Tag Archives: Alec Bohm

Philadelphia Phillies in the MLB 2020 free agent market

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Super agent Scott Boras again finds himself in the middle of much of the big Hot Stove season action

 

Welcome to the latest episode of the ‘Ring the Bell‘ podcast. For those simply reading this piece at the website, it doubles as the script for today’s episode.

As I discussed in yesterday’s episode which evaluated the Phillies current roster and payroll situations, the ball club has a number of important needs. General manager Matt Klentak will find himself increasingly under the glare of the spotlight as this Hot Stove season moves along and he attempts to fill those needs.

First, let’s take a minute to run down the list of what I see as those Phillies needs this off-season, in order of importance:

  1. Starting pitching
  2. Starting pitching
  3. Center field
  4. Bench
  5. Bullpen
  6. Third base (?)

That was not a typo in listing ‘Starting Pitching’ twice. It is simply that important, first of all. And also, the club needs two new proven winning veteran starting pitchers, at least one of whom should be an “ace” level rotation arm. Now, let’s take a look at who is available on the free agent market.

STARTING PITCHING

There are two big names here, Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. They should and will be the Phillies top two targets in free agency. Principal owner John Middleton has made the addition of top-level starting pitching a priority for the team, and is prepared to spend top dollar to secure such an arm.

The problem is not going to be one of either money or will power. The problem for the Phillies will be that they are not the only team in search of this level of pitching talent, not by a long shot.

The world champion and division rival Washington Nationals and their World Series opponents, the Houston Astros, are not simply going to let Strasburg and Cole respectively walk away from their ball clubs without a major effort to retain them.

Also, it is publicly known that the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels will be shopping aggressively for this type of arm as well. Speculation is that the San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, and Atlanta Braves are among any number of other teams with the desire and money to land one of these top two starting pitchers.

It’s hard to know what is going through Strasburg’s mind. There has been some speculation that opting out of his contract with the Nationals was purely a strategy to get more money from the only organization he has ever known.

The 31-year-old, 10-year veteran was due to make another $100 million over the next four years in Washington. Some have speculated that he could get another $50 million and another year, at least, on the open market.

While it would not be a surprise to see the Nationals and Strasburg announce a new deal at any point, that is far from a given. The longer he hangs out there on the market, the more clubs are going to his agent, Scott Boras, with interest.

Cole is also represented by the Boras Group. The 29-year-old is the biggest name on the free agent market this winter. I expect to see Boras take him on a tour of interested teams and cities, similar to what we saw happen last year with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Don’t expect to see Cole sign with anyone until February.

While the Phillies will be in the mix for both, their money and genuine interest making them legitimate contenders, they should not be considered the favorites for either pitcher. Cole, a native of Newport Beach, is said to be interested in either a return to SoCal or a spot at the top of the Yankees rotation. Strasburg, a San Diego native, may also go the SoCal route if he doesn’t return to D.C.

It is going to be curious to watch the Phillies pursuit of a top arm, because as I said, what the rotation really needs is two more experienced, proven, veteran starting pitchers.

The longer that Cole remains unsigned, and Strasburg as well for that matter, and the longer the Phillies genuinely believe that they are in the mix for one or the other, then it becomes a somewhat dangerous game.

There is a large group of talented starting pitchers just below the talent levels of Cole and Strasburg. Most if not all of those pitchers are going to sign somewhere earlier than at least Cole will be signing. The Phillies are going to have to commit to one of the next level of pitchers by Christmas, possibly even within the next few weeks.

The most obvious target would appear to be 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels. Turning 36 years of age two days after this coming Christmas, Hamels has already said that he would be open to a return to the club with whom he broke into the big-leagues and first became a star.

Judging by social media, Hamels remains popular with the fan base. And judging by his comments, the feeling is mutual.

MLB Phillies insider Todd Zolecki quoted Hamels earlier this week:

I know Philly is finally trying to make that push. They’re building their roster. If I fit on their roster and their plans, I’d love the opportunity to come back. It’s probably more on their end, though, to reach out and see if I actually do fit in their plans. It would be difficult for me to say, ‘Hey, I want to play there, can you guys make it happen?’ But I’m always willing to play for that team and city and attempt to win a World Series. That’s where I am right now. I just want to have the opportunity to get to the postseason, just so that I can try to win.

Hamels then went on to say, according to Zolecki, that he would even be willing to play on a one-year contract:

I’m not there to handcuff somebody or an organization…I can do one year here and there and just play as long as I can play. I think that’s what will help give me an opportunity to play on teams that are trying to go to the postseason. If you need one guy, I can just kind of bounce around. Obviously, if the Phillies were interested in longer than one, I’d entertain that, too. But I think I want the opportunity to have as many opportunities to get to the postseason and try to win. I’ll go every year. I’ll prove myself. I don’t mind having my back against the wall. I think I perform better like that anyway. It just keeps me more accountable.

This just seems to make too much sense. Hamels is clearly interested in a return to the Phillies. The fans would love to have him back. He has the talent and experience that the club is looking for, and he has something else going for him – Hamels is left-handed. The club has not had a truly effective southpaw in their rotation since, well, since Hamels left in 2015.

No longer in his prime, this could absolutely work on a one-year deal with a club option for another year or two. The Phillies, as long as all the medicals check out, should waste no time with this decision. Klentak should be on the phone with Hamels agent today.

If they just can’t work something out, or don’t want Hamels for some reason, there are other interesting arms.

Available free agent left-handers include 30-year-old, 4x NL All-Star and former World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner…32-year-old, 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel…33-year-old Korean native and 2019 NL All-Star Hyun-Jin Ryu…29-year-old, 2017 NL All-Star Alex Wood.

Available right-handers would include 29-year-old, former first round MLB Draft pick Zack Wheeler…31-year-old, 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello…30-year-old, 2019 AL All-Star Jake Odorizzi.

There are a few dozen other possibilities as well. But frankly, anyone other than the pitchers mentioned already would be a disappointing addition.

The Phillies would be wise to take Hamels up on this word, and wrap him up to fill the 3-4 slot in their starting rotation for 2020. Then they can concentrate all of their efforts into trying to land one of the really big fish.

