Tag Archives: Adam Haseley

Phillies reportedly looking at right-handed hitting center fielders

As potentially convoluted as the Philadelphia Phillies infield situation could get during the 2020 season, the outfield appears to be fairly set at this point

In right field, Bryce Harper put together an outstanding first season in Philadelphia. As long as he remains healthy, Harper is locked into the starting lineup at the position for years to come.

Andrew McCutchen is the left fielder. The veteran is expected to be 100% recovered from the devastating knee injury and subsequent surgery that ended his own first season with the club in early June. In fact, he responded earlier this week to a piece that I published asking what the Phillies could expect from him in 2020.

In center field, 2017 first round draft pick Adam Haseley will enter spring training as the anticipated everyday starter after appearing in 65 games during his rookie season last summer. Haseley, who turns 24 in mid-April, made 40 of his 65 overall appearances in center field in 2019, including 36 starts.

This morning, MLB insider Jon Morosi revealed that the Phillies may be looking to add a right-handed hitting complement to the lefty-swinging Haseley.

 

On the assumption that general manager Matt Klentak is still willing to look at available options outside of the organization, which players remaining on the free agent market might make the most sense for such a role?

The best available right-handed hitting center fielder is probably Kevin Pillar. Having just turned 31 years of age earlier this week, Pillar is a seven-year veteran.

Pillar has spent most of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays, who dealt him to the San Francisco Giants just one week into the 2019  campaign. He went on to enjoy his best season with 21 homers, 61 extra-base hits, 88 RBIs, 83 runs scored, and 14 steals. Pillar also finished fifth among all MLB center fielders in putouts.

Other available free agents fitting the bill of an experienced center fielder who bats right-handed include Peter Bourjos, Rajai Davis, Austin Jackson, and Juan Lagares. Switch-hitting speedster Billy Hamilton is also available.

The Phillies current outfield depth includes left-handed hitters Jay Bruce, Nick Williams, and Odubel Herrera. The latter is not expected to remain with the club into the 2020 season after a highly publicized domestic violence incident last year.

Even the top two outfield prospects in the minor league system, 2016 first overall draft pick Mickey Moniak and 2016 international signee Simon Muzziotti, are each left-handed hitters. Both can play center field but neither is big-league ready at this point.

The lone player on the Phillies current 40-man roster who fits the bill would be the injury-prone Roman Quinn, a switch-hitter. It is a near certainty that Quinn will make the team and fill a reserve outfield role with as long as he is healthy.

Two players who have big-league experience and who fit the right-handed hitting center field bill were signed by the club this winter to minor league deals. Both Mikie Mahtook and Matt Szczur (pronounced ‘Ceasar’) will come to spring training with a shot at filling the role for the club.

In an emergency, McCutchen could slide over to briefly cover the position. He played in 15 games there in 2019 including 10 starts. But his days as an MVP and Gold Glove caliber defender in center are long over, and it would be best to limit McCutchen’s exposure there considering the knee injury.

It is no secret that the Phillies hope to use last year’s .500 finish (81-81) as a springboard to compete for a postseason berth in 2020. Assuming health and continued positive development, Haseley will get the majority of starts in center field.

For the Phillies in the coming season, having a quality, experienced, right-handed hitting option at the position could prove to be a big help, giving Haseley a break against some tougher southpaw pitchers.

 

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Philadelphia Phillies December 2019 mailbag

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No one in baseball is more under the spotlight this off-season than Phillies general manager Matt Klentak.

 

Back on Christmas Eve Eve, I asked my social media followers to shoot me out any questions that they might have on the Phillies.

As you might expect, the majority of those ended up in reference to moves the club has made and might still make during this current off-season.

Following are a representative sampling, along with my responses, presented in a question (Q) and answer (A) format.

 

Q: Sean Fitzpatrick (@SeanFit91141350 on Twitter) asks “I’m questioning the configuration of the infield as it stands now. I dont see either Segura or Kingery as a legit third base option, and which one plays second? Do we bring in an outside option?

A: As we sit here in the week between Christmas and New Year’s the Phillies 2020 infield configuration appears that it will feature Rhys Hoskins at first base, Jean Segura at second, Didi Gregorius at shortstop, and Scott Kingery at third base. Kingery is likely keeping the spot warm until top prospect Alec Bohm is ready, at which point Kingery would return to a super-utility role. That assumes he is not needed at another position due to injury.

Q: Robin Heller (@flower_auntie on Twitter) says “I am wondering about who will play third base and how they will address the holes in the rotation!

A: As for third base, see the above answer – though there remain rumors that the Phillies could consider a trade for Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. The starting rotation is currently projected to be made up of Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, and Vince Velasquez.

It doesn’t appear as though GM Matt Klentak feels that there are “holes in the rotation” – though you and I would disagree with him. Arrieta needs to prove that he can stay healthy and produce past May. Eflin and Velasquez have been consistently inconsistent.

Wheeler was a great signing. But we went into this off-season believing that the Phillies needed two new starting pitchers of the type who had proven to be winners at the big-league level. There is still plenty of time to bring in another arm via free agency or trade.

Among free agents remaining, perhaps Klentak would consider taking a shot on Alex Wood, if the 28-year-old southpaw keeps hanging out on the market and his price is reasonable. The Phillies have also been linked to Arizona lefty Robbie Ray.

Q: Dan McElhaugh on Facebook asks “You (Phillies) need to address the bullpen and get another starter. What are you doing about it?

A: I addressed the starting pitchers above. However, you also have to consider that top pitching prospect Spencer Howard is close to big-league ready and will likely impact the rotation at some point in 2020. He is probably going to start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and assuming health and success there we should see him by the second half of the season, at the latest.

The bullpen is a tough question. There actually are the makings of a decent group here. But much of that depends on them being healthier than last year’s group. Right-handers include Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Edgar Garcia, Trevor Kelley, Robert Stock and possibly even Nick Pivetta or prospect Adonis Medina.

Among lefties the club currently has Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Austin Davis, and Cristopher Sanchez. You could even see minor league starters Cole Irvin, Ranger Suarez, and JoJo Romero slide into a pen role.

There are a number of veteran relievers remaining on the free agent market including Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, Francisco Liriano, and Fernando Rodney. Any of them would help upgrade the bullpen. Klentak may be waiting to see if any can eventually come dirt cheap.

Q: JBFazz1213 (@JBFazz1213 on Twitter) stated “Very Disappointing if the Phillies don’t sign Dellin Betances because of the Luxury Tax.

A: As we now know, the Phillies indeed did not sign Betances, who received a one-year deal at $10.5 million guaranteed from the division-rival New York Mets which can rise to $13 million based on incentives. He also received two player option years, though if he proves himself healthy it is likely that Betances re-sets his value and returns to the free agent market next fall.

Having previously pitched his entire career in the Big Apple with the Yankees, he has a number of ties to New York. Likely of most importance were that the doctors who treated his shoulder injury and his Achilles injuries are located there. Those injuries, especially the September Achilles, are likely most of the reason that the Phillies and any number of other ball clubs in need of bullpen help were not involved.

Q: Wally Potter on Facebook asks “Why does the Phillies farm system have a bad history of producing quality starting pitching ? More specific within the last 40 years.”

A: Back in July of 2019, Dan Roche of NBC Sports Philadelphia did a nice piece on this very subject. In that piece, Roche listed the top 10 homegrown Phillies pitchers over the last four decades as ranked by Baseball-Reference WAR value.

Those ten arms belong to, in order, Cole Hamels, Aaron Nola, Kevin Gross, Randy Wolf, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson, Don Carman, Kyle Kendrick, Hector Neris, and Ricky Bottalico.

It’s not a bad list, but there is a major and obvious flaw. Nola and Neris are “now” arms on the current roster. Hamels, Myers, Madson, and Kendrick were all pitchers with the 2008 World Series champions and were with the club for a number of years around that magical season.

What you are left with are Gross, Carman, and Ricky Bo as the only pitchers developed out of the Phillies farm system from the late-1970’s through the mid-2000’s who had any real impact on the ball club.

Roche estimates that the Phillies have drafted upwards of 1,000 pitchers over the last 40 years and stated “Even by blind luck, a team should be able to do better than the Phillies have.

