Cesar Hernandez is among the Phillies players GM Matt Klentak could have conversations about this week.
MLB’s General Manager meetings are underway in Orlando, FL, and it’s likely general manager Matt Klentak will not be spending the week in his hotel room watching HBO. Generally, the GM Meetings are the warm-up act to the Winter Meetings in December, but often the groundwork for big deals and free agent signings begins this week.
The Phillies will presumably be one of the more active teams in Orlando, with a number of items on the agenda. Here are some of the things that will prevent Klentak from getting a lot of sleep over the next few days (in no order of importance).
THE MIDDLE INFIELD
Klentak will likely have a number of conversations regarding the availability of Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez. Hernandez is the better player, and in pure raw numbers, was the best offensive player on the Phillies this season. In 128 games, Hernandez led the Phils in fWAR (3.3) and had a slash line of .294/.373/.421 with 85 runs scored. He’s become one of the league’s better leadoff hitters and is an above average defensive second baseman. He’s also just 27 years old and is under team control through the 2020 season, so there is a lot of value there. The Phils need to decide between Hernandez and one of their top prospects, Scott Kingery, who will be ready to join the big league club by May of 2018 at the latest.
Galvis is expendable because he’s on the last year of his contract and the heir apparent at shortstop, J.P. Crawford, is ready to take over. Galvis is one of the finest defenders in the league, a Gold Glove finalist two years running, with decent defensive metrics that largely back it up. But offensively, Galvis has holes in his game, namely that he makes too many outs. He was worth 1.6 fWAR this season, 4th-most on the Phillies, but lugged around a wRC+ of 80 that ranked 18th out of 22 qualified MLB shortstops last season.
The Phillies don’t need to get rid of either player this winter. They could carry both into the regular season and try again to trade them at the Trade Deadline, but they’re likely to have more suitors now rather than later.
FREE AGENT STARTING PITCHERS
The Phils have one sure thing in the starting rotation, Aaron Nola. He’s a bona fide No. 2 starter, with the potential to be an ace during a given 4-6 week stretch. That’s a great foundation for Klentak to build on, but build on it he must.
Jerad Eickhoff will hold down one of the rotation spots as he attempts to bounce back from a dismal 2017 campaign. Vince Velasquez will get another opportunity in the starting role, too, although one would imagine the leash won’t be long. If no other help is procured, the rest of the rotation would be made up of the collection of arms that floated between AAA and the Majors last year; Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, et al.
The Phillies need another pitcher to pair with Nola near the top of the rotation, someone dependable who can get Major League hitters out with regularity. The top free agents on the market are Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, and while both have a lot of talent, both are potential land mines. Arrieta was given a qualifying offer by the Cubs and, if he declines it (which he almost certainly will), will cost the Phils a second and fifth round pick. Darvish was not, so he would come with no draft pick compensation, but both are in their 30s and will soon start to break down, if they haven’t already.
If the top of the market doesn’t whet the Phillies’ whistle, they could opt for a mid-range target like Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb, although the Phils would have to give up draft picks for both of those arms, too. Are pitchers of that ilk worth that price tag?
The bottom of the market is uninspiring but may be where Klentak trawls once again this winter. CC Sabathia, John Lackey, Andrew Cashner, Jaime Garcia, Tyler Chatwood, Jhoulys Chacin, Scott Feldman, and others in that group are possible candidates to be added on one or two-year deals with no draft pick compensation required.
Giancarlo Stanton is the big name on the market, and if the Phillies really wanted him, they could probably make it happen, despite Stanton’s no-trade clause. But if the Phils are going to add an impact starting pitcher this off-season, it will likely come via trade.
Gerrit Cole and Chris Archer are two young studs who would immediately improve the Phillies’ rotation and, paired with Nola, would give the Phils a dominant 1-2 punch. The Rays’ Jake Odorizzi, former Phillie J.A. Happ, now with Toronto, Miami’s Dan Straily and the Braves’ Julio Teheran are potential trade acquisitions, too.
There is also the dream scenario, a return of Cole Hamels to Philadelphia. Folks, it’s not crazy.
But there is also a huge position player trade market too, lead by Stanton. The Phils continue to be linked to him, but there are other teams who could be interested, too. His name will dominate the meetings, and Klentak will likely keep his toes in those waters, even if he doesn’t ever take the plunge.
It’s hot stove season, so it’s likely some crazy names and crazy rumors are going to pop up in relation to the Phillies. It’s also the first off-season in which Klentak and the new regime has to make some truly difficult decisions. How aggressive will the team be to improve the 2018 roster? Will they move any of their young outfielders in exchange for pitching? If so, does Rhys Hoskins move to the outfield? Do they then get a first baseman? Or does everyone come back and we play infield musical chairs for the first half of 2018? Do the Phillies invest now, or hold their fire until after the season?
It’s an intriguing and important Hot Stove season for the Phillies, the most important since the Phils’ window to compete for a championship closed during the 2012 season.
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