Phillies 2020 and future infield mix remains a work in progress

Shortstop Stott was the Phillies top pick out of UNLV in the 2019 MLB Draft and should be ready for a big-league shot by 2023. (UNLV)

 

The Philadelphia Phillies were expected to be big players in the free agent market once again during this current off-season. That expectation came through in the form of two big signings.

Desperately in need of help for the starting pitching rotation, the Phillies inked one of the top available arms in Zack Wheeler.

The Phillies arguably still could use another arm to upgrade that rotation, as well as at least one more impact reliever in the bullpen. But let’s set that area of pitching aside and save those discussions for another day.

Major changes have come to the Phillies infield mix. The club said goodbye to starting second baseman Cesar Hernandez and third baseman Maikel Franco, turning the page completely on the era of losing baseball from the mid-2010’s.

In a move that hopefully brings more offensive thump to the infield mix, the Phillies signed shortstop Didi Gregorius to a one-year deal for $14 million.

The plan now appears to be that the Phillies will slide Jean Segura over to second base and hand Scott Kingery the starting job at third base, at least to open the 2020 season.

The looming presence of top offensive prospect Alec Bohm also has to be factored into the mix. Bohm has improved his defensive play at third base. There appears to be no question that he will hit and produce offensively at the big-league level.

The question with Bohm is, when will the Phillies finally consider that the 23-year-old is ready to pull on a jersey and step into the lineup at the major league level?

Once that question is answered, another one pops up: What do the Phillies do with Kingery?

The options are many. The Phillies could move Kingery back to center field, moving Adam Haseley to the bench or back to an everyday role with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. That decision will be based on Haseley’s performance. If the 2017 first round pick is playing well and producing, pushing him aside will not be an option.

If Haseley keeps the everyday center field job upon a Bohm promotion, and assuming the other infielders are all healthy, then Kingery becomes the Swiss army knife of the Phillies lineup. Manager Joe Girardi would likely use him in center against tough left-handed pitchers to give Haseley a break, and also on the infield at second, short, and third to keep everyone else fresh.

It’s not a bad plan. Kingery has proven capable of handling each of those positions at a passable level. His best defensive position is second base, but the Phillies brain trust does not appear ready to surrender his versatility to that everyday role – at least not yet.

The Phillies depth would be enviable in some regards. They would have Segura and Kingery available to play second base. Each of them and Gregorius can handle shortstop. And all three along with Bohm can play some at third base. Girardi will not be juggling them, but again, it allows for depth in case of an injury or two.

Over at first base, Rhys Hoskins job is secure at the moment. Turning 27-years-old on Saint Patrick’s Day in 2020, Hoskins is under club control at least through the 2023 season. Segura is under control through 2022 with a 2023 team option. Kingery is under Phillies control through 2023 with three more team option years beyond that.

Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement with the Player’s Association is due to run out following the 2021 season. It appears highly likely that as teams prepare two years from now for the 2022 season, the Designated Hitter will come to the National League. That would allow the Phillies to keep both Hoskins and Bohm’s bats in the lineup should Bohm not prove to be a long-term defensive answer at the hot corner.

Aside from Bohm, the only current prospect in the Phillies minor league system who could insinuate themselves into this mix would be shortstop Bryson Stott. The club’s top pick at 14th overall in the 2019 MLB Draft out of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Stott was the Mountain West Conference player of the year last spring. At age 22, the lefty-hitting Stott made his minor league debut this past summer in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and at short-season Williamsport.

The most likely scenario has Stott playing at the A-level in the 2020 season at both Lakewood and Clearwater. Assuming a normal, healthy progression based on his talent and age, Stott would then play his 2021 season at Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. This would put Stott into the mix for the starting shortstop job at some point in the 2022 campaign.

Gregorius will turn 30 years of age just as he is due to report for his first Phillies spring training down in Clearwater, Florida. Since he only has a one-year deal, the longer that situation remains without his agreeing to an extension the larger the question of who plays the shortstop position for the Phillies in 2021-22 will remain.

A perfect scenario for the Phillies would probably be for Gregorius to produce as the summer goes along, and then get him to sign a two- or three-year extension. That would keep all of these players in the Phillies mix through at least the 2023 season.

How will it all actually play out? Who knows. As you can see, there are many possibilities. Girardi has a three-year deal with a club option for 2023, so he is likely to be here trying to figure it out the entire time.

The really interesting player in all of this could be general manager Matt Klentak. Would he include any of these players in a trade over the coming weeks, months, or years? Does he try to keep Gregorius beyond 2020? Will Klentak even still have his job, which is probably going to be based on his own performance this winter and the Phillies subsequent 2020 campaign?

 

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