One of the bigger deadlines in the offseason calendar arrives this Tuesday when teams need to decide whether or not they will tender a contract to arbitration eligible players. Courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors, we can refresh our memories as to who the Phillies need to make decisions on and their estimated salary for 2020.
Cesar Hernandez – $11.8MM
J.T. Realmuto – $10.3MM
Blake Parker – $4.7MM
Jose Alvarez – $3.0MM
Maikel Franco – $6.7MM
Vince Velasquez – $3.9MM
Hector Neris – $4.7MM
Jerad Eickhoff – $1.5MM
Mike Morin – $1.2MM
Adam Morgan – $1.6MM
Phil Gosselin – $700K
Edubray Ramos – $800K
Zach Eflin – $3.0MM
Jose Pirela – $900K
Andrew Knapp – $800K
Several of these decisions have already been made. Gosselin, Eickhoff, Morin, Parker and Ramos have already been outrighted off of the roster and are currently free agents. Breaking out the abacus, that means the team has already saved roughly $8.9 million by not even going through the arbitration process with these guys. That also leaves 10 players left on which the team needs to think about whether they will give them a contract for 2020. Let’s make some predictions about who will and won’t stay for the following season.
The easiest one
J.T. Realmuto - I mean, is this even a question? If they haven’t signed him to an extension by the time it comes to exchanging numbers, they’ll almost certainly settle at a palatable number for both player and team. Odds of getting a contract: he’s getting paid
The easy ones
Zach Eflin - He had a nice season once he stopped listening to Chris Young. At $3 million estimated, that’s a pretty nice number for a guy who could be a solid #4-5 starter and deliver 160-180 league average innings. Odds: 10/11
Jose Alvarez - We spoke about him before. Outside of a rough patch, he was quite good out of the bullpen in 2019 and should be the team’s top left handed reliever. Odds: 3/2
Hector Neris - He’s coming back. Odds: 7/10
Jose Pirela - He’s already gone to Japan. Somewhere in San Francisco, Gabe Kapler sheds a tear. Odds: bye-bye!
Vince Velasquez - His case might seem like a slam-dunk, but I don’t know. He’s the most frustrating player on the team because he continually gets our hopes up only to throw ~130 pitches in 4 innings every start. If they are looking for improvement in the rotation and Velasquez insists he does not want to go to the bullpen, is it worth keeping him around at his estimated number? I just don’t know. I’m skeptical he’s gonna be nontendered, though. Odds: 2/1
Andrew Knapp - As I discussed in his player review, Knapp will be an interesting case. There is an argument to be made for bringing him back (familiarity with staff, improved defense) just as there are to not bring him back (lack of offense). He’s not going to be expensive and the team might have to use every dollar they can to secure the pitching needed for contention. Odds: 3/1
The big questions
Maikel Franco - When I wrote about Franco’s 2019 season, I tried to give off the vibe that he’s gone. It still remains the same, but the argument can still be made that the team might hold on to him to keep the seat warm for when Alec Bohm is ready. Looking at that projection, it just feels like an awfully large commitment to make to a player the would release eventually. It just feels like it’s time to move on, the healthiest thing for both player and teams. Odds: 15/1
Cesar Hernandez - And now: the $11.8 million question. What is the team going to do with Cesar Hernandez? This decision feels like the one that will tell us how the team approaches their offseason shopping. Should they retain his services, that frees up Scott Kingery to either play third base full time or stay as a utility player, playing all around the diamond. The team could then allocate resources into the pitching staff with reckless abandon, knowing they have spots covered in the infield. Sure they might grab someone like Didi Gregorius, someone they have already been attached to, but keeping Hernandez takes them out of the deep end of the third base pool.
Letting Hernandez go would seem to signify that they plan on making Kingery or Jean Segura the full time second baseman. This would mean more money could be spent on pitching upgrades and/or offensive upgrades for third base or shortstop. Saving Hernandez’s ~$12 million would go a long way to making sure the funds were there to help with these upgrades. It’s a major decision for a team that has valued Hernandez quite high in the recent past. Odds: 5/2
These are just guesses and I’ll probably end up very wrong. Let’s discuss it in the comments.