Mar 12, 2020

Checking In On Former Phillies

The 2020 season is scheduled to begin two weeks from today.  With the coronavirus outbreak and the indefinite suspension of the NBA season, it's looking like that's not going to happen.  I can't even begin to guess what this season is going to look like, but I began writing this before the pandemic was widely known, so I'm posting it in the hopes that we see the threat pass and we will still see major league baseball this year.

As we enter a new decade of Phillies baseball, I wanted to take a moment to look around the league and see what's going on with some of the folks who I cheered at Citizens Bank Park over the past ten years who have moved on to other teams.  I know that that I've overlooking a few, but here is a brief rundown of active players who were Phillies at some point over the previous decade.

Atlanta Braves

  • Cole Hamels: The 2008 World Series MVP signed a one year, $18 million dollar contract to pitch for our division rival.  The Good Phight podcasters predictably lost their minds when this happened - the same old chorus singing the same old song - calling the front office "cheap" and suggesting that teams can solve any problem with a big pile of cash.  Quite frankly, I don't blame Hamels for taking the money, and I'm thankful that the Phillies weren't willing to match it.  Sure, it would have been a cool story to see Cole end his career where it began, and if they could have gotten him at a bargain price, I'd be all for it.  However, he's entering his age 36 season.  That's the age where Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee jumped the shark, and their performance from age 30-35 were far more impressive than anything Hamels has done over the past six years.  Additionally, Cole has a lengthy history of health concerns which have continued into 2020.  He's dealing with a hurt shoulder and hasn't been cleared to throw during Spring Training.  I wish him the best of luck, but it wouldn't shock me if his time in Atlanta reminds Braves fans of Ryan Howard's time with the organization in 2017.
  • Travis d'Arnaud: Once a highly regarded catching prospect in the Phillies organization, d'Arnaud was part of the package that was sent to Toronto in the 2010 trade for Roy Halladay.  He spent most of his career with the Mets, with a brief pit stop with the Dodgers and Rays last season.  He signed a 2 year, $16 million dollar contract with the Braves over the winter, and he's projected to be their starting catcher.

Cincinnati Reds

  • Freddy Galvis: Freddy has been one of my favorite Phillies of the past ten years, and I was very disappointed to see him traded to the Padres before the 2018 season.  He's one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, and while he's not going to win any Silver Sluggers, his bat has more often than not outperformed what was expected of him.  He always seemed to have a great attitude and although it's become fashionable to mock this expression, he hustles and plays the game the right way.  He's had some tightness in his left quad, but if he's healthy, he's projected to be the Reds starting shortstop.
  • Jesse Biddle: Pennsylvania state laws are very clear - anyone who speaks or writes about this former first round draft pick must mention that he went to Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia.  Tommy John surgery derailed his career in Philadelphia.  The Phillies traded him to Pittsburgh in 2016, and he's spent the past four seasons bouncing around between the Pirates, Braves, Mariners and Rangers organizations without a lot of success at any of his stops.  He latched onto the Reds on a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.

