Major League Baseball’s annual winter meetings begin on December 10th, and here are a few highlights / previews for what the Phillies experience should look like during that conference:
- In addition to the Phillies, there are only 29 other teams looking for starting pitching. Everyone will be chasing the same free agent arms, and left-handers will come at a premium. The Phillies have a unique challenge here: do they pursue a veteran arm and commit larger dollars and years of control in order to stabilize their staff, or do they stay the course on the youth movement, and fortify their bullpen? When he was GM in Baltimore, Andy MacPhail famously declared to long-suffering Orioles fans that his philosophy was to “grow the arms and buy the bats.” I’d look to see the Phillies add a middle-of-the rotation veteran who can eat some innings, but 2018 is shaping up to belong to the likes of Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Mark Leiter, Ben Lively, Jake Thompson, Vince Velasquez, and Nick Pivetta. There is also depth in the minor leagues, so don’t expect to see a big time, expensive starter coming to South Philly. If they can add flexibility to the bullpen, they can shorten games and limit the innings on their starters’ arms.
- Do they stay or do they go? One of the hallmarks of a rebuilding team after several seasons of rebuilding is the stockpiling of arms and availability of depth at several positions. The Phillies have significant depth in both the infield and outfield. At first base, Tommy Joseph and Rhys Hoskins are both capable of manning the position, although Rhys has shown the ability to move around the field, most notable manning LF after his call up last season. Second base has Cesar Hernandez, but Eliezer Alvarez and Jesmuel Valentin are nipping at his heels. At shortstop, the position seems to be destined to belong to J.P. Crawford, but Freddy Galvis (who got jipped in not winning a gold glove in 2017) has been a steady presence in the hole for the last few years, and Engelb Vielma is waiting in the wings. Maikel Franco appears to be on a short leash, and J.P. really impressed with his play at the hot corner after his late season call-up. Look for the Phillies to take offers on Galvis, Joseph, and Hernandez both at the winter meetings as well as during the season.
- In the outfield, the Phillies appear to be set for a starting day lineup of Aaron Altherr (LF), Odoubel Herrera (CF) and Nick Williams (RF). Roman Quinn, Dylan Cozens, and Cam Perkins round out the depth chart, and depending on what happens with Tommy Joseph / Rhys Hoskins at 1B, you can add Rhys there for depth as well. Look for the Phillies to remain quiet for outfielders, but take offers for the likes of Dylan Cozens, who has shown a penchant for striking out at AAA for the last few seasons.
- This will be the first winter meeting with Gabe Kapler as manager of the team. Part of building a winning organization will be the attitude and direction of the field manager and what type of culture he is building in the clubhouse, on road trips, and in the dugout. It will be interesting to see how Gabe works the room at the winter meetings as the Phillies seek to attract the missing pieces they are looking for to return to their winning ways. (I’m personally interested to see how Gabe Kapler deals with Odubel Herrera this season.)
After 5 straight losing seasons, the Phillies showed signs of life in the second half of 2017, and with the new manager and coaching staff set, it will be interesting to which direction GM Matt Klentak and his baseball folks takes the team over the next few weeks.
MLB Winter Meetings logo courtesy of Major League Baseball.
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Baseball writer for SportsArePhilly.com. Coach of the Easton YellowJackets of the Lehigh Valley Cal Ripken League.
You can follow me on Twitter @jasphil