Phillies

Shohei Ohtani chooses Los Angeles Angels

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Shohei Ohtani chooses Los Angeles Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Shohei Ohtani has decided he's on the side of the Angels.

The Japanese two-way star announced Friday he will sign with the Los Angeles Angels, ending the sweepstakes surrounding his move to the majors in a surprising destination.

Ohtani, who intends to be both a starting pitcher and an everyday power hitter, turned down interest from every other big-league club to join two-time MVP Mike Trout and slugger Albert Pujols with the Angels, who are coming off their second consecutive losing season and haven't won a playoff game since 2009.

The Angels' combination of a promising core and a beautiful West Coast location clearly appealed to the 23-year-old Ohtani, who has confounded baseball experts at almost every step of his move to North America as one of the most coveted free agents in years.

Ohtani and his agent, Nez Balelo, issued a statement Friday announcing the decision after meeting with several finalists for his services earlier in the week.

Balelo said the 2016 Japanese MVP "felt a true bond with the Angels. He sees this as the best environment to develop and reach the next level and attain his career goals."

After his unusual courtship, Ohtani will attempt to chart an even more unique career path as the majors' first regular two-way player in several decades. Ohtani already has drawn numerous comparisons to Babe Ruth, who excelled as a hitter and a pitcher early in his Hall of Fame career.

Ohtani is expected to be both a right-handed starting pitcher and a left-handed designated hitter for the Angels, who are expected to give him ample playing time in both roles.

Many baseball observers have long assumed Ohtani would choose a higher-profile franchise such as the Yankees or Dodgers, who would have both welcomed him into their rotation and lineup. He received serious attention from Seattle and Texas, who both could have given him more money than the Angels.

Ohtani listened to his suitors' final pitches in Los Angeles before choosing the Angels, who play about 28 miles from downtown LA in laid-back Orange County. Most of the Angels live in coastal Newport Beach and enjoy a comfortable, warm-weather lifestyle with ample big-market media attention, but without the withering scrutiny of other top destinations.

Yet Angels general manager Billy Eppler is very serious about winning, and he has spent several years scouting Ohtani, ever since his previous job with the Yankees.

"We are honored Shohei Ohtani has decided to join the Angels organization," the franchise said in a brief statement. "We felt a unique connectivity with him throughout the process and are excited he will become an Angel. This is a special time for Angels fans."

Ohtani has ample opportunity to fulfill his biggest ambitions with the Angels, who are in need of a top starting pitcher. They should also be able to fit him into their lineup when he isn't pitching: Pujols has largely been a designated hitter for the past two seasons, but the three-time NL MVP is expected to be healthy enough to play first base more frequently in 2018.

Ohtani's new teammates greeted the news joyously. Left fielder Justin Upton tweeted , "So pumped right now..."

Trout, who is getting married this weekend to his longtime girlfriend, simply sent out the emoji of two bugged-out eyes .

Ohtani's disappointed suitors included Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, who had hoped Ohtani would follow in the footsteps of Yu Darvish, their former Japanese ace, instead of going to one of their AL West rivals.

"We're disappointed we weren't Shohei Ohtani's choice, but wish him the best in Anaheim," Daniels said. "He impressed us on and off the field at every turn. However, had he asked our opinion, we would have suggested the National League."

Ohtani was coveted by every team because of his exceptional pitching talent and powerful bat, but also because he represents an extraordinary bargain due to baseball's rules around international players.

The Angels will have to pay the $20 million posting fee to Ohtani's previous club, the Nippon Ham Fighters, but Ohtani will not be paid a huge salary for the next three seasons. Ohtani, who will be under the Angels' contractual control for six years, will sign a minor league contract and can receive up to $2,315,000 in international bonus money from the Angels.

Ohtani likely could have received a deal worth more than $100 million if he had waited two years to move stateside, but Ohtani wasn't interested in delaying his progress for money.

Ohtani should get an immediate spot in the front of the rotation for the Angels, who have endured brutal injuries to their starting pitchers in recent years.

