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Week 17 Preview: Union vs. Chicago Fire

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By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

The Union will want to leave July behind as they return home from a disappointing road trip in Florida to face off against the Chicago Fire. Playing in front of a home crowd for just the third time since Memorial Day will hopefully start August off on the right foot, and put three points back in the Union’s Eastern Conference tally.

It certainly helps that goalkeeper Andre Blake and striker Cory Burke are finally set to return to MLS play after being away on international duty for Jamaica’s run in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Having Blake in front of the goal will obviously bolster the Union’s defense, but his vocal leadership and demanding of nothing short of excellence from his teammates will (hopefully) see Jim Curtin’s men look more like the disciplined and organized Union side fans have grown used to seeing this season.

Kai Wagner and Olivier Mbaizo will also be essential in beating the Fire. One of the Fire’s biggest weaknesses is defending against counterattacks on the wings, and both men have proven that they can control the entire flow of the game from their respective sides of the pitch. Their reading of the game needs to be razor-sharp, able to spot a good run from the back and get their central midfielders involved in time to move the ball forward. Keeping the midfield in more of a triangular shape will expose the Fire’s preferred three-at-the-back defense, and give plenty of space to create goals.

This game is yet another chance for Curtin to start some of his young players. One has to wonder what more Quinn Sullivan has to do off the bench in order to earn a spot in the starting lineup, or if perhaps Paxten Aaronson stole Curtin’s parking spot at Subaru Park, hence the shockingly limited playing time in all competitions this season. There are plenty of tired legs in the Union’s usual starting lineup, and it wouldn’t kill their manager to make good on his promise to give minutes to the Homegrowns.

Predicted Lineup: Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Olivier Mbaizo, Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya, Jamiro Monteiro, Cory Burke, Kacper Przybyłko

  • It would be nice to see the young guys start, but it’s not looking likely after the poor results the Union have recently sustained. Blake will be a breath of fresh air in a disorganized Union back line, but he’s probably going to be the only real change in Curtin’s lineup. Sergio Santos is facing a one game suspension for kicking an object at fans during the Union’s game against Orlando City SC, which will allow Burke to get some minutes up front.

Score Prediction: This Union offense should be better than scraping together a 2-1 win against the Fire, but the finishing, pressure, and intensity on the counterattack just haven’t been satisfactory as of late. However, three points is three points, especially since the Union will soon have to balance MLS with the CONCACAF Champions League again.


With Deadline Passed, Phillies Will "Revisit" Idea of Cole Hamels

Hamels
(Photo: Kevin Durso/Sports Talk Philly)

The Phillies acquired three players of note ahead of Friday's 4:00 p.m. MLB Trade Deadline.  They added starter Kyle Gibson, closer Ian Kennedy, and infielder Freddy Galvis.  They also picked up a prospect in starting pitcher Hans Crouse, who immediately became their number four Phillies prospect on MLB Pipeline.  But the Phillies might not be done.  With an injury to Zach Eflin and the need to replace Vince Velasquez in the starting rotation, the Phillies need one more arm.  

That arm could come in former Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels.   The Phillies were one of 20 teams who watched Hamels throw on July 16.  Hamels has continued to build up strength and it is believed that he would be able to help a Major League team.

But are the Phillies interested?

Todd Zolecki of MLB.com wrote on Friday evening that the Phillies still could look at Hamels, and Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski seemed to indicate it was possible: 

“It’s a topic that we still need to revisit, actually,” Dombrowski said Friday evening. “Because again, we just did all these types of [trades]. We like Cole. There’s a lot of things we like about him. But now we need to sit down actually after we’re done here. We’re going to try to revisit the conversation ourselves and see where it takes us.”

Here is how it might work for the Phillies.

The Phillies had about $4.5 million or so available under the competitive balance tax threshold as the deadline was about to hit.  The Phillies received in trades just about that money, before adding salaries of Gibson, Kennedy, and Galvis.  That means the Phillies still have about $4 million to work with.

That could be a competitive advantage compared to other teams looking to add a starter.  The Phillies could have accommodated Gibson, Kennedy, and Galvis under their available money.  Yet, they got some money back in trades anyway.

Will they spend that on Hamels?

The Los Angeles Dodgers might have been interested in Hamels.  Instead they landed Max Scherzer from the Washington Nationals.  Presumably, they will not have interest in Hamels.

The one team that could be a challenger for Hamels is the San Diego Padres.

The Padres were reportedly close to a deal that would have sent Scherzer to the Padres.  But the Phillies and Nationals were still mid-game and Scherzer did not have the opportunity to review potential trade destinations.  What exactly happened is unclear, but Scherzer ended up going to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Padres added reliever Daniel Hudson and outfielder Jake Marisnick at the deadline.  But not a starter.

