Phillies

Through fog of defeat, Phillies GM Matt Klentak sees progress, says Gabe Kapler will return in 2019

Through fog of defeat, Phillies GM Matt Klentak sees progress, says Gabe Kapler will return in 2019

DENVER — Phillies general manager Matt Klentak used the word “awful” to describe the last six weeks.

“There’s no other way to put it,” he said before Wednesday night’s game. “We’ve played poorly. We’ve lost games. It’s been miserable for just about everybody up and down the organization.”

The Phillies have lost 32 of their last 47 games after Wednesday's lifeless 14-0 loss, which began with eight consecutive strikeouts. They are on their way to making ignominious history. According to baseball writer Jayson Stark’s research, no team had ever been 15 games over .500 as late as 113 games into the season — that’s where the Phillies were on Aug. 7 — and not finished with a winning record.

The Phillies, losers of seven straight games, are headed there. They are 78-80 with four games to play.

In the wake of their historic collapse, Klentak pointed out that the team had made progress. Indeed, the club will finish with a much better record than last year’s mark of 66-96.

Still, he promised changes for next season.

“Significant changes are necessary,” he said. “But I think we all need to fight the narrative that it’s a simple fix. There’s a lot of things we can do and we’re going to address a lot of things.”

He mentioned that changes could come through free-agent signings, trades and by the improvements that some players who have now gone through the ups and downs of a long season will make next year.

There is one area that Klentak will not change: on-field leadership. He said first-year manager Gabe Kapler and the coaching staff would be back next season.

“I think Kap has been consistent throughout the year,” Klentak said. “I think he’s made plenty of adjustments. I think he’s learned a lot. I think he’s grown a lot.

“I think his style of in-game management has been relatively consistent. I think what changed was for four months we were winning and it was scrutinized less. For the last couple months, we’ve been losing and it’s been scrutinized more. I don’t think that’s the first time in baseball history that something like that has played itself out. When you’re losing, people are going to scrutinize more. The whole organization will be.”

Klentak mentioned that the Phillies were not projected to be a powerhouse team when the season opened. They were the youngest team in the majors. They won for four months then things went bad.

“Expectations were fairly modest,” he said. “When we hired Kap, we knew that he is progressive. In my judgment, this was a good year to be progressive and try new things because expectations were modest and we had a lot of young players and a new manager. Some of the things we’ve tried have not worked, some of the things that he’s done and that we’ve done as an organization have worked really well.

“I think this was a good year for us to experiment, try new things, grow forward and we made progress. We didn’t make enough progress to make the playoffs and there was a time in midsummer when it looked like maybe we were and then we didn’t. But I think in order to take this organization where it needs to go we had to have a year like this, where we pushed the envelope.”

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Phillies finally add to bullpen by agreeing to deal with Drew Storen

Phillies finally add to bullpen by agreeing to deal with Drew Storen

The Phillies finally added a reliever, agreeing this week to a minor-league deal with former Nationals closer Drew Storen, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

Storen had some really good seasons with the Nationals at the beginning of the decade. From 2010-15, he had a 3.02 ERA in 355 appearances, most of which were high-leverage.

He had an unceremonious exit from D.C. after two poor postseason showings. He allowed the game-tying and game-winning runs to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS, and allowed a game-tying run in the 2014 NLDS as well.

When the Nationals acquired Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies for Nick Pivetta in the summer of 2015, it led to the narrative that Storen's confidence was shaken and he was never the same.

Storen was traded to Toronto a calendar year after the Nats got Papelbon, and he's since spent time in the organizations of the Blue Jays, Reds and Royals. He underwent Tommy John surgery late in 2017 and has barely pitched the last two seasons, making just nine appearances in the minors with the Royals, all at Double A.

Storen is a classic buy-low reliever. Maybe things click in spring training and he makes the team and can provide the Phillies another quality right-handed relief option. The odds are probably against it, but the Phillies do have plenty of open roles in their bullpen.

The big wild-card in the Phils' bullpen is Seranthony Dominguez, who missed most of last season with arm injuries but could be a much-needed and useful weapon if he can revert to his 2018 form.

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J.T. Realmuto will fight for future generations in salary arbitration case against Phillies

J.T. Realmuto will fight for future generations in salary arbitration case against Phillies

More than once last summer, J.T. Realmuto expressed his affection for Philadelphia and said he’d one day be up for signing a long-term contract extension with the Phillies.

The specter of his upcoming salary arbitration hearing hasn’t changed his outlook.

“Not at all,” he said before the 116th annual Philadelphia Sports Writers Association banquet Monday night. “Anybody who knows about the arbitration process knows it’s business. It’s not necessarily me against the Phillies right now. There’s definitely not going to be any hard feelings there. So I feel like we’re at the same place we were two or three months ago as far as with the contract extension.”

Before the two sides go to work on a long-term contract extension, Realmuto is likely to play the 2020 season on a one-year contract. Barring an unlikely settlement, Realmuto will have his 2020 salary decided by an arbitration panel next month. He is seeking $12.4 million. The Phillies’ arbitration offer is $10 million. The arbitration panel will hear arguments from both sides then pick one number or the other.

Realmuto knows the game. He went to arbitration with the Miami Marlins two years ago and lost.

“I have a good understanding of the process,” he said. “I know it’s not the Phillies trying to slight me. It’s more the system. There are no hard feelings there.”

Realmuto, who turns 29 in March, is coming off a season in which he solidified himself as baseball’s best catcher while making $5.9 million. He was an All-Star. He was the catcher on the inaugural All-MLB team and he won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in the National League. He led all big-league catchers in hits, RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits while swatting a career-high 25 homers. He threw out 37 runners trying to steal, the most in the majors.

Realmuto’s 2019 season put him in a good position to win his arbitration case.

But he made it clear that this is about more than just himself.

"It’s not me against the Phillies,” he said. “It’s the system that we’re trying to fight right now.  I’m trying to go out and set a precedent for future catchers in the game and I feel like I had a season worthy of doing that so I’m going to fight for that.

"This is not because the Phillies didn’t give us a chance to come to an agreement. We’re fighting for a cause, fighting for the rest of the catchers. Historically, catchers have not been treated well in the arbitration process and we feel like this is an opportunity to advance that for the catchers. Just being able to fight for those guys is something I take pride in. I believe in fighting for future generations and I’m excited to do it."

Once Realmuto’s 2020 salary is established in mid-February, the Phillies are expected to initiate talks on an extension that would begin at the start of the 2021 season. Those talks should commence during spring training. A contract extension is expected to cover up to five seasons with an average annual value of over $20 million.

Realmuto, who was honored as the PSWA’s Athlete of the Year for 2019, was joined by new Phillies manager Joe Girardi at the banquet.

“I’m really excited to play for him,” Realmuto said. “I feel like he’s got a lot of feel. He knows exactly what he wants to do as a manager and has a lot of confidence and he’ll be able to instill that confidence in us.”

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