Commentary

Stay Young Or Get Weird? That’s The Phillies’ Question

phils logoWith five games to go in the 2016 Phillies season, the team is nearly unwatchable. At least after the fifth inning.

Take it from someone who went to Saturday’s game at Citi Field. The first two innings were cathartic release against a Mets team that had recently been walking on water. The final seven innings felt like being dragged slowly back from the heavens, and once hitting the ground, being thrashed against the ground repeatedly until submission.

Luckily the Phillies – and I … somehow – didn’t submit. They held onto dear life, bleeding from almost every crevice, to secure the 10-8 win Saturday night. I must have exhaled for 20 minutes.

Otherwise – aside from Jerad Eickhoff‘s outstanding but shortened start and Ryan Howard‘s grand slam Tuesday – the Phils have been atrocious. The only thing that has saved this stretch is the play of young players like Roman Quinn. But guess who now has an oblique injury? Roman Quinn.

Quinn should be fine for spring training, where he’ll attempt to prove he can stick as a starting outfielder in 2017. If he’s there, he’s likely to join Odubel Herrera in the mix (barring a trade), but that’s the only obvious choice. Aaron Altherr has played terribly since returning from his injury and could find himself in an uncertain situation. Tyler Goeddel looks destined to start 2017 in Lehigh Valley, or even Reading. Nick Williams probably starts in Lehigh Valley with Dylan Cozens and Andrew Pullin. Then there’s Cameron Perkins, who could still be here and would either be in Lehigh Valley or Philadelphia. Logjam city.

On top of that Pete Mackanin has expressed a desire to bring in some free agent or trade acquisitions to boost the offense.

“I, for one, think we need at least one hitter that gives you quality at-bats,” Mackanin said Tuesday in a Jim Salisbury piece for CSNPhilly.

Matt Klentak has to weigh this against developing his prospects at the major league level:

“I know I don’t want to block a prospect that has a chance to be a big part of it. … But at the same time, I think by having one guy in the middle of the lineup or somewhere in the lineup that can take a little pressure off (Maikel) Franco and (Odubel) Herrera and the rest of them could do wonders.”

So it’s not an easy decision. Bringing in an outfielder to start everyday would likely block Williams. Maybe there’s a Herrera trade to free up an outfield spot, but doing so puts the Phils were they were two years ago, with two relatively unproven commodities in the outfield. If a trade that doesn’t happen, Klentak would likely add veterans who can either platoon or come off the bench.

The hard truth, right now, is that the Phillies could do almost anything this offseason. They could be aggressive and outrageous, trading value to acquire a collection of veterans that turn the 2017 Phillies into near-contenders (the Padres tried that recently … it didn’t work). They could pick and choose their spots, trading someone like Herrera (or, say, Maikel Franco) to mix veterans with youth. Or they could stick with current youth development, continuing to have faith in Herrera, Quinn, Williams, Franco, Tommy Joseph, Cesar Hernandez, J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro (and, of course, Eickhoff, Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson). Right now that seems most likely.

And if that’s the case, we could still find ourselves covering our eyes next season. You’ll just have to be patient.

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