Phillies, Dodgers Get Closer to Utley Deal

Utleys DefenseThe Phillies and Dodgers are moving closer to a trade for Chase Utley, sources told MLB.com on Wednesday.

No deal has been finalized, but the teams are moving in that direction. FOXSports.com first reported Wednesday that the Utley trade is “possible today.” CSNPhilly.com reported that if a trade does not happen Wednesday, Utley will remain with the Phillies the remainder of the season.

Trade discussions for Utley had heated up Friday, and the Angels thought they would acquire him before the end of the weekend. But nothing ever happened as Utley has full no-trade rights and can reject any trade.

But things can change with a change of heart or one phone call and talks apparently picked up again Wednesday.

Franco to DL with Broken Left Wrist

Maikel FrancoMaikel Franco’s left wrist is much worse than originally thought.

The Phillies placed him on the disabled list today with a broken left wrist, and it seems likely his promising rookie season has ended.

“I don’t think it’s a future issue,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said at Citizens Bank Park. “But we’re going to be cautious with him. We have to be as cautious as we can. He’s too important to us.”

Franco got hit on the wrist with a pitch Aug. 11 in Arizona. X-rays taken that night did not show the fracture and the Phillies believed the injury to be nothing more than a bruise. But as Franco failed to improve in the following days, a MRI exam this week in Philadelphia showed what Amaro described as “a very small, non-displaced fracture of his ulnar styloid,” which is a small bone on the outside of the wrist.

Franco will be in a splint for the next two to three weeks. Amaro said Franco’s recovery could be anywhere from 2-4 weeks, but he also acknowledged it could be longer. Combine the estimated recovery time with the fact there are a little more than six weeks remaining in the season and it seems the Phillies might simply have Franco focus on his health in the coming weeks, and not rush toward a return.

“It’s a big blow,” Amaro said. “He’s having a heck of a year for us. He’s been playing great, a pretty strong force in the middle of the lineup. You can’t do anything about it, a guy got hit and you’ve got to deal with it.”

Franco had hit .277 (82-for-296) with 22 doubles, one triple, 13 home runs, 48 RBIs and an .830 OPS in 77 games since his promotion from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on May 15. If he had enough plate appearances to quality, he would have the highest OPS among National League rookies.

Cesar Hernandez and Andres Blanco are expected to handle the duties at third base the remainder of the season.

Outfielder Aaron Altherr got recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to take Franco’s spot on the roster. Altherr hit a combined .293 (127-for-433) with 32 doubles, five triples, 15 home runs, 67 RBIs and an .854 OPS in 111 games with Double-A Reading and Lehigh Valley. He can play all three outfield positions, so he should have no problem playing during the week.

“He’s going to get a chance to play,” Amaro said. “it’s time to find out a little bit more about Aaron.”

Sources: Multiple Offers for Utley

Chase UtleyTrade talks for Phillies second baseman Chase Utley are hotter than ever.

Sources told MLB.com tonight that several teams have made offers for Utley, although no deal is imminent.

The Giants are just one of those teams. San Francisco general manager Bobby Evans confirmed to MLB.com that his team has made an offer for Utley. The Cubs, Dodgers, Angels and Yankees also have pursued him.

One source made one thing clear Thursday: everything is in Utley’s hands. He has 10-and-5 no-trade rights, so he can be traded only if he wants to be traded. If he prefers a team, he can steer the Phillies toward that team. If he does not like what he sees or hears, he can say no.

ESPN.com reported earlier Thursday that Utley wants a playing time guarantee before he goes anywhere. He does not want to ride the bench because he plans to play next season. That makes the Giants’ situation interesting. Utley spends his offseasons in the San Francisco area and the Giants certainly are World Series contenders. But while Giants second baseman Joe Panik is on the disabled list with lower back inflammation, he would expect to play once he is healthy.

It is a small sample size, but in five games since returning from the DL with a sprained right ankle, Utley is hitting .412 (7-for-17) with three doubles, three RBIs and three runs scored. He is hitting .196 with a .564 in 70 games overall, which makes the compensation for Utley an interesting point of discussion. Teams believe Utley can help them, but based on Utley’s performance in the first half they seem unlikely to give up a top prospect for him.

But those who know his thinking say Utley still believes he can play at a high level, and the poor numbers before the All-Star break were the results of his ankle injury and a mechanical flaw in his swing.

Utley has a $15 million club option for 2016 that no longer will vest automatically based on plate appearances. His club option would then drop to $11 million, but the Phillies would be expected to take the $2 million buyout instead. That would make Utley a free agent, and the Phillies are unlikely to resign him because they plan to make Cesar Hernandez their second baseman in 2016.

