Phillies

Phillies could go trade route as they look to improve starting pitching

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Phillies could go trade route as they look to improve starting pitching

CARLSBAD, Calif. – Baseball’s offseason ramps up with the start of the general managers meetings Tuesday.

Phillies GM Matt Klentak is here, looking for two more good months. The 2018 Phillies led the National League East in early August then suffered a monumental collapse en route to a sixth straight losing season.

The Phillies will be a headline-grabbing club all winter because they have shifted from rebuild mode to win mode, they have big money and they are committed to getting better — now. They are in pursuit of both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, the two megastars on the free-agent market, and would like to land one of them. Signing both is unrealistic because the Phillies have future payrolls and future free-agent markets to consider and club president Andy MacPhail has said as much. Nonetheless, there has and will continue to be speculation that the Phillies will sign both, even if it won’t happen.

It is an oversimplification to say that Klentak is looking for two more good months. Obviously the Phillies need more than that to build a sustained winner. But for four months, starting pitching carried the 2018 Phillies. (Their starters ranked sixth in the majors with a 3.70 ERA through the first week of August and recorded a 5.18 ERA the rest of the way.) Starting pitching, among other things, slipped over the final two months and winning games became more difficult.

This is why improving the starting pitching is an item on Klentak’s offseason to-do list. It has just been overshadowed by Machado/Harper-Mania.

The Phillies were willing to part with young talent to acquire Machado before he went to the Dodgers in July. They are still willing to part with young talent and now it could go toward starting pitching.

Two names to watch as the GM meetings get going:

Robbie Ray of the Diamondbacks.

James Paxton of the Mariners.

Both are left-handers. Both have two years of control remaining. Both are said to be available. And both would appeal to the Phillies.

Paxton, 30, has battled injuries in his career, but his stuff is electric when he’s healthy. He pitched a no-hitter in 2018. Klentak previously worked for Seattle GM Jerry DiPoto in Anaheim and the two are very close. Could that facilitate a deal? Stay tuned.

Ray, 27, is a guy the Phillies have long liked. His name was kicked around last winter.

Another name to watch is Michael Fulmer of the Tigers. The Phillies poked around on the right-hander over the summer, but it’s unclear if the Tigers will sell low on him after a disappointing 2018 and minor knee injury that required surgery. Nonetheless, Fulmer has four years of control remaining and might be a fit if the Tigers look to move him. And the Yankees are committed to trading Sonny Gray so he could be a name to watch, too.

The Phillies will also be in on the top free-agent arms, particularly Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel and others.

So while Machado and Harper get most of the buzz, don’t forget starting pitching and the Phillies’ need for it.

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Bryce Harper hopes Mookie Betts makes even more money than him

Bryce Harper hopes Mookie Betts makes even more money than him

Bryce Harper was the highest-paid player in MLB history for less than one month, quickly moving down a spot once Mike Trout and the Angels reached agreement on a $430 million extension in late March.

Harper could soon move even farther down the list. Red Sox superstar outfielder Mookie Betts is set for free agency after the 2020 season. If Betts does reach free agency, he will have just turned 28. Harper was 26 when he hit free agency.

Betts is a better all-around player than Harper. Betts hits for average, hits for power, plays great defense and has big-time speed. Betts hasn't been nearly as good this season as he was in his MVP 2018 but still has dynamic offensive numbers and leads the American League with 115 runs scored.

Harper has an edge on Betts and practically every other player in marketability. The Phillies have seen in Year 1 how much of a cash cow Harper is. They've seen it in increased ticket sales, jersey sales and with how quickly the Phanatic headband Harper made fashionable has risen to popularity. All over the city, people are wearing those things. Walking in the city Tuesday, I passed three people wearing them in the span of 10 minutes — a little kid on a bike, a middle-aged woman jogging and a man participating in an outdoor workout class. Harper transcends demographics.

Despite that, Harper wouldn't just be OK with Betts making more money than him. Harper hopes it happens.

"Mookie's an incredible player. If he has an opportunity to make more money than I do, then I hope he does," Harper said this week, according to NBC Sports Boston. "Just like Trout did."

If Betts reaches free agency, the bidding war between teams will be intense, not only because of his elite talent but because so many would-be-free-agent-superstars have already signed long-term extensions with their teams. Players in the Betts tier are becoming available less frequently than in the last few decades.

Harper also realizes that the Betts negotiation could take quite a while, just as his did.

"It's going to be a long process for him, but I think he'll be able to handle that. He has a great head on his shoulders and a great family," Harper said. "I didn't mind it. Only having a couple of weeks in spring training was nice, some extra time with family and friends. But it's part of the process. It's part of what teams and players are doing now."

Don't remind us.

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Advertising patches soon coming to MLB?

Advertising patches soon coming to MLB?

Many longtime baseball fans are not going to like this, but it sounds like advertising logos are soon coming to baseball uniforms.

According to Sports Business Daily, "a handful of MLB teams have already reached out to marketing agencies for evaluations and pricing estimates."

The NBA added advertisement patches to their jerseys before the 2017-18 season, and according to SBD they generate an average of $7 million per year, per team. That's a lot of money and big businesses rarely turn down easy, new ways to make money.

This would not happen until the 2022 next season, the first year under the next, yet-to-be-negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreement. There are many issues to work through, including who sees what percentage of the newfound money.

“I’d say it’s inevitable down the road, but certainly not immediate," MLB executive VP of business and sales told reporters at the All-Star break.

If baseball wanted to do this in the least invasive way, they could just add a patch to a uniform sleeve, perhaps in the same place where teams honor recently deceased key members of the organization.

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