Phillies Mailbag: MacPhail, Kapler, Trade Deadline
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. Send your questions anytime on Twitter to @FrankKlose or send a text to the text board at 609-403-0973.
Is Andy MacPhail's for a World Series Champion flawed after four years, or McFailed from the start? Pitching, pitching, more pitching, and deep bench wins Championships! Yes or no?
When the Phillies added Andy MacPhail as team president, he brought with him a philosophy he employed with other organizations, such as the Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, and Baltimore Orioles. One benchmark of this philosophy is to develop pitching internally while signing bats. It's fair to say that has not worked.
Aaron Nola was around before McPhail arrived. Jake Arrieta came as a free agent under the full new regime. Nick Pivetta arrived in a trade with the Washington Nationals, orchestrated by former general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. the day before MacPhail joined the organization. Amaro acquired Zach Eflin from the Dodgers in the Jimmy Rollins trade. Vince Velasquez came in a trade under both general manager Matt Klentak and MacPhail's time.
In general, the Phillies have failed to develop pitching. Aside from Nola, the other four starters came from outside the organization. Typically four years is enough time to produce at least one arm. And the starting rotation is the primary downfall of this Phillies team.
This is the central major disappointment of the Phillies organization. The past offseason was one where they saw the starting rotation be the collapse of the 2018 season. Yet, here were are in 2019 with the same five arms collapsing once again.
The arms such as Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Mike Minor, and others were deemed "too expensive". How expensive was it to have the City of Philadelphia, filled with momentum towards the Phillies, completely lose interest in this team? At some point the Phillies will have to pay the "high price" or simply accept losing.
This pitching philosophy will define MacPhail's tenure.
Who do you think will be manager of the Phillies on September 30, 2019?
I feel rather strongly that the manager of the Phillies in September will be the same as today: Gabe Kapler.
I have a hard time blaming Kapler for much of what is going on. He is in a thankless position. His starting rotation is poor. That means he constantly needs to go to the bullpen, which of course has been decimated with injury time and time again. Kapler is constantly faced with deciding whether to pull the under-performing starter and going the under-performing bullpen, or try to leave the starter in.
Last night, Zach Eflin just had to stay in the game. Even after a six-run inning, the Phillies had to basically concede the game. Once Eflin finally departed, the Phillies had to go to their "B" bullpen, which included the likes of Yacksel Rios and Edubray Ramos. Center fielder Roman Quinn arguably was the best bullpen arm.
I am not going to say that Kapler has made the best decision every time. I am sure he himself will tell you that. But maybe Kapler could show a little more fire at times. After last night's embarrassment carried nationally on ESPN, the Phillies manager could have stood to show some anger or some frustration. That would maybe make fans feel better.
But until Kapler is given better arms, it is hard to say that the performance of the Phillies is his fault. Maybe he should actually get credit for getting so many wins out of this team out of the gate.
So do the Phillies finally sell now?
Unbelievably, even after the Phillies lost in embarrassing fashion last night, they are not totally out of it. The Phillies are very much in the Wild Card chase, for even as bad as things have been lately, other teams in contention have certainly taken their lumps. Whether they plan to win now or not, the organizational morale depends upon adding starting pitchers.
The Phillies reportedly had "major interest" in starting pitcher Andrew Cashner. They lost out on Cashner to the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox are also struggling with their rotation. But that could be a sign that the Phillies are still trying to add pitching.
Additionally, the Phillies have been scouting Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman. Strohman would certainly help stabilize the Phillies starting rotation. As would left-handed pitcher Robby Ray. The Phillies are reported to have shown "recent interest" in Ray.
The big question that remains is the willingness of the Phillies to spend. The team seems to be unwilling to test the Competitive Balance Tax in 2019. This deep in the season, and with an extra $2.5 million or so now available that Odubel Herrera left on the table with his suspension, there is some financial wiggle room to add for 2019.
However, I think that the Phillies will prefer to add either long-term assets, or low-cost assets (meaning prospect cost). I expect the Phillies to buy on the low-cost market and possibly spend some if they can get starting pitching they can control beyond this year. I think that one way or another, Vince Velasquez will return to the bullpen, and we may see Nick Pivetta there as well.
I think the biggest need right now is to stop the bleeding so that the long-term assets on the team maintain their morale. I wonder if Scott Kingery has fallen off a bit the last few weeks because of the rest of the team is struggling. Kingery's start at second base on Sunday may have been about keeping him comfortable and happy.