As Yankees Depart Trenton, We Await new Phillies MILB Alignment

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Cornelius Randolph of the Double-A Reading Fightin' Phils bats in Trenton in the final game of the 2019 season (Frank Klose/Sports Talk Philly)

The proposed plan to eliminate as many as 40 minor league baseball teams has widely been reported.  But with the 2020 season done and the previous agreement between Major League Baseball and the minor leagues, changes are happening fast.   Unfortunately for the Philadelphia area, the Trenton Thunder, affiliated with the New York Yankees since 2003, will no longer be a Yankees minor league affiliate as news of the minor league realignment began.  These moves give some insight into what lies ahead for the Phillies minor league system.

Here is a summary of the New York Yankees affiliates, as realigned, per team announcement:

  • Scranton-Wilkes Barre will remain the Yankees Triple-A affiliate
  • The team's Double-A affiliate will move to Somerset, New Jersey, from Trenton, New Jersey.  The Somerset Patriots were formerly a member of the Independent Atlantic League.
  • The High-A affiliate will now be housed where the Hudson Valley Renegades once played.  The team plays in Wappingers Falls, New York, south of Poughkeepsie, New York, just east of the Hudson River
  • The Tampa Tarpons, formerly the High-A affiliate, will now shift to Low-A

Phillies fans used to be able to see the Reading Fightin' Phils frequently in Trenton.  But what will come of Arm & Hammer Park?  That is currently unclear, though some have suggested that Trenton could be home to a new Atlantic League team.  Philadelphia-area baseball fans used to have access to Atlantic League baseball in New Jersey in Camden (the Camden Riversharks) and Atlantic City (Atlantic City Surf).

Here is how the Phillies appear to be going, though nothing has been reported or confirmed:

  • Lehigh Valley should be the Triple-A affiliate.  The Phillies have partial ownership in the Allentown-based franchise, which opened in 2008.
  • Double-A probably remains in Reading.  The Fightin' Phils have some common ownership with the Triple-A club in Lehigh Valley and it seems likely the Phillies will stay in Reading.
  • The High-A affiliate appears to be in Lakewood, New Jersey.  The recently-branded "Jersey Shore BlueClaws" held an October press conference to announce the name change to "Jersey Shore" instead of Lakewood, where the team plays.   The Phillie Phanatic was present for the announcement, which seems to indicate the Phillies will stay.  The Yankees move of their High-A affiliate.
  • Clearwater, then, appears to be poised to be the Low-A affiliate.  The Phillies have had a Class-A affiliate in Clearwater since 1985 and is home to Phillies Spring Training and the Gulf Coast League.  The latter probably stays, though we have no indication yet in one form.
  • Williamsport appears to be out as a Phillies affiliate.  Though Historic Bowman Field was recently renovated to meet Major League Baseball standards to host the annual Little League Classic, the Short-Season New York-Penn League appears to be folding.  Williamsport could indeed host a team still, as we saw the Hudson Valley team will do.  But there has been no announcement yet.  Meanwhile, the @Crosscutters Twitter feed is active, with a hashtag #WeWillBeBack in the profile

Presumably, with the Yankees coming forward forth, there will be much more news about the minor leagues in coming weeks.


Phillies: Vulture’s Market for 2020-21

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

For this Philadelphia Phillies offseason, possible targets are embarking on an extreme buyer’s market, plus the dollar amounts and contractual lengths are just forming. Therefore, expect lowballing from most organizations due to 2020’s financial losses.   

 

Upside-down Bidding:

From the Phillies view, the early warning signs are present: Top-dollar and long-term proposals will be scarce even for elite stars. And if a regular didn’t receive a QO (qualifying offer), his club doesn't believe another team will offer $18.9 million per 162 for one or more campaigns. So, color this free agency blue.

IN OTHER WORDS:

“There are many roads to success but only one sure road to failure, and that is to try to please everyone else.” - Benjamin Franklin

In ‘20, every franchise lost money for a total of $2.7 billion minimum or $90 million each, but the Fightins are now claiming a $120 million downturn. Translation: Expect pandemic-discount offers for all except a few stars with many teams hoping to re-sign some players for less.              

While lower proposals will be the rule, contract lengths will be 1-4 years. Therefore, Marcus Stroman has a four-season projection, and James Paxton’s forecast is one summer. But one exception is JT Realmuto with a national prediction of five campaigns. 