CENTER FIELD

There are a lot of Phillies fans who seem to think that the club is okay here with either Scott Kingery or Adam Haseley. Frankly, if you truly want to be a contending team, I think that is just crazy talk.

Kingery has handled himself admirably out there for someone who is not a natural outfielder. Haseley deserves much credit for rising from Double-A to a regular big-league role last season.

But neither is the answer for a contending Phillies ball club.

Kingery needs to be handed his natural second base position and allowed to play it every single day, barring some situational need or emergency. Haseley would be well served getting more everyday plate appearances at Triple-A or serving a fourth outfielder apprenticeship in 2020.

There has been some chatter on social media about the team bringing back free agent outfielder Corey Dickerson, who excelled with the Phillies following his arrival from Pittsburgh at this past season’s trade deadline.

Yes, Dickerson hit .293 with eight homers and 34 RBIs in just 137 plate appearances with the Phillies. Extrapolate those numbers over a full season and you have something like a 35 homer, 120+ RBI campaign.

However, the 30-year-old Dickerson is a free agent for the first time. He is going to parlay that performance into a nice, well-deserved payday. And he is, unfortunately, not a center fielder. Just 27 of his 571 big-league games in the outfield have been played in center.

If you are thinking of putting him in left field and having Andrew McCutchen slide over to become the everyday man in center field for the Phillies, you really need to think again.

McCutchen is now 33-years-old and has not played center field regularly in either of his last two seasons. He is coming off major knee surgery as well.

While he can spot-start or slide over temporarily during a situational or emergency need, as he did for 10 starts and 15 total games this past season with the Phillies, he is no longer the player who won a 2012 Gold Glove Award as a center fielder.

Roman Quinn is also not the answer. I love Quinn’s tool set and have been publicly in his corner for a few years now. But even someone who is as big a fan as I am has limits. Quinn has proven that he simply cannot remain healthy long enough to be a reliable starting option.

No, what the Phillies really need is a new center fielder, someone from outside the organization. Unfortunately, there really are not quality options available this year in free agency.

You have a premier defender such as Juan Lagares. There is pure base stealing speed in Billy Hamilton. There is an aging veteran such as 34-year-old, 5x AL All-Star, 4x AL Gold Glove Award winner Adam Jones.

None of those is a realistic option. Jones played just one game in center last year for the Dbacks, and two years ago with Baltimore he was rated as one of the worst regular center fielders in the game defensively by Fangraphs.

Lagares will turn 31-years-old in spring training and has just a .254/.297/.361 career slash line in 2,119 career big-league plate appearances. With a slash of just .242/.297/.326 over 3,089 plate appearances, Hamilton is even worse with a bat in his hands.

There is no answer available in free agency. If the Phillies want to improve in center field, it is going to have to come via trade.

During this past season, I wrote that a worthy trade target could be found in Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. He turns 30 years of age early in the 2020 season and can become a free agent after next year.

If I’m Klentak, I’m on the phone looking to see if we can find a reasonable match in trade for the 2018 Gold Glove Award winner and ALCS Most Valuable Player.

THIRD BASE

Don’t count me among those who feel that the Phillies need a third baseman. Again, this is assuming the club does what I think it should do – give second base to Scott Kingery, and cut ties to Maikel Franco by not offering him arbitration.

If I’m running things, top offensive prospect Alec Bohm is starting at third base on Opening Day 2020. I let him know that right now.

When Bohm’s season ends following the conclusion of the Premier 12 tournament, at which he is Team USA’s starter at the hot corner, I tell him to go home and enjoy the holidays. Just keep working out and stay in shape. Don’t report to Clearwater until early February. And be mentally ready for your role as the Phillies starting third baseman.

Now, that’s me. The club could actually go in a number of directions. They could offer a contract to and bring back Franco as the starter, at least to begin the season. Then let him try to hold off Bohm for as long as he can.

Or the club could offer a contract to Cesar Hernandez, cut ties with Franco, give the third base job to Kingery, and fill center field some other way. Once Bohm is deemed ready, they could either slide Kingery back to center if no good option has emerged, or work out some king of position-sharing scheme involving the players. That option seems too messy.

Another option would be to cut ties with Franco and sign a free agent. There are a handful of interesting options if the Phillies try to take this route.

In order of talent, those free agent options would be Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, and Mike Moustakas.

Rendon will be expensive and would tie up the position for years, meaning that the Phillies would either be banking on the NL getting a DH as soon as the 2021 season, or they would be considering a trade of either Bohm or Rhys Hoskins. I love Rendon as a player, but with Bohm nearly ready, this just doesn’t seem like the right move.

Donaldson just played on a one-year deal with Atlanta at a $23 million salary. He’ll turn 34-years-old a month from today. Perhaps the Phillies could lure him with a similar one-year offer? That would mean Bohm at least starts the season back at Triple-A.

The 31-year-old Moustakas is a bit trickier. He played with Milwaukee this past season at $7 million and received a $1 million buyout of his contract for next year, rather than the Brewers committing to his $11 million mutual option.

Moustakas is going to be seeking a multi-year offer from some team. He is still young enough that someone is likely to make that kind of offer in order to add a 35-homer bat to their lineup. I am betting it won’t be the Phillies.

Again, my choice here is to give the job to Bohm, spend your free agent money on pitching, and move on from the old, losing Franco-Hernandez infield combination.

BENCH

Putting together a bench group that includes at least a few veteran options for new manager Joe Girardi, preferably options that can hit the ball, will be another Klentak challenge.

The Phillies are already slated to have Jay Bruce return. He should help out as a pinch-hitter, on the outfield corners, and could even turn out to be a lefty-hitting backup first base option, giving Hoskins a blow against a few tougher right-handed pitchers. Girardi should be able to get him plenty of at-bats to keep him sharp and happy.

Assuming the Phillies move on from both Franco and Hernandez, as well as Odubel Herrera, that leaves other outfield depth options as Roman Quinn and Nick Williams. The infield would need help. There are a bunch of interesting options who could fit the bill:

The club could try to re-sign 30-year-old Brad Miller, who appeared in 66 games with the Phillies this past season. Miller played four different positions, mostly at third base and in left field, and produced a dozen homers in just 130 plate appearances.

38-year-old Ben Zobrist can play second base and an outfield corner. He even covered shortstop for one game last season with the Cubs.