The answer to the “why” is difficult to explain. That poor history comes under various regimes led by eight different general managers and a number of higher executives.

Perhaps that poor homegrown pitching record is beginning to change. If you make the history just of the last dozen years or so, you get seven of the above 10 names. You also get arms such as current top pitching prospect Spencer Howard and former top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, the centerpiece of the J.T. Realmuto deal.

Q: d dask (@DocD19 on Twitter) wanted me to “Ask Matt Klentak if he is allergic to southpaws?

A: I am not sure regarding the topic of Klentak’s allergies. But I get it. Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, and Hyun-Jin Ryu were all available as free agents this time around. Any would have been a perfect fit for the Phillies rotation – especially our old hero Hamels on a one-year deal. The exact reasons why the GM didn’t get any of those arms to Philly is perplexing, to say the least.

Q: DDNAGS (@DDNAGS1 on Twitter) opined “They will not win with the current roster. Ask Matt Klentak when he is going to get off his big ass and make a couple trades? We don’t need all these scrubs he always signs.

A: Well, that’s simply wrong. Klentak signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen last off-season. He signed Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius this off-season. They had a .500 roster prior to the recent moves and on paper appear to be improved. So, it would seem that, given health, they are already good enough to “win with the current roster.
Now, if you are talking about winning enough to reach the playoffs, maybe even contend for a division crown, and beyond that, a world championship, I get it.
It is my contention that the Phillies need a more proven center fielder, a left-handed veteran starting pitcher, another veteran bullpen arm with a successful track record, and another bench bat with pop from the right side similar to what Jay Bruce brings from the left. Let’s see what the GM does between now and the start of the season.

Q: PhilliesCurveballMachine (@phillies_the on Twitter) asks “Will a “culture change” in the clubhouse under the new coaching staff really make a difference in the team’s intensity/ focus/ “hustle” this season? And will this translate into wins? Why/how?

A: When you talk about a “culture change” inside the Phillies clubhouse, you specifically mention the change of managers from Gabe Kapler to Joe Girardi. Honestly, we’re not going to know how the club responds. But I expect that a proven winner with a championship pedigree will be more influential and regarded more positively than a rookie with a cheerleader personality.

There is another major change inside the clubhouse, with a pair of starting players gone in Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco. This year should find Realmuto, McCutchen, and Harper stepping into even more vocal leadership roles. I don’t know about you, but that prospect elicits more confidence from me.

I am expecting that Girardi will simply not tolerate any lack of hustle. He is not only going to be willing to make an example out of any player, but also have the confidence and support from management to bench anyone for any reason.

This comes from the popularity of his hiring, the unpopularity of the general manager, the fact that Girardi is just beginning what should be at least a three-year run in the dugout, and his own confidence based on his experiences as a championship-winning player and manager.

Now, will this change in style and substance result in more victories? I think it will have some effect. However, the team has to stay mostly healthy, especially where its biggest stars are concerned, and needs to receive actual improved performance from a few players. Any more positive attitude needs to be backed by positive performances.

Q: Andrew (@Andrew201711 on Twitter) asks “With the roster as it stands , I don’t see the Phils doing any better than third place …. your thoughts ?

A: For me the big thing right now is that factor of health. If the roster as currently assembled remains healthy, they can contend for a postseason berth. If they stay healthy, get improved performances from a few players such as Adam Haseley, Hoskins, and Arrieta, and if Klentak can make a couple of big in-season moves, they can win the division.

All of that said, the Braves are two-time defending NL East champions with a talented young core. The Nationals are defending World Series champions. Both teams have solid overall rosters. The Mets have improved their already tough pitching staff in both talent and depth this off-season. All three of those teams finished above the Phillies in the 2019 standings.

It is way too early for me to make any predictions. A lot can still change on not only the Phillies roster, but that of their division rivals. But right now you can make a legitimate argument for the club finishing anywhere from first to fourth in the National League East Division in the 2020 season.

That’s it for the mailbag this time around. I’ll open it up once again as spring training gets underway in February. Between now and then, you can always hit me up on social media: @philliesbell on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

My Philadelphia Phillies Christmas wish 2019

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I think the Phanatic and most Phillies fans would agree with my one Christmas wish

 

With a number of happenings and gatherings over the next few days, barring some major breaking news this will be my final piece before Christmas.

