Yeah, so don't get your hopes up about the team signing a big-time free agent starting pitcher.
In his daily notes from the general managers meetings in Boca Raton, FL, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman says that, even though the team is in need of a front-line starting pitcher, and even though they'll have some cash at their disposal to throw around, the Phillies are not going to make a play for one of the four main starters on the market; Jordan Zimmermann, Johnny Cueto, David Price or Zack Greinke.
Philly will indeed get two veteran pitchers, though not any of the top guys...
Yeah, that's not a lot of detail, but it dovetails on another note from earlier on Thursday.
Agents' perception: Few (if any) teams w/protected 1st-round picks interested in spending big now. PHI,CIN,ATL,COL,MIL,OAK,MIA,SD, DET, CWS.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 12, 2015
Even though the Phils' first rounder is protected (because it's in the Top-10), they would lose a second round pick if they signed a player who had been extended a qualifying offer. However, players like David Price, Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto could not be offered a QO because they were traded mid-season.
I discussed on the latest TGP Radio podcast that came out on Wednesday (it's also linked at the bottom of this story with ways to subscribe on iTunes and Stitcher), and the feeling I had then still rings true. Even though there is a glut of prime starting pitching on the market, and even though the Phils have a need, they aren't going to spend that kind of cash this off-season.
But should they?
You could make an argument for spending big money on a starter, simply because there won't be this kind talent in next year's free agency class. Only Stephen Strasburg could be a truly game-changing arm on the market, and his inconsistency and lack of competition in the market could make signing him either unwise or difficult.
The big question is, how long is this rebuild going to take? Is it possible the Phillies can be playoff contenders ahead of schedule, say, in 2017? After all, the Mets, Astros and Cubs all made the postseason sooner than anyone expected. And given the team's financial resources, they can certainly spend the money to bring top talent to the organization.
If the window to compete is around 2017, then perhaps being aggressive in going after a top guy makes sense. I would set my sights on Greinke, given he's not fastball reliant and his stuff would likely hold up better over the length of a potential seven-year deal.
But even if the Phillies had an interest, a player would have to want to sign here. Could the Phils convince a Price, Greinke or Zimmermann to come pitch in Philadelphia, even on a drastic overpay?
And what does Heyman mean by "top guys?" Is he just talking about the Big Four, or is he also talking about arms like Jeff Samardzija, John Lackey, Mike Leake, Scott Kazmir and others of that ilk?
If the Phils are looking at more guys in the Aaron Harang and Jerome Williams mold, then we'll know they don't really think the window to compete is going to open until 2018 at the earliest. If they sign a Kyle Lohse or a Ryan Vogelsong, it will likely be so they can just soak up innings next season, even if a lot of those innings are very, very bad.
The Phillies are faced with a difficult situation. They have to weigh opportunity vs. timeline, and that's never an easy thing to do.
Three names who could give them a nice middle ground include Japanese hurler Kenta Maeda, who is just 28 and was personally scouted in Japan by Ruben Amaro last year. He's expected to be posted within the next week or two.
Two more are 31-year-old Ian Kennedy (4.28 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) and 33-year-old J.A. Happ (3.61 ERA, 1.27 WHIP), the former Phillie who had a terrific season in 2015.
And what about Jason Heyward? There has been a lot of discussion over whether the Phils should make a play for the talented free agent right fielder. But does that make sense?
Certainly, Heyward is a unique free agent. He hits the market at a very young age, just 26 years old, and has been worth 5.2 and 6.0 fWAR the last two seasons, making him one of the most valuable players in the National League.
He hit .293/.359/.439 for a .346 wOBA and a wRC+ of 121 last year, and his defense is off the charts, one of the biggest reasons why his WAR totals are so high.
But his power has never come around like it was projected to. He hit just 13 homers last year and 11 the year before. And when you consider that, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, he could get a 10-year deal worth more than $200 million, it's fair to be a little worried about his offensive production falling off.
Not only that, the Phils now appear to have some prospects in the outfield who could stick around for a while. Between Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Roman Quinn and the possibility of Jorge Alfaro being moved to the outfield (something suggested by Baseball America's Josh Norris on the podcast), would the team be better off keeping those spots open for some of their incoming young talent?
All these decisions are dependent on when the Phillies think they'll be ready to compete for a playoff spot. And from the sound of it, they don't think it's going to be anytime before 2018.
KEN GILES LATEST
I wrote about the possibility of the Phillies trading Ken Giles Tuesday, and suggested the team should only be looking for a package that would blow them away.
It appears as if that is what they're looking for, according to Heyman.
The price tag is high on Ken Giles. They sought three prime pieces from one interested team.
Again, not a lot of detail here, but the Phillies appear to be listening on Giles but not overly anxious to move him. Which makes sense, given that he's a 25-year-old stud reliever who costs less than a million dollars.
Closers have a high burnout rate, and it would behoove the Phils to at least receive offers on their young reliever. But they should not move him unless they are overwhelmed by an offer.
PHILLIES SIGN A RELIEVER
Matt Klentak has gotten busy during the meetings this week, making a move around the edges to help shore up the bullpen.
#Phillies have signed LH reliever James Russell to a minor-league deal. Matt Klentak keeps adding bullpen inventory. More like this to come— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) November 12, 2015
Russell pitched 48 games for the Cubs last year and put up a 5.29 ERA with a 3.90 FIP in 34 innings. He only struck out 5.29 batters per nine, but did a decent job avoiding walks, just 2.38 per nine.
This isn't a move that is likely to pay a whole lot of dividends for the team in 2016, but adds a bit of depth.
PHILS WELCOME POTENTIAL TOP PICK
And one of the guys who could be the team's No. 1 in the MLB Draft visited the team this week.
Groome stands 6-foot-6, weighs about 200 pounds, can hump his fastball up to 97 mph with a very good curve and changeup for Barnegat High School in New Jersey, about 60 miles east of Philly.
Groome has committed to Vanderbilt, but the opportunity to sign as the No. 1 pick overall with his hometown team may be too good to pass up.