Offseason 2015: Winter Meetings Preview

phils logoThe Major League Baseball Winter Meetings begin Monday in Nashville, Tenn. Talk will focus on names like Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes, free agent outfielders still without a home for 2016.

But anything can happen at the Winter Meetings, where players, agents and representatives from every team congregate for a week inside an urban hotel complex. Trades are likely. Massive contract agreements are highly possible. And even the Phillies, who possess little need to spend a lot of money, could make some unexpected waves.

In the last two weeks I’ve scoured the Phillies’ organizational depth chart to show you what exists, what still needs work and what may become. Here are the links, if you’d like to catch up:

Starting Pitching
Relief Pitching
First Base & Third Base
Second Base & Shortstop
Corner Outfield & Center Field

As of today, this is the likely 2016 Phillies depth chart:

SP: Aaron Nola, Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Adam Morgan
RP: Ken Giles, Jeanmar Gomez, Elvis Araujo, Luis Garcia, Hector Neris, Dalier Hinojosa
C: Cameron Rupp, Carlos Ruiz
1B & 3B: Ryan Howard, Maikel Franco, Darin Ruf
2B & SS: Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis, Andres Blanco, Darnell Sweeney
OF: Odubel Herrera, Peter Bourjos, Aaron Altherr, Cody Asche

That would indicate there are 23 of 25 roster spots filled, but those names above aren’t all guaranteed (especially Morgan, Garcia, Neris, Hinojosa, Ruf, Sweeney and Asche). Here’s what I listed in the “MILB Present” or “Fringe” categories in my previews, showing the depth just beyond the likely major league roster:

SP: Alec Asher, David Buchanan, Severino Gonzalez, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Joely Rodriguez, Chris Leroux, Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin, Ben Lively
RP: A.J. Achter, Dan Otero, Frank Hermann, Mario Hollands, Colton Murray, James Russell, Jimmy Cordero, Edubray Ramos, Reiner Roibal
C: Jorge Alfaro, Andrew Knapp, Gabriel Lino, Logan Moore
1B & 3B: Tommy Joseph, Brock Stassi, Art Charles, Harold Martinez
2B & SS: Angelys Nina, Carlos Alonso, J.P. Crawford, K.C. Serna
OF: Roman Quinn, Nick Williams, Brian Pointer, Cameron Perkins

With all this in mind, what may the Phillies do this week? Should we really be expecting anything extraordinary? Here’s what’s on the burner:

1. Major League Starting Pitcher

The starting rotation is thin, with Morgan entrenched as the fourth starter and a clear hole in the fifth spot. The Phillies can fill the hole with any number of fringe major leaguers, but they’d be wise to find another low-risk veteran for the rotation. A Tim Lincecum or Scott Kazmir is possible in the free agent market, and considering the going rate for a starter in that market, that’s probably the ceiling.

The Phillies smartly picked up Hellickson in a trade for a mid-level prospect; another deal like that could be in our near future (think someone like Miami’s Chris Narveson). The Phillies also could use their first-overall Rule 5 pick on a starting pitcher (Chris Devenski of Houston, Myles Jaye of the White Sox, Richard Rodriguez of Baltimore).

2. Major League Outfielder

It’s possible the Phillies are still in the market for an outfielder, despite claiming and agreeing to terms with Bourjos to likely take up a starting job. Don’t expect Heyward or anyone on that tier, but free agents like Justin Ruggiano or Will Venable are interesting buy-low options.

Again, the Rule 5 pick comes into play here. The Phillies may look to Jabari Blash or Tyler Goeddel to audition for a corner outfield spot in spring training.

3. AAA Infielder

There’s not a lot of infield depth in Lehigh Valley and Reading, especially at third base. The Phillies may opt to grab some depth for the IronPigs, and players like Conor Gillaspie and Joaquin Arias are available.

4. AAA Catcher

Sure Alfaro and Knapp exist, but a veteran backstop could prove important early in the season. Plenty of backup catcher types are out there, like Michael McKenry and Carlos Corporan.

Other Possibilities

– Can a Giles trade provide the Phillies more prospects? Aroldis Chapman is being shopped around, with the Dodgers closing in on a trade for the fireballing reliever. The Phillies could certainly move Giles, but the price has to be right (read: high). Don’t expect Matt Klentak and Co. to trade Giles unless an everyday player is part of a return.

– Would the Phillies be open to dealing a major leaguer with minimal value? Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez and Cody Asche represent rostered players who could bring back something small – like a major league reliever or mid-tier prospect – without damage to the franchise’s future. A more ambitious deal, involving someone like Herrera, is unlikely but could be entertained.

– Don’t count the Phillies out from dealing prospects. Could a trade involving Roman Quinn net the Phils a No. 2 starting pitcher? Trades like these rarely happen, but with a new general manager at the helm, we can’t count out anything yet.

Enjoy the Winter Meetings!

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