Cleveland Indians

  • Anthony Gose: The Phillies 2nd round draft pick in 2008 has had an interesting career.  He came up through our system as a center field prospect.  In 2010, he was traded to the Astros along with JA Happ and Jonathan Villar (more on him later) for Roy Oswalt.  The Astros immediately flipped Gose to the Blue Jays, who tried to have him included in the Roy Halladay trade that took place in the previous winter.  The Blue Jays traded him to the Tigers in the before the start of the 2015 season.  He was designated for assignment two years later to make room on the roster for Mikie Mahtook, who was signed to a minor league contract with the Phillies three months ago.  It was then that Gose approached Tigers management with the request to convert from the outfield to pitching.  He was assigned to Class-A Lakeland where he began his second life as a pitcher who could hit 99 MPH on the radar.  He pitched in Triple A for the Rangers organization last season, and signed a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training for the Indians.  Unfortunately, he's been hit pretty hard this Spring, so it looks like another season of minor league baseball for the former outfielder.
  • Cameron Rupp: The Phillies backup catcher from 2015-2017 has been affiliated with seven different teams since he was released by the Phillies.  He spent the 2018 season catching in the minor league affiliates of the Rangers, Twins and Mariners.  He signed a minor league contract with the Giants before the start the 2019 season, but he was traded to the Tigers during Spring Training.  The Rangers released him in May, and he signed a minor league contract with the Athletics and spent the rest of the year with the Triple A Las Vegas Aviators.  This Spring, he's in camp on a minor league contract with the Indians, adding one more to what must be an impressive collection of team hats
  • Carlos Carrasco: Once the top prospect in the Phillies organization, Carlos was traded to the Indians in the deal that brought Cliff Lee to Philadelphia in 2009.  After a rocky start, he settled in and became one of the most effective starters in the American League, including the 2017 season in which he led the league in wins and finished 4th in the AL Cy Young voting.  He was equally dominant in 2018, finishing the season with a record of 17-10 with 231 strikeouts in 192 innings.  Last season was not as kind to Carlos.  During the summer, he was diagnosed with leukemia, but he returned to the mound before the end of the season and was named the AL Comeback Player of the Year.
  • Carlos Santana: Before his career ends, Santana's time in Philadelphia will be little more than the answer to a trivia question.  The power hitting first baseman spent the first eight years of his MLB career with Cleveland before signing a three year deal with the Phillies before the start of the 2018 season.  Matt Klentak believed that he could convert Rhys Hoskins to left field to make room for Santana at first base.  Hoskins was dreadful in the outfield, and Santana was traded to Seattle after the end of the season.  He was flipped back to Cleveland before the start of 2019 where he had an incredible season and made the All-Star Team.  I can't help but to wonder if history is repeating itself with Klentak's decision to sign Didi Gregorius and shift Jean Segura to third base, or if the Phillies should have kept Santana and traded Hoskins before the 2019 season.  Time will tell on both.
  • Cesar Hernandez: The Phillies non-tendered their long time second baseman over the winter.  It didn't take long for him to find work, signing a one year $6.25 million dollar contract with the Indians. I've never been enamored with his defense, but Hernandez has a solid bat and projects as the Indians starting second baseman in 2020.
  • Domingo Santana: The loss of Domingo Santana is one of the more embarrassing moments in the tenure of Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.  The Phillies acquired Hunter Pence at the 2011 trade deadline for prospects Jon Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Josh Zeid, and a player to be named later.  Domingo Santana was one of the Phillies top prospects at the time, and his name was included on a list of players the Astros could choose as the result of a clerical error.  Amaro denies this, but according to a Phillies official, Amaro is lying through his teeth.  The Phillies lost Santana due to sheer negligence.  He's gone on to have a respectable career, including a 30 HR season for the Brewers in 2017.  He signed a one year contract with a 2021 club option to play for Cleveland, where he's expected to be the starting left fielder.

Los Angeles Angels

  • Hoby Milner: This left handed reliever was drafted in 2012 and had an impressive 2017 pitching out of the Phillies bullpen.  Unfortunately, his success didn't carry over into 2018, and he was shipped off to Tampa Bay by the middle of the season.  He signed a minor league deal with the Angels, but he hasn't been impressive in Spring Training thus far.
  • Jake Thompson: Jake was one of the prospects the Phillies acquired from Texas in the 2015 Cole Hamels trade.  He spent three years pitching out of the Phillies bullpen to mixed results.  In 2019, he pitched in Korea for the Lotte Giants, but he was released midway through the season and returned to the states to finish out 2019 in the Florida State League for the Tigers organization.  Like Milner, he's had a pretty rough spring.
  • JC Ramirez: The third former Phillies reliever fighting for a spot in the Angels bullpen last pitched for the Phillies in 2013.  He came to the Phillies along with Phillippe Aumont and Tyson Gillies in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle (and very likely cost the Phillies a shot at a championship in 2010).  He became a free agent after the 2013 season and bounced around between the Indians, Diamondbacks, Mariners and Reds before settling in with the Angels organization in the summer of 2016.  He was converted into a starter in 2017, but went on the shelf with Tommy John surgery in 2018 and has been attempting to work his way back ever since.

