Phillies

For trade to really work, Phillies need Wilson Ramos to get healthy quickly

For trade to really work, Phillies need Wilson Ramos to get healthy quickly

BOSTON — The Phillies made a low-risk, potentially high-reward acquisition when they picked up catcher Wilson Ramos from the Tampa Bay Rays at the trade deadline on Tuesday. Ramos is an All-Star and a run producer and he will improve the Phillies' overall catching situation.

When he gets on the field.

Ramos is currently on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring and it is not exactly clear when he’ll be able to play for the Phillies. He might be ready in two weeks. Or he might not be ready until Sept. 1, according to general manager Matt Klentak. Either way, the Phillies, losers of four straight games and clinging to a half-game lead in the NL East entering Tuesday night’s game in Fenway Park, will have to survive for a while before Ramos is even ready.

Ramos’ health situation was “factored into the components of the deal,” according to Klentak. In other words, the Phils didn’t give up much for him. They will send a player to be named later or cash to Tampa Bay to complete the deal. Ramos, who will be a free agent at season’s end, is owed about $2.8 million for the remainder of the season and the Phils will have no trouble swallowing that.

Ramos, 30, is a burly right-handed hitter. He was hitting .297 with 14 homers, 53 RBIs and an .834 OPS when he injured his hamstring just before the All-Star break. Two years ago, he hit .307 with 22 homers, 80 RBIs and an .850 OPS for Washington.

Phillies catchers Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp have combined for a .702 OPS this season and the tandem leads the majors in strikeouts at the position. They are also fourth in the majors with a combined 13 passed balls. Ramos will be a clear upgrade — again, when he gets on the field.

“Wilson Ramos is a proven commodity, both behind the plate and at the plate and then also as a teammate,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He makes us deep and stronger.”

Ramos was the second hitter acquired by the Phillies in recent days, joining Asdrubal Cabrera.

The Phillies also added lefty reliever Aaron Loup from Toronto on Tuesday. Minor-league pitcher Jake Waguespack went to the Jays. Division rivals Washington and Atlanta both have lineups dotted with big lefty bats and the Phillies believe Loup will help combat them down the stretch.

One area the Phillies did not address was starting pitching. Phillies starters rank fourth in the NL with a 3.84 ERA. Management is banking on that unit continuing to perform and the starters at Triple A providing depth.

“We are really excited about our starting pitching,” Klentak said. “No matter how you measure it, our starting five have been among the better starting fives in all of baseball this year. I recognize that that’s not every single night, but the total body of work puts us at or near the top.

“On top of that, we have players like Enyel De Los Santos and Ranger Suarez and Cole Irvin and others in Triple A to give us a lot of confidence that we have depth to support the five in the big leagues right now.

“If you can stay out of the trade market for starting pitching at the trade deadline, you should do that because it tends to be very expensive. It’s a credit to all of our international, amateur, and professional scouts and their efforts over the last few years that we have starting pitching right now. We don’t take that for granted and we’re happy to not have to play in that market.”

The Phillies’ biggest need leading up to the deadline was offense. The team pursued the biggest bat on the market, infielder Manny Machado, but failed to land him. The club moved on and traded for switch-hitting infielder Cabrera on Friday and he so far has played shortstop, second base and served as the team’s designated hitter in the current two-game series against Boston.

“We identified a few key areas that we felt we could upgrade,” Klentak said. “The first of which was offense in the infield, the second was some more thump behind the plate. And the other was just giving us a third lefty for the bullpen.

“What I am happy about in all three of those cases is that it will not dramatically affect the playing time of our young players. Our young players are principally the reason we are where we are in the standings and we want to continue to let those guys play. But on the other hand, we saw opportunities to add veterans that can help in certain key areas. I’m pleased that we were able to address those areas.”

The Phillies made these additions without tearing through their farm system, which they see as important because, though the team has improved greatly this season and played itself into contention, it is still seen as a team on the rise. Management was committed to balancing the present with the future. They’ve done that. Now the question is: Will it be enough to make the postseason?

Time will tell.

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Phillies to sign Matt Szczur, according to sources

Phillies to sign Matt Szczur, according to sources

The Phillies are about to sign a player with a resume chock-full of impressive — and important — accomplishments.

According to sources, Matt Szczur, the 30-year-old outfielder from South Jersey, has agreed to sign a minor-league contract with the Phils. The deal will include an invite to major-league spring training camp.

Szczur — pronounced SEE-zur — has spent parts of five seasons in the majors with the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres. He is a product of Lower Cape May Regional High School and Villanova University. He was a two-sport star at Villanova.

On the football field, Szczur was a dynamic receiver and return specialist for Villanova’s 2009 NCAA FCS national championship team. He racked up 270 all-purpose yards in the title game win over Montana and was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player.

On the baseball field, Szczur was an all-Big East player and a fifth-round draft pick of the Cubs in 2010. He played in 107 games for the Cubs team that won the World Series in 2016.

Szczur’s accomplishments extend beyond the playing field.

Off the field, he did something extraordinary when he took time off from his junior year baseball season at Villanova in 2010 to donate bone marrow that ultimately helped save the life of a young girl from Ukraine who had battled leukemia. Szczur’s life-saving gift started with his involvement in the Andy Talley Bone Marrow Foundation. Talley was Szczur’s football coach at Villanova. Szczur has subsequently started his own charitable enterprise, the Szcz The Day Foundation.

