After a disappointing end to a very promising start in the 2018 season the Phillies are focused on the off-season where they look to be major players for some of the most exciting players on the market. Free agency officially begins Saturday November 3rd and two of the players we know the Phillies are interest in are Nationals OF Bryce Harper and Dodgers SS Manny Machado. The Phillies have been linked to both players for most of the 2018 season. Even with Machado’s antics in the NLCS against the Brewers and in the World Series against the Red Sox the Phillies still look to be very much in on Machado according to Fancred Sports’ Jon Heyman. Who wouldn’t want to add a former MVP (Harper) or a power hitting SS who is also a great defender (Machado) to their roster? There is also a very real possibility that the Phillies don’t land either one of Harper or Machado. Even if the Phillies do land one of them (or both) there are still other holes on the roster that need to be filled. In no particular order, here are 10 other players that I think should be on the Phillies radar.
1. Rockies RHP Adam Ottavino (FA)
Gabe Kapler likes to use his bullpen in the highest leverage situations. The problem is the Phillies bullpen is filled with pitchers who are very inconsistent. Outside of Pat Neshek, there was not a Phillies reliever who could be relied upon from the beginning of the season to the end of the season to get outs when they need it most. Even Serathony Dominquez saw his fair share of ups and downs this season. Insert Rockies RP Adam Ottavino. Ottavino was a key cog in the Rockies bullpen that helped them reach the playoffs for the second consecutive season. In 2018, Ottavino pitched to a 2.43 ERA and held opponents to a .154 AVG in 77.2 IP. Ottavino’s 12.98 K/9 was also good for 11th among all relievers and his 2.0 FanGraphs’s WAR (fWAR) ranked 7th according to FanGraph’s. Ottavino would bring some much needed depth to the back-end of the Phillies bullpen.
2. Indians OF Michael Brantley (FA)
After battling both shoulder and ankle issues in 2016 and 2017 Michael Brantley bounced back with a solid campaign in 2018 that landed him an All-Star game appearance. Brantley slashed .309/.364/.468 in 2018 with 17 HR and 76 RBI. Brantley’s 3.5 fWAR and his 123 OPS+ both ranked 3rd on the Indians, only behind Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor. With the Phillies looking like they will move Rhys Hoskins back to first base and question marks with the rest of the outfield the Phillies could use an outfield bat. If the Phillies miss out on Bryce Harper, Michael Brantley is the next best free agent option. Brantley isn’t going to hit 30 homers every year but he puts the ball in play, will hit plenty of doubles, and will play adequate defense in the outfield.
3. D-Backs OF David Peralta (Trade)
David Peralta really broke out for the D-Backs in 2018. Peralta slashed .293/.352/.516 and hit 30 HR along with 87 RBI. The D-Backs finished 82-80 and missed the playoffs in 2018 even after leading the NL West on the first day of every month of the season. So the Phillies were not the only team that fell apart down the stretch. AJ Pollock and Patrick Corbin are both free agents this winter and Paul Goldschmidt next winter so the D-Backs could look to off load some pieces. After his breakout campaign in 2018 and he is not a free agent until after the 2020 season the price for Peralta won’t be cheap. The Phillies have the prospects to make a deal like this happen and Peralta would be a massive upgrade in an outfield with a lot of question marks.
4. Giants SP Madison Bumgarner (Trade)
The Giants had a the second highest payroll in baseball in 2018 at $205,665,348 million according to Spotrac, which was only behind the Boston Red Sox. The Giants finished in 4th place in the NL West and tied with the Blue Jays for the 9th worst record in baseball at 73-89. The Giants also fired long time GM Bobby Evans after the season was over. They have an aging roster with one of the worst prospect systems in baseball. The Giants are in a bad spot and Madison Bumgarner is a free agent after the 2019 season. The new GM could look to trade Bumgarner to start off a Giants rebuild and the Phillies certainly have the prospects to get a deal done. The price for the former World Series MVP could be substantial but with only one year left on his contract the Phillies might not have to break the bank to acquire Bumgarner. Could a package of prospects centered around top pitching prospect Adonis Medina be enough to get a deal done? An acquisition of Bumgarner would kill two birds with one stone for the Phillies. He would fill a need for a LHP in the starting rotation and also a need for a #2 starter. Even with only one year left on his contract the Phillies have the payroll flexibility to be able to resign Bumgarner at seasons end if they so choose. A starting rotation beginning with Aaron Nola and Madison Bumgarner would compete with any team’s top 2 in baseball.
5. Astros UTIL Marwin Gonzalez (FA)
After breaking out in 2017, for the then World Champion Astros, Marwin Gonzalez numbers were down across the board in 2018. In 2017, Gonzalez slashed .303/.377/.530 with 23 HR, 90 RBI, and had a 146 OPS+. Those numbers dropped to .247/.324/.409 with 16 HR, 68 RBI, and a 103 OPS+ in 2018. Gonzalez had a bad first half, which brought down his overall numbers, but Gonzalez hit 10 HR with an .844 OPS in the 2nd half of the season. Even with the overall drop in production in 2018 the Phillies should still have plenty of interest in the Astros utility man. Gonzalez saw most of his playing time in LF this season (533 innings per FanGraphs) but also filled in at SS when Carlos Correa went down with an injury and at 2B when Jose Altuve also got injured. Gonzalez can play every position on the field, except pitcher and catcher, and can play each position at least at a league average level. Gonzalez might not hit at a 46% above league average level again like he did in 2017 but I believe he is closer to the 2nd half player he was in 2018 more so than the 1st half player. Gonzalez’s versatility and bat make him an intriguing free agent option for the Phillies.
