The Phillies picked up an extra selection in next Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft.
Major League Baseball awarded them the Cubs’ pick – the fourth selection overall – after the Phillies won a grievance regarding Chicago’s handling of right-hander Lendy Castillo, whom the Cubs selected from the Phillies in the 2012 draft.
It gives the Phillies the Nos. 4 and 7 selections, if they choose to use them. The Phillies have 39 players on the 40-man roster, so if they want to use both they would have to remove one player from the roster.
The Phillies are typically active in the Rule 5 Draft. In previous seasons they have selected Shane Victorino, David Herndon and Michael Martinez.
Players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must be on the 25-man roster the entire season. To prevent teams from abusing the system, those players must be active 92 of the season’s 183 days. The Cubs had Castillo on the disabled list 91 days with a groin injury before activating him in September when rosters expand, giving him 92 days on the active roster.
He went 0-1 with a 7.88 ERA in 13 appearances with the Cubs in 2012. He spent 2013 between Class A Kane County and Class A Daytona.
The Phillies announced today they have signed catcher Wil Nieves to a one-year contract.
He is expected to back up Carlos Ruiz.
Nieves, 36, has hit a combined .299 with three home runs, 30 RBIs and a .704 OPS in 295 plate appearances the past two seasons with the Rockies and Diamondbacks. He has hit .242 with a .597 OPS in his 10-year career.
The Phillies had an agreement with Nieves in place before they finalized the deal that shipped catcher Erik Kratz and left-hander Rob Rasmussen to the Blue Jays for right-hander Brad Lincoln.
The Phillies also announced they have signed right-hander Jeff Manship to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. He appeared in 11 games (four starts) last season with the Rockies. He went 0-5 with a 7.04 ERA. He is a combined 3-7 with a 6.42 ERA in 52 appearances (10 starts) in his big-league career.
The lesson: an organization can never have enough arms.
The Phillies added another arm Tuesday night when they announced they had acquired right-hander Brad Lincoln from the Blue Jays for catcher Erik Kratz and left-hander Rob Rasmussen. Lincoln has made 97 appearances in four seasons in his big league career, which began in Pittsburgh. He has posted a 4.66 ERA, although he spent much of 2013 in Triple-A Buffalo as he battled command problems.
“We’ve always liked Brad Lincoln’s arm,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said Wednesday morning. “He’s gone back and forth as a starter and reliever. We think he’s going to be somebody that can really help us in our bullpen. It’s a matter of him getting back into that niche.”
The trade explains the Phillies agreeing to terms with catcher Wil Nieves, which sources confirmed following the initial CBSSports.com report. Amaro declined comment on Nieves, but said, “We’re trying to create some depth there.”
Presumably, Nieves will be Carlos Ruiz’s backup, although Amaro and manager Ryne Sandberg are quick to praise Cameron Rupp, who spent much of last season in Triple-A. Nieves hit .297 with a .690 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 206 plate appearances last season with the D-backs. He has a .597 OPS in his 10-year career, but is known for his defensive capabilities.
Lincoln, 28, averaged 9.9 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings with Buffalo, but 7.1 strikeouts and a troubling 6.3 walks per nine innings with the Blue Jays. Before last season, he has averaged 6.8 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine innings.
“He had some issues with his command last year,” Amaro said, “but I don’t think that’s his MO typically. We think he’s a good arm. We’re trying to create some depth in our pen.”
The Blue Jays have plenty of depth in the bullpen, which made him expendable. He also had run out of options, which is something to remember as the Phillies finalize their Opening Day roster in March.
The Phillies hope Lincoln provides depth to a struggling bullpen short on experience, which finished 14th in the National League with a 4.13 ERA. Closer Jonathan Papelbon (527 career appearances) is expected to anchor the ‘pen, but he has experienced a dip in velocity and strikeouts. Setup man Mike Adams (386) will try to come back from right shoulder surgery – Amaro said they cannot expect him to be ready by Opening Day, although they are hopeful — while left-hander Antonio Bastardo (208) will try to prove himself following a 50-game suspension for using a performance-enhancing substance.
Following them are a host of relievers that includes Mike Stutes (79 career appearances), Jake Diekman (77), Justin De Fratus (76), Jeremy Horst (72), B.J. Rosenberg (44) and Phillippe Aumont (40).
“We have to have confidence they’re going to continue to improve,” Amaro said about his collection of young relievers. “But at the same time if there’s a way we can improve our club we can’t just stop doing it. We’ve been surprised at times with some of these guys, particularly a couple years ago with Stutes and Bastardo. On the flip side we’ve been disappointed, which is part of the growing process when it comes to the bullpen and particularly young bullpen guys. Some guys year to year can make it click. And other guys just don’t ever get it.”
