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The Leadoff, Vol. 9: Signed, Sealed, Defibrillated

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I don’t know if you heard, but JAKE FRICKIN’ ARRIETA signed with the Phillies this week. Yowza. This is the biggest free agent signing since...well, Carlos Santana. But before THAT?

We at TGP HQ are very excited about the move, and hope you are too. It’s a pretty clear statement of contention, and we’re glad a newly competitive era of Phillies baseball has finally dawned upon us. We know you deserve it for sticking with this team, now let’s reap the rewards together.

Don’t forget! You can email us at TheGoodPhightTV at gmail dot com if the whole Twitter thing isn’t for you.

These are pretty fair groupings, so that’s a good start. But, man, that’s a whole lot of names in the “how good could they be” second pair.

The difference between 2018 and years past is that so many of those unknowns at least have the allure of Potential attached to them entering this season. There have been some tantalizing flashes of good-to-star moments from each one of those guys, so it’s a bit easier to think at least one or two of them could hit their, like, 80th percentile PECOTA numbers.

The problem, of course, is that two of those guys playing near peak is almost essential for a playoff chase, and we’d likely need more. Franco has the lowest bar to clear, but by the same measure, has the most value to add. If he can somehow find his 2015 form and stretch it over a full season, the Phils are going to be in wonderful shape. Crawford will add value with his glove no matter the offensive streakiness (and that looks like it’ll be present). Before I ramble on about every single one of them, I’ll cut to the chase: I think at least three is what you’d need. Ideally, one is one of the starting pitchers, and the other two are position players. If you have three reliable rotation options and four or five solid lineup options, you have a playoff team, barring bullpen collapses and injuries.

Sure sounds like it!

Arrieta is one of those guys whose work ethic is whispered about in the darker corners of the gym. The dude had a spread in ESPN The Mag’s Body Issue, for cripe’s sake. He is fit, it’s really just a matter of getting him quickly re-accustomed to game action.

For his part, Arrieta is moving quickly. He’s had multiple bullpens and seems intent on getting into a Grapefruit League game or two prior to Opening Day. That’s the ideal situation, and might even put him in a position to pitch the home opener. And that’s something I’m positive both team and fans alike would be overjoyed about.

First thing’s first, though. If that sim game this weekend goes well, expect to see, eh, four innings in a Grapefruit outing next week? That feels roughly like what it would take to keep him on track. If all else fails, remember, the Phillies don’t need a fifth starter until mid-April, thanks to the baked-in days off early on. They can take their time if they have to.

I think, at this point, it’s a matter of tolerance.

  • How long can you tolerate Maikel Franco as he tries to figure it out?
  • How long can you keep Kingery in Triple-A, assuming he keeps hitting there?
  • How tolerant are you of sacrificing arm strength (and potential overall defensive value) for an offensive upgrade?

I think everyone realizes Franco’s leash is short. He’ll start the season on the roster, absolutely, but he’s not promised a full season to work through it again. It seems logical to think that he may be the odd guy out, but we can’t be so sure. The more everyone moves around the diamond and plays strange secondary positions this spring, the cloudier the idea of cleanly slotting players into set spots becomes. Kingery, for his part, is having a great spring, even if the majority of pitchers he’s faced so far haven’t quite been aces in their own right. All that means is he can dominate guys at or below the level he’s at, which is what you want!

Anyway. Kingery won’t supplant Crawford at shortstop, and no one wants to trade for Cesar Hernandez (as good as he is) if Neil Walker is getting precisely one Major League offer in free agency. All signs point to Franco, but Franco is only a year-and-a-half older than Kingery and has shown flashes as recently as last September. Maybe the leash is longer? Maybe anarchy reigns, an outfielder is traded, Santana moves to right field and Franco goes to first base? Who the hell knows? I’m planted firmly in wait-and-see mode with this year, both in terms of roster moves and lineup construction. It’s gonna be unlike anything we’re used to, I can promise you that.