Phillies Acquisitions Will Make for a Tight NL East Finish

The Phillies had already won the off-season before the fateful day of February 28. That’s when news broke that they acquired the transcendent talent known as Bryce Harper. Signing the right fielder to a mega deal (13 years, $330 million) was a bold move by the Philadelphia brass. However, many other Phillies acquisitions have the club in position to take control of what suddenly has become a very competitive division.

Phillies acquisitions: The outfield

Bryce Harper: Despite a down year in 2018, Harper, along with Manny Machado, were the Phillies Acquisitionsprized possessions on the free market this winter. With talk about nine digit baseball contracts, the Las Vegas native had the chance to break the bank. It didn’t come until Spring training began, but it was worth waiting for. Harper, temporarily, was awarded the largest free agent contract in American sports history. If he can give the Phillies close to his 2015 MVP season production, the deal will pay for itself. If he is pedestrian (if .249/.393/.496 is pedestrian), then it’ll take more than Harper to vaunt the Phillies into first place.

Andrew McCutchen: Once one of the game’s brightest stars, McCutchen’s value has diminshed in recent seasons. However, despite a drop off in runs batted in, the former Pirate posted close to his career averages across many categories in 2018. Standing out among them was a .792 OPS, 30 doubles, and a near-career high 95 walks. However, his strikeout numbers are soaring, he’s on the wrong side of 30, and is relegated to the corner outfield positions. But there’s no doubt his value as a veteran presence around a relatively young Philadelphia team is a welcomed sight.

Phillies Acquisitions: The Infield

J.T. Realmuto: The Phillies acquired arguably the game’s best catcher in 2018, a first-time all-star and silver slugger award winner. Over just 125 games, Realmuto set career highs in runs (74), home runs (21), RBI (74), and OPS (.825). The backstop long ago requested a trade from the Miami Marlins, after team president Derek Jeter decided to fire sale most of the talent off the club. Without Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna, Realmuto was stuck on a hopeless squad. Now, he’s in position to contend.

Jean Segura: Widely considered one of the game’s most underrated talents, Segura, 29, is already on the fifth different team of his career. He previously had time with the Angels, Brewers, Diamondbacks, and most recently, the Mariners. The Dominican-born product has seen success everywhere he has played, and has two all-star appearances under his belt (2013, 2018). While a .766 OPS over the last two seasons is nothing spectacular, he has consistently been above-league average offensively. According to Fangraphs, only four shortstops have posted a higher wRC+ than Segura’s 117 over the past three seasons, and only six have produced more WAR.

Phillies Acquisitions: The Bullpen

David Robertson: A stellar 2017 season put Robertson on the upper echelon of late inning relievers. 2018 slowed down that narrative. A 3.23 ERA is a sizable regression from 1.82. But Robertson has been a rock throughout his 11-year career, logging over 60 innings pitched in each of his last 9 seasons. He brings closing experience to a club with a cavalry of veteran arms. He figures to be a key part of the division’s strongest bullpen.

Given the major talent overhaul in the city of brotherly love, do not be surprised to see the Phillies make a big jump in 2019. But they’ll have to get through talented squads in Washington, Atlanta, and New York to do so.

Cole Hamels Traded to the Rangers

One more potential target for the Red Sox is now off the board. Cole Hamels, who had been mentioned for months as a possible target for the Red Sox dating back to when the Chicago Cubs signed Jon Lester, was traded to the Texas Rangers on Wednesday for 3 prospects from the Texas Rangers according to Fox Sports.

Whether you particularly wanted Cole Hamels in a Red Sox uniform or not (I know I didn’t), that makes 2 potential targets, Hamels and Johnny Cueto, that the Red Sox hadcole hamels traded been linked with in the media now in different uniforms. Cole Hamels is in Texas, while Johnny Cueto is now in Kansas City. While I stand by the fact that I didn’t want Hamels in Boston, the fact that the front office hasn’t been active enough when it comes to pitching makes me crazy. From all reports, it sounded like Ben Cherington wasn’t very active with either guy, which is worse than not actually getting the guys.