Amaro said they have interest in several players recently non-tendered by their former teams. Relief pitchers include Ryan Webb, John Axford and Wesley Wright.
“We’ve made several calls to quite a few of those free agents,” Amaro said. “We’ll see how it pans out. I think it’s still very fresh. Whenever this happens to players typically they’re surprised by it. So they’re just getting into the marketplace. Our job is to try to make sure guys know we have interest in them.”
Kratz hit .230 with 18 homers and 52 RBIs in 120 games over three seasons with the Phillies. The Phillies acquired Rasmussen from the Dodgers in August for infielder Michael Young. He went 3-11 with a 4.11 ERA in 28 games with Double-A Chatanooga and Triple-A Albuquerque.
They avoided arbitration with infielder Kevin Frandsen, agreeing to a one-year, $900,00 contract, which includes performance bonuses. They also tendered contracts to right-hander Kyle Kendrick, center fielder Ben Revere, left-hander Antonio Bastardo and outfielder John Mayberry Jr.
They were the organization’s only five players eligible for arbitration.
There had been no doubt the Phillies would tender contracts to Kendrick, Revere and Bastardo. The Phillies need Kendrick to fill out the rotation, Revere to play center field and hit atop the lineup and Bastardo to help a beleaguered bullpen.
Frandsen could have been non-tendered had the Phillies felt they were too far apart in contract negotiations. They have infielders like Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez and Reig Brignac to compete for bench jobs in Spring Training.
Mayberry has had an up-and-down time with the Phillies, but he still holds value as a right-handed hitter with power who can play all three outfield positions and first base.
If you have not read the story yet, the Phillies held a press conference last night to announce Carlos Ruiz‘s three-year, $26 million deal. Ruben Amaro Jr. discussed the risks of signing Ruiz, who turns 35 in January. But last night’s news conference was old news. The story broke Monday, and Ruiz’s agent Marc Kligman (@MLBAgent) confirmed and discussed the deal on Twitter and elsewhere. By the time the official announcement came, most people already had their fill of how the deal went down.
The real news is what’s next for Amaro? I wrote the other day that unless he makes a trade to free up a spot in the field, Marlon Byrd and Ruiz could be the only tweaks to next season’s lineup. (And Ruiz can’t be considered much of a tweak because he isn’t new.) So here are Amaro’s answers to questions about the team and what’s next.
Q: Could there be more changes to the lineup?
A: It is possible. We’ve had a lot of dialogue with a lot of clubs. We’ve kept our minds and our eyes open as far as our lineup is concerned. We hope to try to continue to improve it, or change it, somehow.
Q: Five of the eight everyday players will be 34 or older on Opening Day …
A: I think we can win. It’s really a matter of getting the guys on the field. If they’re on the field, they will produce. Unless something drastic happens over the next several months, I fully expect these guys to be on the field and performing.I also think we have some better depth because we have some kids who got a chance to play last year. If we do have breakdowns, I think we have better depth to fill in some spots. Yes, they’re older but they’re also very good when they’re playing. That’s important. I think it was (Yankees general manager) Brian Cashman who said, ‘I don’t care about the age so long as they’re good.’ I believe in our players even though the core group is getting older. There’s no question about that. I can’t deny that. We hope to get them on the field. And if they’re on the field, they’ll produce
Q: So what’s next?
A: Well, I think we are still – as we talked about before – the pitching remains a priority for us. If we can still improve the rotation and our bullpen, we will try to do that. We’re still looking for ways to maybe improve, tweak our lineup. We’re looking for more depth in the outfield, some athleticism. We’re just trying to get ourselves so we can cover all the bases a little better than we did last year when we had breakdowns in the infield and outfield. We had a lot of six-year free agents pitching in the rotation, so we’re going to try and create some depth on the pitching side and in the field as well.
The Phillies have signed infielder Andres Blanco to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
Blanco, 29, has played parts of six seasons with the Royals, Cubs and Rangers. He spent 2012 with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but suffered a shoulder injury in Winter Ball which forced him to miss the entire 2013 season.
Blanco is a career .255 hitter with a .301 on-base percentage and .333 slugging percentage. He has spent most of his big-league career at second base and shortstop, although he has played third base and one game in the outfield.
He is the sixth non-roster invitee to big-league camp. The others are infielder Reid Brignac, right-hander Shawn Camp, left-hander Cesar Jimenez, and outfielders Clete Thomas and Leandro Castro.
More than seven weeks since they told Rich Dubee he would not be back next season, they announced this afternoon they have hired Bob McClure.
They also announced Rod Nichols will return as bullpen coach and Jesus Tiamo will return as bullpen catcher.
The Phillies interviewed at least 12 candidates for the pitching coach vacancy and previously offered the job to Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell and Pirates special assistant to the general manager Jim Benedict. Both declined. They also interviewed Randy St. Claire, Rafael Chaves, Carl Willis, Pete Vuckovich, Reid Cornelius, Ray Burris, Neil Allen, Jeff Pico and Nichols.
