Analysis

How the Phillies should handle their 10 remaining arbitration-eligible players



With the announcement this weekend that Pedro Florimon was outrighted from the 40-man roster, cleared waivers, and opted to become a free agent the Philadelphia Phillies have 10 arbitration-eligible players remaining.

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The starting third baseman for most of the last four seasons, Franco is one of 10 arbitration-eligible Phillies.

Seven of those 10 should be back with the team next season, especially considering the value they are likely to return on the contracts that each is likely to receive.

Five of the seven are pitchers: right-handers Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, and Hector Neris and lefty Adam Morgan. The two position players who I believe should return are third baseman Maikel Franco and outfielder Aaron Altherr.

Three players who are eligible for arbitration should be moving on: second baseman Cesar Hernandez, first baseman Justin Bour, and pitcher Luis Garcia.

The pitchers should all be no-brainers. Nola is the current staff ace, a legitimate Cy Young Award contender. Velasquez, despite his continued command and control issues, has a valuable arm that could help the club at the back end of either the rotation or the bullpen.

Neris also still has a big-time arm. As Corey Seidman for NBC Sports Philadelphia pointed out in his own look at the arb-eligibles a few weeks back, Neris had the second-highest strikeout rate in the National League this past season behind only Josh Hader.

While Eickhoff and Morgan might seem like interesting choices, neither is likely to be expensive. Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors estimates Eickhoff at $1.7 million and Morgan at $1.1 million for 2019. Those are relatively inexpensive salaries.

If Eickhoff returns from his injury-lost campaign and returns to his 2016 level of performance, the price is a steal. Even just as a back-end rotation option or experienced arm at Triple-A waiting to help in the event of injuries, it’s not an outrageous sum.

Morgan is a favored whipping boy for some Phillies fans. However, turning 29-years-old at the start of spring training and with 301.2 innings over four big-league seasons he offers an experienced left-handed arm in the bullpen.

This isn’t just a “lefties are hard to come by” vote for Morgan. For a second straight season, Morgan struck out more batters and allowed fewer hits than innings pitched. After the all-star break, the 101 batters who Morgan faced hit just .242 with one homer off the southpaw.

At the price of just over $1 million for one season and considering that the Phillies hope to actually contend next year, I would bring Morgan back and hope that he continues to grow. He could prove to be a bargain.

In his arbitration breakdown, Seidman write this on Franco:

Signing Franco and then trading him seems like the best route. Franco is coming off of his best full season in the majors but there are only so many starting jobs in the infield. If Rhys Hoskins moves back to first base, it will likely mean Carlos Santana plays third. Franco will be easier to move and could fetch more in a trade than Santana.

Here is my problem with this line of thinking. Yes, there are only so many starting jobs in the infield. But one of those jobs, the third base job, is Franco’s. It has been for most of the last four years, and as Seidman said, last year was his best.

At age 26, Franco is just now entering his prime years. He cannot become a free agent for three more years. The Dominican native has legitimate 30-homer, 100-RBI potential.

Franco is never going to be a top defender at the hot corner. But that is a far cry from playing an aging, extremely limited Santana at the position. Franco might be “easier to move”, but let’s face it, neither he nor Santana will fetch much in trade.

The better decision is to admit the Santana signing was a mistake, and simply move on. Pass him off to another team and pay most of the salary this unfortunate contract owes over the next two years.

I don’t expect Klentak to ever admit to a mistake – he hasn’t admitted to a single one yet – but putting Santana over Franco at third base only compounds one that you already did in fact make. At just over $5 million, Franco could be another huge bargain.

Bour and Garcia are no big losses, and Altherr is an inexpensive risk. A lefty bench bat with some pop such as Bour provides could be valuable under the right circumstances. But that is the kind of weapon that a true contender picks up in July.

Garcia will be 32-years-old in January and the righty provided nothing special this past season. If Altherr is indeed at just around $1.6 million, that’s an inexpensive risk for one more year of someone with his ability and athleticism.

The controversial non-tender would be Hernandez. I argued a year ago that it was time to move on from him, and nothing changed based on the typically empty stats that he provided this past season.

Another mistake that the Phillies made in 2018 was putting a rookie who had excelled at second base throughout his minor league career, Scott Kingery, at the most demanding position of shortstop when he had never played it previously as a professional.

Kingery was a minor league Gold Glover at the keystone, and if the Phillies want to fix another mistake they will move on from Hernandez and the $8.9 million that Swartz predicts he will receive. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hernandez go for $10 million in arbitration. Kingery would do a better all-around job for just $1.5 million next year.

The Phillies will have until November 30 to offer contracts to these players. Should a veteran such as Hernandez or Bour not be offered a contract they are considered to have been non-tendered and will immediately join the ranks of baseball free agents.

For players who are offered arbitration, the Phillies and the individual players will have until January 11 to exchange salary figures for the 2019 season. Any such player who is unable to reach an agreement with the team will head to an arbitration hearing at a date to be determined during February.

The Phillies hould bring back the seven players at or near the arbitration figures they are estimated to be awarded. Do that, and the club will still have roughly $90-100 million to spend on new salaries before reaching the $206 million Competitive Value Tax for the 2019 season.

GM Matt Klentak is on the hot seat in this pivotal Hot Stove season for the Phillies. The decisions that he and his analytics crew make in handling the arbitration cases, particularly those of Franco and Hernandez, will be another key piece to the puzzle in trying to form a contending team.

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Jason McElroy

    November 5, 2018 at 9:49 am

    Kingery has no chance of being a better player than Hernandez in 2019. Did you actually watch any games this past season? Where were there any signs of progression? Kingery looked just as bad in September as he did in April. The guy had a 62 wRC+.

    • Matthew Veasey

      November 6, 2018 at 6:13 pm

      No, I didn’t watch any games this past season. Thanks for that advice. I did, however, see plenty of Kingery in the minors. Enough to know that he is a much better player than he demonstrated this year under the duress of playing shortstop for the first time as a professional, forced to do so at the highest level of the game in what was yet another poor management decision. I am confident in his talent going forward, assuming he is used properly. He should be the Phillies starting second baseman, in 2019 and for years to come.

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