Before we know it the World Series will have concluded and it will be back to over-analyzing everything the Phillies say and do. Until we get to that point, let’s have some fun as we check in on our writers thoughts on what they most love/hate to see from this front office this offseason. Have your own thoughts on moves? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Move I’d LOVE the most - signing Manny Machado and making him play 3B.
It’s pretty obvious that around these parts, we are all for putting JP Crawford at shortstop and keeping JP Crawford at shortstop. Even if this means that one of the two highest profile free agents in a long time had to move from his preferred position. While I wouldn’t necessarily mind if Machado chose Philadelphia solely because he was promised a shot at the six, in my mind, Crawford deserves to get that first shot come February. Is it something I am dead-set on, even if it comes at the expense of Machado’s happiness? That I’m not sure of, but I know that were Manny to come here and play third base, with Crawford at shortstop, this team’s defense would all over a sudden look a lot better than it has in a long time.
Move I’d HATE the most - keeping the status quo of defensive positions.
With the season of experimentation over, it’s time for this managerial staff to understand that players cannot just shuffle all over the field at their whim. Players crave that regularity that comes with playing at an established position. Consistently moving them around simply because “matchups” doesn’t let a player get used to groundballs or flyballs coming at them from the angles they are used to. Pick a spot where the player is most comfortable at, leave them there and watch them improve. It’ll help this team’s defense immensely.
Move I’d LOVE the most - Signing Bryce Harper.
Harper just led the National League in walks, while putting up an OPS of .889 to go along with 34 home runs. And people consider that to be a bad season for him. Keep in mind that he’s only 25, so he likely hasn’t even reached his prime yet. He’s not the best defender in the outfield, but when he has a good chance to be the best offensive player in the league for the next 5-10 years, you take some sub par defense.
Move I’d HATE the most - Scott Kingery: Shortstop
To his credit, Scott Kingery did improve defensively as the year went on, but I don’t think he’s a viable answer at shortstop going forward. Let Kingery play his natural position of second base and hope that his offensive numbers start to resemble what he did in the minors.
Move I’d LOVE the most - Signing Bryce Harper.
It’s rare that a player comes available, at no cost to the current inventory, who matches both what the organization wants and what fans want. At the plate, Harper offers a power/patience profile matched by very few in the game that is almost the ideal of what Gabe Kapler wants his hitters to do. Perhaps as important, he’d deliver a burst of excitement and urgency that would energize fans and put the Phillies back at the center of the city’s sports conversation. Put him in right field and the middle of the order for the next 8-10 years, and start printing playoff tickets.
Move I’d HATE the most - continuing to punt defense all over the field.
At least in theory, I don’t have an enormous problem with the Phillies’ experimental approach in 2018. Yes, it led to miserable baseball—frustrated pitchers, longer innings, a creeping sense of personal embarrassment that you were spending time watching a team that just. had. no. goddamn. clue. But it might have been the least-worst option given the talent on hand. A repeat in 2019, however, would suck in three respects: 1) showing a Klentak-era organizational arrogance around what the numbers told them that’s the flip side of Ruben Amaro’s old sneering dismissal of analytics; 2) impeding the development of young players who, other things being equal, benefit from stable expectations about whether and where they’ll play; 3) confounding analysis of pitching and hitting, which presume not having to throw a ton of extra pitches after errors or constantly worrying about a job you weren’t fully trained and prepped to do.
Move I’d LOVE the most - Signing Bryce Harper
Sure he’s a potential MVP candidate. Sure he’d be an improvement offensively (and probably defensively). He’d allow the team to shift Nick Williams to left field, which would then shift Rhys Hoskins to first. All those things are great, but what might be the best thing is that his presence takes the spotlight, and some of the pressure, off of Hoskins and Nola. I’m not sure it’s affected the performance of either, but Nola always seems a little uncomfortable and for Hoskins he tries hard and I worry that he may press some at the plate (though, to his credit, he doesn’t lose his approach). So Harper’s numbers will help, but his mere presence may also carry some significant benefits.
Move I’d HATE the most - Trading Odubel Herrera
If the Phillies sign Harper, they ultimately need to move Carlos Santana to clear first for Hoskins and Left for Williams/Quinn/Herrera (they also should probably trade Hernandez if they sign Machado, but that’s another post). There’s certainly a portion of the fanbase who would be over the moon with a trade of Herrera and I don’t consider him a key to the future core of the team. However, I do recognize that he is at his lowest value since the rule 5 draft when the Phillies selected him. Further it means you’re relying on Roman Quinn who has not played a full season of pro baseball yet.
