Manny vs. Bryce, Santana signing not a mistake, more on Phillies' trade for Jean Segura

Manny vs. Bryce, Santana signing not a mistake, more on Phillies' trade for Jean Segura

The trade is complete. The Phillies have acquired two-time All-Star shortstop Jean Segura and two relief pitchers from the Mariners for infielders Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford (see story).

Let’s look at some of the particulars of the deal and offer a few thoughts. 

• Segura, who turns 29 in March, is signed through 2022 and owed about $60 million. The Phillies are taking on all of that money and the $9.25 million owed reliever Juan Nicasio. The Phils are also getting lefty reliever James Pazos in the deal.

The Mariners are taking on the $35 million that remains on Santana’s deal.

So the rebuilding Mariners saved about $35 million with the deal. There is value in that. 

• Once again, the Phillies used their greatest resource — money — in getting a deal done. Nicasio, who had an ERA of 6.00 last season, is clearly a salary dump, but the Phils are able to take him on (and hope he rebounds in 2019) because they really wanted Segura.

In recent years, the Phillies took on significant money in the trades that sent Cole Hamels to Texas, Jonathan Papelbon to Washington, Marlon Byrd to Cincinnati and Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers. Those deals netted the Phillies a number of prospects, some that did not pan out, but others such as Jorge Alfaro, Nick Pivetta, Nick Williams, Zach Eflin and Jerad Eickhoff who have made varying contributions and still have upside.

• According to sources, the Phillies still hope to sign free agent Manny Machado and play him at third base. Should the Phils fail to sign Machado, they could look to someone like Mike Moustakas on a short-term deal at third before making a run at Nolan Arenado in July or next winter when he becomes a free agent. Maikel Franco is still with the club and there’s always the chance he could stay at third base, but the team has looked to trade him in the past and this seems like the time to make it happen. The Padres are a good fit.

• Trading Santana was a big offseason objective for the Phils because it allows Rhys Hoskins to get back to his natural position of first base. With Hoskins gone, who plays the outfield? Right now, it looks like Roman Quinn in center flanked by Nick Williams and Odubel Herrera, but there is still a chance the Phils could make a play for Bryce Harper, depending on how things shake out with Machado. The gut feel here is that the Phils have prioritized Machado because they like the idea of having him and Segura on the left side of their infield.

• There’s a lot of talk that GM Matt Klentak made a mistake in signing Santana and moving Hoskins to left field last year. This might be semantics, but mistake doesn’t seem like the right word to this observer. Klentak took a gamble that he could add some offense (power and on-base percentage) to his lineup by signing Santana and that necessitated taking a chance on Hoskins in left field. Well, Hoskins struggled defensively and Santana hit .229. That doesn’t mean Klentak’s experiment was a mistake; it means it just didn’t work. Pat Gillick used to say you can’t be afraid to take chances. Klentak took one. It didn’t pan out. Now, he’s done a pretty good job getting out of it quickly. He improved his offense (a lot) and defense at shortstop in the process and got a key player (Hoskins) back in his comfort zone. Good work.

By the way, if Santana had two more hits a month, he would have hit .250. One of the problems was he was paid like a star and is really a complementary player, sort of like Jayson Werth was on the great Phillies teams, minus the studs. But Santana is still a pretty good player and hats off to him for playing hard — and looking good at third base — until the end of the 2018 season while some of his mates shut it down as the losses piled up.

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Phillies prospect Cole Irvin is an old-school lefty focused on getting outs

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Phillies prospect Cole Irvin is an old-school lefty focused on getting outs

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Wondering how many Phillies fans are aware of this ...

Last year, the organization could boast having the International League Pitcher of the Year.

That's pretty good stuff.

Cole Irvin is his name. He led the IL in ERA (2.57) and WHIP (1.05) while pitching 161⅓ innings for Triple A Lehigh Valley.

The left-hander will get the ball Friday when the Phillies open their Grapefruit League schedule against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte.

Irvin, who turned 25 three weeks ago, is pumped.

“First game of the spring, that’s what is really cool about it,” he said. “I love baseball season. I think we all do. And to be the guy starting the Phillies baseball season, whether that’s spring training, it doesn’t matter to me. This is the first game of the year for us and it’s going to be fun.”