Starlin Castro turns 30 at the end of spring training. He played both second and third this past year with the Marlins, and even held down shortstop, where he was a former starter, in three games.

At age 36, Howie Kendrick showed just how valuable he can be in a part-time role while helping the Nationals win their World Series. Kendrick, who played in 39 games with the 2017 Phillies, saw time at first, second, and third this year in Washington.

30-year-old Derek Dietrich ripped 19 homers in 306 plate appearances while covering first, second, and left field this year in Cincinnati. He even appeared in one game at the hot corner, and has played in 146 career games there.

33-year-old Eric Sogard hit .290 while playing five different positions between stops in Toronto and Tampa Bay this past season.

Former popular Phillies outfielder Hunter Pence turns 37 in April, and enjoyed a bounce-back campaign in which he was named to the American League All-Star team. His bat, outfield glove, and infectious enthusiasm could be a perfect mix for this team’s bench group.

The Phillies could use a reliable backup catching option, and yesterday I mentioned one of their former prospects as a possibility. That would be 31-year-old Travis d’Arnaud, who finally stayed healthy this past season and showed off his fine combination of offensive and defensive skills.

More veteran backstop options who could add an alternative to Andrew Knapp include 37-year-old Russell Martin, 34-year-old Matt Wieters, 32-year-old Bryan Holaday, 36-year-old Robinson Chirinos, 34-year-old Jonathan Lucroy and a half-dozen or so others.

These are just a representative sample of the dozens of names who could fill out a veteran bench for the Phillies.

BULLPEN

As I mentioned on yesterday’s podcast, assembling a bullpen is a tricky proposition from year to year. The Phillies pen was decimated by injuries this past season, but most of those arms should be back in 2020.

They could do nothing, and still end up with an effective group. However, adding someone as a strong, veteran back-end option couldn’t hurt. Dellin Betances, Will Smith, Steve Cishek, Will Harris, and Pedro Strop are just a few of the couple dozen veteran relievers available.

And how about this possibility: lefty Jake Diekman? Wouldn’t it be sort of ironic if the Phillies brought back both Hamels and Diekman, who they traded away together in 2015, in the same off-season? Diekman turns 33 in January, and struck out 84 batters over 62 innings this past season as a southpaw out of the pen.

Again, as with third base, I don’t feel this is an area of desperate need. But if the Phillies want another bullpen arm, there are plenty from which to choose.

WRAPPING IT UP

Well, that’s a look at the free agent market. The Hot Stove season is officially underway. Free agents can sign with any team at this point, though signings of the bigger names are likely to take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

And those free agent ranks are only going to swell when the December 2 deadline passes for teams to offer arbitration, which is the decision that the Phillies will need to make on Franco and Hernandez.

As we move through the off-season, this podcast will focus occasionally on rumors regarding the club, and I’ll certainly be talking and writing about any big signings.

I hope you’ll come back tomorrow, when I’ll be talking about the MLB Award winners to this point, as well as the nominees for the major awards to be handed out next week, including the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards in each league.

Remember, you can follow any written pieces or podcast episodes through links at the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds @philliesbell. I hope you’ll stop by and enjoy. Until next time, God bless you and yours.

Philadelphia Phillies current roster and payroll evaluation

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How the Phillies choose to utilize Scott Kingery in 2020 will be the key at a few positions

 

Welcome to the second episode and the first original topic episode for the ‘Ring the Bell’ podcast.

Today, I’ll be covering a pair of topics. We’ll take a look at the Philadelphia Phillies current roster makeup with an eye towards the weak spots and any holes that the team may need to fill this off-season.

Along that same vein, a second topic will be the current salary budget situation as the club enters this important off-season, and how this might affect their pursuit of free agent talent.

There is a lot to cover, so let’s jump right into it.

POSITION PLAYERS

A look at the best possible starting lineup made up of players currently on the roster, from my perspective, would go like this:

1B – Rhys Hoskins, 2B – Scott Kingery, SS – Jean Segura, 3B – Alec Bohm, C – J.T. Realmuto, LF – Andrew McCutchen, CF – Adam Haseley, RF – Bryce Harper

Other position players currently being carried on the Phillies 40-man roster include infielders Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco, and Arquimedes Gamboa. The club is also carrying outfielders Jay Bruce, Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, and Nick Williams. Also on the 40-man are catchers Andrew Knapp and Deivy Grullon.

There are three major question marks which new manager Joe Girardi is going to need to answer, and likely answer prior to spring training. He may need help from general manager Matt Klentak and the Phillies management group in finding those answers.

The questions come at the second base, third base, and center field positions on the diamond.

For a couple of years now, the Phillies have avoided handing over the everyday second base job to Scott Kingery, who won a minor league Gold Glove at the position during the 2017 campaign.

Kingery has proven a valuable and versatile asset while bouncing around from third to second to the outfield in his first two big-league seasons. But it has and remains my position that the Phillies are not getting, and will not get, the best they can from him until they give him the respect of settling into an everyday role on defense.

If Girardi hands the starting job at second to Kingery, that means the club will need to move on from Hernandez, who has been the starter at the position for the better part of the last five years. It solidifies the second base position for the next five years, but also opens up a couple of other situations that will need addressing.

Hernandez will turn 30 years of age next May and is due to become a free agent after next season. He is coming off a pair of mostly solid, if unspectacular, seasons.

Committing to Kingery at second means that center field is wide open. Are you comfortable with Haseley, the eight overall pick from the 2017 MLB Draft, as the starting center fielder for a club with championship aspirations? Frankly, I’m not.

I liked what I saw from Haseley, who turns 24 years of age in April, during a freshman campaign that saw him rise from Double-A to the big-leagues. But I did not see a player who was ready to be a key everyday regular on a World Series team. At least not right now.

However, let’s plug him in there as the starter for now. It would be nice if we could ever rely upon the dynamic Roman Quinn to handle the position. But that ship has sailed. He is simply too injury prone to ever count on at this point. About the best the Phillies could hope would be that the speedster and elite defender would somehow be healthy during September and into the postseason, when his skill set could prove valuable.

Another situation can be found at the hot corner. Franco, who has been the starter for most of the same time that Hernandez has been at second, clearly fell out of favor with former skipper Gabe Kapler.

