We are more than a month into the offseason, and the Phillies have plenty of holes to fill throughout their roster. So far, Matt Klentak added a starting shortstop in Jean Segura and bullpen depth in deals with the Mariners and Angels. There is much left to be done, however, to transform an 80-win 2018 roster into a playoff team. Here is a look at the Phillies wish list heading into the Winter Meetings that begin on Monday:
It’s no secret that the Phillies are hunting to land at least one of shortstop Manny Machado and right-fielder Bryce Harper. Team owner John Middleton has expressed that the team is planning on spending a lot of money this winter, and he likely expects that much of it will be spent on one, if not both of these young stars. Both will command contracts worth north of $300 million, but the value either gives is more than just their impact on the field. The Phillies haven’t had a big-name star since their last playoff core dissolved, and adding one this offseason will certainly shift the city’s focus back to baseball. The organization desperately wants to be relevant again, and making a move on Machado or Harper is what it will take. On the field, both are entering their prime and have shown elite ability at the plate. Manny Machado is also outstanding defensively at third-base, but he has expressed desire to play shortstop which could present an issue with the recent Segura addition.
Options: Harper, Machado
Prediction: Reports have varied on whether the Phillies will sign Machado, Harper, neither, or both. Assuming they don’t get both (which would be great until Philadelphia burns to the ground), I think the Phillies sell Harper on playing in a hitter’s park for the rest of his career (and also making a ton of money).
Phillies sign Bryce Harper to an 11-year, $340 million contract
A veteran pitcher (or two)
Jake Arrieta was okay in 2018, but he has clearly lost his swing-and-miss stuff that made him special in Chicago. The Phillies need to find a solid number two starter to slot behind ace Aaron Nola, and there are a couple ways in which they can do so.
Losing Patrick Corbin to a division rival was tough, but there are plenty of less expensive options available, both via free-agency and trade. In term’s of options in free-agency, the Phillies are players for the veteran trio of JA Happ, Charlie Morton, and Dallas Keuchel. Happ and Morton are 36 and 35, respectively, and neither will be around for more than 2-3 years, if signed. Happ has quietly been one of the best pitchers in the American League the last few years, and Morton made a pretty significant impact in the Astros title run in 2017 before having another strong 2018. The Phillies have been linked to Keuchel, but the they should stay away from him considering his inability to miss bats coupled with the sizeable contract he’ll receive.
Beyond the free-agents, there are several big names rumored available via trade. The Phillies have already been linked to Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, and Cleveland ace Corey Kluber along with Trevor Bauer have been rumored available for trade. There have been conflicting reports about whether the Giants are even shopping 29-year old Bumgarner, whose contract expires after the season, but if they are, the Phillies are certainly a natural fit. Kluber, 32, won the Cy Young award in 2017 and has 3 years left on his contract. The 27-year old Bauer had a career year in 2018 and is arb-eligible for two more seasons before becoming a free-agent.
Options: Happ, Morton, Keuchel, Lance Lynn (free-agency); Bumgarner, Kluber, Bauer (trade)
Prediction: I think Middleton is going to push Klentak to get a big name after missing out on Corbin. This could be Bumgarner or one of the Indians guys, but the uncertainty around whether Bumgarner is even going to be moved makes me lean towards it being one of the guys from Cleveland. The Phillies will say goodbye to Zach Eflin (among several prospects) in the deal. Charlie Morton, who lives in Delaware, has expressed interest in playing close to home, making the Phillies perfect suitors. They add him, too, to solidify the rotation, signifying the end of Vince Velasquez as a starter in Philadelphia.
Phillies trade for Corey Kluber and sign Charlie Morton to a 1-year, $15 million contract
Backend bullpen piece
In the trade for Jean Segura, the Phillies added a couple of solid arms in Juan Nicasio and left-hander James Pazos. Last night, the team also flipped its longest tenured pitcher, reliever Luis Garcia, for lefthander Jose Alvarez from the Angels. While these moves added depth to a bullpen that ranked in the bottom-half of the league with an ERA north of 4, there is still need for another dominant arm to complement young flamethrower Seranthony Dominguez in the back of the pen. The team was rumored to have wanted stud closer Edwin Diaz from the Mariners in addition to Segura, but with Diaz sent to the division-rival Mets, Matt Klentak will have to look elsewhere for help. There are plenty of options available via free-agency, and with plenty of money to spend, this is likely the route the team goes. The team has already been linked to closer Craig Kimbrel, but his rumored demand to be paid like the best closer in history may not be met by Matt Klentak, who balked at the idea of giving Patrick Corbin more than five years. Lefties Zach Britton and Andrew Miller are both free-agents, and both have had dominant pasts but regressed in 2018. With Diaz off the trade market, look for the Phillies to sign one of these guys in an attempt to create a formidable 1-2 punch in the back end of the bullpen.
There are several options via trade that I noted below, but I think that the Phillies will focus their assets in a trade for a starter over that for a reliever.
Options: Britton, Miller, Kimbrel, Adam Ottavino (free-agency); Kirby Yates, Archie Bradley, Taylor Rodgers, Will Smith (trade)
Prediction: Klentak has done a pretty good job of adding depth in both trades, and I think he adds a high-impact potential guy to sure up the back end of the bullpen.
Phillies add Britton on a 4-year $60 million deal
Prior to the trade deadline last July, the Phillies acquired veteran catcher Wilson Ramos from the Rays after Andrew Knapp played poorly backing up starting catcher Jorge Alfaro. When healthy, Ramos played 33 games and was clearly the Phillies best hitter down the stretch, hitting .337 with 10 extra-base hits. With Ramos now a free-agent, the Phillies need to fill the void either by resigning the 31-year old or find another catcher to play a role complimentary to catcher of the future Jorge Alfaro. Alfaro’s framing was improved in 2018, but he still struggled with his overall defense, and his bat still needs plenty of polish as well. The 25-year old will play a majority of the team’s games, but a veteran backup is a must as the team cannot relive the headache that was Andrew Knapp for much of 2018. There are some solid options that will not cost the team as much as Ramos, mainly former starting catchers who are well past their primes.
Options: Ramos, Matt Wieters, Martin Maldanado, Jonathan Lucroy
Prediction: I’m all for Klentak bringing Ramos back, but his outstanding hit-tool and subpar catching will likely land him in the AL. Pitchers love being caught by Wieters who also adds some pop with his bat, and he becomes the backup for 2019.
Phillies sign Matt Wieters to 1-year, $4.5 million deal
Other possible moves:
If the Phillies fail to sign Harper and trade Herrera in a deal for a starter, watch out for Michael Brantley as a potential addition to the outfield. The 31-year old had some injury trouble in 2016 and 2017, but rebounded for a solid campaign last season. He has a good hit tool and will fill in nicely next to Roman Quinn and Nick Williams in the outfield.
If the Phillies sign Machado, their next move will likely be to say goodbye to Maikel Franco or Cesar Hernandez depending on where Machado and Segura fit in the infield. There aren’t many teams with needs at either position, so don’t expect much return if either guy goes. I think that no matter what happens, Scott Kingery is the super utility guy in 2019. There are enough holes to fill elsewhere and the team is high enough on Kingery that that probably won’t change.
Clearly, the Phillies have plenty of holes to fill in order to gear the roster for the 2019 season. Expect a busy and eventful four days next week as Klentak starts to make moves to try to bring winning baseball back to Philadelphia.
Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports