Phillies president Andy MacPhail says team not close enough to blow up farm system at trade deadline

Phillies president Andy MacPhail says team not close enough to blow up farm system at trade deadline

The Phillies won't blow up their farm system at the trade deadline.

Team president Andy MacPhail does not believe the club is close enough to winning a World Series to justify that.

“If you think that you are close to the ultimate prize and you're one piece away then your appetite for giving up something big to acquire that piece is pretty substantial,” MacPhail said. “If you're a team like we are now — we're in the postseason if the season ended today, but what if we're in a one-game playoff?

“It's hard for us to make the judgment now that we're one trade away from the World Series. We don't believe that. I don't believe that. So, as a result, you're going to have to be more judicious with your playing talent.”

MacPhail’s comments certainly won’t excite the fan base, but his read on the club is sound. The Phils, who came back from the All-Star break Friday night in third place in the NL East after a six-week free-fall from first place, have significant holes. Their starting pitching staff features one consistently reliable arm, Aaron Nola. They could use bullpen help and a bat. It will be tough to fix all of that at one trade deadline.

The Phils come back from the All-Star break with three games against red-hot Washington and four against the Dodgers, owners of baseball’s best record.

Washington entered the series in second place in the NL East. The Phillies led the Nats by 10 games in the standings in late May.

A good showing in these first seven games after the break could push management to consider reasonable upgrades.

A bad showing could cause them to completely stand pat.

Though he indicated a reluctance to give up significant minor-league talent to patch a team that might not be ready to win in October, MacPhail said he could be open to acquiring a high-salaried player who might cost less in talent.

Arizona's Zack Greinke could be one such player. The right-hander is still a top talent at age 35, but he is owed about $17 million for the remainder of this season and $35 million each of the next two seasons.

“Our ownership has been pretty clear and they've demonstrated by their actions that salary is not something that is going to be — it has to make some sense, but that's not going to be something that's going to hold us back,” MacPhail said. “I think from my standpoint, I'm going to be more judicious. We win seven in a row on this homestand, I might feel differently, (but) given our current circumstances, I think I'm going to be a little judicious and careful about what talent's walking out the door.”

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How to watch Phillies intrasquad games live starting tonight

How to watch Phillies intrasquad games live starting tonight

Beginning tonight at 7 p.m. through Friday, the Phillies will be streaming each of their intrasquad games. Fans can watch on or on the Phillies' accounts on YouTube, Twitter or Facebook.

There have been some entertaining moments during the Phils' intrasquad games thus far — players reacting to big hits from their teammates, guys celebrating in unique ways. There was also Bryce Harper's stint at third base.

Heck, hearing the crack of the bat is enough by itself.

Tonight, Zack Wheeler and Vince Velasquez are expected to pitch four innings apiece. Top prospect Spencer Howard is on track to pitch Thursday.

The Phillies then begin playing exhibition games this weekend. They are on the road to face the Nationals on Saturday, at home against the Orioles Sunday and in New York to play the Yankees Monday. Their regular season begins Friday, July 24 at home against the Marlins.

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When will pitching prospect Spencer Howard’s bright future in Philly begin?

When will pitching prospect Spencer Howard’s bright future in Philly begin?

Like everyone else in the Phillies organization, new pitching coach Bryan Price has been impressed with right-hander Spencer Howard.

"If this kid is the guy we think he is — and we do — then he's going to have a really nice future in Philadelphia," Price said.

So when will that future begin?

Months ago, before baseball was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, Phillies officials envisioned Howard getting to the majors at some point in 2020.

It wasn't going to happen at the start of the season — for a couple of reasons. First, after pitching just 92⅓ innings and dealing with shoulder tendinitis last season, Howard's workload was going to monitored closely in 2020. The Phillies were going to pull him back early in the season so he could use his bullets — in the majors — later in the season. Pulling in the reins on Howard early in the season would have also allowed the Phillies to push back the pitcher's potential free agency by a year. That's not a popular practice with players — and it might be addressed by the union in negotiations for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement — but it makes sense from a front-office perspective.

Baseball's shutdown has eliminated the need to limit Howard's workload for 2020. If he was part of the Phillies' starting rotation for the entire 60-game season, he would make about a dozen starts. No problem.

But the whole service-time, extra-year-of-control matter still exists. That's why the Phillies might decide against putting Howard on the active, 30-man roster when the season opens a week from Friday night. The team could hold Howard back six days before adding him to the roster and therefore preserve the extra year of control. In those six days, Howard would probably pitch once and with early-season innings limits on all pitchers, he'd probably max out about 65 pitches or four innings in that outing. Trading a year of control for four innings — even in a short season when every game is magnified — makes little sense. So, it won't be surprising if Howard continues to build innings with the satellite club in Lehigh Valley for at least a week or so when the Phillies start the season.

But that doesn't mean Howard won't be around for the bulk of the season.

He'll get here.

Probably quickly.

And if he performs well, he'll stay — possibly with a significant spot in the rotation.

"I would really hope and expect to see him pitching here if not on opening day, then at some point in time because he really needs the work and I think he's ready to compete at this level," said Price, who was previously pitching coach in Seattle, Arizona and Cincinnati. (He also managed the Reds.) 

Howard, who turns 24 in two weeks, has been touted as having top-of-the-rotation potential.

Price, however, is reluctant to comment on Howard's ceiling and that's probably wise. Howard was selected in the second round of the 2017 draft. He has reached 100 innings in the minors just once. He will control his own career trajectory. And he needs to be on the mound to do that.

"You don't really want to talk about repetitions or the importance of workload, but you can't turn a blind eye to it either," Price said.

"I stay away from (commenting on a pitcher's ceiling) and I'll tell you why. Because when you start talking about assigning expectations, especially if you rank like No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 — we don't know what these guys are until they come up here and perform.

"We know that (Howard) would be a top-end prospect in any organization because he has power, he throws strikes, he's athletic, he has a really, really good changeup and breaking ball. The key component there is stuff with strikes, stuff with command. So the sky is the limit.

"In the same respect, you have to get to the big leagues and perform at this level before you define where you are: starter or reliever, No. 1 or No. 5, or somewhere in between. I'll reserve judgment on that and let him pitch his way wherever he gets to."

In other words, the ball is in Howard's hand and he will control the trajectory of his career.

He next gets the ball on Thursday when he's scheduled to pitch three innings in an intrasquad game.

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