Phillies trade rumors - Manager search heats up, Nola to sign long-term deal?
by Scott Butler 10/16/17

Philadelphia Phillies Trade Rumors

MLB Trade Rumors is a site which describes themselves as "a clearinghouse for relevant, legitimate baseball rumors." Each week at Phils Baseball, we grab their latest Phillies rumors and put them all together in one weekly post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors:

October 14

Phillies Notes: Showalter, DiSarcina

October 13

The Phillies’ Managerial Search

Earlier tonight, we took a look at the Tigers’ managerial search, breaking down the list of candidates that are slated to interview and those that have been more casually linked to the vacancy in Detroit. The Phillies, too, have an opening in the dugout after surprisingly removing Pete Mackanin from that role and transitioning him to a front office role. Philadelphia had extended Mackanin just four months earlier, making the decision all the more unexpected.

As with the Tigers (and eventually with all of the managerial searches of the offseason), we’ll track the majority of the managerial chatter in a single place over the course of the search and update accordingly as the hunt progresses. Here’s the most up-to-date chatter on the Phils…

Will Interview/Have Interviewed

Preliminary Candidates (Interview Status Unknown)

Not in the Mix/No Longer in Consideration

October 13

Phillies Name Larry Bowa Senior Advisor To GM Matt Klentak

The Phillies have moved bench coach Larry Bowa from the dugout to the front office, naming him senior advisor to GM Matt Klentak, per a team announcement. Bowa, it seems, will transition to a role similar to that of Pete Mackanin, who was surprisingly removed from his post as manager earlier this month.

The 71-year-old Bowa spent the first 12 seasons of his playing career with the Phillies from 1970-81. He also managed the Phils from 2001-04 and has been serving as the team’s bench coach and infield instructor since the 2014 season, working under both Ryne Sandberg and Mackanin. He won’t return for a fifth season in his current role, nor will he be considered for the managerial vacancy, but he’ll remain with the organization and continue to have some input on the direction of the club.

“Larry Bowa is a genuine Phillies icon and he has made enormous contributions to this franchise during his 33 years in uniform,” said Klentak in a press release announcing the move. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for what Larry has accomplished throughout his baseball career and I am thrilled that he has agreed to continue to impact the organization in this new role.”

Bowa himself also issued a statement: “Philadelphia has been my home for the last four decades and I bleed Phillies red. Whether it is at the major or minor league level, my number one goal is to help with the Phillies organization bring home another championship for our fans.”

October 11

Extension Candidate: Aaron Nola

The Phillies have scrupulously maintained their future balance sheets, preferring not to make any commitments that might tie their hands in future seasons. But the organization has already made one exception, inking Odubel Herrera last winter, and could explore yet more extensions with core players this winter.

One could probably make a case for a very early strike with one of the team’s less-experienced would-be stars — chief among them, Rhys Hoskins. But by far the likeliest candidate for a long-term deal is righty Aaron Nola, who was selected with the seventh overall pick of the 2014 draft and has since established himself as one of the game’s better young starters.

Nola, 24, reached the majors after just 30 minor-league appearances, showing quite well in his 13-start debut at just 22 years of age. Last year, though, he faded after a strong opening and ended the season facing injury questions. Nola ultimately avoided surgery for some UCL and flexor tendon issues and was able to rehabilitate through the problem over the offseason.

It’s easy to forget now, but entering the current season, nobody was quite sure what to expect from Nola. He responded with 168 innings of 3.54 ERA ball. Nola also racked up 9.9 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 along with a 49.8% ground-ball rate in his 27 starts, showing career-best numbers in average fastball velocity (92.5 mph) and swinging-strike rate (10.8%).

Looking at Nola’s overall body of work, it’s hard not to be impressed. While he did struggle to keep runs off the board in 2016, advanced metrics have basically loved him from day one. Through 356 2/3 MLB frames, he carries a 3.38 FIP, 3.33 xFIP, and 3.52 SIERA.

The hugely positive outlook on his future makes Nola a bargain, as Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron suggested when ranking him 49th in all of baseball on his top 50 trade value rankings. Because he didn’t reach the Majors quite soon enough back in 2015, Nola will fall shy of Super Two qualification, meaning he’ll play at (or near) the league minimum in 2018 before reaching his three years of arbitration eligibility.

