Analysis

If not Harper, who? If not Machado, what? Other directions Phillies might go



Whether they sign Harper or Machado, both, or neither, Gonzalez could prove helpful to the Phillies. ( Keith Allison/WikiCommons)

As the Hot Stove season pushes to mid-January, the Philadelphia Phillies have emerged as the favorites to land one or the other of the two biggest free agent prizes.

The club met with outfielder Bryce Harper on Saturday in his home town of Las Vegas. They have met previously with infielder Manny Machado at Citizens Bank Park.

Both meetings seemed to go well. There are some, in fact, who have speculated that the Phillies could still actually make a run at both young superstars.

But what happens if their efforts to land one of these marquee talents should fail? Where do the Phillies look to help bolster their roster if they still want to be competitive in what promises to be a tough National League East Division race in 2019?

One direction that the club could go would be to try and put together a top -tier pitching staff. For that to happen they would need to add one, possibly two more starting pitchers to the rotation.

The name that has floated out there the most and longest still remains available. That would be free agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who would slot perfectly into the Phillies rotation between Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta.

The club could then also take a run at reliever Craig Kimbrel. Bringing him on board to close out games with David Robertson, Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Pat Neshek and the rest of an already improved bullpen in various setup and matchup roles would make the Phillies bullpen truly elite.

A.J. Pollock remains available as an outfield option. The 31-year-old seven-year veteran is not the true impact bat that the club is hoping to add in Harper or Machado. He would make for a poor consolation prize. But on a shorter-term deal, the 2015 Gold Glove Award winner could at least upgrade the Phillies defense in center field while providing some level of offensive value.

Marwin Gonzalez will turn 30-year-old in the middle of spring training. He would not bring the speed that Pollock possesses, but would bring more lineup versatility. Gonzalez is a switch-hitter who can legitimately cover a corner outfield spot and play almost anywhere on the infield as well.

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak would almost certainly continue to look around for fits in trade as well. Any of the current outfielders besides Andrew McCutchen and any of the starting pitchers beyond Nolan and Arrieta would presumably be available. The club also has a nice depth of relief pitching from which a trade partner to choose.

In a trade, the Phillies would almost certainly be looking for a corner outfielder with some proven pop. They would also be trying to land an experienced left-handed starting pitcher.

While these are possibilities should the club lose out on both Harper and Machado, some would be possible moves even if the Phillies land one of those big-ticket prizes. Bringing in a southpaw for the rotation would remain a desire, which could keep them in on someone like Keuchel. Adding a more proven veteran bench option would also be important for a contending team, and someone such as Gonzalez would fit that bill perfectly.

The Phillies remain in on both Harper and Machado. I would expect that we will see some resolution to the Machado situation within the next few days. Harper could follow soon after. Once those big deals are done, watch for the rest of baseball’s remaining free agent market logjam to begin clearing rapidly.

 

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