Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Next Few Games Should Be Interesting

GAME RECAP: No Game Yesterday
Phillies took the day off yesterday to reflect on the drastic shift in play compared to the first half… anyone else notice that the weather has gotten quite a bit cooler lately?

  • Morgan has been up-and-down in his first five starts. He allowed nine hits and three runs in just 4 1/3 innings last week against the Rays, but he has allowed two or fewer runs in 5 2/3 innings or more in three of his first four.
  • The Blue Jays are 8-0 against the Phillies since Roy Halladay beat them on July 2, 2011.
  • Doubront has made three starts for the Blue Jays, and he has gone more than five innings just once. He allowed seven hits and three runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last start last week against the A's.

If the Blue Jays decide to make a serious push for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon they will have the opportunity to see him up close and personal beginning Tuesday night in a two-game series at Rogers Centre. Sources told MLB.com that the Blue Jays, Cubs and Nationals are three teams that have expressed interest recently in Papelbon, although the Blue Jays' interests might be elsewhere. The Phillies would have to eat plenty of Papelbon's salary to make it happen, but they have said they are willing to do that. Games will be played regardless, and Phillies rookie left-hander Adam Morgan and Blue Jays left-hander Felix Doubront will start the opener Tuesday night.


Hamels Named Player Of The Week – One outstanding position player and one outstanding pitcher -- Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and Phillies starter Cole Hamels -- have been named National League Co-Players of the Week after their performances last week. Hamels threw a no-hitter against the Cubs on Saturday, while Gonzalez led the Majors with five home runs and a 1.190 slugging percentage. Hamels' no-hitter was the third of the Major League season and included 13 strikeouts against the Cubs, who were no-hit for the first time since 1965. After throwing the first six innings of a Phillies combined no-hitter last year, Hamels is just the fifth pitcher in MLB history to throw a no-hitter of his own and be involved in a combined no-no. Gonzalez also led the NL with 11 RBIs and 25 total bases while tying for the league lead with nine runs scored. He hit .476 (10-for-21) and capped his week Sunday with a 3-for-4 game against the Reds that featured two home runs, four runs scored and six RBIs. The runs and RBIs both tied career highs, and the multihomer game was Gonzalez's second of the season and 12th of his career. It is Hamels' second career NL Player of the Week Award and Gonzalez's fifth.

Increasing Values – Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon could have their wishes granted before the end of the week. Momentum continues to build for trades involving both the Phillies' ace and their closer ahead of Friday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline. Sources told MLB.com that the Dodgers and Rangers are the front-runners for Hamels, who also is receiving interest from the Yankees, Cubs and Giants. ESPN.com reported Monday night the D-backs and Astros have entered the mix, too. Papelbon is receiving the most interest from the Cubs, Blue Jays and Nationals, and those discussions seem to have picked up in the past 24 hours. Both Hamels and Papelbon have limited no-trade protection. Hamels can block trades to 20 teams, but he cannot veto a trade to the Rangers, Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs, Nationals, Cardinals, Braves, Padres and Mets. He can block trades to the D-backs, Astros and Giants. Papelbon can block trades to 17 teams, but the Cubs are not one of them. He can block trades to Toronto and Washington, but he has said repeatedly his no-trade clause will not be a problem. That said, Papelbon will only accept a trade to a team where he will be the closer. The Nationals currently have a closer in Drew Storen. Papelbon also has a $13 million salary this season and a $13 million club option for 2016, which will automatically vest if he finishes just 14 more games this season. He might require a team to exercise that option to facilitate a trade, but if he closes for a contender, he should vest it without a problem. Of course, Hamels is the big fish. The Rangers privately expect to finish second in the Hamels sweepstakes, although the Phillies like their farm system more than Los Angeles' because Texas has something that Philadelphia's system sorely lacks: power hitters. Rangers catching prospect Jorge Alfaro and outfield prospect Nomar Mazara -- who rank 34th and 42nd, respectively, among MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects -- could be part of a package for Hamels. Both have power. Texas is becoming more comfortable with the prospect of taking on Hamels' remaining salary, which pays him $23.5 million annually through 2018, plus a $6 million buyout on a $20 million club option for '19. The Dodgers would love to insert Hamels into a rotation that already includes Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, but they are expected to hold onto shortstop Corey Seager and left-hander Julio Urias, who are considered the fourth- and fifth-best prospects in baseball, respectively. Right-handed prospect Grant Holmes ranks 75th overall, and right-hander Jose De Leon ranks 89th, but as mentioned previously, the Phils prefer power bats. Dodgers outfield prospects Alex Verdugo and Scott Schebler have power potential. But with at least two teams strongly interested in Hamels, the Phillies should be able to get something they like. The Royals just acquired right-hander Johnny Cueto from the Reds, and the Astros acquired Scott Kazmir from the A's on Thursday. That removes two starting pitchers from the market. The Tigers might hold onto David Price, which also helps. The Royals shipped left-handers Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed to the Reds for Cueto, who can become a free agent after the season. Finnegan was Kansas City's top pick in the 2014 Draft. Lamb was 9-1 with a 2.67 ERA at Triple-A Omaha before the trade. Reed was a second-round pick in 2013. He was 2-2 with a 3.45 ERA at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Right-hander Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham went to Oakland for Kazmir, who also can become a free agent after the season. Mengden was Houston's No. 19 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. Nottingham was No. 22. The Reds and A's got those prospects for rentals. Hamels is not that, which theoretically means the Phillies should get something more valuable in return. Sources said that no deal for Hamels is imminent, but with four days remaining before the Deadline, there is time to make it happen. The feeling around baseball is that Hamels finally will be dealt. Papelbon's chances to be traded seem to have improved in the past week, although it is far from certain. Ben Revere, Jeff Francoeur and, perhaps surprisingly, Chase Utley have all received interest from teams. Revere is the most likely to be dealt from that group. But the focus since Pat Gillick became Phillies president last August has been Hamels and Papelbon. The chances that the Phils will finally reach the finish line with trades involving both pitchers is better than ever.

