In 2018, the Phillies were lead by 25-year-olds Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins, 26-year-old Odubel Herrera and 32-year-old Carlos Santana, who is now better known for smashing a tv during a game than for what he did on the field.
That was the way of the 2018 Philadelphia Phillies. The team’s primary leaders were either very young or couldn’t keep their cool in the clubhouse. Herrera, Nola and Hoskins had 888 combined games of experience through the 2018 season. And while Santana had over 1200 games himself, his penchant for destruction left much to be desired in the form of quality leadership.
To be fair to Santana, he did it because his teammates were playing Fortnite during the game. They shouldn’t have been playing video games in the middle of a game, but smashing the tv in response doesn’t exactly scream “appropriate response.”
The Phillies tried to rectify the plummeting season as best as they could. Jose Bautista, Justin Bour, Wilson Ramos and Asdrubal Cabrera were all brought in with the hope that they could, somehow, help the struggling young core figure out how to string together a few wins. Spoiler alert: They couldn’t. It was like trying to fix a crack in the Hoover Dam with a piece of duct tape.
Then came the off season, and with it came a renaissance of the Philadelphia Phillies. Could the winter of 2018-19 be the greatest off season in Phillies history? It’s way too soon to tell, but here’s a look at how the moves have already fared half-way through the year.
How: Received from the Mariners in exchange for Santana and JP Crawford on December 3.
What the Phillies Gave Up: While Crawford possesses a lot of talent, he gets injured just thinking about baseball and likely wasn’t going to ever reach his full potential with the Phillies. He started this season in Tacoma before being recalled to Seattle in May. He played 17 games before being placed on the 10-day IL and has just recently returned. He has been good since his return, but the sample size to judge his current production is still small. Baseball players are streaky, so while right now he’s hot, it’s hard to determine how he’ll fare through the rest of this season. The Mariners flipped Santana to Cleveland in a three-team trade with the Rays and received Edwin Encarnacion, a competitive balance draft pick and cash in return. Santana, recently named to his first All-Star team, has played in 83 games for the Indians and is slashing .295/.366/.447. Matt Klentak recently spoke about Santana’s rebound season, and gave some valuable insight into why he’s been better than he was last year.
Matt Klentak was asked about Carlos Santana’s seasons in Cleveland compared to last season pic.twitter.com/fvq4zMmfI4— Dave Uram (@MrUram) June 24, 2019
Extras: The Phillies also received Juan Nicasio and James Pazos in the deal. Nicasio is 1-2 in 31 appearances with the Phillies so far this season. He has a 4.50 ERA and has 31 strikeouts over 24.0 innings. Pazos was 0-1 in seven games with Lehigh Valley this season before he was traded to the Rockies for second baseman Hunter Stovall. Stovall is slashing .210/.289/.298 in 39 games with Lakewood.
Thoughts: The Phillies immediately got better in three areas with this trade. Segura himself brought stability to both the shortstop position and the top of the batting order, and the departure of Santana allowed Rhys Hoskins to return to first base, his natural position. Hoskins had been a defensive liability in the outfield. In addition, Nicasio has been a reliable reliever for the most part, though a few of his outings have been less than stellar.
How: Free Agent Signing on December 12.
What the Phillies Gave Up: 3 years/$50 million
Thoughts: I don’t have to tell you about Andrew McCutchen’s pedigree. (I will anyway: Over 1500 MLB games, a career .286/.378/.480 slash line, 2013 NL MVP, five All-Star games, a Gold Glove, four silver slugger awards, the 2015 Roberto Clemente Award, and numerous monthly and weekly MLB honors.) His season-ending ACL injury is devastating and has clearly had a negative impact on the performance of the team, but what he did through the first 59 games of the season proves why he’s worth the high price tag. If nothing else, the Phillies added a veteran who knows the right way to lead both on the field and in the clubhouse. Could you imagine Andrew McCutchen smashing a tv in the clubhouse during a game?
How: Free Agent Signing on January 3.
