With a high arbitration projection, Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez is an obvious non-tender candidate for the team this offseason. If he’s non-tendered or traded, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Scott Kingery will assume his natural position on a full-time basis.
Kingery could be the Phillies Opening Day second baseman in 2020. He could also be the Phillies Opening Day shortstop, third baseman or center fielder in 2020. Kingery’s versatility doesn’t bother general manager Matt Klentak. In fact, he says it makes his job easier.
“He is so valuable, not only to a manager…day-in-and-day-out in terms of writing out a lineup…but also to a front office in terms of how we go about an offseason,” Klentak said to Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie on SportsRadio 94 WIP.
“If you’re looking to add a bat for instance, we don’t have to look in just one position. We can look at a variety of different spots, knowing that Scott Kingery can not even capably, but masterfully fill in at just about anywhere.”
Klentak went on to say that he believes Kingery is the Phillies best defender at four positions, one of which may be indicative of the team’s plans for 2020.
“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he’s out best defensive second baseman, shortstop, third baseman and center fielder, in any one of those spots. Now he can’t play all four of those every day, but I think it’s reasonable to think that he’s our best defender at any one of those spots.”
Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic reported earlier this offseason that the Phillies have considered moving Jean Segura away from shortstop in 2020. Segura had -5 defensive runs saved at shortstop in 2019, which was among the defensive metrics that weren’t flattering in terms of the type of job he did at the position. The Phillies owe Segura $14.25 million in each of the next three seasons, so he’s almost certainly going to be on the team in 2020. But he may be better suited to play second base, a position he was an All-Star at while playing with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016.
Of course, if Segura isn’t playing shortstop primarily in 2020, someone else has to. The Phillies could attempt to sign Didi Gregorius, who is looking to bounce-back after a difficult fifth season with the New York Yankees. But, if not Gregorius, the Phillies may options at shortstop may be limited in 2020. Kingery was the Phillies primary shortstop in 2018, and president Andy MacPhail was complimentary of his growth at the position after the season.
Still, you get the sense that the Phillies probably wouldn’t head into 2020 with the thought that Kingery will be their starting shortstop. Circumstances may ultimately dictate that being the case – as they did in 2018 – but if he’s playing shortstop, he can’t play center field or third base, the two positions he’s played the most at in 2019.
Whether Kingery individually would find more offensive success if he played just one position remains to be seen. He said during the 2019 season that he became more comfortable moving around the diamond, and his offensive numbers certainly reflected that.
Let’s face it, the idea of a super-utility player isn’t a case of the Phillies trying to re-invent the wheel. Ben Zobrist has helped three teams reach the World Series while serving in that role, and helped the Kansas City Royals and Chicago Cubs to end long World Series droughts. Marwin Gonzalez finished fifth in WAR on the 2017 World Series Houston Astros, while playing multiple positions. In the super-utility role, Kike Hernandez has been an indispensable piece for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have won two National League pennants in the last three years.
Second base is arguably the most replaceable position in baseball, as evidenced by the fact that the 2019 Phillies probably had three starting-caliber second baseman on their roster. Even if the Phillies open 2020 with Kingery at second base, things change. In 2019, Maikel Franco underperformed, Odubel Herrera was suspended for a domestic violence incident in late-May and Andrew McCutchen tore his ACL in early June. Whenever things go off script for the Phillies, using Kingery to plug that hole is always going to be a consideration.
“For everybody’s sake, we would like to give him some degree of certainty that he will be in the lineup every day. We would love to be able to tell him that it will be at position x or position y, but I think the reality is year-in-and-year-out, that may change. There might be some years where he is lining up as an every day second baseman or shortstop, and then the next year it might be third base or it might be center field.”
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