Deadline Approaching – The big Johnny Cueto trade finished a crazy weekend of rumors, races and Hall of Fame remembrances in Major League Baseball, but Monday gets the frenzy going again. Yes, the Week Ahead marks the final five days prior to Friday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline, and if you were out of cell range or off the grid on Saturday and Sunday, well, you missed a lot, and much of it figures to affect the season at we inch ever closer to October. On Saturday, Cole Hamels threw a no-hitter. On Sunday, the National Baseball Hall of Fame welcomed its new quartet of inductees -- Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio -- while the team with the best record in the American League, the defending AL champion Royals, welcomed their new ace, Cueto. Hamels, the Phillies' veteran left-handed ace, twirled his no-no against the Cubs in Wrigley Field, serving notice that he's not only righted himself after a recent slump but that he remains a huge, headlining draw for contending clubs looking to land a stud starter before the Deadline. Hamels is scheduled to pitch for the Phillies on Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park against the Braves, but not a lot of baseball people think that will happen. Sources have told MLB.com's Todd Zolecki that the Rangers, Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees and Giants are among the teams linked to the owner of both a World Series ring (2008) and a no-hitter, and that Texas and Los Angeles might be the front-runners. "I mean, it's not what I envisioned," Hamels said when asked if he was thinking during Saturday's bit of history that it was his last outing as a member of the team that drafted him in 2002. "It's not what I thought. It's not in my thought process. I think all I've been thinking about the past couple days was just to kind of correct my pitching, just being able to be out there and enjoy the moment." Cueto might have been thinking about the same thing with his former team, the Reds, until he was dealt to Kansas City on Sunday in a blockbuster that brought back a trio of lefty pitching prospects -- Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed -- to Cincinnati. The timing couldn't be better for Royals general manager Dayton Moore and his support staff, given that lefty Jason Vargas just came back from an injury only to be lost for the season with a torn elbow ligament, and in the sense that the Royals were having issues with starting pitching all season. Now look at them. Cueto is 29, at the top of his game (7-6, 2.62 ERA, 120 strikeouts in 130 2/3 innings and a WHIP of 0.93 entering Monday) and should get the ball for his Royals debut on Thursday night against the Blue Jays in Toronto. "He's a guy who gives us tremendous depth in our rotation," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "If you get Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura to the way they were a year ago, you got them and Eddie Volquez and Cueto ... you can stop a losing streak right away with any of those guys. It's a better team for now and into the postseason if we make it. "If we didn't do this deal, I still would have felt good about this team. But this makes us better." That's the idea for this time of year, and especially this week. Teams will be clamoring to improve their rosters ahead of the stretch run, with parity and the added Wild Card entries making it even more competitive to land a deal. Take a look at the National League West, for example. The up-and-down Giants are back on the upswing, having won five in a row and nine of their last 10 to pull within a game of the first-place Dodgers. What will they do? And what will the Dodgers do? Los Angeles might be able to land Hamels, but Detroit ace David Price is also said to be available, and the Giants could use an extra arm. If the Tigers decide to hang on to Price, other arms in the offing could include Mat Latos, Yovani Gallardo, Tyson Ross, Jeff Samardzija and James Shields. And would the Dodgers really trade Yasiel Puig? That will be another topic to keep a close eye on for the next five days. And what about the AL West? The Angels are riding another otherworldly season from Mike Trout (who hit his 30th and 31st homers on Sunday) and have taken over the lead in the division, but the Astros are hanging in there, only a game back, and they just landed Scott Kazmir from the A's for the stretch. The Angels are looking for a bat, and Jay Bruce, Justin Upton, Ben Zobrist and Yoenis Cespedes might be available for the right price. The drama should get even more intriguing on Tuesday, when the Angels head to Houston for a three-game series that ranks as the best in baseball over the next seven days. The division lead could hang in the balance, and we should see Kazmir pitching in his hometown against a familiar rival. Elsewhere, the Mets could be looking for more offense, even after adding Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe in their weekend deal with the Braves. And although the Yankees are rolling in the AL East, it's hard to believe that they're not looking to augment their roster for the crucial days of September and, they hope, beyond.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 37-63. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance so far this season, this could end up being the worst team in franchise history! All time, the Phillies are 47-65-0 on this day.

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