6. D-Backs SP Patrick Corbin (FA)
No one helped their stock more this season than Patrick Corbin. Corbin set new career highs in K/9 at 11.07 K/9 and Baseball Reference WAR (bWAR) at 4.8 this season. Corbin also set career lows in ERA (3.15), FIP (2.47), HR/9 (0.68), and WHIP (1.05) in 2018. Corbin would fill the same needs for the Phillies as Bumgarner (LH starter and #2 starter) and would not cost the Phillies any prospects to acquire, only money which the Phillies have plenty of. I think the Phillies signing Corbin is very unlikely though. The Yankees have a need for a starting pitcher and Corbin is from New York. The Phillies should still absolutely reach out to Corbin to see if there is a mutual interest but I think Corbin is destined for New York this off-season.
7. Royals UTIL Whit Merrifield (Trade)
The Phillies reportedly had interest in Merrifield around the trade deadline but the price was a little too rich for the Phillies at the time. The Royals were asking a lot in return for Merrifield and for good reason. Merrifield slashed .304/.367/.438 with a 121 OPS+ this season and was one of the few bright spots for the Royals. Merrifield led MLB in hits with 192 and stolen bases with 45 and was tied for 9th in MLB in doubles with 43 in 2018. Merrifield’s 5.2 fWAR in 2018 also ranked in the top 15 in baseball. Merrifield isn’t just a one hit wonder though, he produced very well in 2017 as well. Merrifield hit .288/.324/.460 with 19 HR and 34 SB in 2017. Merrifield is an above-average defender at both second base and center field and would be a dynamic player in the Phillies lineup. Merrifield didn’t make his debut until he was 27 (currently 29) so his contract is incredibly favorable. He is still under team control for 2019 and does not enter arbitration until next season. Merrifield does not become a free agent until 2023. Combine his production with his incredibly team friendly contract the Royals will be asking for a significant return for Merrifield. Will the Royals be motivated to move Merrifield this off-season is the question and if so the Phillies should definitely be interested.
8. Indians 3B Josh Donaldson (FA)
Donaldson has battled a calf injury for much of the last two seasons that held him to 113 games in 2017 and only 52 games in 2018. Even though he only played in 113 games Donaldson still managed to hit 33 HR during the 2017 season. Prior to 2017, Donaldson played in 155+ games four straight seasons and won an AL MVP in 2015 with the Blue Jays. If healthy, Donaldson is significant upgrade at third base both with the bat and with the glove. Donaldson is one of the best defensive third baseman in baseball and has proven he can carry a team with his bat. The Phillies look to be very interested in moving on from Maikel Franco so there could be an opening at third base. Donaldson would be a perfect low-risk-high-reward signing for the Phillies. A one-year “prove it” deal with an option for Josh Donaldson should be of interest to the Phillies.
9. Yankees SP J.A. Happ (FA)
The former Phillie J.A. Happ was one of the starting pitchers on the trade market during the summer I thought the Phillies should have tried to acquire. They decided to go in a different direction and did not trade for a starting pitcher at all. Happ was traded to the Yankees from the Blue Jays and pitched great for the Yankees down the stretch. Happ was 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 63.2 innings after getting traded to the Yankees. Overall, in 2018 Happ pitched to a 17-6 record, a 3.65 ERA, a 3.98 FIP, and 193 SO in 177.2 innings. Happ just turned 36 this October but he has shown no signs of slowing down. Happ might not be the biggest name on the market but he is a familiar face and a more than solid middle-of-the-rotation left-handed starter that will eat innings for the Phillies.
10. Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado (Trade)
A trade of Nolan Arenado this winter is incredibly unlikely but I can dream, right? If the Phillies miss out on both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper a trade for the best 3rd baseman in baseball in Nolan Arenado would certainly be a splash fans are looking for. The Rockies have traded their star player in the past when they traded then-star outfielder Matt Holliday to the Oakland Athletics in 2008. It was a year before Holliday was set to reach free agency. Arenado is also a year away from free agency and is set to become a free agent after 2019. The Rockies had much different expectations going into the 2009 season than they do coming into 2019. The Rockies are coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, including an NLDS appearance this season. The Rockies look to be trying to contend after handing out big contracts to relievers Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw last off-season. Even though the Rockies do look like they will be trying to contend in 2019, do they consider moving Arenado if contract negotiations don’t go anywhere this winter? Do the Rockies move him at the trade deadline if they fall out of the playoff race? All are possibilities and if the Rockies do put him on the trade market the Phillies would be crazy to not be interested. A trade of Arenado this winter does not look likely but could an offer that includes top prospects Sixto Sanchez and Adam Haseley, among others, entice the Rockies?
The deadline for team’s to offer impending free agents a qualifying offer is Friday November 2nd with free agency then beginning on Saturday November 3rd. The Phillies look to not only be active in free agency but on the trade market as well. 2B Cesar Hernandez, 3B Maikel Franco, 1B Justin Bour, OF Odubel Herrera, and 1B Carlos Santana are all players that could be traded this off-season by the Phillies. The Phillies will be looking to add via trade as well, not just use trades to sell off parts they no longer want. The hot stove season is upon us and the Phillies look to players. Happy hot stove season everyone!
Graduate from Indiana University of PA. SMWW Certified Scout.