The ever eventful MLB Winter Meetings are less than two weeks away. General managers, owners, and scouts from all 30 major league ball clubs will be in attendance to discuss ways to improve their rosters.
Some clubs will be in fire sale mode and try to trade their valuable players for prospects that can improve their farm system, as well as their future. On the other hand, some clubs come will take a much more aggressive, win-now approach and try to lure prized free agents to their team and facilitate trades that will make an immediate impact at the big league level. The burning question amongst Philly Phaithfuls is “which approach should the Phillies take this winter?”
The Phillies are coming off a 71-91 campaign in which they finished 24 games behind the first place Nationals in the NL East. They finished dead last in runs scored and ranked 29th in the league in team average (.240), on-base percentage (.301), and slugging percentage (.385). Yikes. We’re all aware that this is an incredibly young team in the midst of a rebuild, but those numbers simply have to improve for the Phils to make strides towards contention in the future. The key word in that statement being future. The anemic offense has lead some fans to urge General Manager Matt Klentak to be aggressive at the Winter Meetings and pursue some of the top sluggers on the market. Even the Phillies’ Manager Pete Mackanin has gone on record saying that he would like to add a productive bat or two this offseason. The problem is that most of these sluggers will demand top dollar and do not match the Phils timeline of success. I would like to highlight four bats that could intrigue the Phillies, but they should ultimately pass on.
Yoenis Cespedes (Outfielder)
Cespedes is arguably the top hitter in this year’s free agent class. He finished the year sporting a .280/.354/.530 slash line in which he sent 31 baseballs sailing over the wall in just 132 games. The two-time all star hit just eight less home runs than all the Phillies outfielders combined(!) and certainly fits the bill for the productive bat that Mackanin desires.
The problem is that Cespedes is 30 years old and will command a multi-year deal upwards of 20 million a year. The Phillies are certainly improving and have a very promising farm system, but they are still a ways away from being perennial playoff contenders, so signing someone who would take at-bats that would be used for learning away from the young players is certainly not ideal. Cespedes would no doubt improve the team’s offensive output, but the Phils should not join the bidding war for the Cuban slugger.
Edwin Encarnacion (First Baseman/DH)
Encarnacion has been on an absolute tear the past four years. He’s launched 151 home runs, collected 440 RBIs, and has been named to three all-star games over that span. Encarnacion has been one of the best designated hitters in the American League and would definitely give a struggling offense some juice.
The problem is that the Phillies play in the National League and would have to play Encarnacion in the field, which could be problematic. He’s been solid in limited action at first base but he is certainly better served in a DH role at this stage in his career. He’s 33 years old and would demand a contract similar to Cespedes. The rebuilding Phils should pass on him.
Jose Bautista (Right Fielder)
Fellow Toronto Blue Jay Jose Bautista is known for his power, but his production dipped last season. Bautista slashed .234/.366/.452 and only hit 22 home runs in 2016, following an all-star season in which he bombed 40 dingers. Bautista is well on the wrong side of 30 years old and seems to be on the decline. He is not a good fit in Philly.
Mark Trumbo (First Baseman) Trumbo, 31, is coming off an all-star season in which he hit 47 home runs and drove in 108 RBIs. He will be looking to cash in on what will likely be his last multi-year deal. The Phillies could definitely use his pop in the middle of the order, but the problem is his best position is first base, where the Phils already have the promising Tommy Joseph.
Trumbo hit a homerun every 13 at-bats and the rookie Joseph hit one every 15 at-bats, although in less appearances. Those are very comparable numbers and with Joseph being seven years younger and still arbitration eligible it is a no-brainer for the Phils to let Trumbo sign elsewhere.
I know fans desperately want to see new life in the Philly offense next season, as do I, but the Phillies just got rid of the last of aging, overpriced veterans (Howard and Harrison) and shouldn’t add new ones to the roster for short term offensive production. None of these four guys project to be particularly productive by the time the Phillies are making noise in the playoffs, so the Phils should remain patient and see what they have in the younger guys. Even if some of the younger guys don’t pan out the Phillies will have loads of cash to spend when their are more attractive options on the market.
Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports