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Phils add pair of relievers, but still work to do

Agreements reached with Neshek, Hunter; focus turns to starting pitching
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Phillies left the Winter Meetings on Thursday with two relief pitchers and more work to do.

This week, Philadelphia reached agreements with right-handers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, although the team has not announced either deal. The Phils got both pitchers because they know they have too many question marks in the rotation. If they cannot improve the rotation, they could go with an eight-man bullpen, hoping to offset any struggles from a group of young and inconsistent starters.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Phillies left the Winter Meetings on Thursday with two relief pitchers and more work to do.

This week, Philadelphia reached agreements with right-handers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, although the team has not announced either deal. The Phils got both pitchers because they know they have too many question marks in the rotation. If they cannot improve the rotation, they could go with an eight-man bullpen, hoping to offset any struggles from a group of young and inconsistent starters.

Phillies set to add Neshek | Hunter

"One of our goals for next year is to improve our run prevention in general," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said this week. "One way to do that is improve our starting pitching. Another way to do that is improve our bullpen. And the third way to do that is improve our team defense. Ideally, we'd improve in all those areas and take a giant step forward in run prevention."

What's next
It should be no surprise that Philly has turned its focus to starting pitching. Do not expect the Phils to pursue Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish. Philadelphia is not ready to drop $200 million on a starter, despite continued reports. Instead, it plans to be patient and see if the price for starters on the free-agent and trade markets drops.

"The market just hasn't developed yet to where I have a great sense for how that's going to play out," Klentak said. "We would like to do it if we can. We really like the group of young starters that we have at the big league level and those that are in Triple-A pushing them. We've got numbers in that area. We can take care of the innings with the players we have, and we can give reps to guys that we like and want to learn about, but we would also like to support that group with a veteran if we can."

Hot Stove Tracker

The Phillies will monitor the rest of the market, too. They remain interested in trading shortstop Freddy Galvis or second baseman Cesar Hernandez, but they believe teams are not offering enough to acquire them. The Athletic reported that the Angels thought the Phils were asking too much for Hernandez; the Halos have since acquired Ian Kinsler in a trade.

If Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich becomes available, the Phillies could try to get him. They love him and they have the talent to make a deal, but how much would they pay?

Speaking of pay, Philly is not expected to send a massive package of prospects for one season of Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado, who is unlikely to allow a team to negotiate a contract extension before he can become a free agent following the 2018 season. It is a better bet the Phillies would try to sign him as a free agent next offseason.

Video: Teams have made formal offers for Machado

Rule 5 Draft
The Phils selected right-hander Nick Burdi with the No. 3 pick, but they traded him to the Pirates for $500,000 in 2017-18 international signing bonus pool money. Philadelphia will have 40 players on the 40-man roster once it officially signs Neshek and Hunter.

The Phillies lost outfielder Carlos Tocci, whom the White Sox selected with the No. 4 pick. The White Sox traded him to the Rangers. He was the Phils' No. 23 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.

Phils deal Rule 5 Draft pick Burdi for int'l money

GM's bottom line
"We've checked in with a bunch of teams on their young, controllable starting pitchers. Some of the responses have been, 'We don't want to give up such and such player.' Other responses have been, 'We want X, Y and Z,' which is too much. We're looking for that sweet spot where it's a player we like and the return matches our valuation. So far, nothing has worked out." -- Klentak

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Philadelphia Phillies

Phils deal Rule 5 Draft pick Burdi for int'l money

Righty traded to Pirates; Philly loses outfielder Tocci
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Phillies made one final deal before they left the Winter Meetings on Thursday.

They selected right-hander Nick Burdi with the No. 3 pick in the Rule 5 Draft, before trading him to the Pirates for $500,000 in 2017-18 international signing bonus pool money. The Phils will have 40 players on the 40-man roster once they announce they have signed right-handers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, so they essentially got something for nothing since they could have passed and not made a pick.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Phillies made one final deal before they left the Winter Meetings on Thursday.

They selected right-hander Nick Burdi with the No. 3 pick in the Rule 5 Draft, before trading him to the Pirates for $500,000 in 2017-18 international signing bonus pool money. The Phils will have 40 players on the 40-man roster once they announce they have signed right-handers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, so they essentially got something for nothing since they could have passed and not made a pick.

2017 Rule 5 Draft results

"Our international department, Sal [Agostinelli] and those guys, they're a weapon for us," Phillies assistant general manager Bryan Minniti said. "To have the ability to give them more money to spend -- you guys know that the rate return isn't always that high when you're signing players -- but you give yourself a chance. So any chance we get to give them more to spend, we're going to do it."

:: Rule 5 Draft coverage ::

But Philly also lost outfielder Carlos Tocci, whom the White Sox selected with the No. 4 pick. Chicago then traded him to the Rangers.

"Obviously, it stinks for us to lose a guy like that," Minniti said. "But this is the risk you take when you don't protect everybody. You can't protect all of them. I'm happy for him to get the opportunity, and hopefully we'll get him back."

Tocci was the No. 23 prospect in the organization, according to MLBPipeline.com. He must remain on Texas' 25-man roster the entire season to stay with the Rangers. If Tocci is removed from the roster, he must be placed on outright waivers. If he clears waivers, he must be offered back to the Phillies for $50,000.

In other words, Tocci's Phillies career might not be finished.

Tocci, 22, hit .307 with 19 doubles, seven triples, two home runs, 48 RBIs and a .760 OPS in 474 plate appearances last season with Double-A Reading. He hit .189 in 54 plate appearances with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies hire Flores to complete coaching staff

MLB.com @MannyOnMLB

The Phillies completed their 2018 coaching staff under new manager Gabe Kapler on Thursday by adding Jose Flores as first-base coach and infield/baserunning instructor.

Flores, 46, spent the past five seasons as the Minor League infield coordinator for the Cubs. Prior to that, he was the manager of the Puerto Rico National Baseball Team for two years. Flores also spent 10 years coaching in the Puerto Rico Winter League, and he was a coach for Puerto Rico's team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

The Phillies completed their 2018 coaching staff under new manager Gabe Kapler on Thursday by adding Jose Flores as first-base coach and infield/baserunning instructor.

Flores, 46, spent the past five seasons as the Minor League infield coordinator for the Cubs. Prior to that, he was the manager of the Puerto Rico National Baseball Team for two years. Flores also spent 10 years coaching in the Puerto Rico Winter League, and he was a coach for Puerto Rico's team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Flores joins bullpen coach Jim Gott, assistant hitting coach Pedro Guerrero, pitching coach Rick Kranitz, hitting coach John Mallee, bench coach Rob Thomson, third-base coach Dusty Wathan and assistant pitching coach Chris Young.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Philadelphia Phillies

Glanville sets course to bring social change

Former MLB outfielder to teach class on sports, social justice at University of Pennsylvania
MLB.com

Doug Glanville was the first-round Draft pick of the Cubs in 1991 and went on to have a nine-year Major League career that included stints with the Phillies, Rangers and Cubs. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an engineering degree. Since retiring, he's worked for ESPN and written for a variety of prestigious publications.

Beginning next month, he'll be teaching a class on "Communication, Sports and Social Justice" at Penn's Annenberg School for Communication.

