The Phillies closed the work week with a flurry of moves on Friday.
The club officially named Rick Kranitz as pitching coach and announced the hiring of Chris Young as assistant pitching coach - as well as some front-office moves.
More news is expected Friday evening as the deadline for tendering contracts to players that are eligible for salary arbitration arrives at 8 p.m. Barring a late trade or development, the club is expected to offer contracts to all five of its arbitration-eligible players - infielders Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez, catcher Cameron Rupp and relief pitcher Luis Garcia.
Much of the focus in the baseball world Friday was on the international game as the ground rules for signing Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani were made official. The Phillies have made their interest in Ohtani known to the pitcher/slugger's representatives and they are ready to pay the $20 million release fee to his Japanese club.
Ohtani is beholden to international signing-bonus limits, so he will not be the subject of a bidding war. The Phillies have constructed a recruiting pitch to the 23-year-old player, trying to sell him on being a centerpiece talent on a growing team. But signing Ohtani remains a serious long shot for the rebuilding Phillies. The player is seeking a team that is ready to win now in markets where Japanese players have succeeded before. He would also like to get some at-bats, probably as a designated hitter, in addition to pitching. That points to the American League. The Yankees, Mariners, Rangers, Angels, Dodgers and Cubs remain the most likely landing spots for Ohtani.
The hiring of Young, a former minor-league pitcher who finished his career with the Camden Riversharks in 2008 and most recently served as a scout with the Houston Astros, as assistant pitching coach leaves the Phillies with just two more openings on new manager Gabe Kapler's coaching staff - bench coach and first base coach. Multiple reports have the Phillies considering Rob Thomson, the former Yankees bench coach, for the same role in Philadelphia.
It is not surprising that Kranitz is the new pitching coach. He was bullpen coach in 2016 and assistant pitching coach in 2017. The team announced a month ago that it would retain him in some pitching-related role. Kranitz has 10 years experience as a major-league pitching coach with the Marlins, Brewers and Orioles.
The Phillies' 2018 coaching staff will have a heavy emphasis on pitching. Jim Gott, who pitched 14 seasons in the majors, was recently named bullpen coach.
Once they are tendered contracts on Friday night, Franco, Galvis, Hernandez, Rupp and Garcia will be considered signed players for 2018. They will have their salaries determined by an arbitration panel later this winter if they fail to come to agreement on a salary before then. It is still possible that any one of these players could be traded. It's no secret that the Phillies have a pair of young middle infielders on the way in J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery. Galvis and Hernandez are both very much available for trade and the Phillies have received offers, according to sources. However, none of the offers have been to the Phillies' liking.
While the Phillies remain open to dealing Galvis and Hernandez, they would be comfortable hanging on to both if they do not get the value they seek. The Phillies ended last season with four infielders - Franco, Galvis, Hernandez and Crawford - sharing time at three infield spots. It's not a perfect solution but something a progressive front office that has stressed versatility and giving its manager lineup options could employ for a while.
In other Phillies matters, reliever Jesen Therrien, who became a free agent in October, signed a two-year, minor-league contract with the Dodgers. Therrien is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will be sidelined for much of 2018.
Pitchers Alberto Tirado and Mark Appel both passed unclaimed through waivers and were assigned outright to Triple A. Appel, the former No. 1 overall pick by Houston in 2013, has struggled as a starter in two seasons in the Phillies' system and sources say the club will look to transition him to the bullpen in spring training.