Phillies would be one of NL's biggest winners with the DH but they're not alone

Phillies would be one of NL's biggest winners with the DH but they're not alone

This piece originally ran last month when there were first rumblings of the universal DH, which is a part of MLB's latest proposal to players.

I'm far from a DH guy — preferring the added strategy of having to make earlier decisions with pitchers and implement more of your roster — but this is not a normal year and there are multiple reasons why making the DH universal in 2020 is the right move.

In a season of 60-ish games, you will likely see more games played between teams in close proximity to one another. Teams want to stay in their home parks if it is at all possible. For the Phillies, it could lead to more regular-season games against nearby AL clubs like the Orioles, Yankees and Red Sox. If there are more interleague games, you need to level the playing field.

The other main reason is the protection of pitchers. If/when there is baseball in 2020, more than ever before teams will need to take care of their arms because pitchers will not be built up the way they are normally. Removing a facet from the game that could also cause pitcher injury (getting hit by a pitch, pulling a hammy on the basepaths) is necessary.

Who would DH for the Phils?

The 2020 Phillies are well-suited for the designated hitter, much more so than they would have been at the start of the last two seasons when the bench was largely neglected.

The Phillies could enter the season with Jay Bruce as their designated hitter against right-handed pitchers and could incorporate Alec Bohm against lefties, either by playing Bohm at first base and DH'ing Rhys Hoskins or vice versa. Either way, it should allow the Phillies to slot another powerful bat into their lineup. 

They could also DH Andrew McCutchen at times to preserve his legs, allowing one of Adam Haseley or Roman Quinn to enter the lineup. They could DH Bryce Harper or J.T. Realmuto occasionally to get their top stars off their feet while still benefiting from their bat.

Who else benefits?

The Phillies are not alone. Adding the DH will let the Braves fit all four of their outfielders (Ronald Acuña Jr., Marcell Ozuna, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis) into their lineup.

It will allow the Mets to ease Yoenis Cespedes back in after missing most of the last two years to injury.

The Nationals will be able to play Howie Kendrick, a very good hitter who is below-average in the field, every day.

It will open up a spot for the Dodgers to start A.J. Pollock, who was signed to a $55 million contract last offseason but is already behind at least three outfielders on L.A.'s depth chart.

The Brewers will likely use their DH spot on Ryan Braun, keeping an outfield of Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Avisail Garcia with Justin Smoak at first base.

The Reds can shift Nick Castellanos, an all-offense player, from the corner outfield to DH and add Nick Senzel, their top prospect entering last season and former No. 2 overall pick behind Mickey Moniak, into the everyday lineup.

The Padres will be able to start all four of their outfielders (Tommy Pham, Trent Grisham, Franchy Cordero, Wil Myers).

Those are the seven National League examples that stick out the most, though it seems like the biggest winners with the DH would be the Phillies, Dodgers and Nationals, and maybe the Mets if Cespedes can come back healthy and be even 80% of the player he used to be.

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J.T. Realmuto offers grim view of contract talks with Phillies

J.T. Realmuto offers grim view of contract talks with Phillies

J.T. Realmuto began his first chat with reporters since baseball’s re-start with a request on Thursday.

He asked that questions about his contract situation with the Phillies be kept to a minimum. 

But in explaining why, Realmuto said plenty.

“We were in the really preliminary stages (of negotiations) early on in spring training before the pandemic and we haven't really gone anywhere since then, so if we could focus on the team here and speak a little bit less about myself that would be greatly appreciated,” the All-Star catcher said.

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s two separate comments from two different people involved in this drama that would suggest negotiations aren’t going particularly well

Ten days ago, general manager Matt Klentak, who rarely even entertains a question about ongoing contract negotiations, offered this on the state of talks with Realmuto’s camp:

"The landscape that we left in March is different from the one we return to now. We just have to see how that manifests itself in our discussions. We still love the player. We'd still love to have him in red pinstripes for the long haul. But there’s a lot of uncertainty in the game right now on a variety of levels. We just need to play that out."

Opening day for the shortened 2020 season is just two weeks away. Given the tone of the remarks offered by both sides, it’s difficult to see the Phillies and Realmuto coming to terms on a deal before then. Once the season starts, Realmuto will be just a few months away from free agency, a place that elite players fantasize about.

Realmuto was pressed on the topic of what appear to be stagnant negotiations with the Phillies.

“There's no frustration,” he said. “I understand the business of baseball. I'm here to play baseball and focus on this team winning and getting to the playoffs.”

The business of baseball in the pandemic year of 2020 means revenues are down all over the game. Phillies managing partner John Middleton, in an email to club employees back on June 1, said the team was braced to lose “significantly more than 100 million” this season.