Miami Marlins

  • Corey Dickerson: I wish we could have kept Corey in 2020.  The Phillies acquired him from the Pirates for virtually nothing at the deadline last season and he did a fantastic job filling in at LF for Andrew McCutchen.  Unfortunately, there just didn't seem to be room for him, and our loss has been Miami's gain.  He signed a 2 year, $17.5 million contract with Miami, and quite frankly, it wouldn't shock me if he outperformed McCutchen over the next two years.
  • Jonathan Villar: The second player on this list that the Phillies shipped to Houston ten years ago to acquire Roy Oswalt.  He's had a nice career playing for the Astros, Brewers and Orioles, and he finished 2019 hitting .274 with 40 stolen bases and a career high 24 home runs.  He was traded to Miami over the winter where he's expected to be the starting center fielder.  He's been durable throughout his career and won't turn 29 until May, so it's a pretty savvy pickup for the Fish.  
  • Jorge Alfaro: The 26 year old catcher has been involved in two major trades in his young career - the Cole Hamels trade that brought him to Philadelphia, and the JT Realmuto deal that sent him off to Miami.  While I'm very thankful to have the best catcher in the game, this trade is going to be very questionable in hindsight if the Phillies aren't able to come to terms with him on an extension.  In the meantime, the Marlins have a talented young catcher who won't hit free agency until 2024, and whose best days are ahead of him.
  • Pat Venditte: I was annoyed by the way the Phillies handled Venditte in 2017.  The Phillies acquired him from the Mariners in a trade that took place during Spring Training that year.  However, despite his respectable performance for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs the myriad of injuries the Phillies had in their bullpen, the ambidextrous pitcher wasn't called up and spent the entire season in Triple A.  It was the only season since he made his MLB debut in 2015 that he didn't pitch in at the major league level at all.  I didn't expect that he'd be the next coming of 2008 Brad Lidge or anything, but I would have liked to see this unique pitcher make a few appearances for the Phillies.  He's been effective this spring, and his ability to pitch as a righty or lefty could prove valuable to the Marlins for the new three batter rule.
  • Sean Rodriguez: The man with the big mouth and little bat will find out if he's entitled to continue his lackluster career at the big league level.  Not much else to say about him.
  • Sixto Sanchez: If JT Realmuto decides to test free agency after 2020 and signs elsewhere, the trade that sent Alfaro and Sanchez to Miami is going to be looked at with a more critical eye than it is today.  As it stands, I'm already questioning if it was the right move.  As much as I love having Realmuto on the Phillies, I can't help but to wonder what the Phillies would look like with a 21 year old Sanchez and a 23 year old Spencer Howard in the rotation and under team control through the end of the 2026 season.  The financial flexibility of having two young, home grown pitchers with their ceiling may have freed up enough spendable cash to have gone after a player like Anthony Rendon this winter.  It's possible that Sixto might go down the Kyle Drabek path and never live up to his full potential, but it looks like he's the real deal and that he may be in the Marlins rotation by the All-Star Break.

Milwaukee Brewers

  • Andres Blanco: Our utility infielder from 2014-2017 last appeared in the major leagues with the Phillies.  After spending 2018 and 2019 on the Brewers and Braves farm teams, he is once again in the Brewers organization.  in the major leagues has been as a utility player for the Phillies from 2014-2017.  Blanco will turn 36 in the first month of the season and hasn't hit well this Spring.
  • Logan Morrison: It wasn't long ago that Logan Morrison seemed to be putting it all together.  He was the starting first baseman for the Rays in 2017, batting .246 with 38 home runs.  A hip injury the following year has taken its toll.  He spent the first half of 2019 with the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders and opted out of his contract when he wasn't brought up to the Yankees.  Not long afterwards, he was signed by the Phillies and spent a month on the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs before being brought up to Philadelphia.  He appeared in 29 games, mostly as a pinch hitter, and has put up respectable numbers this Spring with the Brewers.
  • Tuffy Gosewisch: When I think of the Reading Phillies, Tuffy is one of the first names that comes to mind.  Known for being an excellent defensive catcher, he was never called up to Philadelphia, but he appeared in parts of four seasons with the Diamondbacks.  Now a 36 year old veteran, Tuffy is entering his second season as a member of the Brewers organization.  He hasn't appeared at the major league level since 2017, in which he hit .071 in 28 plate appearances for the Mariners.

