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December 07, 2017

#PhilsQuestions: On trading infielders, Rule 5 predictions, expectations for Kapler, and more

The offseason is already two months old and spring training is only about two months away. How did that happen so fast?

It’s been a relatively quiet winter so far in baseball. Perhaps things will pick up next week when all of the sports' movers and shakers will be at the same place at the same time: the Winter Meetings get underway on Monday at Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Fla.

RELATED: A trio of names for the final vacancy on the Phillies coaching staff

Maybe the Phillies will make a trade to clear up their crowded infield or perhaps they’ll be in on a free agent pitcher to stabilize a starting rotation that’s pretty uncertain after Aaron Nola. Next week should be fun for the hot stove’s rumor mill if nothing else.

I won’t be there. But I’m here now to answer your Phillies questions, so long as you have a Twitter account, saw my tweet yesterday, and responded with the hashtag #PhilsQuestions, of course.

So let’s do this.

Steve Potter (@JpoppaCool) asks: Who do you think are likely candidates the Phillies lose in the rule 5 draft?

I feel like this has to be the year another team takes a chance on Carlos Tocci.

Yes, it feels like Tocci has been in the Phillies system forever, perhaps because he was a highly-regarded prospect from the time he arrived in the system as a 16-year-old Venezuelan. Well, he’s 22-years-old now, has some experience at Triple-A, and put up some strong numbers in 113 games at Double-A last season (.307, .362 OBP).

Tocci won’t ever be a slugger. But he is an elite defender in center field with a plus hit contact tool. Sounds a little like Ender Inciarte.

Coincidentally, Tocci is the same age now (22) as both Inciarte and Odubel Herrera were when they were selected by the Phillies in the Rule 5 Draft. And unlike his fellow countrymen at the time of their selections, Tocci has already graduated to Triple-A and would seem to be a bit more of a known commodity if a team has interest in seeing if he can win a major league spot in spring training.

Similarly, 24-year-old Andrew Pullin is a guy I’d consider taking a shot on if I was an opposing scout/general manager. And you also can’t rule out Brandon Liebrandt, since left-handers seem to be popular in the Rule 5 Draft, which takes place next Thursday at the Winter Meetings.

Daniel Shirley (@DM_Shirley) asks: What is the starting lineup to open next season?

Do I want to commit to this one just yet? I feel like there’s still going to be some movement by the Phillies this offseason via trade. They simply have too many infielders at every position other than third base.

But if Opening Day were tomorrow and they had to draw up a lineup? I know that wasn’t your question, but let’s just do that, OK?

I’d go like this:

2B Cesar Hernandez
CF Odubel Herrera
1B Rhys Hoskins
LF Nick Williams
RF Aaron Altherr
3B Maikel Franco
SS J.P. Crawford
C Jorge Alfaro

I’m obviously a huge fan of Freddy Galvis’ glove. But I think the new coaching staff, which has zero ties to Galvis, will be ready to move onto the man many believe is the future of the franchise at shortstop.

Alex Krul Jr. (@hawkstorm55) asks: Better chance, Galvis goes to SD or Franco goes anywhere?

I think this is a pretty easy one. Yes, Franco is a bigger trade chip with the higher upside. He’s only entering his first year of arbitration and the Phillies have four more years of control of Franco before he’s eligible to become a free agent. Another team would love to acquire that kind of player: inexpensive, under control for a while, talent with upside. If you’re trying to trade for a proven pitcher, that’s decent bait.

But, Galvis is a free agent after the 2018 season. And the Phillies have a ready-made replacement already on the roster in J.P. Crawford. So, yes, I think it’s more likely Galvis is traded (I’m not sure if it has to be San Diego, as Alex is suggesting, but I think there’d be teams interested in one of the game’s best defenders at shortstop) than that the Phillies give up on Franco just yet.

Although the Phillies don’t have a replacement for Franco, you could argue that if they did trade him, they could use some combination of Crawford, Galvis and infield prospect Scott Kingery at the position next year (with guys like Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson on the free agent market next winter). Still, I don’t think they’re trading Franco this winter.

Cale Ahearn (@caleahearn11) asks: What are the chances that Galvis or Hernandez are moved during the Winter Meetings?