Utley could be going over his options at this moment. If not, it seems only a matter of time before he does. While nothing seems likely to happen before the end of the night, these things can move quickly.

Asked Sunday in San Diego if he expected to be with the Phillies by the end of the season, Utley said, “Who knows?”

That question could be asked a bit differently at this point: Does he expect to be with the team by next week?

Franco Feels Better, DL Seems Unlikely

Maikel FrancoMaikel Franco had a cock-up splint on his left wrist this morning at Chase Field, but do not be alarmed.

It is a precaution.

Franco got hit on his wrist with a pitch in last night’s 13-1 loss to the D-Backs. He collapsed to the turf behind home plate and he had to be helped off the field. Fortunately for Franco, x-rays were negative and he only suffered a bruise. He said he is day-to-day, saying nobody has mentioned anything about going to the disabled list.

“It’s bothering me a little bit, but I’m fine,” Franco said.

Franco wore the split essentially to prevent him from sleeping on it wrong or having somebody grab his wrist by mistake.

“It’s better than yesterday,” Franco said. “Yesterday I was in a lot of pain. But when I woke up I moved it and it was better.”

Franco is hitting .277 (82-for-296) with 22 doubles, one triple, 13 home runs, 48 RBIs and an .830 OPS in 77 games.

Dodgers in the Lead for Hamels?

Hamels_IGEven before Phillies ace Cole Hamels pitched a no-hitter Saturday against the Cubs, trade discussions between Philadelphia and multiple postseason contenders had escalated.

Hamels’ dominant performance at Wrigley Field certainly has not slowed those talks.

Several sources have told MLB.com that the Dodgers and Rangers lead the race to acquire Hamels, with the Rangers privately bracing themselves to finish second. The Yankees, Giants and Cubs have been the other three teams most actively pursuing Hamels.

The Dodgers are willing to deal, but they are expected to hold onto shortstop Corey Seager and left-hander Julio Urias, who MLBPipeline.com considers the fourth and fifth-best prospects in baseball. Right-hander Grant Holmes ranks 75th overall and right-hander Jose De Leon ranks 89th, but the Phillies need power bats. Dodgers outfield prospects Alex Verdugo and Scott Schebler have power potential. The Dodgers also have a couple catchers in their system that could interest Philadelphia.

Perhaps the Phillies and Dodgers get creative again. They included the Padres last December to help facilitate the Jimmy Rollins deal.

Of course, the Rangers still have a shot because the Phillies like their farm system. Texas is becoming more comfortable at the prospect of taking on Hamels’ remaining salary, which pays him $22.5 million through 2018, plus a $6 million buyout on a $20 million club option for 2019. Texas catching prospect Jorge Alfaro and outfield prospect Nomar Mazara, who rank 34th and 42nd overall, could be part of a package for Hamels. Both have power.

Sources said no deal is imminent, but with five days remaining there is plenty of time to make something happen.

The feeling around baseball is Hamels finally will be dealt.

But will anybody else from the Phillies?

The Cubs, Blue Jays and Nationals have been pursuing Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. Philadelphia almost certainly will have to eat some of Papelbon’s salary to get a prospect it desires. That is the reality of the game these days. The more money a team pays, the better the prospects they receive.

Ben Revere, Jeff Francoeur and, perhaps surprisingly, Chase Utley have been receiving interest. The Angels still like Revere, and they are monitoring Utley’s return from an ankle injury. But if Utley is traded, it likely would be a waiver trade next month because he still sits on the disabled list.

Papelbon: ‘Trade Me’ or Get Off the Pot

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jonathan Papelbon (58) adjusts his cap after giving up a two-run double to New York Yankees Garrett Jones during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Monday, June 22, 2015, in New York. The Phillies won 11-8. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jonathan Papelbon (58) adjusts his cap after giving up a two-run double to New York Yankees Garrett Jones during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Monday, June 22, 2015, in New York. The Phillies won 11-8. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo is covering the Phillies this week at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati, which means he is covering Jonathan Papelbon.

Papelbon made it very clear today he wants to be traded to a contender ASAP.

DiComo has the story:

CINCINNATI – Vocal and effusive about his desire to be traded, Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon spent his sixth All-Star media day trumpeting his desire to move on from Philadelphia.

“I want to go to a contender,” said Papelbon, the Phillies’ lone representative at the 2015 All-Star Game. “I do want to get out of Philly but I need to make a smart decision. I’ll make a decision that’s best for me to go to a place to contend to win a championship. That’s basically what my whole decision is going to be based on.”

In many ways, the decision is not Papelbon’s to make. The Phillies have been trying to deal their closer since before the 2013 Trade Deadline, but so far have been unable to find a suitable match. Making $13 million this season, Papelbon owns a $13 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests if he finishes 48 games. He’s on pace to do that, going 14-for-14 in save situations with a 1.60 ERA.

