfield with Marcell Ozuna in left field, Ronald Acuña Jr. in center and Puig in right. To optimize for defense, they could play Ender Inciarte in the outfield and have either Ozuna or Puig DH.

There was so much fanfare over Puig when he debuted with the Dodgers seven years ago, but he hasn't been able to replicate the production from his first two seasons. He's settled in as a .260-ish hitter with mid-20s home-run power and an on-base percentage right around the league average. In fact, in back to back seasons, he has hit exactly .267 with exactly a .327 OBP.

In 141 career plate appearances against the Phillies, Puig is a .301 hitter with eight doubles, three triples, three homers and 18 RBI.

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