As general manager Matt Klentak creates his free agent shopping list, he undoubtedly will have names like Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler and Cole Hamels somewhere on that list. He will likely have Anthony Rendon, Mike Moustakas or Josh Donaldson on that list, too. There will be a number of relief pitchers and other position players that will draw the Phils’ interest, and obviously, we’re all obsessing about the top-of-the-line names
But many times, teams improve most around the margins, and the Phillies have been terrible at finding those types of players in previous off-seasons. Not every need can be filled with a big-money guy. Sometimes, needs must be filled with under-the-radar names, names that could turn out to be big contributors to a pennant-winner.
Below are the names of five players who could probably be had on cheap one or two year deals that should be higher on your lists than they probably are.
Tanner Roark - SP
Roark is not a sexy name, but he had a nice season for Oakland last year and his numbers indicate he might be better in 2020.
Last season he gave up 1.52 home runs per nine innings (HR/9), 10th highest among qualified starters, but that was an unusual spike. His career HR/9 of 1.03 and his 2018 1.20 HR/9 indicate Roark was among the pitchers most negatively affected by the change in baseballs last season. If one assumes MLB will return to a more “normal” baseball, such as the ones used in the postseason, one should expect that dinger rate to decrease in 2020.
Not only that, Roark posted a career-high 21.9% strikeout rate last season and had a career best 14.8% K-BB percentage. Hitters also had a .322 BABIP against him, by far the highest of his career and the 4th-highest mark among qualified starters. Landing him on a one-year deal could give the Phils terrific depth in the back of the rotation.
Jordan Lyles - SP
Lyles is just 29 years old and, after struggling with the Pittsburgh Pirates in his firs 17 starts of the season (5.36 ERA), he was excellent for the Milwaukee Brewers in 11 starts after a mid-season trade (2.45 ERA). Overall, his 24.4% strikeout rate was the best of his career as a full-time starter, and he also suffered from an egregiously high homer rate of 1.60 last season that was tied for 12th-highest out of 95 pitchers with at least 130 innings pitched. His career dinger rate is 1.21 HR/9.
Lyles should also be available on a one or two-year deal. Given his young age and experience as a reliever, he could be a solid addition either to the back of the rotation or as a swing man/bullpen piece.
Collin McHugh - SP/RP
McHugh is probably more of a bullpen piece at this point in his career, and he could very well return to the Astros, who will be pitching needy with so many free agent potentially leaving the AL champs. McHugh struggled in the rotation last year for Houston and had a down season overall. In 74.2 innings (8 starts), he put up a 4.70 ERA and a 4.43 FIP, sitting out the latter part of the season with injuries.
However, in 2018, he appeared in 58 games out of the ‘pen and, in 72.1 innings, had a 1.99 ERA and a 2.72 FIP, striking out 11.7 batters per nine. Even with all his injuries and struggles in the rotation, he still whiffed 9.88 batters per nine. And much of his problems came via the long ball, with a 1.45 HR/9, which was way higher than his career 1.05 HR/9. He’s a good bounce back candidate and could be a valuable multi-inning option out of the ‘pen.
Eric Sogard - Infielder/Outfielder
Last year, Sogard played second base, third base, shortstop and both corner outfield positions for the Blue Jays, then played second base full-time once he was dealt to the Rays at the trade deadline. In 110 games last year, the lefty hitter batted .290/.353/.457, good for an .810 OPS, with 13 homers and 40 RBIs. He added 23 doubles and 2 triples to his tally as well, and was an average defender across the board according to BBRef’s 0.2 dWAR.
Sogard shouldn’t cost much and will probably be available on a one-year deal. He could give the Phils’ another all-purpose, Swiss Army Knife tool that would allow them to play Scott Kingery at one position, which would hopefully allow him to tap Kingery into his full offensive potential.
Corey Dickerson - Outfielder
This isn’t likely to happen, because the Phillies seemingly have enough corner outfielders and probably don’t need another. Asking Andrew McCutchen to play center field full time isn’t a great idea, either. But there’s no doubt that Dickerson was productive since his mid-season trade from Pittsburgh.
Overall, the lefty hit .304/341/.565 with a 131 OPS+, and in 34 games with the Phils hit .293/.307/.579, with an .886 OPS. He hit 12 homers and knocked in 59 on the season, but drove in 34 runs in his 34 games with the Phillies and provided some valuable left-handed pop to the lineup. The only question is whether Dickerson will get any big-money multi-year deals. Those deals may not be coming, given he’s only played 148 games ore more twice in his seven-year career. But if they do, he likely prices out of what the Phils want to do.
On Episode 337 of Hittin’ Season, I discussed these five moves and many other off-season items with Scott Miller, MLB writer for Bleacher Report/Turner Sports. Also, I talked about the Phillies’ 40-man roster moves this week and potential former Phils who could be headed to the Hall of Fame!