After a somewhat successful 2016 season, the Phillies and their front office will have a few important moves to make to become a more consistent winner in 2017, and a better contender for years to come.
What’s Already Happened?
Second year general manager Matt Klentak has been somewhat agressive in this young offseason.
The first move came on November 4th when the Phillies acquired veteran bull pen pitcher Pat Neshek from the Astros for a player to be named later. Could this mean there will be a trade involving a bull pen piece? Maybe, we’ll get to that later.
The second move was a little bit of a surprise when the Phillies teamed up with a familiar partner in the Los Angeles Dodgers for a trade. The Phils received veteran left fielder and second baseman Howie Kendricks for Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney, the latter was actually acquired from the Dodgers in 2015 for Chase Utley.
The Phillies offered RHP Jeremy Hellickson a qualifying after the season ended, and on Monday the veteran was one of only two players in the Majors to accept a qualifying offer. Hellickson, who went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA in his first year with the Phils, will make 17.2 million this year. The Phillies were probably hoping he would decline, giving them a compensation pick in the draft. At the end of the day though, Hellickson will be a solid veteran presence in a very young rotation.
The last move the organization made came on Tuesday when they wisely released RHP Matt Harrison, who was an add in for the Cole Hamels trade. The Phillies still owe him over $15 million, but he wasn’t worth the roster spot.
What Lies Ahead?
The Phillies will be continuing their youth movement this season with the likes of short stop J.P. Crawford and OF Nick Williams expected to break into the majors sometime in May. Catcher Jorge Alfaro and OF Roman Quinn should both have a chance to make the team out of Spring training after getting their feet wet in September. With the return of Hellickson, the starting rotation is pretty much set, with Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, and Zach Eflin all expected to be healthy after injury plaqued seasons. Jerad Eickhoff, who had a great season in 2016 will also be in the rotation, he should slide into the #2 spot. Jake Thompson and Adam Morgan will be the reserves, spending time in triple A or the bull pen. After seeing the amount of injuries this grouped suffered in 2016, it may be wise for Klentak to go out and get another arm or two.
If Klentak wanted to go the free agent route, he would have some choices. Veteran starters Jason Hammel, Doug Fister, and Andrew Cashner are just a few of the notables. A contender looking for a fourth or fifth picther may be able to out bid the Phillies, but if one of them were to hang around late into the offseason, Klentak should pull the trigger.
If Klentak felt gutsy, he could use the trade option. With addition of Kendricks, the Phillies could be in a posotion to put OF Odubel Herrera and 2B Cesar Hernandez on the market.If this was to be the case, the Phillies would be looking for young pitching and possibly look for a prospect for plays first base or a corner outfield. It would make sense to deal one of these two players. Both had great seasons in 2016, Herrera was the Phillies only all star and Hernadez hoovered around the .300 mark for most of the season, their stock probably won’t get much higher than it is right now. The Phillies have Crawford waiting in AAA to become the everyday short stop so that means the Phils could move Galvis to second, and Kendricks could fill in from time to time, especially if Galvis needed to play short. The market for Herrera would be a big one and the Phillies would be in for a hefty return, with Kendricks in left, and Roman Quinn being a servicable center field, the Phillies could easily fill the righ field spot through free agency. There’s plenty of outfielders to pick from this year. The former Met Yoenis Cespedes is now a free agent, he can play center and left and would bring some much needed pop to the lineup. Jose Bautista would be an interesting target, he would hit a ton of homers in Citizens Bank Park, he is restricted to the corner outfield posotions,and age is a concern, but he would be some much needed protection for Franco. Other options include Mark Trumbo, who led the MLB this past season with his 47 bombs and center fielder Dexter Fowler from the World Series champs.
Klentak will probably opt to hold on to his young players, but he has options to work with.
Another possibility is to make a trade similar to the Ken Giles one and unload one of the team’s talented bull pen pieces and receive a hefty return. The market for elite bull pen pitching is small but there’s a ton of demand, so teams are willing to over pay to get a lights out bull pen piece. The Phillies have a handful of bull pen pitchers who they could think about dealing, Hector Neris, Jeanmar Gomez, and Edubray Ramos. Neris, who is 27, would probably net the best return. He hits upper 90’s and the ocassional 100 MPH fast ball, he was 4-4 with a 2.58 ERA and a WHIP of 1.11 in 2016. Ramos would be appealing becuase he’s only 23 and constantly hits 100+ mph with his fast ball. It would make a lot of sense for the Phillies to ship off one of these guys especially if a team was to miss out on Aroldis Champman or Kenley Jansen and would become very desperate for bull pen help.
