It’s been a long month since the end of the World Series and the start of the free agency period in Major League Baseball, but the long-anticipated Winter Meetings in Las Vegas have finally arrived.
Phillies officials will be meeting this week with agents and representatives of the biggest free agents on the market, and team officials will gather together in darkened corners of hotel bars to discuss trade possibilities on cocktail napkins after a fourth order of buffalo wings and Miller Genuine Drafts.
At least, in my mind, that’s how this all goes down.
The Phillies are going to spend much of the next week in direct contact with the people who can make this team a true contender in the NL East next season, a division that has suddenly become the most competitive in all of baseball. Here’s what could be on tap.
Manny, Bryce or Neither?
Most of the attention will be focused on Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, and the Phillies are expected to be one of the teams driving the conversation. A deal north of $300 million seems certain for Harper, and Machado could get that kind of cash, too. NBC Sports’ Jim Salisbury says the team favors Machado over Harper at the moment, while The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal says, right now, it’s Philly bidding against Philly for Harper’s services.
One thing is sure, the Phils are ready to spend.
Just saw all the phillies people check in. It appeared they had not one but two suitcases full of stupid money— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 9, 2018
But will Bryce or Manny sign this week? It’s possible neither will. But the parameters of a deal could be put in place this week and consummated in the days or weeks after. However, it’s important to note that there are other teams interested in both players, and moves made this week (the Dodgers moving an outfielder or two, perhaps) could make some new players emerge for players like Harper or Machado.
Other Offensive Pieces
In addition to Harper or Machado, the Phillies could make a play for outfielder Michael Brantley, whose .300 average and on-base ability could be invaluable to the lineup. A.J. Pollock is oft-injured, but is an Aaron Rowand type who plays outstanding defense and can hit the ball well when healthy. Mike Moustakas is a third baseman who the team could turn to on a short-term basis if Machado is a no-go, and do-everything players like Marwin Gonzalez and Josh Harrison could be targets as well.
The Phillies could also look to improve in back-up catcher and utility infielder as well this week.
The Phillies’ pursuit of Patrick Corbin was a clear indication the team was not satisfied with the No. 2 spot in their rotation. Jake Arrieta was a disappointment last year, and finding another arm, preferably one who is left-handed, has clearly become a priority for the team.
J.A. Happ and Dallas Keuchel are the big lefties still on the board, and right-hander Charlie Morton would be an outstanding addition at the top of a rotation. The Phils could also look to the trade market, where players like Arizona’s Robbie Ray, San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner, and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer could be made available, too. Plus, there are always names that pop up at the Winter Meetings that no one even knew was possible.
One name to keep an ear on is Milwaukee left-hander Wade Miley. He probably won’t get signed until Happ and Keuchel is off the board, but the southpaw was outstanding in 16 starts last year with a 2.57 ERA and a 3.59 FIP. He will probably last until late January or early February.
The Phillies have also been linked to every high-priced closer available on the market. While not as sexy, the closer position is of vital importance for the Phils. Andrew Miller and Zach Britton are the best left-handers on the market, and the team is rumored to be interested in both. Craig Kimbrel is the other big-name closer in free agency, although the rumor mill hasn’t been churning that one out as much recently.
Certainly the team could make a trade for a closer, but one free agent not getting much publicity is David Robertson, who has a career 2.88 ERA in 11 seasons and 657 career innings pitched. He has 137 career saves to his credit, including three straight seasons with at least 34 saves from 2014-16.
The trade market has been more active so far this off-season than the free agent market, and that trend could continue in Vegas. The Phillies could move Maikel Franco this week, and other players like Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez or Nick Williams could be made available in trades. If the team signs a free agent starter, one of Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta could be on the way out, too.
One way or another, this figures to be a very interesting, and tiring, week for general manager Matt Klentak and the rest of the Phillies front office this week in Sin City.
On Episode 238 of Hittin’ Season, hosts John Stolnis and Justin Klugh preview the Winter Meetings going on right now in Las Vegas. Tons of conversation on Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, starting pitching options, relievers, and trades galore! Also, the Hall of Fame gets two new members, but is Cooperstown overrated? Plus, ESPN actually makes a smart decision!
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Don’t miss a @TheGoodPhight— John Stolnis (@JohnStolnis) September 4, 2018
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