Phillies

Phillies' offseason work probably wouldn't end after an addition of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado

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USA Today Images

Phillies' offseason work probably wouldn't end after an addition of Bryce Harper or Manny Machado

As Bryce Harper and Manny Machado dominate Philly's attention this week, don't forget about two other free agents still on the market: Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel.

It would not be a shock to see either player with the Phillies on opening day, whether it's an agreement with Keuchel in early March a la Jake Arrieta, or a pivot to Kimbrel once there's a resolution with the two superstars.

The Phillies have checked in on most of the top free agents. They've been connected to Kimbrel and Keuchel at different points in the offseason but we wouldn't exactly classify their interest as overwhelming. 

Keep this in mind, though: This front office likes to move discreetly. There weren't loud, consistent rumblings about Carlos Santana before that signing, or about Jean Segura before that trade, or about David Robertson. The Phillies have been connected to Kimbrel more this offseason than they ever were Robertson.

If/when the Phillies sign Harper/Machado, it just doesn't feel like that would be the final move of the offseason. Landing Harper or Machado would instantly turn the Phillies into a playoff contender, and baseball can be random enough in October for improbable things to happen once there. Almost overnight, the confidence level inside the clubhouse and front office would grow to the point that another medium-sized upgrade or two would be seen as having real meaning.

That's scenario 1.

Scenario 2 is the Phillies fail to get either Harper or Machado (the horror). In that event, the Phils would almost surely pounce on a few remaining free agents as they regroup and begin planning their pursuit of the next big star to come available (Nolan Arenado and the White Whale himself, Mike Trout).

Tier A of remaining free agents is Harper and Machado.

Tier B Kimbrel and Keuchel.

What's left after that are useful pieces like Marwin Gonzalez, Gio Gonzalez, Carlos Gonzalez, Mike Moustakas, Josh Harrison and Adam Jones.

If the Phillies end up with Harper, forget about Carlos Gonzalez and Jones. Excess of outfielders.

If they end up with Machado, forget about Marwin Gonzalez, Moustakas and Harrison. Excess of infielders.

Moments after Harper or Machado sign here (assuming it happens), the focus shifts to pitching. The Phillies can talk themselves into their current rotation but there is plenty of risk. You know what you have in Aaron Nola. You have no idea what to expect from the other four starters, who were all brilliant in a host of games in 2018 and unable to keep the Phillies in a few too many others.

After the addition of a superstar, don't you have to protect all of your other investments by adding to the rotation? You revisit talks with Keuchel, if he's still out there, and see if he'll sign for three years like Arrieta did.

If that doesn't work, you pivot to Gio Gonzalez on a one-year deal. I'm not the biggest Gio Gonzalez guy — on the afternoons or evenings he doesn't have it, you're looking at 11 baserunners and 77 pitches by the end of the third inning — but there's no downside to adding depth to a volatile rotation. It's a lefty, which the Phils don't have, it's spring training competition for the Pivetta-Eflin-Velasquez trio, and it's security if a starter is injured or has a bad year in 2019.

Kimbrel would be a luxury, but if you can't sign another starter and the price is right — and no more than three years — why not create a dominant back-end of the bullpen with Kimbrel, David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez? It would allow Gabe Kapler to bring a devastating reliever into a jam in the fifth or sixth inning and still have two more for the eighth and ninth. He'd have the flexibility to use a powerful haymaker at any time. One of the beautiful and fun things about this game is the number of ways you can approach run prevention and run production.

If you're reading this, I know you're probably past the point of impatience. This is the state of baseball free agency in 2019 and hopefully for not too much longer. Just remember that there are still plenty of good players left beyond Harper and Machado, enough combinations for the Phillies to make more than one interesting addition before we're too deep into spring training.

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10 of the best random Philly sports guys you remember

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AP / USAT / Opeechee

10 of the best random Philly sports guys you remember

Philly sports fans have been remembering some guys since the first ball was thrown at the Baker Bowl or Shibe Park over a century ago. The folks at Deadspin popularized the online version of “Remembering Some Guys.” And when the bamboo strikes real good, sometimes we want to remember some Philly guys on social media as NBC Sports Philly’s Twitter and Facebook accounts prompted on Tuesday evening.

The responses were clear: people love remembering some Philly sports guys.

Here are 10 of our favorite responses.

One of the more popular responses was pitcher Antonio Alfonseca who had an unremarkable stint in Philly in 2007 but is frequently remembered for being a polydactyly. He had six fingers on one hand and Wikipedia says his nickname was "El Pulpo" which translates to "The Octopus." Tough to forget that guy.

Did Michael Zordich invent Zubaz? You’d probably believe me if I told you he did. What do we remember about Mike Zordich? Mostly just the look.

Willie Burton broke the record for points scored in a game at the Spectrum by a Sixer when he went off for 53 in an improbable game in 1994. Remember that?

I’m not a big hockey guy so picking a rando was tougher but I was always a fan of Luca Sbisa because the guy’s name was Luca and he was a hockey player from Italy. Amazing.

Reno Mahe and Gizmo Williams.

