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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.

Ring the Bell Podcast Episodes

 

Listen to current and past episodes of the “Ring the Bell” podcast hosted by Matt Veasey.

Listed in reverse chronological order with the original recorded date as well as the main topic(s) of each episode.

If you have an idea for a future episode, feel free to contact the podcast via @philliesbell on either Twitter or Facebook.

Also, if you are a fan with a opinion on the club who would like to appear as a guest in a future “Phillies Fan Friday” segment, contact Matt by sliding into this DM’s. (You will need access to Skype for the interview)

 

RING THE BELL EPISODES

 

2019.11.13 – Episode 00007: NL Cy Young Award has gone to a Phillies hurler seven times

2019.11.12 – Episode 00006: Two surprising Phillies skippers have won the NL Manager of the Year Award

2019.11.11 – Episode 00005: Philadelphia Phillies and the NL Rookie of the Year Award

2019.11.09 – Episode 00004: 2019 MLB Awards nominees

2019.11.08 – Episode 00003: Phillies in the 2020

2019.11.07 – Episode 00002: Phillies current roster and payroll evaluation

2019.11.06 – Episode 00001: Introduction to the host and podcast

Matt Veasey: Podcast guest appearances

The following are links to my guest appearances on various Phillies related podcast shows. They are listed in reverse chronological order along with the name and host of the show:

If you would like me to appear as a guest on your podcast, feel free to contact me via email at matthew.veasey@verizon.net, or you can slide into my DM’s on Twitter @MatthewVeasey.

 

In defense of Donald Trump

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The following was the script for an experimental podcast ‘Traditional Americans’, for which this was the lone episode: “In defense of Donald Trump”.

——————————-

Hello America and welcome to the Traditional Americans podcast. I’m your host, Matthew Veasey.
 
After using our pilot episode last time out to introduce you good folks to myself, the podcast direction, and its social media and internet resources, this will be our first real topic-driven discussion.
 
So what topic would be most appropriate, most important to you, the listeners? Well, with everything that has been in the news lately, the fact remains that one man dominates the news cycle, probably more than any previous individual.
 
Today we’re going to talk about the Presidency of Donald Trump over the undeniably controversial, but also undeniably successful first 14 months of his first term in the highest office in the land.
 
There are so many directions from which we can begin a discussion of the Trump presidency to this point: his social media usage. The large and frequent turnover among his key advisors. His battles with the Democrats and with their liberal media mouthpiece. And of course, the accomplishments of his administration.
 
Let’s start with the positive – those accomplishments. Now, of course, most of these are only truly positive accomplishments if you’re a supporter of the president and his policies. That would mean that you need to be a conservative, because frankly, this president has accomplished more for Traditional American conservatives than any of recent decades. And that includes our beloved President Ronald Reagan.
 
The list of Trump administration accomplishments is indeed impressive for those of us in the conservative camp:
 
On jobs and the economy, we’ve seen passage of the first tax reform bill in more than three decades. This measure will mean $5.5 billion in real tax cuts to American workers and businesses.
 
Bloomberg has reported that the unemployment rate is expected to fall below the 4% mark by this summer. The DOW ended last week at the 24,984.45 mark. That’s up from the 18,589 on the day that he was elected back in early November of 2016.
 
All of these economic victories mean real jobs, real money in the paychecks and pockets, and real increases in the pension plans and 401K’s of real working Americans. No wonder Barron’s just reported that the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment survey rose to the 102 mark, its highest level in 14 years.
 
Another big piece of the Trump economy success story has been the elimination of numerous stifling Obama-era regulations. The president has operated from the beginning on the position that any new regulation would have to be accompanied by the elimination of at least two. In 2017, the president actually cut 16 for every new regulation, saving an additional $8.1 billion per the Washington Examiner.
 
Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, which was grossly unfair towards the United States, put an end to even more looming stifling economic regulations. Withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership helped forward the cause of fair trade for American businesses, as will renegotiation of American involvement with NAFTA and the president’s recent threatened tariff increases.
 
President Trump has freed up agencies to further loosen the regulatory environment, which includes the Department of the Interior making 77 million acres available for gas and oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
 
The president nominated and saw successfully seated to the U.S. Supreme Court an originalist justice in Neal Gorsuch, a move that should benefit Traditional Americans for decades to come. 
 
