Phillies

Phillies better off with in-season flexibility than Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel

Phillies better off with in-season flexibility than Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel

Opening day is three weeks away and the Phillies will most likely take this roster into the regular season. Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel are still free agents, but either player would take the Phillies close to or past the $206 million luxury tax threshold, which could factor into the team's ability to acquire a player of greater need in-season.

It's not that going over the tax once is some prohibitive factor. The greater concern is the way the penalty escalates.

The Phils are an estimated $18 million below the tax. A team that exceeds the threshold pays a 20% tax the first time, a 30% tax the second time and a 50% tax thereafter. 

There's an additional tax of 12% if you're $20 million over.

Stay under the tax for a year and the penalty resets. The Yankees did this in 2018, snapping a streak of 15 consecutive seasons they were over the tax.

The Nationals have been over two years in a row. If they go over this season, their rate increases to 50%. They are currently about $10.5 million below. This could impact their ability to make a big move in July if they're neck-and-neck with the Phillies.

Signing either Keuchel or Kimbrel now could impact the Phils' ability to make more meaningful additions in July. There's no question that Keuchel or Kimbrel would help the Phillies and every other team. The consideration is the cost. Even though they've lingered, Keuchel should still be able to get $15 million or more annually. Kimbrel might get that number on a two-year deal.

It's where you weigh the upgrade vs. the cost. The Phillies have a reason to feel good about their young starting pitchers. Nick Pivetta's 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.8 walks put him in an elite tier. Zach Eflin's strikeout rate jumped from 12.5% to 22.5%. Vince Velasquez made a dozen really good starts in 2018.

A dozen wasn't enough, and that's the issue for all three pitchers. There's inconsistency and there's upside. 

But do the Phillies really need another starting pitcher right now? Before first seeing how April and May play out for Pivetta (26), Velasquez (26) and Eflin (24)? It's not like Keuchel is the only left-handed starting pitching target for 2019. There's Robbie Ray, Danny Duffy, maybe Madison Bumgarner.

Do they really need another reliever? Kimbrel would be one hell of a luxury and give the Phillies a devastating 7-8-9 with David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez preceding him. Throw in Pat Neshek's consistency and ability to get big outs of big hitters and you'll have plenty of early leads protected. 

But, again, it's going to cost you a lot of your in-season flexibility. Keuchel generates soft contact and would give the Phillies' rotation a different look. He also allowed the most hits in the majors and had a higher WHIP than Pivetta and Eflin in 2018. Kimbrel has been baseball's best closer since Mariano Rivera. But in 2018, he struggled all season to throw strikes, walking 39 batters in 73 innings, including playoffs.

This Phillies team, as currently constructed, should be able to push for 90 wins and potentially surpass that with good fortune, overperformance or an in-season addition. They have enough talent to pass on Keuchel and Kimbrel unless the price is unrealistically low.



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Larry Bowa recalls two special seasons with (almost unanimous) Hall of Famer Derek Jeter

Larry Bowa recalls two special seasons with (almost unanimous) Hall of Famer Derek Jeter

Larry Bowa asked a question Tuesday afternoon.

“You think he’ll be unanimous?”

Derek Jeter was a 14-time All-Star and a five-time World Series champion with the New York Yankees. He won a Rookie of the Year award, was a World Series MVP and finished in the top 10 in American League MVP voting eight times. He won five Gold Gloves at shortstop and finished his career with 3,465 hits. Only Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Tris Speaker had more.

We’re talking rare air here, folks.

We’re talking icon.

So, six hours before the official Hall of Fame announcement was to come down early Tuesday night, the question that Bowa posed wasn’t whether Jeter would make it through the doors of Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility – that was a slam-dunk, take-it-to-the-bank, lead-pipe cinch – it was would he be just the second player ever to be elected unanimously.

“He should be,” Bowa said.

The answer to Bowa’s question came soon enough.

No, Jeter did not make it into the Hall unanimously, as his great Yankee teammate Mariano Rivera did the year before. But he still received historic support as he sailed into Hardball Heaven on his first try.

Jeter appeared on 396 of the 397 ballots cast by voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Voters are encouraged but not required to make their ballots public. The identity of the one writer who did not vote for Jeter was not immediately known. That person will likely come forward at some point, not that it will matter a whole lot in the final analysis. The 99.7 percent of the vote that Jeter did receive is the highest ever for a position player.

