Mar 25, 2022

Touching Base With Former Phillies

Spring Training is underway, and players who have been stuck without a team during the lockout have been signing at a pretty frantic pace.  One of the things that I like to do this time of year is to check in on former Phillies who are still active and see where their careers have taken them since they left Philadelphia.  The last time I did a deep dive on this was in the early days of the pandemic back in March 2020.  It's been two years and a lot of familiar faces have moved on from Philadelphia in that time.  Here is an incomplete list of them, starting with four of my favorite Phillies of the 21st century.

Andrew McCutchen is still one of my favorite Phillies players of all time.  This dude always hustled, and he brought an energy to the ballpark that few could match.  He signed a three year contract with the Phillies in the winter prior to the 2019 season, and although his best days were behind him, his presence in left field along with Bryce Harper in right meant that 2/3 of the Phillies outfield were former NL MVPs.  There can't be too many teams over the years who could claim that.

His first season in Philadelphia started off well (he had hit 10 home runs and was leading the league in walks at the time) but an ACL injury in June of that year ended his season prematurely and his offensive production was never quite the same when he returned to the lineup in 2020, though he was still the same Uncle Larry that Philadelphia had fallen in love with.  I still think the Phillies would have been a playoff team in 2019 if that injury didn't happen.

I was hoping that the Phillies might bring him back as a 4th or 5th outfielder, but I'm sure that he wouldn't want to settle for a role like that in his age 35 season.  On March 16th, he signed a one year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers where he is presumably competing for a starting job.  I hope that he gets it.

Freddy Galvis is another one of my all time favorite Phillies, and I was extremely happy to see him back with the team in 2021 after bouncing around between the Padres, Blue Jays, Reds and Orioles from the start of 2018 to the trade deadline last July.  Unfortunately, the reunion was short lived.  Shortly after the lockout began, he signed with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the NPB in Japan for the 2022 season.  He is the most recent player to have spent a portion of his career with the Phillies and the Hawks, joining Tadahito Iguchi (1997 to 2004), JD Durbin (2010), Vicente Padilla (2013) and Matt Moore (2020).

Andrew Knapp was the Phillies backup catcher for the past five seasons.  He's a very good defensive catcher and he calls a good game, but with the exception of an impressive 2020 season in which he hit a career best .278, he hasn't been much of an offensive threat during his time in Philadelphia. 

One of the few consistently bright spots in the Phillies system over the past four decades has been their ability to develop catchers, and the current farm is no exception.  Two of the Phillies top prospects are catchers (Rafael Marchan and Logan O'Hoppe).  Additionally, the team has added quite a few catchers to their system this winter, including Garrett Stubbs, Donnie SandsAustin Wynns, and Karl Ellison, so it seems that the Phillies were ready to move on in the backup catcher department.  Knapp signed a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds organization.

Out of the members of the 2021 team who will not be returning in 2022, this is the guy who I think the Phillies are going to miss the most.  Hector Neris made his Major League debut with the Phillies in August 2014, and he's been the Phillies on-again, off-again closer for the past seven seasons.  He hasn't always been perfect, but he's been one of the most consistently dependable closers in the National League during his time in Philadelphia, striking out 520 batters to set the all-time franchise record for strikeouts by a relief pitcher.  He became a free agent after the 2021 season, and I was hopeful that the Phillies would bring him back, but he signed a 2 year, $17 million dollar deal with the Astros.

After five and a half frustrating years, the Phillies released Vince Velasquez last September.  It's unfortunate, because he's a genuinely good dude who always took personal accountability when things didn't work out, but the time was right to move on.  He caught on with the Padres to finish the 2021 season and signed as a free agent with the Chicago White Sox in 2022.  I hope the dude unlocks something and can become the pitcher we all hoped he would be after his 16 K / 0 BB performance back in 2016, but even if he does, the time was right for a change of scenery.

While Vince Velasquez took responsibility for his bad outings, Jake Arrieta seemed to do the opposite.  In post-game interviews, he blamed everyone and everything for his shortcomings over what will very likely be the final four years of his career in the Major Leagues.  He became a free agent after the 2020 season, and absolutely no one in Philadelphia was sad to see that the team made no attempt to re-sign him.  He ended up returning with the Cubs at the start of last season, but the reunion ended on August 12th with Arrieta sitting at a record of 5–11 with a 6.88 ERA.  The Padres rotation was absolutely devastated by injuries in 2021, so they took a flier on him four days after his release, but he was somehow even worse in San Diego.  He spent a good portion of his time with the Padres sitting with a hamstring injury, but he did manage to start four games in which he allowed 15 earned runs in fewer than 13 innings (10.95 ERA).  The Padres released him on September 22nd, and he hasn't been linked to any other teams since.

Spencer Howard and Matt Moore both spent time pitching out of the Phillies rotation and out of their bullpen last season.  I had high hopes that Howard would live up to his prospect hype and that Moore would bounce back to the pitcher that he was in Tampa before his Tommy John surgery.  Unfortunately, neither of those things happened.  Howard was traded to the Texas Rangers at last year's deadline, and Moore signed a minor league contract to return to the Rangers earlier this month.  Both are competing for a spot in the Rangers rotation for the 2022 season.

