Sunday, December 20, 2015

Have Phillies Gotten The Better Deals?


Happy, Happy, Happy – The Phillies are starting from the beginning. Since late July, they have traded three formidable late-inning relievers (Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles and Jake Diekman) for young starting pitching. "That's an extravagance until you get the first part of the game solved," Phillies president Andy MacPhail said Friday, when he and other members of the Phils' front office served meals to the homeless at the Bethesda Project's Our Brothers' Place in Philadelphia. "Really, starting with the Trade Deadline deals that [former general manager] Ruben [Amaro Jr.] made, our job has been to improve the starting pitching." The Phillies have turned over their roster. Eight pitchers no longer with the organization combined to make 97 starts last season, with a 5.21 ERA. "For us to become a postseason-caliber team, that had to improve," MacPhail said. "That had to be the first thing to improve. What we hope we've done in exchange [of trading Papelbon, Giles and Diekman] is propped up our ability to improve the first six innings through our starting pitching." There is more starting-pitching depth. The Phils traded mid-level prospects for veterans Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton, who will be free agents after next season. They will provide veteran leadership to the rotation. Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vincent Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer, Adam Morgan and others will be in camp competing for rotation jobs, with the first three considered the favorites. Pitching prospects Mark Appel, Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin figure to open the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, trying to push the young pitchers in front of them. "As much as you think you might have, you still don't have as much as you think you have," MacPhail said. "We all know that we're going to have some injuries, we're going to have some disappointments. Whatever starting pitching you think you have, conservatively divide by two. But we still hope we're getting enough of a critical mass that it can matriculate up to the big league level." But what about offense? "I really believe that as our team grows more and more competitive, we're going to be able to find hitters," MacPhail said. "It's going to be an attractive place to come. If they think we're winning games, we're going to get the hitters. But the pitching needs to come from the system and needs to come from trades. That's the approach we've taken. We prefer at the present to be accumulating young starters, and then hopefully we'll get to that market. But not yet." MacPhail said he and GM Matt Klentak have worked well together. But how does the relationship work? Clearly, MacPhail had plenty of involvement in the Giles deal. Friday's trade that sent Dan Otero to the Indians for cash considerations? Not so much. "I think part of my responsibility, given my background, is to chart the overall course, to understand where we are at any given time, to be able to weigh in," MacPhail said. "But it's important that our general manager is able to execute the plan. And he's got to have the autonomy to at any given time look across the table at an agent or GM and make a trade. He can't keep running back to get permission from headquarters. That's not the way it can work. "Matt and I talk all the time. We have a joint understanding of what it is we're trying to accomplish. We try to give Matt as much flexibility as he can to [make deals] when he thinks it's the appropriate time. We have a lot of confidence in his ability to do that, and I think he's demonstrated in a short period here that he's capable of doing it."

Phils Serve The Community – The crowd cheered Friday afternoon when the Phanatic stormed into the Bethesda Project's Our Brothers' Place. The approximately 200 homeless people at Bethesda look forward to his visit every year. It is the day the Phillies prepare and serve a holiday dinner at one of the largest shelters in Philadelphia as part of their "Season of Giving." Everybody got a meal, a Phillies cap and a few good memories. "This event is incredibly important to Bethesda Project," Bethesda Project chief operating officer Tina Pagotto said. "They bring cheer and holiday wishes at a time when so many of our homeless shelter guests are feeling the lowest. It goes so far in making a difference for their spirit. The Phanatic running around, giving hope and keeping people smiling and laughing. It, honestly, is probably the best day for Our Brothers' Place. Just having the support of a powerhouse like the Phillies is immeasurable. We're very grateful." Pagotto said the anticipation from the men is very real, too. "They talk about it leading up to the event, and they talk about it after the event," she said. "The Phillies always bring a nice giveaway, so they'll continue to wear those. They'll share pictures of themselves with the Phanatic. The excitement about the Phillies coming lasts far beyond the day of the event." Phillies president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak, broadcasters Larry Andersen, Scott Franzke, Ben Davis and Gregg Murphy and others served food to those in attendance. Phillies chairman David Montgomery addressed the crowd prior to lunch. It was Klentak's first time at the event. "I had heard so much prior to my arrival about the community involvement of the Phillies," Klentak said. "Now I've seen it firsthand for the last two months. A day like this is just tremendous. We have such a supportive community and such a supportive fan base that a day like this, especially around holidays, really means a lot. To meet these folks is really special. "Just to share a smile and a 'Merry Christmas' to people was really nice." Bethesda Project's Our Brothers' Place is an emergency shelter for 149 homeless men. It provides three meals a day and supportive services to more men, including referrals to housing and treatment programs.

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.

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