Raising Questions

Should the Phillies hand out a big contract extension this offseason?

The blessing of having homegrown, young talent in baseball is that if you want those players, they’re yours for what usually amounts to half of their careers, no questions asked. And you have them for super cheap, because while free agent player contracts have grown exponentially, early-year contracts have been stagnant.

Right now, the Phillies have that homegrown, cheap, young talent. But it doesn’t last forever.

Within three, four or five years, the first wave of young Phillies players entering free agency will be upon us. So the Phillies have a choice. They can offer early contract extensions to those players, or they can assess those players each offseason and sign them to one-year deals.

From the team’s perspective, offering early contract extensions accomplishes three things:

  1. Keeps goodwill between the player and team.
  2. Eliminates potentially nasty arbitration battles from the equation.
  3. Gets what still may be a bargain if the player reaches superstar status.

From a player perspective, it offers security during a time in their careers in which they have none. If Aaron Nola, who has yet to sign a contract extension with the Phillies, blows out his arm in spring training next year and never pitches again, he receives no compensation past whatever contract he signed with the Phillies in the offseason – which would likely be a one-year, $1.5 million (or so) deal. If the same thing happened to Odubel Herrera, who signed a contract extension before the 2017 season, he’d be owned the remaining money on that contract, almost $30 million. That’s security.

But do the Phillies even want to extend this next group? Let’s break it down and figure out who might be the next player the Phillies extend … if there’s anyone at all.

CESAR HERNANDEZ

Contract status: Second year being arbitration eligible. Under team control through 2020.

The case for: Those who said, “Let’s see what he does in 2017” following his surprising second half of 2016 are nowhere to be found now. He basically repeated that performance for all of 2017, exhibiting consistency and long-term value, leading the offense with a 3.1 WAR (second only to Nola’s 4.5 on the team). He looks the part of a valuable cog on a good team, and his .794 OPS at second base will play anywhere.

The case against: After a very good defensive year in 2016 (12.6 UZR), he appeared to fall off in 2017 (3.1 UZR). The Phillies haven’t figured out their 2018 infield yet, with no less than five guys trying to fit into three spots. Why would any of them get a long-term extension when we don’t know what their 2018 role will be, let alone their 2020 role?

Decision: The same as it will be for any member of the infield: don’t extend. But just for giggles …

FREDDY GALVIS

Contract status: Last year of arbitration. Free agent after the 2018 season.

The case for: The Phillies asked, and he obliged. He bumped his on-base percentage from an “unplayable” .274 in 2016 to a merely “bad” .309. If he can improve that even more in 2018, he’ll make himself more valuable. He made what seemed to be a concerted effort to play in every game this year, even taking two different turns in the outfield to make way for J.P. Crawford, his heir apparent at shortstop. That’s an average of 157 games in the last three years when the rest the players on your team always seem to miss at least a month or so. He’s established himself as the clubhouse leader.

The case against: While he certainly passes the eye test, Galvis went from a 15.1 UZR in 2016 to a 3.6 in 2017, a major drop-off in the ground he covers. On even a decent team, the only place he can hit is eighth since he can’t get on base with any consistency and can’t make enough contact to hit second. While his approach at the plate is improved, it was starting at such a low point that anything less than a massive, massive improvement probably isn’t playable on a good team. If you extend him this offseason, it will be at starting shortstop money, when there is a 50/50 chance (generous) that’s not his future role with this team or any other, as soon as next year. And, again, the crowded infield.

Decision: Don’t extend unless he’s ready to take a super utility-type role, which would only cost about three years and $10 million to keep him through 2020. Even that’s a stretch.

MAIKEL FRANCO

Contract status: Arbitration eligible for the first time. Under team control through 2021.

The case for: Buying low?

The case against: Everything else. While some organizations are big on buying out player arbitration years early on with extensions that curry good favor into free agency years, Franco is probably the poster boy for why you shouldn’t. After his abbreviated 2015 season, there probably wasn’t a person in town who wouldn’t have agreed to extend him and keep him as a franchise cornerstone. Twenty months later, fans seriously entertained the thought of cutting him. And they weren’t wrong to do so.

Decision: Don’t extend.

AARON NOLA

Contract status: Eligible for arbitration in 2019. Under team control through 2022.

The case for: He’s emerged as the only watchable pitcher in the starting rotation. That’s not exactly a high bar, but just calling him “watchable” is quite the understatement. He missed some time (again) but got back on track and established himself as a legit No. 2 starter, and on a really good day, a low-end No. 1. Easily led the team with a 4.5 WAR. You want to be in his good graces.

