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With pitching, Larry Bowa thinks Phillies can compete with ‘the big boys’ in 2020


The one thing you don’t have to worry about when you’re listening to Larry Bowa is whether he’s giving you his honest opinion.

Monday, after the Philadelphia Phillies introduced Joe Girardi as the 55th manager in franchise history, Bowa – who has played, coached and managed for the Phillies – said that he loved “every word” of Girardi’s press conference. He called Buck Showalter and Dusty Baker “good baseball guys,” but also said he thought Girardi separated himself during the interview process.

Bowa, who was inducted onto the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1991, appeared keen on the hiring of Girardi. What about the team that Girardi is inheriting, which went 81-81 in 2019?

“We’ve got a bunch of guys now that aren’t rookies,” Bowa said Monday after Girardi’s press conference concluded. “We’ve got a pretty good nucleus in the lineup. We need pitching…I mean everybody knows that, it’s not saying something that’s a hidden agenda – we need pitching. If we get pitching, we can compete. I don’t mean just compete, I mean compete with the big boys.”

So Bowa thinks that the Phillies can compete with the likes of the Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees in 2020?

“Yes,” Bowa said emphatically. “If we get pitching, yes.”

Larry Bowa is a staple in the Phillies organization. (Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire)

Of course, bolstering the Phillies pitching staff may be easier said than done.

After Game 7 of the World Series, Houston Astros RHP Gerrit Cole, the likely American League Cy Young Award winner, sounded fairly certain he would be departing. But while the Phillies certainly figure to be in on Cole, ESPN’s Buster Olney spoke to Astros teammates that believe Cole will ultimately sign with a team from California, with Olney citing the Los Angeles Angels as the team that those around baseball think the 29-year-old will wind up with.

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg will likely opt out of the $100 million remaining on his contract, though Mark Feinsand of MLB.com has previously reported that the belief in league circles is he’ll ultimately re-sign with the Nationals. Anyway, for as great of a season as Strasburg had, he’s a 31-year-old veteran of Tommy John Surgery that’s likely to get at least five years. Would that be a wise investment for the Phillies?

This market won’t be short on available starting pitching. Los Angeles Dodgers LHP Hyun-jin Ryu, San Francisco Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner, Minnesota Twins RHP Jake Odorizzi, Boston Red Sox RHP Rick Porcello, Chicago Cubs LHP Cole Hamels, Atlanta Braves LHP Dallas Keuchel and New York Mets RHP Zack Wheeler can all become free-agents this offseason. While signing potentially two of those options would certainly improve the Phillies rotation, it probably wouldn’t even make them the favorite in the National League East.

Beyond the starting rotation, there’s little certainty in a bullpen that Girardi admitted Monday needs to stay healthy in 2020. The Phillies declined Pat Neshek’s $7 million option for 2020, and have decisions to make on Blake Parker, Mike Morin and Jared Hughes in the coming days and weeks. Juan Nicasio and Tommy Hunter almost certainly won’t be back in 2020. Seranthony Dominguez didn’t pitch after early June, and though it’s been repeatedly determined he doesn’t need Tommy John Surgery for his UCL injury, until he’s back, there will be uncertainty. David Robertson spent most of 2019 on the injured list, and may miss all of 2020 after having Tommy John Surgery in August. Adam Morgan also finished the season on the injured list.

Hector Neris, Jose Alvarez and Ranger Suarez appear like locks to be in the bullpen on Opening Day 2020, but the Phillies need a lot of other things to break their way in the bullpen. They need younger arms like J.D. Hammer and Edgar Garcia to take major steps forward in 2020. They need a healthy Dominguez. It wouldn’t hurt if one of Nick Pivetta or Vince Velasquez came into their own as a reliever. And still, the Phillies may need to hit on someone like New York Yankees RHP Dellin Betances in free-agency, and their recent track record on acquiring veteran relievers leaves you skeptical of that happening.

The Phillies lineup isn’t a finished product either. There’s uncertainty in the middle infield, third base and center field. But with Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto in what should be their peak years, the hope that Andrew McCutchen will return from a torn ACL an All-Star caliber player and the potential for bounce-back years from Rhys Hoskins and Jean Segura, you can at least see a scenario where the offense is ready to compete with “the big boys” in 2020.

Even in that best-case scenario for the Phillies, pitching remains a major hurdle to clear this offseason.

From Bowa’s perspective, there’s little doubt that he believes what he says. And it may be true that with the necessary pitching upgrades, the Phillies have a lineup capable of competing for the World Series. But if their pitching staff wasn’t good enough to seriously compete for the playoffs in 2019, general manager Matt Klentak has his work cut out trying to get it ready to compete for the World Series in 2020.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Ken Bland

    November 2, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    This premise reminds me of something that happened sometime in the past, exact point unknown since flies time when you’re having fun, but it was January of some year when only fools offer up forthcoming MLB season finish predictions and some numbskull ASSUMED the Mets’d STILL get starting pitching, and based on that, had them finishing higher up than right thinking people would have guessed. I swear, I read that piece as if the scribe wrote it with a straight face. Ain’t bloggers a trip?

    Poor Bowa. Good guy gets made to look like a fool stating the Phils can play with the big boys IF THEY GET pitching? Sort of like saying Phils telecasts’d sound better if Franzke replaced McCarthy. DUH!

    Be that as it may, here’s today’s internet nonsense presented by Sportsline Oddsmakers for odds on where G Cole winds up in the Phils quest for pitching. Talk about scam traps.

    Angels plus 300
    Phils Plus 400
    Yanks Plus 450
    Rangers Plus 600
    Dodgers Plus 800
    ChiSox Plus 1500
    Padres Plus 1800
    Cards Plus 2000
    Stros Plus 2500

    Here are some (of my) brief reactions to these prices…

    Padres might be worth a loose change wager. SoCal, safe to assume they are as close to lux tax problem as The Warriors are to good health. Don’t know their lux tax status, and with Rendon and Stras up for deals, it’d seem a longshot, but don’t the Nats even warrant a price and some degree of consideration? Not sure I get the Rangers ranking better than the Dodgers. If he likes Texas, what’s the appeal of Dallas over the known in Houston. Yanks price is a real wild card. It’s cheap if you think with your heart, with your head, its a waste to think it’ll happen. Seems like serious lux tax ramifications are making this a lot of click bait. George M would have done it, but he don’t live here any more.

    • schmenkman

      November 4, 2019 at 11:19 am

      No one is saying that he would prefer Dallas “over the known in Houston”, since it’s Houston who doesn’t appear interested in signing him for the price that it likely will require.

      As for Bowa, I’m not seeing what he could have said differently.

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