Michael Saunders to Phillies: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

January 16, 2017 by Adam Wells  
Filed under Fan News

Free-agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, the team announced on Thursday. 

Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball reported the news on Jan. 16. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports later reported the deal is worth $9 million with a club option worth $11 million and can be worth as much as $14 million with escalators.

On Tuesday, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reported Saunders is expected to take a physical with the Phillies in the next day or two to finalize the deal. Crasnick noted the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays were also in on the outfielder, while the Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks had interest as well.

Saunders picked a good time to become a free agent, as his 2016 season with the Blue Jays was his best season in Major League Baseball. Last year marked the first time in his career that he played at least 140 games, with the offensive result showing he warranted the additional playing time that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons afforded him. 

 

Per Dirk Hayhurst of TSN, one of the big reasons for Saunders' 2016 breakout was a mechanical change in his swing:

Before coming to the Jays, Saunders’ hands were at a resting position above his shoulders, hovering. Now they’ve come down to the shoulders and as a result, Saunders’ swing is shorter and faster to the ball. His swing also has more trunk and less arms involved in the process. The payout is that Saunders’ power-to-plate coverage ratio has increased. He’s taking the ball out all over the park, and hitting more pitches in the strike zone, especially down and away.

Because there's a clear mechanical change to explain why he performed better in 2016 than he had at least since 2014, there's no reason to believe he can't be an above-average hitter for his new team. 

 

Heading into his age-30 season, Saunders was one of those under-the-radar sluggers who wasn't going to break the bank for his new team and can provide middle-of-the-order production. 

The Blue Jays helped give him an opportunity to shine because he was hitting around stars like Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion. He made himself into more than just someone who could take some of the runs batted in they set up for him by getting on base so frequently. 

Finding power is a luxury in MLB, especially in free agency, where teams will often pay top dollar for it. Saunders is a well-rounded hitter who can get on base at a solid clip and will hit 20-plus homers if he can stay on the field. He should provide some pop to a Phillies outfield that looks sorely in need with spring training not far off in the horizon.   

It all adds up to a solid addition for the Phillies in an offseason without great depth in free agency. 

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Clay Buchholz to Phillies: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

December 20, 2016 by Scott Polacek  
Filed under Fan News

Pitcher Clay Buchholz is no longer a member of the only MLB team he has known, following a tumultuous 2016 campaign. 

The Philadelphia Phillies announced they acquired Buchholz and sent minor league second baseman Josh Tobias to the Red Sox on Tuesday. FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman initially reported the deal.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told reporters the Red Sox will listen to potential trade opportunities, but there is "no major drive" to add more players. Dombrowski said trading Buchholz gives the team flexibility during the offseason and puts Boston under the CBT (competitive-balance tax).  

The New York Post's Joel Sherman thought the move played into what the Phillies have done this offseason:

MLB.com's Mike Petriello likes how Philadelphia has assembled its starting rotation:

This comes after Rob Bradford of WEEI.com noted earlier in December teams that talked to the Red Sox about available pitchers sensed Dombrowski was more interested in trading Buchholz over Drew Pomeranz.

Scott Miller of Bleacher Report listed the Miami Marlins as one of the clubs interested in Buchholz, although he reported the $13 million 2016 price tag was too expensive.

Boston acquired Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox this offseason and largely has its rotation set with Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez and Pomeranz all as candidates, which made Buchholz expendable.

Reports of a potential trade involving the right-hander appeared during the regular season, as Heyman tweeted Buchholz "came up in talks" before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. Buchholz is a former All-Star, but he was far from a shutdown pitcher in 2016, with a 4.78 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 93 strikeouts in 139.1 innings.

The Red Sox moved him to the bullpen after his struggles; home runs in particular were a problem for Buchholz. He allowed 21 long balls, which was still lower than the 25 he gave up in 2012.

He returned to the starting rotation late in the season and turned in a strong finish with a 3.14 ERA in five September appearances. The impressive finishing kick likely made him a more attractive trade target for the Phillies this offseason.

Despite the 2016 struggles, Buchholz was solid for the Red Sox in 2015 with a 3.26 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 107 strikeouts in 113.1 innings. It was a strong bounce-back effort after a lackluster 2014 campaign, when he finished with a 5.34 ERA.

Buchholz has been inconsistent for much of his career even though he made the All-Star Game in 2010 and in 2013:

The hope in Boston in 2016 was that he would look like the All-Star version of himself as the team chased the postseason. However, that was not the case for much of the year, and it reached the point where he said he felt "like something has [to] be going on" when discussing his limited usage in July, per Bradford.

