Phillies Mailbag: Leadership, Catching, Second Base
We are back once again with a 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Each week we take your questions and talk about them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill every Tuesday during the Phillies season. Send your questions anytime on Twitter to @FrankKlose or send a text to the text board at 609-403-0973.
What is the likelihood that all of Andy MacPhail, Matt Klentak and Gabe Kapler are relieved of their duties? Two of the three? One?
The Phillies unbelievably are facing not just missing the playoffs - they were eliminated on Tuesday afternoon - but they potentially could finish with a losing record. After the Phillies fell to the Washington Nationals 4-1, the Phillies are 79-77 with six games to play. Should the Phillies win two games the rest of the way, they are a .500 team. If they win just one more, they will have a losing record.
Hopefully it will not come to that. But because there were high expectations heading into the season, would they make some major changes? Despite the underwhelming season, I tend to think all three will be retained for next season.
The Phillies hired Andy MacPhail to be at the top. MacPhail's words at the trade deadline regarding making the playoffs - "If we don't, we don't" - may have been the most frustrating moment of the season. The Phillies did not spend any player capital to make acquisitions at the trade deadline.
Instead, the Phillies went into the discount bin to add Mike Morin, Blake Parker, Drew Smyly and Jason Vargas. The Phillies did not pursue any of the bigger-name pitchers who changed teams. When the Phillies missed out on the likes of Patrick Corbin in the offseason, was it the president who wished to avoid a six-year deal?
If directive that came from the president, it's hard to then look to the general manager. While Matt Klentak helped get Bryce Harper signed, along with Andrew McCutchen, he was not able to get the Phillies the starting pitching so badly needed. Last night Corbin pitched a stellar performance while Zach Eflin floundered, which was the story of the season.
If Klentak's job is safe because he was following orders, then it is certainly not the directive of the field manager. In fact, Gabe Kapler could be thought of as doing a good job with what he has had to work with. That does not mean every decision was the right one, by any means. But metrics suggest that a team with a negative run differential should not be in contention for the playoffs. The Phillies hung in there, despite everything pointing to the contrary.
I think there might be a dismissal this offseason, but perhaps from the coaching staff. The team will already look to find a new hitting coach for 2020. Maybe Chris Young is the one who takes the fall to be a scapegoat. If they do that, it will be to try to please fans; all they know is that this team was underwhelming.
To suggest Kapler takes the fall is that he should have been expected to do more with the roster he had. That is a very hard case to make.
Will this be the season Cesar Hernandez is replaced?
I think that this offseason will be the time the Phillies cut ties with Cesar Hernandez and turn the reigns over to Scott Kingery. Hernandez has one more year left of arbitration, that I believe the Phillies will decline. I think that the Phillies simply need to use the resources elsewhere.
Hernandez earned $7.5 million this season and almost certainly will get a raise if the club goes through with the arbitration process. Could the Phillies justify putting say, $9 million into second base with Hernandez? I do not see that being the way the team goes.
Kingery is more than ready to take over for second base. I think the Phillies will non-tender Maikel Franco in addition to Hernandez. I suppose it is possible Kingery begins the season at third base and shifts to second upon Alec Bohm coming to play third base.
I think a reasonable scenario is a veteran comes in as the third baseman or second baseman. When Bohm rises to the big leagues, that player will become a bench player. There will be veteran options out there that can sign with the Phillies knowing they will get at least a chance to have a job out of Spring Training.
When I think of Hernandez I think of the missed opportunity we have with Hernandez in terms of his speed. Hernandez never learned to steal bases. Hernandez never really put his base running together. With an OPS currently at .736, there are other directions the team could go.
So the $9 million due to Hernandez could be better spent on extending J.T. Realmuto or acquiring more pitching. I just do not see them spending that at second base.
Where does Deivy Grullon factor in next season? Is he the new backup at the MLB level?
For some reason, Phillies fans are really worked up about the back up catcher. Of all the roster spots in all of baseball, the Phillies back up catcher plays literally the least. So whoever backs up J.T. Realmuto, they can expect to play the least of any back up catcher in baseball. What I think bothered fans in 2019 was the frequently late-game, last-bat-off-the-bench appearances of Andrew Knapp.
First and foremost, there will be a 26th player on the roster in 2020. The back up catcher may not need to bat against the opposing team's best relievers because they are otherwise out of bench players. That will happen less and less.
What the Phillies will really need their back up catcher to be a solid receiver more than anything else. Looking at Knapp's work in 2019, he caught some of Zach Eflin's strong starts. He frequently caught solid Aaron Nola starts, too.
Deivy Grullon seemed to be doing fine with the receiving on Tuesday afternoon. That could be because Tuesday was a bullpen game. Grullon has been working in the bullpen with coaches Bob Stumpo and Craig Driver in his time in the major leagues so far. He caught all of Tuesday afternoon's pitchers in the bullpen.
I tend to think there's a chance Grullon is either traded or starts next season at Triple-A. Why? If there's a chance that he could be a starting catcher in the major leagues, hardly playing under Realmuto makes little sense. That could mean Grullon is a good trade piece for other needs this offseason.
It could also mean that Grullon starts at Triple-A, to be ready to assume the catching role in case of injury. If the Phillies worry Realmuto will not sign an extension and think Grullon could start for the team long-term, there's no need for him to start accumulating major league service time to not play.
Knapp remains under team control and even has one option year remaining. If they think Knapp can catch the ball, there is no reason to get rid of him. But Grullon can be an asset for someone else or the Phillies. That could depend on what happens with Realmuto this offseason.