Phillies

Phillies rumors: If no Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas would be clear upgrade over Maikel Franco

Phillies rumors: If no Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas would be clear upgrade over Maikel Franco

Many Phillies fans have been so focused on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper for so long that no other acquisition this winter will be a worthy consolation.

The Phillies, though, have prepared for the reality of an offseason that doesn't net them either huge star. If that does unfortunately happen, they'll have to pivot quickly to other offensive upgrades, provided quality options are still available.

Before getting to one immediately logical free-agent upgrade, just remember that Harper and Machado are not the final two stars who will ever come available. Unless the Rockies make an insane extension offer, Nolan Arenado will be a free agent this time next year at age 28. (I personally would rather build a team around Arenado than Machado, but anywho.)

For the Phillies this offseason, Mike Moustakas would make a lot of sense if Machado doesn't happen. He's a definite upgrade over Maikel Franco, offensively and defensively, and would give this Phils lineup better left-handed balance.

The need for lefty power

As of this moment, the best part of the Phillies' batting order will feature three right-handers among four spots in Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen and Rhys Hoskins. You can split it up a bit by going Segura one, McCutchen two, Odubel Herrera/Nick Williams three and Hoskins four, but it would be helpful to have some consistent power from the left side.

Moustakas offers that. He's homered 51 times off of right-handed pitchers the last two seasons, the exact same total as both Machado and Harper. (No, not a comparison, just an interesting fact.)

Moustakas' OPS against righties over that span is a few points higher than Anthony Rizzo's.

Phillies' interest in Moustakas

The Phillies were interested in Moustakas in July, before the Royals traded him to the Brewers, and have expressed interest in him again this offseason. Moustakas, like Harper and Zach Britton, is a Scott Boras client. 

A definite upgrade over Franco

When the Phillies were connected to Moustakas this past summer, some questioned whether he was even an upgrade over Franco. Around that time, Franco had been hot, flashing the kind of multi-week hot streak the Phillies had been waiting a long time for. 

But at the plate, in the field, on paper or in front of your eyes, Moustakas is just a better player than Franco and has been throughout Franco's big-league career.

Since 2015, Moustakas has hit .267/.324/.484. Franco has hit .255/.306/.442.

Moustakas has averaged 33 homers and 34 doubles per 162 games. Franco has averaged 27 homers and 29 doubles.

Moustakas' .808 OPS over that four-year span is 15 percent higher than the league average. Franco's .748 OPS is 60 points lower, and two percent below the league average.

Defensively, Moustakas has been average, but there is value in average. He has -1 defensive run saved over the past four years. Franco has -30, by far the worst mark in the National League.

What about the contracts?

Franco is projected to make $5 million through the arbitration process this winter. He is under club control through the end of the 2021 season. If he remains an everyday player throughout his arbitration years, he could realistically get $8 million in 2020 and $10 million in 2021. So for all intents and purposes, Franco would be about a three-year, $23 million player for the Phils.

Moustakas is a free agent. Things did not go so well for him last offseason, when he was a free agent but lingered on the market as possible landing spots like the Angels, Giants, Yankees, Mets and Braves were filled. 

Eventually, Moustakas went back to the Royals for one year and $5.5 million with incentives and a $1 million buyout. It wasn't what he or Boras expected.

Boras said last offseason that no major-league team offered Moustakas a multi-year deal. The weird thing was that Moustakas had just turned 29 and was coming off a 38-homer season, by far his best as a pro. He's now coming off a season that was about 70 percent as productive.

Moustakas, now 30, is a candidate for a two-year deal this winter, or a one-year pact with a vesting option. Boras likes to extract every last dollar, but two years in the $20-26 million range seems fair. 

That kind of contract would give the Phillies a better third baseman in 2019 (if they don't land Machado), and also give them the flexibility to pursue Arenado at the 2019 trade deadline or in free agency.

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How Phillies would have matched up this week against Mets

How Phillies would have matched up this week against Mets

Let’s say we’re beginning the first full week of the Major League Baseball season (hey — we can dream, can’t we?). That would mean your Fightin’ Phils would find themselves in Queens, NY visiting the Mets for the first of three games at Citi Field.

The Mets, with 86 wins, finished five games ahead of the Phillies (81-81) in 2019. New York made a nine-game improvement from 2018 (77-85) while the Phillies won just one more game — in part leading to manager Gabe Kapler’s dismissal.

BUT ... the Phils took 12 of 19 in the season series last year against New York.

The Mets' rotation is fairly strong (Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Rick Porcello) and that’s with Noah Syndergaard out for the season after Tommy John surgery last week.

They’ve got a pretty strong bullpen with Robert GSELLman (fun to say) in middle relief and Edwin Diaz closing.

How is New York’s 1 through 8?