His new team can at least take solace in the fact he has proved himself at the major league level. If he performs like he did in his All-Star campaigns and down the stretch in 2016, he will be an asset in 2017.

What's more, he made playoff appearances for Boston in 2009, 2013 and 2016 and, theoretically, shouldn't be intimidated by any important moments for his new squad. Philadelphia's acquisition could be one of the better under-the-radar swaps of the offseason, especially if the 32-year-old can find consistency.

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Odubel Herrera, Phillies Agree to New Contract: Latest Details, Reaction

December 15, 2016 by Adam Wells  
Filed under Fan News

Any thoughts the Philadelphia Phillies had about trading Odubel Herrera have likely gone away after the All-Star center fielder signed a contract extension with the team.

The Phillies announced the five-year extension Thursday.

Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the contract will pay Herrera $30.5 million in guarantees and includes option years for 2022 and 2023.

There had been some speculation about the Phillies exploring trade options for Herrera this offseason. T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reported during the winter meetings the team "might be willing" to deal the 24-year-old. 

Herrera has been a pleasant surprise in two seasons with the Phillies. He was a Rule 5 draft pick in December 2014 after the Texas Rangers kept him off their 40-man roster because they didn't have a spot available for him. 

With the Phillies embracing a full-scale rebuild, Herrera made the team's Opening Day roster. He put together a solid debut season with a .297/.344/.418 slash line in 147 games. 

Herrera was even better in 2016, posting a .286/.361/.420 slash line with 15 home runs, 25 stolen bases and 4.2 wins above replacement, per Baseball-Reference.com. He was named to the National League All-Star team for his efforts. 

MLB.com's Oliver Macklin noted Herrera's eight wins above replacement in his first two seasons with the Phillies is the second-best mark in team history, trailing only Dick Allen's 8.8 in 1964-65.

The Phillies' commitment to Herrera is the latest sign this franchise is heading in the right direction. It's going to take more time for the farm system, which MLB.com ranked seventh coming into 2016, to release all of its treasures like shortstop J.P. Crawford and outfielder Nick Williams. 

Herrera is a key piece of the foundation in Philadelphia and will be part of the next great wave of Phillies baseball after signing a long-term extension with the franchise.

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Joaquin Benoit to Phillies: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

December 5, 2016 by Rob Goldberg  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies took a big step toward shoring up their bullpen with the addition of Joaquin Benoit on Monday. 

According to Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball, the 39-year-old reliever signed with the club after Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reported the two sides were close Sunday night.

Benoit had two very different seasons in 2016, struggling to the tune of a 5.18 ERA with the Seattle Mariners before eventually being traded at the deadline. He was lights out with the Toronto Blue Jays, however, allowing just one run in 23.2 innings. 

Unfortunately, the right-handed pitcher tore his calf attempting to run in from the bullpen in a late-season, bench-clearing brawl. He missed the last week of the regular season and the entire postseason, unable to help the Blue Jays in their eventual loss in the American League Championship Series.

"It's a big loss, no doubt about it," manager John Gibbons said at the time of the injury, per ESPN.com. "He's been so good."

According to sports broadcaster Hazel Mae (via Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet), he was off crutches and throwing off flat ground by mid-October, so the issue shouldn't be a concern going forward.

Assuming he is healthy, Philadelphia should get a big contribution from one of the more consistent relievers in the league. Even with his struggles in Seattle, Benoit has finished the season with a sub-3.00 ERA in six of the last seven seasons and had over 50 strikeouts each year.

The pitcher has spent over 15 years in the major leagues with six different organizations, accumulating 57 wins, 51 saves and a 3.79 ERA.

Benoit could be a major boost for a team that finished with the third-highest bullpen ERA in 2016 at 5.05.

While he is getting up there in age, Benoit has shown he can still be an effective reliever and should make an impact right away with his new team.

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Terry Ryan Hired as Phillies Special Assignment Scout: Latest Details, Reaction

November 30, 2016 by Adam Wells  
Filed under Fan News

Terry Ryan needed only five months to find a new job, with the Philadelphia Phillies hiring the former general manager as a special assignment scout. 

The Phillies announced Ryan's hiring in a press release on their official website. 

"I have known Terry for more than a decade and have enormous respect for all that he accomplished during his tenure with the Twins," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said in the release. "Terry's work ethic, loyalty and track record as a talent evaluator are simply unparalleled in our game."

Ryan previously worked with the Minnesota Twins, serving 19 years as general manager in two different stints from 1994 to 2007 and 2012 to 2016. He helped lead the franchise to four American League Central titles between 2002 and 2006, including an appearance in the American League Championship Series in 2002. 