There is really only one serious wish that I have for this year where there Philadelphia Phillies are concerned. If I were to actually whisper in Santa’s ear or write a letter to the North Pole, it would be the lone gift that I would ask for relating to baseball.

My one 2019 Christmas wish is for a winning Philadelphia Phillies ball club in the 2020 season.

By “winning”, I don’t mean 82-80. I mean a team that wins 90+ games and finally reaches October postseason baseball for the first time since 2011.

I really don’t care how they get there. I don’t need any more specific free agents signed or trades made. I am not looking for some final piece to any roster puzzle.

The Phillies have enough talented players right now to make it happen. They have legitimate stars at or near the top of the game at their positions in Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto. There are veterans with contender pedigrees such as Andrew McCutchen and Didi Gregorius. And there are at least two top-notch starting pitchers in Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler.

So many others either underperformed or were injured last year. I recently wrote about five such players who are being counted on and whose improvement would be keys in 2020: Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura, Scott Kingery, Adam Haseley, and Jake Arrieta.

New skipper Joe Girardi has already won a World Series, three division crowns, and been named the National League Manager of the Year for guiding an NL East ball club in 11 seasons as a manager in the big-leagues. Girardi justifiably elicits far more confidence than Gabe Kapler ever did without having run even a single Phillies game.

There are many reasons to believe that my Christmas wish will come true. And, of course, so much could go wrong over the next 10 months. There are certainly no guarantees in professional sports.

Sure, I would like another proven, veteran, left-handed starting pitcher for the Phillies rotation. Yes, I would like another impact-caliber bat for the bench mix. Absolutely, another big arm, perhaps one with some closer credentials, would be nice for the bullpen.

But whatever the specifics are that help the club to arrive there, my one wish at Christmas 2019 for the Philadelphia Phillies is that truly exciting, winning, playoff season.

While this is my final scheduled writing piece, keep following @philliesbell on social media at Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram where I will continue to post as regularly as time allows this week.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all Phillies fans!

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Five Phillies who must improve for club to reach the playoffs

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Getting more and better performances out of Arrieta will be pivotal to the Phillies hopes for 2020 contention

 

The Philadelphia Phillies have a better starting lineup and pitching rotation right now than they had at any point during the 2019 season. Which means that the Phillies are, at the moment with everyone healthy, better than they have been since the early years of this soon-to-end decade.

None of this means that they are good enough to reach the 2020 postseason. The regular season schedule for the upcoming season is slated to end on Sunday, September 27 in Washington. For the Phillies to be playing October baseball, any number of things have to go right.

That consideration of health will be vital. The club will need to receive anticipated All-Star caliber production from top stars Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Aaron Nola, and Zack Wheeler.

It would also help if the front office, specifically general manager Matt Klentak, can bolster the back-end of the Opening Day roster with a couple of more impactful bench and bullpen pieces.

Even if all of that goes right – the team stays relatively healthy, the stars produce as expected, the bench and bullpen prove effective – for the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans to enjoy playoff baseball for the first time since 2011 the following five players simply must step up their games.

Rhys Hoskins

The Phillies starting first baseman finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2017 despite not making his debut until mid-August. Extrapolating his freshman numbers over a full season would have resulted in 54 homers, 144 RBI, and 111 runs scored.

Miscast as a left fielder the following year, Hoskins still produced power at the plate with a 34 home run, 72 extra-base hit, 96 RBI, and 89 runs scored campaign. He also held his own under the glare of the national spotlight with a solid performance in the Home Run Derby as part of the mid-season All-Star Game festivities.

But in 2019, Hoskins regressed. Despite receiving 45 more plate appearances during his age 26 season, his production dipped to 29 homers, 85 RBIs, and 86 runs scored. His strikeouts rose from 150 to 173 and his batting average slid from the .246 to the .226 level.

While Hoskins walks total rose from 87 to 116, his on-base percentage rose just 10 points to the .364 mark. The fact was that he simply did not make nearly enough contact, especially contact resulting in power, this past season.