These two were among the most-frequently mentioned in our polling. People like to remember special teamers, it seems. The best thing I remember about Reno was that he worked at Chickie’s and Pete’s while playing for the Eagles. Talk about lunch pail kinda guy. Plenty of people remember Gizmo because the guy’s name was Gizmo and he flipped. People remember flips.

What do we remember about Kjell Samuelsson? Dude was huge! Like a Chewbacca on skates.

People love to remember Dickie Thon and Rick Schu. I think it's the quirky names. Fun fact: Dickie’s name was actually Richard. Rich Schu had the unenviable job of taking over third base for Mike Schmidt. Tough job.

Markelle Fultz. Lol. Remember that guy?

That was fun. You know who I remember? Raja Bell. Pretty good name for a guy playing in Philly. Plus, Kobe eventually hated him. David, too, I guess. He hit for the cycle once.

Who else do you remember?

2 buddies and the Bamboo Man keep Phillies loose and in the win column

2 buddies and the Bamboo Man keep Phillies loose and in the win column

A toweled Hector Neris entered the Phillies' clubhouse, saw a group of reporters congregating around Maikel Franco, looked over and gave his buddy a quick message.

"Franco,” the perpetually grinning Neris said, “make sure to say something funny.”

Neris and Franco, two friends who have been through a hell of a lot together as Phillies. They've seen years with no expectations and high expectations. They've played important roles and lost their roles. They've been key cogs and been demoted. 

On Tuesday night, both were instrumental in another Phillies comeback win over the Mets. Franco hit the game-winning two-run homer in the sixth inning of the 7-5 victory, a night after also delivering the decisive two-run homer in the middle innings.

Neris picked up four huge outs for his 16th save in 17 chances. With the tying run on base and one out in the ninth, Neris struck out young lefty Dom Smith and got veteran righty Wilson Ramos to ground out to second base.

Smith and Michael Conforto in particular, were fooled by Neris' trademark splitter. They both expanded the strike zone and looked bad doing it. Neris feasts on over-aggressive hitters who can't lay off the split.

"It's a very unique pitch," manager Gabe Kapler said, "one that it doesn't matter how many times you see it, it still doesn't give you an advantage."

Kapler was ejected in the sixth inning when he argued a warning from umpire Joe West after Scott Kingery was hit by a pitch near the head. The manager was still in a good mood after the win and didn't necessarily think the Rhys Hoskins-Jacob Rhame episode two months ago played a role.

After the Phillies' win Monday, Jean Segura had called Franco one of the Phillies' key bats. Segura talked about how much he enjoys relying on Franco on the left side of the infield. He mentioned how Franco can change a game with one swing and how when he, in particular, is going right, the Phillies' offense is just a lot better. 

It's true. Franco offers offensive upside that veteran utilityman Sean Rodriguez does not. Franco can pop one at any moment. He can pound a mistake. He can also pound a hittable pitch into the ground to the left side, as he had done far too frequently the last six weeks, but when Franco is on and feeling confident, he's dangerous.

"It makes me feel great," Franco said of Segura's comments last night. "I've been around good teammates. They've been great and supporting me. That makes me push myself every single day and perform and do everything I can to get better and make adjustments."

After one of the Phillies’ four home runs, Franco and Segura were on the field to do their handshakes with Rhys Hoskins. As Segura turned back toward the dugout, Franco took a couple hops toward him and gave him a hard noogie. 

This team is not playing tight. 

The Phillies picked up their starting pitcher for the second straight night. Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin have combined to allow 11 runs in 11 innings against the Mets but both have received wins because the Phils' bats came alive during the half-innings they were pinch-hit for.

The Mets held early leads in both games. The Phillies could have gone into a shell after the seven straight losses that preceded this series. Instead, the lineup finally looked the lineup it was supposed to be.

"It was exactly what we needed the last couple nights," Arrieta said. "It wasn't ideal from a pitching perspective the last couple nights from me and Zach, but sometimes that's what you need. The guys picked both of us up. Would have loved to have thrown the ball better. There were some really good things that happened, and some not so good. But we were able to kind of put it behind us in a positive way with a win and a chance to get a couple more before we go on the road. So the guys are feeling good about it."

The guys are also feeling good about these bamboo plants. First, one was in Brad Miller's locker Monday. Then a giant bamboo plant was on the table in the middle of the clubhouse Tuesday. Arrieta said Tuesday night he might put one in his locker tomorrow. Kapler said there might be one in every locker. 

Miller is doing more than keeping the mood light. He gave the Phils insurance with a pinch-hit solo shot Tuesday and is 3 for 4 with two extra-base hits as a pinch-hitter.

"They're going to think I'm crazy going back to that place tomorrow for the third day in a row but I told them I would see them tomorrow," Miller said. "They're going to keep hiking the prices up on me. It was worth it.

"Everyone has been awesome from Day One. I showed up and we went through a tough stretch, but nobody seemed to panic or anything. The first night, I saw a bunch of guys out at dinner and tried to join in and work hard and earn their respect and get to the party and enjoy it. It's been fun."

 

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