The case against: He missed some time (again). That’s two trips to the DL in his last two years, the trip in 2016 causing his season to end after only 20 starts – the last five of which probably shouldn’t have been made since he was obviously hurt. But instead of using that injury history as a reason to wait, maybe the Phillies should use that as an in to buy lower than they would after a really big season – which could be coming.

Decision: EXTEND

AARON ALTHERR

Contract status: Eligible for arbitration in 2019. Under team control through 2022.

The case for: Finally given a starting role and flourished. He finished the year leading the team in slugging percentage (.516) and played everywhere in the outfield.

The case against: Another year, another injury for Altherr, as he only played 107 games. He wasn’t thought of enough to earn a starting outfielder job at the start of the year. It wasn’t until a late-April/early-May tear combined with the Phillies realizing how truly useless Michael Saunders had become before they made Altherr a starter. His home/road splits were galling (.954 OPS in Philly, .756 on the road). He really slowed in the second half after coming back from his latest injury, with an on-base percentage under .300 in his 29 second-half games. Maybe he came back too early to fend off completely losing his job to Rhys Hoskins, but whatever it was, he wasn’t the same player. There is time to see more of Altherr to see if deserves an extension.

Decision: Don’t extend.

RHYS HOSKINS

Contract status: Likely under team control through 2024 (official service time to be determined in the offseason).

The case for: Really?

The case against: He’s only here on this list because someone is going to ask, “Where’s Rhys Hoskins???” But if the Phillies extended Hoskins, it would be the earliest this team has EVER extended a player. It hasn’t happened, it doesn’t need to happen, it won’t happen, neither team nor player nor agent expects it to happen … it’s not happening. And that’s fine. We’ll talk in two years.

Decision: Don’t extend.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Mike Fassano

    October 7, 2017 at 10:34 am

    I agree with all but one of your choices. Altherr probably would have played 25 more games if it hadn’t been for the two professional hitters. If he had played 130 games would that have affected your decision? If you can extend him on a deal similar to Herrera’s, DO IT!

  2. Keith L

    October 7, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Nola yes. Altherr is the only other possibility to me. I really think the most in danger player on here might be Franco. I could see an infield next year of Hoskins, Hernandez, Galvis, and Crawford.

  3. Walt

    October 8, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Your decisions are purely from the statistical analysis point of view. The proven requirements of fielding a championship team from a Traditional stand point are totally ignored. Please don’t tell me how this is a successful formula for other teams which is nonsense also.

    Franco and one catcher need to go which puts Crawford on third base where he will be a standout. Rupp Galvis, Hernandez, and Odubel are in fact the best defense up the middle. Next year will determine Hoskins true offensive power not a month and half up. Pitching is the real problem and in particular the Bull Pen. Timely hitting vastly improved the second half this year and should just get better next yr.
    I don’t get the idea of dumping Galvis unless the Phils cannot afford the $$$ to keep him.
    Also based on the lack of polished players from our minors I see no reason to rush players to majors just to have them fail. Dodgers don’t do that. Yankees go out and buy polished players.
    Lastly you cannot put a number or statistic on desire. Players develop at different rates & wisdom in the dugout should be a determining factor in player movement.

  4. betasigmadeltahag

    October 8, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Galvis has heart and is the smartest player on this team, and is a true leader and seems to have a knack for getting hits is key situations. And more teams then not bring young players up and let them learn at the big level. How have the dodgers and Yankees done in the playoffs lately. The phillies need to go Houston and KC route and bring up the kids to see if they can play. Kingerly is ready to be prime time, he has proved it across every level he has played. Hernandez is a guy who will bring baJPck the most in pitching, and JP has not proven he can hit to be playing third base, even though I love his glove. Franco showed some flashes that he can be an above average player, and when focused could be a gold glover. With the ability of JP, Galvis, to play multiple positions, you can keep Galis, JP, and Franco. You start with Hoskins 1b, Kingrly 2b, Galvis ss, and Franco 3rd with Jp playing 2b,3b and SS a few times a week with Galvis filling in as fourth outfielder. The formula that works is you develop hitters, position players, and you buy pitching. That doesn’t mean you go out and get all free agent aces, it means you trade, and identify good pitching in other organizations and bring them in after they have proven, or you see their ability to be big league pitchers. An OF of Altherr, Williams and Herrera could be impressive offensively.
    What the really need is a new pitching coach that can get the most out of the young pitching staff, and base coaches that can teach smart baserunning. And as much as I hate he was a dodger, They need to get Davey Lopes or the next Davey Lopes to man the first base coaching box.