McClure, 61, pitched 19 seasons in the big leagues with the Royals, Brewers, Expos, Mets, Angels, Cardinals and Marlins. He was Royals pitching coach from 2006-11 and Red Sox pitching coach in 2012, although he did not last the season because of differences with former manager Bobby Valentine.
The Phillies still plan on hiring somebody to replace assistant hitting coach Wally Joyner, who left the organization in October, returning a couple weeks later only to leave again recently for the Tigers head hitting coach job.
The Phillies added four players to their 40-man roster today, which protects them from December’s Rule 5 Draft.
The foursome includes outfielders Aaron Altherr and Kelly Dugan, catcher Tommy Joseph and left-hander Rob Rasmussen. It officially leaves the organization with 37 players on its 40-man roster, although that number will move to 39 once Marlon Byrd’s and Carlos Ruiz’s deals becomes official. Ruiz’s deal could be announced tomorrow.
Altherr, 22, hit .275 with 36 doubles, six triples, 12 home runs, 69 RBIs in 123 games with Class A Clearwater. He led the Florida State League in doubles and ranked in the top five in hits, triples and total bases. The Phillies selected him in the ninth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
Dugan, 23, hit a combined .291 with 24 doubles, four triples, 20 homers, 59 RBIs and an .858 OPS between Clearwater and Double-A Reading. The Phillies selected him in the second round in 2009, their top selection that year.
Joseph, 22, missed most of last season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley because of a concussion. The Phillies still hope he can become a frontline catcher, which is why they acquired him front the Giants in the Hunter Pence trade in July 2012. Joseph is healthy and playing Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic.
Rasmussen, 24, went 3-11 with a 4.11 ERA in 28 games between Double-A Chatanooga and Triple-A Albuquerque. They acquired him in August, when they traded Michael Young to the Dodgers.
Players first signed at 18 years old must be added to the 40-man roster within five seasons or they become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $50,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, which is Dec. 12 in Orlando, Fla. If that player doesn’t stay on the 25-man roster the entire season, he must be offered back to his former team for $25,000.
A more than seven-week search for the next Phillies pitching coach could be nearing an end.
The Phillies have interviewed at least 12 candidates, but Ruben Amaro Jr. indicated this afternoon he might be close to finding somebody to finally replace Rich Dubee, who served that role nine seasons before they told him that he would not return.
“We’re hopeful to make an announcement or make a decision soon,” Amaro said.
Amaro declined to discuss candidates, but sources have said the Phillies offered the job to Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell and Pirates special assistant to the general manager Jim Benedict. Both declined.
In recent days they have interviewed Bob McClure, Randy St. Claire, Rafael Chaves and Carl Willis, each of whom has been a pitching coach in the big leagues. In previous weeks they have interviewed McDowell, Benedict, Mariners special assistant to the general manager Pete Vuckovich, Phillies bullpen coach Rod Nichols, Marlins bullpen coach Reid Cornelius, Triple-A Lehigh Valley pitching coach Ray Burris, Triple-A Durham pitching coach Neil Allen and Diamondbacks Minor League field coordinator Jeff Pico.
Pico has since been named Reds pitching coach.
The Phillies recently spent $42 million on Carlos Ruiz and Marlon Byrd, and barring a big move from Ruben Amaro Jr. those signings could be the end of their offensive upgrades for 2014. Every position is set, unless Amaro trades somebody like Domonic Brown or Ben Revere or some starting pitching to add a bat. It seems clear the front office is entering next season the same way it entered this past season: hoping a healthier roster is enough to return them to the postseason. The Phillies thought a healthier Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in 2013 would provide a big boost. The theory had some merit. The Phillies were 45-57 on July 29, 2012, before they traded Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence. They finished 36-24 for the fifth-best record in the National League. They thought they had momentum. They thought they saw signs of the former five-time NL East champions.
But that hope is a harder sell following a 73-89 finish in 2013, the organization’s worst since they lost 97 games in 2000. The Phillies scored the fourth-fewest runs in baseball lats season.
Not only do the Phillies need Howard and Ben Revere healthy and productive, they need bounce back seasons from Ruiz (he had his worst season since 2008) and Jimmy Rollins (he had the worst season of his career), Byrd to prove a career-year at 35 wasn’t a fluke, Brown to prove he can replicate his breakout season and Utley to prove he can stay healthy two years in a row.
It seems like a lot of things need to break perfectly for the Phillies to score more runs next year.
Thoughts on this potential lineup for 2014?
- Revere, CF
- Rollins, SS
- Utley, 2B
- Howard, 1B
- Byrd, RF
- Brown, LF
- Ruiz, C
- Cody Asche, 3B