The reason Gabe Kapler's Neris-Ramos decision will occur again and again

The reason Gabe Kapler's Neris-Ramos decision will occur again and again

If the save statistic didn't exist, would we even care about Gabe Kapler's decision in the ninth inning Wednesday in Baltimore?

Think about it. Unless the move backfires, rarely do pitching changes in the seventh or eighth innings become major talking points.

But in this case, because a save was taken out from under Edubray Ramos, many have questioned the necessity of Kapler's move to Hector Neris with two outs and nobody on.

The element of this debate that does invite criticism is that Ramos was rolling. He had struck out two batters on six pitches and looked more than capable of retiring strikeout-prone lefty Chris Davis to end the game.

But as far as valuing matchups over the save statistic? It's hard to find a whole lot of fault with that.

From the minor leagues on up, the Phillies want to create an organization in which players do not feel locked into roles, whether it's relievers or position players. It's what Kapler wants and what the Phillies want, and the night before Kapler made that interesting decision in Baltimore, he discussed why the Phils hold this philosophy.

"We have a lot of respect for players having emotional connections to roles," Kapler said earlier this week. "And it's not just relievers, but also guys who play every day or come off the bench, they like to get in routines and rhythms. We need to be aware of that and respect it."

But ...

"The game is valuing guys who are a little bit more flexible in a different way than they ever have," Kapler continued. "I personally believe that there is a mental toughness that comes along with a guy who can come to the ballpark every day and just be like, 'Use me however you want to use me. Put me in any situation, I'm game for anything.' That's a hard thing to do. For that reason, we move slowly and we think long about the decisions that we make.

"I think that eventually, players will realize how much value they bring to the team when they're flexible. And then they'll also realize — and this is just my personal opinion — that clubs will eventually pay for that. So it will, in turn, be a win for them and for the club at the same time and that's a pretty cool thing."

Many view the save as an arbitrary, outdated stat. It's pretty silly that it can be applied to a three-run lead the same as it can be applied to a bases-loaded, no-out jam in a one-run game. But saves and games finished do have practical meaning to players because those counting stats can help them earn more money in arbitration. Eventually, perhaps that reduces what someone like Ramos could be paid in a few years. 

But the Phillies are focused on this "ready for anything" mentality from their players. So don't be surprised if this happens over and over again in the ninth inning and no Phillie accumulates more than 15 saves. 

Wednesday was only a sign of what's to come in the ensuing months and years.

Phillies rumors: If no Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas would be clear upgrade over Maikel Franco

Phillies rumors: If no Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas would be clear upgrade over Maikel Franco

Many Phillies fans have been so focused on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper for so long that no other acquisition this winter will be a worthy consolation.

The Phillies, though, have prepared for the reality of an offseason that doesn't net them either huge star. If that does unfortunately happen, they'll have to pivot quickly to other offensive upgrades, provided quality options are still available.

Before getting to one immediately logical free-agent upgrade, just remember that Harper and Machado are not the final two stars who will ever come available. Unless the Rockies make an insane extension offer, Nolan Arenado will be a free agent this time next year at age 28. (I personally would rather build a team around Arenado than Machado, but anywho.)

For the Phillies this offseason, Mike Moustakas would make a lot of sense if Machado doesn't happen. He's a definite upgrade over Maikel Franco, offensively and defensively, and would give this Phils lineup better left-handed balance.

The need for lefty power

As of this moment, the best part of the Phillies' batting order will feature three right-handers among four spots in Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen and Rhys Hoskins. You can split it up a bit by going Segura one, McCutchen two, Odubel Herrera/Nick Williams three and Hoskins four, but it would be helpful to have some consistent power from the left side.

Moustakas offers that. He's homered 51 times off of right-handed pitchers the last two seasons, the exact same total as both Machado and Harper. (No, not a comparison, just an interesting fact.)

Moustakas' OPS against righties over that span is a few points higher than Anthony Rizzo's.

Phillies' interest in Moustakas

The Phillies were interested in Moustakas in July, before the Royals traded him to the Brewers, and have expressed interest in him again this offseason. Moustakas, like Harper and Zach Britton, is a Scott Boras client. 

A definite upgrade over Franco

When the Phillies were connected to Moustakas this past summer, some questioned whether he was even an upgrade over Franco. Around that time, Franco had been hot, flashing the kind of multi-week hot streak the Phillies had been waiting a long time for. 

But at the plate, in the field, on paper or in front of your eyes, Moustakas is just a better player than Franco and has been throughout Franco's big-league career.

Since 2015, Moustakas has hit .267/.324/.484. Franco has hit .255/.306/.442.

Moustakas has averaged 33 homers and 34 doubles per 162 games. Franco has averaged 27 homers and 29 doubles.

Moustakas' .808 OPS over that four-year span is 15 percent higher than the league average. Franco's .748 OPS is 60 points lower, and two percent below the league average.

Defensively, Moustakas has been average, but there is value in average. He has -1 defensive run saved over the past four years. Franco has -30, by far the worst mark in the National League.

What about the contracts?

Franco is projected to make $5 million through the arbitration process this winter. He is under club control through the end of the 2021 season. If he remains an everyday player throughout his arbitration years, he could realistically get $8 million in 2020 and $10 million in 2021. So for all intents and purposes, Franco would be about a three-year, $23 million player for the Phils.

Moustakas is a free agent. Things did not go so well for him last offseason, when he was a free agent but lingered on the market as possible landing spots like the Angels, Giants, Yankees, Mets and Braves were filled. 

Eventually, Moustakas went back to the Royals for one year and $5.5 million with incentives and a $1 million buyout. It wasn't what he or Boras expected.

Boras said last offseason that no major-league team offered Moustakas a multi-year deal. The weird thing was that Moustakas had just turned 29 and was coming off a 38-homer season, by far his best as a pro. He's now coming off a season that was about 70 percent as productive.

Moustakas, now 30, is a candidate for a two-year deal this winter, or a one-year pact with a vesting option. Boras likes to extract every last dollar, but two years in the $20-26 million range seems fair. 

That kind of contract would give the Phillies a better third baseman in 2019 (if they don't land Machado), and also give them the flexibility to pursue Arenado at the 2019 trade deadline or in free agency.

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Here's the scoop on Manny Machado's visit to Philly

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Here's the scoop on Manny Machado's visit to Philly

The Manny Machado Free Agent Tour is coming to Philadelphia.

Machado will be in town Thursday for a recruiting visit with Phillies officials, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The trip to Philadelphia is part of a busy week for the star infielder. Chicago-based baseball reporter Bruce Levine has reported that Machado will be in that city to visit with White Sox officials this week and George King of the New York Post reports that Machado will visit the Yankees in New York on Wednesday.

The Phillies have strong interest in signing Machado to be their third baseman. However, landing Machado will not be easy as the player has had a long desire to play for the Yankees. The Yankees could even offer Machado a chance to play shortstop, at least for part of the 2019 season, as Didi Gregorius recovers from elbow surgery. Machado is an elite defensive third baseman, but shortstop is his favorite position.

Though the Phillies favor Machado over Bryce Harper, this winter's other mega free agent, they remain interested and engaged with Harper and pursuit of the outfielder could intensify if they don't land Machado.

Earlier this offseason, the Phillies hosted pitcher Patrick Corbin for a recruiting visit at Citizens Bank Park. He also visited the Yankees and Washington Nationals and ended up signing a six-year deal with Washington.

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