Phillies

Phillies hire Gabe Kapler as manager

Phillies hire Gabe Kapler as manager

Update: Monday, 4:40 p.m.

The Phillies made it official on Monday afternoon: Gabe Kapler is their new manager.
 
Kapler, who has never managed in the majors, beat out Dusty Wathan, the Phillies' highly successful Triple A manager, for the position. Former Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell, who led that team to a World Series title in 2013, was the other finalist for the job.
 
According to sources, Kapler, who is known for his progressive, out-of-the-box thinking, wowed club officials with his energy and intellect during the interview process. A former outfielder for 12 seasons in the majors, Kapler has served as director of player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2014. He had been considered for that club's manager's job two years ago. The position went to Dave Roberts, who now has that team in the World Series.

"Gabe has a track record of leadership, winning, progressive thinking and working with young players, and we fully believe that he is the right person to guide this organization into the future," GM Matt Klentak said in a statement.
 
At 42, Kapler becomes the youngest Phillies manager since the team hired 37-year-old Terry Francona before the 1997 season. He is also the first Phillies manager since Francona without previous ties to the organization. Larry Bowa, Charlie Manuel, Ryne Sandberg and Pete Mackanin had all played or worked in the organization before being hired to manage the club.

"I'm equal parts honored, humbled and excited by the opportunity with the Phillies, an elite franchise in a city rich in history, tradition, sports excellence and with amazingly passionate fans," Kapler said in a statement. "I believe there is no better place to build a winning environment, and I take that task very seriously."
 
It is not a surprise that the Phillies hired an outsider. John Middleton, the team's controlling partner, has spoken several times over the last few years about the importance of bringing change and outside perspectives to the organization. That started with ownership's hiring of Andy MacPhail as club president in June 2015 and Matt Klentak as general manager in October 2015. Klentak's top lieutenants, Ned Rice and Bryan Minniti, were also hired from outside the organization.
 
Kapler brings something else that is important to Middleton and the front office. He is educated in the language of analytics and committed to using them in all phases of the game. The Phillies were one of the last teams to embrace the use of analytics, but are now a powerhouse in that area with a 14-man staff that is slated to grow.
 
Analytics is not the only area where the Phillies are seeking to develop competitive advantages. The club has also become devoted to nutrition initiatives and that is one of the out-of-the-box areas that Kapler is committed to.
 
Kapler's only managerial experience came at the Single A level in the Red Sox organization in 2007, but that, obviously, was not seen as a weakness by Klentak. The 37-year-old general manager began his search for a new manager after reassigning Mackanin to the front office during the final week of the 2017 season. Klentak said he was looking for a new voice and a new style to lead a young Phillies roster. He was also clearly looking for someone who aligned philosophically with a young front office committed to the use of analytics. Now he has his guy in Kapler.

How much is too much for Phillies in a Manny Machado trade?

How much is too much for Phillies in a Manny Machado trade?

There has been even more Manny Machado talk than usual in Philly of late. The combination of the recent Phillies-Orioles series and the Phils' winning ways has increased the chatter about whether they should trade for Machado this season rather than wait him out in free agency.

Obvious arguments can be made for both sides. 

Why not make the trade? Because waiting him out until free agency allows you to hold on to all of your young players. 

Why make the trade? Because, as some have argued, it makes you significantly better in 2018 and could create a (pretty unlikely) situation where Machado wouldn't want to leave. I say unlikely because there is literally no recent example of a rental superstar signing with the acquiring team before free agency. Even when guys like Yoenis Cespedes and Matt Holliday re-upped with the Mets and Cardinals, it was only after first testing the market.

Want the most recent example of it actually happening? It was 2002 when Scott Rolen re-signed with the Cardinals shortly after being traded by the Phillies. So we're talking 16 years.

Let's break down all the key points here.

Minuscule chance he signs before free agency
No matter what team might acquire Machado this summer, it makes little sense for him to sign a contract extension before first seeing what other teams will offer this winter. Even if a team like the Phillies, Dodgers or Cubs trades for Machado in July and offers him a $275 million extension, why would he sign it? Theoretically, that same offer would still be there a few months later, and the price would only surge if a bidding war between big-market teams ensues. Which it will.

Machado is such an amazing player that his market will be vast. The fact he can play both shortstop and third base is a huge factor as well. If he could play only one position, the list of fits would be reduced. But even the teams set at both shortstop and third base could move guys around to make room for a superstar.

How much is too much to give up in a trade?
With Machado being a two-month rental this season, the Orioles' asking price just cannot be as high as it would have been last winter or last summer.

Look, for example, at the J.D. Martinez trade from last July. The Tigers dealt him to the Diamondbacks in exchange for a three-player package that almost every analyst deemed light. None of the players the Tigers received were listed among the top 10 D-backs prospects on the major sites.

That was despite the fact that Martinez had gotten off to a great start in Detroit, hitting .305/.388/.630 with 16 homers in 200 at-bats.

Occasionally, there still are overpays for rentals, but it takes the right team and the right fit. In 2016, the Cubs could smell a World Series and traded exciting shortstop Gleyber Torres to the Yankees for two months of Aroldis Chapman. It worked for both teams, with the Cubs winning it all and Torres now playing every day for the Yankees.

The difference with the Phillies in this situation is that they are not merely one piece away like the 2016 Cubs. 