Doug Glanville was the first-round Draft pick of the Cubs in 1991 and went on to have a nine-year Major League career that included stints with the Phillies, Rangers and Cubs. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an engineering degree. Since retiring, he's worked for ESPN and written for a variety of prestigious publications.

Beginning next month, he'll be teaching a class on "Communication, Sports and Social Justice" at Penn's Annenberg School for Communication.

Glanville, who is African-American, developed the concept for the course guided by his own experiences with racial profiling.

Four years ago, he was shoveling snow from the driveway of his Hartford, Conn., home. A passing policeman stopped. "So, are you trying to make a few extra bucks, shoveling people's driveways around here?" he asked.

Two years later, while on assignment as an analyst with ESPN, Glanville and a white colleague landed late one night at Los Angeles International Airport. His co-worker jumped into a cab. When Glanville got to the front of the line, he was told: "Take the bus. It's $19."

He chose to treat those experiences as teachable moments. In both cases he got involved, meeting with legislators and lawmakers, doing the research and working to address the issue. Now he's taking it one step further.

"I want to provide a real-time experience," he explained. "History is important, but I also want the students to respond to, 'Hey, did you see this tweet today?' It's going to have a lot of social media components. We're going to look at headlines, crafting, messaging. A lot of that is empirical because I learned a lot from the two real experiences I had where I saw it going from doing the research, writing something about it, engaging, and then, on the back end, policy shift."

After his employment with ESPN ended a year ago, the 47-year-old began to think about what he might do next. Social justice has long been important to him; his father immigrated from Haiti and went on to become an eminent psychologist, while his mother was a prominent education reformer from the South.

Glanville has been a guest lecturer at Duke, given a TEDx Talk in Atlanta, written for The New York Times and The Atlantic and had numerous speaking engagements on the subject.

"I kind of realized, just looking at what I'd been working on at ESPN, doing a lot of the global games, Jackie Robinson Day, going to Cuba, I've always been really passionate about this space, about the diversity of people. The anthropology of the game, almost," he explained. "Let me just empty the notebook. And it just came together."

He e-mailed his concept to several schools, and Penn responded quickly. Dr. Amy Jordan, assistant dean at the Annenberg School, invited him to teach a class. That went well, and now he'll be responsible for a once-a-week, three-hour course that will run into May.

Broadly speaking, he'll examine the history of social justice in sport and current events, and then look at the most effective methods of communication that can bring about positive change.

"I'm going to throw the kitchen sink at it," he said. "Obviously, baseball is my bread-and-butter, but I want to have something for everyone."

The overarching theme will be developing effective strategies to address social issues and bring about positive change. Based on his own experiences, he knows it can be done.

In Connecticut, Glanville was appointed to the police council and civil rights commission, and Los Angeles launched an undercover operation to determine if the issue was systemic and put a strict, comprehensive policy into effect. In both instances, steps were taken to address racial profiling due to Glanville's work with the appropriate officials.

"It's about giving people a chance to take a deep breath," he said. "The speed of data now is so electric. I'm hoping to bring out the power of the deep breath and getting perspective and getting information. I find that a lot of time, people want to take sides. Yet there's so much space in there that's collaborative and collective and in common that can drive the solution.

"This is really the slow work that's part of making change. It's not necessarily sexy. It's not expeditious. [But] I had two very positive results and learned a lot about the law and policy shifts. So I think when people see the long game, they'll see that, OK, you don't have to have a victory every five seconds. You have to define the goals of what you want to accomplish."

Glanville is excited about this chapter of his life, and also eager to see how far this idea might go.

"I hope to grow it," he said. "Maybe it starts off as a course. And maybe it evolves, to use a term I've been throwing around, into a social justice guidance counselor type of thing. I think it's larger than sports. Maybe something that's institutionalized as a resource center.

"It seems like we should have a place to go to really connect the dots of history, take deep breaths, have forums and discussions, talk to legislators and policy-makers. I just see this as something so much larger, but I'm taking my time with this. I know I have to walk before I can run."

Paul Hagen is a columnist for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Klentak doesn't expect Phils to make big splash

Philly has signed relievers Neshek, Hunter during Meetings
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Phillies plan to make a little more noise this offseason.

No, they are not expected to sign Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish or send a talented package of prospects to the Orioles for one season of Manny Machado. But now that the Phillies agreed to contracts this week with relief pitchers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, they are expected to pursue starting pitching. Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich? The Phillies have the prospects to acquire the big-time talent, so if Miami wants to trade him, one can bet the teams will talk.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Phillies plan to make a little more noise this offseason.

No, they are not expected to sign Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish or send a talented package of prospects to the Orioles for one season of Manny Machado. But now that the Phillies agreed to contracts this week with relief pitchers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, they are expected to pursue starting pitching. Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich? The Phillies have the prospects to acquire the big-time talent, so if Miami wants to trade him, one can bet the teams will talk.

"I would be surprised if we did nothing else," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Wednesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings. "My expectation is that we will have another move before we go to Spring Training."

Klentak indicated the Phillies feel no pressure to find a starter in the coming days. The starting-pitching market remains flooded, in part because the asking price for free-agent starters, even ones not named Arrieta and Darvish, is high.

• Hot Stove Tracker

The same can be said for the starting pitching available via trade. The Phillies have contacted the Royals, who have made Danny Duffy (owed $60 million through 2021) and Jason Hammel ($12 million mutual option in 2019 or a $2 million buyout) available, as well as other clubs.

"I couldn't handicap the way it'll happen or even if it'll happen," Klentak said. "I think we're continuing to stay engaged with some agents. There's a few teams we've talked to about trades, some short-term options, some more controllable options. I just don't know.

"We've said as an industry, we've thought this, the Phillies have talked about this for a long time: It's so important to be able to develop your own starting pitchers, because to acquire them in a trade is incredibly expensive in terms of player capital and to acquire them in free agency is incredibly expensive in terms of total dollars. Maybe never in our history has it been more important to develop starting pitchers."

But a veteran starter would help the cause. Aaron Nola (3.54 ERA in 168 innings) is the only safe bet to make next season's rotation. Jerad Eickhoff (4.71 ERA in 128 innings), Vince Velasquez (5.13 ERA in 72 innings) and Zach Eflin (6.16 ERA in 64 1/3 innings) finished last season on the disabled list, but Klentak expects them to be ready to compete for jobs in Spring Training.

The rest of the group includes Nick Pivetta (6.02 ERA in 133 innings), Ben Lively (4.26 ERA in 88 2/3 innings), Jake Thompson (3.38 ERA in 46 1/3 innings), Mark Leiter Jr. (4.96 ERA in 90 2/3 innings) and prospect Thomas Eshelman.

Video: Zolecki on Phillies adding Neshek, bolstering bullpen

The uncertainty there is why the Phillies got Neshek and Hunter to fill out the bullpen.

"If we're carrying an eight-man bullpen and it's eight quality guys, when Vince Velasquez has his five [innings] and 100 [pitches], we may not feel the same pressure to put him out there to start that inning because we've got an extra guy in the bullpen and we're not worried about what the drop off is in the sixth inning," Klentak said.

