For the Phillies, the Timing a J.T. Realmuto Extension Matters

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It is certainly more than fair to say that the 2019 season debut of J.T. Realmuto in a Phillies uniform went very well.  In July, Realmuto was named to the National League All-Star team.  After the season, hardware followed: a Rawlings Gold Glove award and a Louisville Silver Slugger award.  The Phillies certainly would like to keep such a player around.  However, timing will be important here.

The major consideration for the Phillies right now is the competitive balance tax, or the "luxury tax".  The Phillies have money, but to add top talent in 2020, the Phillies need to be very mindful of where they stand under the tax.  While the Phillies might even be willing to exceed the threshold, there are baseball reasons to avoid the limit; how much a team exceeds that spending level affects draft picks and compensation over free agents.   

But that does not mean that the Phillies will be kept from re-signing Realmuto.  They just need to get the timing right.

Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that the Phillies are indeed interested in re-signing Realmuto, but will play the competitive balance tax game:

In order to preserve some payroll flexibility for the 2020 season, it is possible that the Phillies could sign Realmuto to a one-year contract this winter — he projects to make about $10.5 million in his final arbitration year — then subsequently finalize a separate multi-year extension that would kick in at the start of the 2021 season. The extension could be finalized and announced later this offseason or even in spring training.

But Salisbury said that the Phillies and Realmuto are indeed "talking"; both sides have to know what's at stake here.

The reason is that for competitive balance tax purposes, the final number is calculated based upon the average annual value of contracts, not a player's salary this season.

For example, the Phillies will pay Jake Arrieta $20 million this season.  However, in competitive balance tax terms, the final year of his contract will count for $25 million.  That is because the Phillies paid Arrieta $30 million in 2018 and $25 million in 2019.  $30 + $25 + $20 = $75 million, divided by three is $25 million.

This keeps teams from signing a big-name free agent and backloading it.  When the Phillies signed Cliff Lee to a five-year, $124 million contract, Lee was paid $11 million the first year, with much of the money paid later.  Present-day, they would be assessed not on the amount of cash going out the door, but the total dollars minus the years, so they would have been assessed for just under $25 million according to the current system.

So that one-year contract for Realmuto would cover the final year of his arbitration.  The sides could agree to do an extension but not actually file it until 2020 is under way.  That way the average annual value would hit the Phillies next year, when Arrieta and David Robertson are off the books, representing $37.5 million towards the competitive balance tax.

That means there is more room for the likes of Gerrit Cole or other starters, provided the Phillies can land them.   Phillies owner John Middleton has said that he would hope to 

So the news sounds good for the Phillies: the club could have some room under the competitive balance tax number and have Realmuto long-term.


The Phillies Are Interested in Gerrit Cole, But So Are Many Teams

The free agent prize of the 2019-2020 free agency is pitcher Gerrit Cole.  The Phillies have a clear need for starting pitching and the team still has money to spend, albeit maybe not the "stupid money" of last offseason.  According to a report, the Phillies will be in on Cole, but there are many other teams as well.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports there are many involved:

So how much would a record deal be?

So far the largest deal is David Price's seven-year, $217 million deal with the Boston Red Sox.  That's an average of $31 million a season.  Max Scherzer got $210 million over seven seasons, and Zach Grenke received six years, but at the largest rate on an average annual value - $34.4 million per season.

Does this mean Cole needs seven seasons at $35 million per season?  Eight years?  The Phillies can probably suck up one year of Jake Arrieta on the books and replace him with cheaper talent, such as Spencer Howard or Adonis Medina in a year.  So while the move may be uncomfortable, the Phillies could make it work.

The report from Jayson Stark of the Athletic on Tuesday suggested that the Phillies will try to be opportunists; if Cole is sitting available at the end, the club could be the last man standing.  Phillies general manager Matt Klentak says that they will be willing to go big for the right player.

Could Cole be that player?  He very well could be. But there will be many other teams to contend with for his services.