My preference: start 2019 with Herrera in center (and occasionally spelling Williams in left) with Quinn as the 4th OF. Ideally Williams continues improving, Quinn stays healthy and hits and Herrera bounces back. Now you can trade Herrera at the deadline or next offseason and give Quinn a shot (as insurance hopefully Haseley is hitting well in Triple-A, ready to come up if Roman does end up getting injured again).
Move I’d LOVE the Most - Trading for Mike Trout
I kid, I kid (actually not really, but a boy can dream). It’s been said over and over again above, but signing Bryce Harper would transform this franchise. You get your superstar, forces you to trade Carlos Santana and puts Rhys Hoskins back at first base. Imagine this for a starting lineup:
CF - Quinn
SS - Crawford
RF - Harper
1B - Hoskins
LF - Herrera
3B - Franco
C - Alfaro
2B - Kingery
Oh yeah, I’m also trading Cesar Hernandez.
Move I’d HATE the Most - Standing pat with this roster
There is a good possibility that neither Bryce Harper or Manny Machado will be coming to Philadelphia and fans need to mentally prepare themselves for that. Patrick Corbin will probably be getting a crazy contract after the season he just had. The options behind those three in free agency don’t move the needle for this organization. With that, the club needs to realize that they can’t just enter the 2019 season with the same roster that closed it out. Fortune favors the bold and I’d like to see them look to the trade market if all fails with luring the “Big 3”. This also includes even looking for new homes and gaining assets for guys like Maikel Franco, Carlos Santana, Cesar Hernandez...and maybe even Odubel Herrera. Would that mean punting the season? Quite possibly. I also don’t believe you can keep on doing the same thing over and over again. Be bold and make Scott Kingery your everyday second baseman; same with J.P. Crawford for shortstop. If you are going to fail, at least figure out what you have in your young players to help determine the direction of the team.
Move I’d LOVE the Most - Trading Cesar Hernandez and pieces for a starting pitcher
Alright, since everyone else took the fun stuff, I guess I’ll... find a new slant as they say. The infield musical chairs this season was far from fun, and something needs to be done to clear up this issue. In an ideal world, my 2019 infield from third to first is Manny Machado, J.P. Crawford, Scott Kingery and Rhys Hoskins. Yes, as you might see, that necessitates a trade, and in this scenario, Hernandez is being shipped out for a mid-rotation starter.
Sure, we might selling a bit low here after Cesar’s SLG% dipped from the career high .421 mark in 2017 to .362 in 2018. But his season was far from disastrous, and he’s a .279/.366/.390 hitter over the last three seasons. He’s proven himself as a valuable second baseman, which means he should be an attractive option to some teams this winter. Sure, Kingery was not a stud by any means at shortstop, but the contract was signed, and this organization loves him. He will be on the roster next season. It should be at second base, his natural position. Perhaps a Hernandez + Zach Eflin + minor league prospect offer gets you the mid-rotation starter you’re going to need when Jake Arrieta’s deal runs out, which is sooner than we all think.
Move I’d HATE the Most - Carlos Santana, third baseman
Santana ended up starting 16 games at third base this season, but let’s be honest, you didn’t see any of them. Frankly, I didn’t see every inning either, as we all collectively tried to block out the late-season dreck that we were watching on a nightly basis. Small sample size and all, but the last time Santana played third base was in 2014 for the Indians, when he appeared in 26 games there. While he did look competent at times manning the position, if Santana is the third baseman next season, it represents a massive failure on the organization’s part to solve the positional issues and have guys play where they are supposed to play.
Does this mean Santana is traded? Hoskins has proven left field isn’t a long-term solution. I had believed we could at least get through the Santana contract and move Hoskins to first in a couple years, but that’s not looking like a safe bet anymore. This leaves the Phillies with two options: Either Hoskins is coming back to play left field for another year, or Carlos Santana is no longer on this roster, not because he didn’t do what he was asked, not because he wasn’t a great leader and mentor, but because his fit here doesn’t make much sense. And despite trying to be optimistic about it throughout 2018, perhaps we shouldn’t have been in the first place.