Phillies fans are understandably champing at the bit right now. Sure, they understand that the rebuilding process takes time and patience is required, but they also see other teams like the Washington Nationals, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers having fun at the Winter Meetings this week, wheeling and dealing as if without a care in the world.
Man, that looks like a blast, doesn’t it? Don’t you remember when that was us? Don’t you remember being off-season champions of the world?
But that is not where the Phils are right now. The Nats, Red Sox and Dodgers are all contenders, and the Phillies are done selling off all their big pieces, so there will be no Chris Sale-type deal like the White Sox pulled off on Tuesday. The bulk of the rebuilding is done.
Now, like freshly planted herbs in the garden, all that’s really left to do is sit and wait for things to grow. And you know how much fun it is to watch plants grow in real time, don’t you?
The Phillies are likely done their heavy lifting this winter, save but for another bullpen signing or two. Maybe a back-up catcher. General manager Matt Klentak indicated the team wasn’t close to making any kind of major news at the Winter Meetings, just outside Washington, DC this week, although they did sign relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit to a one-year, $7.5 million deal, which is something, anyway. But that might be it for this week, gang.
Notes from Klentak.... Nothing percolating on trade/FA front... lots of bullpen talk... don't expect a Rule 5 pick for Phils— Kevin Cooney (@KevinCooney) December 6, 2016
Wait, wait, slow down... let me catch my breath!
The Benoit signing is important, as the bullpen was a disaster at the end of last season. But it doesn’t aid an offense that was the worst in all of baseball in 2016, something manager Pete Mackanin noted when he spoke to reporters at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday.
“Obviously I would like to have a solid hitter for the team, for the fans, for everybody,” Mackanin said. “We would like to win more games. I think it would be very important obviously to improve our offense. Once again, let's say Roman Quinn really looks good in the spring and proves to us that he might be the guy and he takes off, that might happen and might not. But in the meantime, I think we owe it to the pitchers to create more offense so that they are in more games.”
Mackanin makes the astute point that improving the offense not only helps the rest of the lineup, but it also helps develop the pitchers. With a better collection of run-scorers, the pitching staff can breathe easier knowing they don’t have to throw up zeroes every frame.
Of course, the team has to be smart about adding veterans. Trading for an outfielder to play left or right field would either block an outfielder like Nick Williams, Roman Quinn or Dylan Cozens from playing later in the season, or would force the team to make a decision with Cesar Hernandez by moving Howie Kendrick to second base.
Hernandez, by the way, is one of the few names that has been mentioned in rumors regarding the Phils this week.
Pair of execs both told me Cesar Hernandez is drawing interest from at least three teams.He hit .294 last year with an OPS+ of 107 #Phillies— Patrick Gordon (@PGordonPBR) December 6, 2016
CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury speculated a J.D. Martinez-for-Cesar Hernandez trade might make some sense, but only if you believe Hernandez is due for a regression and isn’t really a four-win player. Martinez’ 142 wRC+ and .307/.373/.535 slash line with 22 homers last year certainly would be a nice addition, but is it worth risking the team’s 26-year-old second baseman if he really has become an above average regular at the position? Especially since Martinez would only be here for a season in which the playoffs are a pipe dream?
This is the dance the Phils are doing right now. They want to be better in 2017, but not at the expense of blocking playing time for prospects later in the season, and not at the expense of making a short-sighted trade for the unimportant here-and-now.
Winning games and being better this season is important for the development of the young players. But right now, Klentak is trying to do that by nibbling around the edges and hoping that a deal will emerge that he can’t refuse.
Mackanin, like you and I, is hoping the Phils aren’t totally done this off-season. He’d like another bat.
We are ALL Pete Mackanin.