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The Good Phight’s offseason mailbag, part one

It is time to answer some questions with all the know-how we can muster

MiLB: JUL 31 Florida Complex League - Phillies at Yankees Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Folks, who doesn’t love a good mailbag? It’s always a good time when people answer the call and send in questions that we can use for discussion. Here is what we have from this cycle.

Well now. This is the way to get things started.

In the 2030, the best player on the Phillies will be.......finally revealed.

Seven years from now is a while down the road, but pretty safe to say that some of the current best players on the team that are under contract for that year - Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Aaron Nola - will not be the best player on the team. They’ll likely be on the downside of their career, hopefully with a ring or two on their fingers. That means that someone who is currently in the minor leagues will likely be the best player, with three players in particular challenging for the crown. If you had to pin me down and make me give an answer, it would probably be between Andrew Painter, Aiden Miller and Justin Crawford. My prediction of the three? I’ll go with Miller, but there is no scouting acumen or anything else to back that up. Call it a hunch.

As far as Suarez goes, there really is no reason to take him out of the rotation now or when the playoffs roll around so long as the Phillies are in. Right now, he projects to be the third pitcher in the rotation as long as he’s healthy and more importantly, he has the trust of Rob Thomson in high leverage starts. Taking Suarez out of the rotation in favor of someone “better” assumes the team will have someone better. Is that Taijuan Walker? Cristopher Sanchez? Someone they acquire at the trade deadline? Hard to say that an improvement can be made over Suarez. Now, if you asked me if he’d come out of the bullpen as a “closer” during a playoff game, yes, he’d be the rotation member I’d choose to close out a game for a playoff win over Zack Wheeler and Nola. He’s shown it time and again the ability to switch roles, so if the team needs one of the starters to end a game a la the Nationals in 2019, Suarez would be my choice. But at this point, unless Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s price comes way down, I think the team is done adding starters as of now.

The most important thing has been accomplished now that Nola is back. They could not go into the season without someone to slot in behind Zack Wheeler, no matter your thoughts on Ranger Suarez and his ability as a starter. A #2 starter was a must and that part of the offseason checklist has been crossed off.

Now that that is done, I’m not sure that getting protection in the lineup behind Harper is a priority since they kind of already have that. You may not like to hear that Nick Castellanos and J.T. Realmuto are lineup protection, but they are. Adding an “upgrade” over the two of them would require the team to add someone like Jorge Soler or Cody Bellinger to the lineup, players that would help the team, but probably aren’t going to fit into the budget the team has in mind. So, I’d say it’s more likely they add another bullpen arm than a middle of the order bat. Of course, there is no reason to go crazy...

One name I’m surprised there isn’t more smoke around is Hector Neris. He’s had an excellent run in Houston and looks in line for a sizable payday, but there has been nary a whisper about him. There is still a lot of red on that Baseball Savant page of his, but it’s not without some worry. His fastball velocity has dropped for the third straight season, something that he cannot afford to continue losing. Of course, the same was said about Craig Kimbrel prior to 2023, but somehow he added more velocity as the season progressed.

Japanese talent is just as important to an MLB club as any other player, whether they be Korean, Dominican, whatever. We just happen to be in an offseason where two of the more exciting free agents that are available for the taking are from Japan in Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. I don’t think any team is falling behind the curve if they aren’t signing players out of the KBO or the NPB, but it would behoove any team, the Phillies included, to beef up their presence on the Pacific Rim. Not doing so would put that team at a disadvantage akin to being slow to embrace analytics as a tool for organizational improvement.

As far as the Phillies go, we’ve heard the rumors of their interest in Yamamoto. Were they not locked into several different players who can feasibly handle the DH role full-time, they’d likely be at least inquiring on Ohtani. Will they sign either? That is either doubtful or highly doubtful depending on the player. The fact that they are still (theoretically) in the game for Yamamoto signals their growth as an organization with ties to the NPB, something they’d probably like to enhance as the years go on. They did scout, sign and trade Hao-Yu Lee, a prospect that got the Michael Lorenzen at the deadline, so there is at least some tangible evidence they’re improving in that area. It just may take some time for players to actually sign here due to a plethora of reasons, location on the globe being chief among them. For now, reasonable expectations can be set in if they can continue to sign prospects from places like China, Japan and Korea to bring into their own system at an early age.