San Francisco Giants

  • Nick Vincent: I'm a little shocked that we didn't keep him.  The Giants released the right handed reliever last August, and he was picked up by the Phillies.  He was effective pitching out of the Phillies bullpen, ending the season with a 1.93 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched in Philadelphia.  Evidently the Giants front office were impressed with this because he's back with the organization. 
  • Darin Ruf: This is my favorite story of the Spring.  The former Eastern League MVP was promoted when Howard was still on the team and never had a real chance to settle in to a starting job in his time with the Phillies.  Ruf had trouble producing at the major league level without consistent playing time, and the organization preferred Tommy Joseph at first base after the Ryan Howard era, so the Phillies traded Ruf to the Dodgers for Howie Kendrick.  Prior to the 2017 season, the Dodgers sold his contract to the Samsung Lions in Korea where he had three monster seasons.  Ruf signed a minor league contract with the Giants in January and he's been dominating in Spring Training so far.  I truly believe the Phillies never gave this guy a real chance.  At 33 years old, I hope that he gets that opportunity in San Francisco.
  • Drew Smyly: For reasons I cannot explain, my dad loves this guy and he was pretty pissed that the Phillies didn't keep him in 2020.  We got him last July at a time when the Phillies needed anyone with two arms and had pitched in the major leagues before.  He started hot, but regressed to career norms before the end of the season.  He projects to be in the rotation for the rebuilding Giants.
  • Hunter Pence: He and Pedro Martinez are at the top of my list of favorite players who were only on the Phillies for a short period of time.  Pence was signed to a minor league contract with the Rangers a little over a year ago, and he turned that opportunity into an All-Star season in which he hit .297 with 18 home runs in 83 games.  He's turning 37 in April, but I wouldn't count him out - especially on a team like the Giants where he'll get plenty of opportunity to play.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Charlie Morton: Matt Klentak will always be remembered as the general manager who brought Gabe Kapler to Philadelphia.  While he is rightly criticized for that decision, I believe he's been unfairly criticized for bad luck with some of his player acquisitions.  At the top of this list is Charlie Morton.  Klentak landed Charlie Morton in an absolute steal of a trade with the Pirates before the 2016 season.  Unfortunately, he tore his hamstring in just his third start with the Phillies and was out for the season.  I suppose I can't blame the Phillies for not resigning him after that, but he went on to pitch extremely well in Houston.  He was an All-Star in both of the past two seasons, and he finished third in the running for the AL Cy Young last season with the Rays.  It's a shame he wasn't able to stay healthy in 2016.
  • Dylan Cozens: It wasn't too long ago that Hoskins and Cozens were hitting the cover off the ball in Reading and Lehigh Valley.  Now, he's going into the first of a two year minor league contract with the Rays, who hope to tap into some of the potential he had on the Phillies farm.

Toronto Blue Jays

Before I talk about these guys, I have to say that I love seeing these two photos side-by-side.  They look like the opening shot of a baseball-themed reboot of The Odd Couple.  Couldn't you just picture a sitcom with "Wild" Ken Giles and mild-mannered Phillippe Aumont forced to be roomates in a Toronto high rise apartment?