Realmuto, 29, has long made it known that he’s looking to significantly raise the salary bar for all catchers in his next contract – be it with the Phillies or out on the open market. Something rivaling Joe Mauer’s average salary of $23 million – a record for a catcher – in the form of a multiyear deal seemed to be the starting point for Realmuto and it really didn’t seem that unreasonable over the winter.

Then the pandemic hit. The game shut down. Even when the games come back in two weeks, there will be no fans in the stands. The “gate” accounts for about 40 percent of the revenues that most teams bring in. Teams will reap some television revenues when the shortened, 60-game season begins in two weeks, but who knows if the season will be completed with COVID-19 spiking in a number of baseball states, and who knows if there will even be fans in the stands next season. The world begs for a vaccine. Baseball’s next free-agent class begs for a vaccine.

Realmuto has concerns about how "the new landscape" will affect the overall free-agent market this winter, but, personally, he’s undaunted about the prospect of hitting the market.

“It definitely concerns me,” he said. “Necessarily not for myself, but it does concern me for the free-agency class as a whole. I mentioned a few months back that the top guys usually find a way to get their dollars. Teams are going to want them, you know. Maybe if it's not 20 teams that are in on you, now there'll be five to 10. I just think that a lot of teams will be able to look at this as a time to take advantage and actually go for it instead of backing off. As half the league will probably be trying to cut revenue and save some money and the other ones will look at it as an advantage to maybe go forward and press forward. I think that it could affect free agency as a whole, but for myself, I'm not really too worried about it.”

Even with negotiations not progressing, Realmuto expressed affection for the Phillies organization.

“My opinion of the organization has not changed one bit,” he said. “I love this organization. They've been great to me and my family since I showed up. From top to bottom, they're just good people and they care about baseball, and that's really important to me.”

It’s still quite possible that Realmuto and the Phillies find a way to strike a long-term marriage. Baseball negotiations can endure painful moments and still end up with everyone happy. But no baseball negotiation has ever had to play out against a pandemic that has caused the game to hemorrhage revenues. Had this pandemic hit 18 months ago, Relamuto’s teammate, Bryce Harper, probably would not have landed a $330 million contract.

Harper wants Realmuto to remain with the Phillies. He wants him to get paid. He made that clear when he shouted, “Sign him!” during an intersquad game at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday. 

“I hope he owns a team one day, honestly,” Realmuto said. “I might be able to catch until I'm 60 if he owns a team.

“Honestly, it’s all in good fun. I appreciate the support and the respect is mutual there. He has a little fun with it so I don't mind it too much.

“From a public standpoint, it doesn't bother me how much it's being talked about. For me I'm going to focus on this season and focus on helping this team win and that's really all I can do.”

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Phillies’ 2021 schedule includes a bucket list trip for baseball fans

Phillies’ 2021 schedule includes a bucket list trip for baseball fans

Three days after MLB’s 2020 schedule came out, the league released the 2021 schedule.

There’s so much uncertainty around baseball right now, with COVID-19 cases around the league, issues with testing, players opting out and many others wary of the virus. There will be no fans in the stands in 2020, but this look at the 2021 schedule provides some early excitement for if/when the coronavirus pandemic slows enough to allow fans back into stadiums.

The Phillies will open the 2021 season at home against the Braves on April 1. The first four series alternate between Braves and Mets, the first two at home and next two on the road.

The Phils’ earliest 2021 non-division road trip is to Colorado and St. Louis from April 23-29.

The month of May includes two long road trips — a nine-gamer through Atlanta, Washington and Toronto, and another nine-game trip to Miami, Tampa and Cincy the week of Memorial Day. The Phillies also have a home weekend series against the Red Sox.

The Phillies face a daunting slate in June, with 11 consecutive games against the Nationals, Braves, Yankees and Dodgers. That Dodgers series is the Phils’ first West Coast swing, with a series in San Francisco to follow.

The Phillies are home for July 4 (a Sunday) against the Padres and then close out the first half of 2021 on the road at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park in back-to-back series. That is a bucket list trip for many baseball fans.

From July 22 through Aug. 15, the Phils play 17 of 24 games at home, before their final West Coast trip to Arizona and San Diego.

September/October 2021 is not as heavy a dose of division matchups as usual for the final month. Only 13 of the Phillies’ 30 regular-season games after Sept. 1 are against NL East teams. Their final week is a trip to Atlanta and Miami.

The Phillies’ interleague schedule is entirely against the AL East, so these two divisions will become quite familiar over the next 15 months. The Phillies play the Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees and Red Sox on the road. They host the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays and Orioles.

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