For now, the early clues indicate organizations won’t be adding any luxury pieces when they have non-tendered players they want to re-sign for a reduced commitment. Or they’ll trade some regulars and replace them with MLB-minimum youngsters from the deal or through their pipeline.     

Continue reading "Phillies: Vulture’s Market for 2020-21" »


Ex-Phillies Crawford, Hernandez Win Rawlings Gold Glove Awards

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The Phillies have not had the best offseason so far.  After general manager Matt Klentak "stepped down", Phillies fans have been subject to a frustrating press conference from lame duck president Andy MacPhail that offered little optimism for the future.  And now, two former Phillies once at the center of the Phillies rebuild have become Rawlings Gold Glove winners elsewhere.

Rawlings announced the awards Tuesday evening.  Among the winners: former Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez and former Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford.  At one point the two looked like the double-play combination of the future for the Phillies.

This year's awards were decided not by voting from coaches and managers, but by statistics and data.  Upon announcing the finalists in October, Rawlings described the change:

Due to the compressed 2020 season, the Award qualifications have been amended to rely solely on the SDI which draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play accounts.  SDI utilizes MLBAM's Statcast, Sports Information Solutions data, and STATS, LLC data as well as traditional statistics with advanced analysis. For 2020 Award consideration, pitchers must have pitched at least 50 innings, catchers must have played in at least 29 games and infielders/outfielders must have completed at least 265 defensive innings. Each player qualifies at the position he has played at most (SDI is only for play at qualified position).

Hernandez departed the Phillies as a free agent to the Cleveland Indians, while Crawford was traded to the Seattle Mariners as part of the Carlos Santana contract dump that saw Jean Segura coming to Philadelphia.

Hernandez is a free agent once again, while Crawford remains under Seattle control for four more seasons.


Phillies Third Baseman Bohm Named Rookie of the Year Finalist

Phillies fans know all too well about how well third baseman Alec Bohm played during his first stint in the major leagues.  Called up on August 13, Bohm gave the Phillies 160 at bats while playing third base and first base.  The numbers show a highly-productive player.  Major League Baseball took notice.

On Monday night, Major League Baseball announced finalists for the 2020 National League Rookie of the Year award.  Bohm is among them:

That makes one name from each of baseball's three divisons.

Jake Cronenworth played mostly second base but also third base, first base, and shortstop for the San Diego Padres.  Cronenworth compiled a 1.4 WAR, batting .265 with an OPS of 8.31.  Cronenworth 

Devin Williams was a relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers.  He was close to perfect. In 27 innings over 22 appearances, Williams allowed just a single earned run.  Just one.  The emergence of Williams led to the Brewers trading David Phelps to the Phillies.

Bohm batted .334 for the Phillies, with an OPS 0f .881.    The former Phillies first round pick from 2018 hit four home runs and drove in 23.  His WAR was 0.7.

The idea of the "finalists" presented ahead of MLB awards was created to build excitement.   The voting for the awards is complete.  So who will win?  We will know that a week from tonight.

The Rookie of the Year awards will be announced on MLB Network Monday, November 9 at 6:00 p.m.

 


Report: Realmuto Gets Qualifying Offer from Phillies, Not Didi

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Sunday is the deadline for teams to extend a qualifying offer to their players who are heading into free agency.  A player who accepts a qualifying offer receives a one-year contract for $18.9 million in 2021.  It looks like the Phillies are going to extend one offer, but not another.

According to Mark Feinsand, J.T. Realmuto will be among only a handful of players to receive the qualifying offer this free agency:

There is one notable Phillies omission: shortstop Didi Gregorius.

Continue reading "Report: Realmuto Gets Qualifying Offer from Phillies, Not Didi" »


Thorny Details for 2021’s Phillies Roster

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

For the Philadelphia Phillies faithful, acquiring or re-upping a star has an unknown degree of difficulty for the organization and the regular. Yet failure is an unacceptable excuse the locals aren’t buying, even if they’re willing to hear it. But are the particulars irrelevant?

The Unfortunate Truth:

When some Phillies fans convince themselves a certain player is a must-have for the next campaign, they may experience anger and/or other negative emotions if their heart’s desire signs elsewhere. And the odds for disappointment are high and likely because of a small detail they are unaware of.     

