If the Phillies handle July the way everybody in baseball expects them to handle it, Jonathan Papelbon will make one of his final appearances in a Phillies uniform next week at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati.
He is the Phillies’ lone All-Star, based on strong numbers for a closer (1.65 ERA, 14 saves in 31 appearances) despite pitching for a team on pace to lose 108 games.
“I think every one of them is special,” Papelbon said today about his sixth All-Star appearance. “I think the best part about this one is my kids are a little bit older. I’ll be able to let them go … and let them experience it and let them kind of be able to remember it more. That will be pretty cool for me.”
The Phillies are expected to trade Papelbon before the July 31 Trade Deadline. Depending on who is talking either the Phillies are asking way too much for Papelbon or teams are trying to low ball them. Either way, Papelbon hopes to be pitching for a contender by Aug. 1.
“I would be surprised,” Papelbon said, asked about being with the Phillies next month. “Yeah, that would be a pretty valid answer.”
Would he be disappointed?
“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “I would say so.”
Papelbon has a limited no-trade clause, but he reiterated it will not be an issue.
“Any team that wants me I’m willing to go to,” he said. “I just think for me there are no doors closed right now.”
Except for teams that don’t want him to close. Papelbon still has no interest in being a setup man.
Papelbon has a $13 million club option for next season that automatically vests if he finishes 48 games this season. He already has finished 28, so he should reach that number. But Papelbon could require the option to be picked up to facilitate a trade. He only said his agents will handle that.
Papelbon’s salary has been an issue in trade talks, although the Phillies have said they are willing to eat salary to get the right prospects in return.
“The front office knows where my heart is and where my mind is,” Papelbon said. “And that’s to be with a contending ball club. The ball is in the Phillies’ court, the front office’s court, or I should say Andy MacPhail’s court? I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with Andy. I wish I could have. And I would still like to speak with him. But for some reason that hasn’t been made possible for me.”
Of course, MacPhail isn’t officially calling the shots yet.
“Well, then Pat (Gillick) knows where I stand and Ruben (Amaro Jr.) knows exactly where I stand,” he said. “I think everybody knows where I’m at. I’ve always been straight forward that I want to go play for a contender and I’m not going to shy away from it. I feel like that’s my right and my prerogative to have that opportunity and, you know, it’s in their hands. The ball’s in their court. I guess that’s kind of it.”
The move proved symbolic because the organization finally cut ties with one of its iconic players.
“It absolutely was the right thing for us to do,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday at Turner Field. “We’ll continue to try to do those types of deals that’ll help bring some talent into our system and afford opportunities for young players like Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco.”
The early returns for the Phillies are positive. Rollins entered tonight’s series opener against the Phillies at Dodgers Stadium hitting .208 with 10 doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 24 RBIs and a .585 OPS, which ranked 161st out of 164 qualified hitters in baseball. Meanwhile, Double-A Reading right-hander Zach Eflin, whom they acquired in the deal, is 5-4 with a 2.88 ERA in 14 starts. Reading left-hander Tom Windle, whom they also acquired, just moved to the bullpen after struggling as a starter, but the Phillies think his arm will play big there.
“We’re very pleased. I’m very happy with it,” Amaro said. “Eflin has a chance to be one of, if not the best, one of the best pitching prospects we have in our organization. Right now, (Aaron) Nola is the guy that people are focusing on, but Eflin has a chance to have every bit as high a ceiling.
“Windle has a strong arm. His command wasn’t really good enough to be a starter at this stage of his career, but we think throwing him in the pen gives him a faster track to the big leagues. There’s great value in those guys that can throw in the mid to upper 90s from the left side.”
Nola remains the closest pitching prospect to the big leagues, especially with the rotation consistently struggling to pitch six innings. It would not be a surprise to see him with the Phillies before the end of the month.
