The Winter Meetings traditionally have been the culmination of the Hot Stove League. Because for decades, that seemed to be the only time general managers really talked to each other.
Now that they’re calling, emailing, texting, DM-ing, Facebook messaging or whatever each other at all hours of all days throughout the offseason, the Winter Meetings have been watered down to Winter Meetings Lite and the Hot Stove lasts straight through until Spring Training.
But the event still carries tremendous intrigue, some prestige, a good amount of action. And for some teams – like the Phillies – a lot of hope.
What will the Phillies be doing in Walt Disney World in the next week? Here are a couple of possibilities:
An infielder will get traded. There’s just too much going on here. Rhys Hoskins has first base nailed down, but then there are six others vying for starting time at three positions (or four, if you include Tommy Joseph, who obviously emanates the stench of “odd man out”). There are about 17,629 ways you can work it so that you have a starting infield set going into 2018, but one of those ways, and the most obvious of ways, is to make a trade at the Winter Meetings. But let’s not start thinking the Phillies can trade Freddy Galvis for a No. 2 starter. In fact, let’s rank the value of the six non-Hoskins infielders:
- J.P. Crawford (high value)
- Scott Kingery (high value)
- Cesar Hernandez (mild value)
- Freddy Galvis (low value)
- Maikel Franco (low value)
- Tommy Joseph (no value)
Right now, you’re talking a bag of balls for Joseph. You’re hoping someone thinks Franco can be fixed. You’re hoping there is a team that values Freddy’s glove. You’re hoping a contender has an immediate opening at second and wants Hernandez. And unless you’re getting significant return, you’re not trading Crawford or Kingery.
But the Phillies should make every effort to get something, for one, two or three of the others. If they don’t do anything, in my mind, it’s an admission that they know they aren’t going anywhere fast and that 2018 is another “tryout season” like 2017.
The Phillies may make a Rule 5 pick. The Phillies remain in rebuilding mode, and when you’re in rebuilding mode, you often attempt to put the cheapest but highest-ceiling product on the field. One of the easiest ways to do that is through the Rule 5 Draft. If they do move someone like Galvis, then a roster spot opens for a utility-type player, which often is where Rule 5 guys fit in best because of their versatility. The Cubs didn’t protect Chesny Young, who can play all over the infield, and the Braves didn’t protect Travis Demeritte, who also plays all infield positions and has consistently been a good prospect in Atlanta and Texas. Demeritte’s ceiling is higher, but Young has been a consistent minor league hitter who probably would have gotten a chance with the Cubs this year had it not been for the organization being loaded. Starter Kohl Stewart was the No. 4 pick in the 2013 draft, but the Twins didn’t protect him after the injury bug bit in 2017. It’s hard to believe the cost-conscious Twins would give up on a young starting pitcher without thinking he was truly done, but changes in scenery do different things for different people. It didn’t work for Mark Appel (yet?), but that doesn’t mean you abandon bringing in every wayward soul if you believe your coaching staff and culture can turn someone around.
There will be another Clay Buchholz/Charlie Morton-type starting pitching sign/trade.
Everyone wants the Phillies to come in and made a splash by trading for a young, controllable top-of-the-rotation arm to give Aaron Nola some kind of relief, or signing a stud starting pitcher. And that would be great. There will be a team this year that comes in and throws a huge offer at Tampa Bay for Chris Archer, or the Pirates for Gerrit Cole, and that may set the market high enough to scare off the Phillies. Perhaps rightfully so. Plan B will be to go after a Lance Lynn-type in free agency, but I’m guessing the price will be higher than they want to pay as it seems they want to keep payroll flexibility for the Greatest Free Agent Class in History (GFACH, for short, pronounced GAF-ach, which is how I’ll be referring to it until Opening Day 2019).
Plan C will be to then go after a high-ceiling cheap(er) sign or trade. Think Chris Tillman, Brett Anderson or perhaps Jason Vargas from the free agent pool. Further down the line, there are actually some interesting names of relatively young, former prospects on the free agent market (Martin Perez, Jordan Lyles, Michael Fiers, A.J. Griffin) who just need to be straightened out a little. Or a lot.
But ultimately, there might not be a lot of huge news. The biggest news of the week could be:
Phillies sign SP Jhoulys Chacin to three-year, $28 million contract.
Not gonna lie, I actually wrote this on Dec. 5, and said the big news would be that the would sign SP Tyler Chatwood to a three-year, $25 million contract because he’s an analytical darling. But leave it to Theo Epstein to recognize the analytics, not wait until the Winter Meetings and swoop in with an offer no one was going to give Chatwood (three years, $38 million). So. Here we are. If that was Plan B for a modestly priced SP, then allow me to offer up this decent Plan B. Chacin was sneaky-useful last year for the Padres, despite being wild (leading the league with 14 HBP, plus 3.6 walks per nine innings pitched). He’s always been a little wild, so that’s nothing new. But he drastically cut his hits per nine last year to 7.8, down from 9.0, 8.1 and 9.6 the previous four seasons. Part of that is likely moving to Petco, but part of that has to be real, since his least hard contact rate of 28.3 percent in 2017 ranks second on the free agent market only to C.C. Sabathia. He’s a so-so consolation prize when the top prize wasn’t all that great to begin with, but the Phillies can do worse. Especially since Anibal Sanchez is out there on the market. This signing also wouldn’t strap them down financially for GFACH, as his overall results don’t merit a huge contract.
And don’t worry. Even if there isn’t as much action as we’d like in the next week, it’s still a long way to go until Opening Day.