Papelbon cannot negotiate his own trade. But he can veto deals with a partial no-trade clause, and has said he would do so to avoid moving to a setup role or a non-contending team.

Other than that, Papelbon said, would like to part ways from the 29-62 Phillies, baseball’s worst team by a significant margin.

“This isn’t what I signed up for,” said Papelbon, who left the Red Sox for a four-year, $50-million deal with the Phillies before the 2012 season. “I signed up on a team that won 102 games, and was expecting certain things. Now, it didn’t happen, and I tried to ride that ship as much as I can. I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut as much as I can. But it’s time to you-know-what or get off the pot.

“I feel like three years is plenty enough time to ‘ride it out,’ so to speak. If fans can’t understand it, I can’t really side with them on that. I’m getting older and I don’t know how many more years I have left in this game. I don’t know how many All-Star Games I have left. None of that’s guaranteed. For me, I’m just trying to be on a winning ballclub and win as many rings as I can before it’s all said and done, and I’m coaching [son] Gunner in Little League. That’s really all I’m trying to do.

“From my perspective, I don’t understand how a fan couldn’t understand that. I understand that they wear their hearts on their sleeves and all that stuff, but for me, I’m in it to compete and to win. And I don’t have that opportunity in this organization. And I also feel like I gave this organization as many opportunities as they can to put a winning ballclub out there and as many chances to keep me in this organization, and it just hasn’t happened.”

If Papelbon has his way, a trade is what will happen — and soon. For him, his sixth All-Star appearance is simply continued validation that he can be more useful elsewhere.

“I thought that I was going to come to Philadelphia and win two more rings,” Papelbon said. “I honestly and truthfully did. And then the downward spiral happened, and it happened so quick. It’s almost unexplainable.”

Official: Phillies Sign Ortiz

ortizIt will take a few years, but the Phillies think they found a big-time power hitter in Jhailyn Ortiz.

The Phillies announced tonight they had officially signed the 16-year-old right fielder to a Minor League contract. Sources told MLB.com the deal is worth about $4.2 million.

MLB.com ranks Ortiz, who is 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, as the sixth-best prospect in this year’s international free agent class. Baseball America rated Ortiz’s power as the best in the class, grading his power tool as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

“We have been scouting Jhailyn since he was 14 years old,” Phillies assistant general manager Benny Looper said in a statement. “Since that time, our scouts have gotten to know the family and have a strong conviction of not only his ability to play baseball, but his strong character and desire to be a Major League player. We are excited to add the power potential Jhailyn possesses to the Phillies organization.”

Phillies director of international scouting Sal Agostinelli signed Ortiz in his native Dominican Republic.

The Phillies also signed three other additional international prospects: Venezuelan catcher Rafael Marchan ($200,000), Dominican infielder Kuedy Bocio and Dominican left-hander pitcher Manuel Silva.

The Phillies on Sunday acquired the No. 1 overall signing slot ($3,590,400) for the 2015-16 international signing period from Arizona for Class A Lakewood right-hander Chris Oliver, Class A Lakewood left-hander Josh Taylor and the team’s No. 9 overall signing slot ($1,352,100). The trade allowed the Phillies to avoid penalties that would prohibit them from signing international players for more than $300,000 until the 2018-19 signing period.

The Phillies entered the signing period July 2 with an allotted $3,041,700, but the trade boosted that figure to $4,562,550 because teams can only acquire 50 percent of their international bonus pool.

Teams that exceed their pool by 15 percent or more are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods, in addition to paying a 100 percent tax on the pool overage. That Phillies would have blown past that percentage without the trade.

“This keeps our hands untied, so to speak,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said Sunday.

Clock Ticking on Phillies? No, Says Amaro

Ruben Amaro, Jr.The clock is ticking on the Phillies with the July 31 Trade Deadline just around the corner.

But Ruben Amaro Jr. said this afternoon at Dodger Stadium that the organization is not feeling pressured to trade anybody. Of course, that might be posturing on his part, but he said the Phillies will not be forced into a trade.

“If it’s going to do something to help our club long term, yes,” Amaro said. “But do we need to do something? I don’t think so.”

Amaro paused for a moment.

“I would like to do something,” he said.

Of course, he would. The Phillies are on pace to lose 109 games and trading Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and other veterans could kick the organization’s rebuilding efforts into a different gear. But depending on who is talking, either the Phillies are making unreasonable demands for their players, or contending teams are offering mid-range prospects for one of the top starting pitchers and top closers in baseball.

