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Phillies trade rumors - Appel steps away, Geltz suspended, and Phils still looking for starter
by Scott Butler 2/12/18

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:

February 11

February 10 Steve Geltz Gets 100-Game Suspension Four

The Phillies’ bench situation is broken down by NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury, who notes that defensive versatility will be at a premium for a team that may have just four bench spots available.  The Phils may need to deploy an eight-man bullpen to account for its injury-laden rotation, which leaves less room for position players in general, and especially players who can only fit in at one position (i.e. first baseman Tommy Joseph).  Two of the bench spots are already filled by outfielder Nick Williams and the backup catcher, leaving a utility infield job up for grabs in Spring Training and possibly another reserve outfield job as well.

February 10

Steve Geltz Gets 100-Game Suspension

Four minor leaguers – Rays catcher Nick CiuffoPadres right-hander Alex CunninghamPhillies righty Steve Geltz and Pirates second baseman Mitchell Tolman – received suspensions for drug use on Saturday (via Bob Nightengale of USA Today, on Twitter). The harshest punishment went to Geltz, who will serve a 100-game ban without pay after testing positive for a drug of abuse for the third time in his career. The 30-year-old, who signed a minor league deal with the Phillies last month, previously sat 50 games in 2014 after testing positive for marijuana. Meanwhile, Ciuffo, Cunningham and Tolman each got 50-game suspensions. Ciuffo and Tolman tested positive for a drug of abuse for the second time, while Cunningham tested positive for an amphetamine. The most notable member of that trio is the 22-year-old Ciuffo, whom the Rays selected in the first round of the 2013 draft and who currently sits 27th on MLB.com’s ranking of the team’s top 30 prospects. Ciuffo, who got an invitation to big league camp prior to the suspension, took to Twitter on Saturday to apologize.

February 10

Phillies Still Seeking Starting Pitching

In addition to the previously listed Twins and Brewers, the Dodgers and the Phillies are still targeting starters in the wake of the Darvish deal, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets. Philadelphia is aggressively pursuing a short-term addition, per Mark Feinsand of MLB.comAndrew CashnerChris TillmanJaime Garcia and Jason Vargas are all possibilities, Feinsand adds.

February 9

Latest On Phillies' Search For Starter

The Phillies’ search for a starter remains a bit of a wild card on the market. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand has the latest, citing sources for the proposition that the Phils are taking an “aggressive” approach, though it’s not entirely clear what that means. While the organization has been tied, at least speculatively, to a wide variety of hurlers, the indication from Feinsand is that the organization is mostly looking currently at one-year targets rather than more significant hurlers. As Feinsand notes, it’s possible to imagine quite a few names that could conceivably fit. Indeed, many of the free agent starters remain available, so a Phillies team in an opportunistic position could yet take any number of different courses in filling out its staff.

February 8

Phillies, Collin Cowgill Agree To Minor League Deal

Outfielder Collin Cowgill has signed on with the Phillies on a minor league pact, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The 31-year-old Cowgill would earn an $800K base salary if he cracked the big league roster, per Nightengale, though he’ll have an uphill battle ahead of him in that regard. Philadelphia will have Rhys HoskinsOdubel HerreraAaron AltherrNick Williams and Roman Quinn in the outfield mix as it is. Cowgill didn’t play in the Majors in 2017 and only logged nine games in 2016. He’s a career .234/.297/.329 hitter in parts of six Major League seasons and a career .283/.356/.431 hitter in seven Triple-A seasons.

February 8

Phillies To Sign Ryan Flaherty

TODAY: Flaherty would earn at a $1.9MM rate if he makes the roster, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. He could also earn a further $300K in incentives and may opt out on March 22nd if he has not been added to the MLB roster.

YESTERDAY: The Phillies and free-agent infielder Ryan Flaherty have agreed to terms, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Presumably, it’s a minor league deal for the CAA client, based on Crasnick’s note that Flaherty will “compete for a job in Spring Training.” He’ll join fellow veterans Adam Rosales and Pedro Florimon in competing for a utility infield spot with the Phils.