  5. Lou Possehl

    October 8, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    I like that. What all of this says is that in 2017 we came a long way – that is, from a sorry excuse for a major-league club (1st half) to “bring on the 2018 season” (2nd half). And that we don’t have to go into panic mode to improve the position-player lineup: our “Whiz Kids II” lineup has shown that we can compete with what we have. Trade for bigger/better – sure, but at what cost? While Giancarlo and all that would be nice, a more sober approach may be to roll out the guys who closed out the 2017 season, see who matures/improves, and go from there.

    The one need we truly have – as we all know – is for a bona fide quality starting pitcher. Someone who, along with Nola, can be trusted not to win every game, but to go out there and put the club in a position to win. Ideally, someone who’s been around the block, who can teach younger pitchers a thing or two, and who might cost a lot in dollars – but not in terms of draining our minor-league talent. And someone who might look positively on playing in Philly.

    The Rangers have this guy, Hamels …

    • Ken Bland

      October 9, 2017 at 12:09 pm

      Reactions to Cole leaving the Phils included my sentiment that referenced his departure as a conclusion to his first tour of duty with the Phils. Have felt that way through and through ever since. Jon Daniels has never been one to be taken advantage of in trade deals, so the Phils won’t figure to pull off a heist. Without checking, and therefore possibly wrong, I believe Cole’s deal is up after 2019. The Rangers might put him on the block as early as mid 2018. Might be looking for young pitching, which doesn’t enhance the Phils as a trade partner, but they still might find a way. It was right to trade him when it happened, and you’d still think the package will wind up worth moving him, but he will be back before it’s over. Good call, Lou, perhaps your best since Khrys Davis.

      • loupossehl

        October 10, 2017 at 1:53 pm

        Holy cow! If you remembered what I had to say about Khrys Davis, way-back-when, then your memory is waaaaay better than mine. Impressive. I do recall feeling frustrated by the front office approach to the Phillies future – that is, “these things take time” – and nothing else other than nibbling at the edges of free agency and the Rule 5 grab bag and hoping to pull a rabbit from the hat.

        Tepid. Tentative. Patient. Overly cautious. Indifferent to fan support. Limp-wristed. Downright cheap. Call it what you will – the sorry results, in terms of multi-year team performance, are there for all of us to see. Would a Steinbrenner or a Bill Veeck-type ownership (speaking of memories!) have behaved very much differently? Damn right – and while recent Phillies teams wouldn’t have been contenders they would, from time to time, at least have been interesting – as opposed to dull as dishwater. That’s been the worst part: the agony of knowing, even in April, that the franchise in terms of on-the-field performance couldn’t score runs and was going to go absolutely nowhere.

        But give credit where credit is due – I call the current group “Whiz Kids II”. Back in the ’50s – with Whiz Kids I, that is – the organization had the basis in hand for some great Phillies teams. And proceeded to blow it with reticence to reach into the black-player market … while the Dodgers (e.g.) with the likes of Robinson and Campy and Black and Newcombe proceeded to load up and kick our ass.

        Now we have something of a replay: something new and exciting to work with; something to build on – and we’re at a crossroads of sorts: wait yet further, for more minor-league talent to hopefully percolate to the top? Or go pro-active and take a shot. There’s one resource available to the Phillies – one that separates us from, say, the San Diego Padres or the Cincinnati Reds: money, and the ability to use a lot of it. I will do my best imitation of your favorite UFC ring announcer and proclaim, “It’s time!”

  6. Ken Bland

    October 9, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Big contract, eh? According to Nick Cafardo, quite often a pretty responsible, or at least respectable rumor source, the Phillies have a name in the loop for the managerial opening of Ruben Freaking Amaro. How would that be for a place to do a big contract. Cafardo, of the Boston Globe, must have been at the Pats game recently where patrons got scammed for 4.50 a bottle of tap water. All I can say is the internet acronyms of OMG and LOL were invented for internet happenings like that. I mean they couldn’t be serious. Ruben? Manager? Of this team? What a public relations bomb that would be!

  7. Craig Glessner

    October 9, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    We have Nola under control for 5 more years I’d wait at least 2 or 3 to extend him. Altheer is in the same situation. I think Galvis was the heart and leader of this team and that cannot be overlooked, if we can get a 4 year deal with him this off season at a reasonable deal I think he is too versatile to let go. If we don’t trade Franco this off season for pitching I’m going out on a limb and predicting he finally puts together some big numbers next year. He is on a short leash and knows it. Bottom line Galvis is the only player to extend right now.

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