Klentak said the Phillies are unlikely to acquire a third reliever this offseason -- think along the lines of Addison Reed -- unless it comes on a one-year deal before Spring Training. The Phillies want to keep some flexibility in the bullpen with players they can option to the Minor Leagues. Relievers like Adam Morgan and Luis Garcia are out of options.

Klentak said the Phillies could add a veteran player for the bench, if it makes sense, but he also can see a scenario in which Roman Quinn is the team's fourth outfielder on Opening Day.

But at the moment it sounds like there is nothing imminent, even as the hotel lobby buzzed with talk about controllable position players on the move.

You know, like Yelich.

"Not really," Klentak said.

Rule 5 Draft

The Phillies have the No. 3 pick in Thursday morning's Rule 5 Draft. Neshek and Hunter have not been placed on the 40-man roster, so the Phillies have room to select a player, but they are more likely to draft somebody, then trade him to another team.

The Phillies have no strong indications that they will lose a player in the Rule 5 Draft.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Philadelphia Phillies

Phils set to add another 'pen piece in Hunter

Club already reuniting with Neshek as it keeps to offseason plan
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Phillies had no intentions of tossing their plans aside and signing a starting pitcher to a nine-figure deal or sending a massive package of prospects to a team for a player in the final year of his contract.

They instead are building a strong bullpen.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Phillies had no intentions of tossing their plans aside and signing a starting pitcher to a nine-figure deal or sending a massive package of prospects to a team for a player in the final year of his contract.

They instead are building a strong bullpen.

A source told MLB.com on Tuesday night that the Phillies have agreed to terms with right-hander Tommy Hunter, who posted a 2.61 ERA and struck out more than a batter an inning over 61 appearances last season with the Rays. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports it is a two-year contract in the $18 million range. The Phillies on Monday agreed to a two-year contract in the $16 million range with right-hander Pat Neshek.

The moves are consistent with what Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Tuesday, despite continued speculation that they will take a run at free-agent starters like Jake Arrieta or put together a package of prospects for Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, who will be a free agent following next season.

"It still has to make sense in the context of the team we're trying to build, the core we're trying to build," Klentak said.

Video: Zolecki on Phillies adding Neshek, bolstering bullpen

The Phillies met this week with agent Scott Boras, who represents Arrieta. But it did not mean they are seriously interested in the 31-year-old right-hander, who could be seeking a contract worth more than $200 million. The organization believes that makes little sense while it is still trying to develop its young core of talent.

"We've spent the last day and a half meeting with most of the prominent agents in the industry," Klentak said. "A lot of agents represent players we're targeting and players we're not targeting, and I can understand why sometimes the connection will get made. We're very cognizant of the fact that we're a large-market team that has carried large payrolls in the past and does not have a lot of future commitments. We know this about ourselves, the agents know this about us, the fans know this about us. I think it's natural to connect the Phillies to players who are going to command a lot of money.

"I've said this before: There will come a time where those connections will be accurate and we will spend again. For where we are right now, we are very committed to giving the reps to our young players, and it would take a pretty special set of circumstances for us to deviate from that."

Video: Sizing up the free-agency outlook for Arrieta

The Orioles, meanwhile, are shopping Machado. But he is expected to become a free agent following the 2018 season, meaning a cost of premiere prospects for just one guaranteed season from Machado.

Imagine trading Scott Kingery, Sixto Sanchez and possibly others to Baltimore only to have Machado sign elsewhere following the 2018 season.

Hot Stove Tracker

"It all has to do with where do I think our organization is now," Klentak said. "Where are we going to be next year and where do we want to be three, four, five, six years down the road and how are we best equipped to get there? I think we have to be open-minded to those scenarios, but the scenario you outlined presents some challenges that make it less likely. But we're open-minded to just about everything."

The Phillies also have been in contact with free-agent reliever Addison Reed. It is unclear if the agreements with Neshek and Hunter end that pursuit.

It is believed the Phillies have also contacted Kansas City, presumably about their pitching. Starters Danny Duffy (owed $60 million through 2021) and Jason Hammel ($12 million mutual option in 2019 or $2 million buyout) and relievers Kelvin Herrera (free agent after 2018) and Joakim Soria ($10 million club option in 2019 or $1 million buyout) are available. The Royals have let teams know they are in a total rebuild and are looking for young prospects in return.

But one thing is clear: the Phillies are trying to build a strong bullpen to compensate for an inexperienced and often inconsistent rotation. The Phillies also want as many solid relievers as possible as they potentially move away from traditional bullpen roles.

"We've seen over the last couple of years somewhat of a shift toward matchups and playing to players' strengths," Klentak said. "We've certainly seen that in the postseason. We haven't seen that quite as dramatically during the regular season. But I think the game is going to trend in that direction. Does it get there in the snap of a finger or do we get there a little more gradually? I don't know. I know [manager Gabe Kapler] is very open-minded about that. Personnel will dictate that to a large degree. We're going to utilize the players in the roles that help us win the most games. If that means we have one set closer, that's fine. If it means we mix and match late in the game, that's OK too."

Extra bases

• The Phillies plan to bring catchers Jorge Alfaro, Cameron Rupp and Andrew Knapp into Spring Training. Alfaro is out of options and is a lock to make the team. Rupp (.716 OPS last season) and Knapp (.736 OPS) both have options.

"We'll have to navigate that," Klentak said. "All three of those guys are Major League catchers. We'll figure out that part."

• The Phillies are interviewing first-base coach candidates this week. It is their only coaching vacancy.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Philadelphia Phillies, Tommy Hunter

Kapler racks up miles to meet with players

Phillies' manager starts new job by making connections
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Gabe Kapler has spent his first few weeks as Phillies manager connecting. He is big into connecting.

Kapler spoke with reporters for 30 minutes Tuesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings. He discussed a variety of topics, including Maikel Franco's revamped swing, a potentially progressive use of the bullpen, rules (or lack thereof) in the clubhouse and conversations about managing with Pat Gillick, Joe Maddon and Joe Torre.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Gabe Kapler has spent his first few weeks as Phillies manager connecting. He is big into connecting.

Kapler spoke with reporters for 30 minutes Tuesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings. He discussed a variety of topics, including Maikel Franco's revamped swing, a potentially progressive use of the bullpen, rules (or lack thereof) in the clubhouse and conversations about managing with Pat Gillick, Joe Maddon and Joe Torre.

Kapler also talked about his efforts to contact as many players as possible before Spring Training. He recently traveled to Miami, where he met with Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera's family, and to the Dominican Republic, where he met with Franco, Hector Neris and others.

Here are Tuesday's highlights:

On traveling to Miami and the Dominican: 
"Most of what I'm trying to accomplish is building connections and relationships with all of our players, like independent of what part of the world they come from. It takes some effort to go spend that time and make those deeper connections, but at some point, those connections are going to be important."

On his conversation with Gillick:
"He walked me through his view of Lou Piniella, his view of Charlie Manuel, who he spoke incredibly highly of. He talked about Cito [Gaston] a little bit, and how those three managers touched their players every single day and went out of their way to establish connections in very different ways. How effective Charlie's approach was and his easygoing demeanor. Talked a little bit about how Lou would walk around the field every single day during batting practice and touch his players and make a connection. Obviously, Lou did it in a pretty intense way, but it was nice to see, it was nice to have Pat walk through -- obviously, he's seen everything in the game -- and have him walk through his experience with those managers."

