The MLB offseason is set to pick up once the Winter Meetings begin on Monday in Las Vegas. Matt Klentak and the Phillies brass are expected to be active with this being the organization’s most important offseason in a decade.
With the team being connected to so many players via both free agency and trade, here’s my prediction for how the winter will play out:
I wouldn’t say the team signing Harper is a foregone conclusion, but I think it’s pretty close.
No team has as deep of pockets or the desire to add a superstar that the Phillies do—truth be told, there’s no reason that the team shouldn’t be the highest bidder here. If that’s the case, the only way we don’t land Harper is if another team is able to convince him to take less money & years. The reason I have so much confidence that won’t happen is because, regardless of how you look at it, no organization can make a better pitch.
The team has an exciting young nucleus, and management has made clear their desire to win and win now. No team is positioned to spend more money than the Phillies over the next few off seasons, and the fan base is ripe to embrace a star in red pinstripes.
Unlike in New York or Chicago, Harper doesn’t need to worry about being overshadowed by stars already consuming the market; while it may seem silly, from a personal branding perspective this variable is very much in play (and in the Phillies favor).
With that being said, Harper has some leverage here which means he can afford to play the long game. For that reason, I think he’ll easily squeeze at least $40 million annually and a 10-year commitment.
The team missed out on Patrick Corbin but their desire to add a top end left-handed starter persists. A name that is now being linked to the team that I always felt was the most likely addition is Dallas Kuechel.
The 2015 AL Cy Young winner posted a 3.74 ERA last season and is probably the second best pitcher on the market behind Corbin. Despite him being 31 years old, his pitching profile is that of a player who should maintain his effectiveness late into his career.
Any concerns over committing long term could be mitigated by offering a larger annual payout over less seasons—something they proved open to with Arietta’s contract.
Kuechel would likely slot in as the team’s #2 starter behind Nola, with Arietta #3.
We know the front office will look to add at least one reliever, and my guess is they add two (on top of Pazos and Nicasio, whom were part of the Segura deal).
I have a hard time gauging Miller’s value because of his age and recent injuries. Not too long ago he was a multi-inning nightmare out of the pen, and nearly unhittable to lefties. From 2014-17 he appeared in 260 games posting an ERA of 1.72 and 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Those are some incredible numbers and a few injury-plagued months of bad baseball isn’t an indictment on his ability.
The front office should be willing take a gamble that Miller can return to form. This is another player who can be overpaid on a short term deal given his age.
He would obviously satisfy their need for a lefty out of the pen other than Adam Morgan. Kapler would have the option of using him in the closer role—although that isn’t much more than a nominal tag with the way he utilizes his bullpen. Or Kapler could chose to use him as a “fireman” and slot Seranthony (or another free agent) in at closer.
The team is a near lock to add another reliever this offseason, and given the amount of money available for them to spend they shouldn’t stop there.
The current bullpen—contrary to popular belief—is actually pretty good. But a common thread between recent World Series champions/contenders is having elite relief pitching. First the Royals in 2014 & ‘15, the Indians in 2016 & ‘17, and now the Astros, Yankees, and Cubs have engaged in the arms race.
Kapler likes to utilize his pen early & often, and while they haven’t been explicit in their plans, I think the Kapler-Klentak brain trust is fully committed to building an elite bullpen.
Britton is another reliever with a strong track record both as a closer and set up man. He’s just two years removed from a 2016 where he lead the league in saves (47) and posted an ERA of 0.54.
After an injury-plagued 2018 produced a 3.10 ERA, he isn’t the sexiest name on the market. But at 31 years old there’s no reason he couldn’t post all-star numbers again throughout his career.
As another left-handed arm the team would be free to use Miller however they please, and Britton could even assume the ninth inning role in order to free Kapler up to use Seranthony and Miller however he pleases.
There seems to be mixed rumors on the teams desire to bring back Ramos.
While some people felt Ramos’ performance when healthy was enough for the team to bring him back, others suggest his injury history is enough for the Phillies to stay out of what appears to be a fair market ($10-12 million per year).
I’ve always belonged to the latter camp—that he won’t return—but circumstances have caused that to change, and I anticipate the same change of heart to happen in the front office.
With the team set at 1B, SS, presumably 2B, and OF (after adding Harper); 3B and catcher are the only avenues for improving offensive production. With Josh Donaldson already off the market, and Machado more likely to sign elsewhere, outside of a trade there are no more free agents at third who are an obvious upgrade from Maikel Franco.
Mike Moustakas—who has been linked to Philly since the trade deadline—provides a great clubhouse presence with a more proven track record. But his numbers last season were no better than Franco’s, and his best days are likely behind him. Franco stays.
This leaves catcher as the best opportunity to upgrade our offense merely as a product of circumstance. I think the fact that the team likes Alfaro means they should be more comfortable taking a gamble on an injury-prone slugger at a position where plate production has increased value.
Additionally, anyone who thinks a $40 million dollar contract is a deterrent to this front office hasn’t been paying attention. Not only are they willing to spend (perhaps recklessly) but they clearly have full confidence in their ability to shed bad contracts, as proved by their ability to unload Carlos Santana while also securing value in return (that trade was a huge win for Klentak).
The Indians have starting pitching—which the Phillies need—and the Phillies have outfielders—which the Indians need. While the team could try to get bigger names on Cleveland like Kluber or Bauer, Carrasco is more affordable
With the team potentially adding Kuechel, there’s simply no need to trade valuable assets for more starting pitching. And Carrasco has quietly been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball; over 131 starts from 2014-2018, he’s 68-43 with a 3.27 ERA. Not bad.
A package would likely include a mid-tier prospect, one of our outfielders—Quin or Williams—and one of our back end starters—possibly Eflin or Eickhoff.
If you’re keeping track, that’s $108 million worth of additions on top of their current $76 million payroll. After a few depth additions their payroll would be somewhere around $190 million—just under the luxury tax. That may sound like a lot of money to throw around, but ownership is more than willing to spend that and then some.
Signed as free agent = green
Re-signed = blue
Traded for = red
C – Wilson Ramos
1B – Rhys Hoskins
2B – Scott Kingery
3B – Maikel Franco
SS – Jean Segura
LF – Nick Williams
CF – Odubel Herrera
RF – Bryce Harper
#1 – Aaron Nola
#2 – Dallas Kuechel
#3 – Jake Arietta
#4 – Carlos Carrasco
#5 – Nick Pivetta/Vince Velasquez
CL – Zac Britton
SU – Seranthony Dominguez
RP – Andrew Miller
RP – Victor Arano
RP – Edubray Ramos
RP – Pat Neshek
RP – Tommy Hunter
RP – Adam Morgan
The way I look at it, that’s a top-three rotation and a top-five bullpen on paper.
While adding Harper, Segura, and re-signing Ramos may not be the offensive wave many hoped for, it’s a clear upgrade. If either of Franco, Williams, Herrera, or Kingery were to struggle at the plate in 2019 I would bet that Klentak will be aggressive in replacing them at the trade deadline.
While the offseason could go in a number of different directions, we’ll have a much clearer picture after the Winter Meetings begin on Monday.