Philadelphia Phillies Philes Vol 1.17: Surviving the heat

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Phillies are playing better baseball, but that still doesn’t mask the failures of the organization. That and more in this Phillies Philes.

Leading off

The Philadelphia Phillies are surviving the heat. I’m not talking about the temperature, but the pressure they put on themselves after an awful seven-week stretch that saw them relinquish first place… and then second place.

Yet through it all, they’re still in Wild Card contention and two games back of the Nationals for second place amid an uptick in play (last night’s abysmal performance aside). With a record of 4-3 this past week, that’s not too shabby considering they played a four-game set with baseball’s best.

Despite the turbulent year, at least we have meaningful baseball – even if the team, at times, seems like it’s trying to extinguish itself.

Inner Growth?

More from Philadelphia Phillies

Watching the Dodgers this week, I was reminded of what matters most in baseball: player development. Something the Phillies have consistently lacked.

Homegrown talent is what leads to winning baseball. The Dodgers, stacked with MVP front-runner Cody Bellinger, perennial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw, and a talented young core including Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, Alex Verdugo, and pitcher Walker Buehler – all of which were drafted by the team – highlights the importance of building from within.

Look around the NL East – the Braves, led by amateur free agents Ronald Acuña Jr whom the team signed at 17-years old out of Venezuela, Ozzie Albies signed as a 16-year-old out of Curacao, and pitcher Julio Teheran from Colombia supplement the likes of Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley, and pitcher Mike Soroka all drafted by the team.

Head a little north to Washington and the second-place Nationals, led by draftees Anthony RendonStephen Strasburg, and 2005 first-round pick Ryan Zimmerman. Amateur free agents Juan Soto and Victor Robles have developed into perennial All-Stars.

The Nationals remind me a bit of the Phillies circa 2010 and 2011: they have a nucleus of homegrown talent with a handful of expensive veteran acquisitions, particularly with pitching. Whether or not they can maintain their success depends mostly on the continued development of Soto and Robles.

Quite frankly, the Phillies have been awful with player development. The last time they won the division was 2011, and the seven years since of losing baseball has produced two premier players: Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins. Are you kidding me? Top prospect Alec Bohm may soon be the third, but in that time span – and even the years while the team was still winning – they were unable to develop anyone of greater value.

Look at the current pitching; the Phillies staff is comprised of one internal player (Nola). Jake Arrieta – free-agent acquisition; Eflin, Pivetta, and Velasquez – acquired through trades, and how much has each player developed in the years since? The Phillies poor pitching is the reason the team sits in third place and on the verge of missing the playoffs in what was supposed to be a promising year.

This is unacceptable, and it comes after news this week that team president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak signed contract extensions before the start of the season. Where’s the accountability?

Player development leads to winning baseball, not having a fat wallet. I like the signing of Bryce Harper, but throwing big money at free agents does no good when an organization can’t develop its own. Free agents are supposed to supplement a talented core, not the other way around.

The Phillies won in 2008 because the team was built from within. That nucleus was ultimately built from the draft picks of former GM Ed Wade. Since 2006 when he was replaced, the team has swung and missed on nearly every first-round pick.

Do the names Joe Savery, Zach Collier, Jesse Biddle, J.P. Crawford, Cornelius Randolph, and possibly even Mickey Moniak mean anything to you? Probably not. And for every one of them, there’s another Phillies first-round pick during this span that you definitely don’t remember: Adrian Cardenas, Anthony Hewitt, Larry Greene, Shane Watson, and Mitch Gueller. Since 2006, the team has drafted one first-round All-Star: Aaron Nola in 2014.

That’s unacceptable.

This is an organizational problem much bigger than just the general manager, and unless and until there’s a philosophical change at the top, the Phillies will remain a relevant club for brief spurts every 15 years. Perhaps this is why the franchise leads the nation in most losses in professional sports history.

Christmas in July Wishlist

With the trade deadline now 10 days away, the Phillies desperately need help. But like I mentioned last week, trading away top prospects for big-name rentals is not the way to do it. For the Phillies to achieve lasting success, it’s imperative that they focus any trade efforts this year with the big picture in mind. Look for quality players under team control for the next couple of years, or low-level players without a hefty price tag.

Quality players under team control include the likes of Tigers lefty starter Matthew Boyd and closer Shane Greene, the DiamondbacksRobbie Ray, and even the RangersMike Minor and D-Backs ace Zack Greinke to a lesser extent (age).

Unless signed to an immediate extension, the GiantsMadison Bumgarner need not be considered. (Or unless he can be had without dealing anything of significance.)