The Twins became one of the American League's worst teams since 2011, losing at least 92 games five times in the previous six seasons. The team fired Ryan in July due to a reported disagreement with owner Jim Pohlad over how to go about improving the club, per Phil Miller of the Star Tribune.

The role of a special assignment scout can vary depending on the team. Typically, he will be used as one of the last channels of communication to a general manager before the GM decides to make a talent acquisition. 

Even though things fell apart with the Twins, Ryan did oversee a front office that led to the franchise having the best farm system in MLB before the 2014 season, with talent like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano among the top prospects. 

The Phillies are still in rebuilding mode with a promising farm system that will likely start to pay dividends as soon as 2017. Adding another sharp scouting mind to the mix like Ryan will ensure the talent pipeline in Philadelphia continues to stay strong. 

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Jeremy Hellickson Accepts Phillies’ Qualifying Offer: Contract Details, Reaction

November 14, 2016 by Adam Wells  
Filed under Fan News

After having his best season while with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2016, Jeremy Hellickson has decided to extend that partnership by accepting the team's $17.2 million qualifying offer.  

The Phillies announced the news on Monday after Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball first reported the decision.

Hellickson's 2016 season flew under the radar because the Phillies were bad, but he quietly turned in the best season of his seven-year career.

One of the big keys for Hellickson's success last season was staying healthy, which has been a problem for him since 2014, and something he acknowledged in September. 

"I've felt good every time out," Hellickson said, via Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com. "Felt good in between starts. I'm recovering like I was early in my career."

Hellickson doesn't have top-of-the-rotation stuff with a fastball that FanGraphs clocked at an average of 90.0 mph in 2016, but he's able to find different ways to succeed without posting gaudy strikeout numbers. 

His ground-ball percentage each of the last two seasons has been over 40 percent, per FanGraphs. The difference between his 2015 and 2016 performances was he got out of the hitter-friendly confines afforded by the Arizona Diamondbacks in Chase Field. 

With the Phillies still in a rebuilding mode but boasting talent at the MLB level like Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera with more coming through the pipeline, like shortstop J.P. Crawford, it's not inconceivable that there will be a return to relevance soon. 

Starting pitching was an area the Phillies were severely lacking last season. Hellickson and Jerad Eickhoff were the only pitchers to make at least 25 starts and total over 135 innings.

For Hellickson, still just 29 years old, remaining with a franchise that helped him turn in his best season as they continue to add talent and get better makes sense. He will be a stabilizing force in the rotation for the Phillies as they continue to look for those key pieces that will help them become a dominant force in the National League East. 

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Charlie Morton’s Contract Option Declined by Phillies: Latest Comments, Reaction

November 3, 2016 by Timothy Rapp  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies announced Thursday that they have declined to pick up the mutual option on pitcher Charlie Morton

Morton was set to earn a $9.5 million salary in 2017, but the Phillies instead exercised a $1 million buyout, per SB Nation's Chris Cotillo

Morton, 32, made just four starts in 2016, finishing 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 19 strikeouts in 17.1 innings pitched. He missed the majority of the season after tearing his hamstring in April. 

A major reason for the buyout was likely because it wouldn't have been guaranteed that Morton would have made the starting rotation given the team's bevy of young starters and prospects. Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Nola and Vince Velasquez are locks to earn spots on the rotation, while Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson, Alec Asher and perhaps even Mark Appel will compete for spots in the rotation.

In other words, Morton would have needed to have a very strong spring to earn a spot in the rotation this season. Given that Morton has pitched 150 or more innings just three times in his career and has dipped below a 3.70 ERA just once, the Phillies weren't willing to bet on his justifying a $9.5 million contract on the mound.

        

You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

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Ryan Howard’s Contract Option Declined by Phillies: Latest Comments and Reaction

November 3, 2016 by Mike Chiari  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies made a long-expected move Thursday, as they announced they have declined the 2017 club option on first baseman Ryan Howard's contract, making him a free agent.

According to Spotrac, the Phils would have had to pay Howard $23 million next season had they exercised their club option, but they instead decided to buy him out for $10 million.

The Phillies honored the 36-year-old veteran prior to their final game of the 2016 regular season in a move that signaled the end of his time with the organization.

Despite that, Howard made it clear he wanted to continue playing elsewhere, according to ESPN.com: "I know there's more in the tank. I'll know when it's time."

Howard hit a career-low .196 last season, and his 56 RBI were the fewest of his career in a season that saw him play 100 or more games.

