It is time once again for a Phillies 97.3 ESPN Monday Mailbag.  We take your questions every Monday and then we talk about them during the Sports Bash with Mike Gill on Tuesday afternoons at 2:30 p.m.   If you are not in South Jersey, you can listen online at

Who will go when the Phillies add outfielder Aaron Altherr back at the end of the month?

The Phillies outfield has been pretty solid lately.   Cody Asche and Peter Bourjos have both been outstanding at the plate in the corners.  Odubel Herrera is an All-Star and still playing pretty well.   Tyler Goeddel has played pretty well at times and as we saw against the Rockies late, plays pretty good defense when he gets a chance to play.  Despite the crowded outfield, the Phillies will be sure that Aaron Altherr gets a chance to play when he returns.

In order, the Phillies will have to prioritize the play of Altherr over that of Asche, and more so Bourjos.  That does not mean that Bourjos's play has not been stellar; it is more that the Phillies need to see what they have in Altherr for next season and beyond.  With his play in recent weeks, Bourjos may be an attractive trade candidate for another team.   Since Altherr's 20-day rehab assignment may line up pretty close to the trade deadline, Bourjos may be moved.

Then again, Asche is likely to draw some interest from teams looking for a left-handed bat as well.  Asche's injury complicates the situation.  Since the Phillies did not get to use Asche at multiple positions as they planned to during Spring Training, another team may be too fearful to use Asche as a third baseman (where he played prior to last season) or a first baseman (where Asche took some balls early in Spring Training before injuring his oblique).

If Asche remains a Phillie long-term, his future is probably spread throughout the diamond in the outfield and infield, a very valuable piece.  However, Altherr is a solid defensive outfielder, who will have to show his bat is good enough.   With other outfielders such as Nick Williams in the pipeline, the Phillies will need to see what Altherr can do now, and that will have to be in the outfield, even if it means it is Asche or Bourjos' expense.

Is the thought of moving Galvis to 2nd being considered?  Hernandez is doing just fine, I would take him over Galvis.

The reason for such as question is that top Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford is at Triple-A Lehigh Valley and starting to get things going.    Recently ranked the top prospect in the minor leagues by Baseball America, Crawford's day in Philadelphia is coming soon and it is going to come at shortstop.   That means that current shortstop Freddy Galvis will either shift positions or find a spot on the bench.   The most obvious landing spot or Galvis other than shortstop would be second base, where he has played 89 games in the Major Leagues, the most other than his natural shortstop.

If you asked me a couple months ago I might have told you that Cesar Hernandez did not take advantage of his opportunity to be an every day player.  In the thick of the rough stretch the Phillies had from May into June, Hernandez was struggling mightily and losing playing time to veteran utility player Andres Blanco. But Hernandez batted .310 in June and .410 in July to bring his average up to .291 at the All-Star break.

Galvis, meanwhile, is batting just .234 on the season.  This is not too far off from his career .240 batting average.  Galvis batted just .178 in June, and his overall numbers show that he is not batting well as a right-handed batter.  Galvis is batting .254 as a left-handed hitter against right-handed pitching, and just .173 as a right-handed hitter against left-handed pitching.  Hernandez is batting a pretty consistent .293 against left-handed pitching and .290 against right-handed pitching.

The numbers in 2016 seem to favor Hernandez.   Galvis seems to get get bigger hits at big times, but the numbers as a right-handed hitter probably are not good enough to argue for a big league starting job.   Galvis would continue to be a valuable role player as we was when he came up, playing some shortstop, second base, third base, and outfield.

But, I think what will happen is that when Crawford comes up, whoever is hotter of Hernandez and Galvis will play more, with most of their time coming at second base.  Hernandez still shows a lack of instincts on the base paths and has had some rough streaks that keep him from really making a convincing argument that he is a starter.   But, there always seems to be a place for versatile switch-hitters who can play multiple positions, so I think Galvis and Hernandez can be at the very least bench players who end up playing a lot.

Is there a pending free agent the Phillies should think about now for next year? Pitcher or hitter?

In 2016 the Phillies signed just one Major League free agent: reliever David Hernandez.   That sounds hard to believe, but the Phillies loaded up with plenty of minor league free agents such as Andrew Bailey, Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri, and others.  They also added a couple of free-agents-to-be in Peter Bourjos, Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton via trade.   I would think that the approach the Phillies will take this offseason will be pretty similar.

The value in their types of acquisitions was that they were looking to build assets that the team could trade.   While Morton unfortunately was lost to injury early on, Hellickson is a trade piece who has drawn interest from the Red Sox and Royals already.   Bailey was a minor league free agent, and he worked his way into the Phillies Major League bullpen.  Hernandez has been so-so, and the Phillies could move him, and as we mentioned above, Bourjos could be moved to make room for Altherr.

The only way the Phillies might sign a free agent is if the player could help them long-term when they are ready to compete.  Last year the Chicago Cubs made the playoffs a little ahead of schedule.  But when they signed Jon Lester, the idea was that he could help them to the playoffs in 2016 more so than 2015.  Looking at the 2017 free agent list, there are not too many players that fit that bill for the Phillies.

Pitcher Stephen Strasburg would have been the top available pitcher on the market, but he signed a seven-year $175 million contract with the Washington Nationals in May.   The free agent bats could be highlighted by Yoenis Cespedes if he chooses to opt out of his Mets contract, but only if.  The other bats available all seem to be designated hitter types such as Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, and Jose Bautista.

Tying up first base for Trumbo may not make sense when the team could give Rhys Hoskins a chance first, and Jose Bautista is reaching the end of his career and probably will sign for a quick ring.   The more option spots for Phillies prospects to get their chance in 2017, the better.   So, the Phillies will probably approach 2017 free agency like they did in 2016.

The free agent class of 2018 is a different story.  The list could include David Price, Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel as ace-type pitchers, alongside equally talented but oft-injured Garrett Richards, Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez.  Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Josh Donaldson, A.J. Pollock, Adrian Gonzalez, and Anrew McCutchen.  Relievers Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances, Craig Kimbrel, Trevor Rosenthal, and Zach Britton bullpen arms.

By then, the Phillies could be pretty certain who their young core is.  Without paying them a lot of money yet, they could fill holes with multiple players from the list above.   If they do so - watch out.  They'll have the money and they'll have the talent around them.

So, there is no need for a free agent in 2017, unless it's a one-year player they can flip for prospects.