While it remains unclear what Girardi or the higher-ups in the organization think about him, it might be a good time to say goodbye to Franco as well. He plays most of next season at age 27, arguably just entering his prime, and is under club contractual control for two more years.

The Phillies are likely going to have to make a call on both Hernandez and Franco very soon. The club has until December 2 to decide whether to offer salary arbitration to either or both. The call here would be to simply let them go into free agency. The other option would be to sign one or the other, or both, and then hope to cut a deal in spring training should everyone prove healthy and some other club have a need.

Moving on from Franco and giving Kingery the second base job means that you either hand the everyday role at third base to top offensive prospect Bohm, or you go after a veteran free agent. There are good reasons to go down either path.

Bohm appears ready to me. The 23-year-old has slashed .293/.368/.474 with 21 homers, 63 extra-base hits, and 98 RBIs across 698 minor league plate appearances during his first two seasons after being drafted third overall in 2018. He then starred in the Arizona Fall League and is currently the starting third baseman with Team USA in the Premier 12 tournament.

But if the Phillies brain trust wants to give Bohm most of another full season to consolidate his game in Triple-A, there are interesting free agent options available. We’ll look at those in a few minutes.

Another situation which needs resolution is that of Herrera. There is really no way that the Phillies fan base is going to accept his returning to the team after last year’s domestic violence incident. These are different times than even a decade ago.

Herrera needs to find a new home, and Klentak should be able to swing a deal, even if it’s just to bring back cash or a lower-level minor league prospect. If not, the team could just cut him. There are certainly justifiable baseball-only reasons, which is what it would take, to hand him his release. If it were up to me, he never steps foot in Clearwater.

The bench is a genuine area of concern. Saying a final farewell to Herrera, Hernandez, and Franco would cut ties with three key players from the losing teams of the last handful of seasons, but also creates depth issues.

Depth in the outfield comes from Bruce, Quinn, and Nick Williams – the latter of whom could also end up as a valuable trade piece. It would also include Haseley if the Phillies can find a better everyday answer in center. But there is virtually no depth on the infield, and it would be nice if the club could add a better offensive player as a veteran backup catcher than Knapp.

Building a truly competitive bench group will be yet another tricky mission for Klentak this off-season. It will take a creative combination of brave trades and wise free agent signings. I’ll give some suggestions before we wrap this up.

PITCHING NEEDS

In order to become genuine challengers to the world champion Washington Nationals and the two-time defending division champion Atlanta Braves in the National League East Division, the Phillies must add two new starting pitchers to their rotation for 2020 and beyond.

Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, and Jake Arrieta appear to be reliable. However, the latter two would probably best slot in as the 4-5 starter in a contending rotation at this point.

What the Phillies really need is a genuine top-of-the-rotation ace to front the group, and then a proven veteran mid-rotation starter who would come a bit more inexpensively.

In a recent piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bob Brookover quoted GM Mike Rizzo of the Nationals: “Starting pitching is king….for the marathon that is the season you better have some starters that you can run out there and give you a chance to win each and every day.

Klentak must bring in a pair of proven, winning veterans if he wants to elevate the Phillies rotation to a contending level. It’s my bet that principal owner John Middleton has already made this the single biggest off-season mandate, and is willing to again open his substantial wallet to make it happen.

The bullpen is trickier. It’s possible that the Phillies could do little or nothing here and end up with a competitive group in 2020.

Slated to return, assuming health, are the following arms: Right-handers Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Edgar Garcia, and newcomer Robert Stock. The best left-handers on-board are Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez.

They probably cannot hope to get David Robertson back until August at the earliest, and probably not until September. If they actually contend and he is available for the stretch run and postseason, that would be a “found arm” bonus.

Also in the mix would be former or spot-starters Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Enyel De Los Santos, Cole Irvin, and Ranger Saurez. And organizational arms in righty J.D. Hammer and lefty Austin Davis remain.

Velasquez and Pivetta are particularly interesting as potential bullpen weapons. While either could end up as trade bait, either or both could be extremely valuable if they bought into the role fully, and if new pitching coach Bryan Price can work his magic with them.

The Phillies could shop for a more proven bullpen arm to bolster the group, but that should not be a priority from my perspective. There will be a strong arm who floats through the early stages of free agency and ends up being more affordable than he might appear at first blush. There are plenty of arms already on hand to make something competitive work.

None of that discussion of the pitching takes into account either of the Phillies top two pitching prospects, Spencer Howard and Adonis Medina. The latter is already on the 40-man roster and is likely to be ready at some point in the second half of the 2020 season.

Howard could actually push for a role in the starting rotation as early as spring training, and looks like the most talented arm developed by the farm system since Cole Hamels.

SHOPPING LIST AND BUDGET

So, for me anyway, there is a lengthy “To-Do List’ for Matt Klentak this off-season, if the Phillies truly want to contend for a deep October 2020 postseason run.

Two starting pitchers and a starting center fielder. At least three proven veteran bench players – two infielders and a catcher – at least two of those with extra-base pop. And possibly a third baseman and bullpen arm. It’s a daunting task, but it’s what needs to be done in order to catch and pass Atlanta and Washington.

The Phillies currently have $108 million in 2020 salary commitments. Cot’s Contracts projects the club’s 40-man payroll hit for Competitive Balance Tax purposes at $131 million. This would leave them some $76 million below the $208 million CBT threshold.

While there are a few roster machinations which could slightly elevate those financial commitments, those are not substantial. The Phillies have a lot of money to spend if they want. The problem is that they have a lot of needs as well, and with veterans, those needs won’t come cheap.

There will be tremendous competition for Gerrit Cole, the best starting pitcher on the free agent market. With Scott Boras as his agent, you can expect Cole to remain unsigned through a lengthy winter process of shopping and city/team visits, similar to what we saw last winter with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

The Phillies will be in the hunt for Cole, but so are other big spenders like the Yankees, Angels, Padres, Astros and perhaps even the Dodgers.

Perhaps the more likely “Cole” that the Phillies could bring in would be former 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels. The lefty turns 36 years of age just two days after Christmas and is clearly past his prime. However, he knows how to pitch in Philly and remains popular with the fan base, is a proven veteran winner, and is a southpaw. On a reasonable three-year deal, he could slot into that #3-4 starter role.

