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June 30, 2020

Who should the Phillies add to fill their vacant roster spots?

Earlier this week the Phillies named 53 players to their pool of those who will be participating in the 2020 MLB season. Well sort of.

The Phils leaned on the lower end of the spectrum, leaving seven spots open as a maximum of 60 players will be with the team this year with 30 starting the year at Citizens Bank Park.

But after a coronavirus outbreak at the Phillies spring training site in Clearwater, it sounds like there will be even more slots opening up on the team, as GM Matt Klentak says a "handful" of players will be added to a special "COVID list," a separate injury list for those who test positive for the virus. With three-plus weeks left before Opening Day, there's a good chance those players will be healthy and ready to contribute safely this season. But they might be replaced, as the rules allow, on the 60-man.

"With that we will gain the ability to add players to our roster, that will likely happen in the coming days," Klentak said of the players heading to the COVID list.

There are some to-be-named Phillies still out there.

"We did not fill the full 60, and really that's a product of just wanting to preserve enough flexibility," Klentak told local media members Monday. "There's enough uncertainty with COVID and the rules which are constantly being adjusted, with players traveling in, that we wanted to preserve the ability to adjust. Once a player is on, it's very hard to get them off of the 60-man roster without releasing them or out-righting them, something relatively permanent. We wanted to leave some room so we can always add, it's hard to subtract."

Without a minor league system to utilize this season, the Phillies will be forced to juggle their players between a makeshift workout camp in Lehigh Valley and the big leagues. It's very possible that non-roster invitees, like say Bud Norris, decide they'd rather be released and try and earn an MLB job than get paid the $400 weekly stipend to hang around and practice in Allentown — potentially opening even more roster slots.

It will be super weird.

With seven at minimum, but potentially a half dozen or so more players likely to be added to the Phillies roster over the next few weeks, we decided to make some suggestions based on the list the team released this week.

More catchers

Just three, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew Knapp and Deivy Grullón made the initial 60-man list. That's probably a bad idea for a number of reasons, the simplest is, well, there are 31 pitchers.

"I think it's reasonable to expect some of the replacements in the coming days will be catchers," Klentak said.

The position is also a specialized one, and if one catcher does get hurt, it means they'll be in dire need of an emergency one if another goes down. That's a situation they'll obviously be looking to avoid. Here's more on their catcher deficiency from The Athletic's Mehan Montemurro:

It’s possible [Christian] Bethancourt or another veteran catcher joins the group before camp opens this week. Absent that, the Phillies could add a young catcher such as Rafael Marchan so that he benefits from instruction while with the alternate roster. Teams are permitted to designate bullpen catchers as Tier 2 staff members for both the main roster and alternate roster. If not having enough catchers to handle all of the pitchers is a concern, there are ways to accomplish that without overloading the player pool with extraneous catchers. Still, it’s an area that looks too thin.  [The Athletic]

Mick Abel

Yes, that Mick Abel. The one the Phillies took 15th overall in the MLB draft straight out of high school. Hear me out.

Where else, on pretty much the entire planet, can the Phillies top draft pick play baseball this summer? He committed to the University of Oregon, but they are not currently practicing. There is no summer league. There aren't many American Legion ball clubs playing right now due to the virus shutting down sports everywhere. It makes a ton of sense to send him to Lehigh Valley and have him work out and play baseball every single day. 

We aren't campaigning to say that the 18-year-old should have a chance at playing in the majors this year, but we are saying he's worth using a 60-man spot on. He's incredibly valuable and needs to get his feet wet. 

The Athletics already did it:

More prospects, like Bryson Stott, Mickey Moniak

As we briefly touched on earlier, there is a good chance a few of the Phillies veteran signees on minor-league deals bounce out due to, well, them getting paid basically nothing to hang around in a minor league stadium all summer. That includes Francisco Liriano, Josh Harrison, Neil Walker and others (should they not make the 30-man roster). 

The 60-man roster is destined to eventually become a prospect workout list, in addition to a list of reserves for the Phillies to lean on for open MLB spots. As Klentak mentioned, the team risks losing a player outright if they put them on the list and then jettison them, so it may take a little time before the squad is comfortable adding young players whom are unlikely to contribute. But Mickey Moniak, former No. 1 overall pick needs to have a chance to develop more. He's way way too valuable not to. Losing an entire year of play for some big name youngsters could decimate their MLB chances. The same goes for 2019 first rounder Bryson Stott, who could be the team's future shortstop.

Both of these guys — and some other players (like Adonis Medina or Arquimedes Gamboa) — need to be given serious consideration to get brought along. And who knows, if one gets hot, they could make their big-league jump in 2020.

Yasiel Puig

Hey, why not? The roster size is big enough. There are more at bats now with the DH in the National League. And, with the luxury tax limit now murky, signing Puig to a one-year deal makes a little bit of sense. 

The 29-year-old hit 24 homers last year, and with Philly remaining in Citizens Bank Park, power is something they always could use.

The Giants are said to be the top team in on Puig, and with the trade deadline now around two months away (yes, there is a trade deadline this year), the Phils may be more likely to hang back and see what they have before adding a potential need in August. Still, he's the best available free agent and making a splash early could set the tone for a team nipping at the heals of the top teams in the NL East.

Free agent frenzy

You know how at the end of NFL training camps, there's kind of a frenzy to sign players cut by other teams to practice squad or even 53-man roster deals? Well, that exact thing could happen this summer, as teams figure out their rosters heading into the start of the season on July 24 and trim fat. There could be some hidden gems who will decide they'd rather try for a 30-man roster spot than be a pool player or on a taxi squad. It seems pretty clear GM's — especially Klentak — will be tested this season like never before. Let's hope the Phils front office guru earns his keep in 2020.

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