What the Phillies Gave Up: 2 years/$23 million
Thoughts: This one is tough to judge because Robertson hasn’t pitched since mid-April. March wasn’t a great month for him, but he started to look good in April before his injury. If he had settled down and been close to the player he was advertised as, this would have been a very good deal. He has started to throw again, but he’s still a long way away from having any impact on the games being played. His return would be a big relief for a bullpen that has had most of its key members on the IL at some point this season.
What the Phillies Gave Up: Alfaro is slashing .256/.304/.419 in 63 games with Miami this season. He has ten home runs, which matches his career-high set in 2018. Sanchez is MLB’s 22nd ranked prospect. He has a 3-6 record over twelve starts with a 4.05 ERA between AA Jacksonville and Advanced-A Jupiter so far this season. He was recently named to the NL Futures Game roster. In 66.2 innings he has struck out 64. Stewart has a 2-8 record in 13 starts with Jupiter. He has a 6.10 ERA and has struck out 53 over 72.1 innings.
Thoughts: The immediate return was well worth giving up the gem of the Phillies prospect pool and then some, especially since the Phillies are in Win-Now Mode. Despite a recent offensive skid, Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball, hands-down. Just named to his second consecutive All-Star Game, he’s caught 24 runners stealing, a feat only the Oakland A’s have accomplished as a team. His presence in the middle of the lineup has also taken immense pressure off of Hoskins and when the lineup is clicking, the pair have created a legitimate heart-of-the-order dual threat.
Extras: It’s also worth noting that the Realmuto trade could have had an impact on signing Bryce Harper. While there’s no explicit evidence that proves the correlation, Bryce has been a fan of Realmuto for a while and was quoted last year essentially saying he wished Realmuto was on his team. In addition to getting the best catcher in baseball, the Phillies also acquired a shiny teammate to wave at Bryce to convince him that Philly was where he wanted to spend the rest of his career.
How: Free Agent Signing on March 2.
What the Phillies Gave Up: 13 years/$330 million
Thoughts: Bryce had the largest contract in MLB history for about three weeks and so far, he’s been worth every penny. Even when he’s slumping (as all baseball players do), Bryce Harper poses such a threat in the lineup that his teammates around him are benefiting from his presence. He’s also the only outfielder who’s been on the active roster for the entire season (knock on bamboo). Beyond the field of play, Bryce has brought more immediate monetary payoff to the Phillies organization than any other acquisition ever has. In the two days after Bryce signed, the Phillies sold nearly 200,000 tickets. It’s estimated that his signing brought in nearly $4 million in revenue in those first few days alone. That increase in revenue didn’t just stop at ticket sales. His No. 3 jersey is the all-time top-seller for any athlete across any sport in the first 24 hours of availability. His jerseys and shirseys were sold out everywhere for weeks. He even caused a local shop’s website to crash due to an influx of customers after he was photographed wearing one of their shirts coming into the ballpark. What’s even more important, though, is that Bryce realizes the impact of his 13-year, no-trade, no-opt-outs deal. He’s in Philadelphia for the long haul, and he’s not limiting his sights to just the immediate future. Bryce has made it clear he is going to do whatever it takes to build the Phillies franchise up for years to come. If that’s luring in the best available free agents, bring it on. If that’s mentoring the young prospects like Bryson Stott and fellow first-overall draft pick Mickey Moniak, sign him up.
The Bottom Line
Despite the team’s recent struggles, the Phillies’ off season couldn’t have gone much better. They, of course, got their main star with Bryce. That alone was a huge win for the organization. But they also improved almost everywhere you look up and down the roster. They improved the offense, the infield and outfield defense, and attempted to improve the bullpen. Of course, there is always room to do more. They still need another starting pitcher and Robertson has yet to pan out successfully, plus the McCutchen injury has left a glaring hole in the outfield that has been difficult to replace. But the starting pitching can be (and needs to be) addressed at the trade deadline and the Robertson injury wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the bullpen didn’t have as many injuries as it does. Scott Kingery has stepped up in the outfield in Cutch’s absence, and the Bruce acquisition has alleviated some of the immediate lineup concerns. Despite unlucky injuries to two of the main additions, none of the acquisitions have been the wrong choice (yet), and none of the players the Phillies gave up have stood out as huge losses (yet). Overall, this was a good winter for the Philadelphia Phillies organization.