“He’s close,” Amaro said. “He’s still working on some things. He struggled through a couple of games. He hasn’t necessarily been knocked around, but it hasn’t been easy for him. He’s still learning some things and dealing with more veteran hitters in Triple-A, which is a good test for him. I don’t think he’s that far away, but when he’s ready he’ll be here. Just because our rotation is very poor right now it doesn’t mean we’re going to bring him to the big leagues for that reason. We’re going to bring him when it’s time for him developmentally.”
It is not Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon or Ben Revere, but the Phillies made a trade today.
They 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 allows the Phillies to sign 16-year-old outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz and avoid penalties that would prohibit them from signing international players for more than $300,000 until the 2018-19 signing period.
“We’re trying to do some things internationally for this signing period,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said at Turner Field. “Clearly, that’s important to us for a variety of reasons. One, for today. And also for tomorrow. I think it was important for us not to curtail (our) ability to continue to add prospects.”
The Phillies entered the international signing period Thursday with an allotted $3,041,700 to sign international players, but the trade boosts that figure to $4,562,550 because teams can only acquire 50 percent of their international bonus pool. Sources told MLB.com that the Phillies and Ortiz have agreed to a bonus near $4.2 million.
This trade allows the Phillies to sign Ortiz and others, including Venezuelan catcher Rafael Marchan, and not incur a penalty.
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.
The D-backs, Angels, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees exceeded the 2014-15 pool by at least 15 percent, and cannot sign any pool-eligible players for more than $300,000 until the 2017-18 signing period.
“This keeps our hands untied, so to speak,” Amaro said.
Amaro said he hopes the Phillies can finalize something with Ortiz in the next couple weeks.
The Phillies selected Oliver in the fourth round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. He went 4-5 with a 4.04 in 13 starts with Lakewood. The Phillies signed Taylor as an amateur free agent in August. He is 4-5 with a 4.61 ERA in 13 starts.
That should have become clear the second the Phillies issued a press release yesterday morning announcing ownership partner John Middleton would introduce Andy MacPhail as the next team president. It is the first time an ownership partner got in front of the cameras and microphones and discussed the team. In the past, it has been Bill Giles, David Montgomery or Pat Gillick. Never a Middleton. Never a Buck. Never a Betz.
But that has changed now and it will be fascinating to see how it unfolds. Middleton promised not to be involved in baseball decisions, but clearly he is exerting more influence on the direction of the organization. MacPhail will be interesting to watch, too. He is going to advise Gillick through the rest of the season, but while Gillick will have final say until then, I’ve got to think MacPhail will have more influence than everybody is letting on. For example, what happens if MacPhail loves a deal on the table for Cole Hamels, but Gillick does not? Who wins there?
“I would be very surprised if it ever got to the point where you had diametrically opposed opinions,” MacPhail said. “I think they’re going to insist and ensure that you’ll be involved. And you’re going to learn how that process took place and you’re going to learn who had influence. You’ll also get an opportunity to see just how much information was collected. how exhaustive the research was. So all of those things are going to be important. And again, I’ll give my opinion. That’s one thing I’ve never been shy about doing. It’s gotten me in trouble occasionally.”
Here are the stories from yesterday:
- MacPhail to become team president after the season. Middleton to become more involved.
- Ruben Amaro Jr. will remain GM through the end of the season. Pete Mackanin might remain interim manager, too. But MacPhail will be evaluating everybody every step of the way.
- MacPhail and Middleton talked a lot about analytics. Expect more of that in the future.
- Paul Hagen writes about how the Phillies are changing with Middleton stepping into the spotlight.
Phillies ownership partner John Middleton and president Pat Gillick will introduce Andy MacPhail at a 2:30 p.m. press conference, where he is expected to succeed Gillick. MacPhail is assuming control of the organization at a significant time, with the Phillies holding the worst record in baseball and trying to rebuild for postseason contention in a few years.
MacPhail will play a vital role in the potential trades of veterans Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Aaron Harang and others before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
He also will decide the fate of general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., whose contract expires at the end of the season. Amaro is expected to remain GM for the foreseeable future.
