Analysis

Cesar Hernandez among Phillies non-tender candidates


Last week, Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors published his annual projections for each major league player facing arbitration. The Phillies have 15 players that are arbitration eligibility, and the decision whether to tender the individual players a contract or to non-tender them during this process is often a difficult one for a team to make. And with the Phillies looking to improve several holes in the roster, specifically in the rotation and bullpen, the decision to keep or let go of some of these players comes down to the availability of roster spots in the 2020 season.

Here are all of the projected arbitration numbers and how the Phillies are likely to deal with each of these players this offseason:

Cesar Hernandez is the longest-tenured Phillie. (Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)

Cesar Hernandez – $11.8 Million

Hernandez is currently the longest-tenured Phillie and has been the team’s starting second baseman since the middle of the 2015 season. In 2019, Hernandez slashed .279/.333/.408, solid production, as usual, but nothing outstanding. Hernandez does carry some value, and the Phillies could tender him a contract with intentions to flip him in a trade to a team looking for a second baseman. It’s fair to wonder at such a replaceable position how much interest there would be in trading for Hernandez, as opposed to waiting to see if he’s non-tendered. While Hernandez has been productive for the Phillies over this time, this arbitration number is rather high and with Scott Kingery or Jean Segura potentially taking over the helm at second base in 2020, a non-tender or trade seems likely.

J.T. Realmuto – $10.3 Million

This number is a no brainer for Realmuto, who was the team’s lone All-Star this season. The bigger question is if he will be signed to an extension and whether that will come before or after arbitration. Realmuto was the best player on the team in 2019, and risk-averse general manager Matt Klentak would not have traded the team’s top prospect, Sixto Sanchez, in a deal for a player of Realmuto’s caliber just for him to leave after just two seasons. Both sides expressed some interest in an extension at some point during the 2019 season, and that feels like the most likely case for the Phillies and Realmuto.

Blake Parker – $4.7 Million

The Phillies picked up Parker in late July after he was released by the Minnesota Twins. In 23 games for the Phillies, Parker was ineffective, allowing six homeruns with a 5.04 ERA in 25.0 innings of work. At this number, Parker is likely non-tender. Adding him as depth after injuries gutted the bullpen was worth the risk, but he is not worthy of a roster spot at that figure.

Jose Alvarez – $3.0 Million

The Phillies acquired Alvarez last offseason in a swap relievers, when they sent Luis Garcia to the Angels. Alvarez got off to a rocky start in 2019 but finished strong with a 2.54 ERA in his final 34 games. He pitched in many high-leverage situations and performed reasonably well, so $3 million is a reasonable price for Alvarez’s level of production. The Phillies will definitely tender Alvarez a deal for 2020.

Maikel Franco’s time with the Phillies is likely over. (Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Maikel Franco – $6.7 Million

Franco’s time as a Phillie appears to be coming to an end. After a very impressive rookie season in 2015 he seemed destined to be a core piece for a rebuilding team. Unfortunately for the Phillies, the 27-year-old has been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career and with the Phillies desperately looking to win in 2020, they cannot keep him on the roster for this price. They are very likely to non-tender his contract or trade him for a warm body.

Vince Velasquez – $3.9 Million

Velasquez might be the most frustrating Phillies player of all time. At times, he has shown the ability to be a very productive starter, but often falters and is ineffective. Despite this, the Phillies simply have to keep Velasquez at this number. He gave the Phillies a solid stretch during July and August this season and could serve as valuable rotation depth unless the team decides to move him to the bullpen full-time. He will almost certainly be tendered a contract for 2020.

Hector Neris – $4.7 Million

Neris was the team’s best relief pitcher in 2019 and had a 1.00 ERA over his last 27 appearances of the season. It may make sense for the team to move him out of the closer’s role in 2020, but having his arm in a bullpen that will likely miss both Seranthony Dominguez and David Robertson for at least parts of 2021 will be important. The Phillies will surely tender him a contract in what is his second year of arbitration.

Jerad Eickhoff – $1.5 Million

Eickhoff actually had an impressive run to start 2019 when he had a 1.50 ERA over his first six starts of the season. But things fell apart over his next seven appearances, when he had a 10.16 ERA and allowed 18 home runs in 28.1 innings of work. Eickhoff did not appear in another major league game after that and was sidelined for much of the season with right bicep tendinitis. After a solid 2016 season, Eickhoff has never been the same, and a non-tender is likely here in order to preserve the roster spot for someone else.

Mike Morin – $1.2MM

The Phillies acquired Mike Morin from the Minnesota Twins in July. For the most part, he was fine. Outside of three complete clunkers in which he allowed four earned runs each, Morin had a 2.84 ERA. Obviously, those poor outings count, and a player like Morin should not be put in as many high-leverage situations as he was for the Phillies. That being said, at this number, Morin serves as a depth, and the contract being tendered seems likely. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll ultimately remain on the 40-man roster, but the possibility appears to be in play.

Adam Morgan – $1.6MM

Before a flexor strain sidelined him for the last two months of the season, Morgan was effective for the Phillies. He started the season with 16 consecutive scoreless outings, and his increase in slider usage was effective despite a decrease in fastball velocity. At this number, it seems certain that the Phillies will bring back Morgan, especially considering the overall state of the bullpen.

Phil Gosselin was strong in limited at-bats off the bench in 2019. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire)

Phil Gosselin – $700K

Gosselin led the team in pinch hits in 2019, but he may not be the kind of player that is guaranteed a roster spot next season. With several holes to fill, a player like Gosselin with no true strengths isn’t likely to be worthy of a guaranteed roster spot heading into this big offseason. While the Phillies are likely to non-tender Gosselin, they could still bring him back on a minor league deal this offseason.

Edubray Ramos – $800K

Ramos showed some flashes of being a quality receiver from 2016 to 2018, but he lost some of his fastball velocity this season and only appeared in 20 games for the Phillies, pitching to a 5.40 ERA. He missed some time with a shoulder injury, but even when healthy, he played in the minor leagues and did not return to the majors. The price is not an issue, but, similarly to Gosselin, that roster spot may be too important to give to a player like Ramos.

Zach Eflin – $3.0MM

Eflin had some ups and downs in 2019, but he showed enough to stand out among himself, Velasquez, and Nick Pivetta, and looks destined for a rotation spot in 2020. In his first 14 starts, Eflin pitched to a 2.83 ERA, and in his final 7 starts, he also pitched to a 2.83 ERA. In the 11 appearances in between, however, Eflin had a brutal 8.75 ERA. Despite this rough stretch, it was a productive season for Eflin and there is no doubt that the Phillies bring him back at this number in arbitration.

Jose Pirela – $900K

The situation for Pirela is similar to Gosselin’s. He is a bench player, and while he had a couple of good moments in his limited time for the Phillies, the availability of roster spots this offseason is still key. It does not appear likely that the Phillies will tender him a contract, but it is certainly possible that he is brought back on a minor league deal.

Andrew Knapp – $800K

Knapp is certainly a polarizing figure considering the little impact he has on games. He has not carried a great bat as the team’s backup catcher, but his framing has improved and his overall presence as a receiver behind the plate looked better in 2019 than ever before in his career. The Phillies could certainly bring in a veteran catcher to back up Realmuto, and even if not, Knapp will have to battle Deivy Grullon for that position. But Knapp has minor league options remaining, and bringing him back at this price makes sense for the Phillies, even if just for organizational depth.

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