Other starting pitching names the Phils will look into should include Stephen Strasburg at the top of the market, and mid-market arms like Zach Wheeler, Jake Odorizzi, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Rick Porcello. Perhaps even veteran lefty Madison Bumgarner.

Longtime Yankees reliever Dellin Betances might make for an intriguing addition as a new closer with the Phillies.

If the Phillies decide to go hard after Anthony Rendon as their new third baseman, they would likely be betting heavily that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will include the National League going to a Designated Hitter as soon as the 2021 season. This would allow for the club to fit in all of Rendon, Bohm, and Rhys Hoskins to their lineup.

Landing Rendon would likely take them out of the running for Cole or Strasburg, and perhaps put their pitching focus on a combination like Wheeler and Hamels, or any two of the more mid-market arms previously mentioned. Other potential third base targets would be Mike Moustakas and Josh Donaldson, each of whom would come far cheaper than Rendon.

An interesting outfield depth piece would be Corey Dickerson. The Phillies would certainly love to have him back, and judging by social media posts, so would the fan base. However, Dickerson is not an everyday center fielder. Neither is McCutchen at this stage of his career. So Dickerson would be more of a fourth outfielder. He will likely command too much money and will get an everyday role offered from someone.

An interesting catcher option could be former Phillies prospect Travis d’Arnaud. Turning 31 in February, he has the combination of offensive and defensive skills the club needs from a backup, and finally stayed healthy in 2019.

There really are no interesting center fielders on the free agent market this off-season, so if the Phillies do want a better option there, they are likely going to have to trade for it.

However, one roll-of-the-dice name could be Japanese free agent Shogo Akiyama. A star with Seibu in the Japanese Pacific League for the past nine years, Akiyama turns 32 years of age in April. He is a solid hitter with a career .301 average, and is a power-speed combination guy. The dice roll, of course, would be how his talent translates to America, especially considering he is moving past his prime.

Among the interesting veteran bench options in free agency, former Phillies outfielder Hunter Pence and an infielder who proved to be a Phillie killer a year ago, Starlin Castro. Also among free agent infielders are Jonathan Schoop, Eric Sogard and Jose Iglesias.

THE WRAP

There is much to be done this winter. But the mandate from Middleton and the fan base is clear: the 2020 season cannot be another .500, or God forbid, losing campaign. It is time to win, and Klentak knows it. His job is now squarely on the line.

Join me tomorrow when I’ll take a much more detailed look into the free agent market. We’ll go over specifics on those mentioned today and even more names who could slot into Phillies positional needs.

I hope you’ll come back and listen then. And in the meantime you can visit the @philliesbell sites on Twitter and Facebook for continuing Phillies information. Talk to you next time, and until then, God bless you and yours.

Time for Phillies to give Alec Bohm a full shot to start in 2020

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It is only a matter of time before Bohm’s powerful bat is impacting the Phillies lineup

 

The Houston Astros won the 2017 World Series and are now playing in their third consecutive American League Championship Series. They won 107 games this season, most in Major League Baseball.

Whether they ultimately capture another title this year or not, Houston is the current model organization in MLB. The folks who run their ball club clearly know what they are doing.

Shortstop Carlos Correa was the first overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. He became a big-league starter in 2015 at age 20.

Third baseman Alex Bregman was the second overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. He became a big-league starter by the following July at age 22.

Second baseman Jose Altuve was signed by Houston as a free agent out of Venezuela at age 16 in 2007. By July of 2011 at age 21 he was a big-league regular.

Yordan Alvarez spent his rookie season in MLB this year as the Astros primary Designated Hitter. He blasted 27 home runs while slashing .313/.412/.655 at age 22.

The point? There is no reason that talented ball players aged 20-22 should be held back from their Major League Baseball debut simply due to their birth date.

In fact, more than ever, professional baseball is a game for players in their 20’s. Getting as many of those years as possible out of your best players is becoming more and more important.

The old way of MLB teams holding young players back in order to gain more years of contractual control should be considered as antiquated thinking.

If a young player demonstrates that he is going to be valuable to your organization, the strategy should be to buy them out of a few free agent years by paying them more at a younger age, as the Phillies have done with Scott Kingery.

In 2018, the Phillies made third baseman Alec Bohm their choice at third overall in the MLB Draft. He was billed as an advanced college bat whose hitting ability and maturity could allow him to quickly reach the big-leagues.

When spring training opens at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida four months from now, there is absolutely no reason that a 23-year-old Bohm should not be the Phillies annointed starter at the hot corner.

Not waiting until May or June after receiving six, eight, ten weeks of experience against Triple-A pitching. Not later in the summer. Not next September when rosters expand. Right away, in Clearwater.

During his first full professional season this year, Bohm demonstrated the hitting ability that had made him such a high pick. He slashed .305/.378/.518 with 21 home runs and 55 extra-base hits across 540 plate appearances while rising through three minor league levels.

No more authoritative hitting expert than former Phillies World Series winning manager Charlie Manuel had this to say regarding Bohm’s hitting ability earlier this year:

He’s going to hit. He’s going to be a line-drive hitter with power. He’s going to be an RBI guy. He’s a tough out. I liked him in college and like him even more now.

One question mark regarding Bohm’s status at the time of his selection was defense. Would he ever become a good enough defender at third base to stick at the position at the MLB level?

This past May, Bohm was named as the Phillies organization minor league defense player of the month. In late June, Mike Drago of The Reading Eagle quoted him regarding his work at the position:

I worked a lot at third base, and on defense (in the offseason), not to prove anybody wrong, but to be the best player I can be. It’s paid off.

Drago also noted that when Philadelphia Inquirer’s Bob Brookover brought up the fact that some had questioned his defensive chops at the time of his draft selection, Bohm responded: “Those guys don’t know what they’re talking about.

The Phillies minor league infield coordinator Chris Truby, whose four big-league seasons in the early-2000’s included playing in 242 games at the hot corner himself, had this to say per Drago regarding Bohm’s commitment to defense:

I don’t know that he’s ever taken defense as seriously as he is now. He has made tremendous strides since Instructional League (in September 2018). He’s taking this defense thing personally.