So, what's a legit trade package?
If the Phillies were to offer the Orioles J.P. Crawford, Dylan Cozens and a pitching prospect or two, that might at least get a conversation started.

Some will read that paragraph and immediately react with, "How could you give away 5½ inexpensive years of Crawford for a rental?"

Well ... how valuable is 5½ inexpensive years of Crawford if he's not the player we thought he might be? Crawford is extremely early into his major-league career, but so far he has been below average offensively and inconsistent defensively. He's the kind of player who makes sense in a trade like this because another organization might view him as young enough to reach his ceiling.

With Cozens, he's somewhat blocked in this organization but continues to put up big power numbers at Triple A. For some teams, he'd at least have been given a cup of coffee in the majors already. But the Phillies, at this point, have a surplus of outfielders with Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, Rhys Hoskins and Roman Quinn (if he can ever stay healthy). The Phils also used their last three first-round picks on outfielders, though all three have underwhelmed to this point.

As for the third piece of this concocted offer, the pitching prospect, we are not talking Sixto Sanchez here. You simply don't get an organization's best pitching prospect for a two-month rental.

But the Phils have more than one intriguing young arm in their minor-league system. Cole Irvin and Enyel De Los Santos have been great this season at Triple A. The Double A guys — Franklyn Kilome, JoJo Romero, Ranger Suarez and Elniery Garcia — have struggled so far but all have potential.

The Orioles need help everywhere, so there's no specific player or position they'd be looking for in return. They just need quality and quantity because they have aging veterans, a truly awful starting rotation and one of the sport's most barren farm systems.

Phillies ready for a 1st-place showdown with Braves

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Phillies ready for a 1st-place showdown with Braves

ST. LOUIS — The Phillies have been chasing the first-place Atlanta Braves all month in the National League East standings and never has the deficit been more than 1½ games.

That is the difference between the two teams as they get set to open their fourth series of the still young season Monday night in Philadelphia.

It is perhaps the biggest series the Phillies have hosted at Citizens Bank Park since the days of Jimmy, Chase, Ryan, Cole, Big Chuck and 257 straight sellouts.

“It should be fun,” said pitcher Jake Arrieta, who grew accustomed to playing in big series during his time with the Chicago Cubs.

The Phillies are expecting crowds between 22,000 and 27,000 for the series. 

A good showing over the next three days and those crowds will grow.

“We’re prepared and focused,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “There is a lot of adrenaline going into that series. We feel like we match up very well against them and more than anything else we’re not going to get outworked or prepared.

“We always want to see our home fans out there supporting us and since the beginning of the season since we first stepped foot in CBP, we’ve had that support and we expect nothing less going forward.”

The Phillies have had several chances in the last week to overtake the Braves in the standings. Each time the Braves have stumbled, the Phillies have stumbled. The Phils entered Sunday’s game against the Cardinals a half-game behind the Braves. The Phillies lost and the Braves rallied for six runs in the ninth to beat Miami.

So far this season, the Braves have been the Phillies’ nemesis. Atlanta has won six of the nine meetings. The Phillies have built much of their 26-18 record by going 18-4 against teams from outside the NL East. Meanwhile, against the division, they are just 8-14. That will have to change if the Phillies want to stay in the race.

The Phils have hit just .210 as a team in nine games against Atlanta this season and averaged just 3.3 runs per game. Phillies pitching has a 5.47 ERA against the Braves.

“We haven’t necessarily played the Braves all that well this year,” Arrieta said. “You just have to learn from that.

“It all comes down to how well your starter pitches that day. If you come out and give up four in the first — I’m not saying you can’t win that game but it makes it a lot more difficult. So the emphasis has to be on starting pitching, especially early in the game to set the tone. You put two or three zeroes up there in the first few innings and you can start to control the ball game. We take pride in setting the tone and keeping the game close.”

Arrieta gave the series its proper importance but mixed in some perspective.

“They’re all big,” he said. “It can come down to the last game of the season whether you get in the playoffs, so they’re all big, especially in the division.”

The Phils have not had a winning season since 2011, the last time they made the playoffs. Last year, they went 66-96.

Arrieta is not surprised the Phils, with one of the majors’ youngest rosters, have gotten off to such a good start this season.

“I think our young guys know it, but at the same time, I think they’re somewhat oblivious to it, which is a good thing,” he said. “You don’t want to look at the standings every single day. Sometimes it’s good to evaluate your season month by month. Try to have a winning month, turn the page. I think that’s the measure of a good team. Have a winning April, have a winning May and at the end of the year, you look up and you’re 25 games over .500.

“We have to put the standings out of sight, out of mind and focus on preparing, executing quality pitches, having good at-bats and winning that day. Let the wins stack up and assess at end of the month.”

Though there is a lot of season left — and the Nationals have only begun to awaken — the Phils could sure use some wins against Atlanta.

The biggest series at Citizens Bank Park since the Glory Days begins Monday night.

Here are the pitching matchups for the series:

Monday night – RHP Nick Pivetta (3-2, 3.72) vs. RHP Mike Foltynewicz (3-2, 2.87)

Tuesday night – RHP Vince Velasquez (4-4, 4.37) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (4-2, 5.05)

Wednesday night – RHP Jake Arrieta (3-2, 2.82) vs. LHP Luiz Gohara (0-0, 1.29)