Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Roster Is Slowly Taking Shape


Approaching The Tender Deadline – The Phillies entered the offseason with seven players eligible for salary arbitration. They entered Tuesday with four. The Phillies have until 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday to tender contracts to right-handers Jeremy Hellickson and Jeanmar Gomez and infielders Freddy Galvis and Andres Blanco. Hellickson, Gomez and Galvis seem like certainties to be tendered, while Blanco is a possibility to be non-tendered. The Phillies acquired Hellickson in a trade with Arizona. He will be in the rotation on Opening Day. Gomez proved to be one of the Phils' most effective relievers last season, with a 3.01 ERA in 65 appearances, and it is no secret they remain starved for pitching depth. Galvis will be Philadelphia's Opening Day shortstop, although it will be interesting to see whether top prospect J.P. Crawford can make a case to be promoted and usurp Galvis sometime next year. Blanco had a strong season in a reserve role, hitting .292 with an .863 OPS in 261 plate appearances. He also proved to be a strong leader and positive influence in the clubhouse. But in the end, Blanco is a reserve, so the Phillies could non-tender him and try to re-sign him at a lower cost.

A Full Roster Of Questions – The Phillies won't sign any big-name free agents because they aren't likely to contend next year, but what's wrong with being better than they would be without adding a free agent? Perhaps they could catch lightning in a bottle like the Astros did last season? -- Bruce L., Philadelphia. Fans keep asking why the Phillies don't sign two or three stud free agents (i.e. Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke, etc.) to really kick the rebuild into high gear. I understand the question, but the idea just doesn't make sense to me. You just saw how many problems the Phillies had in trading players like Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Jonathan Papelbon because of their salaries. They still can't move Ryan Howard, despite concerted efforts. Now fans want the Phillies, who just dug themselves from that deep hole, to reinvest hundreds of millions of dollars into two or three new free agents? If for some reason the Phillies' top young prospects don't pan out, then the club is right back where it started. But what about some solid mid-tier free agents instead? The Phillies have been down that road, too. Remember 2014, when they signed Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett? How did that work out? Not so well. Listen, plugging a couple of holes with a few mid-tier free agents or making a big splash with a few studs is not the right course of action. Let's see how top prospects J.P. Crawford, Jake Thompson, Nick Williams, Andrew Knapp, Jorge Alfaro, etc., develop first. Patience, everybody. What is the status of Matt Harrison? Does he fit into the Phillies' 2016 plans? -- John D., Downingtown, Pa. As Wednesday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline to tender contracts to unsigned players approaches, Harrison is one of only three Phillies currently signed through 2016. Howard and Carlos Ruiz are the others. I said in last week's Inbox that for the first time I'm not sure which way the Phillies will go with Howard, although moving on seems best for both parties. I think Ruiz has a good chance to return, despite a drop in production. Harrison joined the Phillies in July in the Hamels trade, essentially as a way for the Rangers to offset the remainder of Hamels' contract. He has back issues, and he had no chance of pitching for the Phillies last season. It seems unlikely he will pitch next season for the Phillies, either, as there is just no talk about him fitting into the rotation, which one assumes is because of his health. But if anybody is concerned about the Phillies committing payroll space to a pitcher who can't pitch, don't fret too much. The Phillies received the Rangers' insurance policy on Harrison's deal, so they will recoup some of the $28 million he is owed through 2017: $13 million each of the next two seasons, plus $2 million on a 2018 club option. Any chance Shane Victorino returns to the Phillies as a free agent? -- Matt G., Philadelphia. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and Victorino developed a good friendship during their short time together last season with the Angels, but I'm not sure Victorino fits into their current plans. While it would be great to have Victorino back in a Phillies uniform -- I enjoyed covering Victorino during his time in Philly -- I think the Phillies are trying to move past 2008 as much as possible.

The Phillies finally put an end to the season finishing in last place in the NL East with a record of 63-99. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances, this has ended up being one of the worst seasons in franchise history! However, at least Ryan Madson got another ring this year.

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