By July, Manuel was absolutely gushing about Bohm’s offensive ability. Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia quoted the hitting guru on the club’s prospect:

I think when it’s all said and done and his career balances out where it should be, I’m looking at a guy who is going to hit anywhere from .285 to .300 and hit anywhere from 25 to 30 to 40 home runs. It depends on how many he happens to catch that season.”

For his strong 2019 performance, Bohm was named as the Phillies minor league player of the year. In late August for Baseball America, Salisbury quoted Phillies director of player development Josh Bonifay:

Day in and day out, he’s continued to show why the organization believed in him. His ability to command the strike zone and do damage on pitches is impressive. You make a mistake, whether it’s on the heater or a breaking ball, and he’ll hit it hard somewhere. He’s a line-drive hitter who drives the ball with carry. He uses the whole field. He’s fun to watch.”

The Phillies sent Bohm to the Arizona Fall League in September where he became a starter in the annual Fall Stars Game. Josh Norris of Baseball America opined the following after watching Bohm’s performance in the AFL:

Gifted with the tools to become a classic corner-infield masher, Bohm’s .390 average places him third in the AFL through games of October 8.

MLB Pipeline now ranks Bohm as the top third base prospect in the game. But Jim Callis of MLB.com, while praising Bohm’s bat, still has questions on the defense when he wrote the following:

To get to the big leagues, Bohm will need to continue refining his defense at the hot corner. He has enough arm strength for the position, but his range is fringy and he lacks consistency. He made a wide throw on a seventh-inning grounder Sunday, his third error in six AFL games in the field after making 12 miscues in 83 regular-season contests.”

First base is not available in Philadelphia. Rhys Hoskins turns 27-years-old in March, just beginning the prime of this career. Hoskins is not scheduled to become a free agent until after the 2023 season.

Hoskins is a relatively inexpensive and powerful bat for an organization that already has spent a lot of money in free agency and is likely to spend a lot more in the next couple of years.

Incumbent third baseman Maikel Franco has legitimate 25-30 home run power and will spend much of the 2020 season still at just age 26. But his overall ceiling is nowhere near as high as Bohm, and Franco will likely be used as trade bait this coming winter.

The Phillies have a reputation as being notoriously slow in giving their top prospects a shot at the big leagues. But that reputation is beginning to fall by the way side.

Aaron Nola was the Phillies first round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft at seventh overall as an advanced college pitcher. He debuted in the big-leagues the following summer and was a regular member of the starting rotation at age 23 in 2016.

Adam Haseley was the Phillies top pick at eighth overall in the 2017 MLB Draft. He appeared in 67 games and was playing regularly by the end of the 2019 season at age 23. While a better outfield defender than Bohm will be in the infield, Haseley’s bat is nowhere near as advanced or impactful.

The Phillies need these types of exciting, inexpensive, homegrown talents to begin impacting their lineup as soon as possible. Bohm is plenty old enough and appears mature enough to handle the big-league lifestyle. His confidence and talent are undeniable.

Bottom line, there is no reason that Alec Bohm should not be the Philadelphia Phillies starter at third base right out of the gate in the 2020 season.

Phillies owner John Middleton shows he is clearly not “a potted plant”

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Gabe Kapler was fired after two seasons as Phillies manager

 

On Friday, October 11, 2019, less than two weeks after their once promising season came to an end with a final disheartening defeat that left the club without a winning record for an eighth consecutive season, the Philadelphia Phillies held a press conference.

The purpose of the presser was ostensibly to address the firing of manager Gabe Kapler. However, as principal owner John Middleton sat down at the dais, flanked by general manager Matt Klentak to his right and Phillies president Andy MacPhail to his left, there was clearly an even broader agenda.

The goal of Friday’s session was undeniably to put out the fires now raging throughout the Phillies fan base. That flame sparked as the club slowly fell out of contention over the final two-thirds of the season, then completely collapsed over the final weeks for a second straight year.

But the flames are not out. In fact, judging by the response on both traditional and social media, those flames are only burning hotter today.

The bottom line appears to be that not only did the fan base want Kapler gone, but Phillies fans also wanted to see Middleton turn the page on what has thus far been a failed MacPhail-Klentak regime.

That will not be happening – at least not for now. Logic would appear to say that, now readying for the third manager during their term, both men are now squarely under the spotlight themselves, about to face increased scrutiny from the owner.

If the failures of the first four full years under MacPhail and Klentak continue next season, it would be absolutely negligent for Middleton to allow them continued management roles with the team.

The biggest takeaway from the show was that Middleton himself is clearly the man who will have the final say in every important matter as this organization attempts to reach its goal of becoming a long-term contender.

Middleton is involved. Not just in the way that an owner is usually in charge. He is going to not only be intimately involved in the biggest big-league talent acquisitions, but also have the final say in a new manager and other key personnel moves.

MacPhail opened the press conference with a statement in which he laid out Middleton’s decision-making process in releasing Kapler with one year to go on the manager’s contract.

The club president provided that, on the recommendation of he and Klentak, the owner had undertaken a wide-ranging, week-long process of evaluation which included receiving positive feedback on Kapler from a number of sources. However, MacPhail then stated the following:

What John didn’t hear was any explanation of why we were 20-36 over the last two Septembers. Or more importantly, what was gonna be in place to ensure that didn’t happen again.

What MacPhail never once addressed was his own role in the failures of those two September collapses. It is the job of he and his hand-picked GM Klentak to provide the players, in both minor league depth and big-league talent, for the manager to have as resources to compete and succeed at the highest level.

As the second questioner from the local media called upon, Howard Eskin of SportsRadio 94 WIP FM and sports director at WTXF-TV wasted no time in asking the question of Middleton that was on the minds of most fans:

John, when you fired (former Phillies GM) Ruben Amaro, you said it’s a results based business…Gabe Kapler took the hit. And I’m wondering why it was just Gabe Kapler? And I, among other people, are wondering why…those two gentlemen are sitting with you today?

Middleton then went on a minute and a half spiel in which he questioned Eskin back, then tossed out some statistics showing improvement in the bullpen over the last couple months of the season. Bottom line, the owner failed to address the pivotal question directly.

MacPhail then jumped in, attempting to justify his and Klentak’s low-rated minor league system. The club president made excuses regarding picks lost due to free agent signings and the selection of high school players, and hung his hat on two or three recent draftees ranked by many services as among the top 100 in the game.

