The winter’s annual moment of reckoning has come and gone, and the Phillies have made some decisions about what they want their 2020 club to look like.
Monday at 8 p.m. E.T. was the deadline for clubs to tender contracts to all players still on their 40-man roster who do not currently have one: Pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players without a long-term Major League deal already signed, sealed, and delivered were the ones with their fates hanging in the balance league-wide. Teams and players may reach agreements on one-year deals, but the contracts still aren’t necessarily fully guaranteed (think Cameron Rupp in 2018) until the season starts. The non-tender candidates in the crosshairs could also be traded, something many thought would or should have happened for a couple of players a year or two ago.
For the Phillies, this meant looming decisions on a handful of familiar faces, and some mainstays of the leaner years. Here’s a rundown of who they decided to keep, who they decided to leave behind, and what that might mean for the rest of their offseason plans.
Non-Tendered: Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez
Did you know that only four players (Chase Utley, Tony Taylor, Mickey Morandini, Juan Samuel) have taken more trips to the plate as a Phillies second baseman than Cesar? Or that only Mike Schmidt and Scott Rolen have batted more as a Phillies third baseman since 1960 than Maikel?
Two guys who had been around for longer than many of us may have realized are now almost certainly past the Phillies stage of their respective careers, as both were not tendered contracts by the club.
It doesn’t really come as a surprise, per se, that both players are being cut loose. They had played out their strings. Hernandez, a mostly-capable and underrated player for a large chunk of his time in Philadelphia, was arbitration-eligible for the fourth time and due an estimated $11.8 million, per MLB Trade Rumors’ Matt Swartz. His offensive production slipped as his tendencies began to rather wildly fluctuate from year to year since 2017, and with Scott Kingery (and maybe Jean Segura?) under contract and likely headed to a more significant stay at 2B, Hernandez was forced out. The big letdown here is the inability to find some team, any team, to bite on some sort of trade. Losing Hernandez for nothing feels like a missed opportunity.
And speaking of missed opportunities, there’s also Franco. Maikel had a shot — and one or two tantalizing hot streaks along the way — but never seemed to fully grasp and harness his bat-to-ball skills. His defense looked improved in 2019, and he’s always had an exceptional arm, so he’s probably going to find Major League work somewhere. As an Arb3 with another arbitration-eligible year projected for 2021, Franco was due to make an estimated $6.7 million.
Tendered: J.T. Realmuto, Jose Alvarez, Adam Morgan, Zach Eflin, Hector Neris and Vince Velasquez
Still not a lot of surprises! Everyone above was expected to get another look in 2020 in some capacity.
The standouts here are Realmuto and Neris, each of whom could find themselves with a new contract extension later this winter or after Spring Training opens (for those pesky luxury tax accounting purposes). Realmuto stands to make nearly (or more than) nine figures, while Neris has pitched well enough to earn a multi-year deal and a raise. As of today, J.T. will enter free agency after ‘20, while Hector will be eligible to test the market after ‘21.
Avoided Arbitration: Andrew Knapp
Knapp and the Phillies got ahead of the game by agreeing to a one-year, $710 thousand deal earlier Monday afternoon.
Source says #Phillies avoided arbitration with Andrew Knapp, agreeing on a one-year, $710,000 contract.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) December 2, 2019
I know it seems kinda crazy given his numbers, but this one doesn’t really move the needle much in the end. Like we said earlier, these deals aren’t fully guaranteed (not that $710k is much to a MLB team anyway) and Knapp has a minor league option that gives the team optional flexibility and depth potential. He is by no means the shoe-in favorite to be Realmuto’s backup on Opening Day, despite the payday, nor is his salary prohibitive in case the club wants to make other, bigger moves.
So, What Now?
Well, the incumbents at two infield positions are gone and highly unlikely to come back. The Phils have some internal options for second base, at least, and for third base too, if you squint hard enough. But they’re almost certainly not done; they’ve been linked to Didi Gregorius already, have an outside shot at bigger fish like Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson, and could even do some fast-tracking for Alec Bohm.
Job hunting season is on.