Szczur hit .259 with five homers and 24 RBIs in 185 at-bats for the World Series champion Cubs in 2016. He was traded to San Diego in 2017. He spent parts of that season and the 2018 season in the majors with that club. He signed a minor-league deal with Arizona last season and hit .322 with eight homers, 28 RBIs and a .967 OPS in 44 games at Triple A Reno. His season was shortened by a quad injury.

The Phillies are set at the corner outfield spots with Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper and Adam Haseley is going to get a chance to hold down the center field spot with Roman Quinn in the picture as well. Szczur will give the Phillies some outfield depth and his ability to play center field is a plus. He is an excellent defender at all three outfield positions and could push for a spot on the big club as active rosters will expand from 25 to 26 men in 2020.

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Winter meetings complete, what’s next for Phillies?

Winter meetings complete, what’s next for Phillies?

SAN DIEGO — A year ago, Phillies officials left the winter meetings with much of their offseason work still in front of them.
 
Manny Machado was still a front-burner free-agent item. Bryce Harper was still in the background and J.T. Realmuto was headed to Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New York … anywhere but Philadelphia.
 
You know the rest of the story.
 
Spring training had already begun by the time the Phillies settled their offseason last year. A year later, Phillies officials departed the winter meetings on Thursday with their heavy offseason lifting complete.

The Phils signed free-agent pitcher Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million contract last week and free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius to a one-year, $14 million deal at the meetings this week. The signings left the Phils about $5 million under the $208 million luxury-tax threshold for the coming season and the club will be mindful of that. It’s likely — though not certain — that any further moves the Phillies make will qualify as tweaks.
 
Here are a few things to keep an eye on over the remainder of the offseason.

The starting rotation

Aaron Nola and Wheeler give the Phillies a “1 and a 1-A,” as manager Joe Girardi said.

Jake Arrieta is healthy and will be ready to go Day 1 of camp and Zach Eflin will hold down a job. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez are slated to battle for the fifth job, though it would not be surprising to see the Phils bring back Drew Smyly on a minor-league deal to join the fight. The Phils were keeping an eye on Rick Porcello to see where his market was headed, but he signed for one year and $10 million with the Mets. Lefty Wade Miley could be someone to keep an eye on, depending where his market goes. The Phils are committed to having top prospect Spencer Howard start the season in Triple A, but he could have a major impact as the season goes on. The Phils will watch Howard’s workload — because of injury, he pitched under 100 innings last year — so adding bargain depth is a must.

The bullpen

At the moment, it looks like a fairly unchanged unit. The Phils are banking on Adam Morgan and Seranthony Dominguez being healthy again and Hector Neris, Jose Alvarez and Ranger Suarez carrying a heavy load again. Pivetta, Velasquez or both could be used in the ‘pen, depending on the depth that is added in the rotation. If the Phils want to push the tax, they could make a play for former Yankee Dellin Betances. Someone from the system like Garrett Cleavinger or Connor Brogdon could surprise in spring training. How about Tommy Hunter? The Phils put a lot of time into his rehab after elbow surgery last year. Could he be a fit on a bargain deal? Ditto for Jared Hughes and Mike Morin.

The bench

Former All-Star and .300 hitter Josh Harrison has been signed on a minor-league deal. He can play anywhere and figures to have a good chance to make the club. Phil Gosselin, another jack of all trades, is coming back on a minor-league deal and the team has shown some interest in free agent Matt Szczur. Brad Miller remains a free agent and a potentially good fit. Jay Bruce will add power off the bench. Andrew Knapp returns as backup catcher but it would not be surprising to see the Phils sign one or two more veteran catchers to push for work and add depth. Remember, Girardi has said he’d like to keep Realmuto to between 120 and 130 games so he is fresh in October. “That’s where the prize is,” Girardi said. Austin Romine would have been a nice fit, but he signed with Detroit. 

Trades

While it appears as if most of the team’s major moves are done, general manager Matt Klentak and his group will continue to stay engaged on the trade front and you never know if one could materialize. Nick Williams could be dealt. Miami has long liked him. Velasquez could be dealt for some salary relief, particularly if the Phils are able to add starting pitching depth. The Phils would surely listen on Jean Segura, but he has three years and $45 million left on his deal so that would not be easy.
 
Could the Phils make a major trade?
 
After seeing the Realmuto deal come together so quickly last February, it can’t be ruled out. Even something crazy is possible. By crazy we mean Kris Bryant. Yes, he’d be a nice fit as the Phils make a quick push at a title before he becomes a free agent. But it’s a real long shot and it would probably cost top prospect Alec Bohm, and it would definitely push the Phillies over the luxury tax threshold, though managing partner John Middleton has said he would go over it for the right championship-caliber opportunity. Maybe that’s Bryant. There will continue to be buzz about him and the Phillies will continue to be connected to him as long as there is.
 
J.A. Happ could be another guy to watch on the trade front. The Phils made him an offer last winter and he signed with the Yankees. The Yanks are now eager to move his $17 million salary and might attach a good prospect to the package to help make the deal. Happ would put the Phillies over the tax, but, given the Phils’ need for more pitching, it might it be worth rolling the dice on the left-hander having a bounce-back year if and only if the Yanks attach a good prospect or two to the deal. 

What about Herrera?

The end of the winter meetings begins to put spring training in focus and the Phillies have a big decision to make before then: Do they bring Odubel Herrera to camp? Do they release him? The Phils would eat most of his salary to trade him, but there has been no interest.
 
We dealt with the Herrera situation more deeply in this story.

Realmuto's extension

Sometime before spring training, the Phils are expected to pursue a contract extension with Realmuto.

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