Tag Archives: Scott Kingery

Decision time arrives for Phillies on Franco, Hernandez

Embed from Getty Images

A non-tender of Hernandez could prompt the Phillies to move Segura to second and sign Gregorius for shortstop

 

What has become known as the “non-tender” deadline in Major League Baseball will arrive on Monday at 8:00 pm EST. Teams ostensibly have until that point to offer 2020 contracts to arbitration-eligible players.

For two such players who have been starters with the Philadelphia Phillies for the last five seasons – third baseman Maikel Franco and second baseman Cesar Hernandez – it could mark the end of their time with the ball club.

The actual rule as negotiated with the MLBPA (the player’s union) basically states that all arbitration and pre-arbitration eligible players on the 40-man roster with fewer than six years of big-league service time must be offered (tendered) a contract for the upcoming season (2020) by this deadline or they will immediately  become a free agent.

While Franco has appeared in parts of six MLB seasons he has just 4.157 official years of accumulated service time. Hernandez has appeared in parts of seven seasons, but has just 5.154 official service time years.

Should the Phillies choose to tender a contract to either or both, they would be agreeing to settle on a specific salary amount over the next few months. If they choose to non-tender either or both, the player(s) join the list of available free agents this off-season.

By non-tendering either Franco or Hernandez the Phillies would in essence be waving goodbye.

I am sure there would be public pleasantries from general manager Matt Klentak along the lines of “we really like these guys and appreciate what they brought to the ball club over the last few years, but we felt it was best at this time for both the players and the team that we turn the page.

For me, these two players are little more than reminders of a half-dozen years of mostly losing baseball. Signing and trading them is not a legitimate option. What team is going to surrender anything of real value for either guy?

Saying goodbye to either or both  would then create holes in the lineup. However, they are holes that can be filled by more talented and likely more productive players who are either already on the roster or available via free agency.

SECOND BASE

The simplest and best answer to non-tendering Hernandez would be to finally turn over the everyday second base position to Scott Kingery.

I’ve explained ad nauseam in other pieces and podcasts that second base is Kingery’s natural position. It is where he played during the final two years of his college career and his three minor league seasons. In 2017 he was the Gold Glove Award winner for the minor leagues at the position.

Another option would be to slide the current shortstop, Jean Segura, over to second base. This would mean either making Kingery the everyday shortstop or signing a free agent. The Phillies have been linked to free agent Didi Gregorius in this type of scenario.

Though he has been a shortstop for the vast majority of his eight-year big-league career, Segura was the every day second baseman with the Arizona Diamondbacks during the 2016. He led the National League with 203 hits that season and finished 13th in NL MVP voting.

Though he can athletically handle the position on a short-term basis or in an emergency, Kingery is not a legitimate everyday shortstop. If the club really wants to move Segura, it would be imperative that they sign someone like Gregorius.

THIRD BASE

Cutting ties with Franco would likely mean that the Phillies have decided to go hard after one of the three top available free agents at the position: Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, or Mike Moustakas.

If they non-tender Franco but keep Hernandez, they could also choose to make Kingery the everyday third baseman. However, just as with shortstop, this is not a legitimate spot for Kingery as a regular starter.

Should the Phillies cut ties with both Franco and Hernandez, it almost certainly means that they plan on using Kingery as a regular at one of the three infield positions.

The Phillies might decide that the third base free agents are simply too expensive, and believe that they have the future at the position here already in top position prospect Alec Bohm. In that scenario, maybe they tender Franco, figuring that Bohm will turn him into 2020 in-season trade bait.

The Phillies could also conceivably sign both Gregorius and a new third base free agent. But that is spending a lot of money which could perhaps be better used in paying for the two starting pitchers they also need.

SHORTSTOP

If you choose to non-tender Hernandez and slide over Segura, it opens a hole here. Again, the hole would be filled by either Kingery (less than ideal) or a free agent such as Gregorius.

For me, the best option is to simply keep Segura at short, make Kingery the everyday second baseman, and go hard after a third baseman in free agency.

CENTER FIELD

Kingery played 65 games and made 57 starts in center field during the 2019 season. By the end of the year it was rookie Adam Haseley out there most often. Haseley appeared in 40 games in center field, making 36 starts.