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Sec 247 Pod 61: Birds at the Bye- Rethinking Our Predictions

 

Lipinski & Watkins take a deep dive into the state of the Eagles during the bye week.  They review their pre-season predictions & discuss the Birds immediate future.  

  • The Eagles make the playoffs if...
  • The Eagles miss the playoffs if...
  • Will any other moves be made?
  • Have we changed our predictions?

Plus

  • Does Khalil Mack hate Chicago or just Halloween  
  • Who made Glen Macnow write his list of the top Philadelphia coaches/managers of the 2010's?!
  • A breakdown of Macnow's list while were at it! 
  • Watkins is in the Christmas spirit

 

The podcast is presented by Michael's Glass Company! Serving the Philadelphia tri-state area since 1978.  For all your glass needs, shower doors, windows, & auto glass make it Michael's Glass!  215-338-3293

Tell them the #2Mikes sent you! 

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Phillies Reportedly Looking at Bumgarner, Moustakas

Madison_Bumgarner_on_September_3 _2013

By SD Dirk on Flickr - Originally posted to Flickr as "SF Giants Madison Bumgarner", CC BY 2.0, Link

The Phillies have a large shopping list this winter.  That list is highlighted for a need for starting pitching.  As the offseason continues, the Phillies have been linked to one big name pitcher: free agent Madison Bumgarner.

Ken Rosenthal writes in the Athletic:

Yes, the Phils have checked in on Bumgarner, and likely are motivated to keep him away from the Braves, their NL East rivals. The Braves are the team closest to Bumgarner’s hometown of Hickory, N.C., and seem a more natural fit for him than the Phillies.

Rosenthal also notes that it's not a "sure bet" the Phillies reunite with Cole Hamels, who has many potential suitors.

Rosenthal notes the Phillies could add Hamels and Bumgarner for less than someone like Gerrit Cole would cost them.  Rosenthal calls Hamels "this year's J.A.Happ", a veteran lefty looking for what might be his last deal.  The two had similar numbers in the two seasons prior to free agency.  But Happ's two-year, $34 million deal he got with the Yankees might be too steep for Hamels suitors.

Jayson Stark, also of The Athletic, previously reported that the Phillies could add multiple starters this offseason.

Meanwhile, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia has the Phillies involved in the third base free agent market.

According to multiple sources, Phillies officials touched base with Team Boras here at the general managers meetings this week and the two sides discussed a number of subjects — and not just pitching.

In other words, Moustakas is very much on the Phillies’ radar.

Mike Moustakas would give the Phillies a veteran, reliable bat at third base.  

As Andrew McCutchen returns to left field, the Phillies would lose a regular left-handed bat from their lineup from the Jay Bruce/Corey Dickerson tandem that patrolled left field most of last season.  Moustakas would serve as a left-handed bat towards the bottom of the lineup behind the likes of Rhys Hoskins.  Moustakas will not require a longer-term deal.

The Phillies have been reported as trying to trade infielders Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez.  Both remain non-tender candidates by the December 2 deadline to offer contracts.    The money either requires in arbitration might not be worth it for the Phillies, who have much to add.


WE’RE ALL MANAGEMENT NOW

By Mitch Nathanson, Historical Columnist 

When I was six I got a Strat-O-Matic baseball game for my birthday.  This was 1972 and, my luck, the one I received came with a starter set of 1971 Expos cards.  Imagine the fevered delight of any six-year-old when he discovers he’ll have the thrill of managing from his basement the likes of Boots Day and John Boccabella for the foreseeable future. 

I can’t remember who the other team was that accompanied the Montreal cards; all I can recall is sitting in my basement watching these Expos strike out, pop out, and ground out with stunning alacrity.  In the real world, the Phillies were sending to the plate the likes of Denny Doyle, John Bateman, and Roger Freed so from where I sat, my Strat-O-Matic experience was alarmingly true-to-life.  This was baseball, I thought.  Real baseball.  And I was not merely playing it but orchestrating it.