On phone conversations with Maddon:
"It was less about what he was saying and much more about the energy that he conveyed, which is you belong, you're going to be good at this, and trust yourself. Oh, one of the things he said, which will always stay with me, is don't be afraid to be different. Obviously, I need to hear that from a guy like Joe who sort of has historically dared to be different and is very comfortable being different and has been extraordinarily successful being different."

On how Kapler will be different:
"I had a one-on-one conversation with Joe [Torre]. Joe talked about caring, and Joe's vulnerable and shared that that's a really good thing. I think that will be an area that I might be a little bit different, is just exposing some vulnerability. I'm not perfect. I'm going to make mistakes."

Video: Kapler on process since being hired, coaching staff

On a 2015 blog post that said he is not a fan of rules in the clubhouse
"So, not having rules doesn't mean not having expectations. Not having rules doesn't mean not demonstrating to a player where he needs to improve.

"So it's interesting with the Dodgers in player development, where I was coming from, we didn't have any rules, and what we found is very rarely did players break the traditional rules. You'd talk to them. A guy didn't show up on time, we had that conversation. Everybody knew that it wasn't acceptable. You actually don't have to post a list of rules on the wall for there to be a philosophical agreement that we have expectations."

On who suggested adjustments to Franco's swing:
"It's always the player. In this particular case, I think Franco deserves all the credit for wanting to improve on his performance last year. I think there's a ton of room for growth both on defense and with the bat, and I think that's something that he would share as well. He's a very dynamic player with a tremendous ceiling, and he's in the process of working towards tapping his potential."

Video: Kapler on Franco's potential and his offseason work

On interchangeable roles in the bullpen:
"It's undoubtedly true that I believe that a bullpen and a roster and a lineup work best when players are feeling like flexibility is the way to go. So rather than, 'I am the three-hole hitter' and 'I am the left fielder,' they think of themselves as a baseball player that can move around the diamond and move around the lineup because, again, that gives us the best chance to match them up and put them in a position to succeed, and it gives the Phillies the best chance to win a championship. A lot of this has to do with me getting to know the players better and the roster and learning about the strengths of our players. Some of that is just going to be getting to know them in Spring Training. But the mindset can and will be one of flexibility, and I am not married to any specific role because that isn't mental toughness. If I can only do one thing, that's not a very mentally tough way to start."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Philadelphia Phillies

Source: Neshek, Phillies close to 2-year deal

Reunion with free-agent reliever pending a physical
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Pat Neshek said in July that he would love to rejoin the Phillies this offseason.

A reunion with the right-handed reliever is near. A source said Monday afternoon that the Phillies and Neshek have reached an agreement on a two-year contract, pending a physical. Multiple reports said the deal is worth more than $16 million. The club has not commented on this report, but an announcement could come before the end of the Winter Meetings on Thursday.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Pat Neshek said in July that he would love to rejoin the Phillies this offseason.

A reunion with the right-handed reliever is near. A source said Monday afternoon that the Phillies and Neshek have reached an agreement on a two-year contract, pending a physical. Multiple reports said the deal is worth more than $16 million. The club has not commented on this report, but an announcement could come before the end of the Winter Meetings on Thursday.

"I think we are on the goal line with one," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said, referring to a free-agent signing.

Neshek's return is part of an organizational philosophy to improve the team's "run prevention" capabilities without committing tens or possibly hundreds of millions of dollars to starting pitchers before the Phillies are ready to contend. In other words, Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish are not in play this offseason. Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb might not be in play, either, because they also are looking for long-term contracts.

"There will come a time when we are one piece away," Klentak said. "And in that moment when we feel that we are one piece away or two pieces away, that's when we open up the wallet and we go do what we need to do. But for right now, we are on the cusp of getting to where we want to go, to developing this next young core. This is what happened with [Jimmy] Rollins and [Chase] Utley and [Ryan] Howard and [Cole] Hamels. You guys lived it. We need to give these guys a chance to become that next group."

Video: Matt Klentak on improvements for Phillies in 2018

Expect the Phillies to pursue at least one more reliever to fortify a bullpen that could include Neshek, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Edubray Ramos, Victor Arano, Hoby Milner and more.

"I think if we can run out a bullpen of seven or eight guys that are all high-leverage arms, then we can start matching up in the fifth or sixth inning," Klentak said. "If there are days when our young starters throw 100 pitches to get us through five or six innings, we shouldn't be in a position where that's taxing our bullpen because we have the ability to carry an eighth bullpen member next year.

"We shouldn't be in a position where we lose our competitiveness in the sixth inning because we should have a deep bullpen where we start throwing really good players out there early in the game. If it turns out that's the best way for us to improve our run prevention, then that's the way to do it."

Neshek, 37, posted a 1.12 ERA in 43 appearances with the Phillies, making the National League All-Star team before being traded to the Rockies on July 26 for three prospects: shortstop Jose Gomez and right-handers Alejandro Requena and J.D. Hammer.

Hammer is the organization's No. 30 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. The Arizona Fall League just named him to its all-prospects team after posting a 0.66 ERA in 13 2/3 innings.

"I'd love to come back maybe down the road," Neshek said the day of the trade. "That'd probably be my No. 1 place."

Video: Neshek reacts to being traded to Rockies

It turns out Neshek wasn't just being nice on the way out. He meant it. Of course, $16 million does not hurt, either.

But the Phillies are committed to their process, and 2018 remains geared toward seeing what Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta and other starters can do.

"We scored almost a full run more per game in the second half than we did in the first half," Klentak said. "That was driven by [Nick] Williams, [Rhys] Hoskins, [J.P.] Crawford, [Jorge] Alfaro joining Cesar [Hernandez], Freddy [Galvis], [Maikel] Franco, Odubel [Herrera], [Aaron] Altherr, [Aaron] Knapp. That's exciting to me. Not only do we need to let that play out, we want to let that play out. We want to see what that group can do now that they're more than three months into their Major League careers. What can they do in their first full season? Or their second full season? Baseball aging curves will tell us that these players are likely to get better. How much better? We don't know. But we're only going to find out if we let them play."

Video: Pat Neshek's fantasy value in 2018

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Behind stellar strike-zone command (11.5 K/BB ratio) and an ability to limit hard contact (84.2-mph average exit velocity, per Statcast™), Neshek thrived with Philadelphia and Colorado last season. The Phillies have an established stopper in Hector Neris, who converted 26 of 29 save chances with a solid 3.01 ERA, but Neshek nonetheless could provide value as a late-round option in deep mixed leagues.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Philadelphia Phillies, Pat Neshek

Bid on experiences with new skip Kapler, Kruk

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies fans have heard that manager Gabe Kapler is a nutrition and fitness fanatic.

He is ready to help you reach your fitness goals.

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies fans have heard that manager Gabe Kapler is a nutrition and fitness fanatic.

He is ready to help you reach your fitness goals.

The Phillies have two fan experiences available in a charity auction benefiting the Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund, which is in memory of the late pioneering baseball executive whose career spanned 40 years. Fans can go to MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction for further details about the Phillies' experiences and other items available from other teams.

