Might Dave Dombrowski Have Interest in the Phillies?

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(Photo: Arturo Pardavila III from Hoboken, NJ, USA - Red Sox President of Baseball Operations David Dombrowski)

The Los Angeles Dodgers lead the Tampa Bay Rays three games to two.  That means the World Series will end no later than Tuesday, at which point the 2020-2021 offseason will commence.  The Phillies, with a fresh new vacancy in their general manager position, could begin the offseason by adding an executive to move the organization forward.  If they do, the biggest name among free agent executives just might want to come to Philadelphia.

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Phillies: Dollars and Surprises ahead for 2021

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the outline of the ‘21 Philadelphia Phillies is forming, stating more is mere speculation before November. For many organizations, though, 2021 will be a summer of financial water-treading, but some will take advantage of roster opportunities from unexpected franchises unavailable in previous offseasons.     

 

Unpredictable but Exciting:

The Phillies faithful shouldn’t harshly --harshly-- judge managing partner John Middleton until they see if he plays it safe or gambles on a one-of-a-kind situation for a more competitive ‘21 campaign. Yes, he has the financial clout to acquire a top fireman for less-than-average market value, but a closer will still be expensive. 

IN OTHER WORDS:

“There are more teams looking for pitchers than there are pitchers. That's why it's pricey.” - Brian Cashman

Writers draw conclusions based only on partial information because clubs keep internal strategy away from the media. However, they will at times unintentionally reveal a few clues a scribe can combine with standard front-office procedures.                

Understanding fans’ logic is more difficult, but one can take an educated guess after hearing familiar complaints and demands from 20 other fan bases. Translation: Supporters must subliminally imagine unlimited financial restraints and would just sign the top player if they owned the team. But easy it isn’t!

Partitioning is my term for how fans can easily justify maximum spending. Basically, they start with a total like $80 million, and Trevor Bauer is affordable at even $50 million on a one-year deal. But so too are JT Realmuto at $30 million per 162 and two stud relievers at $20 million combined.                   

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Phillies Lay Off Mackanin, Hollins and Other Scouting Staff

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The Phillies have begun making organizational cuts that were well-expected.  After losing a reported $100 million or so in the pandemic-affected 2020, the Phillies employees have widely been reported to have been offered buyouts and layoffs.  Some cuts to the Phillies scouting staff came out on Friday and they include some prominent Phillies names.

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MISSING: Cohesive Phillies Infield. Last Seen in Late 2000s. Reward: World Series Title

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By Siobhan Nolan, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

In an offseason filled with desperate scrambles to overhaul our bullpen, addressing some underwhelming offensive stats, and deciding whose soul we have to sell to afford to keep J.T. Realmuto, one might not have given a good deal of thought to how the Phillies infield should look in 2021. It’s not the most pressing issue in the clubhouse, but it’s one that absolutely needs a considerable amount of attention.

The infield defense left a lot to be desired this past season. No real cohesion between the players in the diamond, allowing 25 extra hits within the 60 game season, and an elbow requiring surgery befalling first baseman Rhys Hoskins late in the season was a perfect maelstrom to render the Phillies infield mediocre at best.

So how do they fix the problem?

Simply put, the most important factor is where Joe Girardi positions his infielders. However, this task isn’t as easy as it may appear. A rather unfortunate series of events has complicated things—shortstop Didi Gregorious hasn’t yet agreed to another year on his contract, the possible retention of a designated hitter in the National League for the 2021 season could see Hoskins go from first baseman to DH, and the question of who should be the everyday second baseman has Girardi’s work cut out for him. So let’s break it down…

At first base, there are two viable options: Rhys Hoskins and Alec Bohm. Hoskins is expected to fully recover from his elbow injury in time for Opening Day next season, and while his defense normally sits at or just below the league’s average numbers, he showed later in the season that he still had the potential to be a dominant and reliable first baseman. Bohm is no slouch defensively, but he should get at least one more season at third to feel out whether or not that’s a position he could stick with through the latter half of his twenties. However, with the possibility of Hoskins becoming the Phillies full-time DH, Bohm might be moved to first base.

Then there's the second base conundrum. Girardi had Scott Kingery slated to be the everyday second baseman, but Kingery quickly proved that second base was no longer his strong suit like it had been in the minors. Failure to adequately cover both the middle and the area between first and second base left a gaping hole in the infield, and the legs that earned him the nickname “Scotty Jetpax” didn’t serve him like they were expected to. Jean Segura seemed much more comfortable at second (at least more so than he was at shortstop), making a fairly convincing argument as to why he should be the regular second baseman. The thing with Segura is that should Bohm switch corners from third to first, Kingery would most likely play second while Segura manned the hot corner. A position he’s capable of doing, but probably not the one he’d prefer.

