Phillies Mailbag: Crawford, Offseason Trades, Pitching
We are back once again with a 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. We take your questions each week and write about them on 973espn.com. Check back each week to see if your questions are included in our discussion! Ask anytime on Twitter @FrankKlose.
Why did the Phillies promote Crawford now instead of letting him play through the playoffs with the IronPigs?
Is Crawford ready to play at this level? Will he play 3B or SS?
The Triple-A Playoffs and J.P. Crawford question is one that has seemed to come up much more than I expected. The Lehigh Valley IronPigs won their last three games to sneak into the International League playoffs. I actually thought they might wait for a call-up until the playoffs were over myself, but let us remember one thing: the minor leagues exist for the big league clubs.
Let’s say the IronPigs go on a tear and keep winning in the playoffs. The Triple-A Championship Game is not scheduled until September 19. Just how much of a look would the Phillies get from September 20 through October 1, the end of the season? The two weeks that Crawford could be playing games with the Phillies could amount to 50 major league at bats, with the potential for maybe 100 by season’s end. These at bats are important, which leads into this second question.
The Phillies need to make some really tough infield decisions this offseason. With Crawford in the mix and potentially Scott Kingery playing his way onto the Phillies in 2018, the Phillies have to decide what to do with the infielders already on the roster. Do they consider moving on from the under performing Maikel Franco? Do they try to cash in second baseman Cesar Hernandez to obtain some value in return? How about a Freddy Galvis trade the year before he hits free agency?
A lot of this could depend on what they see from Crawford in both the shortstop position and the third base position and even the second base position. Crawford started six games at third base and five at second base, so second base is very much in play here. I would expect that Crawford sees time at all three positions, while the Phillies move Galvis and Hernandez around the infield and while Franco even gets a start or two at first base.
The final alignment of the infield we will know by next year.
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what current Phillies are most likely to be traded before 2018 season?
This is a good follow-up question to the previous question, because of the assets the Phillies have, they may be in a position to trade an infielder or two, perhaps even three. Galvis and Hernandez are both quality major league players who are both flanked by prospects in the minor leagues. If the Crawford and Kingery tandem rises to the big leagues playing their natural positions, then the Phillies could trade their double play combination if the right value comes back in return.
And, as we mentioned previously, Franco has under-performed at third base. If there is an upgrade available, maybe the Phillies consider moving on from Franco in a trade, too.
But for the Phillies trade any of the three, they must be presented with an option to get value in return. Hernandez would slot right into the leadoff spot on many major league teams. Low payroll teams without a third baseman might want to take a chance on Franco, who many believe has more talent than his numbers are showing right now. For a team badly lacking defense up the middle, Galvis could be attractive.
The only way I see a starting outfielder moved from the starting outfield of Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera and Nick Williams is if the club was able to upgrade in a big way, obtaining the likes of a Giancarlo Stanton. That will be a narrative that keeps coming up, particularly as incoming ownership group led by Derek Jeter has already spoken about unloading a great amount of payroll. But that opportunity would have to present itself before the Phillies go down that path.
The pitching could see an upgrade. Velasquez might be along the lines of Franco: very talented but not reaching potential. I could see Velasquez being moved as the Phillies look to upgrade their starting rotation. Any of the Zach Eflin/Nick Pivetta/Ben Lively category could potentially move in such a deal, too. With none of those pitchers really claiming a spot in 2017, the Phillies may carry a couple of them to develop them, but for now, they lack any certainty.
Again, trades depend on the teams who acquire players, too. The Phillies cashed out all their veteran assets to this point, so they will be looking to acquire players more than unload. The good news is that they still have a trove of prospects from which to do that.
What veteran starting pitcher will or should the Phillies add in offseason? Arreita?
ESPN’s Buster Olney suggested recently that the Phillies would go after Jake Arrieta, who has been an ace-type pitcher in the past for the Chicago Cubs. Arrieta will be a free agent this offseason, leading a free agent class that also includes Yu Darvish. However, I do not think signing either would be wise.
Arrieta is going to be a 32 year-0ld free agent. As we saw with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and others, the age 34 mark has been about when pitchers start a rapid decline. I think whoever signs Arrieta might get a couple really good years and then deal with the decline the rest of the way. If the Phillies were on the bubble and needed one final boost before the trade deadline, I would say that acquiring Arrieta makes sense. But the Phillies are not ready to contend in 2018 and they would be paying later for results that are not immediate.
Darvish is probably going to sign with someone in the same category: someone who is ready to win in 2018 and can deal with a bad contract in the end for a shot at the World Series now. A year younger than Arrieta, Darvish probably has two-three years of his prime left. I think the Phillies should hold off such a deal.
Instead, I think the Phillies will look to trade for a controllable starter. I keep mentioning the likes of Chris Archer and Gerritt Cole. Maybe there are other controllable starters out there that a team will move in the right deal. But again, there have to be teams out there willing to deal players before we have these discussions.
In terms of free agents, maybe the likes of Alex Cobb might make sense. Cobb has been pretty reliable in the past, and is not going to be in that upper-tier of starting pitchers. Cobb turns 30 next month and I do not think he would require a commitment as long as a Darvish or Arrieta. If the Phillies could trade for one of the aforementioned starters to go behind Nola and get some stability in the middle of the rotation from someone like Cobb, they will be much better off and have spots four and five in the rotation to try to mold their younger pitchers.