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January 03, 2018

Phillies Hot Stove rumors: Alex Cobb, Christian Yelich and ... Cole Hamels?

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010318_Hamels_usat Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Texas Rangers pitcher Cole Hamels watches from the dugout.

The Phillies haven't done much in free agency since GM Matt Klentak officially introduced their prized singing, first baseman Carlos Santana, but often, it's when things are quietest that the most work is getting done. 

And based on what they've done to this point in what appears to be the first winter of spending in some time for the Phils, there's no reason to believe they're done. 

The team has made its desire to add starting pitching well known, and most of the top-tier free agents remain on the market. They still have plenty of money to spend – and prospects to spare should they decide to go the trade route instead. With several different ways to go, there's no need for the Phillies to be overly aggressive, and they know that. 

But they seem ready to win, sooner rather than later, and if they plan on doing that in 2018, they're going to need a few more pieces first. 

Here's a look at the latest hot stove rumors surrounding the Phillies...

A good place to start

David Schoenfield | ESPN.com

Over at ESPN, they took a look at the most likely landing spots for the top remaining free agents. And according to David Schoenfield, the Phillies might land a starting pitcher after all. No, it's not Jake Arrietta or Yu Darvish, but it wouldn't be a bad consolation prize.

Alex Cobb, RHP (8)

Best bet: Philadelphia Phillies
Don’t be surprised: Cubs

Don’t take that best bet too seriously: Cobb could land in a dozen places. The Carlos Santana signing and immense flexibility in payroll, however, mean the Phillies could emerge as Cobb’s top suitor as they continue to build for 2019 and beyond. If the Cubs consider Darvish’s price too steep or if he signs elsewhere, Cobb provides an alternative plan at about half the price.

Buyer beware: Cobb had a nice return after missing nearly two full seasons, going 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA for the Rays. His strikeout rate, which peaked at 23.2 percent in 2013, was down to 17.3 percent, however, and his ground ball rate was down 8 percent from his pre-surgery numbers.  [espn.com]

A South Philly reunion?

Jim Salisbury | NBC Sports Philadelphia

If the Phillies don't land a big-name free-agenet pitcher this winter, Klentak could opt to wait until the trade deadline. And if that happens, as Jim Salisbury points out, there may be a familiar name on the market...

Prices for top young starting pitchers like Gerrit Cole and Chris Archer are exorbitant and would put a gaping hole in the Phillies' young core. It's possible that the Phillies will make only a modest addition to the rotation before spring training while gearing up for a July strike on the trade market. If the Texas Rangers fall out of the race, keep an eye on Cole Hamels. Both sides would have interest in a reunion someday.

"We're going to try to add the best pitcher we can," Klentak said. "But the trade market is very expensive for young, controllable starters. The free-agent market for the better starters is expensive in its own way. There's a balancing act here. If you look at our rosters, not only at the big-league level but also at Triple A and Double A, we have a lot of starting pitching prospects and players who are close to big-league ready, and we need to make sure they continue to get those reps and innings that they need to develop to succeed at this level. But at the same time, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to win Week 1 of the regular season next year."  [nbcsports.com]

Christian Yelich is still available

Joe Giglio | NJ.com

The Phillies have been tied to Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich since before Derek Jeter turned the organization into a furniture store undergoing liquidation. 


But after several head-scratching moves from Miami, including dealing slugger Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees last month, it appears the Phillies are still interested, despite already having complicated their outfield situation by signing Carlos Santana to a big deal (and presumably moving Rhys Hoskins to the outfield.

Yelich, owed a total of $58.25M over the next five seasons if a 2022 option is picked up, is one of baseball's most promising young players. The Marlins outfielder is coming off a .282/.369/.439 season that equated out to a 117 OPS+. Since becoming a regular in 2014, Yelich's OPS+ sits at 121.

If the Phillies landed Yelich, the picture of a relentless offense would begin to emerge at Citizens Bank Park. Only 40 hitters in MLB had OBP marks over .360 last year. Rhys Hoskins, newly-minted Phillie Carlos Santana, Yelich, and Cesar Hernandez made up 10 percent of that list.  [nj.com]

In terms of prospects the Phillies could send back to the Marlins, Sixto Sanchez, Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford are likely the three most-coveted names. But assuming they're considered untouchable, what could the Phillies give up for Yelich? 

Along with pitcher Adonis Medina and catcher Jorge Alfaro, Joe also mentions a recent No. 1-overall pick that could be on the block:

Mickey Moniak: Medina's Lakewood teammate. Moniak has fallen on prospect lists since the Phillies made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft. Still, we're talking about a player that was compared to Jacoby Ellsbury and called a potential "great" by prospect gurus. Will open the 2018 season as a 19-year-old.  [nj.com]

Would Yelich actually be an upgrade?

John Stolnis | The Good Phight

There's no doubt that adding Yelich to the Phillies lineup would make it more dangerous than its been in years, but is it worth it, especially considering what it would mean for the development of the organization's other young outfielders.

But would Yelich be an upgrade over what the Phillies already have? In some ways yes, and in some ways, not really.


 Above are the 2017 stats of the Phils’ four outfielders and Yelich and, as you can see, Yelich’s fWAR was far and away better than anyone else’s. Aside from Hoskins, he has the best on-base percentage of the group, he scored 100 runs last season, and his 11.5% walk rate was better than Herrera’s (5.5%), Williams’ (5.8%) and Altherr’s (7.8%). Only Hoskins’ was better (17.5%) and he only played 50 games. Yelich also strikes out at a lesser rate than the Phils’ four outfielders, just 19.7% of the time. That’s compared to Hoskins (21.7%), Herrera (22.4%), Altherr (25.2%) and Williams (28.3%).  [thegoodphight.com]

Some minor moves

Chris Cotillo | SB Nation

The Phillies reportedly signed a pair of players to minor-league contracts on Tuesday (or are at least close to doing so).

3B Will Middlebrooks

Free-agent third baseman Will Middlebrooks is likely to sign a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Middlebrooks played in only 22 games in the majors for the Rangers last year and hit just .211 with no home runs and three RBI in 38 at-bats. Since hitting a career-high 17 dingers in 2013 with the Red Sox, Middlebrooks has fallen off the map entirely and was a bust in San Diego and Milwaukee. He'll simply provide corner infield depth for the Phils.  [rotoballer.com]

RHP Steve Geltz

After latching on with the Dodgers prior to the 2017 campaign, Geltz proceeded to spend the entire season in the minors, posting a respectable 2.67 ERA and 29:12 K:BB across 27 innings of relief. He hasn't pitched in the majors since 2016 -- when he posted a 5.74 ERA across 26.2 innings with the Rays before being designated for assignment -- and figures to spend the year as organizational bullpen depth for the Phillies.  [cbssports.com]

UPDATE

The Phillies have confirmed that in addition to Middlebrooks and Geltz, they have also signed eight other players to minor-league deals with invitations to spring training as non-roster invitees. 

They are: RHP Pedro Beato, INF Pedro Florimón, C Eric Fryer, C/1B/OF Matt McBride (a Bethlehem, Pa. native), INF Heiker Meneses, C Logan Moore, OF Danny Ortiz, and INF Mitch Walding.


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