The first experience is with Kapler. The winning bidder will first receive a phone call from Kapler, who will learn about the winner and their fitness level before designing a workout suited for them. The winner will join Kapler in the Phillies clubhouse to train in the team gym, then move to his office where they will share a catered meal. Finally, they will collaborate on building a sensible nutrition plan to experiment with going forward.

The second is a round of golf with Phillies broadcaster John Kruk. The winner and two guests will play a round of golf followed by lunch with Kruk at ACE Club in Lafayette Hill, Pa.

The MLB Charity Auction, in its sixth year, will focus this year on raising money to fund an annual scholarship that will be awarded annually to a female student at the University of San Francisco who most exemplifies Feeney's character and intelligence as well as someone who possesses the ability to succeed and the willingness to mentor others. The recipient would be an individual pursuing a career in sports management who demonstrates a financial need to attain an advanced degree.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Philadelphia Phillies

Winter Meetings interview with Gabe Kapler

MLB.com

Q. What's your last six weeks been like?

GABE KAPLER: Exhilarating. Challenging. Most of it has been spent on putting together the most dynamic and effective staff that we possibly can. I think that's been a successful venture thus far. Not quite complete. We're still working on a first base coach. Those interviews are happening the last couple of days and have kept us all up a little bit later than we expected. But everything has been going really well. Thanks for asking.

Q. How many players on the current roster have you gotten to meet or talk to in the last few weeks?

Q. What's your last six weeks been like?

GABE KAPLER: Exhilarating. Challenging. Most of it has been spent on putting together the most dynamic and effective staff that we possibly can. I think that's been a successful venture thus far. Not quite complete. We're still working on a first base coach. Those interviews are happening the last couple of days and have kept us all up a little bit later than we expected. But everything has been going really well. Thanks for asking.

Q. How many players on the current roster have you gotten to meet or talk to in the last few weeks?

GABE KAPLER: So I've had some in-person meetings, somewhere between north of six and south of nine. I don't know the exact number. I have had a handful of conversations on the phone, and I've at least touched base, either via What's App with some of our Spanish speakers or text message with a lot of our American players. So I've touched base with everybody and had varying degrees of connection so far.

Q. Have you went down to Dominican recently?

GABE KAPLER: Went down to Dominican, stopped in Miami. In Miami, I got a chance to meet with Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera and some of his family, and then I got to go to the DR and spend some time with Neris and Garcia. Got a chance also to witness Franco on the field taking some batting practice and working on his stroke, which looks really, really good, making some adjustments down there. His effort level looks like it should look. Really exciting stuff going on down.

Q. Why was it important to go down to Miami and the Dominican, specifically, I guess?

GABE KAPLER: It was specifically important to go down to Miami and the Dominican because most of what I'm trying to accomplish is building connections and relationships with all of our players, like independent of what part of the world they come from. It takes some effort to go spend that time and make those deeper connections, but at some point, those connections are going to be important.

It's right around the corner. Spring Training starts very, very soon. I wish it was starting tomorrow, but when Spring Training rolls around, I already want those connections established and relationships in place.

Q. What exactly is the change that Franco's made with his stroke, and who initiated that?

GABE KAPLER: So he's working down there with our Latin American field coordinator, but I think, if you really want to get down to who initiates a change in a player's stroke, it's always the player. In this particular case, I think Franco deserves all the credit for wanting to improve on his performance last year. I think there's a ton of room for growth both on defense and with the bat, and I think that's something that he would share as well.

He's a very dynamic player with a tremendous ceiling, and he's in the process of working towards tapping his potential.

Q. It's been a week since you've been hired. Is there anything you've been doing to, I guess, learn about what these guys have been doing on the field the last couple seasons? Have you been watching video of any of these guys, or what have you been doing to see where they are at this point in their careers?

GABE KAPLER: I think the best way for me to find out what our players are up to is by asking them. Additionally, asking some of our great player development staff about what they worked on in the past with these players.

I've spent quite a bit of time looking at video and finally spending time on some numbers, which I really enjoy. I've always liked digging into what makes a player good at his job and really focusing on the positives, right?

I think traditionally in player development, traditionally major league staff looked to find out what players are doing wrong, and I think there's a whole lot of room for us to look at things they're doing very, very well, point out those things to our players and identify them with a lot of conviction so that they feel like we're behind them. If I've been doing nothing else, it's been trying to dig into what our players do very, very well.

Q. What's the best piece of advice you've gotten since you got the job, and who gave that to you?

GABE KAPLER: I would say this morning I had some really meaningful conversation with Pat Gillick. He walked me through his view of Lou Piniella, his view of Charlie Manuel, who he spoke incredibly highly of. He talked about Cito a little bit and how those three managers touched their players every single day and went out of their way to establish connections in very different ways. But how effective Charlie's approach was and his easy going demeanor. Talked a little bit about how Lou would walk around the field every single day during batting practice and touch his players and make a connection. Obviously, Lou did it in a pretty intense way, but it was nice to see -- it was nice to have Pat walk through -- obviously, he's seen everything in the game, and have him walk through his experience with those managers.

Q. Joe Maddon was talking today about how he's been talking to you on the phone and seeing you, and you mentioned you watched what he did when you were playing for him. Did he give you any advice? I guess, what have those conversations been like?

GABE KAPLER: It's really interesting, and this is very similar to the way it was when I played for Joe. It was less about what he was saying and much more about the energy that he conveyed, which is you belong, you're going to be good at this, and trust yourself.

Oh, one of the things he said, which will always stay with me, is don't be afraid to be different. Obviously, I need to hear that from a guy like Joe who sort of has historically dared to be different and very comfortable being different and has been extraordinarily successful being different.

It's not just the words that Joe says, it's the support that he gives you through the way he looks at you, the way he touches you. He's a pretty powerful individual.

Q. Where will Gabe Kapler be different? Or how will Gabe Kapler be different?

GABE KAPLER: You know, this is another extraordinary conversation I had today with Joe Torre. I had a one-on-one conversation with Joe. Joe talked about caring, and Joe's vulnerable and shared that that's a really good thing.

I think that will be an area that I might be a little bit different is just exposing some vulnerability. I'm not perfect. I'm going to make mistakes. I'm going to lean on the expertise of our staff. Putting together a staff with a lot of diversity of thought. And I'm going to lean on those varying degrees of experience and different ways of looking at and solving problems.

Joe talked about not being afraid to lean on those guys.

Q. What do you think -- I don't know how much you've analyzed the roster. What do you think the team's greatest need is right now as we're almost halfway through the winter here?

GABE KAPLER: I think the team's greatest need is to have everybody develop just a little bit from where they were last year. So we have this really exciting core of young players in their mid-20s who in many ways are establishing themselves as major league players. And we saw some pretty significant steps forward in the second half. If we see that -- those guys taking those steps forward like they did in the second half plus one tick up in development, I think we're looking at a pretty healthy opening day roster. When I say healthy, I don't mean like healthy on the field, but strong and capable.

Yeah, and I think what's very cool is we have a lot of flexibility to move our infield pieces around, by way of example. I think there's a lot of exciting things to point to.

Q. You talked in 2015 about rules and not being a big fan of rules and believing that a player would be better without rules. What's a baseball team kind of look like without rules, and how would you implement that in Spring Training?

GABE KAPLER: So not having rules doesn't mean not having expectations. Not having rules doesn't mean not demonstrating to a player where he needs to improve.