Shortstop is probably the simplest—we either sign Didi Gregorious to another year or we bring in a new shortstop. Segura’s numbers at shortstop weren’t spectacular, and it’s clear that he prefers second base. Kingery, despite still being the resident utility man, isn’t best suited for a consistent stint at shortstop (defensively, he’s the best option for center field, but the Phillies outfield is an issue for another day.) Phil Gosselin, who is a respectable utility man in his own right, could do it if he had to, but it’s probably in Girardi’s best interest to bring in a career shortstop rather than using a player who doesn’t specialize in the position.

Third base is relatively clear cut as well. It’s either going to be Bohm or Segura, both of which are solid options. Bohm would be preferable, seeing as it gives him the opportunity to settle into the hot corner and make it his position, but if he’s needed at first base, Segura can absolutely cover third.

The infield puzzle is not a matter of life or death, but the Phillies can’t afford to have another disjointed defensive performance this upcoming season. Players need to know that they’ll play a position consistently in order to form a seamless connection between the infielders. A nearly decade-long playoff drought can only be ended when our defense is a smooth, well-oiled machine that can anticipate each other’s movements by the most subtle move of a muscle.

The disappointing reality is that defense wins you World Series titles, and this one couldn’t even take us to the postseason with an expanded playoff format. Need I say more?


Phillies Spending Options for 2021

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies will have a new front office for 2022, it could be 2021 if president Andy MacPhail retires a year early. Basically, managing partner John Middleton prefers a fresh start for the 2020-21 offseason, but the big-ticket negotiations will belong to him regardless.   

 

No-man’s-land:

For the Phillies faithful, winter is a time to dream of a roster without holes and bemoan management’s failure to deliver a championship-caliber team. Unfortunately, even the ‘20 New York Yankees had shortcomings despite exceeding all three tax levels involving the CBT (competitive-balance threshold).  

IN OTHER WORDS:

“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” - Helen Keller

Fans aren’t differentiating between the normal 162 with spending, signings, trades and offseason preparation compared to 2021. And excluding the inconvenient details facing front-office execs amplifies expectations no GM can meet. Yes, 2021’s certainty is uncertainty!                                 

Prior to COVID-19’s influence, organizations made decisions based on rules protecting players from losing career opportunities due to franchises with overstocked pipelines. Moreover, management combines their talent planning for three to five summers, not just next April.

Due to the pandemic, 2020 had many new wrinkles: the universal DH, no spectators, COVID-19 protocols, a truncated schedule, and other rule changes, temporary and permanent. So no one should assume a return to normalcy without better control of the virus. However, 2021 should have more games and some attendance.

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Phillies Pitching Coach Bryan Price Retires

When Joe Girardi took the helm as Phillies manager ahead of the 2020 season, he added an experienced pitching coach.  Bryan Price was named pitching coach under Girardi, replacing Chris Young.  However, it appears that Price is done coaching full-time for the Phillies after just one season.

Todd Zolecki notes that Price has decided to retire from his full-time pitching coach position:

So what does that particular wording mean?

It suggests that Price could stick around part-time in another role.  Price has experience as a pitching coach for four major league teams and managing the Cincinnati Reds.  Could he be an "advisor" to the general manager, whoever that might be?

Price drew high praise from the Phillies pitching staff as Spring Training got underway, as well as at "Summer Camp".

Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia called the move a "personal decision". But whatever the reason, the Phillies will have to solve the very important role that they have struggled to staff.   In recent seasons the Phillies have employed Bob McClure, Rick Kranitz, Young, and then Price, with a fifth new pitching coach in five years on the way.

Kranitz, dismissed because Young was seen as a rising coaching star, meanwhile has  assisted the Atlanta Braves to back-to-back division titles.

The Phillies have not announced any other coaching changes as of this moment.  Aside from Price and hitting coach Joe DIllon, the remainder of the coaching staff was retained from the staff of former manager Gabe Kapler.  Girardi's most recent pitching coach with the Yankees, Larry Rothschild, was available last offseason but took the pitching coach role with the San Diego Padres.


The Biggest Conundrum in Baseball

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By Siobhan Nolan, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

You could buy a lot of things with $200 million. Mansions, sports cars, exotic pets, a private island…

Or, if you’re the Phillies, you could use it to make J.T. Realmuto the highest-paid catcher in MLB history.

