The Phillies Start Moving Forward


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Nola at Coca-Cola Park

Yesterday morning I wrote about the stagnant feelings I had about the Phillies, the need to cut dead-weight from the roster, and my general malaise with the team. It’s like someone read my posts. Almost instantly they cut Kevin Correia and announced Severino Gonzalez would return. Then Ruben Amaro Jr. followed that up by saying that Cesar Hernandez, not Chase Utley, is the Phillies “best second baseman” moving forward. They finished up the day by cutting David Buchanan’s Lehigh Valley start short and announcing him as Saturday’s starting pitcher, and promoting Jesse Biddle to AAA Lehigh Valley to start tomorrow. Sure, they played a game and beat the first place Dodgers at night, but that’s a small detail.

All of this is really good, in my view. My thoughts about all the moves, at this time:

  1. Something really big is coming. The Phillies 40 man roster is down to 37 guys, meaning additions are likely coming, meaning a trade is likely coming. This I really like.
  2. Getting Gonzalez and Buchanan up with Morgan gives the Phillies an extended opportunity to see all three the rest of the way. I don’t think there will be room for all three as starters, so getting the chance to evaluate all three over an extended period of time in the majors is a good thing. You know some guys, the Nolas, are the future. You also know some guys, the O’Sullivans and Williams, are not the future. These guys are the questions, and I’d like to see as much of them as possible this season so you go into 2016 with an educated pecking order for Spring Training.
  3. Getting Biddle promoted is also excellent. First, this guy was sailing through the minors before Reading, which became his own personal house of horrors for much of the last 2.5 years. He pitched better since skipping a turn a few weeks back to work on mechanics, and with the need for arms in Lehigh Valley, he’ll get to go there. Ray Burris is an excellent pitching coach who will hopefully get Biddle to be more consistent, and work on his potentially excellent slider. I love this move.
  4. I also love that the Reading rotation is slowly but surely transferring up a notch, where you can better evaluate if they’re ready to pitch in Philadelphia in 2016. Aaron Nola and Jesse Biddle have two of the best arms in the Phillies system, and I’d imagine Zach Eflin could be joining them after the Pan-Am Games, as could possible Ben Lively later. I think we all know Nola will be in the 2016 rotation. It’d be good to see the others all in AAA to evaluate when they will arrive in Philadelphia.
  5. I know that Amaro’s comments on Cesar Hernandez/Chase Utley/Second Base angered a lot of fans, but let’s take a cold dose of reality. Chase Utley was a great player for the Phillies, but he’s 36. He plays a middle infield position, which is demanding. Since about June of last year’s he’s been in a decline that has been fast. He’s hitting well under .200, hurt or not, and this isn’t his first leg injury. Cesar Hernandez is the hottest hitter on the team, he’s a guy who generally hit for fairly decent averages through the minors, he’s much younger, and he’s much cheaper next season if he’s the guy. Speaking of that cheaper part, Utley has a $15 million option if he gets 500 plate appearances, which does matter here. The fact is, Hernandez does have some flaws, which Utley’s defenders bring up over and over, but if he is 70% of the player we’re seeing right now as a starter, he’s better than Utley will probably ever be again in the majors. By playing Cesar, you find that out. By the way, if you play him the rest of the way and he stinks, Utley has a club option that falls between $5 million and $11 million, so you could always bring him back on that if you think Hernandez is that bad, and that Utley’s health will return. This is a no-brainer though. You can’t be sentimental in sports.

So I’m really happy with yesterday. The Phillies started moving forward. If they pull off a big trade now, they’d move forward even more. Hey though, beggars can’t be choosers.

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