Phillies

Phillies should pursue Michael Brantley if they whiff on Bryce Harper

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Phillies should pursue Michael Brantley if they whiff on Bryce Harper

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in MLB. Tuesday is dedicated to veteran outfielder Michael Brantley.

Bryce Harper aside, the Phillies don't have a glaring outfield need. If they miss out on Harper, they could still enter 2019 with a group of Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, Roman Quinn, Aaron Altherr and Rhys Hoskins vying for time in the outfield. That outfield was 13th among the 30 teams in OPS, with defensive issues in left field.

If the Phillies do pursue an outfielder not named Harper, it should be Brantley.

In 10 years in Cleveland, Brantley hit .295/.351/.430 with an average of 38 doubles, 13 homers and 81 RBI per 162 games.

The biggest issue with Brantley, 32 on May 15, is health. He had three surgeries between the end of the 2015 and 2017 seasons: shoulder, biceps, ankle. Those injuries caused him to miss 242 of 486 games the last three years — a game away from 50 percent on the nose.

The other notable issue is the discrepancy in his production against left-handed and right-handed pitchers. A lefty himself, Brantley last season hit .321 with an .889 OPS against righties — elite production. He hit just .277 with a .684 OPS against lefties — below league-average production. His career splits paint a similar picture.

If you're going to have splits like that, it's always better to be the guy who hits right-handers because righties make up about 70 percent of all major-league arms. Last season, Brantley faced a righty 73 percent of the time.

When healthy, Brantley is one of the most effective top-of-the-order hitters in the game. The two-hole these days is typically inhabited by a team's best hitter. It used to be the place you put a guy like Brantley, who is always between .285 and .300 and never strikes out.

He'd fit well with this Phillies lineup because, as with fellow free agent Nick Markakis, Brantley provides skills the Phils' offense didn't have in 2018. The 2018 Phils did not have a consistent singles and doubles hitter. Brantley would have led them in batting average and on-base percentage with eight more doubles than anyone aside from Hoskins.

If the Phillies don't land Harper, and Brantley is still out there, they should strongly consider a three-year deal in the $45 million range. That is a fair price for Brantley. Don't be surprised if the Braves also pursue him if Markakis leaves via free agency.

A key distinction between Brantley and A.J. Pollock, another talented but injury-prone outfielder: Pollock was extended a qualifying offer by his former team, the D-backs. Brantley was not. Therefore, in signing Pollock, the Phillies would forfeit a high draft pick — between Rounds 1 and 2 — whereas they'd give up no pick to sign Brantley.

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Phillies trade left-handed pitcher Tyler Gilbert to Dodgers for outfielder Kyle Garlick

Phillies trade left-handed pitcher Tyler Gilbert to Dodgers for outfielder Kyle Garlick

Trade! OK, maybe not the kind Phillies fans had been waiting on. The Phils acquired corner outfielder Kyle Garlick from the Dodgers on Saturday for left-handed reliever Tyler Gilbert.

Garlick, 28, was designated for assignment by the Dodgers last week. The Phillies made room for him on the 40-man roster by DFA’ing Nick Martini. Martini had been picked up off waivers from Cincy last month.

Garlick went 12 for 48 with four doubles and three homers for the Dodgers in 2019, his lone season in the bigs. He’s a right-handed hitter with power who went deep 82 times while climbing from Single A to Triple A in a crowded Dodgers system from 2016-19.

With the Phillies, Garlick will vie for a spot on the bench. He has a ton of competition. Jay Bruce, Nick Williams and Roman Quinn are on the 40-man roster, and non-roster invitees Logan Forsythe, Josh Harrison, Phil Gosselin, Mikie Mahtook, Matt Szczur, Neil Walker and Ronald Torreyes are also battling for bench jobs. That's 11 players for, at most, four spots, considering the other bench player would be the backup catcher.

Garlick still has two minor league options left, which could provide useful flexibility to the Phillies if they choose to shuttle him back and forth between Triple A and the majors.

Gilbert, the lefty headed to the Dodgers, did not pitch in the majors for the Phillies. He was in camp as a non-roster invitee. He had a 2.83 ERA in 47⅔ innings at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season but found himself behind many other lefty bullpen candidates here.

The Phillies have Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Francisco Liriano, Ranger Suarez, Cole Irvin, Austin Davis and prospects Cristopher Sanchez, Zach Warren, Damon Jones, Kyle Dohy and JoJo Romero in camp. Lots of options to choose from.

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Phillies get an unplanned reason to slow down top prospect Spencer Howard

Phillies get an unplanned reason to slow down top prospect Spencer Howard

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies pitchers completed their fourth day of official bullpen sessions on Saturday, but one notable starter has yet to participate.

Spencer Howard, the organization’s top pitching prospect, tweaked his right knee in a pre-camp workout last weekend, manager Joe Girardi revealed after Saturday’s workout.

Howard had a precautionary MRI during the week and checked out fine. He has continued to participate in throwing drills and did some running Saturday, but his mound work – which he began before camp started – has been paused and there’s no timetable for its restart. Howard has also temporarily ceased doing pitcher fielding drills.

Howard said he tweaked the knee doing a broad-jumping exercise in the weight room last weekend.

“Just landed kind of funny, but no big deal,” he said. "The MRI was all clear.

"Nothing is like actually injured, just pretty much gives me an excuse to do nothing early.”

That fits into the Phillies’ big-picture plan for Howard, who will be on a workload/innings limit this season. The 23-year-old right-hander dealt with shoulder tendinitis last season and has pitched over 100 innings just once in his pro career. Phillies officials envision Howard making an impact at the big-league level at some point in 2020 and would like to save some of his budgeted bullets for later in the season.

“He’s been fine since he was checked out,” Girardi said. “But this kind of gives us the luxury of making sure that we don’t rush him.”

Howard was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2017. He has averaged 12 strikeouts per nine innings in his minor-league career.

Baseball America recently ranked Howard 27th on its list of Top 100 prospects. (Third baseman Alec Bohm ranked 28th.) Baseball America’s commentary on Howard included this: Triple-digit fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and the ability to work the edges of the strike zone, Howard flashes front-end potential.

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