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Stephen’s 2020-2021 Phillies offseason plan

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It’s time to shake things up

Yong Kim | The Philadelphia Inquirer

This offseason is surely going to be an interesting one for the Phillies. While rumors of payroll reductions come with an air of uncertainty, I am here to tell you that the team certainly has the ability to re-tool and contend in 2021. Here is my ideal offseason:

Arbitration

I have elected to tender contracts to all remaining arbitration-eligible players. That list includes Seranthony Dominguez, Zach Eflin, Rhys Hoskins, Andrew Knapp, Hector Neris, and Vince Velasquez.

The decision to keep Velasquez is controversial, and an argument can certainly be made to non-tender him. However, I believe Velasquez possesses the tools necessary for success if placed in a full-time relief role. I wrote about those tools here. I would rather pay him the estimated $4 million he’s due than let him walk for nothing.

As for Dominguez, I don’t expect him to make much of an impact in 2021, but I’ll gladly let him continue to rehab on a projected $900,000 salary.

Free Agency

I will start this section by stating that I do not believe the Phillies need to (re)sign any big free agents in order to field a successful roster for 2021. The fact of the matter is the Phillies are slashing payroll and currently have ~$85 million tied up in 4 players for next season. Signing J.T. Realmuto is not the most efficient way to put the Phillies in a position to contend. There are too many holes on the roster and frankly not a lot of resources to fill them. Onto the moves:

  • Sign Marcus Semien for 1 year/$14 million

Logically, Semien would take a multi-year deal in order to avoid placing himself in next year’s free agent shortstop class. However, if he does want to take a “prove it” deal I’m not going to argue. Semien is a bounce-back candidate who provides speed and pop in the middle of the order. More importantly, he would come on a 1 year deal which gives the Phillies the option to pivot to a bigger name next winter, or possibly hand the reigns over to Bryson Stott at shortstop.

  • James McCann, 2 years/$24 million

No catcher will be able to replace J.T. Realmuto’s performance individually, luckily that doesn’t matter. The goal is to recreate Realmuto’s production in an aggregate sense. Bringing in James McCann for a fraction of Realmuto’s asking price is the first step in rebuilding a catching core that could arguably be better than it has been in seasons’ past.

McCann is not going to be the everyday catcher (which is the point), instead he will be sharing the role with another player who will be discussed later in the article.

  • Garrett Richards, 2 years/$15 million

Garrett Richards is an analytics darling, which makes him a good fit with presumed new pitching coach Caleb Cotham. Richards, 33, did not have a great 2020 (4.03 ERA/4.28 FIP) but he profiles as a solid middle-of-the rotation option with an arsenal that gives him a high ceiling.

  • Chris Archer, 1 year/$4 million

This is basically a reclamation project. Archer has dealt with injuries and inconsistent performance since being traded to the Pirates, and he did not pitch in 2020 after undergoing thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Regardless, Archer has a track record and could provide great value at the back of the rotation, assuming he is fully recovered from his injury.

  • Jay Bruce, minor league deal

Bruce can hit righties, which makes him a good counterpart for Rhys Hoskins at 1B. He could also DH (if there is one) and play corner outfield. His overall skillset makes him a good depth fit for this lineup.

  • Hansel Robles, heavily incentivized minor league deal

Robles is currently under club control for one more season with the Angels, however it is very likely he get non-tendered. Robles’ performance cratered in 2020 (10.26 ERA/5.89 FIP) but his track record suggests he is still good enough for a Major League deal in a normal offseason. This is no normal offseason, though, and in what will certainly be a buyer’s market, I wouldn’t be surprised if Robles settled for a non-guaranteed deal. I would also consider trading for Robles should he get tendered a contract, but the Phillies may not want to take on his projected $3.9 million salary.

  • Oliver Drake, minor league deal

Drake was recently designated for assignment by the Rays after an injury-plagued 2020. This is not as much a reflection of the state of Drake’s career as it is the immense depth of the Rays’ roster. The 34-year-old utilizes a modern version of a screwball as his primary pitch and delivered a 32% strikeout rate in 2019.

  • Guillermo Heredia, minor league deal

Like Robles, Heredia is currently under club control (Mets) but seems destined to be released in the coming weeks. Heredia can play all over the outfield and hits lefties decently well, making him a good complement to Adam Haseley in center.

Trade

  • Phillies Acquire: C Omar Narvaez
  • Brewers Acquire: RHP Mauricio Llovera, PTBNL/Cash

The Brewers acquired Narvaez from the Mariners last offseason for Adam Hill and a 2020 supplemental draft pick. After an abysmal season offensively, Narvaez’s going rate will certainly be much lower, especially with rumors circulating that he could be non-tendered by Milwaukee.

Narvaez was the best pitch-framer in baseball in 2020 and pairing him with McCann would give the Phillies a solid combination of offense and defense. The implementation of the universal DH for 2021 would also allow the Phillies to outlet McCann to DH and have both catchers in the lineup on certain days.

  • Phillies Acquire: RHP Tommy Doyle
  • Rockies Acquire: C Andrew Knapp

The acquisitions of McCann and Narvaez obviously make Knapp expendable. Knapp’s trade value will likely never be higher than is right now, making this the time to move him to a team with a major hole at catcher (Colorado).

Tommy Doyle, the #17 prospect in the Rockies’ system according to MLB.com, pairs a 95-98 mph with an effective slurve. The 25-year-old should be able to help the bullpen as early as next season.