Moves the Phillies Shouldn’t Make “Yet”
There’s a couple moves the Phillies should not think about making right now, but could entertain these thoughts at the trade deadline.
1. Trade Cameron Rupp
In his first year as the starting catcher in Philadelphia, Rupp performed admirably. He hit .252 with 16 homers, 26 doubles, and 54 RBIs and greatly improved behind the plate. Rupp,28, should be the Phillies starter this season, with Jorge Alfaro most likely starting in AAA. If Alfaro performs well when he reaches the Majors, the Phillies could entertain offers for Rupp as an offensive minded catcher is becoming harder and harder to find. The Phillies would then sign a veteran free agent to back up Alfaro or think about bringing up another minor leaguer.
2. Trade Vince Velasquez
In April and May, the newly acquired RHP flamerthrower was one of the hottest pitchers in baseball and was making Matt Klentak look like the next Theo Epstein(he still could be) for acquiring him, but injuries and lack of a put away pitch derailed the later part of Velasquez’s season. The Rangers were linked to the then 23 year old at the deadline, but Klentak wisely held onto him. If and only if the Phillies rotation stays healthy, should they consider dealing Velasquez at the 2017 deadline. The Phillies have more young pitchers in the minors with Ben Lively slated to break through in 2017. Velasquez has the makings of an ace, but if he continues to struggle to get out of the 6th inning, the Phillies should sell high while they still can.
The Moves that Should be Made
1. Add a power bat
The Phillies have more cap room than any other MLB team, they have the resources to reel in a Mark Trumbo or Jose Bautista. Adding a power corner outfielder would bring pop to the lineup, protection to Franco, and excitment to the ball park. Contenders will have an upper hand on the Phillies when it comes to winning the sweepstakes for these stars, but Klentak might be able to work some magic. Even if he can’t pull in the big fish, Klentak could still look at servicable outfielders like Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick.
2. Trade Herrera or Hernadez
I wouldn’t trade both, but dealing one of them would make some sense. If the Phillies were to add that power corner outfielder, they could move Goedell and Alther to center and Kendricks could play left with Roman Quinn getting playing time in center and left. If the Phillies move Hernadez, Kendricks could play second while Galvis plays short, then when Crawford comes, up the Phillies could get creative playing Galvis at second or short, and Kendricks in left or at second base. The return for Herrera would be a better one and the Phillies could receive a young talented arm or two which could open the door for a Velasquez trade. Hernadez would bring back a solid package, but teams won’t be as high on him as they are on Herrera.
3. Add a veteran pitcher
After what happened to the rotation this past season, the truth is you can never have enough pitching. There’s a lot of veteran pitchers on the market who could slide into the fourth or fifth spot and also bring wisdom to the young pitchers around them. This wouldn’t be a monster deal, something similar to what Bartolo Colon got from the Braves, one year, roughly $10 million. Klentak might opt to stay with Hellickson and the young arms, which wouldn’t be a bad thing, but it never hurts to have more pitching.
4. Trade one bull pen piece
After what the Yankees got for Chapman and Miller, you can see teams will do pretty much anything to acquire bull pen talent. With Gomez and now Pat Neshek, plus some talent in the minors, the Phillies will be able to part with Neris or Ramos. The Phillies would be in for a package similar to that of the Ken Giles one, something that should excite fans and also reload the system as many prospects begin to reach Philadelphia.
Moves the Phillies Should Not Make
1. Don’t Over Pay for a vet
I said above that the Phillies would benifit from adding some veterans, but they should stay away from over paying and offering long term deals. Klentak knows this isn’t in the best interest of his team and I expect him to stay away from deals of more than 2-3 years, especially for aging players.
2. Don’t Make the Blockbuster
A team in a situation like the Phillies, the Braves, have been linked to many major trade possibilities, including one for ace Chris Sale. The Phillies should stay away from this mindset for at least another year. The Phils have a rich farm system, and they will be better off giving these prospects a chance than shipping them off before they have a chance to be anything. The Braves want to use their talented system to reel in big time players, I think the Phillies should continue to add talent to their system so they will be able to make a splash when the team is ready to contend, not before.
This will be another interesting offseaon in Major League Baseball, and I expect the Phillies to play a big role in it. Under the leadership of general manager Matt Klentak, I think the organization will take more steps in the right direction as we look to the 2017 season.