December 06, 2016
As it stood on Tuesday, admittedly still almost four full months before Opening Day, the Phillies lone upgrade to their MLB-worst offense was the addition of a 33-year-old corner outfielder who hit .255 with a .326 OBP and eight home runs in 146 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016.
Howie Kendrick is probably due for a bounce-back season in a walk-year while playing at a hitter-friendly ballpark. And, who knows, perhaps he’s the Opening Day second baseman instead and the Phillies pull off a trade that sends Cesar Hernandez elsewhere and enables the Phillies to bring in a more accomplished, power-hitting outfield bat.
But the offseason is more than a month old and there is at least the possibility that what the Phillies have now is what they’ll have in their lineup when they arrive at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati to begin their season.
“I'm happy that we acquired Kendrick because we needed a solid, professional hitter,” manager Pete Mackanin said in his first media availability of the offseason at Tuesday’s Winter Meetings inside the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD., on Tuesday.
“Howie Kendrick is one of those guys,” Mackanin continued. “He knows how to give you good at-bats, grinds out at-bats. And we have guys like (Maikel) Franco and Freddy (Galvis), to name a few, who really need a better plan at the plate. I think Howie is going to help them out just by watching him take at-bats and go about his business. I think that's going to help a lot of our guys improve. I would like to get another guy. You can always use more hitting, more pitch, better players.”
Howie Kendrick may help the Phillies overall production – it’s hard to get worse production from the corner outfield spots than they’ve had in the last few years – but let’s just say he’s not going to move the needle too much on generating ticket sales at Citizens Bank Park. The Phils front office is practicing patience this winter, though, not jumping in headfirst into a so-so free agent market when they’re in the middle of a rebuild and attempting to give their young players and prospects opportunities, not roadblocks to getting their respective big league careers underway.
With all of that said, and understanding that prospects like J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens, etc. aren’t expected to be saviors and are sure to endure their own growing pains as young big leaguers, the Phillies offense, as currently constructed, is at best a work in progress.
Their 2017 Opening Day lineup (as of now) doesn’t look much different than the 2016 lineup that was held to three runs or fewer in nearly half of their games (79 of 162) and sported a .301 OBP (second-worst in baseball, ahead of San Diego).
Then again, it is only December. The Phillies don’t report to Clearwater, Fla., for another two months.
Even if it doesn’t happen this week (Matt Klentak said he didn’t expect to make any more deals at the Winter Meetings) does Mackanin feel confident his general manager will give him a second proven veteran bat, something he wished for publicly throughout the end of the 2016 season?
“That's hard to say,” Mackanin said. “Obviously I would like to have a solid hitter for the team, for the fans, for everybody. We would like to win more games. I think it would be very important obviously to improve our offense. Once again, let's say Roman Quinn really looks good in the spring and proves to us that he might be the guy and he takes off, that might happen and might not. But in the meantime, I think we owe it to the pitchers to create more offense so that they are in more games.”
Mackanin mentioned Quinn because the outfield prospect (who didn’t make his MLB debut until September) is temporarily penciled into a right-field job that’s pretty much up for grabs. The Phils could still make a trade (J.D. Martinez and Melky Cabrera are among those available) or free agent signing (maybe the market dries up for Jose Bautista?).
But the Phillies could find spots elsewhere on the roster, too, as with the aforementioned flexibility at second base (where Kendrick could be a one-year stopgap to rising prospect Scott Kingery) and even in the corner infield positions, where Tommy Joseph is still largely unproven commodity at first and Franco has the ability to move across the diamond if the Phils acquired a proven third baseman. Todd Frazier (a free agent after the 2017 season) could be had in a trade and Justin Turner is an attractive veteran free agent option.
“There are so many options available,” Mackanin said. “We kind of sit up in the suite (here), Matt, (team president) Andy (MacPhail), everybody else, they're doing their homework and talking to other people and something might pop up with another team to where they might cut a deal that we never even thought about which opens a spot to put somebody else in. Everything is still up in the air. It's early. Deals may be made forthwith, they might come in January or in spring training when things happen. So one move might create an opening in another.”