So by way of example, if you don't have a rule about facial hair, and a man comes to the ballpark and his facial hair is down to his belly button, we might just say, hey, this is how this looks to your teammates. There's no rule against not having a beard down to your belly button, but I just want to hold up an accurate mirror for you. People are going -- society passes judgment, whether we like it or not. So it's almost like every decision you make in a Major League Baseball clubhouse has repercussions.

So one of the ways that you sort of police it is by challenging. And when people aren't living up to expectations, it's sharing that there's no rule against what you just did; however, there is a consequence for the action, and here's what it is. It's not always the same. It's not always that you pull a guy out of the game. It might be that he might lose his teammate in the locker next to him. His teammate might have less confidence in him because of that decision.

So it's interesting with the Dodgers in player development, where I was coming from, we didn't have any rules, and what we found is very rarely did players break the traditional rules. You'd talk to them. A guy didn't show up on time, we had that conversation. Everybody knew that it wasn't acceptable. You actually don't have to post a list of rules on the wall for there to be a philosophical agreement that we have expectations.

Q. Gabe, you mentioned the core. Assuming nothing happens this off-season with movers, how do you see the infield playing out? You mentioned rotating. Could you talk about that?

GABE KAPLER: I see that as a huge advantage. Let's say we have Caesar and J.P. and Freddy and Franco, I think it's an advantage to those guys because we're going to have a unique opportunity to put them in positions to succeed by matching them up effectively.

Circling back to Joe Maddon, I think one of the things he's done really, really well with the Cubs is used all of his players and given them blows effectively to keep them healthy. But also by the end of the year, their numbers are stronger. They perform better because they were matched up more efficiently and more effectively.

I actually see it as a win, win, win. Win for the Phillies because we have the best lineup on the field most of the time. A win for the players because they end up putting up better numbers at the end of the year. And just like a win for all of us collectively. So I see it as, from my perspective, I think it's good for all of us.

Q. You don't think it's a problem selling to a player who used to play every day that he may not be playing every day?

GABE KAPLER: You see, it still turns out to be playing regularly. While it might not be -- it may not be -- again, no absolutes here. It may not be 162. This is really regular playing time. It's just moving around a little bit and getting an effective blow. I don't think it's a difficult sell to a player when you can sit them down and say, here's how it's been done with the Cubs, and here's how it was done with the Dodgers, and here's what these players accomplished at the end of the year.

And it's not just a team goal of going to the playoffs or winning a World Series, it's the individual goals and how some of those like on base percentage numbers improve, how guys stay healthier over the course of time because they're not worn down. I just don't see that as being a difficult sell. I see that as being a pretty effective and direct sell.

Q. I know there was a lot of talk when you were with the Dodgers and the nutrition and all that stuff. Is that something that you're planning to do as manager and implement those same philosophies and strategies, I guess?

GABE KAPLER: I would say that the philosophy and the strategy is educate, educate, educate. Present our players with the best possible options, the most nutrient dense options, and then say, here are how these nutrients work in your body and how they have a chance to make you a more effective baseball player. Now go choose. You're grown-ups.

And I think that's one of the things, sort of talking through the rules concept, grown-ups don't like to be -- in my opinion, grown-ups don't like being told what to do. They like to be given choices and given the chance to make sensible ones. It doesn't always play out the way you expect it to, but I think through a relentless approach of educating, educating, educating, you get there over the course of time.

Q. Players that are better athletes. With all the information available, do you think they're mentally better than ever before? Do they understand the game better?

GABE KAPLER: I do because I believe in the concept of, as we acquire more information and as our bodies -- as human beings, as we evolve, I think we do become bigger, faster, stronger, more intelligent. And there's more information out there. If we're effective at delivering that information, if we do it in bite-sized chunks and we share it with a lot of conviction -- some degree of coaching is sales. So if we sell the information well and market it well, yeah, I do think mentally players become stronger. They become better equipped to manage their matchups, by way of example. They're more confident and convicted in delivering a pitch or taking a pitch, for example, as well.

Q. Do you see your bullpen pieces as interchangeable as opposed to pitchers fitting into this is my seventh inning guy, this is my eighth inning guy, this is my closer?

GABE KAPLER: So right now, I still want to get to Spring Training and watch these guys in person. So it's undoubtedly true that I believe that a bullpen and a roster and a lineup works best when players are feeling like flexibility is the way to go.

So rather than I am the 3 hole hitter and I am the left fielder, they think of themselves as a baseball player that can move around the diamond and move around the lineup because, again, that gives us the best chance to match them up and put them in a position to succeed, and it gives the Phillies the best chance to win a championship.

A lot of this has to do with me getting to know the players better and the roster and learning about the strengths of our players. Some of that is just going to be getting to know them in Spring Training. But the mindset can and will be one of flexibility and I am not married to any specific role because that isn't mental toughness. If I can only do one thing, that's not a very mentally tough way to start.

Q. Is that part of a pitch to maybe prospective free agents and whatnot, like letting them know, if you come here, you might have done it this way in your career, this previous team or whatever, but this might be a little bit different?

GABE KAPLER: I think the pitch to free agents -- and actually, the pitch to our own players -- is we're going to put you in the best possible position to succeed. You, and yes the Phillies 100 percent, but just as importantly you. You are going to be healthier. We are going to match you up better so your numbers look stronger. And theoretically, you put more money away, which is an ambition of a lot of the players, certainly on the free agent market. But the guys that we're going to have in our clubhouse, they're going to want to make dough.

So that's why. It's like it's kind of cool. It's unique. You're going to make more money, theoretically. We're going to win more baseball games, theoretically. Your numbers are going to be better, theoretically.

Q. This is going to be an important year for Franco in terms of his future with the organization. He's one of the few guys that are going to be having his third hitting coach in three years. As a guy that's played for multiple teams and coaches, I guess what are the challenges for a guy that's had so much change as a young player and as you try and get this guy on track?

GABE KAPLER: I think the challenges are keeping himself as strong as he possibly -- this goes for Franco, but it goes for all of our players. Keeping themselves as strong as they possibly can physically. There's nothing more critical. There's nothing more consequential than our health. And if we are healthy, that means our hips are flexible, our ankles are flexible, we're able to execute the swing that we want to get off. So I think that's a challenge for all of our players.

There's no question that there are some mechanical changes that our players can and will make under our staff as well. I think John Mallee has a pretty strong track record of impacting hitters, just by way of example, both mechanically and from an approach perspective. He did a pretty good job with some of those young Cubs hitters. I think our players like Franco are going to be in pretty good hands.

Q. Gabe, it wasn't that long ago that you were a player. When you decided managing was what you wanted to follow, what were some of the areas you decided to hone in? Is it player evaluation, analytics, player relations? What is it that really won the Phillies over?

GABE KAPLER: I would say the area I'm most passionate about is environment building, it's about culture building. I don't think, when you think about it as like one -- let's win a World Series title in '17-'18. It's how do we get to a ten-year stretch of excellence? How do we, in that ten-year stretch of excellence, also create an environment where our players love coming to the ballpark to work every single day and where our staff feels like they're not stepping on each other's toes and they don't have to, like, push each other out of each other's lanes. Rather they're inviting each other in to make really good decisions together.

