The Phillies’ first week of the hot stove season started just as we anticipated. Aaron Harang, Jerome Wiliams, Chad Billingsley, and Jeff Francoeur became free agents. The Phillies activated Cliff Lee from the 60-Day DL then declined their $27.5M team option, deciding to pay the $12.5M buyout and making Lee a free agent. The Phillies activated the remaining players on the 60-Day DL – Elvis Araujo, Mario Hollands, Matt Harrison, and Cesar Hernandez. And finally, the Phillies took advantage of their waiver position when they claimed RHP Dan Otero off waivers from the Oakland A’s. This first addition of the Klentak era brings the 40-Man Roster to 32 players.
The Phillies have four players under contract for the 2016 season – Ryan Howard ($25M for 2016, $23M club option or $10M buyout for 2017), Matt Harrison ($13M for 2016, $13M for 2017, $13.5M club option or $2M buyout for 2018), Carlos Ruiz ($8.5M for 2016, $4.5M club option or $0.5M buyout for 2017), and Miguel Gonzalez ($4M for 2016, and a vesting option for 2017).
The Phillies have three arbitration eligible players remaining on their roster – Andres Blanco, Jeanmar Gomez, and Freddy Galvis. None are projected to receive more than $2M from the arbitration process. This fun begins after the new year.
Matt Klentak was interviewed by the backup Hot Stove staff on the Friday morning show – Ron Darling, Fran Charles, and Sweeney Marti. If you missed it, here’s what they covered.
- They started with the sound bite from his opening press conference at CBP where he said “… believe me, I would not have left Mike Trout in his prime to come here if I didn’t believe we could win…”.
- Charles used that as a lead in stating that Klentak must believe the Phillies “are close to turning the corner with a lot of good young talent on this Phillies squad”. Klentak responded that the future is “very, very bright”, “we are going to have to be disciplined”, “the core of young talent that’s here, some of which is in the big leagues, some of which is not that far away, and some of which frankly we haven’t yet drafted or have not yet brought into the organization“, “… I think the opportunity is real here and I’m very excited.”.
- Darling then asked about the movement of core players out of the organization and specifically what Klentak thought about the return for Hamels. Klentak responded that Amaro and his staff did an “awesome job under difficult cirumstances”, “… not just Hamels, but moving Chase and Jimmy before that”. He respects what that group meant to the Phillies including Howard and Ruiz (and he mentioned Victorino here, too). He said it is “… never easy to recognize where you are, and begin to break that down”. He also said “…they did a really solid job of looking at the market and trying to identify the most motivated buyers … and making some good baseball trades.”
- Charles jumped on Klentak’s reference toward Howard and Ruiz and asked “…how much longer will they be members of the Phillies?” Klentak’s response was “Well they’re both under contract for one more year. I would think that. But that remains to be seen. That’s part of my job, that’s part of our job this off season, to assess exactly how all the pieces are going to fit together. I’m a big believer in giving players, giving people opportunities and I don’t want to come in here ten days into the job, I don’t necessarily want to come in here professing to have all the answers and knowing exactly how its all going to fit together…”
- Darling then asked about the young players in particular Maikel Franco. Klentak said that even from 3000 miles away they were very aware of Franco and he is hoping he is one of the building blocks for years to come.
- Charles asked about Nola and his impressions of him. Klenntak said he was among a group of pitchers the Angels were watching when they picked Sean Newcomb (with the 15th overall pick). He said Nola is as advertised, polished and fills up the zone.
- Marti finished up with a silly question about Klentak spending a summer sleeping on a couch in a friend’s apartment in NY. Klentak did point out that he grew up in Boston and lived in both New York and Baltimore. That he is basically a kid from the north east. Aside from four years with the Angels, he’s lived back here all his life. He’s comfortable on the east coast and sees moving to Philadelphia as a homecoming of sorts.
- Charles finished with the obligatory question about the Philadelphia fans, how patient does he think they will be. Klentak replied, “… you can’t fool the fans and you shouldn’t even try. There’s an element of honesty that goes into this job that I think is absolutely critical. Shane Victorino has expressed to me multiple times there are no better fans in baseball than the fans in Philadelphia. (He talked to Victorino a lot after the Angels acquired him this summer. This explains why he included Victorino above.) They are as passionate, as loud, as knowledgeable as fans in any sport”. He finished up speaking glowingly about the stretch from 2008 through 2011 and how he hopes to bring back that kind of enthusiasm.
Andrew Knapp entered the AFL Fall Stars game as a pinch hitter and remained in at first base. He struck out twice. He missed fastballs early in both at bats and went down swinging over sliders both times.
Edubray Ramos entered the game in the top of the ninth and pitched to two batters before he was lifted to allow the remaining pitcher in the bullpen to enter the game. Ramos made the most of his appearance striking out both batters. His FB was 94-96.
During Instructs, I spoke with a couple of scouts. They were from different agencies. They told me that their groups had raised the upper range of a 50 grade FB by one MPH from 91 to 92. So, if we have a couple lefties who are only high 80s, I guess their FBs would have to be graded below 50. Sorta makes you think, doesn’t it?
And finally, I saw all the Tocci talk last week. I have met Josh Norris on a couple occasions at the Complex during ST and XST and in the press box during Threshers’ games. He likes a lot of our young players, Tocci among them. I would suspect he had a lot of input into Baseball America’s latest ranking of Phillies prospects and Tocci’s placement in the 10th spot. This is from his recent chat about Phillies prospects regarding Tocci, “We’re talking about a guy is less than two years older than Cornelius Randolph but is on his third full professional season in A-ball. The guy is still young and being challenged. He has to continue to get stronger, but he has the tools to be a center fielder and there’s plenty of ability to hit in there. It’s a slow burn for sure, he’s plenty intriguing.”.
Well, I watched Tocci play in Clearwater. Forty games. Over 150 AB. Too small a sample? Regardless, I saw a kid start out slow in June, then hit his stride in July, only to fade in August. Some might blame his late season swoon on the length of the season, but this was his third season of full season ball. Some might blame it on his body type, that he needs some more weight to withstand the rigors of a full season. That has merit. And it lends itself to what I saw in Clearwater. After one time through the league, teams adjusted and started positioning their outfielders shallower. They were willing to risk an extra base hit into the gaps to take away his soft singles that were dropping in front of their outfielders. This doesn’t necessarily explain his late season slumps in previous years, but I think that it had a direct bearing on his 2015 August.
Sure, he’s an intriguing player. But, I don’t see him being successful unless he gains some weight without the gain inhibiting his current tools.