Phillies

Would J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins consider contract extensions with Phillies?

Would J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins consider contract extensions with Phillies?

MIAMI — From established stars Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, to top pitchers Chris Sale and Jacob deGrom, to young studs Alex Bregman and Ronald Acuña Jr., a bevy of major league players have straight-armed approaching free agency and signed long-term contract extensions in recent months.

Phillies ace Aaron Nola was one of the first in a flurry of deals when he signed a four-year, 45-million contract in mid-February. Team management identified Nola as a keystone player and locked him up.

There are other players on the roster as important to the team’s foundation as Nola.

Catcher J.T. Realmuto will be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season.

First baseman Rhys Hoskins comes up further down the road, after the 2023 season.

Both players have a desire to remain in Philadelphia long-term and both would be open to extensions.

“Absolutely,” Realmuto said before playing his former team, the Miami Marlins, on Friday night. “I love the city so far. I love the team. The organization has been great to me. Definitely something I could see in the future.”

Said Hoskins: “Yeah, of course I’d be open to it. I’d love to be here as long as they’ll have me.”

Both players were asked if there were any active talks going on.

Both said no.

According to sources, signing Realmuto is the Phillies’ priority simply because he comes up for free agency a lot sooner than Hoskins. The Phillies gave up some highly regarded young talent to get Realmuto in early February. At the time of the trade, general manager Matt Klentak admitted his desire to retain the catcher long term but he indicated that he'd let the two sides build a relationship and get to know each other before he sought to strike a deal. Realmuto’s agent, Jeff Berry, said the same thing in early February. Berry was in Philadelphia when the Phils played Atlanta during the first weekend of the season and he did speak with Klentak, but a source familiar with the situation said there were no contract talks and that Berry was in town to peek in on clients on both teams.

Realmuto, 28, was an All-Star last season and is widely considered the top catcher in baseball. Phillies officials have even used that expression. He could be in line for a package approaching an average annual value of $20 million, similar to Russell Martin’s salary in each of the last two seasons of a five-year, $82 million contract.

Klentak does not comment on these type of contract matters, but he will surely initiate concrete talks with Realmuto’s handlers after this season — if not sooner.

In the meantime, Realmuto is content to play baseball — and a strong season will build value.

“For me, right now, I’m focused on the season and that’s pretty much where my focus is right now,” he said.

The Phillies actually mentioned the possibility of an extension to Hoskins before the 2017 season and his representatives were not ready to discuss the idea because it was extremely club-friendly and Hoskins still had the potential to build a lot of value. Since then, Hoskins has signed on with agent Scott Boras, who is a proponent of letting his clients build their price tags through the arbitration years and hit the free-agent market for big scores.

Nonetheless, Hoskins would be all ears if the deal were right.

“Scott told me from the get-go and he’s probably told all of his players this: If there’s a deal that makes a lot of sense for who you are as a player, who you are as a person and your family and all the other things that go into it, then we’re going to do it,” Hoskins said. “He’s not going to advise me against it just for the sake of advising me against it.

“If we’re going to have the team that we have right now, I want to be here as long as we can. I think we’ve got a pretty good chance to win a lot.”

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Phillies infielder Scott Kingery talks about the hell that is coronavirus

Phillies infielder Scott Kingery talks about the hell that is coronavirus

If you don’t believe this coronavirus thing is real, listen to what Scott Kingery says and you might change your mind.

“It started on a Thursday (June 11) when I came down with a headache,” the Phillies second baseman told NBC Sports Philadelphia from his home in Phoenix on Tuesday. “I tried to play it off but it didn’t go away.

“Saturday around 10 a.m., I got chills so bad I couldn’t move without my whole body shaking."

“That night, my fever spiked so high that I sweated through my sheets. It left an imprint of my body."

“My fever broke Sunday morning and I actually felt a little better."

“But then three or four days later, I lost my sense of taste and smell for a few days. That was really annoying." 

“For a week, I was so tired. Low energy. Fatigue. Then I experienced shortness of breath for a week. I felt like I laid on the couch for three weeks without moving. I was tired just going up the stairs.”

Kingery, 26, wants people to know a few things:

One, he’s healthy now, completely symptom-free.

Two, he wants to be in Philadelphia, preparing for a season with his Phillies teammates, but can’t because his test results were initially wrong and then were delayed by the Fourth of July holiday.

The third thing Kingery wants everyone from his teammates to fans to know is that this virus is real.

“It really does spring on you fast,” he said. “Even if you don’t think you’re in a position to be exposed. It comes on very fast. It can creep up on you and get you pretty bad like it did with me."

“I know five or six people who had it and every single person was affected differently. Some had a sore throat, really bad. I never had a sore throat. Some were asymptomatic the whole way. I was not.”