Also, President Trump has successfully placed 14 judges to the district courts, and another 14 to the courts of appeals. He currently has another 55 nominees to those two courts awaiting Senate action.
 
In the area of Homeland Security, the president has ended Obama’s practice of “catch and release” of illegal immigrants. He has started towards an end to DACA and chain migration. 
 
The president has added roughly 100 new immigration judges, and empowered ICE and local communities to boost the arrest of criminal gang members and other illegals. He has enacted a travel ban from nations that have refused to clamp down on terrorism.
 
He visited the southern border just this past week to examine proposed samples for the border wall. Though numerous conservative commentators, Ann Coulter chief among them, has criticized the president for not pushing ahead with actual construction, the fact remains that this is a major project which cannot be taken lightly. Trump knows construction projects. He’ll get this done, and done right.


 
Under President Trump, the Justice Department is making $98 million available for police departments to add an additional 802 new officers. He declared a public health emergency on opioids, with DHS announcing a new five-point strategy to combat this crisis and the administration providing $500 million towards the fight.
 
The president empowered military commanders, reducing the need for the White House to sign off on every mission and urging them to fight to win. These actions helped lead to ISIS losing control of almost all of its territorial control.
 
In just his first 14 months in office, the president has traveled to Poland and Germany for the G-20. He has traveled to the Middle East and Europe, and did what decades of American politicians talked of doing but were too afraid to act upon, recognizing Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East. His nearly two-week trip through Asia resulted in historic deals negotiated during multiple summit meetings.
 
 
 
President Trump has worked to support life as well, expanding the Mexico City Policy to block foreign aid used for abortions. He has worked to block Obamacare money from going towards abortions, and to overturn Obama regulations which had blocked states from defunding abortion providers.
 
These are many, but they remain only a few of the triumphs of the early Trump administration.
 
Now let’s move to the controversial, starting with President Trump’s use of social media to push forward his agenda and communicate his political and personal opinions.
 
Social media is a relatively new phenomenon for American politicians to deal with. Facebook launched in February of 2004, Twitter was first created 12 years ago this month, and Instagram came into existence in October of 2010.
 
Each of those resources took a few years for massive numbers of people and businesses to begin using them. So while they existed during the latter part of the ‘W’ Bush administration and all through the Obama years, their usage was limited at first, and then has continued to grow, where politicians and political organizations and parties are concerned.
 
Donald Trump was the first major American presidential candidate to full embrace and utilize social media as a vital tool in his campaign for the presidency. After actually winning the office, some thought that Mr. Trump would ratchet back his activities on social media. Instead, especially where Twitter is concerned, the president has doubled down.
 
 
 
Trump was the first candidate to intentionally go over the heads of the former mainstream media outlets and take his message directly to the people. It worked. Folks responded. He sees no need to change now, and frankly, I can’t blame him.
 
No, Donald Trump is not the statesman that other presidents have been. No, Donald Trump does not have much of a filter. No, Donald Trump is not a traditional politician. And you know what? All of those things are fine by me. 
 
In fact, it is for all of those reasons that many of the 65 million who voted for him cast their ballots for the career businessman. Much of America had frankly grown tired of politicians speaking out of the sides of their mouths, or flat out lying to our faces. We saw Trump, warts and all, as a man who said what he meant and meant what he said. If he said he was going to get something done, then we believed that he was going to get it done. And you know what? He has done just that.
 
Democrats are never, ever going to let up on Trump. Why? Not because he might have had an affair with a porn star years before he was ever in office. Not because he fired some member of his administration, or someone from the previous Obama administration.
Democrats and their liberal media mouthpieces, especially at places like CNN, MSNBC, NPR, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, are going to continue attacking Trump all throughout his presidency for one reason only. He gets things done.
 
And the things that he gets done are, in the vast majority of instances, exactly those things that conservatives want done. 
 
No, he won’t simply cow-tow to the right. Anyone who is actually on the right, such as myself, knows full well that President Trump has numerous critics among the GOP establishment in congress and the senate. 
 