The 2001 fifth-round draft pick of the Phillies did club 25 homers, however, which was his highest total since hitting 33 in 2011.

Howard finished in the top 10 of MVP voting every year from 2006 through 2011 and won the award in 2006, when he hit .313 with 58 home runs and 149 RBI. He was named to three All-Star teams during that six-year run and averaged a .274/44/133 line per season while also leading the Phillies to a World Series championship.

The five years since then have illustrated a significant fall from grace, as Howard averaged a greatly reduced .226/19/66 line during that time frame.

With Howard's skills eroding at the plate and his already mediocre defense getting even worse, turning the page on him was an obvious move for the Phillies.

Also, 25-year-old Tommy Joseph emerged as a power threat at first base last season, hitting .247 with 21 home runs and 47 RBI.

There was no longer any room for Howard on the team with Philly fully embracing a youth movement, and keeping him for $23 million as a part-time player and pinch hitter wouldn't have been a smart economical decision.

Howard could still have some value, potentially as a designated hitter in the American League, but his best days are undoubtedly behind him.

If he can be had at a bargain price in free agency, then Howard's contributions in 2017 may be viewed far more favorably than they were when he underperformed while making over $20 million per season with the Phillies.

    

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Phillies Bat Around in 8th Inning Without Recording a Hit

July 31, 2016 by Bleacher Report Milestones  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies accomplished an unusual feat during Saturday's 9-5 road win over the Atlanta Braves, sending all nine batters to the plate in the eighth inning without recording a single hit during the frame, per MLB Stat of the Day.

Entering the inning with a 5-3 lead, Phillies outfielder Tyler Goeddel drew a leadoff walk as a pinch hitter, and shortstop Freddy Galvis bunted into a fielder's choice that put Goeddel out at second and Galvis safe at first. 

After a walk by infielder Taylor Featherston and subsequent double steal, Braves reliever Hunter Cervenka intentionally walked second baseman Cesar Hernandez to load the bases.

Cervenka then walked outfielder Odubel Herrera to bring in the inning's first run, but the real damage occurred when the next two batters reached on errors, pushing the lead from 6-3 to 8-3 while still leaving the bases loaded with one out.

Braves reliever Ryan Weber then hit outfielder Aaron Altherr with a pitch to drive in the inning's fourth and final run, but Weber did induce a ground-ball double play from catcher Cameron Rupp to finally end the ugly frame.

The Phillies thus batted around the lineup without a hit for the first time since July 17, 1992, a run that lasted more than 24 years, per ESPN Stats & Info.

If not for the inning-ending double play, the Phillies might have even sent 10 or 11 batters to the plate without recording a single hit.

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Vince Velasquez Trade Rumors: Latest News and Speculation on Phillies SP

July 30, 2016 by Tim Daniels  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Vince Velasquez is one of the most intriguing names being talked about leading up to the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

Continue for updates.


Rangers' Pursuit of Velasquez Reportedly Falling Short

Saturday, July 30

The door may be open for other teams to get involved in the sweepstakes, with Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reporting Saturday a deal between the Phillies and Texas Rangers is now viewed as "unlikely."

Velasquez is enjoying a breakout campaign in Philadelphia with a 3.32 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 97.2 innings across 18 starts. The progress is encouraging after an up-and-down rookie season with the Houston Astros in 2015 before getting dealt to Philly last winter.

His high strikeout rate (9.95 per nine innings) makes him a coveted target. The biggest question is whether he'll be able to continue getting a lot of swings and misses when he starts attacking the zone more, which will be necessary to lower his elevated walk rate (3.32).

He's handling the situation well for a 24-year-old player who already went through one move in the past calendar year.

He told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he tries not to get too emotionally invested in things he can't control, like the constant trade talk:

At first when I got traded from the Astros it was kind of tough for me, but you have to move on and make the best of what you've got. If things happen, just let it happen. If I go to another team, then I've got to make the best of what I've got there. There's a lot of things that are in the future. I don't know what to expect is what I'm saying. Again, all I can do is live in the present and live another day tomorrow. If something happens, something happens. I've got to make the best of what you've got today.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports previously reported the Rangers were "all over" Velasquez, but he also noted there was no agreement on the horizon.

While the Phillies' asking price is unclear, that's probably the sticking point. They are likely demanding a sizable package in return for the starter based on his age, early results and the fact he won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season, according to Spotrac.

For a team like Philadelphia, which is in the middle stages of a rebuild, trading a promising young starter like Velasquez seems like a step in the wrong direction. Perhaps the right combination of prospects could change the outlook, though.

 

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