  • Ken Giles: The former Phillies closer was shipped off to Houston prior to the 2016 season for a package that included Vince Velasquez and former #1 overall pick, Mark Appel.  Now that I think about it, the Phillies had quite a few #1 overall picks in the organization over the past decade: Appel, Delmon Young, Mickey Moniak and Bryce Harper.  One of these guys is not like the others.  Anyway, I'm always in favor of a rebuilding team trading a young closer.  Even in retrospect, I think this trade was the right move.  Velasquez may or may not work out for the club, but it was worth a shot.  Giles, on the other hand, has had highs and lows in his time with Houston, but he turned things around in Toronto last season, notching 23 saves, a 1.87 ERA and 14.1 strikeouts per 9 innings.  If he replicates this success in 2020, I wouldn't be surprised to see Toronto shop him around at the deadline.  I wonder if they'll take Velasquez for him (j/k).
  • Phillippe Aumont: I was shocked to learn that he's still pitching, and even more shocked to learn that he's only 31.  The former first round draft pick was the key prospect that the Phillies acquired from Seattle after Amaro's foolish decision to trade Cliff Lee before the 2010 season.  The Mariners had converted Aumont to the bullpen prior to the trade, and the Phillies felt that he could still develop into a major league starting pitcher.  The Phillies were wrong.  In fact, he wasn't great out of the bullpen either.  He was designated for assignment and left the organization midway through 2015, and has spent the past four and a half years bouncing between the Blue Jays, White Sox and Tiger's organization, with a brief retirement and a season in independent baseball thrown in for good measure.  Now he's back with the Blue Jays on a minor league deal.

Washington Nationals

  • Asdrubal Cabrera: The Phillies picked up Cabrera at the deadline in 2018 in their fight for a Wild Card spot.  He didn't produce, and the Phillies didn't reach the post season. The Nationals did the same in 2019.  Cabrera responded by going on a tear for the last two months of the season, batting .323 with 40 RBI and more walks than strikeouts.  Cabrera started at second base for Game 7 of the World Series.  He hit .286 against the sign stealing Astros and got his World Series ring.  The moral of the story: sometimes it works when you pick up a veteran at the deadline, and sometimes it doesn't.
  • David Hernandez: A journeyman middle reliever who had a respectable season with the Phillies in 2016.  He signed a two year contract with the Reds prior to the 2018 season which resulted in a productive 2018 and a not-so-productive 2019.  He signed a minor league deal with the Nats and hasn't had a great Spring so far.
  • Howie Kendrick: The Phillies traded first baseman Darin Ruf for Kendrick before the start of the 2017 season only to flip him to the Nationals at the trade deadline for a minor league pitcher, who was in turn sent to the Marlins during the 2018 season in a trade for first baseman Justin Bour.  Kind of makes you wonder what would have happened if they just kept Ruf or Kendrick, both of whom were superior options at first base to the guy they ultimately ended up with.  Injuries derailed Kendrick in 2018, but he had one of the most productive seasons of his career in 2019 which was capped off by a home run in Game 7 of the World Series that gave the Nationals the lead and the championship.