Los Angeles' ostensible ace is Garrett Richards, but he has been limited to 62 1/3 innings over the past two seasons. The rotation also currently includes Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs, who have all dealt with major injury setbacks.

Ohtani was 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA this year while slowed by thigh and ankle injuries, but those numbers don't indicate the incredible potential seen in a pitcher whose fastball has been clocked above 100 mph. While he has occasionally struggled with control, Ohtani is widely thought to be a surefire big-league pitching prospect.

Scouts are more divided on Ohtani's ability to hit big-league pitching consistently, but the Angels intend to find out. He hit .332 in 65 games with eight homers and 31 RBIs last season, occasionally unleashing the tape-measure blasts that had teams salivating.

The Angels could ease Ohtani's transition to the majors by resting him on the days before and after he pitches, as he did in Japan. Los Angeles also has thought about trying a six-man starting rotation, which would allow Ohtani to have ample arm rest after pitching roughly once a week in Japan.

The Angels have missed the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons, but Ohtani's arrival is only the latest in a series of big moves for Eppler, who is determined to build a World Series contender during the remaining three years on Trout's contract.

Shortly after the World Series ended, the Angels secured a five-year, $106 million deal with Upton, their late-season trade acquisition. The veteran slugger is an ideal solution after years of underperformance in left field for the club.

Earlier this week, Eppler bolstered his much-improved farm system by signing 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan, a coveted prospect considered the best of 13 players recently taken away from the Atlanta Braves for violating international signing rules.

It didn't take long for Freddy Galvis' defense to wow the Padres

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It didn't take long for Freddy Galvis' defense to wow the Padres

It didn't take long for Freddy Galvis to open the eyes of his new teammates.

"I can think of maybe two balls all year long where he did not make a play," Padres manager Andy Green told the San Diego Union-Tribune at the end of June.

"It's the most accurate arm I've ever seen from a shortstop," first baseman Eric Hosmer said in the same piece.

The Phils obviously didn't move on from Galvis because of his defense. They moved on from him because he never reached a higher level with his bat and because they had two young infielders — Scott Kingery, J.P. Crawford — they were ready to move forward with.

The Galvis trade was a good one for the Phillies. In exchange for one year of his services, they got a solid young pitcher with upside in Enyel De Los Santos.

It was a move they had to make because Galvis will be a free agent after the season and this gave them the extended look they needed at Kingery and Crawford.

There's no question, though, that the 2018 Phils have missed Galvis' defense. Phillies shortstops have committed 13 errors, seventh most in baseball. Padres shortstops have committed five errors, fewest in the National League and second fewest in the majors.

At the beginning of Galvis' major-league career, his flashy plays stood out but he wasn't as effective with routine plays as Jimmy Rollins was. That changed after Galvis made 17 errors in 2015. In the three seasons since, he's committed just 20 errors combined.

Galvis can make the flashy play, but he also makes almost every single routine play. He knows where to position himself for every hitter, how quickly to release the ball to throw out a speedy runner. 

Over the years, more than a few teammates have commended Galvis' baseball instincts as some of the best they've ever seen. You can't quantify baseball instincts the way you can quantify offensive stats, so there's a portion of fans that will always scoff when Galvis' value is brought up.

"His internal clock, as far when he releases the ball, how much times he has, he just knows all that stuff beforehand," Hosmer told the Union-Tribune. "He's about as fundamentally sound as any infielder I've ever seen."

The Phillies have not gotten the look at Crawford they wanted in 2018. Injuries have limited him to just 34 games, 112 plate appearances and 93 defensive chances at shortstop.

As for Kingery, he should benefit from the everyday playing at shortstop. He's improved defensively as the season has worn on. In a few years, he'll likely be even better with the glove — and, equally important, a more selective hitter.

Galvis has hit .234/.294/.331 this season. Phillies shortstops have hit .238/.286/.352 and played worse defense. 

If this ends up being the worst offensive year of Kingery's career, then his worst numbers would fall in line with Galvis' career averages (.244/.288/.367).

