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December 12, 2018

Phillies are succinctly addressing their needs as their fruitful offseason continues

Phillies MLB
120318_Jean-Segura_usat Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Mariners shortstop Jean Segura.

There is a pretty obvious roadmap the Phillies are following — or attempting to follow as they strive to build a contender for next season as the Winter Meetings drag on.

Each of the moves they've already made have helped to improve their club in a desperate area of need in one way or another. 

Here's a look at where they needed to improve after a horrific collapse in 2018, and what they've done about it (or rumors suggest they will do):

Batting average

Additions: Jean Segura (.304 last year, .287 career); Andrew McCutchen (.255 last year, .287 career)

Subtractions: Carlos Santana (.229 last year); J.P. Crawford (.214 last year)

The Phillies had the worst batting average in all of baseball last year, an ugly .234, and had the fewest hits of any team over the span of their 162 games. Though they made up for it a little bit with the fourth most walks in the league, a .314 on base percentage, just below the MLB average, isn't going to cut it for a playoff contender.

They shed two of their worst regular hitters in Santana and Crawford (who, in his defense, was hurt or adjusting to the majors for most of the year) and brought in Segura, a great consistent hitter in a trade with the Mariners as well as McCutchen via a three-year, $50 million signing. Those moves also allow Rhys Hoskins to move back to his natural position of first base where he was "blocked" by Santana last season.

If this is all Philly does offensively they have a much better line up next year already in place — but their sights are set on Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and even J.T. Realmuto — three All Stars all capable of hitting over .300 next year.

Power

Additions: Segura (10 homers last year); McCutchen (20 last year)
Subtractions: Santana (24 homers last year)

The Phillies were dead in the middle of baseball with 186 homers last year, but their power numbers were nothing to boast about as they fell in the bottom third of all 30 teams in slugging and OPS. Adding McCutchen will help, but a Machado or Harper signing would really help add a power bat to the line up.

There is also the hope that a move back to first will help Hoskins boost his power stroke as he'll be more comfortable defensively.

Defense

Additions: McCutchen (Gold Glove winner, 2 errors last year)

Subtractions: Santana (11 errors); Crawford (8 errors)

The Phillies defense could not have been much worst last season, ranking as the second worst in the majors behind only the lowly Orioles in efficiency. They committed 123 errors in the field and according to Baseball Reference, it cost them 58 runs on the year, the most in the bigs.

Bringing in a proven outfielder in McCutchen, a veteran who has won a Gold Glove award and has played in 130 games or more in every season since 2010 is a good start. Machado is an excellent infielder, should they land him. Segura is also an above average infielder.

Bullpen

Additions: Juan Nicascio (4.64 career ERA); James Pazos (3.54 career ERA); Jose Alvarez (3.69 career ERA)
Subtractions: Luis Garcia (6.07 ERA last year)

The Phillies' bullpen wasn't a weakness last year but it also wasn't a strength. In nearly every statistical measurement, the unit was in the middle of the road among MLB pitching staffs but they did shed some dead weight in Garcia, who posted a career high 6.07 ERA last year. 

In their many wheelings and dealings so far this winter they've brought in two relievers coming off career years in Pazos (who went 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 50 innings for the Mariners) and Alvarez (who was 6-4 with a 2.71 ERA in 63 innings for the Angels). 

With healthy veterans returning in Pat Neshak and Tommy Hunter, and youngsters Seranthony Dominguez, Enyel De Los Santos and others slated to help form the unit next season, the pen could take a big step forward in 2019.

Left-handed starting pitching

Additions: none, yet

Philly's rotation was one of its biggest strength's last year, mostly due to Aaron Nola's near Cy Young season, but they had zero left-handed starters and could definitely use some new blood alongside Nola and Jake Arrieta next season.

The Phillies have apparently struck out again in pursuit of one-time Philadelphia lefty J.A. Happ — and they already swung and missed at Patrick Corbin too. 

As far as remaining options go, an unlikely run at Astros ace Dallas Keuchel is possible, while Gio Gonzalez seems to be another lefty who is available and a decent fit. Annibal Sanchez is another of the remaining free agent but he is a righty and way north of 30.

It will be interesting to see if they get in the mix to try and land a big fish like Cleveland's Corey Kluber, New York's Sonny Gray or San Franciscio's Madison Bumgarner— rumored to be trade chips for a high price.


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