Phillies

You wanted a difference maker at the MLB trade deadline, maybe you've got one in Drew Smyly

You wanted a difference maker at the MLB trade deadline, maybe you've got one in Drew Smyly

Phillies fans have been clamoring for Matt Klentak to add a difference-making starting pitcher before the trade deadline.

Maybe he already has.

Obviously, it’s too early to tell if Drew Smyly can be that long-term contributor that helps the Phillies break their seven-year playoff drought, but after two starts he’s been pretty darn good.

The left-hander pitched seven shutout innings to backbone a 4-2 win over the San Francisco Giants in front of 32,217 at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night. In two starts with the Phillies, the Texas Rangers castoff and Milwaukee Brewers escapee has pitched 13 innings of one-run ball to lead a pair of victories.

Is Smyly the guy Phillies fans have been clamoring for?

“They can acquire all the good pitching they want,” Smyly said after the win. “We're trying to win championships. It's not about me. It's about just winning. The more the merrier.”

The trade deadline arrives Wednesday at 4 p.m. The Phils are entrenched in a crowded wild-card race. Will the deadline bring more help, the kind that Smyly has provided so far?

Manager Gabe Kapler said he hasn’t “thought about it one time.”

Rhys Hoskins has thought about it.

“Look, I think whatever is going to happen has nothing to do with what I think is going to happen or what I would like to happen or wouldn’t like to happen,” he said. “We think we have a lot of talent in here. We haven’t played to our ability yet, but the talent is still there. If we get help, we get help. If we don’t get help, we’re still pretty confident. We feel pretty poised to go on a run here.”

The Phils have won two in a row, one over Atlanta and one over the Giants, to improve to six games over .500 with 56 games to play.

“It just feels a little bit different after these couple wins,” Hoskins said. “It just seems like things are starting to click a little bit.”

Hoskins has clicked with important home runs in two straight games. His two-run shot in the fifth inning gave the Phils a 4-0 lead in this one. The home run was the 75th of Hoskins’ career and it came in his 308th game. The only Phillies to do that faster were former MVP Ryan Howard (240 games) and Hall of Famer Chuck Klein (278).

On Friday night, the Phillies will hand the ball to veteran lefty Jason Vargas, who was acquired from the Mets on Monday. The Phillies hope Vargas can make the same impact that Smyly has. Smyly held the Giants to four hits, all singles, and struck out five.

“He had a great tempo and just kept those guys off balance all day, got a lot of weak contact,” Hoskins said. “It seems like in the two starts that I’ve seen he obviously has a very good knack for doing that. If he can continue to do that we think we’ve got a pretty good shot to win with him on the mound.”

Smyly was released by Texas in June after recording an ERA of 8.43. He hooked on with Milwaukee’s Triple A club then exercised an opt-out in his contract earlier this month when the Phillies dangled a chance to start in front of him. With the Phils, Smyly is using a little different approach, attacking hitters more with his cutter and sequencing his pitches differently.

“I think I was just a little too much predictable in Texas and I wasn't throwing strikes is the main thing,” Smyly said. “I was getting behind a lot of guys and not limiting damage. Now, I feel like I'm able to get ahead, I'm able to keep the hitters guessing, and it's making all my pitchers better.

“I feel like a whole new pitcher out there. I said that before I signed here and I continue to say that. I wasn't good in Texas.”

Smyly missed 2017 and 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery.

“He's had a lot of adversity of the last two calendar years,” Kapler said. “He's been kicked and he's been down. He's been in the minor leagues and he's battled back. He's given us two really strong starts, exactly what we needed at just the right time.”

Indeed. He’s been a pretty good pickup at a time of the season when teams can get a lift from one acquisition.

“It's definitely nice to show all the guys in the locker room and say, 'I can help this team out,' “ Smyly said. “Hopefully we can all get on a roll together and start winning games down the stretch. But it's definitely the way you want to start off, that's for sure.”

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Winter meetings complete, what’s next for Phillies?

Winter meetings complete, what’s next for Phillies?

SAN DIEGO — A year ago, Phillies officials left the winter meetings with much of their offseason work still in front of them.
 
Manny Machado was still a front-burner free-agent item. Bryce Harper was still in the background and J.T. Realmuto was headed to Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New York … anywhere but Philadelphia.
 
You know the rest of the story.
 
Spring training had already begun by the time the Phillies settled their offseason last year. A year later, Phillies officials departed the winter meetings on Thursday with their heavy offseason lifting complete.

The Phils signed free-agent pitcher Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million contract last week and free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius to a one-year, $14 million deal at the meetings this week. The signings left the Phils about $5 million under the $208 million luxury-tax threshold for the coming season and the club will be mindful of that. It’s likely — though not certain — that any further moves the Phillies make will qualify as tweaks.
 
