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December 24, 2019

What they're saying: Making sense of the Phillies' current rotation, bullpen

Most of the big names (except for Josh Donaldson) are off the board and the Phillies will have to explore the trade market if they intend to do any more big-time roster reshaping ahead of the 2020 season.

In contrast to last Christmastime, when Phillies fans really had no idea what their team would look like when spring training started, there is more than a little analysis that can be drawn from the moves and current construction of the 40-man roster.

And so, as we like to do, we scoured the internet to find the most interesting takeaways from the experts who have been paying very close attention all offseason. Here's our holiday version of "What they're saying about the Phillies":

Rotation construction

Paul Boye | The Good Phight

The Phillies rotation has taken shape this offseason, but some big questions remain. Will they sign a Jason Vargas type to give depth and more competition for the fourth and fifth starter spots? Will they give a realistic look at Spencer Howard — their top pitching prospect — as a major league arm in spring training? Who would fill out the rotation, should the team refrain from making anymore moves? Paul Boye at The Good Phight tried to answer some of these questions:

Nola, Wheeler, and Arrieta are assured rotation spots on Opening Day. Eflin leads the race for the fourth spot, but doesn’t hold an ironclad guarantee. Pivetta and Velasquez will probably duke it out for the last spot, with the loser destined for some kind of strange limbo. 

Pivetta has the best chance of being a steady reliever if we’re only focusing on his stuff, but he hasn’t been a fan of the role. His curveball gives him a plus secondary pitch to go with his fastball, at least when it’s working, but his inability to use it effectively against LHB remains an issue no matter the amount of exposure. Velasquez is someone fans have long envisioned to be a reliever, but his inconsistent performance there in a nine-game cameo stretch last season left something to be desired, his decent ERA offset by allowing 2 of 6 inherited runners to score and permitting a .280/.367/.400 line over his last seven relief appearances (which even omits a disastrous outing immediately preceding that run). It’s also tough to envision Velasquez enjoying long-term relief success when his main problems (command and homer-prone stuff) aren’t typically things that get solved by a move to full-time relief. 

One of them will not start the year in the rotation. Barring an injury, sudden shift to a six-man rotation, or piggybacking the two of them in one rotation spot, one of them will either be a reliever or be sent to Lehigh. The implications there are fairly far-reaching.  [The Good Phight]

Still shopping

Jon Heyman | MLB Network

If reporting from Heyman is to be believed, the above analysis may not be totally complete. Here's what the MLB network insider had to say Monday about the Phillies, as Ryu Hyun Jin signed with the Blue Jays:

The names he mentioned are pretty intriguing, though Happ is pretty old. A lot of the players tagged by Heyman's report are under contract with teams — like Marcus Stroman or or Chris Archer — which, as we said at the top of this article, means the trade market is where the talent lies now. The Phillies will kick the tires on all leads, but it's unclear how aggressive they're willing to be on the trade market this yeas as they, obviously, have yet to participate in it.

Bully pulpit

Megan Montemurro | The Athletic

The Phillies bullpen was the 14th best in baseball last season — which may not sound too bad on paper. However, it could have and should have been better, and could have been the difference between contending for the playoffs and finishing at .500. The revolving door of injuries made it impossible for the unit to assume comfortable roles and gain consistency, which is something they'll strive to have in 2020. 

Here's more on that topic from The Athletic:

Unless ownership reverses course and tells the front office otherwise, the Phillies are expected to stay under the luxury-tax threshold entering the season. With roughly $6 million to spare, they’ll likely use internal options to fill key bullpen spots because of their self-imposed financial limitations. 
Besides Neris and Álvarez, manager Joe Girardi will count on three relievers who saw their seasons end early because of elbow injuries — Adam Morgan, Seranthony Domínguez and Víctor Arano – and potentially starters-turned-relievers (Ranger Suárez and Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta, depending on the expected battle for the fifth rotation spot). Add in a veteran reliever on a big-league camp invite and/or depth from the upper levels of the minors. This is the Phillies’ general blueprint. GM Matt Klentak acknowledged there is some risk in planning to rely on a trio coming off elbow injuries but explained that “every offseason involves calculated gambles.” 
There is a lot of uncertainty, though. The front office could still acquire more impactful bullpen arms, but it would probably necessitate ownership allowing the club to exceed the luxury-tax limit. Perhaps the Phillies flip someone like Pivetta for a more experienced reliever with a couple remaining seasons of team control. At this point, though, the Phillies are going with internal options. Injuries decimated the bullpen this past season, and they must hope to avoid another debilitating blow. It would not be a surprise to see them rotate through a variety of relievers, shuttling pitchers back and forth from Triple-A Lehigh Valley.  [The Athletic]

Bullish on Bohm?

Scott Lauber | Philadelphia Inquirer

There seems to be a whole lot riding on Alec Bohm this offseason, as his future role on the team could be the keystone to unlocking the success of the Phillies roster. He's been criticized for his footwork at third base, but the team seems committed to letting him develop there. Here's more from Lauber, who spoke to a scout with some well-seasoned opinion about the Phils former first rounder:

Put aside, for the moment, that the Phillies need Bohm, prized pitcher Spencer Howard and center fielder Adam Haseley to join Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery as homegrown figures in a rebuilding project that has centered around mostly trades and high-priced signings. There's risk in betting on Bohm in an offseason when so many free-agent third-base options existed, the Chicago Cubs' tires can be kicked on Kris Bryant's availability, and Klentak has declared that it's "time to win." 
The Phillies’ faith in Bohm led them to pass on free agents Mike Moustakas and Anthony Rendon after they didn’t offer a contract last month to Maikel Franco, the opening-day third baseman for the last four years. They haven’t aggressively pursued Josh Donaldson, either. Instead, they signed veteran shortstop Didi Gregorius to a one-year, $14 million contract with the intention of moving either Kingery or Jean Segura to third base until Bohm is ready to come up. 
The most common criticism of Bohm is his footwork. He appears to have the arm strength for third base. But while one of the NL talent evaluators who saw Bohm at Reading and later in the fall league reported that his “reactions and footwork are still inconsistent,” another posited that he “lacks agility.” 
I think he can stay at third base if he works really hard at it,” the second evaluator said. “His bat won’t play regularly at first base for me. He’s kind of a Wilmer Flores type. []

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