Baltimore was said to have interest in retaining Flaherty, who hit free agency this winter after spending the past six seasons with the Orioles. Instead, he’ll head to an organization that has several Orioles ties in the front office; Philadelphia president Andy MacPhail, GM Matt Klentak and assistant GM Ned Rice were all with the Phils at some point during Flaherty’s tenure with the team.

Flaherty, 31, missed a significant chunk of the 2017 season due to a shoulder strain and only took 43 plate appearances at the big league level last year. But, from 2012-16, the versatile utility man averaged 86 games and 245 plate appearances per year with the O’s, appearing at all four infield positions and in the outfield corners.

Flaherty isn’t much of a hitter, as evidenced by a career .215/.284/.355 slash. He does have a bit of extra-base pop, though (.140 ISO) and draws above-average grades for his defensive work at second base and third base. He can play shortstop in a pinch as well, though Defensive Runs Saved (-8) and Ultimate Zone Rating (-4.8) aren’t exactly bullish on his work in 391 innings at the position.

February 1

Mark Appel Stepping Away From Baseball

In a candid, must-read interview with Bleacher Report’s Joon Lee, former No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel reveals that he’s stepping away from professional baseball at the age of 26. Appel didn’t use the word “retirement” and suggested that perhaps, somewhere down the line, he’d give baseball another shot. However, for the time being, he won’t be reporting to Spring Training with the Phillies (who will retain his rights, tweets Matt Gelb of The Athletic).

“I’m 26, I have a Stanford degree, I have many interests beyond baseball, which I still love, but I have a lot of things I care about,” Appel tells Lee. “I enjoy challenging my mind. My last four years in baseball have challenged my mind.”

Appel, clearly, has dealt with his share of disappointment in professional baseball. The former Stanford ace was twice projected to be the top overall pick in the draft, falling to the Pirates at No. 8 in 2012 and then ultimately being selected No. 1 overall by Houston the following year after returning to Stanford for his senior season. As Joon explores in detail, Appel posted respectable numbers in his debut season but never really hit his stride after the fact, struggling through injuries and oftentimes inexplicable ineffectiveness from 2014-17.

Appel bluntly states that he was “maybe the worst pitcher in professional baseball” in 2014 and recalls a story where, after arguably the worst start of his career, frustration boiled over to the point that he destroyed a particle-board panel in the clubhouse by throwing upwards of 80 baseballs through it. (Appel purchased supplies to repair the damages at Home Depot out of his own pocket and handled the project himself the following day.) The right-hander obviously feels some disappointment about never reaching the Majors and says he would “absolutely” have loved to be pitching in the World Series alongside his friends and former Astros teammates.

As Lee points out, if Appel never makes the decision to return to pro ball, he’d become just the third No. 1 overall pick ever to retire without logging a single game in the Majors. Appel is aware of that unflattering context but seems to be at peace with the fact.

“I had high expectations,” says Appel, who is still rehabbing from his 2017 shoulder troubles. “I didn’t live up to those for a number of reasons. If you want to call me the biggest draft bust, you can call it that. … If I never get to the big leagues, will it be a disappointment? Yes and no. That was a goal and a dream I had at one point, but that’s with stipulations that I’m healthy, I’m happy and doing something I love. If I get to the big leagues, what’s so great about the big leagues if you’re in an isolated place, you’re hurt and you’re emotionally unhappy? How much is that worth to you?”

For the time being, Appel says he’s planning on pursuing an internship and attending business school, perhaps at Stanford but also with several other prospective universities in mind. He speaks with a certain level of excitement about the opportunity to spend more time with friends and family, as well as the possibility of traveling. Perhaps most important of all, Appel sounds like a man with an unexpected and impressive level of perspective on the struggles he’s had in professional baseball: “Some people have real struggles. I played baseball. I thought I was going to be great, and I wasn’t.”

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