Kingery returned to the Phoenix area after spring training shut down in March. He began working out with a small group of players, all of whom live in the same area. One guy in the group tested positive.

After learning of his buddy’s positive test, Kingery went to an urgent care facility on a Monday and got tested. He went home (he has two roommates) and quarantined. He waited for the results of his test.

Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Friday. Saturday.

For whatever reason, maybe it was that the virus was spiking in Phoenix and facilities were overwhelmed, the results never came.

But Kingery didn’t need them.

He knew he had it. 

After sweating out a raging fever on that Saturday night, five days after being tested, Kingery phoned the urgent care facility. They said they had his test results and they were ... negative.
 
“There was no way that was possible,” he said. “I had every symptom."

Kingery called Phillies athletic trainer Paul Buchheit who rush-shipped a testing kit to Kingery. 

This one came back positive for COVID-19.

Kingery quarantined and went through protocols. His testing is now being handled by MLB.

“I’ve passed one test,” he said. “As soon as I get the results of the second one and it’s good, I’ll be on a plane to Philadelphia.”

Kingery has begun to ease back into physical activity. He is doing some hitting. He believes he can be baseball-ready to play in the Phillies’ season opener July 24.

But he’s not sure he will have been cleared by then by MLB and the Phillies. Once he gets to Philadelphia, he will have to go through intake protocols and more testing. He said that because he had a difficult illness, the team would likely want him to go through some extra testing, just to make sure his heart and lungs are good.

Kingery said he’s spoken to only a few of his teammates. He thinks of them. He wants to be with them.

And he wants them all to stay healthy.

“It’s frustrating to see everything going on in Philly and know I should be there if it weren’t for testing delays,” he said. “But every protocol that MLB and the Phillies are taking is necessary. 

“There are ways we can take precautions without there being a big outbreak so we can play this season.

“But I want people to know this is not a two-week thing if you get it. You’re not supposed to do any physical activity for 10 to 14 days after a positive test. That could be a month. That’s a huge part of the season so you don’t want to get it. You have to take the precautions and protocols seriously."

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MLB odds 2020: Bryce Harper could be good NL MVP bet in shortened season

MLB odds 2020: Bryce Harper could be good NL MVP bet in shortened season

Playing 37 percent of a normal season lends unpredictability to a lot of things. 

The MVP race is one of them. 

If a player has a big month, that accounts for half of the season. Any number of guys can get hot for 3 or 4 weeks and establish themselves as the frontrunner for MVP honors.

Bryce Harper is one of those guys. Harper won the 2015 NL MVP as a 22-year old, hitting .330 with 42 HR, 99 RBI and a 1.109 OPS. But he hasn't finished in the Top 10 of the MVP voting since. Entering his second season in a Phillies uniform, Harper is listed among the favorites to win the 2020 NL MVP award.

Depending on which sportsbook you're referencing, Harper has anywhere between 13-1 to 20-1 MVP odds. The players with better odds than Harper include Christian Yelich, Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto. The competition to win NL MVP will be stiff, especially when you factor in other worthy candidates like Nolan Arenado, Javier Baez, Freddie Freeman and Kris Bryant.

But if you can get Harper at anywhere close to 20-1 odds, several reasons suggest it may be worth taking a flier.

His penchant for hot starts over the course of his career is well documented. Harper has a 1.025 OPS to go along with 47 HR and 132 RBI in 179 career games in March and April. He's entering his age 27 season, which is often the peak of a player's prime. 

He's settled in to his new city and adjusted to his new teammates. Granted, Harper and every other MLB player will have to adapt to the unprecedented circumstances surrounding this season. But speaking with the media last week, he seems as comfortable as one can be with the idea of playing baseball in the middle of a pandemic.

And let's not forget the added motivation of watching his former team hoist the World Series trophy last October. 

The one drawback that comes to mind is that Harper will be playing in empty ballparks, at least to start the season. More than any other player in baseball, Harper feeds off the crowd. He channels the positive energy at home and the negative energy on the road and uses it to his advantage. 

Will a lack of juice in the ballpark have an adverse effect on his performance?

"It's going to be a challenge for everybody," Harper said last Friday in a zoom press conference with reporters. "You have to remember that you are playing for the fans who are watching you at home. They're probably excited as all get out to be able to watch you play. I'm going to play my same game. I'm still going to pump my fist, I'm still going to play as hard as I can. There are people watching, they might not be in the stands but they're watching us from home and we owe them our best."

17 days away from Opening Day, Harper is locked in. It's been a long time since he's gone 10 months without playing a meaningful game. His focus and excitement are evident just listening to him talk. It all could translate to a big year, potentially an MVP year. 

Place your bets accordingly.  

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