Another member of the 2021 Phillies roster to find his way to Arlington this season is utility infielder Bamboo Brad Miller.  I was hoping to see back with the Phillies this season, but he'll be joining Spencer Howard and Matt Moore with the Rangers instead.

Chase Anderson and Matt Moore were the two starting pitchers that the Phillies signed in the winter before the 2021 season in the hopes that they would anchor the back end of the rotation.  It didn't work out that way for either man.  While Moore has moved on to the Texas Rangers, Anderson has gone to Moore's old team.  A few weeks ago, he signed a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training with the Detroit Tigers.

Ian Kennedy was one of the big mid-season acquisitions that the Phillies made at the trade deadline last season.  He came over in the same trade that brought Kyle Gibson and Hans Crouse to Philadelphia in exchange for Spencer Howard, Kevin Gowdy and Josh Gessner.  The hope was that Kennedy would replicate the success he had in closing games for the Rangers in the first half of the 2021 season, but he instead became the latest of an increasingly long line of relief pitchers to have been successful elsewhere before coming to the Phillies and completely falling apart.  If there is a bright side to Kennedy being named the Phillies closer last season, it is the fact that it gave Ranger Suarez the opportunity to start games and prove himself to be a valuable part of our rotation going forward.

Kennedy became a free agent after the 2021 season, and on March 16th, he signed a one year deal to return to the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he was a starter from 2010 to 2013.

Archie Bradley was one of the major free agent signings the Phillies made to improve the bullpen before the start of the 2021 season.  Injuries slowed him down early on and his year with the Phillies wasn't the best season of his career, but it wasn't the worst either.  He's one of the guys that I would have been happy to see return this year, but he signed a one year contract with the Angels a week ago.  He seems like a good dude.  I wish him the best of luck.

Roman Quinn has been the position player equivalent of Vince Velasquez in that he had a ton of potential that gave you just enough reason to hope, but it never came together the way that we all hoped.  During his time with the Phillies organization, Roman spent a lot of time on the injured list.  It seemed like this dude was constantly hurt.  The Phillies finally had enough and he was non-tendered at the end of November.  He signed a minor league contract with the Marlins earlier this month.  They're pretty weak in the outfield, so I think he has a good chance of being their opening day center fielder and leadoff bat if he can stay healthy through the end of Spring Training.

Maikel Franco and Caesar Hernandez are two of my favorite Phillies in recent memory, and they have have reunited in Washington's infield.  With Carter Kieboom's injury, they're both expected to be the starting for the Nationals on Opening Day.  I wish them the best of luck and hope that they find their way back to Philadelphia at some point in their careers.

Two former Phillies whose names will forever be linked together for all the wrong reasons are relief pitchers Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman.  The two of them were our big trade deadline acquisitions in the middle of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.  Both of them were effective with the Red Sox prior to the trade, and both of them were complete disasters from the minute they put on a Phillies uniform. 

Hembree began last season with the Cincinnati Reds organization and finished with the Mets, but he wasn't very effective for either team.  This year, he has been signed to a one year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  They're not expected to contend for a playoff spot, so it's not a bad place for him to try to work through his struggles.

Meanwhile, Workman signed with the Chicago Cubs for the start of the 2021 season.  He allowed 9 runs in 8 innings of work and was released by the team before the end of April.  The Red Sox picked him up again and he seemed to settle down, pitching to a 1–0 record with 4.95 ERA in 19 appearances out of the bullpen, but he was DFAed at the end of July to make room on the 40 man roster for Kyle Schwarber, who the Red Sox acquired last year at the trade deadline and who the Phillies just signed to a four year deal.

Brandon Workman signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers a few weeks ago, so he'll be competing for a roster spot to join three other recent Phillies in 2022.

And then there's Nick Pivetta - one of the two pitchers (along with Connor Seabold) that the Phillies traded to acquire Hembree and Workman in August 2020.  Like Vince Velasquez, he was a starting pitcher that had a lot of potential to be a key piece in the Phillies rotation, but he could never put it together.  Unlike Velasquez, Pivetta came across to me as kind of an asshole.  I wasn't sorry to see him go, but whether I like him or not, the trade that sent him to Boston was terrible for the Phillies.  If they wanted him gone, they could have, and should have, gotten much better talent in return.

It looks as if Pivetta has finally starting to settle in with the Red Sox.  He finished the 2021 season with a a 9–8 record and a 4.53 ERA , and he is projected to be Boston's #3 starter in 2022 behind Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi.  He's still only 29 years old, so if he continues to improve, I have every reason to believe that he's going to be an effective starter for many years to come.  I'm still glad that it won't be with the Phillies, and from what he has said since leaving Philadelphia, the feeling is mutual.

I don't claim to be an expert on the Phillies minor league system, but I do my best to keep up with the progress of our top prospects.  However, it seemed to me as if Ken Giles appeared out of thin air in 2014.  He made his Major League debut that June, and he was mowing dudes down and pitching in a combined no-hitter before the end of the season.  It looked as if the Phillies had their next elite closer, but it came at a time when the team was in a rebuilding phase, and if there's one commodity that can be dealt away in a rebuild at the trade deadline, it's a young closer with an 100 MPH fastball.