Just as in real baseball, Strat-O-Matic offered insight if you took the time to look hard enough.  Those ’71 Expos were terrible but the more I played the more I saw the value of a player like Ron Fairly.  Rusty Staub was the unquestioned star of that club but Fairly’s card was fantastic; he seemed to get on base all the time and was maybe the toughest out in their lineup.  Ron Hunt was another player I learned to appreciate through his Strat-O-Matic card.  Soon I was batting them first and second every game even though the real-world Expos not only moved them around the order but sometimes didn’t play them at all.  Idiots, I’d say to myself.  I know better.

Strat-O-Matic begat Statis-Pro Baseball (where I discovered the deceptive magic of Paul O’Neill years before the Yankees would), which begat Rotisserie Baseball, which begat the sabermetric boom that we’re presently in the midst of.  In the process we’re all more in the know now than we have ever been before.  In short, we’re all management now, or at least we think we are. 

In the old days, when ballclubs traveled by train and sportswriters wrote breathlessly about them, we like to think that players were mythologized beyond belief – “godded-up” as critics of that era describe how they were written about.  And they were.  But along with that came a perspective that was clearly in management’s camp.  The writers of that era were working on the owners’ dole and weren’t about to do anything to screw that up.  So fans were offered a sweetened-up version of the game; one that gave them their heroes but also beat home the idea that these heroes were lucky to be there and ought not to rock the boat.  Fans, seeing the game through the eyes of management as conveyed to them by the sportswriters they read every morning, understood this implicitly.  In the process, the Yankees won seemingly every year, a few other teams tried, most didn’t, but everybody ended up comfortably in the black each October.

That perspective starting changing in the ‘60s, such that by the ‘70s and ‘80s fans were identifying more with the players than the people who paid them.  The owners were exploiting them no matter how much money this one or that one made, the players were the game, and the best ones were worth whatever it cost, were the budding narratives.  It’s no surprise that as this mindset emerged, the Players Association grew stronger and more powerful.  And in the process, baseball became more competitive.  Heroes may have become passé but stars ruled and in this star-laden era, a wider swath of clubs participated in a World Series than ever before.  And along the way clubs made more money than ever, although they were forced to spend more in order to do so.

Games like Strat-O-Matic and Statis Pro pushed back against the rising player-centered narrative, albeit inadvertently.  And fantasy baseball and sabermetrics crushed it into the dirt.  Today we’re back, if not quite where we started – baseball gods reside only in heaven nowadays – but pretty damn close.  Once again we see the game through management’s eyes, tinkering with our rosters here, looking for underappreciated value there, mixing this with that to see what might happen.  The players exist primarily as assets or liabilities; widgets of one sort or another, to be plugged in here or there, or nowhere if we might save a dollar or two in the process.

Which explains why players such as Mookie Betts, Kris Bryant, and Francisco Lindor are on the trading block right now.  All of these players are popular in their home cities, in the prime of their careers – 26 or 27 years of age – and on clubs seemingly built to contend next season.  Yet they very well might be moved.  Forty years ago fans in Boston, Chicago and Cleveland would be screaming bloody murder.  Today they calmly talk about “acquiring assets,” “cost certainty,” and “maintaining payroll flexibility” in giving management not merely a pass but a hearty pat on the back for reducing the likelihood that their hometown club will be able to compete for the postseason in 2020. 

Today’s fan not only sides with management, in his eyes he IS management. 

The brainwashing is nearly complete.  Baseball is not only run by bean counters; its most ardent supporters consider themselves kindred spirits.  To the astonishment of just about everybody, the accountants won.  Who knew they were even playing?

It would be one thing if there was solid evidence that the type of thinking now being sanctioned by armchair GM’s predictably worked, but for every club like the Astros (who, in any event, may very well have gotten where they are as much by old fashioned sign-stealing as new-age player development metrics) there are a large handful like the Pirates and Marlins, who sell and sell and sell while chanting breathlessly and vaguely about a future that each season seems to be another year further off on the horizon.  Now it’s not only the Have-Not’s who are doing the selling but the Have’s as well.  And still the armchair GM’s cheer.