Ryne Sandberg resigned as Phillies manager on Friday, leaving Pete Mackanin as interim manager. The Phillies only have said Mackanin will serve in that role through the homestand, which ends Thursday, probably because they did not want to announce anything official until MacPhail’s introduction.
MacPhail has experience leading three organizations.
He served as Twins general manager when Minnesota won the 1987 and 1991 World Series. He served as Cubs president from 1994-2006, helping the Cubs reach the postseason twice. He then served five seasons as Baltimore’s president of baseball operations, making some of the trades that helped the Orioles return to the postseason.
The team announced late Tuesday night it has placed him on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right ankle. It is the same ankle that Utley badly sprained in January during offseason workouts, and the same ankle the forced him to miss the beginning of Spring Training.
“It’s hard to tell,” Utley said, asked how much the ankle has affected him at the plate. “Obviously, it’s been bothering me for a little while. Most players have aches and pains through the year. So I’m not shocked with that. It’s really showing no improvement. So I think it’s a good time to get it right. We will have a cortisone shot tomorrow. We’ll take a little time off and hopefully, that will get it squared away.”
Utley is hitting .179 (39-for-218) with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 25 RBIs and a .532 OPS in 65 games. His batting average and OPS are last among 163 qualified hitters in baseball.
The Phillies almost certainly do not mind Utley’s trip to the DL because he has a $15 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests if he reaches 500 plate appearances. He has 249 through the team’s first 73 games. Depending on how much time he misses and how well Cesar Hernandez plays as his replacement, the option could no longer be an issue upon his return.
“Talking to the doctor today, the more time I can lay off it the better chance it has to heal properly,” Utley said. “I don’t have an exact time frame. It will be at least 15 days.”
Utley said his knees, which have been an issue in the past, are healthy.
Ryne Sandberg said he was surprised by the news because he said Utley told him he had been fine.
“My communication with Chase throughout this season about playing is that he’s been up and willing to go and no really reports of anything holding him back,” Sandberg said. “I was a little bit surprised by it in some regards.
“I don’t know if it’s affected him, but to get it taken care of with a stint on the DL is the next step to see if that helps him get that behind him. But the way that he’s moved around and run the bases and run hard and played defense, I don’t think it was holding him back all that much, in my opinion. But to have it bothering now, as he said it has kind of crept up on him to the point of getting it rechecked and re-evalutated. That’s what he feels.”
Sandberg’s comment that he was unaware of any issues with Utley’s ankle is interesting because the Phillies said Utley had a MRI on May 16, which showed some inflammation and swelling.
“It was present on the bone itself,” Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said. “Most of the ligaments on the outside are healing pretty well. The ligament on the inside still had some healing to still go. He has some symptoms that we want to take care of. So we’ll place him on the DL and try to get him healthy.”
It was the fourth time in seven games he had not started at second base, although in two of those games he served as the Phillies’ first baseman and designated hitter. Utley’s playing time is being monitored closely these days because he is hitting .182 with a .539 OPS in 244 plate appearances through June 21.
Utley has a $15 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests if he reaches 500 plate appearances this season.
He has 91 games to attain the remaining 256.
Utley declined to discuss his future with the Phillies or his option this morning at Citizens Bank Park, but Ryne Sandberg said after a 9-2 victory over the Cardinals that he would like to see Cesar Hernandez play more in the future.
“I’ve been trying to get him in there,” Sandberg said. “He does a nice job so going forward … wait and see.”
“I definitely feel like I could be the second baseman of the future and I’m trying to take advantage of the opportunity I am getting right now,” Hernandez said through translator Juan Samuel.
Asked about Utley’s future with the organization, Phillies president Pat Gillick said today, “Chase probably is disappointed in his performance to this point. I think he’s a little bit frustrated with his performance. I think maybe we just have to wait and see. Unfortunately, he got off to a bad start in Spring Training with his sprained ankle. But right now he’s not performing up to his standards and certainly we can’t be satisfied with what he’s doing, either.”