Hard-hitting outfielder Larry Walker, an MVP and three-time National League batting champ, was also elected. He made it by six votes in his 10th and final year on the writers’ ballot.

Former Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling missed by 20 votes, but his 70 percent bodes well for future election. He needs to get to 75 percent of the vote in his final two years on the ballot.

Another former Phillie, third baseman Scott Rolen, received 35.3 percent of the vote in his third year on the ballot.

Bowa, the great former Phillies shortstop and manager, played 2,222 games at shortstop, seventh-most all time. Jimmy Rollins played 2,227 games at short, sixth-most all-time. Omar Vizquel ranks first on the list at 2,709 and Jeter is second at 2,674.

Bowa enjoyed an up-close look at Jeter’s greatness during the 2006 and 2007 seasons when he was third-base coach for the Yankees. Jeter still had another seven seasons to go in his career, but even at that point, Bowa knew he was looking at a Hall of Famer.

“He just had an aura about him that said, ‘If you want to be a big-leaguer, watch me,’ “ Bowa recalled. “It was that way in everything he did. He never sulked if he didn’t get any hits.

“In my two years there, I don’t think I ever saw him make a mental mistake. He was always well prepared. He was very coachable and open to advice. He never jogged. He always played the right way. In big situations with the game on the line, he wanted to be at the plate. And he produced.”

Bowa compared Jeter to a couple of players he managed with the Phillies, one a Hall of Famer, one a potential Hall of Famer.

“He reminded me of Jim Thome, the way he handled himself,” Bowa said. “Very humble guys. Both team-first. If it was the eighth inning and a guy led off with a double, you didn’t have to tell Jeter to get the ball to the right side and get him over to third.

“He was a little bit like Chase Utley. You wind him up in April, say good luck and have a good year, and at the end of year he’d have a great season. He could have played without any leader or manager. Incredible work ethic.”

Like any other player, Jeter could have an off day, though not often. Bowa recalled a time in 2007 when the Yankees played an awful game. 

“I think it was a Sunday game,” Bowa said. “It might have been the worst game I’d ever seen the Yankees play.”

The performance left manager Joe Torre quietly seething. He called the team together after the game.

“I’d never seen Joe angry before,” Bowa said. “He usually got with guys one-on-one in his office if he wasn’t happy and no one knew about it. But this time, we played so bad that he felt like he had to get everyone together.”

Torre didn’t go after the 25th man.

He went right for the heart – Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

“He was all over them,” Bowa said. “It was the only time I ever saw Joe get on a guy like that. There was no swearing or anything like that, but he literally pointed them out and told them they were better than that and he expected more.”

The next day, Jeter was getting ready to do some early work with Bowa in the infield. Bowa asked him about what had gone down the day before.

“Jeter was completely accountable,” Bowa said. “He said he deserved it. That really showed me something. Here was a guy putting together a Hall of Fame career and he just got it. He didn’t take it personally.”

And he won’t take not being a unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame personally, either.

Ninety-nine-point-seven percent.

We’re still talking rare air here, folks.

“The guy was just solid, man,” Larry Bowa said. “So professional. Just a pleasure to watch. I’m really happy for him.” 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Make that 2 buy-low bullpen moves for the Phillies

Make that 2 buy-low bullpen moves for the Phillies


Drew Storen wasn't the only reliever the Phillies added early this week.

The Phils also agreed to a minor-league deal with veteran right-hander Bud Norris, according to Robert Murray.

The Phillies worked out Norris late last season but did not sign him.

Norris last pitched in 2018 with the Cardinals. He was pretty effective, posting a 3.59 ERA in 57⅔ innings with 67 strikeouts. He saved 28 games.

Relievers are so volatile from year to year that it stands to reason one of Storen or Norris will recapture some success in 2020. The Phillies have seen quite clearly over the last two seasons that big relief contracts are a gamble. They paid David Robertson, Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek a combined $57 million and all three dealt with long-term injuries.

The big wild-card in the Phils' bullpen is Seranthony Dominguez, who missed most of last season with arm injuries but could be a much-needed and useful weapon if he can revert to his 2018 form.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies