How did your boy(s) do this season?
It’s that time of year again.
SB Nation runs an offseason simulation where 30 people, writers and commenters alike, are tasked with running 3 months of offseason work in three days. It’s fun, hectic and a little head scratching. You can read all about the moves here in the comment section of the article announcing it. The moves were done in chronological order.
This year, I decided to take on an assistant GM, Sean Burke, to help bounce ideas off of. We went in with three goals:
- Get either one of Manny Machado or Bryce Harper – we were not going to lose them
- Get rid of the middle infielders clogging up the infield issues
- Get a starter that is better than what we have already
We were given a payroll limit of $130 million, which I told the people running that “LOL, that’s nothing.” We were ready to blow past it if needed. So, how did we do?
As you know, this is pretty much how the Phillies’ roster looked when the season ended.
Sure, give or take a few names missing, but this is mostly what you think of when you think of the Phillies and their final roster. The areas in need of upgrading are numerous and it’s frankly kind of depressing this is what we had to watch. Yes, I am aware Jose Bautista’s name is missing. That is because I am actively choosing to remember he was on the team at any point in the year.
So, my plans made sense. Adding Machado or Harper in the simulation, as in real life, is pretty much a necessity at this point. When the talks were opened on Sunday afternoon, I was fully ready to go get them. What I wasn’t ready for was the interest level in two players – Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco. Can you guess which player people asked about the most?
Yup, Maikel Franco. I’ll wait as you pick your jaw up from the floor.
If this is anything like real life, the Phillies will have no shortage of suitors when it comes to Maikel. I had seven trade offers within the first hour of negotiations. Of course, everything centered around Machado and Harper. We didn’t want to move Franco unless we knew for certain he’d be replaced. So, we made a little trade to make sure we were ready for some depth.
Phillies trade SP Zach Eflin to Oakland for 3B prospect Sheldon Neuse
This first trade capitalized on moving Eflin, probably the worst of the back end three options the team has (Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez being the other two) and picking up some depth at the hot corner. Neuse is a decent glove, average bat third baseman that was stuck behind Matt Chapman in Oakland and projects as a second division. Were he to have to play in the big leagues, he’d need to cut down on the strikeouts (172 in 499 plate appearances last year), but offers a sprinkle of upside without ultimately blocking Alec Bohm whenever he is ready. Eflin isn’t much more than a #4-5 starter and we have a few of them already at Lehigh. That helps clear some space in the rotation, so let’s move on to the next order of business.
A few more offers started coming for Franco, with San Francisco being the most aggressive, offering Hunter Strickland. I was tempted, but ultimately, I really want to move Franco and clear payroll for Machado and Harper both while staying under the proposed $130 million number. I know we could run past it, but it was kind of the challenge I gave myself. We kept putting out the offers on the big boys, so once we knew where we stood with Machado and Harper, it was time to bid adieu to Maikel.
Phillies trade 3B Maikel Franco to Chicago (AL) for SP Jimmy Lambert and Blake Battenfield
Trading Eflin left me spooked about depth, so I aimed for prospects to re-stock the cupboard a little bit. Let’s be honest here: is Franco going to get you much in return? Probably not. So we went with decent arms from the White Sox.
Lambert, in 2018 across two levels: 18 GS, 3.67 ERA, 95 2⁄3 IP, 77 H, 27 BB, 110 K
Battenfield, in 2018 across two levels: 22 GS, 2.98 ERA, 121 IP, 102 H, 29 BB, 115 K
Neither project to be much more than a #4, though Lambert, from some reports, could be a touch more if his stuff holds up. This was easily the best offer to take from the ones I got for Franco, one I’m happy with. It means that the Phillies had an opening on the left side of the infield. And you know what that means….
Phillies sign 3B/SS Manny Machado to an 11 year/$433 million contract with an opt-out after year 4
The big one.
Is this price out of the realm of possibility in real life? I’m not sure. But I certainly wouldn’t be upset by it. The stark reality of any deal the Phillies sign this offseason is that if it is Harper or Machado or Kimbrel or whoever, none of them will live up to the contract they are seeking. Especially with the big two, they will both come in with such an astronomical number, anything they do will fall short of fan expectations, especially with the sports radio crowd in this city.
So, now we move on. After some discussion internally, Sean and I decide to go for broke and see if we can get Harper while also staying under budget. By this point, we were at about $110M, so we were close. This is where I think made a bit of a boo-boo.
Phillies trade 2B Cesar Hernandez, OF Dylan Cozens and SP Enyel de los Santos to Miami for SP Colton Hock and OF Thomas Jones
To make the Harper thing happen, we needed to clear either Carlos Santana or Hernandez. No one was taking on Santana’s contract, we went here. Now, don’t bother looking up either prospect because they aren’t anything to write home about. The whole point was to clear Hernandez’s salary. After all, with Scott Kingery waiting to replace Cesar at his natural position (do you hear me, Gabe, his NATURAL, BEST DEFENSIVE POSITION), it’s not like the step down to Kingery was steep. And plus, we’d be adding Harper. Only….
Yankees sign OF Bryce Harper to a 13 year/$515 million deal
Our last offer was, I think, 12/$475 million, also laughable. Oh well. Probably shouldn’t have traded Hernandez.
Now about Carlos Santana…
Phillies trade 1B Carlos Santana and SP Nick Pivetta to Boston for SP Rick Porcello and Darwinzon Hernandez
This one made me happy. These were pretty easy talks, as Boston did a lot of previous moves and found themselves needing a bat. We thought that swapping Santana’s contract with a shorter one at a position of need was worth paying the price of Pivetta’s potential. Plus, we got a pretty decent prospect back in Hernandez.
Hernandez, in 2018 across two levels: 28 G (23 GS), 107 IP, 86 H, 66 BB, 134 K
Wild, but some good strikeout stuff. Again, this was about moving Santana’s deal for something we needed (pitching) and having that player we were getting back be better than what we have. Porcello’s contract is over before Santana, so that frees up money to enter the free agent market again next year, when names like Gerrit Cole will be available for the bidding. This felt like a no brainer.
In my estimation, this team is better for a few reasons.
1. The defense will be markedly better simply because people are where they belong. Kingery will be at second base, where he was thought of as a potential Gold Glover when he was still in the minors. J.P. Crawford and Machado, however they’re aligned, will make the left side of the infield significantly better. Hoskins will be where he most comfortable and the outfield will only have one stone glove instead of two.
The issues? Boy, that outfield might be rough. To me, it emphasizes the need for the real life Phillies go all out to try and get Harper any way they can. I’m also, with this simulation, banking on improvement from Crawford and Kingery. I’m pretty certain, though, that this team is a playoff team. It could probably need some trading deadling help, but they could compete as is if they went into 2019 with this roster.
So, what do you think?