Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Competitions Should Be Interesting In Spring Training
Interesting Group of Invitees – The Phillies signed five players to Minor League contracts on Monday, and one of them could pitch in the late innings next season. Right-handers Ernesto Frieri, Gregory Infante and Greg Burke; catcher J.P. Arencibia; and infielder Angelys Nina will be non-roster invitees to Spring Training. Frieri has closing experience, so he seems like a candidate to pitch in the eighth or ninth inning following the Phils trading Ken Giles to the Astros on Saturday. Of course, Frieri, 30, must first earn a spot on the 25-man roster. He went 1-0 with a 4.63 ERA in 22 appearances last season with the Rays. Frieri has a 3.55 ERA in 298 appearances in his career, which includes 73 saves. The Phillies signed right-hander David Hernandez to a one-year, $3.9 million contract last week. Hernandez has some experience as a closer and might be considered the front-runner to close in 2016. Burke, 33, is from Marlton, N.J. He spent last season in the Blue Jays' system, posting a 2.63 ERA in 48 appearances with Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo. He has a 4.77 ERA in 80 career appearances in the big leagues, last pitching for the Mets in 2013. Infante, 28, had a 3.18 ERA in 51 appearances last season with Buffalo and New Hampshire. He made five appearances at the big league level with the White Sox in 2010. Arencibia, 29, hit .227 with 17 doubles, 22 home runs and 65 RBIs last season with Triple-A Durham, which is part of the Rays' farm system. He posted a .921 OPS in 24 games with Tampa Bay. Nina, 27, hit .300 with 21 doubles, five triples, four home runs and 18 stolen bases in 114 games during 2015 with Triple-A Albuquerque, which is part of the Rockies' system. He played second base, shortstop, third base and left field.
Pitching Was The Motivator – Phillies general manager Matt Klentak never said he wanted to trade Ken Giles, but he always said he needed to be opportunistic. Klentak sensed a chance to improve the Phillies last week, when the team finalized the trade that sent Giles and Minor League infielder Jonathan Arauz to the Astros for pitchers Vincent Velasquez, Mark Appel, Brett Oberholtzer, Thomas Eshelman and Harold Arauz. It was Klentak's third trade of the offseason, with each one geared toward boosting the team's starting pitching. "This was an opportunity we couldn't pass up," Klentak said Monday in a conference call with reporters. "We feel like we've made our club better, both in the short and long term. We hate to lose a player like Ken Giles. I've said all along that we're trying to add good players, but in this case, it's an opportunity for us to add five starting-pitching candidates to our system. And it improves the state of our organization moving forward. That's a very exciting thing for us." In the end, it simply made sense for the rebuilding Phils to trade Giles' 65 innings a season for the opportunity to develop two or three pitchers who could pitch 180-200 innings a season. "I don't think finding an elite closer is easy by any stretch," Klentak said. "I don't minimize that at all. We will do everything we can to make sure we are locking down the end of a game as well as we can. But the difficulty of putting together a rotation and gathering enough inventory to get through the season and multiple seasons that we can control for a long time -- that is really hard to do and that is a huge factor in this trade. You are able to turn one reliever -- albeit a really, really good one -- into five starting-pitching candidates." The Phillies certainly created some competition for the 2016 starting rotation. They previously acquired veterans Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton in a couple of trades for mid-level prospects. Those two will be in the rotation come Opening Day. Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff and Velasquez might be the favorites to earn the other three rotation jobs, with Oberholtzer, Adam Morgan, David Buchanan, Alec Asher and Severino Gonzalez in the mix. Top prospects Appel, Jake Thompson and Zach Elfin figure to top a talented and promising Triple-A rotation. "For us, it's all about balance," Klentak said. "I think no team ever gets through a season with five starting pitchers. That's just not realistic. So we knew we wanted to add to the inventory, both for the short term and the long term. And I think the balance component comes into play, because we've got two veterans in Hellickson and Morton, we've got some kids in Eickhoff and Velasquez and Nola that have gotten a taste of the big leagues, but haven't pitched a full season. We've got a stabilizer in Oberholtzer. And we've got several others, both on the 40-man and off, that are going to be competing either for jobs early on the season or later in the season as their development continues. "Organizationally, that's been a goal of ours. It will remain a goal of ours, to always have starting-pitching depth." Klentak praised Oberholtzer, who has a 3.94 ERA in 45 appearances (42 starts) in his big league career. It is worth noting that Oberholtzer is out of options, which puts him in a strong position to make the pitching staff. Klentak and Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow had been discussing a Giles trade for the past three or four weeks, and those talks intensified last week at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn. They agreed to a 4-for-1 trade on Wednesday, but it became a 5-for-2 on Saturday (with Appel and Harold Arauz added to the Phillies' package with outfielder Derek Fisher subtracted) because sources said the Phils had concerns about a physical of one of the players involved. Of course, the question now is, "Who will close in 2016?" Internal candidates include the recently signed David Hernandez and Ernesto Frieri. But Klentak also hinted the club could sign a free agent in the near future. "We don't have to decide that in December," Klentak said about the 2016 closer. "We'll see. Every closer at some point was a first-time closer. Someone will be pitching the ninth for us. I'm going to be honest, since the news of the Giles trade broke, we've had a number of players and agents that have reached out to us to express interest in the opportunity."
The Phillies finally put an end to the season finishing in last place in the NL East with a record of 63-99. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances, this has ended up being one of the worst seasons in franchise history! However, at least Ryan Madson got another ring this year.