Hamels is a San Diego native who once dreamed of playing for the Padres.  But as he approached free agency in the past,  Hamels said there was a "one in 30 chance" he would play for the Padres.  Would this time be different? 

The Phillies have more money available than the Padres.  Would they be willing to spend it on Hamels?  And how much would it take?

Hamels earned $18 million (prorated by COVID) to throw 3 2/3 innings for the Atlanta Braves last season.  There are two months left of the 2021 season, and Hamels would be lucky to throw one month's worth of starts in the major leagues.   Would he play for an amount that fits comfortably in the $4 million space the Phillies have left?

The Padres, meanwhile, would likely have to exceed the threshold.  Sportrac has the Padres about $1.6 million below the competitive balance tax threshold.  The Padres may not wish to exceed that for Hamels, who remains somewhat of a wild card.

But the Phillies, who perhaps could use a boost of energy from a Hamels signing, could spend a month knowing he is on the way and the benefits coming from that.  It would excite the fan base, well ahead of when he might pitch for them in Philadelphia.   And, perhaps most importantly, he might pitch better than Chase Anderson, the likely replacement for Velasquez, and Matt Moore.

This is worth watching.


Phillies Reacquire Freddy Galvis

Galvis

Hello, old friend.  The Phillies continued making trades ahead of the 4:00 p.m. trade deadline even after acquiring three players from the Texas Rangers.   The Phillies landed old friend Freddy Galvis in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles.

Jeff Passan of ESPN was the first to report the deal.

The Phillies are looking to add some insurance in the infield, with Didi Gregorius struggling defensively and Alec Bohm struggling both defensively and offensively.

Galvis is currently on the injured list.  Galvis was placed on the list on June 27, with a quadriceps strain.  Yesterday, MASN reported that Galvis was taking at bats in Sarasota in preparation to return.  No timeline was given.

Galvis was batting .249 with nine home runs at the time of the injury.

Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the return on the trade was Class-A reliefer Tyler Burch:


Report: Phillies Close to Landing Rangers Starter, Closer

The Phillies had been trade-less in major league deals one hour before the 4:00 p.m. Eastern MLB Trade Deadline.  The Phillies were looking for starting help and relief help.  The Phillies are reportedly close to pulling off a deal that will land them both.

Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reports the Phillies are close to acquiring Texas Rangers starting pitcher Kyle Gibson and closer Ian Kennedy.

Being "close" to a deal usually means the players are agreed upon and medical information will be reviewed.

One name that was reported as being possibly in such a deal is Phillies pitcher Spencer Howard:

Howard appears unlikely to help the Phillies on the short-term, but at 25 years old certainly still has some promise.

Gibson signed a three-year, $28 million contract with the Rangers prior to the 2020 season.  The contract was front-loaded, meaning the cash out the door will be $7 million in 2022.  The average annual value against the Competitive Balance Tax will be $9.333 million.

Gibson is 6-3 with a 2.87 earned run average for the Rangers in 2021.   The Rangers Opening Day starter allowed five earned runs while getting just one out in his first start, and has been stellar since.   Gibson has averaged just under six full innings per start this season.

Kennedy re-invented himself in 2021 as the Rangers closer.   Now 36 years old, Kennedy is 0-0 with a 2.51 earned run average with the Rangers.  He has 16 saves in 32 appearances.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE 3:34 p.m.: 

Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that pitcher Hans Crouse is in the deal to the Phillies.  Crouse is the number 9 prospect in the Texas Rangers system, according to MLB Pipeline.  Crouse is currently at Double-A.

Salisbury also reports that prospect Kevin Gowdy is headed to the Rangers.

UPDATE 3:41 p.m.:

Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports that the third piece headed to the Rangers is Josh Gessner, a player out of Australia currently with the Florida State League Phillies.

UPDADE 3:54 p.m.: 

Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the deal is final.


Phillies Linked Again to Buxton as Deadline Approaches

There should be a lot of movement around Major League Baseball in the final hours ahead of the 4:00 p.m. MLB Trade Deadline.  The Phillies have not made a major league move yet, but rumors surrounding the Phillies continue to heat up.  The latest involves a huge upgrade in center field.

According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Phillies are a team in on Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton.

Several reports indicated the Twins might move him if they cannot agree to a contract extension.

Buxton is a defensive wiz who has also been stellar at the plate.  However, multiple injuries have gotten in the way of Buxton's 2021 season.  Should the Phillies get him, he would be under Phillies control in 2022.

How might the Phillies get a deal done?  One theory from Ben Ballier of Sports Talk Philly is that the Phillies could take on the contract of Josh Donaldson in order to make a deal.  Donaldson is on a four-year, $92 million deal that has two seasons remaining after 2021.  

The Phillies might then be able to include Alec Bohm in such a deal.

A lot of that is speculation, but Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will have to be creative to get some deals done, with a high payroll and with few prospects to trade.