The Phillies selected Irvin in the fifth round of the 2016 draft out of the University of Oregon. He does not have to be protected on the 40-man roster until after this season but is in camp as a non-roster invite.

Despite his accomplishments last season, Irvin is not the most ballyhooed Phillies pitching prospect. You won’t find his name on Baseball America’s list of the team’s top 10 pitching prospects.

Irvin, bright and articulate, has an explanation for that.

“I’m not known as a prototypical prospect,” he said. “I’m a guy that gets outs. I don’t care how hard I throw. I don’t care about my spin rate. I care about the guy’s swing coming through the zone. I care about the guy leaning out over the plate to get the away pitch. I care about the stuff that actually matters in games. And I felt that there’s been a little bias toward some guys that can’t find the strike zone and I’m a guy that pitches in the strike zone and gets outs just the same.

“I’m not a hard thrower. I pitch at 88 to 94, 95 (mph). What’s wrong with a guy that goes out there and gets outs? That’s kind of where I stand.”

Irvin throws a deep repertoire of pitches. He relies on command. He doesn’t stress over velocity, though he can sneak a 95-mph heater up in the zone when he has to. Phillies minor-league pitching instructors love the way Irvin prepares for starts. He keeps a book on his outings — what worked, what didn’t — in his locker.

“I stick to the old-school thing about baseball,” he said. “I’m a big fan of breaking down hitters and swings. I’ve always been taught to pitch first, not throw. Everyone wants to prove they can throw hard.

“You have to understand who you are. I’m a pitcher. Get outs.”

Irvin will likely be applying his methods of pitching back at Triple A at the start of this season. On paper, the Phillies' rotation seems set with Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez. Jerad Eickhoff, Ranger Suarez and Enyel De Los Santos are all on the 40-man roster if the Phils need immediate depth and it’s not out of the question the team would try to sign Dallas Keuchel.

As the saying goes, you can never have enough pitching. So it would not be surprising to see Irvin get a shot in Philadelphia sometime this season.

“We have a really good rotation,” he said. “I want to see my teammates do well. I’m excited to see what this team can do. My role right now is minuscule compared to the guys on the 40-man roster. All I can do is put myself in position to be the next man called up and be able to win that game if need be.

“In the business of baseball, the player doesn’t make the decision (when he’s called up). All you can do is focus on what you can do to get better.”

And that is what Irvin is focused on this spring.

It all starts for him Friday in the Grapefruit League lid lifter.

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Despite rumors, Bryce Harper has no issues playing in Philly

Despite rumors, Bryce Harper has no issues playing in Philly

CLEARWATER, Fla. — It's time to address longstanding rumors that Bryce Harper does not want to play in Philadelphia.

Surely, you've heard them. They have hovered all winter like a pesky fruit fly around a rotting banana, and they continue to linger even as the Phillies ramp up their pursuit of the free-agent slugger.

Are the rumors true?

"No," a person close to the free-agent slugger told us this week.

Harper, the person said, has no aversion to playing in Philadelphia. He is familiar with the city after visiting it three times a year with the Washington Nationals over the last seven seasons and he likes hitting in Citizens Bank Park, where he has a .930 OPS, 14 homers and 32 RBIs in 50 career games.

Now, if Harper were able to write his own storybook script, he may lean toward signing with a California-based club like the Dodgers. He is from Las Vegas and would value playing close to home. In glitzy Los Angeles, he could also be the LeBron James of baseball.

The Dodgers have had interest in Harper in the past, but it is not clear if they are still a player. The San Francisco Giants have interest, but it is not clear if they would meet Harper's price tag — which is likely more than the $325 million that Giancarlo Stanton is guaranteed in his deal. The Nationals remain an X-factor — are they in or out? Some reports say they are out, but Harper's agent Scott Boras has had success selling deals to Washington ownership in the past. There may be a mystery team or two.

The Phillies, spurned by Manny Machado earlier this week, are in rock-solid, full-speed-ahead pursuit of Harper and there is enormous public pressure to bring him to Philadelphia.

According to the aforementioned person who is close to him, Harper would have no qualms coming to Philadelphia if the Phillies win these sweepstakes. The person said that Harper has gotten good reports on the city and the fans from current and former Phillies with whom he maintains friendships.

Money will still be the driving force in this deal. Concerns over destination appear to be overblown.

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