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@DelCo_Brian’s 2021-22 Phillies offseason plan

Trying to build a playoff roster in Philadelphia with a $195 million budget:


Arbitration

The Phillies will offer arbitration to Rhys Hoskins, Zack Eflin, Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez & Roman Quinn. Hoskins & Eflin are easy decisions to make an offer, but Alvarado, Dominguez & Quinn are relatively low-cost alternatives with experience at positions of need, although Quinn may not even be ready until June after tearing his left Achilles on a heroic run against Tampa.

While Travis Jankowski & Ronald Torreyes made valuable contributions through the 2021 season, they should not be offered arbitration although they could accept invitations to spring training if they aren’t able to find a role elsewhere.

No matter how well liked Andrew Knapp is in the clubhouse, Rafael Marchan is waiting in the wings so a backup catcher earning more than the MLB minimum is a luxury. It sounds silly to describe Knapp, a 30-year-old backup catcher with a lifetime slash line of .214/.314/.322, as a luxury; however, here we are.

Options

Selected from Texas in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft, we have finally come to the end of Odubel Herrera’s career in Philadelphia, which will regrettably be remembered for much more off the field than anything on it. While we were teased with promising seasons in 2015 & 2016, he had provided shrinking production even before his assault arrest during the 2019 Memorial Day weekend.

Andrew McCutchen is one of the few success stories of the Matt Klentak tenure. While he only put up .237/.343/.444 numbers, he endeared himself to the fanbase and presumably in the clubhouse. Losing games to injury & the pandemic in the twilight of his career is an unfair result for Cutch, but the Phillies have too many holes to spend $12 million (the difference between his $3MM option and a $15MM salary) on a 35-year-old outfielder who has clearly lost a step in spite of gaining our hearts.

Trades

Before I can consider any free agency, the Phillies have to clear some salary cap and I believe their best opportunities will be to reach out to two teams that will lose in free agency.

  • Phillies trade 2B Scott Kingery to Toronto for SS Estiven Machado. The Toronto Blue Jays expect to lose Marcus Semien to free agency and the best second base free agent options are Semien & Javier Baez, both of whom may prefer to play SS. To replace him, they may be willing to trust Cavan Biggio to play second or they could take a chance on Kingery. Machado just turned 19 and is probably three or four years away from sniffing the big leagues, which is exactly the type of long-term talent the Phillies should be looking for to replenish their system.

  • Phillies trade SS Didi Gregorius & OF Jhailyn Ortiz to Los Angeles Angels for LHP Ky Bush. The free agent class has some big-name shortstops out there, including Semien, Baez, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa & Trevor Story. The Angels could also lose Andrelton Simmons and another left-handed bat with some pop besides Shohei Ohtani might look good in the lineup around Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon & Jo Adell. Bush is a starter for now, but may be a reliever if he reaches the majors until he polishes a better third/fourth pitch over the next couple of years in the minors. Wherever the destination, including a prospect like Oritz is the sweetener it may take in order for the Phillies to convince a trade partner to absorb all of Gregorius’ salary.


Free Agents

Not exactly a free agent, but moving both Kingery & Gregorius clears room for Bryson Stott to step in as the everyday shortstop. The 24-year-old prospect hit at every level this season in the minors & is lighting it up in the Arizona fall league, so Stott’s ascension becomes a priority for the Phillies roster composition.

Maybe Nick Maton handles the job in April to manipulate Stott’s arbitration clock, but after moving the $21MM in salary tied up between Didi & Kingery, Stott needs to debut & stick in 2022, which I believe now gives us $50MM to rebuild the bullpen – again - and ideally add an impact outfielder.

The obvious outfield target would be Sterling Marte. But as the best free agent centerfielder in the market, he’s going to have a lot of suitors, which means someone will overpay for a 33-year-old outfielder with some past health concerns. If he was 3-5 years younger, he should absolutely be the primary focus for the Phillies. He is 33 though, so for now they should sit this out unless he is interested in just 3 years @ $20MM per season, but I think someone will offer 4-5 years and/or $22-25MM.

To help anchor the relief corps or PETA"s "arm barn", a couple of familiar faces might be welcomed back. Hector Neris pitched well down the stretch and set the team’s strikeout record for relievers, so maybe a reasonable 2-3 year deal brings the 33-year-old back, not to close but to pitch in middle relief. Archie Bradley was a motivational spark in the clubhouse & pitched, meh… okayish, but his injuries & diminishing returns make him a candidate for a modest one-year contract.