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Your emotions are making it difficult for you to accept hard decisions.” - John C. Maxwell

According to managing partner John Middleton, the Fightins lost $100 million due to the pandemic. But don’t assume he is planning major cost cutting for ‘21 because he doesn’t announce his strategy. But keep in mind, he doesn’t want to overpay if he’s anticipating more financial difficulties for 2021.                                                

League-wise, losses were $2.7 billion before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Plus the expectation from national publications is most major league franchises will have a lower payroll next summer. Ergo, small-market clubs won’t be the only ones doing so.    

One remaining question is which deep-pocketed teams will be watching from the sidelines. Realistically, those organizations include the New York Yankees who will drop under the $210 million CBT (competitive-balance threshold) in ‘21 to reset their tax rate.        

Continue reading "Thorny Details for 2021’s Phillies Roster" »


Phillies President MacPhail Will Be Lame Duck; No GM Imminent

AndyMacPhailBy Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA - Andy MacPhail, CC BY-SA 2.0

Phillies president Andy MacPhail held his annual year-end press conference on Friday afternoon.  On Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic, MacPhail offered some insight to the 2020 season, his future, and the future of the general manager position.  While much is still unclear, MacPhail notably stated his plans to exit his role as club president at the end of the 2021 season.

Here is a rundown of some of the key moments of the press conference as told by reporters.

MacPhail plans to step aside at the end of the 2021 season, or perhaps even sooner:

The Phillies do not appear eager to hire a general manager:

The Phillies financial picture is "not pretty":

MacPhail offers credit to the draft picks under Matt Klentak:

The Phillies aren't as good as Tampa Bay Rays organization in developing players:

John Middleton should be more engaged next time:


So what is there for people to make of this press conference? 

It sounds like 2021 will be a transitional year.  With MacPhail serving as a lame duck president, he probably will not make any long-term decisions.  That could mean that interim general manager Ned Rice sticks around for the year, too.  Expect a lot of one-year deals as the Phillies and the rest of the baseball world seek to navigate through this pandemic.


Phillies Claim Reliever, Cut Ties With Several

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Phil Gosselin hit .250 for the Phillies in 2020 (Frank Klose/Sports Talk Philly)

The Phillies continued a major overhaul of their roster on Friday afternoon with a number of moves.  The Phillies cleared even more room in their bullpen as the Phillies seek to move forward after a season in which the bullpen was historically bad.  

The Phillies announced that they have made the following moves:

Phillies declined the contract option for RHP David Phelps 

Phelps would have made $4.5 million if the Phillies picked up the contract option.  They will instead pay a $250,000 buyout.  Phelps is not likely to receive the $4.5 million in free agency, though Phelps is likely to find a team to pitch for in 2021

Phillies declined the contract option for RHP Hector Neris

This move is interesting.  Had the option been picked up, Neris would have earned $7 million plus incentives.  Neris does remain under Phillies control but wil instead be eligible for salary arbitration.  Could the Phillies be banking on a lower dollar amount for Neris through the arbitration process?  Neris earned a pro-rated portion of $4.6 million in 2020 and likely would get a raise.  So the Phillies could be looking to save some money here.  They also have time now to decide to non-tender Neris down the line if htey wish.

Phillies claimed RHP Johan Quezada on waivers from the Miami Marlins

The Phillies pick up a player that had a brief appearance in 2020 (three innings, three earned runs allowed).  Quezada had previously not pitched above Class A Advanced in 2019.  This is someone the Phillies might hope to get a chance to develop in 2021 in hopes that he will be a long-term piece.  Quezada turned 26 in August

Phillies declined $12 million option on David Robertson

This move was expected. The Phillies signed Robertson to a two-year deal prior to 2019 and got very little production for their investment:  Robertson made just seven appearances and had a 5.40 earned run average when Robertson hit the injured list in 2019.  Robertson missed all of 2020 after undergoing "Tommy John" surgery.

Phillies outrighted RHP Blake Parker, IF Phil Gosselin, RHP Heath Hembree and LHP Adam Morgan; all elected free agency

We learned over Hembree and Morgan yesterday, but the decisions on Parker and Gosselin were unknown.  The Phillies could re-sign Morgan, Gosselin, and Parker, but likely to minor league deals.  Morgan is recovering from elbow surgery and will be out a while.   Parker and Gosselin tend to sign minor league deals in recent years, and look to prove their worth in Spring Training.  That could happen in Philadelphia or elsewhere.