I’m sensing a theme here. But yes, it makes sense to shop your older (and it should be noted neither are that old) infielders when you have guys like Crawford and Kingery here or near the big leagues.

Do I think either move in a deal next week? I’ll say no, only because there’s been so little movement league-wide so far this winter. And if the Giancarlo Stanton trade or Shohei Ohtani signing is holding up the industry (although, finally, we had a major move Thursday evening when the Mariners traded for Dee Gordon), maybe we have to wait some more if neither of those major dominoes falls before the meetings begin on Monday.

But, let’s get back to that parenthetical phrase in the last sentence for a second. With Gordon moving, there’s one less second baseman available for teams interested acquiring one this winter. Maybe this heats up a team’s interest in Hernandez?

Still, a team like, say the Los Angeles Angels, could wait to move on Hernandez after seeing whether or not they’re able to land a big fish like Ohtani. So I’ll say any trade of a Phillies infielder could gain momentum next week, but won’t happen (if it happens at all) until sometime later this month at the earliest.

Tim Godfrey (@tsgodfrey) asks: We’ve heard about the guys most likely to be moved, Galvis and Hernandez, but is there a player on this roster that you think could be moved but isn’t being talked about? Maybe someone surprising.

I guess I’d just say that I don’t see any untouchables anywhere on the roster or in the system. And I’d want to correct myself and say that, no the Phillies aren’t trading Rhys Hoskins or Sixto Sanchez, but if the best player in baseball were made available in a trade tomorrow, those guys are not off limits, either.

Do I think the Phillies will make a surprising trade? I guess I wouldn’t rule it out since pitching remains a big need and no matter how much they like the younger arms on the farm like Sanchez (who is still a couple-three years away), there’s no can’t-miss or proven arm ready to join Nola in the rotation in 2018 (and maybe not even in 2019).

You need to give up something to get something in a trade. If you’re interested in trading for a younger top-of-the-rotation-type starter under contract, you’re going to have to give up a good deal more than Freddy Galvis. So any of those young infielders you really, really like or any of the outfielders here or in Lehigh Valley would have to at least be considered if you’re in the market for, say, a Chris Archer or a Gerrit Cole or a Carlos Carrasco or a Julio Teheran.

Julian Lutz (@Jlutz36) asks: What do you predict will happen with (Cameron) Rupp, (Tommy) Joseph, Hernandez, and Galvis by Opening Day?

OK, I’m going to do this strictly off the top of my head without really thinking too much. Ready?

Traded away, on the Phillies bench, traded away, in a utility role with the Phillies.

I think there’s reason to believe the Phillies could take advantage of some of their depth of position players (particularly if they decide to get in the market for a guy like Carlos Santana) by doing what the Dodgers, Cubs, and Astros have done in recent seasons: shuttling guys around to different positions throughout the season to increase opportunities and keep fresher legs around for the duration of the season as you evaluate your talent.

Sam McClafferty (@camashta4) asks: Do you think (Gabe) Kapler will have success? I don’t, more because of (Matt) Klentak not getting good players.

So I guess answering this depends on what we all regard as success. Does that mean the Phillies have to have a winning record in 2018? Does it mean, say, in a three-year window since Kapler is a first-year manager and we probably can’t grade him on his first season alone to define success?

I’m going to go with the latter in answering this question. I don’t think the Phillies will make enough roster changes this winter to warrant a dramatic change in win-loss record (they lost 90 games in 2017).

It’s not a terribly impressive free agent market this year and they have enough payroll flexibility to be the darling of next year’s much more attractive free agent market. The timing should work out better for that, too, because the Phils will have another year (the 2018 season) to evaluate the younger players on their roster (Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr, Jorge Alfaro, etc.) to see how or whether they fit into their future plans.

Since I do believe the Phillies will be big spenders next winter, and I think there’s reason to like some of the young talent already on the roster and some of the pitchers coming up through the farm system in the next two years, I’ll say that, yes, I think Kapler will have success. I just don’t think it’ll come in 2018.

@MisterZoomer asks: I’m sad. Are you sad?

Yes and no, I guess. Ten years is a pretty good run.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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