The Phillies are turning into the Yankees

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That’s what Tom Verducci at SI is saying in light of their “aggressive” pursuit of Roy Halladay, the prize for whom they currently stand as the front runner.  He quotes Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin as saying that between the Halladay stuff and some of their other recent moves, the Phillies are “creating a powerhouse” in the NL, raising the bar for other teams just like the Yankees have raised the bar in the American League.

Or maybe the Red Sox. Says Verducci: “The Phillies represent the biggest growth brand in the baseball
industry, similar to how the Red Sox began to rise in 2003 under new
ownership.”  All that’s missing, it seems, is an equally aggressive and astute rival. As for now, the Mets are occasionally aggressive, but not all that astute. The Braves are the opposite.  The Marlins never seem all that interested in contending for more than a year at a time before tearing it all down and  the Nats need a lot more time.

Will this eventually lead to a rise in the NL’s fortunes?  Maybe too early to say, but we can say this: right now they stand as the favorites to land Halladay, and that’s without even putting their top prospects like Kyle Drabek on the table. At least not yet.  Verducci says that Philly is even exploring bringing in a third team to the deal. A deal they very obviously want to make happen. And that Roy Halladay wants to make happen too, according to various reports.

Halladay-Lee-Hamels as the top three. A lineup chock full of All-Stars. Maybe a new closer in John Smoltz.  Can anyone say Yankees vs. Phillies, part II?    

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.