Each week, Phillies Nation Editorial Director Tim Kelly will answer reader questions as part of the Phillies Nation Mailbag. Questions can be submitted by tweeting at @PhilliesNation, @TimKellySports or e-mailing your question to TSK@TimKellyMedia.com. Let’s get to this week’s question.
We’ve heard a lot about players that the Phillies could add during the MLB Winter Meetings. What players could they subtract? – Robert in Brookhaven
The Phillies have already made two trades this offseason, one more noteworthy than the other. Monday, the Phillies sent J.P. Crawford and Carlos Santana to the Seattle Mariners for shortstop Jean Segura and relief pitchers Juan Nicasio and James Pazos. Thursday evening, the club traded Luis Garcia to the Los Angeles Angels for left-handed reliever Jose Alvarez. That second trade is perhaps a precursor of another trade that could come this week.
Garcia was traded because he was out of options and perhaps needed a change of scenery after posting a 21.00 ERA in September. In the trade, the aforementioned Alvarez, who left-handed batters hit just .206 against in 2018, came back to the Phillies, joining Pazos as the second left-handed reliever that the Phillies acquired in a five-day span. When you factor in that Austin Davis remains in the picture – and the Phillies are reportedly interested in veteran left-handed relievers Andrew Miller and Zach Britton – Adam Morgan’s time in red pinstripes could soon be up. Like Garcia, Morgan is out of minor league options. But given how desperate teams are to find multiple effective left-handed pitchers to work out of their bullpen, there’s a good chance someone will take a flier on Morgan this offseason. The Phillies return likely won’t be noteworthy.
Circling back to the Segura deal, many felt that acquiring Segura, who is expected to be the team’s starting shortstop, symbolized the end of Cesar Hernandez’s tenure in Philadelphia. While that may prove to be the case, it’s certainly not guaranteed. Yes, the acquisition of Segura means that Scott Kingery will not remain at shortstop on a regular basis. The only way that Segura isn’t the team’s starting shortstop in 2019 (and beyond) is if Manny Machado is insistent on playing shortstop and the Phillies give into his desire. In that scenario, all bets are off on how the Phillies infield will look.
But as the infield is presently constructed – and even if Machado is signed to play third base – Segura will be at shortstop. The Phillies may then shift Kingery back to second base, his natural position. They may also attempt to use him as a Ben Zobrist-type super-utility player, something they planned to do in 2018 before Crawford was ineffective and twice placed on the disabled list, forcing Kingery to shortstop. Manager Gabe Kapler could also try Hernandez – who in addition to second base, has experience playing shortstop, third base and all three outfield positions – in the super-utility role. Hernandez would be a rather expensive bench player, with Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors projecting that he will make $8.9 million in his second last season of arbitration, but the Phillies are so financial flexible that his price-tag wouldn’t deter them from being able to retain the longest-tenured Phillie for another season.
Teams almost certainly will reach out to the Phillies this week regarding Hernandez, who can’t be a free-agent until after the 2020 season. They reached out the last two offseasons and the Phillies didn’t find a deal they liked. They’re perhaps more motivated to move Hernandez now than they were in either of the past two offseasons, but the free-agent market is flushed with affordable options. The Minnesota Twins, for example, signed Jonathan Schoop to a one-year/$7.5 million contract this past week. Former Twins second baseman Brian Dozier is one of the more notable free-agent second baseman in a market that also includes Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, DJ LeMahieu, Daniel Descalso, Neil Walker, Daniel Murphy, Josh Harrison and Andrew Romine. The Phillies don’t want to just trade Hernandez for a warm body, but realistically, that’s probably about what they would have to do for a team to decide they are better trading for Hernandez than just signing one of the many available free-agent second baseman.
It seems like it has become an annual tradition for the Phillies to listen to offers on Odubel Herrera around this time of year. It wouldn’t be an earth-shattering development if the Phillies traded the mercurial center fielder this week, though it isn’t exactly likely. Even in what was a rather disastrous 2018 season, FanGraphs says that Herrera’s production was worth $7.5 million. He’s scheduled to make just $5 million in 2018. With Roman Quinn’s health a constant uncertainty and Herrera’s value at what may be an all-time low, this doesn’t seem like an ideal time to move him. It does only take one compelling offer, though.
At last month’s MLB General Manager’s Meetings, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported that third baseman Maikel Franco was “pretty much a sure bet” to be dealt this offseason, with the San Diego Padres interested in the 26-year-old. As I wrote in last week’s Phillies Nation Mailbag, there’s a good chance that Machado won’t decide on his future until after the New Year. But if trading Franco is more a matter of when than if, perhaps a deal could be completed this week. It’s hard to gauge what type of return the Phillies would get if they did pull the trigger on Franco trade, though the guess here is that it won’t be equivalent to the payoff any acquiring team would get if Franco realizes his potential.
Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reported in November that the Phillies had both Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter – two pieces they signed at last year’s MLB Winter Meetings – on the trade block. Hunter rebounded from a rough start in Philadelphia to post a 3.00 ERA in the second-half of the 2018 season. Neshek was an All-Star for the Phillies in 2017, and after being traded to the Colorado Rockies shortly after that All-Star Game appearance, he returned to the Phillies last offseason. Neshek didn’t make his 2018 debut until July, but posted a 2.59 ERA in 30 games.
On paper, both could be parts of what the Phillies hope is an improved bullpen in 2019. But the Phillies have already added three relievers via trades this offseason and figure to add at least one back-end-of-the-bullpen arm in near future. The Phillies will again carry eight relievers in 2019, but Kapler stressed in 2018 how important it is to have 40 guys that can contribute to a major league roster. Still, the Phillies may not need all of the relievers they currently employ.
Neshek will make $7.75 million in 2018, while Hunter is scheduled to make $9 million. The Phillies could help to pay down either of the salaries to facilitate a trade.
It will be interesting to see if there’s much of a market for Hunter. His first season in Philadelphia was a mixed bag, and there seemed to be a thought around the league that the Phillies overvalued him last offseason.
It will also be interesting to see if Neshek can co-exist with Kapler moving forward. Neshek praised Kapler’s willingness to meet with him early in the season and discuss confusion over how relievers were being used. That’s fine, although it seems curious to then publicly discuss a private matter like that, especially after the problem had seemingly been resolved. Perhaps more noteworthy is that an anonymous Phillies reliever told Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic at the conclusion of the season that “some nights he was managing like it was Game 7 of the World Series,” when referring to Kapler. Perhaps that wasn’t Neshek, though it sure sounded a lot like a quote he gave to Bob Nightengale of USA Today in May when he said “games were being run like a playoff atmosphere.”
Another wild card possibility is Andrew Knapp. With the Phillies reportedly intent on upgrading their backup catcher’s position this offseason, perhaps a team will look at Knapp and think he’s closer to the player that hit .257 in 2017, as opposed to .198 in 2018. He expressed a willingness to play positions other than catcher in August, which could be a sign of things to come, whether it’s in Philadelphia or elsewhere.
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