Exactly how the Philadelphia Phillies will operate at this week’s MLB Winter Meetings, which begin in earnest on Monday, is unclear.
Phillies brass are in San Diego from Sunday through Friday, looking to build off of the five-year/$118 million deal that they inked right-hander Zack Wheeler to last week.
Matt Gelb of The Athletic reported after the signing of Wheeler that the Phillies front office had been told to stay under the $208 million luxury tax. Perhaps ownership had a change in heart, but by the end of the week, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the Phillies had made third baseman Anthony Rendon their “No. 1 target,” adding that the organization wasn’t concerned about the luxury tax threshold, which they would certainly surpass if they signed Rendon.
If the Phillies sign Rendon – or even Josh Donaldson – all bets are off. Remember, even if they built a stacked lineup by adding Rendon, they would still have holes in their starting rotation and bullpen. Still, you’d probably take your chances with the player that FanGraphs says has been the best third baseman in baseball since the start of the 2016 season.
Let’s say, though, that the Phillies ultimately pass on signing another megadeal this offseason. Here are five names to watch as they attempt to build a team capable of snapping an eight-year postseason drought.
We’ve reached the “Robbie Ray would make sense for the Philadelphia Phillies” portion of the offseason. Things may be different this winter, though.
This past summer, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the Phillies were “keeping close tabs” on both Ray and Zack Greinke. Greinke was ultimately traded to the Houston Astros, while Ray remained with the Diamondbacks past the July 31 trade deadline.
The Phillies interest in Ray is long withstanding – Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported at the outset of last offseason that the Phillies have been intrigued by the lefty since the winter of 2017.
Ray, 28, went 12-8 with a 4.34 ERA and 4.29 FIP in 174.1 innings in 2019. The best season of his career came in 2017, when he went 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA, 3.72 FIP and 162.0 innings. While Ray isn’t a front-line starter, he could bring stability as the team’s No. 3 or No. 4 starter. He would also add a lefty to a rotation that currently lacks one.
What would it take to land Ray? Stark says that the Diamondbacks – who went 85-77 in 2019 – would like “controllable pitching” in return for Ray. It seems unlikely the Phillies would trade Zach Eflin in this type of deal, but it does feel like Nick Pivetta could benefit from a change of scenery.
Ray has one year remaining of arbitration eligibility, with Spotrac projecting he’ll earn $10.8 million in 2019. It’s unclear if the Phillies would be able to acquire Ray and stay under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, if we assume they will make upgrades elsewhere. If they acquired Ray, though, the Phillies could attempt to reach a multi-year extension with a lower number in the first year of the deal.
There’s been too much smoke for there not to be fire here.
On Nov. 22, MLB.com‘s Jon Morosi reported that the Phillies were interested in Gregorius. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com updated the story on Dec. 3 by saying that the Phillies were “maintaining contact” with both Gregorius and third baseman Josh Donaldson. A day later, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia said that the Phillies, in addition to the now-signed Zack Wheeler, were “engaged in talks” with Gregorius.
Oh, and Joe Girardi, who managed Gregorius in New York from 2015-2017, raved about him last week.
MLB Trade Rumors projects that Gregorius will sign a three-year/$42 million deal. Signing him wouldn’t require giving up draft compensation, because the Yankees didn’t extend a qualifying offer to him. Signing him as soon as possible would allow the Phillies to decide how they will proceed with Scott Kingery and Jean Segura.
Obviously, the Phillies wouldn’t sign Gregorius in addition to Rendon or Donaldson. Well, maybe nothing is obvious anymore.
The presumption if the Phillies sign Gregorius is that Segura will shift from shortstop to another position – probably second base.
That assumption seems to check out, as Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic reported earlier this offseason that the Phillies have weighed changing Segura’s position. Matt Gelb of The Athletic said last week that Segura would be open to moving to another position.
However, when MLB.com‘s Jon Morosi initially reported on the Phillies interest in Gregorius, he added that the Phillies believed that if they signed him, Segura could be moved to another position *or* traded.
With a healthy Andrew McCutchen hitting ahead of him – if that’s how Joe Girardi structured his lineup – there’s reason to think that Segura could have a bounce back in 2020.
That said, Segura is still owed $42.75 million. If the Phillies are indeed concerned about the luxury tax threshold – which they probably shouldn’t be – they could trade Segura and find a cheaper second base option or shift Scott Kingery to second base on a full-time basis. The money saved from Segura could be used to upgrade other areas of the roster.
This assumes, of course, that the Phillies would find an interested team, one that wouldn’t ask the Phillies to eat money or take back a bad contract. Also, Segura has a full no-trade clause, and has played for four teams in five years, so he may not want to move again.
In Girardi’s final four seasons as Yankees manager, Betances was an American League All-Star. From 2014-2018, FanGraphs says that Betances was the second most valuable reliever in baseball, trailing only Aroldis Chapman.
2019 was a lost season for Betances. A shoulder injury kept him from making his season debut until Sept. 15, only for him to partially tear his Achilles in what turned out to be his only appearance of the season.
Given how they’ve been burned by investments in veteran relievers over the past two seasons – Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, David Robertson – it would be a major risk for general manager Matt Klentak to bet on a bounce-back from Betances, who is 31.
However, a healthy Betances would immediately become the best reliever on the team. Given that MLB Trade Rumors projects that he’ll sign a one-year/$7 million deal, the risk may be worth the potential reward.
Do the Phillies believe that Haseley, their 2017 first-round pick, can start in center field every day for a playoff-caliber team? We may begin to find out this week.
Odubel Herrera is currently under contract, but after a suspension for domestic violence cost him much of the 2019 season, it’s unclear where he stands with the Phillies. Roman Quinn is now one of the longest-tenured Phillies, but he’s only played in 109 games in his major league career because of injuries.
So that leaves Haseley as the presumed Opening Day starter in center field. There have been concerns about his ability to stick in center defensively, though he did have five defensive runs saved at the position in his rookie season. Then again, that came in 315.1 innings, which is a small sample size.
We also don’t know whether he has the bat to be an everyday player on a contending team. In his first 222 major league at-bats, Haseley slashed .266/.324/.396 with five home runs and 26 RBIs.
The Phillies could trade for Jackie Bradley Jr., but Spotrac projects that he’ll earn $11 million in his final year of arbitration. Kevin Pillar is a free agent after being non-tendered by the San Francisco Giants, but he won’t be cheap. Fans ask a lot about a reunion with Corey Dickerson, but he doesn’t play center field and re-signing would force you to play Andrew McCutchen, who is coming off of a torn ACL, in center field much more than you would like to.
From here, the most likely outcome is that some combination of Haseley, Quinn and Scott Kingery get the majority of starts in center field early in the season. That said, you can’t bet on Quinn staying healthy, and depending on how the Phillies fill other holes, Kingery could be needed at any of three infield positions.
But even a deep-pocketed team like the Phillies can’t have a $25 million player at every position. Haseley is a former first-round pick that is pre-arbitration eligible. It would be a shot in the arm for the Phillies if he seized the starting job in center field in 2020.
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