“We’ve debated here internally about when is the greatest value of some of these players, a number of them,” said Amaro, indicating the Phillies could wait to trade until the offseason. “When does that player become the most valuable asset? Again, a lot of it depends on who’s going to step up, and who’s going to satisfy some of the things that we’re trying to do in a trade. If someone does, and we feel like it’s the right thing to do, we’ll do it. If not then we won’t.”

So are they being lowballed?

“They have their evaluations on our players,” Amaro said. “I don’t think it’s an issue of lowballing. I think it’s an issue of, like when we were in a buyers mode, trying to figure out what’s best for the organization. What’s best for each one of those organizations. They have to value what they want and how they want to proceed. That’s really up to them.”

Cesar’s Time: Utley Is No Longer No. 1 Second Baseman

Chase UtleyChase Utley is the greatest second baseman in Phillies history, but it appears Cesar Hernandez’s time has come.

Hernandez, 25, entered tonight’s game against the Dodgers hitting .302 (54-for-179) with 10 doubles, one triple, one home run, 19 RBIs and a .771 OPS in 71 games. Meanwhile, Utley is on the disabled list with an injured right ankle. He is hitting .179 (39-for-218) with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 25 RBIs and a .532 OPS in 65 games.

But is the iconic Utley, 36, still the primary second baseman when he returns from the DL?

“Not for me he’s not,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “Cesar Hernandez is our best second baseman.”

So whenever Utley returns …

“I would assume that Cesar will be our second baseman,” Amaro said. “Chase’s situation will kind of dictate itself, how he feels. There’ll be time for him to play, I think. He could play some first base. He could play some second. But as far as I’m concerned, just like what our plan has been for a long, long time, that’s to give opportunities to young men who could be part of our future. Cesar Hernandez has been one of our best players on the field right now in a variety of ways.”

Not surprisingly, Utley had little reaction about Amaro’s comments.

“Well, I think Cesar has done a really good job,” Utley said. “There you go.”

Pete Mackanin seems to be on board with Amaro. Asked for a health update on Utley before the game, Mackanin said, “I haven’t heard a word. But with Cesar playing so well, it’s not really a big deal for the simple reason that Utley has not played and seen pitching, so when he does come back … you really can’t count on him. How long has it been? Two weeks. And by the time he starts taking BP and all of that stuff, it’s probably going to be a month before he comes back in and then what do you do? I don’t know.”

Utley’s ankle has improved since a cortisone injection. He could begin baseball activities before the end of the road trip.

He also said recently he could be back on the field before the end of the month.

Nola Won’t Pitch Saturday, But He’s Coming Soon

nolaThe Phillies need a starting pitcher Saturday at AT&T Park in San Francisco, but it will not be Triple-A right-hander Aaron Nola.

But it sure sounds like Nola will be in the big leagues before the end of the month.

“He’s getting closer,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said this afternoon at Dodger Stadium. “At some point after the All-Star break, yeah.”

Of course, that could mean anytime between July 17 and the end of the regular season, but Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said he expects more changes to the rotation following the All-Star break. That could mean injured right-handers Jerome Williams and Aaron Harang rejoin the team, but with Cole Hamels expected to be traded before the July 31 Trade Deadline it almost certainly means Nola, too.

“We have a plan in place, and we’ll execute it,” Amaro said. “We have a good thought about when he’s going to be pitching for us.”

The Phillies outrighted right-hander Sean O’Sullivan following last night’s 10-7 loss to the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. They recalled right-hander Hector Neris to take his place on the roster. Neris will help in the bullpen until Saturday, when the Phillies need to add a starter.

Triple-A Lehigh Valley right-hander David Buchanan is the smart bet. He got pulled after three innings and 40 pitches Tuesday, which means he could pitch Saturday. Amaro said they also are considering options outside the organization.

“We haven’t made a final decision on it,” Amaro said. “It’s time for us to turn it over.”

The Phillies also designated right-hander Kevin Correia for assignment. Rookie right-hander Severino Gonzalez will pitch in his place Thursday. Of course, Gonzalez has not exactly pitched well. He is 3-2 with an 8.28 ERA in six starts. He has not pitched more than 5 1/3 innings in any of those starts. The inability to pitch six or more innings has been a big problem for the rotation.

“I would rather give the young man an opportunity,” Amaro said, explaining the difference between Correia and Gonzalez. “He’s throwing better. His stuff’s better. I’d rather give the young man an opportunity to do it at this stage of the game and see how he fares.”

“It’s time to do something. It’s past (time),” Mackanin said. “We’re happy about getting something changed, I am at least. We got a fresh arm in the bullpen which is huge. I don’t like to keep starters on the field longer than they should, but we’ve bene forced to do that. So we’ll see. Hopefully we’ll get Williams healthy and Harang healthy. Now Seve. There probably will be more changes down the road. So down the road, just get through the All-Star break and regroup, start over.”

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