Whether the Red Sox buy or sell before Friday’s deadline is somewhat irrelavent. The worst thing they could do is stand pat with the guys they have on the roster. For the most part, the 2015 Red Sox have been largely disappointing, and they have to make major changes if they expect to get back into contention. That starts with getting at least one solid starter before the deadline. The Red Sox have also been linked with Sonny Gray, but that’s a pipe dream at this point and would take a miracle.

If I’m surprised by anything regarding the Cole Hamels deal, it’s that he ended up in Texas. The Texas Rangers have a tough task if they want to make the playoff – they share a division with the LA Angels and the Houston Astros, both of whom have been playing good baseball. If anything, I’m surprised a team in better shape to contend didn’t make more of a push. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who sit atop the NL West at the moment, were also rumored to be a frontrunner, but I guess they weren’t willing to pay the price in prospects and in terms of money.

Oh, well. Take notes, Ben. We need at least one more pitcher before the deadline. Pretty please with a cherry on top?

Red Sox trade Rumors: Layne, Hamels

It’s becoming pretty clear that the players on the Red Sox roster right now can’t get the job done. I’ve mentioned this before—this has been a one step forward, two step back season for the Red Sox. After completing an impressive sweep of Oakland, the Red Sox promptly dropped 2 straight to their division rivals, the Orioles. The Sox are incapable of developing any consistency so far this season, and I believe they’ll need to make a move before the July 31st trade deadline if they want to contend. But are the Red Sox trade rumors true?

One player that has long been talked about in connection to the Red Sox is Cole Hamels. Red Sox trade rumorsAfter a rocky opening start in which we pounded him, he has posted a 3.13 ERA through 87.1 innings and a 5-5 record. One of my main concerns throughout all the Hamels-to-Boston talk is what Philadelphia would want in return. Per a report by Masslive, the Phillies have been taking a long look down on the Red Sox farm system. It makes sense – we need a pitcher, and Philly needs young blood, but if the asking price is too high, the Red Sox may want to look elsewhere for an ace.

A player who could be on the block for the Red Sox is Tommy Layne, a lefty specialist who could have some value to a contending team looking to make a push. Layne is one of those strong bullpen arms that a needy contender might need. Right now, lefties are hitting .153 against Layne, and he’s gone 5 straight appearances without giving up a run. That was capped off with a save in the final game of the series against the Oakland Athletics. Could a contender be talked into overpaying for Tommy Layne? It’s quite possible if he keeps performing the way he has.

Layne for Hamels won’t happen, since the Phillies aren’t exactly what I would call a contending team. Since Layne is 30, he hardly fits what the Phillies would be looking for – as I mentioned above, they need young blood. But I will say that if the Red Sox can get Hamels and not morgatge the farm, then I’d be all for it. Before the season, I wasn’t sold, but the Red Sox desperately need an ace, whether it’s Cole Hamels or not. I’m a little tired of the losing.

Mookie Betts Has Come A Long Way Since Last Opening Day

mookie betts

Mooke Betts began the 2015 regular season right where he left off in Spring Training—going 2 for 4, including a home run, an RBI and two runs scored in the Red Sox 8-0 shutout victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Betts led off the bottom of the third inning by lacing an 89 MPH first-pitch cutter frMookie Bettsom Cole Hamels over the left field fence, extending the Red Sox lead to 2-0 at the time. Betts is the youngest player to hit lead off on Opening Day for the Red Sox since Rico Petrocelli did the honors in 1965, according to ESPN.

The road to the show for Betts has been a long one, as the 22-year old Nashville, TN native began last season as the starting second baseman for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs against the Phillies (this time of Reading, PA), before transitioning to center field mid-season.

Betts started that 2014 campaign, one that saw him reach the majors for 55 games with the Red Sox, in a similar fashion to this year. In his first at bat Betts drilled a home run, finishing the day 4 for 4, with three runs scored an a RBI.

“He’s taken an uncommon path to get to this point when you consider last year at spring training he wasn’t even in major league camp and now he’s hitting leadoff in a whole different position,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com.

Even though the last 12 months or so have been a whirlwind for the young outfielder, Betts has remained humble and focused.

“It feels kind of normal now,” Betts said prior to his Opening Day start. “That I got to play last year, then the off season to think about it, and coming to big league spring training, it’s kind of normal now. I got used to it.”

“Everything starts from zero now—I’m not trying to roll anything over, I’m just trying to go out and continue to do whatever I do.”

Hanley Ramirez Grand in Opening Day Win

Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia each swatted two home runs, and Mookie Betts had one of his own to pace the Red Sox to an 8-0 rout of the Phillies on Opening Day in Philadelphia.

Clay Bucholz was dominant in seven innings, allowing only three hits and striking out nine,Hanley Ramirez while allowing only one base on balls. The pitcher that so many thought would be starting for the Red Sox today, Cole Hamels, was roughed up in five innings, giving up five hits, four earned runs, and four home runs—the most he has ever allowed in a game at Citizens Bank Park.

All of the Sox offense was via home runs. Pedroia got things started in the first, and two innings later Mookie Betts delivered with a solo bomb, making it 2-0 Red Sox. In the fifth, Pedroia did it again, with another solo shot. Considering he had seven home runs last year, it’s safe to say he’s off to a good start. He was also magnificent in the field.

Another player who is off to a roaring start is Hanley Ramirez. He had a solo shot in the fifth, and then hit a grand slam in the 9th inning to make it 8-0 Sox, joining Jack Clark (1991) and Carlton Fisk (1973) as just the third player in team history to hit a grand slam on Opening Day.

Some of the big bats were quiet today, with David Ortiz and Pablo Sandoval each hitless, and each striking out three times. Shane Victorino went hitless, but reached twice via walks, and even stole third base. He also went charging into the right field wall to make a gutsy catch in the fifth inning. New catcher Ryan Hanigan reached base twice in four appearances, with a single and a walk.

So what did we learn? Buchholz is pacing for Cy Young Award, Pedroia for MVP, and Hanley Ramirez for the Triple Crown? Well, it’s nice to dream like that early on, but what we did learn is that this team should be a lot more fun to watch than the 2014 version was.

Rick Porcello Signs 4-yr, $82.5 Million Extension with Red Sox

RICK PORCELLO

The Red Sox announced last night that pitcher Rick Porcello has agreed to a four year extension worth in the neighborhood of $82,500,000. The righty also received a $500,000 signing bonus. He will be paid $20 million next year as well as in 2017, and $21 million in 2018 and 2019. His 2015 contract remains a mere $12.5 million.

Porcello was headed for free agency after this season. Following his trade from the Detroit Tigers in December for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, he came to terms on a one-year, Rick Porcello$12.5 million deal. The Red Sox now will have Porcello under contract until he’s 30 years old.

The 26-year-old is scheduled to start the team’s second game of the new season, Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Last year he went 15-13 with a career-best 3.43 ERA, and the first in which he pitched at least 200 innings (204). Lifetime, he is 76-63 with a 4.30 ERA, and a .547 winning percentage.

Since coming into the major leagues six years ago, he has consistently hit double figures in wins, but has never had an ERA lower than 3.43, which he attained last year, and which was his career best. Last year he led the American League in shutouts with three.

So, while this might seem like quite a bit of money for somebody who is just a bit above a lifetime .500 pitcher, the thought process must be that he is young and will only get better. Had he played out what could have been a contract year and done well, he surely would have fielded some bigger and longer offers.

Porcello grew up in Morristown, New Jersey, less than an hour from Yankee Stadium; he attended Seton Hall University, so it’s a good bet that Hank Steinbrenner would have been angling to bring him closer to home. That won’t happen for some time now.