The means have become the end.  For too many clubs the goal now is cost-control.  Achieve that and call the season a success irrespective of the results on the field.  To this, amazingly, the crowd roars. 

We’re all in our basements now, rolling the dice, flipping the cards, running the numbers.  The real games are on TV upstairs.  But the living room’s empty. 


Gabe Kapler is Named Manager of the San Francisco Giants

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The Phillies hired Gabe Kapler to be their manager on Halloween two years ago.  Both seasons the Phillies started out strong but faded down the stretch, and the Phillies decided to replace Kapler at the helm on October 10.  One month and two days later, Kapler has a new job.

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Kapler will be manager of the San Francisco Giants.  Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported around 10:00 p.m. Eastern time that an announcement was imminent.  The word broke within a half-hour of the announcement. 

Kapler was reportedly a finalist for the position alongside Joe Espada, bench coach for the Houston Astros, and Matt Quatraro, bench coach of the Tampa Bay Rays.  Shortly after Slusser's report that an announcement was imminent, word came that Espada did not get the job from Jon Heyman of MLB Network.  

Kapler has a strong relationship with Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, dating back to the time both spent in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.  The move comes after new general manager Scott Harris was named.  Harris came from the Chicago Cubs organization that had just interviewed both Kapler and Espada for the managerial vacancy there.

Kapler managed the Phillies to an 80-82 record in 2018 and an 81-81 record in 2019.

In San Francisco, Kapler replaces Bruce Bochy.  Bochy won three World Series titles with the Giants: 2010, 2012, and 2014.  Bochy is likely headed for the Hall of Fame.


Report: Phillies Seeking to Add Two Starters, Then Keep Eye on Cole

The Phillies enter the 2020 offseason with many needs, highlighted by the starting rotation.   The starting rotation let the Phillies down significantly last season, as the likes of Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez failed to live up to the potential that many felt they had, and Jerad Eickhoff never returned to form after constantly battling injury.   The Phillies appear ready to be active in the starting pitching field.

Jason Stark of the Athletic notes that the Phillies will be active on the pitching front:

That could mean that the Phillies weakness will become a strength.

When speaking of "one big multi-year deal", could that be Cole himself?  The way this is worded it suggests that the Phillies will not wait around and Cole may be the type who hangs around until the end.  Should Cole overreach the market - as Jake Arreita might have done two years ago - the Phillies could find themselves in a place to jump in March, should the Boras Corporation client go the route of Arrieta and Bryce Harper like last year, waiting until March.

But there are good names beyond Cole and even beyond Stephen Strasburg, who gets equal attention in free agency.

Zach Wheeler has been solid for the New York Mets in recent seasons and the Phillies have had trade interest in the past.  Julio Teheran has been up and down with the Atlanta Braves but has talent and is just 29 years old.  Jordan Lyles is also just 29 years old and would represent an upgrade for the Phillies. Lyles was strong down the stretch for the Milwaukee Brewers after a July trade.  Michael Pineda, who finished the season after testing positive for a weight loss drug, a diuretic banned under the MLB joint drug agreement.

For the one-year deal types: Cole Hamels is an option; he has publicly said he would take a one-year deal and further, sign with the Phillies.  Dallas Keuchel will return to the market after completing his partial-year deal of a year ago with the Atlanta Braves.  Pitchers that are older in baseball years such as Ivan Nova, Tanner Roark, and Wade Miley could command one-year deals.

Beyond pitching, Stark addressed the Phillies infield:

In other words - the Phillies expect to be busy.

The general managers around baseball are currently gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona for the general managers meeting.  Sometimes there are trades to be made at those meetings; other times groundwork is laid for other deals.  It sounds like Matt Klentak will be busy at these meetings and well beyond.