Regarding position players, one interesting name of note that would be a tremendous fit for the Phillies is Pirates center fielder Starling Marte. At 30-years-old, the two-time Gold Glove winner has plenty in the tank and would immediately improve the Phillies lineup and defensive prowess. He’d also alleviate concerns regarding Odubel Herrera‘s uncertain future in Philly.

I expect Matt Klentak will do something, but not even Santa can bring everything this team needs for 2019.

New editions

Over the past few days, the Phillies acquired two pitchers, veteran left-handed starter, Drew Smyly, and righty reliever Mike Morin.

Smyly, who opted out of a minor league deal with the Brewers, was formerly a second-round pick of the Tigers in 2010. For his career, the 30-year-old is 32-32 with a 4.13 ERA. Not overly impressive, but perhaps a change of scenery will help. On the bright side, it’s not like he can be much worse than what the team was already getting from the back half of the rotation. He’ll start today’s finale against the Pirates.

Mike Morin was acquired via trade from the Twins for cash considerations. In just under 200 innings pitched for his big-league career – all coming in relief – the 28-year-old boasts a 10-8 record with two saves and a 4.48 ERA. Originally a 13th-round pick in 2012, the righty will bring much-needed depth and experience to the Phillies ‘pen.

Most Valuable Phillie Power Rankings – Top 15 (through 7/20/2019):

  1. J.T. Realmuto (C) – Previous Rank: 1 (↔)
  2. Rhys Hoskins (1B) – Previous Rank: 2 (↔)
  3. Aaron Nola (SP) – Previous Rank: 3 (↔)
  4. Scott Kingery (OF/INF) – Previous Rank: 4 (↔)
  5. Bryce Harper (OF) – Previous Rank: 8 (↑ 3)
  6. Cesar Hernandez (2B) – Previous Rank: 7 (↑ 1)
  7. Jean Segura (SS) – Previous Rank: 6 (↓ 1)
  8. Maikel Franco (3B) – Previous Rank: 11 (↑ 3)
  9. Hector Neris (RP) – Previous Rank: 5 (↓ 4)
  10. Zach Eflin (SP) – Previous Rank: 9 (↓ 1)
  11. Jake Arrieta (SP) – Previous Rank: 12 (↑ 1)
  12. Jay Bruce (OF) – Previous Rank: 10 (↓ 2)
  13. Jose Alvarez (RP) – Previous Rank: N/A (↑)
  14. Nick Pivetta (SP) – Previous Rank: 13 (↓ 1)
  15. J.D. Hammer (RP) – Previous Rank: 15 (↔)

“Ring the Bell” Award Winner of the Week

Bryce Harper earns this week’s honor. In a week that saw him deliver his first walk-off hit as a Phillie and with his numbers steadily improving, Harper earns this particular nod for what he’s doing off the field – specifically in the clubhouse with his post-game availability.

The Phillies have suffered numerous crushing defeats this year, yet through it all, Harper answers the bell. He’s made himself available to the media after every game, regardless of circumstance, and that’s commendable. Perhaps that’s a responsibility he’s tasked for himself being one of the game’s highest-paid players, but nonetheless, he’s doing it, which speaks volumes. At just 26-years-old, that takes a mature individual.

Props to you, Bryce Harper. (And the offensive numbers are steadily climbing, too.)

Phillie Pholly of the Week

This goes to the entire Phillies front office and scouting departments for their continuous inability to draft and develop players. As mentioned earlier, winning baseball requires homegrown talent, and the Phillies do a horrible job at this year after year.

The front office and scouting department may take the nod this week, but they’re certainly worthy of this distinction every week for the past 15 years. Hopefully – somehow – this will change.

Phillies Phlashback

Today we harken back just four years ago to sunny Wrigley Field. The date was July 25th, and Phillies ace Cole Hamels on the mound facing off against the eventual 2015 NL Cy Young award winner, Jake Arrieta, and the Cubs.

Hamels was dominant in his final appearance with the Phils – as he’d be traded just six days later – throwing the 13th no-hitter in team history. Ryan Howard provided the power, connecting on a three-run homer in the third, as the Phillies would beat the Cubbies 5-0.

After an adventurous, stumbling final out in center field, Hamels was mobbed by his teammates in what became the perfect send-off. Hamels finished the afternoon affair with 13 strikeouts and just two walks earning his sixth win of the year. He also belted a double in the top half of the eighth, finishing with one more hit than the loaded Cubs roster.

On Deck

Next. Signing Drew Smyly to boost rotation worth the risk for Phillies. dark

The Philadelphia Phillies travel to Detroit for a quick, two-game set with the Tigers before returning home for a pivotal weekend series against the Braves. (Perhaps while the Phillies are in Detroit, GM Matt Klentak can have a face-to-face with Tigers GM Al Avila about the players mentioned earlier. Both Boyd and Greene would look good in red pinstripes.)