The fact remains that it was MacPhail and Klentak’s decision to select those high school players, including Mickey Moniak with the first overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft, over talented older prospects who have already impacted the big-leagues for other organizations, players who came from those same drafts.

Alec Bohm (34), Spencer Howard (88), and Bryson Stott (89) rank among the current top 100 prospects in baseball per MLB Pipeline, while Baseball America ranks just Bohm and Howard on their top 100 prospects list.

The draft is an inexact science, and teams are going to have hits and misses, even near the top of the first round. But talent comes to a Major League Baseball organization from more than the draft.

Despite four years of those drafts and four years signing international and other free agents to the minor league system, the Phillies organization is ranked among the bottom one-third in depth of minor league talent by nearly every reliable evaluator.

Baseball America had them at #25 back in mid-August. Fangraphs currently ranks the Phillies at #23 overall among MLB organizations. While MLB didn’t provide a recent full ranking, the Phillies were not listed among the top half of organizations back in August of this year.

When MacPhail took over as club president and hired Klentak as his general manager in the fall of 2015, the Phillies were clearly in rebuilding mode. They also had one of the top-ranked farm systems in baseball. Today, after four years, the club has still not registered even a winning season, and the farm season has virtually collapsed.

Both MacPhail and Klentak mentioned that outfielder Adam Haseley, the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, and pitcher Cole Irvin, the club’s fifth rounder in 2016, have already impacted the Phillies big-league roster.

Haseley slashed just .266/.324/.396 over 242 plate appearances this season, but did play solid defense. Irvin had a 5.83 ERA and 5.06 FIP while surrendering 45 hits over 41.2 innings in which he struck out just 31 batters this season. That is hardly a duo to hang your hats on as you try to defend your record in talent evaluation.

In response to a question posed by Kevin Cooney of PhillyVoice and Forbes, Middleton made it clear that the search for the new manager would be conducted by Klentak. But that would happen only after the GM sat down with he and MacPhail and laid out a profile of what to look for in a candidate.

Middleton will then be presented with the final name for an interview and evaluation. Clearly, the owner will have the final say on who is hired as the next Philadelphia Phillies manager.

During the course of the press conference, it was pointed out that the Phillies front office was “allowed to play the long game” by making the decisions not to give up young talent at the trade deadline in order to help the 2019 team reach the postseason. Meanwhile, Kapler was forced in the shorter term to try and compete with a lesser roster.

To that, Middleton stepped in with a matter-of-fact response: “That’s the inherent nature of the business. And it’s been that way for a hundred years, and it will likely be that way a hundred years from now. That just goes with the territory. And if the manager doesn’t like it or can’t handle it, then the manager shouldn’t be the manager.

What the owner was saying is a baseball truth that was known well to Kapler: managers are hired to be fired. The list of big-league skippers who get the job and then remain in the same position with the same organization over the long haul, eventually leaving or retiring on their own terms, is extremely short.

As the press conference wound towards a conclusion, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com questioned Middleton directly regarding the owner’s assertiveness in getting intimately involved in matters over the last year.

Especially, Zolecki questioned Middleton regarding any concerns that the owner may have that, had he not gotten so involved, things would be even more troubling today under the MacPhail-Klentak management team.

I’d like to think I actually bring value to an organization. That I’m not a potted plant sitting in the corner…This is what CEO’s do. You wouldn’t have a need for a CEO if everybody in that organization made every decision correctly every time.

Middleton never addressed, at least not in any way that will be accepted by the fans, the status of MacPhail and Klentak. But that is a bit telling in itself. If the two men do not see themselves as now more on the hot seat with the owner than even the new manager will ever be, they are sorely mistaken.

There is one man in charge of the Philadelphia Phillies these days. That man decided that it was time to change managers – again. It will be that man, John Middleton, who will now have to answer to his fan base should his decision to keep this upper management team in place backfire.

How do the Phillies match-up with the Braves?

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Following a half-decade of losing baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies are trying desperately to build their roster back to a truly competitive level.

Ownership opened their wallets this past off-season, shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade the starting lineup.
Last summer, the Phillies surprised many by taking and holding first place in the National League East Division for much of the summer. However, the club eventually collapsed over the final seven weeks of the season to finish in third place, once again with a losing record.
Bolting past the Phillies were the Atlanta Braves, who themselves were coming off a string of losing campaigns. Heading into the 2018 season, the Braves had suffered through four consecutive losing seasons. From 2015-17, Atlanta never finished closer than 23 games to the top of the division.
So, both the Phillies and Braves were awful for years coming into the 2018 season. But in the end, the Braves won a division crown, only their second since 2005. The Phillies missed the postseason for a seventh consecutive season.
There was a surge in excitement around the Phillies after the big cash outlay this past off-season. And as the 2019 season got underway at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies swept the Braves, outscoring their rivals by 23-11 over three late-March games and looking for all the world like the better ball club.
Flash forward four months, and things could not look any different. The two teams have met seven times since that opening series, with Atlanta winning five of those. Over the last three meetings, the Braves have now outscored the Phillies by a 30-10 margin.
The standings reflect this change as well. The Phillies early season lead in the division evaporated in a cloud of injuries, poor pitching, and inconsistent offensive production. Meanwhile, the Braves caught fire and again bolted to the top.
After Friday night’s 9-2 victory, Atlanta now leads the Washington Nationals by 5.5 games in the NL East standings, with the Phillies now 6.5 games back. And the fact is, the talent gap appears grimly wider than that between the two teams.
An examination of the two starting lineups, both now and projected over the coming seasons, reveals a major challenge ahead for the Phillies in trying to catch and stay with the Braves.

