3 Areas of weakness for the Phillies to focus on this offseason

With news of Matt Klentak stepping down, former assistant general manager Ned Rice was named the interim GM for the foreseeable future. Due to reports surfacing that John Middleton will take his time making any decision about who will run his team (I’m definitely #TeamTheo right now), Rice seems to have a good shot of staying as GM for longer than interims usually do.

The offseason doesn’t wait for anyone, especially in the year 2020. What typically is a stretched out over a longer period will be condensed due to the pandemic, meaning Rice will have little prep time to figure out roster needs for the 2021 season.

After the performance of this Phillies in 2020, quick turnaround mixed with new leadership does not bode well. Nevertheless, the show must go on. Here are four the Phillies need to make during the 2020-2021 offseason.

Bullpen, Bullpen, and Bullpen

I think this was a pretty easy hole to find.

The Phillies bullpen this season was historically bad, finishing the 2020 season with an ERA over 7.00. Klentak failed to address the issue for the last two offseasons, so he went out and acquired a gauntlet of veteran relievers at the deadline thinking it would fix the problem. Wouldn’t you know, but throwing four crappy pitchers (David Hale, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman, and David Phelps) at the problem will only make it worse. Out of those four mentioned, I don’t think Workman, Phelps or Hale will be back. Hembree could be back just because a controllable arm that throws 96 isn’t bad to have, but his elbow injury could be serious.

Like Phelps, I think it is entirely possible that Hector Neris will have his option declined. However, even if his option is declined, Neris will still be under control via arbitration, so it’s more than likely he will be here for less than the $7 million he is currently scheduled to make. The one player I think the Phillies need to resign his Jose Alvarez. Alvarez has been arguably the most consistent and productive pitcher out of the Phillies bullpen the last two years, and was carrying the bullpen until getting hit in the groin with a 105.3 mph line drive off the bat of Lourdes Gurriel, Jr.

It seems likely that the team will have to acquire multiple pitchers this offseason to improve on the performance in 2020. Players like Shane Greene, Liam Hendriks, or Tony Watson would comprise a good nucleus with the aforementioned Neris and Alvarez, along with young kids like JoJo Romero and Connor Brogdon who have shown they can have roles in a MLB bullpen.

Starting Pitching Depth

The Phillies came into 2020 with two pitchers on the staff that they could rely on in Aaron Nola and 2019-2020 offseason acquisition Zack Wheeler. If there was a consolation prize to the 2020 season, it was the way that Zack Eflin evolved into a potential No. 3 starter. While he has always had the potential, it seemed that Gabe Kapler and Co. wanted Eflin to rely on his four seamer up in the zone as opposed using his sinker in the bottom of the zone. In 2020, Eflin brought the sinker back, along with his two seamer, and started using his curveball to generate strikeouts. He was as confident as he has ever been during the month of September and I, for one, am a believer he can carry that over to next season.

After three dismal years in Philadelphia, Jake ‘The Snake’ Arrieta is finally finished his contract. Makes you wonder why the Phillies didn’t go all in on Yu Darvish instead of signing both Arrieta and Carlos Santana. With the expiration of Snake’s contract, the Phillies should be in the market for another starting pitcher this offseason. A pitcher of the ilk of Kevin Gausman or Taijuan Walker would be interesting to slot into this rotation. If you think Vince Velazquez deserves another shot in the rotation, there are your five starters. I don’t think I can give Velasquez another shot, so I am going to slot him in the bullpen next season and let Ranger Suarez take a crack at the No. 5 starter spot. And we can’t forget about Spencer Howard either. If he takes a leap in development this offseason, Howard is a prime candidate to be the fourth or fifth starter in this bunch.

A rotation of Nola, Wheeler, Eflin, Walker/Gausman and Suarez/Howard will be pretty competitive, especially if they do make the necessary moves in the bullpen.

Starting Catcher

For anyone who is reading this, there is only one answer to this hole.

For the love of all things holy, please Ned Rice! Sign JT Realmuto.

When the trade was made to bring Realmuto to South Philly, it was made with the belief that a long-term extension between the two parties would be able to be worked out. There was plenty of time and it seemed like motivation was present on both sides to get the deal done. As late as this March, the two sides seemed intent on completing a deal that would have made JT the highest paid catcher in the history of the game, a well deserved feat for decisively the best catcher in the game today. The pandemic came, however, and seemed more likely than not that Realmuto would be testing the free agent waters instead of locking in a long-term deal prior to reaching the open market.

Not only would it be a disappointment if he left, but the Phillies had to give up Sixto Sanchez in the deal to acquire him, and it seems that Sanchez is going to be a legit ace in this league for a long, long time.

There is no question about it, the trade is already a loss due to Sanchez’s talent and youth, but a lost trade while getting the best catcher in baseball isn’t much of a loss. However, the trade goes from a loss to a complete disaster if JT walks and joins another organization this offseason. Every team in baseball who doesn’t have a bonafide starting catcher will be chomping at the bit to talk to Realmuto, but I don’t see a team outbidding the Phillies for him, outside maybe the Mets with new mega owner Steve Cohen.

The motivation to make a deal happen between both parties just didn’t disappear. While there is definitely ground between parties that will need to made up, there is enough common ground to get the deal done.

Phillies fans are already trying to make arguments based on having no confidence in the Phillies front office, but John Middleton did open his wallet for Wheeler and Harper. It’s not like he hasn’t signed big name free agents prior to 2020. With the way Bryce has been steadfast in pushing for the Phillies to reup with Realmuto, I would be shocked if it didn’t happen at some point this offseason. There is no way you are going to upset your best player.

There can’t be a shot that the Phillies let the best catcher in baseball walk, right?

I would love the Phillies to make some improvements to the bench, namely a No. 4/No. 5 outfielder with some pop, but isn’t nearly as important as the other three holes they need to fill.

When the Phillies signed Bryce, they put a time frame on their window of opportunity. Big moves are required to keep us on that current pace.

Welcome to Philadelphia, Ned Rice.

Now, and I say this with the utmost respect, get to work.

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