Average in the Outfield: A Look at the Current State of the Phillies Outfielders

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By Siobhan Nolan, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

If the Phillies infield was not a pressing matter, as we established in last week’s article, the outfield might be considered even less so. It’s getting a bit repetitive to say that an aspect of the Phillies team this past season was “mediocre at best”, but that is the unfortunate reality of this current team. And just like the infield, there are plenty of questions as to how to strategically arrange this outfield in order to get the best results of our defense.

Let’s begin at left field, where Andrew McCutchen mercifully was able to play after suffering a devastating ACL injury last season. While it was promising that McCutchen was able to get back on the field, it seemed as though his defensive abilities didn’t fully follow him there. No errors in 47 chances was the highlight of his defense this past season, but other than that, his performance was fairly forgettable. Did the major knee injury affect his performance? Most likely. Did his offensive performance make up for what he lacked in the field? Not really. McCutchen went 1 for 18 in his first few games of 2020, but had three multi-hit games over the next nine. Although it took him 17 games to hit his first home run of the season, he managed to hit safely in the next 12 out of 14 games (including seven multi-hit games), and was batting .261 by the end of August. Finishing the season with a .253 average, 10 home runs, and 34 RBIs isn’t spectacular, but right now, the Phillies don’t have many options when it comes to a left fielder or a leadoff hitter, making Cutch invaluable although admittedly average right now.

This brings us to right field, where Bryce Harper shines defensively. He’s a force to be reckoned with in his tried-and-true position, along with being one of the better offensive performers this season, but even Harper wasn’t exempt from setbacks. He started off 2020 incredibly strong, but did so at a pace that simply wasn’t sustainable. He suffered several dips in performance, many of which can be attributed to a back injury that Joe Girardi admitted started “four to five weeks” before it was public knowledge. Girardi acknowledged that in a regular 162-game season, Harper might have been temporarily shut down to get treated and recover, but this 60-game season didn’t allow that kind of time, forcing him to play when he wasn’t at 100% fitness. Despite the injury, Harper finished with a .268 average, with 13 home runs and 33 RBIs, making him one of the less frustrating players in the lineup.

Then, there’s center field, which is another position where the Phillies lack a player able to play consistently. There’s several options as to who should be the everyday center field, but none of them spark feelings of security in Phillies fans. The first option is Adam Haseley, who had a promising 2019 season, but regressed in basically all aspects of his game in 2020. Girardi’s plan from the get-go was to have Haseley platoon at center with Roman Quinn, but it became evident that the skipper preferred Quinn, giving him 28 starts to Haseley’s 18. Even when the outfield depth was seriously depleted, not much faith was shown in Haseley’s ability to play center. Case and point: an injured Bryce Harper was played in center field over Haseley against the New York Mets in September. Some argue that Haseley been given ample opportunity to shine (seeing as he was rather hurriedly called up from the minors last year), but there is plenty of reasonable doubt over Haseley’s abilities in center field. A second option in center would be the aforementioned Roman Quinn, but he’s not much more promising than Haseley. The literal fastest man in baseball obviously has speed as a valuable quality, but he also spends quite a bit of time on the injured list. His inability to properly play balls off the wall and tendency to dive when he should let balls drop in front of him are faults that need to be improved upon, but it’s clear that Girardi prefers Quinn over Haseley in center field at the moment. It also helps that Quinn’s speed on the base paths makes him preferable to Haseley in the batting lineup, along with the fact that there seems to be some sort of unspoken consensus that Haseley can’t hit against left-handed pitchers. Either way, Quinn is a bit of a dark horse player that still has plenty to prove, but it looks as though he’s the man Girardi prefers in center field.

Technically a third option would be Scott Kingery, although his only real qualification for this position is that he spent much of his time under Gabe Kapler in center field. It’s unlikely that he’ll feature there much, as Girardi intends to keep Kingery at second base, or at least somewhere in the field. (And honestly, we might be better off forcing Shane Victorino out of retirement than having Kingery be the everyday CF. He’s just not an outfielder.)

Much like the infield’s issues, the outfield’s problems are not a matter of life and death. There needs to be more depth in the outfield, along with a player who can consistently play well at center, but there are plenty of silver linings. Haseley and Quinn are both fairly young players who have plenty of potential, and could benefit from some healthy competition to play center. Harper has 11 years left on his contract, and has been nothing short of exemplary in right field.

There just might be some hope for the Phillies defense after all.