Some of those critics are towards his overall style and demeanor, some are towards specific individual programs or policies.
 
But as the litany of achievements which I ran down at the start of this broadcast outlined, this President has accomplished more for conservatives in 14 months than both Bush presidencies combined.
 
Staff turnover within the President’s inner sanctum is indeed an area ripe for criticism. The Brookings Institution recently released the figures: Trump’s first year turnover rate was 34%. That is twice as high as Ronald Reagan’s, who was the next highest among the last half-dozen administrations. His second year rate is an astronomical 43%, and we’re just in Mid-March. Bill Clinton’s 38% was the previous high.
 
However, what we need to remember is that this is a man who has never put together a political operation of this type before. He came in with a mandate from his electorate to “drain the swamp”, and it was inevitable that some who came along would not be able to hold up as he has, and would drown in that swamp.
 
 
 
My bet is that as the president really settles in further, he will figure out how to find the right people. Those who can not only push forward his message and agenda, but can also hold up under the D.C. spotlight.
 
I didn’t start out as a Donald Trump supporter. When 2016 opened and the GOP nomination process was still unfolding, I supported Texas senator Ted Cruz. I still think that Cruz can be a fine candidate in the future. My thoughts on Trump were that his populist message would resound until folks actually had to start voting. Then he would eventually get sorted out by that electorate. Instead, his message continued to ring true to many, including myself.
 
When the Pennsylvania Republican primary came around, I pulled the lever next to Trump’s name, something that I would never have believed just a few months earlier. 
 
When the November election came around, my wife and I happily went to the polls and cast our votes for Donald Trump to be the next President of the United States. We went to lunch afterward, not really sure that our candidate had a chance to win, but we both felt happy, that we had done the right thing.
 
That night, I was at work as the election results came in, and early on things didn’t seem too positive. However, there was still legitimate reason to hope. As the night wore on, those reasons to hope grew into possibilities. The possibilities turned into a genuine battle. The tide began to turn in that battle, and as I got home from work it was time to settle in for a long overnight election watch.
 
Very late at night (early morning actually), it was my home state of Pennsylvania that finally put Donald Trump over the top. By that time, it was a foregone conclusion. Everyone knew he was going to win PA, except that the networks were unwilling to make the call, possibly out of disbelief and shock.
 
The Democrats thought that they had this one in the bag. Hillary Clinton had celebrities in her corner, after all. The media, at least the media that they watched and read and listened to, told them that she would win, probably comfortably. When she lost, they were bitter and angry, and they remain that way today.
 
Donald Trump is an imperfect man. Frankly, there are no perfect men. I don’t need my President to be perfect. I don’t need him to be some articulate phony. I don’t want a person in that office who looks and sounds good, who makes folks feel good with flowery words, and then hurts my country with their actions and policies.
 
A Hillary Clinton presidency would have been a nightmare for America. A Bernie Sanders socialist presidency would have been even worse. The presidency of Donald Trump has been, thus far at least, a blessing from God to our nation.
 
My hope remains that the president will grow in office. That he will tone down his social media posting, that he will move away from his name-calling rhetoric. That he will become just a little bit more of a traditional statesman in style.
 
But if he does none of those things, in the end I will be fine with him as long as he continues to name conservative judges to the courts, continues to work to protect our security and business interests, and continues to put America first.
 
Later this coming week, our next episode of the Traditional Americans podcast is going to delve into the unmitigated mess that has become the FBI probe of the Clinton and Trump campaigns during the 2016 election. I’ll have the announcement on the availability of that podcast at our social media feeds later this week, so keep an eye out for that.
 
As always, you can find us on social media @TraditionalAmericans on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can write to us at TraditionalAmericans@verizon.net with any commentary or ideas. And if you think that you can bring something to the conversation, let me know there, and you may be invited on as a guest to a future podcast.
 
 
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this episode of the Traditional Americans podcast. Make it a regular part of your intrawebs listening experience, and please share us with your family and friends, and on social media. 
 
That’s all for now. Until next time, God bless you and yours, and God bless the United States of America!

NOTE: the “Traditional Americans” podcast enjoyed only two episodes, a brief introductory episode and this on President Trump.