It will be interesting to see where Galvis ends up this offseason. A team with a powerful and deep lineup — the Brewers, the Diamondbacks — can win with Galvis and effectively hide him in the 8-spot. If the Phillies had better offenses all those years, the weak aspects of his game wouldn't have been as pronounced.

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No Manny, no problem — these Phillies believe they're good enough to keep winning

No Manny, no problem — these Phillies believe they're good enough to keep winning

BOX SCORE

The Phillies did not win the Manny Machado sweepstakes and, for one night at least, it didn’t really matter. The team’s offense showed up big in an 11-5 win over the San Diego Padres at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night (see first take).

“There's a lot of teams out there that wanted Machado because he's pretty much going to help anybody," Jake Arrieta said after the game. "But we've gotten into the position we are with the guys we have. 

"Would it have been cool to have a guy like that? Yeah. On the flip side, it gives other guys more opportunity to show they can produce at a high level and help us continue the way we’ve been playing.”

Arrieta got the ball in the first game back from the All-Star break, but he did not produce at a high level. He did not make it out of the fourth inning and allowed five runs. His teammates bailed him out, though, scoring six runs in the second inning and four more in the eighth as the Phils maintained their half-game lead on Atlanta in the NL East and improved to 54-42.

The crowd was 30,034, so folks are beginning to notice the progress that this team has made.

The Phillies played sloppy ball early in the game. Arrieta and catcher Jorge Alfaro both made errors. There was a wild pitch. Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco both ran the bases a little recklessly.

But the Phils were able to play over these flaws because the bullpen came up huge with 5 2/3 shutout innings — rookie Austin Davis got his first big-league win — and the offense delivered 12 hits, including a huge, game-changing, three-run homer by Carlos Santana in the bottom of the second inning.

It was Santana’s 15th homer. The Phillies will need more power from him in the middle of the order as the second half unfolds. The need for pop is the reason the Phillies pursued Machado, who ended up in Los Angeles.

“Great player, man,” de facto team captain Rhys Hoskins said. “The Dodgers got a great player.

“But I think we’ve always thought that we can surprise a lot of people with the people we have in this room. We have a lot of talent. There hasn’t really been a time this year when we’ve all clicked at the same time, which I think is pretty exciting. And it’s going to happen at some point this year, hopefully for a long period of time. We’re in first place and that hasn’t happened yet, so that’s exciting.”

Manager Gabe Kapler began the day brushing off questions about Machado and expressing faith in his team as it is currently constructed.

“I have a tremendous amount of confidence in the men in that room,” he said. “We have everything we need. If we make additions — fantastic. But what we have is all we need. I’m really impressed with the group. We’re in first place for a reason. We didn’t get there with anybody but the men in that clubhouse right now.”

Santana echoed those comments after the game.

“Machado is a great player, but we believe in what we have here,” he said. “We have great talent. I know we have a lot of younger players, and I know sometimes people don't feel good about Philadelphia, but we believe.”

Santana and Arrieta are two of only a few Phillies players who’ve been involved in a pennant race previously. Arrieta had pitched well in his previous three starts before allowing six hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings Friday night. He will need to pitch better than that if the Phils are going to stay in the race — and he knows it.

“When you’re behind early like that, it’s just really nice to see the team be able to pick you up,” Arrieta said. “I didn’t really have much tonight. They picked me up, and that’s something that I intend to do when it’s my opportunity to do that for our guys, when we have that need.”

Arrieta did make an important offensive contribution when he beat out a potential inning-ending double-play ball to keep the second inning alive. Cesar Hernandez and Hoskins (RBI) then worked walks against Clayton Richard before Herrera stroked a two-run single and Santana blasted his three-run homer. All the runs came with two outs with walks filling the bases and big hits clearing them.

The Phillies erupted for four runs in the bottom of the eighth, building a two-run lead to a six-run lead. The importance of that rally was huge as it allowed Kapler to stay away from bullpen ace Seranthony Dominguez. He will be fresh as the Phillies look to make it two in a row over the Padres on Saturday night.

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