I think we are more likely to see bargain signings rather than leading names like Raisel Iglesias, Kenley Jansen or trading for Craig Kimbrel. If they can grab a couple of names like Mychal Givens, Corey Knebel, Matt Andriese, Trevor Rosenthal or Hansel Robles for something between $1MM - $4MM. I’ll go with Neris & Knebel ($7MM) and two more the likes of Bradley, Rosenthal or Givens ($4MM).

A utility infielder with proven major league experience is mandatory, so I’m looking for someone like Johnathan Villar who could come bring multi-positional eligibility with speed for $4MM.

These moves bring me to less than $170, so for the big finish… Kris Bryant. The connection to Harper is well documented from the Vegas-area upbringing, but they also are both clients of Scott Boras who suddenly has a good history working with the Phillies. I would start him in leftfield, even though I recognize he is capable of playing center. At 30 years old, maybe he would be willing to move AAV down for longer term, so would 7 years at $25MM per season get it done? His versatility also benefits the entire roster, as he would effectively serve as your primary back-up at 3B or 1B, being able to plug in one of our young outfielders like Matt Vierling, Mickey Moniak, Adam Haseley or maybe even Simon Muzziotti into the OF.

The roster

SP1: Wheeler
SP2: Nola
SP3: Gibson
SP4: Suarez
SP5: Eflin

RP: Knebel
RP: Neris
RP: Alvarado
RP: Dominguez
RP: Brogdon
RP: Coonrod
RP: Rosenthal

C: Realmuto
1B: Hoskins
2B: Segura
SS: Stott
3B: Bohm
LF: Bryant
CF: Moniak
RF: Harper
Bench: Marchan
Bench: Maton
Bench: Villar
Bench: Vierling
Bench: Haseley



Summary

The only way teams can splurge on expensive free agent players – like the Harper, Wheelers, Realmutos & Bryants - is by surrounding them with emerging talent, either by developing prospects or finding success in the Rule 5 drafts or injured veterans looking for a short-term chance to reestablish their market. A little luck can go a long way & the Phillies haven’t had much luck in that regard since their last World Series core.

This has to be the final chance for both Adam Haseley & Mickey Moniak, who were both effectively passed on the depth chart by Matt Vierling. The Phillies need either Haseley or Moniak to be an everyday, bottom-of-the-lineup centerfielder that can play good defense (i.e. Roman Quinn) & stay healthy (i.e. not Roman Quinn). If they can’t, they ought to be moved for a potential future asset.

It is easy to get excited about a lineup adding Kris Bryant to it as well as a healthy return of Rhys Hoskins and the introduction of Bryson Stott, but the lineup is still void of much starting speed, more sluggers than table-setters.

Stott has great contact & runs well enough, but I can’t really expect this franchise to bat a rookie leadoff. If we assume Bohm & Moniak will hit 7th & 8th, we can expect a lineup with Segura, Harper, Bryant, Hoskins, that leaves a decision to bat JT leadoff or 6th with Stott handling the other spot.

The pandemic wreaked havoc on pitchers throughout the game by limiting their 2020 workload. No pitcher threw more innings during the regular season than Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola never found his command, Zach Eflin was inconsistent until his knee finally balked. Amidst all this, Ranger Suarez went from middle reliever to closer to starter within the span of a week, arguably becoming their best starter down the stretch.

With Eflin’s injury the Phillies will need a 5th starter for at least the first month, maybe until June. With the past seasons of mediocrity, we suddenly find ourselves with some potential options to fill that spot in Bradley Falter, Adonis Medina, Hans Crouse & Christopher Sanchez. The latter two I think will both ultimately find much more success at this level as a reliever, but for now they are still be given the chance to stretch out as starters. On the horizon, we’re going to be anxiously waiting to see recent draft picks like Mick Abel, Andrew Painter, Francisco Morales and Erik Miller. Help is coming, but it is still a couple years away.

Regime change always takes time and after the multiple failings of the MacPhail/Klentak tenure in seemingly every aspect, depth issues will likely haunt the Phillies for one more season… at least. Dave Dombrowski, Sam Fuld & Preston Mattingly must infuse draft talent & develop them successfully to be able to support an expensive, aging roster of high-end talent with cost effective but capable prospects.