 


For Starters, Phillies Would Be Wise to Sign Hamels Immediately

Hamels
(Kevin Durso/Sports Talk Philly)

The offseason will really kick off this week as the general managers head to Scottsdale, Arizona for the annual general manager meetings.  The Phillies have been active at these meetings before, such as 2003 when the Phillies made a trade for closer Billy Wagner.  The Phillies do not need to travel anywhere to get one piece set, however.  The Phillies, facing an offseason with many needs, have Cole Hamels publicly commenting that he would like to be back in Philadelphia.   The Phillies should take advantage of this and make a move now.

Hamels told MLB.com last week that he had a desire to return:

“They’re building their roster. If I fit on their roster and their plans, I’d love the opportunity to come back. It’s probably more on their end, though, to reach out and see if I actually do fit in their plans. It would be difficult for me to say, ‘Hey, I want to play there, can you guys make it happen?’ But I’m always willing to play for that team and city and attempt to win a World Series.

Hamels fits their needs and terms.

Is Hamels willing to sign a one-year deal and not handcuff the Phillies long-term? Check.  Will not cost a draft pick to sign him? Check.  Left-handed?  Check.  Salary in a reasonable range that will not preclude a bigger signing? Check.   Everything about the situation seems to align with the offseason plans for the Phillies.

Hamels would not be, and should not be considered a front-end of the rotation option.  Hamels is no longer that guy.  But is he someone who can provide value to a starting rotation?  Absolutely.  Would he bring clout and leadership to the young players on the team since he won a World Series in Philadelphia and was the World Series MVP?  Absolutely.  The Phillies could check off a box and bring a special energy to the team and to the fans.

Last offseason the Phillies declared that they would not wait around to make moves, even as they had their eyes on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.  The signing of Andrew McCutchen was an earlier signing that allowed the team to fill one starting lineup spot in the earlier end.  It was not the biggest splash in terms of present-day talent on the field, but he was a transformational presence in terms leadership, which translated to better performance from the team all around.

Also last offseason the Phillies took a pass on the likes of Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ and did not want to trade prospects for starting pitching, either.  Getting Hamels in the fold now would at least keep the cupboard from being completely bare.  The Phillies probably will still try for Gerrit Cole and/or Stephen Strasburg.   But the Phillies need more than one starter, and last year Hamels was better than any starter not named Aaron Nola on the Phillies roster.

It is probably true that the Phillies could find someone analytically better than Hamels for the back-end.  But no other player is willing to go public with their desire to come to Philadelphia.  This would be an easy acquisition.

So, get it done, Phillies.  Then you can move onto the next, bigger item on the offseason agenda.


Report: Phillies Interested in Third Baseman Donaldson

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By Ian D'Andrea on Flickr - https://www.flickr.com/photos/idsportsphoto/46607410645, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

The Phillies have a third baseman of the future in Alec Bohm.  But Bohm, who has not played above Double-A just yet, probably is not ready to take the hot corner in 2019.  Therefore, the Phillies could add a third baseman this offseeason as they look to upgrade that position in the interim.  Late Friday, the Phillies were connected to a big name: Josh Donaldson.

Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Phillies are one of the teams to express interest early:

Donaldson was in Atlanta on a one-year deal.

The Braves have an option at third base in Austin Riley.  Riley came to the major leagues ahead of schedule and the Braves utilized him in the corner outfield spots.  Riley started off strong but cooled as the year went on.  The Braves could seek to re-sign Donaldson.  The Braves gave Donaldson a qualifying offer, which means that he would cost another team a draft pick to sign him.

For that reason, it would be surprising to see the Phillies pursue Donaldson; if they were going to give up a draft pick, it would be for a big signing (like Harper last offseason).  The Phillies have publicly stated they wish to try to use their financial power this offseason and avoid giving up young talent.  Donaldson on a one-year deal might not be worth that.

 


"Sticking to Sports" is Not Just Wrong, It's Impossible

By Mitch Nathanson, Historical Columnist 

The demise of Deadspin has me thinking: who will be the Phillies’ fourth starter next season? 