FIRST BASE

Harper and Hoskins give the Phillies two legitimate long term weapons. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)
Freddie Freeman (29) v. Rhys Hoskins (26): The Phillies have a three-year age edge here. But it’s not as if Freeman is going to be old over the next few years. As he ages into his early-30’s, Freeman is likely to remain an All-Star caliber run producer. Hoskins is a good run producer. Freeman is elite. Neither is a great defender. Unless there is some leap forward from Hoskins, this match-up is likely to favor the Braves for the next 3-4 seasons. But this is not a position where the Phillies need a change.
Advantage: Braves

SECOND BASE

Ozzie Albies (22) v. Cesar Hernandez (29): The Braves smartly signed Albies to an extremely club-friendly contract that will keep him with Atlanta through the 2025 season, with two more club option years. Meanwhile, Hernandez is due to become a free agent following the 2020 season. This could well be his last year with the Phillies, possibly his last week in red pinstripes if dealt before the deadline. The real future match-up is with 25-year-old Scott Kingery, who should be the future at second base for the Phillies. Kingery has a chance to be much more impactful, and would make this an “even” push for years to come. All three are solid defenders.
Advantage: Braves now, but ‘Even’ over the longer term

SHORTSTOP

Dansby Swanson (25) v. Jean Segura (29): This is a reversal of the Freeman-Hoskins situation, age-wise, with the Phillies having the veteran who will be aging into his 30’s. Swanson likely has at least three more seasons in Atlanta before he can become a free agent. Segura has a Phillies contract through those same three years, with a club option for one more. Segura is a slightly better hitter, but Swanson has improved his approach this year and may still have more upside to come. Defense is an important part of the shortstop position, and there Segura has it all over Swanson. This is a Phillies advantage, but just as with the first base edge to the Braves, it is not a position where Atlanta needs to be overly concerned about the difference in talent.
Advantage: Phillies

THIRD BASE

Phillies desperately need top prospect Bohm to become truly impactful to keep pace with Braves young talent. (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
Josh Donaldson (33) v. Maikel Franco (26): This is an extremely interesting match-up, because the two players currently occupying the positions are not likely to be with either team over the next few seasons. Donaldson is on a one-year contract, and the Braves have his heir apparent in-house with Austin Riley, who they have mostly played out of position in left field for now. Franco cannot be a free agent until after the 2021 season. However, the club’s top prospect, Alec Bohm, could be ready for a full big-league shot as soon as next season. Franco is a better defender right now, Donaldson a more impactful hitter. This season, I would prefer the 2015 AL MVP Donaldson. Longer term, it’s hard to know what Riley and Bohm will become. But Riley was considered a strong prospect as well, and has 16 home runs in just 243 plate appearances as a 22-year-old rookie. So even with the Phillies getting better at the position by bringing up their top prospect, they only remain a likely ‘push’ at this position over the long term.
Advantage: Braves now, but ‘Even’ over the longer term

LEFT FIELD

Austin Riley (22) v. Andrew McCutchen (32): There is no way to gauge these two as a fair comparison, since ‘Cutch’ is out for the season following knee surgery and Riley will not be in left field longer term, probably not beyond this season. Right now, with Jay Bruce (32) on the IL as well, the Phillies have a revolving door in left field, mostly using some combination of Nick Williams (25) and Adam Haseley (23), either of whom it would be difficult to define a future role for. For the Braves, the outfield is where you can begin to see a scary future developing for the Phillies to compete. A future Atlanta configuration would well see Acuna (see below) flip over here to left, with their top two prospects taking over in center and right. Those would be a pair of 20-year-olds in Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, both of whom are tearing up the minors and could arrive next summer. McCutchen, assuming health, can keep the Phillies competitive here for a few years.
Advantage: Braves now, ‘Even’ over next 2-3 years, Atlanta beyond that

CENTER FIELD

Moniak’s recent development has been encouraging. If he can become a true big-league talent, the Phillies job keeping pace becomes much easier. (Cheryl Purcell)
Ronald Acuna Jr.(21) v. Scott Kingery (25): Another position where these two are not likely to be the longer term answers for either club. That is not indictment on either. Kingery should be headed to second base to become the Phillies starter at the keystone for years to come. And Acuna is likely to slide over the left, making way for Pache, who is considered an elite defender. The real question will be, who is going to become the Phillies long-term center fielder? Is it Haseley? 2016 top overall draft pick Mickey Moniak? Frankly, if the answer isn’t either one of these two players, that will be a massive indictment of the organization. Again, Moniak was the first overall pick in the draft. Haseley was selected at 8th overall just a year later. Right now, Acuna, who was the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year and one of the game’s brightest young stars,
Advantage: Braves

RIGHT FIELD

Nick Markakis (35) v. Bryce Harper (26): Finally, a position where the Phillies have a clear advantage. Almost a decade younger and just entering the prime of his career, Harper is both a more impactful run producer and a better defender at this stage of their careers. However, Markakis is no slouch for now. The three-time Gold Glover was an NL All-Star as recently as a year ago. He is working on a one-year contract with a team option for next season. He could very well find that option exercised as the Braves give Pache and/or Waters most of another year to develop more fully. As well all know, Harper will be with the Phillies for a long time to come. He is likely to keep this a Phillies advantage position for at least the next 3-4 years, but just how big an advanage will depend on the development of the Braves youngsters after Markakis departs.
Advantage: Phillies

CATCHER

Brian McCann (35) & Tyler Flowers (33) v. J.T. Realmuto (28): By almost every measurement, Realmuto is the best defensive catcher in the game today. He is also in his prime. The Phillies gave up a major package in order to obtain him from the Marlins. He is signed only through next season, and there is no doubt that the Phillies must get an extension with him for at least three more years at some soon point. The McCann (LH) and Flowers (RH) platoon is very effective for Atlanta in the shorter term. They have combined this year for 18 home runs and 54 RBIs. The Braves addressed their lack of a long-term answer by selecting Shea Langeliers at 9th overall in last month’s MLB Draft. This is a Phillies advantage due to Realmuto’s elite defense. But again, they must extend his deal, and the Phillies need a better backup than Andrew Knapp.
Advantage: Phillies
For the Phillies, the three key youngsters as they move into the 2020’s and try to compete with Atlanta will be Bohm, Moniak, and Haseley. If two of those three youngsters become truly impactful big-league ball player, the Phillies should be fine. If only one, it makes it tough. If none develop as hoped, then the Phillies will have an uphill battle.
None of this even takes into account the situation on the mound, where the Braves have strong, young, highly-rated youngsters already in the big-leagues and where they have a number of well regarded prospects on the way. The Phillies really need someone such as Spencer Howard to develop fully, and are probably going to have to spend soon in free agency for a top-level arm or two.