I’ve gone on record that the Phillies should go after a more proven veteran via the trade route, someone such as Jackie Bradley Jr.of the Boston Red Sox.

This is Kingery’s second-best, though I believe it is a distant second-best, defensive position. He played it during his first two years of college ball. However, a look into the stats reveals that while he occasionally makes a highlight reel play, he also doesn’t make all of the routine plays handled by natural center fielders.

It is possible that the Phillies will choose to tender Hernandez and bring him back for one final season at second base, leaving Kingery out in center field for one more year, with Haseley as a reserve outfielder.

Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors has estimated that Franco would receive $5.7 million and Hernandez $11.8 million on one-year deals with the Phillies for the 2020 season. That $17.5 million could pay the 2020 salary of a strong starting pitcher or one better position player.

This will not be an easy decision for Klentak to make. However, it would be very easy for me. The “KISS” principle is at play here: Keep It Simple Stupid.

These are two limited players for whom there are better options available. Cut the ties. Move on. Look to the future, not at the past.

The Phillies should non-tender both Franco and Hernandez, move Kingery to second, start shopping hard for a third baseman, and start working the phones for a center fielder. One man’s opinion. We’ll find out what the team actually chooses by late Monday.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Five things for Phillies fans to be grateful on this Thanksgiving Day

Embed from Getty Images

The Phanatic and the beautiful Citizens Bank Park are among many things for which Phillies fans should be thankful

 

Despite an eighth consecutive season without a winning record or postseason appearance, there remain a number of things for Phillies fans to be grateful when it comes to their favorite ball club on this Thanksgiving Day 2019.

In that spirit of gratefulness which most of us are examining on this uniquely American holiday, here are five things in no particular order which I believe all Philadelphia Phillies fans can agree on being blessed to experience.

ACTIVE, DETERMINED OWNERSHIP

It has become clear over the last two decades that few members of the Phillies ownership group are more interested and invested in winning than John Middleton.

Over the last five years in particular, Middleton has taken a more active role, becoming the public face of that ownership group. Three years ago, Middleton was elected as the club’s “control person”, making him directly accountable to the commissioner’s office.

Last off-season, it was Middleton’s direct involvement in the Bryce Harper negotiations that finally lured the young superstar to Philadelphia.

The owner has proven his willingness to get personally involved, and to write the big checks necessary to lure the biggest names to the Phillies. For that, we fans should all be grateful.

FRANCHISE HISTORY

This could be laughed off by anyone who wishes to point out that fact that the Philadelphia Phillies have suffered more losses than any professional sports franchise in American history.

However, most of that massive losing took place in the 1930’s and 1940’s. For the last four decades or so, the Phillies have given fans much to cheer, including 11 division crowns, five National League pennants, two World Series championships.

The Phillies have also become one of the best teams in all of baseball at celebrating their history. Numerous reunions and other celebrations and memorials of players and other significant figures are frequent and always well done.

The Phillies Wall of Fame has become a particular highlight. Established in 1978, there are now 41 individuals enshrined on the wall. Each year, one new person is added. The coming years will see many recent-era favorites join their ranks, with historic celebrations to honor those players and their teams.

CITIZENS BANK PARK

There are few more beautiful ballparks in all of Major League Baseball than this now 15-year-old shrine in South Philadelphia.

The facility itself is gorgeous on the outside, but it is even more so once you enter. From many sections you get a panoramic view of the downtown skyline. The open concourse allows a view of the game action from nearly everywhere you walk. Sight lines and seating angles are perfect no matter where you purchase.

The food options at Citizens Bank Park are the envy of baseball, in fact, of all sporting venues in the nation. From traditional Philly fare such as cheesesteaks and soft pretzels to traditional baseball fare such as hotdogs and Cracker Jack to pub-style bar food and sit-down restaurants, the ballpark has it all.

Chances to purchase all manner of clothing, paraphernalia, and memorabilia abound. You can find these items as well as the great food selections around the concourse, or along the outfield in the gathering spot known as Ashburn Alley.

