Phillies

Phillies' biggest October battle involves the Phanatic

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USA Today Images

Phillies' biggest October battle involves the Phanatic

Six months ago, did you expect that come October, the Phillies would be sitting at home while the Phanatic itself was locked into a dramatic head-to-head battle?

Harrison/Erickson, the design firm the Phillies are suing over a dispute regarding the copyright of the Phillie Phanatic, is now countersuing the Phillies.

The firm alleges that the Phillies "only filed a lawsuit to pressure the creators into accepting a lower offer to renew the agreement to use the mascot," according to Philadelphia Business Journal.

The Phillies say they purchased the rights to the Phanatic for $215,000 in 1984 and that agreement enabled them rights to the character "forever," and that now Harrison/Erickson want millions as part of a renegotiation.

Harrison/Erickson claims it did have the right to renegotiate the agreement based on language in the Copyright Act. 

The Phillies, justifiably, feel that the evolution of the Phanatic's personality and design makes them a co-author in this case. If found to be true, this would not give Harrison/Erickson copyright privileges because the firm would not be seen as the sole author.

This story isn't going away. If Harrison/Erickson somehow wins the case and the Phillies don't reach another agreement with them, they'd risk not being able to use the best mascot in sports after June 15, 2020.

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Why Phillies shouldn't pay J.T. Realmuto $100 million or more

Why Phillies shouldn't pay J.T. Realmuto $100 million or more

The Phillies have a lot of difficult decisions to make this offseason. A decision on a new manager needs to be finalized. Half of the starting infield is likely to be changed, not to mention the desire to upgrade at least 40 percent of the starting rotation.

Relative to those decisions, signing J.T. Realmuto to a contract extension looks simple. Most Phillies fans feel that way.  

But is it a no-brainer if the terms are in the neighborhood of the 5 years and $112 million that Corey Seidman recently suggested? Let’s examine some of the key talking points.

"J.T. Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball"

That statement has been made plenty of times over the past year. It might be true. He’s certainly the most complete catcher. I’m not certain that Realmuto’s versatility makes him more valuable Gary Sanchez and the sheer power he brings to the Yankees. Sanchez did have an awful postseason. But you do have to be there to be bad there. Regardless, it’s unquestionable that Realmuto is on the short list of top catchers in baseball.

But should that conversation even matter?

If you look at Realmuto solely as a hitter, he’d probably fit in somewhere between the 65th and 80th best everyday batter this past season. His .820 OPS ranked 69th amongst qualifiers in MLB. Next on that list, 70th with an .819 OPS, is Rhys Hoskins. I don’t imagine many Phillies fans would be lining up right now to give Hoskins $22 million-plus per year. 

This is where you point out Realmuto’s world-class defense at the diamond’s backbone position.

There’s no doubt Realmuto is the best in baseball at controlling the run game. He’s topped 31 percent in the caught stealing department in each of the last four seasons, including a mind-boggling 47 percent this past season. Baseball Prospectus measured Realmuto as the fourth-best defensive catcher in 2019 when factoring throwing, blocking pitchers and pitch-framing.  

That invites the question: What did Realmuto’s great defense mean as far as overall run prevention for the Phillies this season? The short answer is not much. The Phillies ended up allowing 66 more runs in 2019 as opposed to the season before. While it would be a fool’s errand to blame Realmuto for the regression of the Phillies' pitching staff, it’s worth pointing out that Realmuto’s defense, or any player’s defense for that matter, is not as valuable as is conventionally believed. 

Effective pitching prevents runs. Everything else is window dressing.

In all actuality, Realmuto’s position should count as a reason for being cautious about signing him to a long-term, big-money deal. The physical rigors associated with catching are a reason to think Realmuto’s production will decline within the body of this deal, which would likely begin with his age-30 season in 2020. Not to mention that if the Phillies are able to work Realmuto down to the 110 starts in a season that Gabe Kapler mentioned as a desired target prior to his firing, that’s 45 to 50 starts Realmuto isn’t giving you that a position player theoretically could. 

"The Phillies can't afford to lose Realmuto"

This argument basically revolves around two main points: 

1. The Phillies traded their top pitching prospect and an everyday player for Realmuto. It would be foolish to lose him for nothing after that.

2. The Phillies currently don’t have enough good players to be World Series contenders. You cannot allow one already here to leave.

The first point is an easy one to counter. Past decisions should not dictate future ones. If signing Realmuto to a deal at a certain price point is not what’s best for the organization moving forward, it should not matter what it took to acquire him.

As for the second point, signing Realmuto might preclude the Phillies from adding multiple good players in the future. Would the Phillies be better served utilizing a much smaller portion of the $112 million theoretically pegged for Realmuto to sign a middle tier catcher, a la Travis d’Arnaud, then trade Realmuto for another piece or two while contributing the rest of the financial savings towards an elite pitcher like Stephen Strasburg or an elite hitter like Anthony Rendon? I’d argue yes.  

More simply put, the Phillies have a lot of holes to fill and spending major money on a good, not great hitter currently in his prime seasons that’s already in-house will not change your championship timeline.

By all accounts, Realmuto is a good clubhouse figure. He’s certainly an all-star caliber talent. The Phillies should want to keep him. But there is a price where it make sense and a price where it does not. They have to be very careful about knowing that line.

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Phillies hire new scouting director Brian Barber away from Yankees

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Phillies hire new scouting director Brian Barber away from Yankees

Brian Barber is the Phillies new director of amateur scouting.

The team announced the appointment on Tuesday afternoon.

Barber, 46, pitched in the major leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals. He comes to the Phillies after spending the last 18 years as a member of the New York Yankees amateur scouting department. He spent the last 10 years in the high-ranking position of national crosschecker.

Barber replaces Johnny Almaraz, who stepped down from the position in early September. Almaraz came to the Phillies from the Atlanta Braves in the fall of 2014 and presided over the last five drafts. 

It had been widely assumed that the Phillies would replace Almaraz with Greg Schilz, their No. 2 man in amateur scouting. Schilz, who joined the Phillies as assistant scouting director in the fall of 2016 after 12 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, was a finalist for the position, but the team ultimately decided to go outside the organization for the hire.

Barber, who was influential in identifying Yankees power hitter Aaron Judge as a first-round talent in 2013, is the latest man with Yankees roots to join the Phillies organization. Major League bench coach Rob Thomson joined the Phillies before the 2018 season after 28 seasons in the Yankees organization, including 10 on the big-league coaching staff.

The Phillies, of course, could add another former Yankee to the organization in the coming days. Former Yankees catcher and manager Joe Girardi remains a top candidate for the Phillies’ open managerial job. He had a second interview with team officials in Philadelphia on Monday. Buck Showalter and Dusty Baker are the other candidates for the post. The Phils could announce a hire as soon as Thursday, which is an off day in the World Series.

Girardi is also a candidate for managerial openings with the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs. He has interviewed with both teams.

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