Around The League

  • Drew Anderson (Chicago White Sox): A late round draft pick back in 2012, Anderson spent the end of the decade bouncing between Allentown and Philadelphia as injuries took their toll on the Phillies bullpen.  He's on a minor league deal with a new organization for the first time in his career.
  • Maikel Franco (Kansas City Royals): I've been a Franco fan since he played for Reading.  He's a much better defensive third baseman than anyone seems to give him credit for, and while he has been a streaky hitter, those hot streaks have been pretty incredible.  Once again, he's tearing it up in Spring Training, but for the first time in his career, he's doing so outside of the Phillies organization after being non-tendered this winter.  I'm truly rooting for the guy.  I hope he proves the naysayers wrong and has a tremendous season with the Royals.
  • Cody Asche (Minnesota Twins): Asche was once a highly regarded prospect in the organization.  He rose fairly quickly and became the Phillies starting third baseman in 2014 and 2015 prior to Franco.  There were moments when he looked good at the plate, but his defense was always a problem.  He was designated for assignment after 2016.  Since that time, he's been a part of the White Sox, Royals, Yankees, Mets, Dodgers and Red Sox organizations, some of which only lasted for a month or two.  This past off season, he signed a minor league contract with the Twins.
  • Wilson Ramos (New York Mets): The Buffalo was traded to the Phillies at the 2018 deadline, but he had a hamstring injury at the time, so he wasn't able to contribute until September.  He was a beast at the plate when he was healthy, batting .337 in 33 games, and he threw out 44% of baserunners in his time splitting catching duties with Jorge Alfaro.  He entering the second and final year of the contract he signed with the Mets after the 2018 season.
  • Jake Diekman (Oakland Athletics): The Phillies drafted Diekman in 2007 and made he made his major league debut five years later.  He was very effective pitching out of the bullpen, particularly against lefties, and he made his mark on Phillies history on Labor Day 2014 by pitching an inning of a combined no-hitter against the Braves (with Cole Hamels, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon).  He signed a two year contract with Oakland this past winter after he came to the Athletics in a trade from the Royals a few days before the 2019 deadline.  This was actually the third time he was traded in the last week of July.  The first was in 2015 when the Phillies dealt he and Cole Hamels to the Rangers for Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Matt Harrison, Jake Thompson, Alec Asher, and...
  • Jerad Eickhoff (San Diego Padres): Eickoff was one of the pitching prospects that the Phillies got from the Rangers in the 2015 Cole Hamels trade.  Surprisingly, Eickhoff's second half with the Phillies in 2015 was comparable to Hamels with the Rangers.  Cole threw more innings, but Eickoff's ERA was lower by a full run (2.65 to Hamels 3.66) he had a slightly better WHIP (1.039 to Hamels 1.195).  No one ever believed Eickhoff would develop into a better pitcher than Cole Hamels, but it was encouraging nonetheless.  He was a solid middle of the rotation starter for the next two seasons, but injuries plagued him over the past two years and he was never the same.  The Phillies cut him loose over the winter, and he signed a one year deal with the Padres.
  • JP Crawford (Seattle Mariners): A former first round draft pick and top prospect in the Phillies organization.  When he was still in the minors, I hoped that the Phillies would extend Freddy Galvis and move Crawford in a trade for a a starting pitcher.  Unfortunately, they traded Galvis instead and promoted Crawford.  Not only was he not able to live up to his superstar potential - he wasn't able to surpass what Galvis offered the Phillies, offensively or defensively.  I'm not gonna lie, I'm still a little bitter about the decision to move Galvis and keep Crawford.  Anyway, Crawford and Carlos Santana were traded to Seattle in a package for Jean Segura (with the Mariners immediately flipping Santana back to Cleveland), and Crawford's time with the Mariners hasn't been much better than his time in Philadelphia up to this point.  He's only 25, so there's still time for him to turn things around, but he's looking like far less of a sure thing than he did five years ago.
  • Brad Miller (St. Louis Cardinals): I was hoping the Phillies would have kept Bamboo Brad in 2020.  Unfortunately, it wasn't in the cards, and now he's on the Cards.  See what I did there?  Ya know... cause he signed with St. Louis.  Alright, I'll stop now.
  • Joely Rodriguez (Texas Rangers): I learned that the Phillies had a minor league pitcher named Antonio Bastardo back in 2007 - his first season with the organization.  I forget what I was reading, but I remember that I was sitting at my grandparents' kitchen table having dinner with my dad and grandmother.  My grandmother's go-to word when she would get mad at Dad or I was "bastard".  She called us that so many times that you might have thought it was a nickname.  So, when I saw his name on a box score or whatever I was reading at the time, I looked up and told my Dad and we both laughed hysterically while my grandmother looked on in bewilderment.  Sure enough, Tony The Bastard worked his way up to the majors and was a weapon out of the Phillies bullpen for a time.  He quickly became our favorite player, and Dad and I followed his appearances closely.  I was very disappointed when he was traded for Joely Rodriguez prior to the start of the 2015 season.  Rodriguez was never as effective as Bastardo.  The Phillies eventually traded him to the Rangers, and he eventually ended up in Japan playing for the Chunichi Dragons, who were famous in the States after they were the focus of the Tom Selleck movie Mr. Baseball.  Rodriguez was effective in one and a half seasons in Japan, and he threw the fastest pitch thrown by a lefty in NPB history while he was there.  He's now back in the States on a two year contract with the Rangers.  Side note: Bastardo hasn't pitched outside of the Dominican Winter League since 2017.

Players That I've Forgotten And Hastily Added At The Last Minute
  • Erik Kratz (New York Yankees): Spent a few seasons catching in Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley at the start of the decade, and again in 2015.  Re-signed a minor league contract with the Yankees.
  • Alec Asher (Minnesota Twins): Split 2019 between the Atlantic League and China.  Returned to the USA to sign a minor league contact with the Twins.