Now, there’s little debate as to whether or not Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball. Defensively, there’s no question that he’s the best. In 2019, he threw out 35 attempted base stealers—by far the most of any other catcher that season. He has a pop time of 1.90 seconds, while the MLB average is 2.01 seconds. He’s saved 3.8 runs with his throwing abilities. However, Realmuto is also solid offensively in a time when catchers having that kind of duality isn’t so common. In 2019, he posted a .275 batting average, with 25 home runs and 83 RBIs, and a .266 average with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs in 2020. Realmuto has arguably been the Phillies’ best all-around player since arriving in 2018, and has proven himself to be an inimitable and irreplaceable player.

In the current Phillies organization, however, is he a luxury rather than a necessity? After all, only two catchers in MLB history have been paid more than $100 million—Buster Posey’s eight year/$159 million contract and Joe Mauer’s eight-year/$184 million deal. Realmuto will be 30 by the time next season starts, so whatever contract he is offered will be shorter than eight years. Not to mention that while he’s still a phenomenal player, he’s not square in his prime anymore; we can’t count on 4-5 more years of the way he’s been playing since 2018.

And yes, $200 million is a lot of money, but it’s not unheard of for players to set initial standards quite high when opening up contract negotiations. When our beloved Bryce Harper was on the open market, there was chatter about him going for an eye-watering $500 million before closing on the notorious 13-year/$330 million deal with the Phillies. It’s entirely possible that Realmuto will agree to a deal worth less than his initial asking price.

All that being said, if Realmuto and his camp won’t settle for less than $200 million, it’s simply not worth it. There are other areas of the Phillies organization that desperately need attention and improvement (i.e. pitching), and it would be much more sensible to invest that money into pitchers that will improve our abysmal presence on the mound. To see Realmuto leave Philly after just two seasons would be disappointing to say the least, but we have a respectable catcher in Andrew Knapp and a promising up-and-comer in Rafael Marchan.

Would they be able to completely fill the J.T.-shaped hole that would be left in Philly’s hearts? Of course not. But it’s not their fault—a catcher as special as the BCIB™ only comes along once in a blue moon. During any other season, it wouldn’t be a question as to whether or not he was worth the money.

But it’s 2020, nothing is happening like it’s supposed to, and resources like that need to be put towards areas that desperately require improvement—something Jacob Tyler does not.


The One Rebuild Move that Failed and Continues to Hurt the Phillies

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The Phillies rebuild officially began in late 2014, when former Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. started making some trades.  Jimmy Rollins went to the Los Angeles Dodgers to acquire Phillies rotation mainstay Zach Eflin.  Then that season off went Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, followed by Jonathan Papelbon.  It was not until after those deals that Amaro was let go.  The real rebuild began the following offseason under Matt Klentak.

There was not too much for Klentak to do in terms of a teardown at that point.  There was one trade, trading Ken Giles to the Houston Astros for Vince Velasquez and a bucket of balls.  Carlos Ruiz was ultimately another trade and Ryan Howard's contract expired.  But after all the tearing down, one move seemed to handcuff the Phillies as the dominos carry forward.

The Phillies surprised the baseball world and signed first baseman Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million deal.

The deal in itself wasn't terrible.  Yes, it was probably a little more than other teams would have paid.  But Santana has a long history as a strong bat and is a switch-hitter.  But by the following fall the Phillies were "shopping the hell" out of Santana. 

The problem was, Rhys Hoskins, a first baseman, was thrown into left field to keep (of all people) the bat of Tommy Joseph at first base in 2017.  After the Phillies thinking that Hoskins was passable in 30 games in left field in 2017, they learned they were wrong in 2018. Something had to give.

What happened next was the big problem for the Phillies.  That $20 million per-annum would become much bigger money for the Phillies.

Santana was traded, along with shortstop J.P. Crawford for infielder Jean Segura, reliever Juan Nicasio, and reliever James Pazos.  That also meant that the Phillies signed Andrew McCutchen to replace Hoskins in left field, who took his rightful place at first base.

So that $60 million ended up becoming $113.5 million.

For the Phillies, that means in 2021 $30 million is committed to both Segura and McCutchen.  Segura is due another $15 million in 2022.  It's not that they are bad players; they're nice players.  It's just that the Phillies have other large salaries to worry about and both are probably earning above what they should.

A report from Matt Gelb today in The Athletic suggests that the Phillies badly played their hand in the J.T. Realmuto negotiations.  After waiting to negotiate to stay under the 2020 luxury tax, the Phillies might have blown their opportunity.   The Phillies would not have been as good with Crawford in the infield over Segura in 2020, but it may have been passable.

The Segura salary was the difference in getting a Realmuto deal done.

Should the Phillies fail to sign Realmuto, what is next?  The Phillies probably cannot get value in trade for McCutchen or Segura to either clear money or add prospects.  Any Realmuto replacement likely has to come from free agency.

Should the Phillies re-sign Realmuto, it will be hard to find money to add other talent, again, needing to come from free agency.

