Offseason Overview: What do the 2018 Phillies look like?

The offseason has arrived.

As we count down the days until opening day (about 145), we’ll start to see movement in the form of free-agent signings, contract extensions, arbitration-year agreements and trade acquisitions. As Andy Williams once put it, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

The rumors and prognostications are already flying, so we’re throwing our hat into the ring. This is our annual Offseason Overview, a series of pieces detailing what the Phillies have to do to accomplish their goals this winter. We’ll start here with a depth chart rundown, then we’ll go into individual issues later next week.

So, who is on Gabe Kapler’s roster next year?

At this point these choices feel like greater-than-85-percent certainties:

C – Jorge Alfaro
IF – Rhys Hoskins / Cesar Hernandez / Maikel Franco / J.P. Crawford / Freddy Galvis
OF – Nick Williams / Odubel Herrera / Aaron Altherr
SP – Aaron Nola / Vince Velasquez
RP – Hector Neris / Luis Garcia / Edubray Ramos / Adam Morgan

And there are internal options for spots:

C – Andrew Knapp / Cameron Rupp
IF – Brock Stassi / Jesmuel Valentin / Scott Kingery
OF – Dylan Cozens / Roman Quinn / Carlos Tocci / Cameron Perkins / Andrew Pullin
SP – Jerad Eickhoff / Jake Thompson / Ben Lively / Zach Eflin / Mark Leiter Jr. / Tom Eshelman / Drew Anderson
RP – Hoby Milner / Victor Arano / Ricardo Pinto / Yacksel Rios / Jesen Therrien

Things can change. Primarily someone can be traded; the most likely trade candidates include Hernandez and Rupp. You’ll notice Tommy Joseph isn’t listed above – it’s hard to imagine Joseph returning to the team in 2018. He’s also a major trade candidate. And it’s possible the Phillies decide underperformers like Franco and Velasquez aren’t worth roster spots, though it’s more likely the team wants to give these low-value players another chance to prove themselves worthy of spots.

If we take the above roster as gospel, then the Phillies have only 15 spots filled for next year, and as few as 12. One would imagine several of the internal candidates are given opportunities, but there’s still plenty of room for external additions.

Here are the most obvious places where the Phils can add externally:

  • Backup catcher – notably, a veteran presence to play behind Alfaro and/or Knapp or Rupp.
  • Sixth infielder – notably, a power-leaning hitter with third base ability.
  • Fourth outfielder – notably, a multi-position, low-grade, multi-tool player.
  • Top-line starting pitcher – notably, a league-top-40 pitcher around Nola’s ability.
  • Mid-line starting pitcher – notably, a durable, league top-75 pitcher capable of 50 percent quality starts.
  • Fifth reliever – notably, a veteran capable of filling in late-and-close situations early in 2018.

This offseason should be devoted to ensuring a pitching core for the future, as internal options haven’t yet proven worthy. The good thing is a pitching core can be as small as two starters, so the move is to find an arm close to that of Nola. Getting a mid-line starter – something better than Clay Buchholz in 2017 or even Charlie Morton in 2016 – is also relatively essential.

Filling in the offense is not so crucial, though Matt Klentak and Co. should creatively throw resources at veterans and low-risk fliers. This is the time you can find your Shane Victorino or Jayson Werth, the role player that blossoms into a true star for your contending club. Fourth outfielder is one such place where a surprise can yield fruit.

Starting Monday we’ll tell you what we’re thinking the Phils should do for the most necessary spots: fourth outfielder, starting pitcher one and two, and fifth reliever. Sunday we’ll look deep at the pitching market.

Welcome to the offseason. Should be a fun one.

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