There is plenty to keep the kids occupied. At the outfield section known as “The Yard” they can experience a miniature version of the ballpark, challenge themselves with a rock climbing wall, and more. In the Phanatic Phun Zone, smaller kids can lose themselves in a Phillies-themed playground.

And then there is that favorite of Phillies fans of all ages, the Phillie Phanatic. The big green fuzzy guy has entertained fans for more than four decades, and has become a beloved, and still fun, institution.

NEW GENERATION PLAYERS

When the Phillies began to turn the page from the winning decade of the 2000’s, the process of moving on from a host of fan favorite players was excruciatingly slow.

However, over the last year or two, new players have emerged from the farm system to become favorites to a new generation. The club has also swung a few key trades and made free agent signings to bring in more popular players.

Homegrown favorites include pitcher Aaron Nola, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, and versatile Scott Kingery. Trade acquisition J.T. Realmuto and free agent signee Bryce Harper were the two best Phillies players during this past 2019 season, and promise to  remain fan favorites for years to come.

Management and ownership are now under a mandate from the fans to continue adding to this new base of favorites, bringing in a few more players to finally push the team over the top and back to consistent contending status.

Oh, and of course, I would be remiss to not mention that we have a new manager with a mostly new coaching staff. Joe Girardi is a proven winner who did so in the media and fan crucible of the Big Apple. He was the Phillies fans choice, so again, someone for whom we should be grateful is now on board.

HOT STOVE ANTICIPATION

Just as with a year ago when the Phillies were considered leading contenders to land either Harper or the other major free agent, Manny Machao, this off-season finds the club again under the ‘Hot Stove’ spotlight.

Both general manager Matt Klentak, whose future may be directly on the line over the next three-to-four months, and Middleton have publicly stated that rebuilding is over, and the time to win is now.

That management and ownership knows that they have a solid base of players already who put together a .500 season this past year. Now their job is to find the pieces to make it a winner.

There are any number of free agent starting pitchers who would improve the Phillies rotation, from ace-caliber arms to mid-level experienced pitchers. The club needs to add two of these hurlers, and that process will keep fans interested over the coming weeks and months.

With needs beyond just starting pitching – at least one more starting caliber position player, a couple of proven veteran bench options, maybe even another bullpen piece – there will be much to keep fans interested during the long, cold winter to come. For true baseball fans, that is always something for which to be thankful.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

 

Phillies need to stop using Scott Kingery like a Swiss army knife

Embed from Getty Images

Playing Kingery where he best fits on defense should help fully unlock his impactful offensive potential

 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is time for the Philadelphia Phillies to stop using Scott Kingery like their own organizational Swiss army knife.

Over the course of his first two big-league seasons the Phillies have used Kingery at seven different positions. He has seen action everywhere but at first base and behind the plate.

In his rookie campaign of 2018, Kingery became the starting shortstop and was used at all seven of those positions, including a 1.1 inning stint on the mound.

This past season, Kingery became the starting center fielder, and was used at six different positions by manager Gabe Kapler. At least he didn’t make another mound appearance.

The “Inside Edge” defensive statistics at Fangraphs are a wonderful tool. They take what can be the sometimes difficult to measure defensive values of a player and help better evaluate what is actually happening on the field.

To help make my argument that Kingery is not helping the Phillies at any of the three positions at which he has been most utilized by the club – center field, shortstop, and third base – I examined his performance using those Inside Edge tools.

I also examined the defensive performance of the Phillies incumbent second baseman, Cesar Hernandez, and took a look back at Kingery’s minor league performance when he was last used at that position on a full-time basis.

CENTER FIELD

Kingery saw most of his playing time in center field with the Phillies this past season. He appeared there in 479.1 innings over 65 games, 57 of those as starts.

A look at the Inside Edge statistics for the 42 players during the 2019 season who played at least 450 innings in center field, Kingery grades out as below average.

He handled all of the 121 chances which were rated as 90-100%. In other words, chances where it was deemed “certain” or “nearly certain” that he should have handled them successfully.

However, when those chances became 60-90%, which are considered as “likely” to be handled successfully, Kingery handled just 75% of those, ranking 34th of the 42 players with at least 450 innings.