  • Phillies Acquire: RHP Robert Stephenson
  • Reds Acquire: LHP Bailey Falter

I’ve written about Robert Stephenson a few times, and it appears his days as a feature member in the Reds’ bullpen are likely come to an end. Stephenson had a rough 2020, dealing with a back injury while posting a 9.90 ERA and 12.19 FIP.

There is a legitimate chance the Reds cut him loose in the coming weeks, however I would gladly snag him for farm depth before he hits the open market. Stephenson can be one of the best relief pitchers in baseball if given the proper opportunity. Here is how he compared to some of the game’s best relievers in 2019:

Among relievers with at least 200 PA in 2019
via Baseball Savant

There is obviously loads of potential here, and I believe his acquisition cost will never be lower than it is right now.

  • Phillies Acquire: RHP Pierce Johnson
  • Padres Acquire: RHP Enyel De Los Santos, OF Marcus Lee Sang, PTBNL/Cash

Pierce Johnson posted a strong season with the Padres in 2020 after a pit stop in Japan. Johnson’s stuff is off the charts and he is deserving of a late-inning relief role, something he might not easily find in San Diego. He only comes with a $2 million salary, making him much cheaper than the big-name relievers who are currently on the open market.

Enyel De Los Santos has promise, however he has already been outrighted off the Phillies 40-man roster and is therefore expendable. The Padres need relief and starting pitching depth, making the swingman De Los Santos a valuable return piece. Marcus Lee Sang, a solid depth prospect outfielder who is years away from the Majors, and a PTBNL are sweeteners added to iron out the deal.

  • Phillies Acquire: OF Brandon Nimmo, PTBNL/Cash
  • Mets Acquire: RHP Zach Eflin, OF Jhailyn Ortiz, C Rodolfo Duran

I view Zach Eflin as the Phillies’ biggest trade chip this offseason. Eflin has been steadily improving over the past few seasons, and now is the time to cash in on his performance while he still has a sizable amount of club control remaining.

Simply put, Brandon Nimmo is an on-base machine. Since entering the league, Nimmo only trails Mike Trout, Juan Soto, Joey Votto, and Freddie Freeman in OBP, making him a natural fit at the top of the order. Nimmo would be the CF whenever Andrew McCutchen is in the lineup and would presumably slide to LF when McCutchen’s contract expires. Nimmo’s biggest concern is his CF defense, which is not great, but it will only be an inconvenience for 2020. However, if the DH is allowed for 2021, he could see some at bats there as well.

As it stands, the Mets desperately need pitching, and Eflin addresses that need while simultaneously allowing New York to unload Nimmo, who is an awkward fit in that lineup. In addition to Eflin, Jhailyn Ortiz and Rodolfo Duran would be heading the other way. Ortiz has huge power potential, and the Mets could want him if they feel they could correct his swing/miss issues. One of the Mets’ biggest issues in their farm system is the lack of catching depth in the upper levels, and the addition of Duran would certainly help correct that.

Final Roster

Rotation

  • Aaron Nola - $12,250,000
  • Zack Wheeler - $22,500,000
  • Spencer Howard - $570,000
  • Garrett Richards - $7,500,000
  • Chris Archer - $4,000,000

Bullpen

  • Hector Neris - $5,300,000
  • Vince Velasquez - $4,000,000
  • JoJo Romero - $570,000
  • Connor Brogdon/Victor Arano/Johan Quezada - $570,000
  • Robert Stephenson - $600,000
  • Pierce Johnson - $2,000,000
  • Hansel Robles - $1,500,000
  • Oliver Drake - $900,000

Offense

  • C: James McCann - $12,000,000
  • C: Omar Narvaez - $2,900,000
  • 1B: Rhys Hoskins - $3,400,000
  • 1B/OF: Jay Bruce - $1,000,000
  • MI: Jean Segura - $14,850,000
  • SS: Marcus Semien - $14,000,000
  • UT: Scott Kingery - $4,250,000
  • 3B: Alec Bohm - $570,000
  • LF: Andrew McCutchen - $20,000,000
  • CF: Brandon Nimmo - $3,300,000
  • CF: Adam Haseley - $570,000
  • RF: Bryce Harper - $27,540,000
  • OF: Guillermo Heredia - $750,000

Total Payroll - $167,390,000

Summary

1 through 26, this roster is much stronger than last year’s iteration. The Phillies owe much of their past struggles to lack of depth on both sides of the ball, and these moves address that. This team’s biggest asset, as has been the case in years’ past, is its offense. A lineup featuring Harper, Hoskins, McCutchen, Nimmo, Semien, Bohm, and McCann would be tough to beat. The bullpen is arguably the most exciting facet of the roster as it features multiple high-upside personnel.

While the bullpen is exciting, it is also carries a lot of risk. For this reason, I chose to add depth with the resources that would normally be used to attract a big free agent. Just signing Rosenthal or Hand or Hendriks does not fix the relief core. Another issue could arise with too much weight being placed on Howard and Archer in the rotation. This would create a need for reliable AAA starting pitching. Lastly, this roster does not play great defense, overall. That problem could be dealt with to a certain degree if there is a DH, however.

If the pieces gel, I could see this roster making a run at Atlanta for the NL East crown in 2021. What the team lacks in star power they more than make up for in depth, and at the end of the day, that is how successful teams are built.

Thanks for reading. Also, check out Ethan’s post that encourages you to build your perfect offseason in the form of a FanPost, as well as Jay’s piece in which he discusses his offseason plan.