What Hoskins needs to do in 2020 is make more and harder contact, sacrificing some of the patience he showed last year for more aggressiveness at the plate. His slugging percentage, which has slipped from 1.014 to .850 to last year’s unacceptable .819 mark should be at .900 or above. That will be the surest sign as to whether Hoskins is producing at a playoff-caliber level.

Jean Segura

When Klentak traded away Carlos Santana for Segura last December it was expected that the seven-year veteran and two-time All-Star would become a significant upgrade at shortstop over former top prospect J.P. Crawford.

During his age 29 campaign in 2019, Segura didn’t have a bad year, he just didn’t enjoy a particularly good season either. Defensively, Fangraphs ranked Segura at 15th, the exact mid-point, among all qualifying MLB shortstops for this past season. That was two places higher than the former shortstop, Freddy Galvis, who many Phillies fans considered a top glove man.

At the plate over his six full seasons in Major League Baseball prior to arriving in Philadelphia, Segura averaged roughly 10 homers, 50 RBIs, 25 doubles, 78 runs scored, and 27 stolen bases with a .288 average and .328 on-base percentage.

His numbers this past season? 12 homers, 60 RBIs, 37 doubles, 79 runs, 10 steals with a .280 average and .323 OBP. That is pretty much in line with his career production. It is the kind of season that the Phillies should have expected from him.

What the Phillies could really use in 2020 is for the All-Star caliber Segura to show up. In 2013 with Milwaukee he hit .294 and stole 44 bases. Then in 2018 with Seattle he hit .304 with 20 steals and 91 runs scored.

It is expected that with the acquisition of Didi Gregorius to play shortstop, that Segura will be sliding over to second base. Playing that position for the entirety of 2016 with Arizona, Segura produced his best season in the big-leagues. He slashed .319/.368/.499 that year with 20 home runs, 68 extra-base hits, 64 RBIs, 102 runs. Those were all career highs, and he added 33 stolen bases.

Adam Haseley

At age 23, Haseley began the 2019 season playing at Double-A Reading. The Phillies first round MLB Draft pick in 2017 at eighth overall quickly rose to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Over the first two months of the season at two levels, Haseley was enjoying a solid campaign and advancing through a natural progression. He was on pace to make his big-league debut in September when rosters expanded while receiving a full summer against advanced Triple-A pitching in the minors.

A variety of circumstances in Philadelphia caused him to be rushed to the majors for a pair of early June cameos, and those ongoing circumstances led to his promotion for good in mid-July.

His rookie season resulted in a .266/.324/.396 slash line. Haseley contributed five homers, 19 extra-base hits, 26 RBIs, 30 runs scored, and four stolen bases. He saw action all across the outfield: 40 games in center field with 36 starts, 22 in left field with 15 starts, 10 in right field with eight starts.

It is expected that Haseley will at least open the 2020 season as the Phillies starting center fielder. Among all MLB players who appeared in at least 300 innings there this past season, Haseley was ranked just 26th by Fangraphs defensively. That will have to improve if the club is to receive playoff-caliber defense at what is a vital position on the field.

Offensively his 2019 numbers extrapolate out to about a dozen homers, 65 RBIs, 50 extra-base hits, 75 runs, and 10 steals. Those numbers need to be improved upon if the Phillies are to become legitimate contenders. The good news is that Haseley will turn just 24 in April. Odds are that he will indeed continue progressing. If he is going to be the everyday center fielder for the entire season, that improvement will be a must.

Scott Kingery

I’ve often described Kingery as the Swiss army knife of the Phillies. During his rookie 2018 season, Kingery started 101 games and appeared in 119 as the regular shortstop. But he was also used at six other positions by manager Gabe Kapler, everywhere but catcher and first base.

In this past season, Kapler utilized his versatility at a half-dozen spots, including 65 games in center field and 41 at third base. A Gold Glover at second base in the minor leagues, Kingery has only seen 14 games of action and made just eight starts over his first two years in the big-leagues at what is clearly his best defensive position.

Things are shaping up for more of the same in 2020. Right now, Kingery is slated to open as the third baseman. However, rumors continue to persist of the Phillies interest in free agent Josh Donaldson or a possible trade for Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs.