Pretty good. They’re young and have the young All-Stars, Jeff McNeil and reigning NL Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso, at the top and middle of the order. Robinson Cano and Yoenis Cespedes are big keys — Cano was irrelevant in 2019 and Cespedes was hurt. In all, there are five current or former All-Stars in the lineup for the Mets this season.

The Mets would be in the midst of a season-opening five-game homestand. The Phillies were supposed to be in Miami and New York before coming back to Philly for Thursday's home opener against the Brewers. Oh well.

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The Phillies' 20-inning win vs. the Dodgers in 1993 was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

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The Phillies' 20-inning win vs. the Dodgers in 1993 was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

The 1993 season will always hold a special place in the hearts of Phillies fans. The Dude, Dutch, Krukker, and the Wild Thing took us on a magical ride all summer. They swept the Astros in Houston the opening series and never looked back, racing to the finish line while never relinquishing at least a share of 1st place all season in the old National League East (this was the last year of the old 2-division set-up in each league). So many games and moments stand out from that season. I was lucky to be at one of those games, one that turned out to make some Veterans Stadium history on July 7, 1993, when the Phillies hosted the Dodgers.
 
That summer I was working in the Fieldhouse at St. Joe's, doing whatever they needed me to do around the offices. The legendary Don DiJulia, our Athletic Director for over 3 decades who retired in 2018, asked me if I could use his tickets to the Phillies game that night. Always down for a trip to the Vet, I said yes. I called my friend Joe (future Catholic League coach of the year) and within an hour we were in South Philly. Our lives were so much simpler then.
 
Because Mr. D's son Chris (a local legend among basketball folks in his own right) has special needs, one of the tickets was for the handicapped section down the LF line, the last section in the 200 level next to the visitor's bullpen. We met up with my friend and Joe's cousin Mountain (his real name, and now the head coach for LaSalle women's basketball), and settled in for some baseball. We had no idea we'd be there for over 6 hours.
 
The game went like a lot of games that year. Kruk and Dykstra both hit HRs off of Dodgers starter Ramon Martinez. In the bullpen, we could see Martinez's skinny (I mean SKINNY) little brother Pedro warming up. Looked like he threw pretty hard. I wish I could tell you at the time I knew he would fill out (slightly) and become the Hall of Famer we knew and loved. But back then, he was just Ramon's little brother. The Phillies took a two-run lead into the 9th, and in came Mitch Williams. When Mitch entered, you never knew what would happen. But that year, he ended up with 43 saves. You knew it wouldn't be 1-2-3, but you had a little more confidence in '93. Unfortunately, this was not a night he recorded one of those saves. The Dodgers scored 2 runs, and might have scored more, if not for a nice play in the hole by SS Kevin Stocker, who was making his major league debut. Quite a game to break into the big leagues, kid.
 
We then watched 10 innings of scoreless baseball. Future All-Star closer Mike Williams ended up pitching the last 6 for the Phillies. Phanavision must've been running out of inventory because in between every inning they showed a promo for the Notre Dame-Navy football game that would be played at the Vet that fall. My friend Joe is a huge ND fan, and by the 19th inning, he noticed the Dodgers bullpen catcher saluting Phanvision when they showed the promo. Since we were right next to the bullpen, he started talking to the guy as he entered the pen below us. Turns out, he had played baseball for the Irish, so him and Joe talked some Notre Dame football.
 
The Dodgers scored a run in the top of the 20th. But the only thing I remember about that inning is that Mike Williams picked Cory Snyder off at 3RD BASE! Just a straight-up pick-off move, as if a lefty would pick someone off at 1st base. I don't think I've ever seen someone do that, at any level, before or since. It also reminds me that the Dodgers had some stars from the 80's on this team. Snyder was on the cover of Sports Illustrated baseball preview one year (with a teammate. Think his name was Joe Carter. Not sure whatever happened to him). Tim Wallach played 3rd and made a handful of All-Star teams with the Expos before landing in LA. And they had Eric Davis playing in LF. To anyone who grew up a baseball fan in the 80's, he was one of the coolest and most productive players we got to watch when he was in Cincinnati. After some injuries and playing on so much artificial turf, he was no longer Eric the Red, but still smooth as could be.

In the bottom of the 20th, the Phils put a couple men on base. With 2 outs, Lenny Dykstra stepped to the plate. That year, you wouldn't want any other Phil at the plate with the game on the line. For some reason, the Dodgers pitched to him with a base open. He laced a liner to LF, and I can still see Davis coming or way, tracking it down. Not many left-fielders would've had a chance at it, but this was Eric Davis. But the ball just missed his outstretched glove, landed on the warning track, and then hopped over the wall and into the Dodgers bullpen. Phils win. It tied the longest game, by innings, in the history of the Vet. And the ND guy, being the only guy left in the bullpen, picked the ball up and flipped it up to Joe (he still has it).
 
Pretty amazing finish to a pretty amazing game in a pretty amazing season. 

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