Not really.  It has me wondering where I’ll go to get the snarky, biting, tough insight I always looked forward to every time I clicked on over to the site.  There are fewer and fewer options, it seems, for information and opinion from outside the protective bubble that is “Sportsworld.”  Sportsworld is a weird place.  Odd rules apply where some things are talked about incessantly while others aren’t spoken of at all.  The identity of the Phillies’ fourth starter is fair game in Sportsworld; pretty much anything having to do with the weird and insular world of John Middleton isn’t.  More weirdly, discussing the personal lives of athletes is usually kosher in Sportsworld, which makes identifying the boundaries of fair and foul play within the bubble particularly difficult.  In Sportsworld, cellphone videos of players behaving badly is considered journalism but the same writers who write breathlessly about recalcitrant wide receivers refer to club owners as “Mister” while putting away their note pads and taking their seat on the team plane. 

Which was where Deadspin came in.  Deadspin didn’t respect Sportsworld’s boundaries.  Everything was on the table over there.  Most of it, because it was a sports site after all, touched pretty heavily on sports but every once in a while something would be tangential or not even come within a football field of it.  No matter, Deadspin would post it if its editors deemed it newsworthy.  And that’s what made it great. 

Now it’s gone and we’re told that it’s gone because its editorial staff refused management’s mandate to “stick to sports.”  On the surface, “sticking to sports” might seem like a good idea for a website that, without question, revolved around sports, but it’s the looming presence of Sportsworld that makes such a pronouncement ridiculous and not a little bit insane.  Sticking to sports is why, until it was replaced in 2008, Jackie Robinson’s Hall of Fame plaque didn’t contain any mention of the fact that he broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947.  Sticking to sports is why people like Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane are permitted to own franchises at all.  And, hey, sticking to sports is why there is still, in 2019, a professional sports team that goes by the name “Redskins.”

And let’s be real – even sticking to sports isn’t really sticking to sports.  In the midst of the Colin Kaepernick debate, public address announcers across Major League Baseball and other sports began instructing fans to not only stand for the National Anthem, but, if they were veterans, to salute as well.  Within the bubble of Sportsworld, such an instruction can very well be seen as politically neutral.  Outside of it, the mandate looks like something else altogether.  Sports talk radio likewise is “just sports” only if viewed from within the Sportsworld bubble.  Outside of it, listeners are subjected to a barrage of middle-aged white guys calling in to complain about Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens, Jimmy Rollins, Maikel Franco, Joel Embiid – take your pick -- not playing the game “the right way” according to the insular worldview of the pale demographic that apparently has Angelo Cataldi’s number on speed dial.  The suspicion that many of these same callers own red hats that don’t sport the Phillies logo isn’t one I can’t easily dismiss.  On the surface they’re talking about sports.  It’s the subtext that matters, though.  A subtext that can’t be broached if we’re all herded back into the “stick to sports” lane.

By the way, if we’re “sticking to sports,” how does Odubel Herrera’s personal life fit within that mandate?  Why should it matter what he did in Atlantic City to get himself suspended?  Shouldn’t we simply care that he’s out for the season and leave it at that?  Of course, it’s absurd to leave it at that.  More to the point, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to leave it at that.  Context matters.  And oftentimes, the context extends far beyond the foul lines.  Sportsworld would proclaim that, obviously, Herrara’s actions at the Golden Nugget last May are relevant and fair game, which makes sense.  But then, out of the other side of its mouth, it proclaims that Jim Crane's business dealings at Eagle Global Logistics – the company that provided him the wealth to purchase the Astros -- are out of bounds, which makes no sense at all.

In the end, sites like Deadspin didn’t have a chance.  The funhouse mirror that is Sportsworld always wins.  It has too much money, too much power, too much influence not to.  But it sure was exhilarating to watch these underdogs not only take on the champ but deliver more than a few staggering blows. 

R.I.P. Deadspin.  No matter what you thought of it, remember this: anything that pissed Dan Snyder off as much as Deadspin did couldn’t possibly have been bad.