When things got even tougher, Kingery rarely made the sensational grab, coming up with just two of seven (28.5%) chances rated in the 1-40% range for success.

What this says to me is that Kingery is young and athletic enough to catch all of the fly balls that he is absolutely supposed to catch. The easy, lazy fly balls to center, or the balls where he just has to glide under them a bit.

However, he is not naturally skilled enough or experienced enough at the position to make most difficult plays, and even has trouble with chances considered likely – routine to a natural center fielder. While he doesn’t usually kill the Phillies out there, he isn’t helping.

THIRD BASE

The position at which Kingery saw his second highest number of games came at the hot corner. He appeared in 41 games, making 37 starts, for a total of 306.1 innings.

There were 44 players in Major League Baseball who saw at least 300 innings at the position. Again, Kingery grades out as below average.

For those 90-100% plays, the “almost certain” or “certain” group, his 96.2% handled successfully may seem solid at first blush. However, it ranks him just 27th in MLB at the position.

When you get to the 40-90% level, chances deemed as either “about even” or “likely” to be handled, Kingery made just 12 of 20 total plays successfully.

Again, this shows me that he handles most of the balls hit right at him and gets the ball over to first base successfully. But coming up with the more difficult plays at third base, even some deemed likely for a more experienced player or one with a stronger arm, is about a 50/50 proposition for him.

SHORTSTOP

Kingery was the Phillies primary shortstop in the 2018 campaign, playing 199 games there and making 101 starts. This past season, with the trade for Jean Segura, Kingery saw just 18 games and made 12 starts at short.

In total, Kingery has played 1,006.1 innings at the shortstop position over the last two seasons combined. There were 32 players in Major League Baseball who saw at least 1,000 innings at the position during that same period.

Of the plays rated in the 90-100% range at shortstop, or again, “certain” or “near certain” to be handled successfully, Kingery came up with a 96.9% success rate. That ranks 22nd of the 32 players.

Once again when things get just a bit harder, Kingery drops. In the 60-90% range he ranks just 24th at handling these “likely” to be made plays.

Below 60%, Kingery didn’t get many chances at shortstop, which to me speaks to his lack of defensive range at the position. He handled 11 of his 22 chances rated as either “unlikely” or “about even”, exactly 50%.

SECOND BASE

Kingery’s natural position, the Phillies have simply not allowed him to play it in the big-leagues. That is for one simple reason alone – management has been unreasonably married to Hernandez at the position.

Over the combined 2018-19 seasons, Hernandez has played in 331 games at the keystone position, making 308 starts and appearing there for a total of 2,726.1 innings. He has been the definition of an everyday second baseman, usage-wise.

For plays rated in the 60-90% range, or “likely” to be made, Hernandez’ 69% success rate places him at just 22nd among the 27 players with at least 1,000 innings at second base. He is just 19th in the 90-100% range. At the lower 40-60% range as well as in the more “unlikely” 10-40% range, Hernandez ranks 18th in both.

Kingery, meanwhile, was a 2017 Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove Award winner during a season split between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

That year, Kingery recorded a .989 fielding percentage in 113 games. It was the highest mark registered among all second basemen in Minor League Baseball. He handled 529 combined chances and helped to turn 75 double play over his time with the two levels.

Kingery slashed .304/.359/530 that year across the two levels. He produced 26 home runs, 63 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs, 103 runs scored, and 29 stolen bases in 603 plate appearances.

I have been saying it for two years now – second base is Scott Kingery’s best position. It is his natural position. More than that, he has proven to be outstanding at the position. I believe that allowing him to settle in there would help unlock his full, impactful offensive potential.

The Phillies have been holding second base for an average player when they have a potentially outstanding one in-house, right under their noses.  That needs to change this off-season.

In my opinion, club management has been negligent in their handling of Kingery. The time to trade Hernandez away and hand the Phillies second base position to Kingery is long past. If it doesn’t happen now, the ramifications should contribute to the end of Matt Klentak’s time as general manager.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

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

Embed from Getty Images

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MID-LEVEL ARMS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOP POTENTIAL IMPACT BATS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Philadelphia Phillies current roster and payroll evaluation

Embed from Getty Images

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.