While Nola did take home over $3MM to sign out of LSU, he has another year to wait for significant Major League earnings. That means risk aplenty, which is true of any pitcher but perhaps especially so for Nola, given his prior injury scare. He and the team are aware of the details of the medical situation and thus can adequately account for the risk it entails, but that factor could also push him in the direction of weighing a contract extension.

It’s tempting to speak abstractly about a possible discount for the injury questions. In truth, though, the more interesting question is just what framework might be utilized as a starting point for talks. To this point, no pre-arbitration starter has scored a guarantee of over $40MM. Even Corey Kluber, a 2+ service-class pitcher like Nola, was promised $38.5MM over five years (while giving up two option years) in his 2015 contract. Kluber was more than five years older than Nola is now but also was coming off of a Cy Young Award at the time.

The Kluber deal largely fell in line with prior pre-arb starter contracts, though, and even moved the standard up a bit. Chris Sale ($32.5MM), Derek Holland ($28.5MM), and Trevor Cahill ($30.5MM) are a few of the prior 2+ service hurlers that took five-year deals with similar structures.

Though Nola has staked out a claim as a top-quality young starter, it’s hard to argue that he has shown more to this point than had Sale or Madison Bumgarner (who signed his own five-year, $35MM deal as a 1+ service-class player). Considerations of inflation could be somewhat offset by Nola’s health record, though his representatives would surely argue that his avoidance of surgery and a 2017 season free of arm issues render that a largely moot point.

Provisions could be worked in that would protect the team in the event of an elbow flare-up, such as the addition of cheap option years at the end of the pact. (For example, both Felix Hernandez and John Lackey have previously agreed to clauses that add a league-minimum option to the end of their deal in the event of Tommy John surgery) Or, perhaps the wealthy Phils would be willing mostly to look past Nola’s elbow questions in the hunt for upside, reasoning that the overall risk is minimal and that the open-market price for pitching has steadily risen in recent years and figures to do so between now and the point at which Nola himself would reach the open market.

The previously mentioned five-year structure would run through Nola’s age-29 season and buy out one free-agent year. That’s still a lucrative age at which to reach the open market, though the Phils may seek to add a club option or two that’d further delay his path to the open market. Reaching free agency in advance of his age-31 season would leave Nola with plenty of earning capacity, though tacking on a second club option (and thus delaying his free agency by three full years) could be a tough sell. Generally speaking, Nola and his reps at Paragon Sports would be weighing whether an immediate guarantee is worth forgoing the opportunity to reach free agency before his age-29 season — an age at which he’d almost certainly be one of the youngest starters on the market.

With a number of factors for both sides to weigh, it’ll be an interesting situation to watch if the Phillies and Nola do indeed sit down this winter. Nola could well become the latest Phillies player to secure a long-term commitment as part of the organization’s hopeful contending core, but his proximity to arbitration should reduce his urgency to take a deal to some extent.

October 11

Phillies Not Considering Amaro, Bowa For Managerial Opening

October 7

Phillies Interested In Mike Redmond

Rockies bench coach Mike Redmond is drawing interest from two manager-needy teams, the Phillies and TigersJon Heyman of FanRag reports. Redmond isn’t far removed from managing the Marlins, who went 155-207 on his watch from 2013-15. The former big league catcher played with the Marlins from 1998-2004, giving him familiarity with Tigers general manager Al Avila. The executive was in Miami’s front office for a portion of Redmond’s tenure as a player there.

October 5

Phillies Notes: Nola, Mackanin

Though Phillies righty Aaron Nola tells Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer that he hasn’t thought much about the potential of signing a long-term deal with the Phils, Gelb opines that Nola is a prime extension candidate for the team this winter. The 24-year-old’s recent arm troubles present some risk in approaching him about a long-term pact, but there’s inherent risk when extending any pitcher, and Nola has established himself as an above-average starter over his two-plus seasons of work, Gelb argues. With Nola still a year away from arbitration eligibility, the Phils could look to strike now in hopes of securing control over one or more free-agent years, as they did with center fielder Odubel Herrera in the 2016-17 offseason. Gelb’s piece includes a number of potential comparables as well as quotes from Nola and teammate Clay Buchholz, who signed a long-term deal himself at a similar point in his career.

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