In the winter before the 2016 season, the Phillies traded Giles to the Astros for five players, including pitchers Vince Velasquez and Mark Appel.  It was a trade that seemed to work out for both teams at first.  Velasquez looked like he was going to be a key arm in our rotation for years to come, and Giles was effective and was a key to the Astros tainted World Series Championship season in 2017.

The Astros traded Giles to the Blue Jays at the 2018 trade deadline.  He continued to pitch effectively in Toronto through 2018 and 2019, but injuries caught up to him in 2020 and he underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of the season.  Despite knowing that he would be unavailable to pitch at all last year, the Seattle Mariners signed him to a 2 year deal on February 19th, 2021 with the idea that he'd be ready to return to start the 2022 season.  Well, here we are, and he's throwing in Spring Training games, so we'll soon find out if the Mariners gamble will pay off.

Carlos Carrasco never actually appeared in a Major League game for the Phillies, but he was one of our top prospects that was dealt to Cleveland at the 2009 trade deadline in the deal that brought Cliff Lee to Philadelphia.  After a few false starts, he became one of the most effective starters in the American League with the Cleveland Indians.  He battled back from injuries, as well as a leukemia diagnosis, and was named the AL Comeback Player Of The Year in 2019.

Carlos was traded to the Mets, along with Francisco Lindor, prior to the start of the 2021 season, but his first season in New York was hampered by injuries and ineffectiveness.  He made 12 starts last year and pitched to a 6.04 ERA.

Despite the fact that he's on the Mets, it's really hard not to root for this guy.  He's a genuinely good dude, and he's overcome a lot of adversity in his career.  At the same time, he's 35 years old, his health is questionable, and he's coming off of a rough season.  It's possible that he might be getting close to the end of his career.  However, it's also possible that he bounces back to the dominant starter that he once was.  It's happened before.  If he were a free agent, I most certainly would have wanted the Phillies to take a chance on him.  I suppose we'll see where this season will take him soon enough.

My dad thinks that Drew Smyly is the best thing since sliced bread.  For most of the past two years, he complained that the Phillies were foolish not to keep him after the 2019 season.  He may be right.  He only threw 26 innings for the San Francisco Giants in the strike-shortened 2020 season, but he was solid in the regular season last year pitching out of the Atlanta Braves rotation.  He finished 2021 with an 11-4 record, and although he wasn't too impressive in the post season, he was a dependable starter throughout the season which helped the Braves to win the World Series.

Smyly has become the epitome of a journeyman pitcher.  He will start the 2022 season with his sixth organization since 2019, and his ninth organization overall since being drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2010.  He signed a one year deal with the Chicago Cubs - a team that first signed him prior to the 2018 season, but for whom he has never pitched at the big league level (he spent most of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery, and was traded to the Rangers that winter).  He's only 32 years old, and he's signed to a relatively inexpensive one year contract, so there is every possibility that the Cubs will try to trade him to a contender in need of pitching at this year's trade deadline, at which point Suitcase Smyly will pack up and go to what will be his seventh organization in four years.  Who knows - Maybe my dad will get his wish and Smyly will end up back with the Phillies.

Finally, there's Carlos Santana - the dude whose greatest hit in a Phillies uniform came when he used his bat to destroy a television that a couple of unnamed teammates were using to play Fortnite in the clubhouse during a game.  I would bet money that one of those teammates was Odubel Herrera, but the information has never been made public.  Either way, it's a shame that this team didn't have more guys like Carlos Santana back in 2018 to keep the clowns in line.

Carlos will turn 36 this season, so it is very likely that he's getting close to the end of his career.  He spent 2019 and 2020 with the Cleveland Indians, and he is entering the 2022 season in the final year of his current contract with the Kansas City Royals.  Although he had a comeback season in 2019 in which he hit 34 home runs and earned some down ballot MVP votes, his production has fallen since the start of the pandemic.  It would be nice to see him replicate the success he had in 2019.  I'm rooting for him.

There are plenty of other former Phillies who are still active.  Cole Irvin is pitching for the Oakland Athletics after the Phillies inexplicably gave him away for virtually nothing prior to the start of last season.  Outfielder Corey Dickerson spent 2020 with the Marlins, split his time between the Marlins and Blue Jays in 2021, and will enter this season as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.  Tommy Hunter spent last season between the Mets and Rays organizations before becoming a free agent this past winter.  He hasn't signed with anyone yet and is still listed as an active free agent at this time.  Adonis Medina was claimed off of waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Enyel De Los Santos signed a minor league contact with the Cleveland Guardians.  JD Hammer also signed a minor league contract to return to the Colorado Rockies.  Also, Delmon Young was playing in Australia last time I checked in on him, but I'm not sure if he's still there for the 2022 season.  There are many others who I have overlooked, so if any notable names come to mind, I'll add them to this list, but my main focus for this season are the dudes who are with the Phillies in 2022.  With the bats that the front office have added this winter, this looks to be the best chance that the Phillies have had to reach the post-season in a long time.