On your marks, get set … and in one more day, go! Baseball's free agent free-for-all is about to begin in earnest. At 5 p.m. Friday, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and nearly 170 other players will be eligible to negotiate with any teams they choose. And with that, the most intriguing offseason in recent Phillies history will start.
The consensus within the industry is that the Phillies will be among the most active teams. Bovada Sportsbook has even installed them as an even-money favorite to land Harper and a 3-2 favorite to sign Machado. All eyes, then, will be on Matt Klentak when he arrives at the general managers' meetings next week in Carlsbad, Calif.
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Realmuto would be a catch for Phillies
If Derek Jeter had his way, the Miami Marlins would lock up catcher J.T. Realmuto to a contract extension and structure their latest rebuilding effort around him.
Apparently, Realmuto has other ideas.
In a recent interview with MLB Network Radio, Jeff Berry, Realmuto's representative at Creative Artists Agency, said his client doesn't intend to sign a long-term deal with the Marlins and prefers to be traded. Berry even predicted that Realmuto "will definitely be wearing a different uniform by the start of spring training."
All along, the Marlins knew this was a possibility. And while they haven't yet gauged the trade market for the best all-around catcher in baseball, according to a source, they can expect to receive plenty of interest. The Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers are catcher-needy contenders, while the New York Yankees could offer defensively challenged slugger Gary Sanchez.
The Phillies have the farm system, particularly the pitching prospects (Sixto Sanchez and Adonis Medina), to make a deal. They're bullish on young catcher Jorge Alfaro, but Realmuto represents a clear upgrade. He's 27, under club control for two more seasons, and coming off a career-best year in which he hit 21 homers and posted an .825 OPS. For a team that must improve its defense, Realmuto offers a rocket-launcher arm and a reputation as a solid game-caller.
Regardless of Realmuto's trade demand, the Marlins don't have to move him now. The longer they wait, though, the less likely they are to maximize the return, especially when some contenders believe he could wind up having a greater impact than even Harper or Machado.
If Gabe Kapler organized a town-hall meeting, would you attend? I sat down with the Phillies manager, who says he's eager to win the fans' trust.
In Part 1 of our Phillies' offseason preview, Matt Breen looks at four potential starting-pitching upgrades, including a trade for Zack Greinke. Part 2, my breakdown of the Phillies' positional needs, hits the World Wide Web later today.
In case you missed it last week, the Phillies hired Josh Bonifay as farm director. More here on Bonifay's background. Also, columnist David Murphy believes Bonifay is as important an addition as any player the Phillies will acquire this winter.
The culmination of the World Series brought to an end Chase Utley's career. Matt Breen has a terrific retrospective on the making of a Phillies legend.
Monday marked the 10-year anniversary of the Phils' 2008 World Series title. Jamie Moyer will never forget the clinching moment. We asked where you were when the Phillies won it all. Thank you for telling us! Over the summer, Bob Brookover and I put together an oral history of a World Series clincher unlike any other.
Friday: Free-agent market opens for business.
Nov. 6-8: General managers' meetings in Carlsbad, Calif.
Nov. 8-15: Rhys Hoskins, Carlos Santana join MLB's all-star tour in Japan.
Nov. 14: Aaron Nola learns his fate in the NL Cy Young voting.
Dec. 9: Winter meetings begin in Las Vegas
Stat of the day
When it comes to applying statistics to evaluate pitchers, Gabe Kapler prefers FIP — Fielding Independent Pitching, for short — to the classic earned-run average (ERA) because the former measures a pitcher's performance regardless of his fielders. FIP isn't a perfect metric, but given the Phillies' woeful defense this season, it might paint the most accurate picture.
Of the 128 pitchers who worked a minimum of 100 innings as starters this season, eight posted an ERA that was at least one run higher than their FIP. Among them: Phillies starters Vince Velasquez (4.88 ERA, 3.75 FIP) and Nick Pivetta (4.80 ERA, 3.79 FIP).
And although such a discrepancy isn't always predictive of an improvement in the ensuing season, it often can be. One recent example: In 2016, Arizona lefty Robbie Ray posted a 4.90 ERA and a 3.76 FIP. A year later, his ERA slid to 2.89.
From the mailbag
Question: Aside from a stable lineup, with a base-stealing speedster leading off, it would be desirable to have two left-handed starting pitchers to complement (Aaron) Nola and (Jake) Arrieta. What do you think, and do you think the Phillies think the same? — Bill D., via e-mail
Answer: Thanks, Bill, for the question. I agree that the Phillies need at least one lefty in the rotation if only to give opponents a different look. Consider what happened in the World Series. By starting Chris Sale and David Price in the first two games, the Red Sox kept lefty-swinging Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Joc Pederson — and their combined 85 regular-season home runs — out of the Dodgers lineup. Moreover, the Braves (.725), Mets (.684), and Marlins (.675) ranked in the bottom half of the majors in OPS against lefty starters this season.
Team president Andy MacPhail said last month that he would like to see the Phillies add a lefty starter. My sense, though, is that upgrading the rotation isn't among their highest priorities. I doubt they will be an aggressive suitor for free-agent lefty Patrick Corbin. J.A. Happ figures to be in demand, too. The Phillies prefer not to wade into the free-agent market for pitching, but with so many lefties available (Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Gio Gonzalez, Wade Miley, Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz, to name a few), at least one is bound to come at a bargain price.