Here are a few things to keep an eye on over the remainder of the offseason.

The starting rotation

Aaron Nola and Wheeler give the Phillies a “1 and a 1-A,” as manager Joe Girardi said.

Jake Arrieta is healthy and will be ready to go Day 1 of camp and Zach Eflin will hold down a job. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez are slated to battle for the fifth job, though it would not be surprising to see the Phils bring back Drew Smyly on a minor-league deal to join the fight. The Phils were keeping an eye on Rick Porcello to see where his market was headed, but he signed for one year and $10 million with the Mets. Lefty Wade Miley could be someone to keep an eye on, depending where his market goes. The Phils are committed to having top prospect Spencer Howard start the season in Triple A, but he could have a major impact as the season goes on. The Phils will watch Howard’s workload — because of injury, he pitched under 100 innings last year — so adding bargain depth is a must.

The bullpen

At the moment, it looks like a fairly unchanged unit. The Phils are banking on Adam Morgan and Seranthony Dominguez being healthy again and Hector Neris, Jose Alvarez and Ranger Suarez carrying a heavy load again. Pivetta, Velasquez or both could be used in the ‘pen, depending on the depth that is added in the rotation. If the Phils want to push the tax, they could make a play for former Yankee Dellin Betances. Someone from the system like Garrett Cleavinger or Connor Brogdon could surprise in spring training. How about Tommy Hunter? The Phils put a lot of time into his rehab after elbow surgery last year. Could he be a fit on a bargain deal? Ditto for Jared Hughes and Mike Morin.

The bench

Former All-Star and .300 hitter Josh Harrison has been signed on a minor-league deal. He can play anywhere and figures to have a good chance to make the club. Phil Gosselin, another jack of all trades, is coming back on a minor-league deal and the team has shown some interest in free agent Matt Szczur. Brad Miller remains a free agent and a potentially good fit. Jay Bruce will add power off the bench. Andrew Knapp returns as backup catcher but it would not be surprising to see the Phils sign one or two more veteran catchers to push for work and add depth. Remember, Girardi has said he’d like to keep Realmuto to between 120 and 130 games so he is fresh in October. “That’s where the prize is,” Girardi said. Austin Romine would have been a nice fit, but he signed with Detroit. 

Trades

While it appears as if most of the team’s major moves are done, general manager Matt Klentak and his group will continue to stay engaged on the trade front and you never know if one could materialize. Nick Williams could be dealt. Miami has long liked him. Velasquez could be dealt for some salary relief, particularly if the Phils are able to add starting pitching depth. The Phils would surely listen on Jean Segura, but he has three years and $45 million left on his deal so that would not be easy.
 
Could the Phils make a major trade?
 
After seeing the Realmuto deal come together so quickly last February, it can’t be ruled out. Even something crazy is possible. By crazy we mean Kris Bryant. Yes, he’d be a nice fit as the Phils make a quick push at a title before he becomes a free agent. But it’s a real long shot and it would probably cost top prospect Alec Bohm, and it would definitely push the Phillies over the luxury tax threshold, though managing partner John Middleton has said he would go over it for the right championship-caliber opportunity. Maybe that’s Bryant. There will continue to be buzz about him and the Phillies will continue to be connected to him as long as there is.
 
J.A. Happ could be another guy to watch on the trade front. The Phils made him an offer last winter and he signed with the Yankees. The Yanks are now eager to move his $17 million salary and might attach a good prospect to the package to help make the deal. Happ would put the Phillies over the tax, but, given the Phils’ need for more pitching, it might it be worth rolling the dice on the left-hander having a bounce-back year if and only if the Yanks attach a good prospect or two to the deal. 

What about Herrera?

The end of the winter meetings begins to put spring training in focus and the Phillies have a big decision to make before then: Do they bring Odubel Herrera to camp? Do they release him? The Phils would eat most of his salary to trade him, but there has been no interest.
 
We dealt with the Herrera situation more deeply in this story.

Realmuto's extension

Sometime before spring training, the Phils are expected to pursue a contract extension with Realmuto.

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At the Yard podcast: Ken Rosenthal joins to talk Phillies, Kris Bryant, Anthoy Rendon

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At the Yard podcast: Ken Rosenthal joins to talk Phillies, Kris Bryant, Anthoy Rendon

Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman are joined by special guest Ken Rosenthal to talk Phillies and wrap up the Winter Meetings on the At the Yard podcast.

• Ken and Jim on the crazy week it was in San Diego

• Could we soon see a $500 million contract?

• Fallout of Rendon choosing the Angels

• Ken Rosenthal's thoughts on Phillies' offseason so far

• Phils have added more than Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius

• What's next for Phils with Winter Meetings in the rearview?

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19