The Phillies had previously been linked to Buxton.

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Report: Phillies Making a "Hard Push" for Rangers Starter

With less than three hours before the MLB Trade Deadline, the Phillies have yet to make a single major league move.  The club reportedly continues to chase pitching, both starting pitching and relief.  The Phillies were connected to a Texas Rangers starting pitcher.

Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports the Phillies are in on Texas Rangers starter Kyle Gibson:

Gibson would remain under control through 2022 to an acquiring team.

Gibson signed a three-year, $28 million contract with the Rangers prior to the 2020 season.  The contract was front-loaded, meaning the cash out the door will be $7 million in 2022.  The average annual value against the Competitive Balance Tax will be $9.333 million.

Gibson is 6-3 with a 2.87 earned run average for the Rangers in 2021.   The Rangers Opening Day starter allowed five earned runs while getting just one out in his first start, and has been stellar since.   Gibson has averaged just under six full innings per start this season.

Take out that first start the number is just a tick under 6.6 innings a start.

So the Phillies would have immediate help for their starting rotation, if able to pull off the deal.


Phillies Swap Minor Leaguers with the Pittsburgh Pirates

The Phillies have made a trade.  No, it's not one of the big names.  In fact, it's not even a major league player.  But the Phillies have made a trade ahead of the July 30 4:00 p.m. MLB Trade Deadline.

According to Robert Murray

Ogle has yet to play in a Major League game.

So why did the Phillies make such a trade?

Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Gazette is reporting that this could be linked to the failed trade for Tyler Anderson.  One of the players who was supposed to go back to the Phillies in that trade was catcher Abrahan Gutierrez.  It appears that after that deal, which also reportedly included pitcher Cristian Hernandez, the Pirates still were interested in Gutierrez.

Ogle was 2-2 with a 3.14 earned run average in 24 games (all in relief) for Triple-A Indianapolis in 2021.  He is not a member of the 40-man roster and the Phillies will not need to add him to theirs.  That would seemingly be a barrier to a 2021 call-up for the Phillies, who aside from COVID-related injured list stints have no wiggle room on their 40-man roster.

The MLB Trade Deadline is set for 4:00 p.m. today.        


Report: Phillies Shopping, But Have Few Top Prospects to Trade

It has been a slow trade deadline so far for the Phillies, with just under five hours remaining before the 4:00 p.m. MLB Trade Deadline.  The only real movement the Phillies had was to agree to a deal for left-handed starter Tyler Anderson.  That deal fell through, however, and the Phillies have been quiet since.

Jayson Stark of the Athletic has a reason: 

That the Phillies have few blue chip prospects available is not a surprise.

But what might be a surprise is that the deals made thus far have included few blue chip prospects.  The trade for power hitter Kyle Schwarber cost the Red Sox their number 8 prospect, Aldo Ramirez.  That would seem to indicate the Phillies have the ability to play in that range, if they wish to pass on Bryson Stott and Mick Abel.

Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has publicly stated on multiple occasions that the Phillies will be buyers.  He has under five hours to deliver.


Union Sign Jesus Bueno

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By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

The Union have officially announced the signing of midfielder Jesús Bueno from Venezuelan Primera Division side Deportivo Lara for an undisclosed fee.

Bueno, who served as captain of Deportivo Lara, signed a two-and-a-half year contract with a club option for two additional years. Bueno will join the Union’s active roster once he receives his International Transfer Certificate and P1 Visa.

“Jesús is a young versatile player we have followed because of his strong potential,” said Union sporting director Ernst Tanner. “As the captain of his former club, he brings natural leadership abilities and the mentality we value, and his ability to play multiple positions will allow us to find a good fit for him in our system. We look forward to welcoming him to the team and watching him develop.”

Bueno has totaled nine goals and three assists in 75 appearances for Deportivo Lara, playing in the Primera Division Championship Finals in 2016 and 2020. He made five appearances for Deportivo this season, and recently recorded his first professional brace against Aragua FC in May of this year.


Flyers Likely Done as Fletcher Makes More Offseason ‘Bets’

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

When noon arrived on Wednesday and the free agency period opened, the Flyers made what could likely be their final additions of the offseason. 

Just minutes into the open of free agency, the Flyers had their backup netminder in Martin Jones, bought out by the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. An hour later, the Flyers brought back a familiar face in forward Nate Thompson. In addition, the reported signing of defenseman Keith Yandle was finalized. All three deals were for one year.

That seems to be a common thread among the newcomers. Outside of acquisitions Ryan Ellis on defense and Cam Atkinson at forward, every new face on the Flyers roster is joining on a one-year deal or with one year remaining on their contract. 

It’s all part of an offseason of gambling. Just about every player the Flyers have brought in this offseason, while certainly already making an impact on the eventual culture of the locker room, can be viewed as a bet.

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