It would take more than Bryce Harper for the Phillies to make up the gap between 80 wins and playoff contention in 2019. Harper alone would add a handful of wins, but if he does come aboard, the Phils will still have work to do before or after that signing.
Here’s my (realistically) ideal offseason:
Sign Bryce Harper for 9 years, $360 million
It’s $40 million a year. It’s more total money than Giancarlo Stanton got and it’s $15 million more per year.
For the Phillies, this would accomplish the goal of giving Harper and Scott Boras what they’re seeking, while also avoiding a 14-year contract.
If the Phillies were to get Harper on a nine-year deal, they’d avoid paying him $40 million or so after the age of 35.
Sign Zach Britton
Boom, there’s your late-inning lefty to pair with Seranthony Dominguez and an experienced closer should Dominguez falter in that role at any point.
Britton would offer a unique look, as a lefty with a power sinker. Going from Pat Neshek to Dominguez to Britton would offer the opponent three completely different styles and repertoires in innings 7-9. The Phillies would lock down plenty of leads.
Sign J.A. Happ
I’m not big on paying Patrick Corbin more than $100 million. Nor do I love the idea of trading good young players for the injury-prone James Paxton or Robbie Ray. There’s no doubt that all three southpaws have a ton of talent and legit swing-and-miss stuff, but it’s a risk.
Paxton’s career high is 160 innings. Ray walked 70 batters in 123⅔ innings in 2018, with an ERA a full run higher than the previous year.
If it’s me, I’d rather give Happ a two-year, $30 million deal with a third-year vesting option. He’s not as good as Paxton or Ray at their best, but Happ is more reliable, will cost less, and his last three years have been the best of his career. Since 2016, Happ is 47-21 with a 3.44 ERA in 88 starts, with 8.7 strikeouts per nine and 2.7 walks.
He’d fit well in this Phillies rotation.
Trade Maikel Franco to Padres for Craig Stammen, Robbie Erlin and a prospect
The Padres are interested in Franco, according to teammate Jim Salisbury. But it’s hard for me to see San Diego parting with Kirby Yates, who had a 2.14 ERA with 90 strikeouts in 63 innings as a setup man and closer last season. Yates is also cost-controlled for a low price. From a Phillies perspective, Yates seems like an overly optimistic return.
Stammen and Erlin could both help the Phillies’ pitching staff, though. Stammen, who you probably remember from his seven seasons with the Nationals, is coming off his best year. He had a 2.73 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 73 appearances, striking out 88 in 79 innings and allowing just three home runs.
Erlin, a lefty, made 39 appearances, 12 starts, and exhibited tremendous control, walking just 12 batters in 109 innings. He’d be an upgrade over Adam Morgan.
The Padres will also want to rid themselves of underperforming Wil Myers’ contract, but there’s no reason for the Phillies to assume his remaining $70 million unless it also gets them a valuable asset like Yates.
Sign Wilson Ramos
If Harper comes aboard, it would likely mean Rhys Hoskins moves back to first base and Carlos Santana plays more third base than anyone expected.
If a Santana trade cannot be worked out, then the Phillies’ outfield and infield would both be set. Where else is there to improve? Behind the plate.
Ramos and Yasmani Grandal are the top two catchers on the free-agent market. Both are coming off very good offensive years and both have question marks. For Ramos, it’s health. For Grandal, it’s the lasting impression of his defensive struggles in the playoffs.
But both players will get decent offers because offense behind the plate is at a premium. There just are not many catchers around the league who can hit.
Ramos was awesome for the Phillies … when he was able to play. The Phillies acquired him with 55 games left and he played 33, hitting .337/.396/.483 with 10 extra-base hits and 10 walks in 101 plate appearances.
The Phillies, as his most recent team, should know more about Ramos’ health than any other club. If they feel comfortable he can reach 400-plus plate appearances again in 2019, they should bring him back. They can enjoy Jorge Alfaro’s pitch-framing all they want, but Alfaro does not and will never offer the offensive consistency of Ramos, who at 31 should still have at least two more good years in him.
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