Phillies

As Phillies wait for answer on Manny Machado, keep an eye on J.A. Happ

As Phillies wait for answer on Manny Machado, keep an eye on J.A. Happ

As the Phillies wait for the Baltimore Orioles to make a decision on where they will send Manny Machado, here is another name that is on the team's list of July trade considerations:

J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The left-hander ranks behind Machado and his Baltimore teammate, Zach Britton, on the Phillies' wish list, but there is definite interest, according to a league source.

In fact, the Blue Jays have spent much time scouting the Phillies' minor-league system recently, according to a league source.

Happ, 35, is in the final season of a three-year, $36 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. In 19 starts, he is 10-6 with a 4.29 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP.

Happ, of course, was originally Phillies property, selected by the club in the third round of the 2004 draft out of Northwestern University. He debuted with the Phillies in 2007 and earned a World Series ring with the club in 2008. He finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2009 and was traded to Houston as part of the package for Roy Oswalt the next summer.

The Phillies have not had a left-hander make a start for them since late in the 2016 season. Having a lefty in the rotation is not imperative, but there would be value to it in a pennant race — and beyond — if the Phils could land the right one. Landing a lefty starter could open the possibility of using Vince Velasquez as a one-inning bullpen weapon in the postseason.

The Phillies have long been connected to Cole Hamels, another lefty starter who, of course, has significant Phillies roots. However, there has been no evidence to date that the Phils are pursuing Hamels, who has a $20 million contract option for next season that can be bought out for $6 million.

Neither Happ nor Hamels have pitched especially well lately. Happ, however, was named to the American League All-Star team on Sunday, a nod to his consistency earlier in the season.

Machado update

As for Machado, the Phillies, according to well-placed sources, are one of two or three teams — the others being the Dodgers and Brewers — awaiting a verdict in the Machado sweepstakes. Some industry sources question whether the Brewers have the prospects to get a deal done. The Dodgers and Phillies do have the prospects. The Phillies would be willing to part with a more significant package if Britton, a lefty closer, is included in the deal. It would not be surprising if there is a resolution to all this later this week.

Machado, a slugging left-side infielder, is eligible to become a free agent at season's end. The Phillies are willing to trade for him now and take their chances that they can sign him later this summer or in the offseason, provided they trade from depth areas of their farm system and don't mortgage their future.

Over the weekend, club president Andy MacPhail said the team's play — first place in the NL East at the All-Star break — had put management in a position where it needed "to try to augment our current group to try to preserve our place in the standings for as long as we can."

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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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