Phillies Mailbag: Free Agent Pitchers, AA Stars, and Looking to 2019
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 973espn.com.
Will the Phillies be buyers in the 2017 offseason? If so, what free agent starting pitcher might they go after?
I have written about the 2017 offseason before - and I do not think the answer to that question is one many Phillies fans will like. The Phillies probably figure to be rather quiet in free agency in 2017, not because they do not have the money to do so, but because there are still many positions to be figured out among the prospects that they have. This season the Phillies have not really come to any firm decisions about any of their position players, while many are waiting in the wings.
I think the one area the Phillies will address this offseason, however, will be their starting pitch. I do not, however, think it will come in the form of a free agent. The reason is that there just are not many options out there for teams to sign.
One name that may get a lot of interest this offseason is Jeremy Hellickson. I expect the Phillies to extend to Hellickson a qualifying offer, and fully expect Hellickson to reject that. If not Hellickson, the big name free agent starters out there include Rich Hill, Doug Fister, Brett Anderson, and Andrew Cashner. Unless you want a 42 year-old R.A. Dickey or 43 year-old Bartolo Colon. The Phillies will likely not be bidders on any of those pitchers.
What I think they will do heading into 2017 is what they did in 2016: make a couple trades for veteran starters that could help bring some stability to their young rotation. Maybe Charlie Morton would sign a lower-cost deal and give it another go with the Phillies, and maybe they find the next Hellickson: a player approaching free agency for the first time who has some upside.
With injuries to Zach Eflin and Aaron Nola, along with inconsistency from the other young starters, a veteran presence would be beneficial. But stay tuned for 2018: that's when the big names could come.
Do you see any guys in AA that would jump right to majors next spring?
The Reading Fightin' Phils are surely nothing short of dominating the Double-A Eastern League. The Fightin' Phils probably will have two players beat the current home run record of 38 and battling for the Joe Bauman Award (Dylan Cozens, Rhys Hoskins) and one of the better all-around players in the Eastern League in Jorge Alfaro. Currently at Double-A Reading is also speedy outfield prospect Roman Quinn. Of all those players, I think Quinn has the best chance to start 2017 as a regular player on the Phillies.
First, I think Cozens, Hoskins and Alfaro will all head to Major League Spring Training next year. I also think that all three of them could make an appearance in the Major Leagues next year, too. But before we translate their 2016 performances at Reading into something more than it is, let us remember the case of Brock Stassi. Stassi was the Eastern League MVP in 2015. In 2016, Stassi is batting .265 with 11 home runs and 48 runs batted in. Stassi is not having a bad season, but he does not have the Phillies feeling like they need to promote him.
After a nice long look at Spring Training, Hoskins and Cozens will probably head to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and try to play themselves onto the Phillies roster at some point in 2017. Alfaro may get at least the start of the season at Triple-A while Andrew Knapp shares the catching position with Cameron Rupp. I think we will see them, just not at the start. But I think that Quinn has a real shot to play himself into the 2017 Starting Lineup.
Quinn is at Double-A Reading, but playing like he has a shot to be a September call-up. The Phillies are experimenting with Quinn at different outfield positions than his customary center field. I think Quinn could come up in September after the Fightin' Phils playoff run and start impressing. Quinn is already a member of the 40-man roster and has been slowed by injuries, so his clock is ticking anyway.
One Phillies player to watch is Odubel Herrera. Despite making the 2016 National League All-Star team, I am not sure the Phillies are totally sold on Herrera. It is not that Herrera is not a talented player by any means, but Quinn can provide better speed than Herrera and play better defense. If Quinn can get on base as much as Herrera, Quinn would be an overall upgrade to Herrera. That is why the Phillies may want to see him this September. I do not think it would be a stretch to see the 2017 Phillies starting outfield to be Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, and Quinn.
You have a crystal ball. What is the Phillies opening day lineup in 2019?
This is a really good question. The hard part about this question is that by the end of 2018 the Phillies should pretty much know who has made it and who has not, and the team will have an opportunity to purchase some nice players on the free agent market. I am going to pick a couple particular names, but even if the Phillies do not pick up these particular players, they probably will pick up another comparable player.
- Roman Quinn, CF
- J.P. Crawford, SS
- Manny Machado, 3B
- Maikel Franco, 1B
- Jorge Alfaro, C
- Aaron Altherr, RF
- Nick Williams, LF
- Scott Kingery, 2B
- Jose Fernandez ,P
Closer: Craig Kimbrel
This was kind of fun to put together. But, the Phillies will approach the 2018 season with most of their roster making at or near the Major League minimum. When they get into 2018, they will likely be able to see what their holes are on the roster and try to make impact acquisitions. I can see this happening in the infield, starting rotation, and in the closer position.
Crazy as it sounds, the Phillies could add an impact bat, an impact closer, and an impact starter and have a payroll around $100 million. They could afford a payroll of double that. So as the current players mature into starting positions, I think there will be room for the Phillies to add impact players. Right now I am picking Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel, and Jose Fernandez, but they could be other players.
Like in 2010 when the Phillies added Roy Halladay, the Phillies may be able to provide financial relief to another team who has a star player and is going nowhere. The possibilities are endless; if the above players are the ones playing for the big league team, then they have some prospects left over that they can trade. The Phillies are moving into an enviable position: having young talent and plenty of players to trade.