Sixers vs. Raptors, With Only One Mention of the Increasingly Depressing Andrew Bynum (This One)

Sixers vs. Raptors, With Only One Mention of the Increasingly Depressing Andrew Bynum (This One)

The Sixers were so close to getting to play two of the East's worst
teams in consecutive nights when both teams would be missing their star
point guards and arguable franchise players. Regrettably (for us,
anyway), it now sounds like Kyle Lowry will be returning to action for
the Toronto Raptors after missing a couple weeks of game action with a
sprained ankle—though he will only come off the bench, behind current
starter Jose Calderon. (No report yet about Kyrie Irving making an
unexpected comeback for the Cavs after fracturing his finger.)

Regardless, the Sixers should—should,
not definitely will—be able to take care of business tonight against
the 3-7 Toronto Raptors in the last night of their five-game homestand.
The Ballers dispatched the Raptors with relative ease in their first
meeting of the year, back in Canada a week-and-a-half ago, holding
Toronto to just seven points in the game's second quarter, building a
lead they would not relinquish. Of course, that meeting was without
Lowry, who was easily the Raps' best player in the three-and-a-half
games he played for Toronto before going down with injury, averaging
about a 20-6-6 on over 50% shooting. He will no doubt cause problems for
Philly tonight if he's healthy and in full effect.

Though the
Sixers' win against the Cavs on Sunday was far from pretty, it was not
without its positives. Jrue Holiday had a relatively slow (though still
effective) night on offense, but was dominant on the other end, staying
glued to the Cavs' Irving and refusing to let the sophomore sensation
burn him for easy layups—no small feat considering the quickness and
craftiness of the future All-Star—holding him to just a 14 and 4 on the
night, both significantly below Kyrie's seasonal averages. Nick Young
was also excellent, hitting five out of six for 13 points before leaving
the game for dizziness, easily his most (only) efficient shooting night
on the season.

The story of the game, however, was Evan Turner.
With 19 points (on 8-12 shooting, raising his FG% on the season to over
40% for the first time), nine dimes and six rebounds, Evan had a
breakout game on offense, and paired it with solid, smart defense on the
other end. Games like this remind Sixer fans of just how much friggin' easier
it is to win when the Extraterrestrial is playing well, though it's
still something he's a long way from proving the ability to do on a
consistent basis—our history with ET shows that after two quality games
in a row, Turner's likely to be a no-show tonight in Toronto. But you
never know—every good game is another possibility for a legitimate
turn-the-corner moment. Hope springs eternal.

7:00 tip from the
WFC. A win tonight and the Sixers will have gone 3-2 on their five-game
homer—not quite the result we'd hoped for with five winnable games, but
enough to consider the homestand redeemed after dropping the first two
games. Adam Aron still loves this team, regardless.

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have a history of adding players in the Rule 5 draft. The annual event, designed to prevent teams from stockpiling minor-league talent without giving it a shot in the majors, has netted the Phillies players such as Dave Hollins, Shane Victorino and Odubel Herrera over the years.

The year’s Rule 5 draft will be held Thursday morning at the conclusion of the winter meetings, but it’s highly unlikely that the Phillies will be active. After adding 11 prospects to their 40-man roster two weeks ago, the Phillies are simply out of room. Selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft would first require the Phils to cut a player loose and that did not seem to be the plan as the sun set Wednesday.

While an addition is unlikely, there’s a strong possibility that the Phils will lose a player or two in the draft. Outfielder Andrew Pullin, a 2012 draft pick, is the likeliest to go. He hit .322 with a .885 OPS between Single A and Double A in 2016 and a number of teams are buzzing about him. A late-season elbow injury prevented Pullin from playing in the Arizona Fall League and factored into the Phillies’ decision to leave him unprotected.

If a team rolls the dice on Pullin, it must keep him in the majors all season or offer him back to the Phillies.

Other players who could go include first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi, outfielder Carlos Tocci and pitchers Miguel Nunez and Hoby Milner.

All quiet for now
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak spent Wednesday meeting with agents and representatives from other clubs.

“Nothing is hot at the moment,” he said late in the day.

Klentak has brought back starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, added relievers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek and traded for outfielder Howie Kendrick this offseason. The biggest remaining issue/question on his plate is whether to add a veteran hitter in a corner outfield spot or keep the pathway open for young players such as Roman Quinn and eventually Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams. 

“Successfully balancing the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that a baseball operations department faces,” Klentak said. “We’ve talked about it all offseason. The decisions that we are making right now about giving playing time to a young player that has cut his teeth in Triple A and needs that opportunity to take the next step as opposed to a shorter-term solution from the outside — that’s one of the main challenges that we’ve run into this offseason.”

While it’s uncertain whether the Phils will add a hitter, they most surely will make other roster tweaks as the winter moves on. They are likely to fill their backup catcher’s spot in-house (see story), but could add a utility infielder and more bullpen depth on minor-league contracts.

“I think there will probably be another move or two before we get to Clearwater,” Klentak said. “Who and when remains to be seen.”

Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The likelihood of the Phillies going with a rookie backup catcher in 2017 increased dramatically when the Miami Marlins signed free agent A.J. Ellis on Wednesday.

Ellis spent the final month of the 2016 season with the Phillies after coming over from the Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade. Ellis, 35, got high marks for his work with the Phillies’ young pitching staff and the Phils had some interest in bringing him back. The interest, however, was complicated by a tight 40-man roster, which already includes three catchers — starter Cameron Rupp and minor-league prospects Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp.

With Ellis out of the picture, the Phillies will likely use either Alfaro or Knapp as the backup catcher in 2017. Knapp spent a full year at Triple A in 2016 and could end up being the guy as Alfaro moves to Triple A for another year of seasoning.

General manager Matt Klentak spoke earlier this week of the possibility of going with a rookie at backup catcher.

“Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A,” Klentak said. “He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and Alfaro, we’re going to have to find out what those guys can do at the big-league level. During the 2017 season, we’ll have to find out — not just about those two guys — but others.”

It’s not all that surprising that Ellis ended up with the Marlins on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. He played for Marlins manager Don Mattingly during the latter’s time as manager of the Dodgers.