Opinion

Phillies need to focus on free agent pitchers, not position players

This past offseason, General Manager Matt Klentak wanted to bolster his corner outfield spots, both being two of the weakest positions in all of baseball last season. Klentak did that, in theory, by signing nine-year veteran Michael Saunders and 12-year veteran Howie Kendrick. The Saunders signing turned out to be a disaster, as the Phillies DFA’d the $9 million outfielder in June. Although Kendrick wasn’t a failure, the Phillies weren’t able to extract the value they hoped because of the right-hander’s injury problems. Kendrick played just 39 games before being dealt for a lower-level prospect to Washington.

Depending on how you look at it, Kendrick’s first DL stint could be looked at as a blessing. Aaron Altherr, who tore it up in spring training, was able to get substantial playing time rather early in a breakout season. It’s apparent that Altherr is, at worst, a fourth outfielder. But we would’ve never known, until now, if Altherr was a piece for the future (whether he’d serve as a member of the Phillies or be a trade chip).

Kendrick’s second DL stint also made room for another youngster that was ready for the major leagues: Nick Williams.

The same guy who we knew was going to be traded at the deadline, in two separate scenarios, gave two others players well-deserved looks at the majors. That’s why the Phillies should stay away from signing any starting-caliber veteran position players this offseason.

The position players are pretty much etched in stone (barring some wild offseason deal for an elite player). The Phillies will have an infield that will roughly look like: Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery (and/or Cesar Hernandez), Freddy Galvis (and/or JP Crawford), Maikel Franco and Jorge Alfaro.

The outfield will probably have Altherr, Williams, Odubel Herrera, and possibly Roman Quinn and Dylan Cozens.

It’s time for a 100 percent youth movement at the position spots, and with players already 23 and 24 years old, it’s time they get their shot without being blocked.

Then there’s pitching

The Phillies need to spend their attention on the pitching staff, as many more questions marks arise.

First off, injuries are always a concern for a pitching staff, especially in the Phillies’ case. Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin and to a lesser extent Jerad Eickhoff have all had injury histories. Nola and Eflin were shut down last year, and Velasquez is on his third DL stint since 2016. Eickhoff has also made a trip to the DL this season. Depth in the rotation is essential because of that, alone.

Besides Nola, who else are we truly confident in?

Eickhoff has taken a step back. Nick Pivetta and Eflin are wild cards every time they take the mound. Velasquez’s problems are well-documented. Ben Lively has been OK and Jake Thompson has an ERA over 5.00 in Lehigh Valley.

Due to injuries and the possibility of other starters bombing out, the Phillies need some stability in the rotation. Offering two- or three-year deals to pitchers like Jake Arrieta and/or Yu Darvish may not be the worse thing in the world. By their second or third year, the Phillies will be ready to win, and potentially have better pitchers on the way to succeed them. Talking about you, Franklyn Kilome and Sixto Sanchez.

By that point, the entire Phillies roster could be homegrown and ready to win for years to come.

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