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.

Red Sox Fans Watched Jon Lester Struggle Sunday Night

Jon Lester

As Red Sox fans woke up on Easter Sunday morning, they had to be excited that Spring Training games were finally over and their hometown team was opening the season on Monday afternoon in Philadelphia. Before Clay Buccholz and Sox took on Cole Hamels and the Phillies, the season opening game, on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball featured a match-up between NL Central rivals. Jon Lester took the mound for the first time with the Cubs against the Cardinals in prime time.

First off, the choice of teams was a bit of a head scratcher. The Cardinals have been one of the best teams this century, but the Cubs? Jon LesterThe Cubs have been in the basement since Steve Bartman. Why doesn’t Major League Baseball start off the season like the NFL. Have their champion open the season against a rival or a team they beat on their way to a championship? The Patriots will open the NFL season, so the Giants should have opened the MLB season.

As baseball fans tuned into Sunday’s game, some Red Sox fans may still have a sour taste in their mouth. Lester won two World Series’ with the Sox, and many fans felt as if they were teased into thinking he was coming back after a trade deadline deal with Oakland. I felt the trade to Oakland only meant that it would be easier for him not to return, after experiencing another clubhouse, and thinking, “maybe I could play somewhere else.” Lester went on to sign a six year, $155 million deal with the Cubs. The Red Sox came in with an offer substantially lower, so he walked to Theo Epstein and the Cubs, which many felt made the sour taste in their mouth that much more bitter.

The start for Lester did not go as planned. He did not get out of the fifth inning— tossing 4 1/3, allowing 8 hits and 3 runs. The Cubs continue to be the Cubs right? Obviously the Cubs have more talent than they have had in the past decade, so Lester will have better outings this season. With the report of Lester having “dead arm” this spring, one has to think the Cubs will keep an eye on Lester’s pitch count until he is comfortable, but some Cubs fans are holding their breath already while Red Sox fans should be more open-minded about not bringing Lester back.

Many fans have still not let the signing of Lester go, saying the Red Sox need an ace. Ben Cherington will find a top of the rotation starter this season. The Red Sox decided not to pay a pitcher in his 30’s premium money, a move I support. The Yankees are going through a tough time with C.C. Sabathia, as are the Phillies with Cliff Lee. Jon Lester will have some great years in the Chicago but he will also likely not be worth the money in the long run.