Even if the Phillies stand pat at the hot corner, top prospect Alec Bohm should be ready to take over the third base position at some point in the 2020 campaign. It is almost a foregone conclusion that, barring injuries, Kingery will eventually be pushed off the position and back into his super-utility role.

No matter where he is used, it is almost a certaintly that Kingery will be in the regular starting lineup at one position or another. It will be with improvement at the plate where he can become a difference maker.

Kingery received just 16 more plate appearances this past season than in his rookie year. But his home runs jumped from eight to 19, extra-base hits from 33 to 57, RBIs from 35 to 55, runs from 55 to 64, and steals from 10 to 15. His rookie slash line of .226/.267/.338 was improved to .258/.315/.474 this past summer.

Turning 26-years-old in late April, there is no reason that the Phillies should not be able to count on Kingery to continue increasing his offensive output. He is a potential 25-25 player in homers and steals. A little more consistency at the plate resulting his becoming a  hitter who bats at or near the top of the order and scores 100 runs. That needs to be the next step in Kingery’s development.

Jake Arrieta

The lone hurler on this list, Arrieta needs to stay healthy and deliver more consistent outings in 2020 for the Phillies starting pitching rotation as its most veteran arm.

No one expects the right-hander, who turns 34 in early March, to repeat or even approximate his 2014-16 peak with the Chicago Cubs when he was one of the top starters in baseball and the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner.

But the Phillies need to get at least a little more than they have received over his first two seasons with the club: 18-19, 4.26 ERA, 1.369 WHIP, 314 hits over 308.1 innings with a 248/108 K:BB ratio across 55 starts.

In April and May of 2018, Arrieta made his first 10 starts with the Phillies. Seven of those were Quality Start outings of at least six innings and three or fewer earned runs allowed. This past season, six of his first seven outings resulted in Quality Starts once again.

From May 10 through the early end to his season in 2019, Arrieta had a 5.26 ERA and opposing batters hit .300 against him. From June 3 through the end of the 2018 season, Arrieta had a 4.88 ERA.

The fast starts to his first two Phillies seasons were encouraging. Arrieta showed during April and May that he can still be a winning pitcher when healthy and motivated. Discouraging were the fall-offs in his performance and health as those seasons moved along.

In 2018 it was a cartilage issue in his left knee that likely caused Arrieta’s decreased effectiveness. That issue required surgery last off-season. He then lost his effectiveness and most of the final two months of this past season due to bone spurs in his pitching elbow, which also required surgery. He was quoted back in August by Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Without this bone spur, I’m going to be able to use everything effectively. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I know what I need to do to execute certain pitches. I’m physically limited at this point. I don’t have the ability to do those things. With some more space in the elbow, without that distraction in there, I’m going to be pretty good.

The Phillies have $22.5 million options on Arrieta for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Those will certainly not be exercised. However, the pitcher could get himself a nice deal from some team come this time next year if he can deliver a full, healthy, productive season. That would also go a long way towards pushing the Phillies to the postseason.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Should Phillies pursue a top bat over a top starting pitcher?

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Keuchel is a legitimate option if the Phillies choose to, or are forced to, settle below the top-level free agent arms

 

With the ‘Hot Stove’ season now open across Major League Baseball, teams have begun the process of trying to upgrade their roster for the 2020 campaign.

The Philadelphia Phillies are coming off what was a disappointing .500 season in 2019. After a ton of high-profile activity last off-season and a fast start, the club sputtered over the final four months to finish at 81-81.

Most evaluators and fans feel that the biggest shortcoming for the team this past season was the pitching staff. The Phillies failed to get quality outings from their starting pitchers and suffered numerous injuries that depleted their bullpen.

The bullpen could bounce back simply with a return to health by a few of the arms and with a modest free agent signing or prescient trade addition.

But the rotation will be more difficult. There are a pair of ace-caliber pitchers available in Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, and a strong second-tier arm in Zack Wheeler. The Phillies have plenty of money and the incentive to sign any of them.

However, would they actually be smarter to ink a couple of lesser-tier arms, pitchers who do not have a qualifying offer attached, instead spending their big money on another impact bat to fill one of their lineup holes? It’s a legitimate strategy to consider.

