If former Yankees manager Joe Girardi has his way, several of his past players will be moving two hours down the road to Philadelphia…
When Joe Girardi agreed to take on the job as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, he knew he had his work cut out for him.
In 2019, the Phillies led the league in under-performance and futility. They were as average as their fourth-place finish and record indicated at 81-81.
It cost Gabe Kapler his job, despite the signing of David Robertson (2 years $21 million), Andrew McCutchen (3 years $47 million), and the big kahuna Bryce Harper (13 years $330 million).
It didn’t help that McCutchen was limited to 200 at-bats, and Robertson managed to pitch only six innings in injury-plagued seasons.
The real trouble, though, was the Phillies never showed up for the season. In only one month (May) did the team play better than .500 baseball, and by the beginning of June, the Phillies were a non-factor in the NL East division race.
Players play for Joe Girardi. Stern and stoic, he demands your attention and full-effort at all times. Just ask Gary Sanchez, his former catcher with the Yankees, what happens when you get lazy in blocking balls in the dirt.
Girardi’s Philadelphia Yankees
And so it is that Girardi is reportedly targeting several players who were with him when he was the manager of the Yankees.
Reliever Dellin Betances, catcher Austin Romine, and shortstop Didi Gregorius are all on Girardi’s shortlist of free agents he’d like to see Phillies GM Matt Klentak sign for the 2020 season.
Robertson, of course, is also a former Yankee and is expected to be healthy when the season begins, and McCutchen played briefly at the close of the 2018 season for them as well.
Girardi may or may not be an exceptional assessor of talent, but he certainly knows good character when he sees it. A devout family man himself, Girardi made sure there was a “family” presence in the Yankees clubhouse at all times.
Speaker of five languages, Gregorius is a prize widely sought by several teams, including the Yankees, who have not ruled out, making him an offer.
Romine is a free-agent for the first time. Primarily the back-up for Gary Sanchez, Romine had a break-out season of sorts with his bat in 2019.
With All-Star J.T. Realmuto has the Phillies regular catcher, Romine would once again have to settle in as a back-up again. But a spot with a contender could outweigh a decision, for instance, to be full-time with the Orioles or Royals.
Betances is coming off injuries that limited him to a handful of appearances in 2019. But the 6′ 8″ 260lb flamethrowing right-hander has a proven track record with the Yankees as a set-up man.
It has not gone unnoticed either that Girardi brought in Rob Thompson as his bench coach. Thompson was a coach for the Yankees in each of the ten seasons Girardi spent there.
It’s reasonable to assume that Girardi chose the Phillies between other offers with the affirmation the team is his to manage – without interference from the front office.
Choosing his players is another matter, but Girardi has juice, and GM Klentak is undoubtedly aware of that, and each wants their relationship to start amicably.
The Philadelphia Yankees is a stretch, but Girardi had some excellent success in New York, and each of these players was a part of those winning years.
Ex-Yankees or not – Girardi makes a difference
The Phillies are still in the hunt, and with an owner, John Middleton, who pledged to “spend stupidly” last year, it’s likely the purse strings will be loosened this offseason again.
In recent years, the Phillies have appeared to lack discipline and what it takes to make it through a grueling six-month baseball season – with consistency and team consciousness – traits that Girardi knows all too well.
Gregorius, Romine, and Betances are players Girardi knows, and they played for him as well. For each, the line for teams that want them is long. But if Girardi has his way, they’ll be Phillies before long…