The Phillies get out from under McCutchen's $15 million annual luxury tax hit after this season and out from under Segura's after 2022.   With big contracts to Bryce Harper and Zach Wheeler, the Phillies are going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

With the promotion of both Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard, there is not a ton left in the Phillies system.  It will likely take a couple years for the prospects to rise in the system, as well as a couple years for the Phillies to let some of these contracts expire. The handcuffs the Phillies will have around their wrists will all go back to the Santana signing and all that follows.


The Curious Case of Scott Kingery

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By Siobhan Nolan, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

Scott Kingery joined the Phillies with a rather interesting resume.

A second round draft pick, Kingery hadn’t been recruited by any Division I, II, or III colleges coming out of high school, instead playing baseball as a preferred walk-on for the University of Arizona. He had an impressive stint in the Phillies’ farm system—so impressive that he was handed a six-year, $24 million contract without playing a single major league game. It all seemed to be coming together perfectly, though. Kingery was a talented infielder that could hit and run well. Some said that he was the stalwart second baseman that we’ve been waiting for since a certain Californian departed in 2015.

Well, it’s been two years since signing day, and we’re still waiting.

That’s not to say that Kingery has been a total disappointment. Coming into the MLB under Gabe Kapler, Kingery dazzled us with his skills as the coveted “utility man.” While he considers himself a natural second baseman, it became clear that he could play well no matter what position he was put in. While that was great news for the team as a whole, it’s exposed some major weaknesses in his individual game.

The most persistent issue is the fact that Kingery seriously lacks identity as a player. This isn’t entirely his fault, seeing as he expressed interest in playing one position while Kapler had more of a desire to play him wherever he was needed, which was seemingly everywhere but his preferred post at second base. Joe Girardi confirmed that Kingery was in his plans as the everyday second baseman, but this was complicated by the player’s ongoing issues with his shoulder and back, along with a particularly harrowing bout of COVID-19 that caused Kingery to join preseason later than the rest of the team. When he was able to participate in the team fully, however, he simply didn’t impress. His hitting was unfortunately reminiscent of his rookie season, where he was quite literally one of the absolute worst hitters in baseball, and where the glimmering improvement he showed in 2019 was all but obliterated. His defense was mediocre to a nauseating degree, advertising the harsh reality that such little playing time at his preferred position meant that it was debatable as to whether one could call Kingery a natural second baseman anymore.

It doesn’t help that the Arizona native has proven himself to be wildly inconsistent. He started off the 2019 season incredibly well, putting up impressive hitting numbers and making highlight reel plays out in center field. But then the All-Star Break came and went, and Kingery suddenly retreated into frustratingly average form. He has his moments that make you remember why we put so much faith in him (diving catches, clutch homers, nervy stolen bases, etc.), but it’s coming to the point where fleeting glances of star quality just won’t cut it anymore.

In 2018, we received a Scott Kingery that was being touted as the long-awaited heir to Chase Utley’s throne, as outlandish as that may sound at the current moment. But even though he hasn’t had his breakout season yet, Kingery is only 26, and he has Girardi’s full faith and support going into next season. So while Mac may not be writing him a love letter anytime soon, we as fans can expect Kingery to find his sweet spot in a (hopefully) less chaotic 2021 season.

And who knows? Kingery has great hair and runs fast—he might bear more similarities to Utley than he's letting on.


Phillies: Addressing 2020’s Frequent Conclusions

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Forming an opinion on the Philadelphia Phillies doesn’t even require a minute’s thought for many, and firing a general manager and/or his boss is a go-to position. The faithful have little patience for not meeting their expectations, real or perceived. So, silence wasn’t an option!  

 

Researched Views:

On the surface, Phillies fans either praise or give a pass to their favorites but criticize struggling players including reserves like Andrew Knapp. Basically, they must point out the Fightins’ shortcomings despite all teams having warts. More information, though, can easily challenge their beliefs.

IN OTHER WORDS:

“People mistakenly assume that their thinking is done by their head; it is actually done by the heart which first dictates the conclusion, then commands the head to provide the reasoning that will defend it.” - Anthony de Mello

In this article, many locals drew these conclusions, but I can’t remember who reached each one because they continuously blend together over the months. So, I’m not referring to anyone in particular.        

Playing time is probably the most important factor in being a productive hitter in the major leagues, and any backup for JT Realmuto is going to have difficulty. Realistically, a batter must begin his swing as the hurler is releasing the ball if he has a 95-mph fastball: It looks different at field level.               

Pinch-hitting without occasionally getting four at-bats in some contests is a task only a few can achieve like a Matt Stairs. And, usually, the secondary receiver is a capable defender, and any offense is an unexpected plus.   

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