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December 03, 2019

What's the Phillies' offseason plan? Here's what we know so far

We are a few days away from MLB's Winter Meetings in San Diego, a time during which much — or little — can happen by way of offseason transactions as the 30 teams mingle and attempt to wheel and deal.

The Phillies' haven't made any major moves yet, but if you read between the lines amid the small moves they have made, their 2020 plan seems to be somewhat discernible. After bringing in a new manager, following a season that fell way short of expectations in 2019, the Phillies are under some pressure to piece together a postseason contender.

Here's a look at what the team has done so far and what it means by way of big picture implications for the upcoming season

New blood

Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez will not be playing for the Phillies next season, as the team opted to save $16.5 million and open up a spot in the starting lineup by non-tendering each of the infielders. Here's a look at the starting offense as it currently stands:

CJ.T. Realmuto
1BRhys Hoskins
2BScott Kingery?
SSJean Segura
3BScott Kingery?
LFAndrew McCutchen
CFAdam Haseley
RFBryce Harper

Scott Kingery isn't capable of playing both second and third base at the same time, so clearly the team will be bringing in a new infielder. By letting Franco and Hernandez walk, the team made two things clear: first, they wanted the cash to spend elsewhere. Second, they didn't want to block Alec Bohm, their star minor league third baseman and former first-round pick.

The team could go in a variety of different ways with that spot in the lineup. 

  • They could sign some kind of place-holder/depth free agent to hold down the fort until Bohm makes it to the bigs. A Howie Kendrick type comes to mind.
  • They could go big-game hunting and try and sign Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson and use Kingery as a utility man again when Bohm arrives.
  • They could open the season with Kingery and Bohm rounding out the infield.
The team is also potentially looking to bring in a new fourth outfielder to compete alongside Roman Quinn. 

Starter hunting

There are some extremely tantalizing big name starters out there, including Gerrit Cole, Cole Hamels, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner and others. We looked into a rumor last week tying the Phillies to Bumgarner. We also took note of an interesting tweet from MLB insider Jon Morsi:

It can be gleamed that the Phillies are intent on adding a starter to follow Aaron Nola in the rotation. And if reports of them being in contact with Bumgarner's people are true — as well as this "by New Year" rumor — the Phillies may be tapping into that $16.5 million they saved to tag a new top of the line starter.

Knapp back

Among the many complaints heard about the Phillies last season was that they lacked depth on the bench. They seemed to ignore that issue — at least at the catcher's spot — when they decided to bring Andrew Knapp back for another season to back up Realmuto.

Knapp hit .213 last season, after hitting .198 the year prior. For whatever reason, the Phils are comfortable with Knapp (who is very cheap) and are electing not to spend any money on a backup catcher with a better bat. 

It actually makes sense. Realmuto led every catcher in the majors in at at-bats, runs, hits, RBI, and WAR while appearing in 145 games, the second most in the majors at his position. The Phillies fully expect Realmuto to play just as much in 2020.

Damn Yankees

Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, the Phillies have been linked to several former Yankees players in the wake of signing Joe Girardi to manage the team. Girardi, of course, managed New York to a World Series title in 2009 and was at the helm of the team for nine years.

Could they use that open roster spot to bring in Didi Gregorius, who happens to be a free agent shortstop?

Gregorius is 29, and his signing could move Segura to second base, a position he's played more than Gregorius has. The Phillies have also been linked to catcher Austin Romine — who will not be signed in Philly after Knapp's re-signing, and to Dellin Betances, a big end of game reliever who pitched for Girardi.

Pen pals

The last bit of relevant offseason intel we can break down is in the bullpen, where the Phillies appear to be focused on adding depth through some minor moves. Just Monday, they added former Red Sox reliever Trevor Kelley. Here's a breakdown of some of the other moves they have made from NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury:

Most of the Phillies’ moves so far this offseason have been marginal transactions centered around the bullpen. They claimed hard-throwing right-hander Robert Stock off waivers from San Diego, acquired prospect Cristopher Sanchez in a minor-league trade with Tampa Bay, and added prospects Mauricio Llovera, JoJo Romero and Garrett Cleavinger to the 40-man roster. More significant moves are expected in the coming weeks. The winter meetings, always the centerpiece of the offseason, commence next week in San Diego. The Phillies are focused on adding starting pitching. They could also look to add a third baseman. [NBCSP]

After last season's ridiculously snake-bitten bullpen wound up sending 13 different pitchers to the injured list, the Phillies are clearly doing what they can to keep the reserves deep for 2020.

The rest of the offseason plan will take shape as the important month of December rolls along. 

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