If so, which arms could actually improve the rotation and might make the most sense for the club to pursue? And then, what bats might the club be able to add that would significantly upgrade the lineup?

MID-LEVEL ARMS

The Phillies gave 72 combined starts in the 2019 season to a group of pitchers that included Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Jerad Eickhoff, Drew Smyly, Jason Vargas, and Cole Irvin.

The lowest ERA among that group was the 4.45 mark of Smyly, a southpaw who was added as a free agent in mid-July who is now an unrestricted free agent. Each of the others was either near or over the 5.00 mark.

There are a handful of solid starting pitching options available in free agency who do not have qualifying offers attached. They are unrestricted free agents who will not cost anywhere near the price of a Cole or Strasburg contract.

Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu is an injury risk and will turn 33 years of age at the end of spring training. But he could be had for something like a three-year, $54-million deal. For this year’s NL Cy Young Award runner-up who has top of the rotation talent, it could prove a major bargain. Would the Phillies roll the dice?

The Phillies passed on Dallas Keuchel this past season and then watched him become a difference-maker in the rival Braves rotation as Atlanta pulled away in the standings. The lefty turns 32 on New Year’s Day and might be looking for a five-year deal. But if the former NL Cy Young Award winner who also has four Gold Gloves on his résumé would settle for three years at $15 million per?

There is also, of course, Cole Hamels. The former Phillies ace and World Series hero will turn 37-years-old two days after Christmas. The lefty has publicly stated that he would go on a one-year deal. How about the Phillies take him up on that offer at $15 million with incentives and a club option for 2021?

Adding a pair of left-handers from among the Ryu, Keuchel, Hamels group, depending on the price in dollars and years, would likely end up much more affordable and hang much less of a risk albatross around the Phillies necks as would a Cole or Strasburg deal alone.

TOP POTENTIAL IMPACT BATS

It’s very difficult to evaluate where the Phillies 2020 holes will be, simply because the club hasn’t made up its own mind regarding a number of holdover players.

Decisions on Scott Kingery, Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez, and Adam Haseley in particular will determine not only the answers to a number of questions – but also will actually determine those questions themselves.

So, I will proceed in the way that I see best for the Phillies future. That means Kingery plays second base every day, both Hernandez and Franco are gone, and Haseley becomes a bench player or starts in center field every day at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

What that means is the Phillies have holes to fill in center field and at third base. The center field hole cannot be filled in free agency, at least not by anyone who would be a marked improvement on Haseley.

If the Phillies wish to add a championship caliber center fielder it will have to be done via trade. In past articles, I have advocated for the club going after Boston Red Sox defensive whiz Jackie Bradley Jr.

Whether it would be Bradley or some other target, filling this position with a more proven veteran is something that general manager Matt Klentak needs to make a priority. Klentak needs to find his Garry Maddox for Willie Montanez trade. Phillies fans should well recall that important May 1975 trade with the San Francisco Giants.

However, filling the third base hole can indeed be done through the free agency route. In fact, there are three different players available, all at different commitment levels of years and dollars

Anthony Rendon is the top available hitter. Turning 30-years-old next June, he would likely come at a price tag of $30-35 million over as many as seven years. Rendon would bring elite, Gold Glove-caliber defense and a clutch middle-of-the-order bat to the lineup, but at a premium price that would tie up the position for years.

Josh Donaldson is a former AL MVP who turns 34 in two weeks. He is a proven middle order hitter who remains a top glove man at the hot corner. Donaldson played on a one-year deal this past season in Atlanta. It will likely cost a three-year, $75 million commitment this time around.

A third option at third base would be 31-year-old Mike Moustakas. He is nowhere near the caliber of defender at the hot corner as the first two, and is not as reliable a hitter or run producer either. However, at a notch below both Rendon and Donaldson he would also come cheaper. He might even go for a one-year deal at $10-12 million, allowing the Phillies to remain committed to Alec Bohm over the longer term.

 

Even if he can successfully fill the holes in center field and at third base, as well as add two more veteran starting pitchers, Klentak still has more work to do this off-season. He needs to add a couple of better veteran bench options, as well as perhaps adding another strong reliever. Get all that accomplished and the Philadelphia Phillies are legitimate 2020 postseason contenders.

 

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