But would it be negligent for the organization to have Utley reach the 500-plate appearance mark if he continues to struggle? Utley is hitting .217 with 19 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs, 70 RBIs and a .617 OPS in 602 plate appearances over 150 games in the last calendar year.
“That’s up to the manager,” Gillick said about Utley’s playing time. “We don’t have anything to say about that.”
“Ruben (Amaro Jr.) to my knowledge and myself, we’ve never dictated to any of the managers their lineup,” Gillick insisted. “They’re free to make their lineup and play whomever they wish.”
If that is truly the case, then it seems Sandberg is already on his way to playing Hernandez more in the future.
But like Sandberg and Gillick said, wait and see.
He said he is fine and he will pitch Wednesday against the Yankees in New York.
“I won’t be on the DL,” he said this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies scratched Hamels from Friday night’s start against the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park because of a strained right hamstring. But Hamels said he feels much better, and he said the Phillies scratched his start as “more of a precaution than anything.”
Hamels said he first felt something following Tuesday’s bullpen session.
“It felt like a cramp,” he said. “It was just tight.”
Hamels, who will throw a bullpen session Sunday to test the hamstring, is always in tune with how is body feels, so the fact he wanted to be cautious about his hamstring is no surprise. He certainly did not want to push the issue and tear something. Certainly not now. The July 31 Trade Deadline is just 42 days away. The last thing Hamels need is a serious injury.
But Hamels, who the Phillies are trying to trade, downplayed the proximity of the Trade Deadline to the way he handled the injury.
“My focus is to play on this team and win ballgames, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” he said. “I want to maintain the level of play that I know I’m capable of going out there and doing. And that’s not because of other situations, but it’s because that’s who I am. And what I’ve learned, in the past, with trying to push through certain injuries. There are times when you just want to be smart no matter what the circumstances are. I know they’re a little bit different than previous circumstances in previous years, but I’m not going to change the way I like to play the game and prepare for the game.”
But the Trade Deadline is on his mind. It is why he cleaned out his locker to get teammates and members of the media to think he had been traded during Thursday’s 2-1 victory over the Orioles.
“We’ve kind of bene battling some tough morale, so just something to distract everybody,” he said about the prank. “I think with a lot of them it worked. I think even today they didn’t know what to expect.”
“Cole, glad to see that trade didn’t go through,” closer Jonathan Papelbon said as he walked past Hamels.
They announced this afternoon that Cole Hamels has been scratched from tomorrow night’s start against the Cardinals because of a mild right hamstring strain. Triple-A right-hander Phillippe Aumont will start in his place.
Hamels is 5-5 with a 2.96 ERA in 14 starts this season, but his health is critical as the July 31 Trade Deadline approaches. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday he is hopeful the Phillies can make some trades to speed up the team’s rebuilding process. Hamels is the team’s most valuable piece, so they must hope the injury does not linger and Hamels returns to the rotation shortly.
A roster move will be made prior to Friday’s game to accommodate Aumont on the 25-man and 40-man rosters.
The Phillies have been locking up their Draft picks relatively quickly.
They agreed to terms today with first-round pick Cornelius Randolph. He will receive a $3,231,300 signing bonus, which was the full value for the 10th overall pick. They also signed second-round pick Scott Kingery to a $1,259,600 bonus, which was full value for the 48th pick.
The team has not confirmed any signings, although they have signed at least 21. They have agreements with others
That includes fourth-round pick Kyle Martin ($200,000), seventh-round pick Luke Leftwich ($209,300) and eighth-round pick Greg Pickett ($350,000). Pickett’s bonus was $176,100 more than the amount slotted for the 234th pick, but they needed to pay more for him to bypass college. They saved some bonus pool money with Martin, who signed at nearly $300,000 under the amount slotted.
The Phillies also signed 12th round pick Skylar Hunter ($100,000) and 20th round pick Will Stewart ($100,000). Stewart, who is a left-hander, just graduated high school in Alabama.