So it's an environment building. Like we want to create an environment that encourages our players to grow. The analogy that I've used and will continue to use is the coaching staff, the front office, all of the various departments around a baseball organization are the soil and our players are the plants and the trees that are going to grow in that soil. So that soil has to be extremely nutrient dense.

So as I think about managing a ball club, I think about being really nutrient dense soil. Does that answer that question directly?

Q. Sort of. You addressed kind of like in more general terms of what you like, but as you finished your career, were there areas where you thought, okay, I need to learn more about this so one day I can become a manager? What were the things that were being part of that transition to becoming a manager? Was it player relations?

GABE KAPLER: I would say it's everything across the board. Look, I'm not by any stretch trying to not answer the question directly. I just think there's tons to learn. Like, sure, I wanted to know what advanced metrics would help be most predictive. Yes, I wanted to sop up all the experience about how to teach a guy to be in an athletic position when he fielded a ground ball.

Of course I wanted to learn, from an offensive perspective, how to get the bat in the zone and keep it in the zone a really long time. I wanted to learn how the best managers relate to their players. I want to be open minded enough to listen to a field staff.

I don't think there was the one thing, if that's more helpful. I think it was everything. I wanted to just like soak up all of the information.

Q. Of the experience you've had with player development the last few years, how do you see that applying to what you're doing?

GABE KAPLER: So player development -- so Joe Jordan is our farm director here with the Phillies. He's sensational. I think Joe would tell you that leading that big of a group of people -- so 250 players plus so many field staff, and you have to manage up and down. So your farm director, your boss is the general manager, but you're also dealing with your field coordinator that's sort of your field general. There's players all the way from the Dominican Republic all the way to the major leagues, and your phone is blowing up all the time. So you're getting text messages from these guys day and night.

It could be something as simple as like my grandmother passed away and dealing with that effectively, to something much more baseball driven like something with their swing that they're working on.

So the way that's applicable to a dugout is it's leadership. You have to lead a big group of people and be available to and selfless and not think about yourself at all and always be thinking about the players. So I think that's perfectly -- the farm director position is perfectly analogous with the major league manager in that regard.

Q. There's some low key, laid back kind of personalities on the team, and you're an intense guy. As you've started to kind of get to know some of the players, what do you see as some of maybe the challenges in connecting with some of those guys who are good clubhouse guys but not be able to match that intensity level?

GABE KAPLER: I'd say the baseball clubhouse is very much an extension of society. So there's all sorts of personalities, and we reach each other in all kinds of different ways. Look, I might not be able to reach every player, but that's why you build a really dynamic staff. You lean on the guys standing next to you. Maybe it's Rob Thompson who has the best connection with a couple of guys. And maybe we develop road maps together on how to have effective conversations with somebody who's a little more laid back and won't respond to my level of intensity. Or maybe I have to make an adjustment. So instead of coming into a conversation with a whole bunch of intensity, I come into a conversation with a much more calm, easy demeanor.

It's sort of how we navigate society. You read somebody. You look in somebody's eyes. And you change your approach based on their personality. The opposite never works, which is expecting them to adjust to you.

Q. Hanukkah starts in about 35 minutes. What's the top of your wish list?

GABE KAPLER: Top of my Hanukkah wish list?

Q. As it pertains to Winter Meetings as you embark on this journey baseball-wise. What's the top of your wish list?

GABE KAPLER: Sleep. No.

I've gotten such a tremendous level of support from the community, the fans in Philadelphia, from our front office, from the various departments in the Phillies organization. If I could just have like continued support, that would be a pretty awesome gift. Independent of the holiday.

Q. Gabe, you mentioned Charlie Manuel, and you and he had sort of a different spectrum of success in Japan.

GABE KAPLER: You mean he had success and I didn't?

Q. You can take it any way you want. But you had that fine spring, and everything was very positive. What did you take away from that experience in Japan? And another question is did it inform your perspective and your philosophy on rules with that team?

GABE KAPLER: Sure. I'll answer the first question first. I learned, first of all, that I love the culture in Japan. I had an incredible experience off the field. I just happened to perform really poorly on the field and not be super healthy. But I did feel like I got a tremendous level of support, and if I could go back and do that all different, I would not have had one foot in the United States and one foot in Japan, which I think was something that I wish I could do again. I would have given all of my effort and attention to being the best baseball player in Japan that I could have been.

In my mind, I was thinking about performing well for a year or two in Japan and then coming back and performing in the United States, instead of being really present and really taking advantages of the gifts that I was given by the Yomiuri Giants, who treated me like gold.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Philadelphia Phillies

Machado, Phillies could be tough match

Orioles' star infielder on track for free agency next year
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Phillies would love Manny Machado in red pinstripes in 2018, but Philadelphia fans should not hold their breath.

Sources on Monday at the Winter Meetings quickly dismissed the idea that the Orioles could trade Machado to Philadelphia this offseason.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Phillies would love Manny Machado in red pinstripes in 2018, but Philadelphia fans should not hold their breath.

Sources on Monday at the Winter Meetings quickly dismissed the idea that the Orioles could trade Machado to Philadelphia this offseason.

There are multiple reasons. First, Machado can become a free agent after next season, and it makes sense for him to enter the market to maximize his earning potential. Second, a source indicated that Orioles ownership is not interested in dealing their star third baseman. Third, the Phillies would not trade for Machado unless they could sign him to a multiyear extension. And that brings everybody back to the first reason a trade will not happen this winter: Machado wants to test free agency.

It is much more likely the Phillies simply wait until next offseason and take a run at Machado as a free agent.

But the Phillies have been talking to teams about trading infielders Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez. The Angels are interested in Hernandez. The Padres are interested in Galvis. Certainly others are interested in them, too. But Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Monday that nothing is cooking on the trade front.

"No heat," he said. "There's definitely interest. I'll repeat it: For us, if there's a trade that will make sense for both the short and the long term, we'll absolutely explore it. On the flip side, we're excited about the idea of bringing back the group we have and creating depth and putting players in situations to be the best versions of themselves and trying to gain advantages that way. If all of our infielders are back next year on Opening Day, that is not a bad thing at all for us. We're happy, and we can operate from a position of strength and let the market adjust."

The Phillies' infield also includes Maikel Franco, J.P. Crawford and possibly No. 3 prospect Scott Kingery at second base, third base or shortstop. The Phillies maintain they can keep everybody happy and make it work, but it could be ideal to make a trade and upgrade the roster elsewhere.

"At this point we have a pretty good feel for who the interested clubs would be for our players, and I'm certain that those teams are also exploring their free-agent options and other trade options -- as they should be doing," Klentak said. "That's what we'd be doing if we were on the other end of it. It's just a matter of whether we find common ground on a trade that we feel makes sense for us."

Rule 5 Draft

The Mariners claimed outfielder Cameron Perkins and the Pirates claimed infielder Engelb Vielma off waivers, leaving the Phillies with 38 players on the 40-man roster. Pat Neshek -- who is close to rejoining the Phillies -- would take one of those spots, but the other one allows the Phillies to select a player in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. The Phillies have the No. 3 pick.

"I would expect that we would take advantage of the third pick in some form or fashion," Klentak said. "Whether we draft a player and retain that player or draft a player and make a trade, I'll think we'll look to do something with it."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Philadelphia Phillies

Phils used 2010 Meetings to build epic rotation

Persistent front office beat odds to re-sign Lee, complete dominant starting unit
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- The buzz for one of the most anticipated seasons in Phillies history started the previous December in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., at the same hotel that will host this year's Winter Meetings.

Seven years ago, in the winter of 2010, the Phillies rekindled their relationship with Cliff Lee. The Phillies dealt him to Seattle in December 2009 in a controversial trade intended to replenish their farm system following their prospect-laden Roy Halladay deal with Toronto. Lee left on bitter terms because the Phillies indicated just days earlier that they had no plans to trade him. But time passed, and Lee, who was the most coveted free agent on the market, said privately that he wished Philadelphia would try to bring him back.

PHILADELPHIA -- The buzz for one of the most anticipated seasons in Phillies history started the previous December in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., at the same hotel that will host this year's Winter Meetings.

Seven years ago, in the winter of 2010, the Phillies rekindled their relationship with Cliff Lee. The Phillies dealt him to Seattle in December 2009 in a controversial trade intended to replenish their farm system following their prospect-laden Roy Halladay deal with Toronto. Lee left on bitter terms because the Phillies indicated just days earlier that they had no plans to trade him. But time passed, and Lee, who was the most coveted free agent on the market, said privately that he wished Philadelphia would try to bring him back.

The Phillies, who thought they could not compete with the Yankees or Rangers for Lee's services, caught wind of that wish before the Winter Meetings.

• 2017 Winter Meetings preview: Phils out to supplement young core

Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, texted Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock, telling him that he would love to meet with the Phillies in Florida. Proefrock said the team would love to talk but told Braunecker that Philadelphia could not outbid New York or Texas.

But because they knew Lee secretly wanted to return to Philly, the Phillies held out a sliver of hope. And because they held out a sliver of hope, they tried to keep a low profile at the hotel hosting the Meetings. Proefrock remembers running into Braunecker once in the lobby. They shook hands and kept moving.

Reports started to surface that the Phillies could pursue Lee. Then-Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. vehemently denied it. Of course, he later acknowledged that he fibbed a little about their interest because he did not want the Yankees or Rangers to increase their offers.

Braunecker said he wanted teams to make offers during the Winter Meetings, so he could take them to Little Rock, Ark., meet with Lee and his wife, Kristen, and decide.

The Phillies never made an offer.

Braunecker met with the Lees on Dec. 8, the final full day of the Winter Meetings, to discuss offers from the Yankees and Rangers. Lee said he could be happy in Texas or New York, but again expressed his desire to have Philadelphia enter the bidding.

Braunecker called Proefrock shortly after the meeting and asked if the Phillies could jump in. Proefrock responded that he did not want to be used as leverage to get Texas and New York to increase their offers. Braunecker assured him that Lee's interest was sincere.

Braunecker asked if the Phillies would go five years.

"Would you even entertain five years?" Proefrock said, knowing the Yankees had a seven-year offer on the table.

"We'll entertain anything," Braunecker said.

Proefrock immediately sent an email to Phillies chairman David Montgomery -- then the club president -- making his case to sign Lee. Montgomery, Amaro and Proefrock met in Montgomery's office later on Dec. 9 at Citizens Bank Park, after Amaro and Proefrock returned from the Rule 5 Draft. Former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick was on speakerphone.

They agreed to make Lee a five-year, $115 million offer.

Braunecker and Proefrock went back and forth for a couple days. They were optimistic. Amaro called Halladay at home on Dec. 11. Halladay had sacrificed a lot of money to accept a trade to Philadelphia the previous offseason. Amaro wanted to make sure Halladay was OK with Lee getting a much better deal.

After Halladay responded enthusiastically to the idea of himself, Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt in the same rotation, Amaro said he wanted to get Lee more than ever.

Negotiations went back and forth for the next two days, but things didn't look promising since the Phillies simply couldn't come close to the Yankees. But then Montgomery, looking at the difference between the Phillies' offer and Braunecker's proposal, decided to split the difference. The deal was on again, and Amaro called Proefrock around 11 p.m. ET on Dec. 13 to tell them they had a deal.

Video: ATL@PHI: Lee strikes out a career-high 16 batters

Lee signed a five-year, $120 million contract with a sixth-year option that increased the value of the deal to $135 million.

The Phillies won a franchise-record 102 games in 2011. Statistically, Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Oswalt helped the Phillies put together one of the best seasons by any rotation in baseball history. They fell short of their World Series championship goals, but for several months the Phillies were not only the best game in Philadelphia, they were the best game in baseball.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Philadelphia Phillies

Inbox: Will Phils trade Galvis or Hernandez?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers fans' questions
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

Do you think the Phillies will trade Freddy Galvis or Cesar Hernandez before Spring Training?
-- Greg P., Hoboken, N.J.

The Phillies will try, although they believe they can open next season with both players. The Athletic reported recently that the Padres have expressed interest in Galvis and the Angels have expressed interest in Hernandez. But sources told MLB.com that interest in either player has not given the Phillies much pause.

Do you think the Phillies will trade Freddy Galvis or Cesar Hernandez before Spring Training?
-- Greg P., Hoboken, N.J.

The Phillies will try, although they believe they can open next season with both players. The Athletic reported recently that the Padres have expressed interest in Galvis and the Angels have expressed interest in Hernandez. But sources told MLB.com that interest in either player has not given the Phillies much pause.

In other words, at this point, Philadelphia feels like it would be giving away Galvis or Hernandez. And there is no reason to do that.

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Perhaps trade talks heat up next week at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. But in the event the Phillies hold onto both players, it gives them four infielders (Galvis, Hernandez, Maikel Franco and J.P. Crawford) to play three positions. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said last weekend that he believes he can make it work. But it could be a challenge considering Galvis is a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop that is set to become a free agent following next season. He is going to want to play.

So it makes sense for the Phillies to keep trying, which they will. It could become a bigger issue if Triple-A second baseman Scott Kingery pushes for a promotion weeks into the 2018 season. Four players vying to play three positions is tough. Five players vying to play three positions is even tougher.

Hot Stove Tracker

Wouldn't it be smarter for the Phillies to use the 2018 season to evaluate their young players (get them plate appearances and innings) and save their financial might for next season's historic free-agent class?
-- Sam H., Cherry Hill, N.J.

That has been the plan for some time, unless something unexpected happens (i.e. the Phillies have a chance to acquire Manny Machado in a trade).

It's funny, some Phillies fans have been angry that the team hasn't not thrown big money at free agents last offseason and this offseason. Last offseason, fans got fired up that the Phillies did not sign Ian Desmond, who signed a five-year, $70 million deal with the Rockies. (Desmond posted a .701 OPS in 373 plate appearances.) This year, they want them to sign a starter like Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish to a long-term contract, despite recent memories of injuries cutting short the careers of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, and the fact that the Phillies are not ready to win right now.

(Folks, stud starting pitchers can be found when a team truly needs them. No sense to panic and overpay today.)

The Phillies are not going to take a magical leap in the standings if they sign Darvish or Arrieta or Eric Hosmer. So why commit all that money when you will be able to spend the money next offseason and have a much better idea of how to spend it?

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Philadelphia Phillies, Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez