Phillies Mailbag: Coaches, Starters, Vierling and the Lineup
We are back once again with the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Each week we take your questions about the Phillies and answer them on The Sports Bash with Mike Gill. Tune in Tuesdays to hear your questions answered. Send a question at anytime to @FrankKlose on Twitter.
If they miss the playoffs, what happens to the coaching staff?
First and foremost, I believe that Joe Girardi's job is safe. Over two managers, the same players have failed to make the playoffs. At some point a team must change their roster, and not change their manager.
Dave Dombrowski assumed leadership of the team in mid-December, with many of the roster decisions already made. It sounds like Girardi is helping him evaluate the direction of the franchise. Therefore, I think Girardi is safe.
I would then think most of the coaching staff is safe as well. Rob Thomson has been on Girardi's staff every year he's been a manager since 2008. Girardi helped pick his hitting coach, Joe Dillon, and his pitching coach, Caleb Cotham. Dave Lundquist assumed his current role in the bullpen this past offseason, too.
The lesser-seen Bobby Meacham and Juan Castro joined the staff in Girardi's tenure as well.
There are some holdovers from the Gabe Kapler staff, including third base coach Dusty Wathan and first base coach Paco Figueroa, as well as assistant hitting coach Pedro Guerrero. I've seen no indication that any of them aren't working out well.
So while there's a chance some could take another job elsewhere, overall I think the coaching staff will largely
Will they look to add starting pitching or are they comfortable with 1-5 with Zach Eflin back?
There is never enough pitching. That is true anywhere and at any time. The Phillies began 2021 with seven starters: Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Chase Anderson, Matt Moore, Spencer Howard, and Vince Velasquez. The Phillies ended up needing a lot more than that.
So yes, I think the Phillies will still try to add starting pitching. If those five remain intact, I could see the Phillies going after someone like Tyler Anderson, who the Phillies almost traded for this deadline. There are also a number of veteran starters on the free agent market the Phillies could sign for depth, too.
Despite having seven starters, the lack of depth has really hurt the Phillies this year. The regular bullpen games and the trickle-down effects of not having a starter every fifth day are really problematic.
I would not be shocked if the Phillies signed some minor league free agents to have some starters going every fifth day at Triple-A, too. Hans Crouse likely will be there, and hopefully could help the Phillies eventually.
I would not rule out a trade this winter from among their current starters, provided they add more depth. I think anything is on the table this offseason for the Phillies to get better.
What role do you envision Matt Vierling playing next season?
Certainly Matt Vierling has been a nice story. He did get some Spring Training opportunities with the Phillies. But for the most part, he was anonymous to many; not on the top prospect list. And on top of that, he did not play in 2020 due to the minor league season shutting down.
Vierling did much of this himself. After missing the 2020 season due to the minor league COVID shutdown, Vierling went to Clearwater for the instructional league in October. There, he petitioned his former minor league manager with the Lakewood BlueClaws, Marty Malloy, then serving as minor league infield coordinator, to take some reps in the infield.
That proved valuable.
Malloy allowed him to get some work at third base and first base. That allowed Triple-A Manager Gary Jones to begin to use him in the infield after Vierling's first major league stint. Having that versatility and some experience at Triple-A, the Phillies were able to use him at first base, which led to his opportunity for some of his best games.
Therefore, I see Vierling serving as a bench piece the next couple years. With two option years remaining, he can go back and forth to Triple-A according to the roster needs. The same can be said for the likes of Nick Maton and Luke Williams.
I think the Phillies have developed some nice bench pieces and Vierling will be one of them.
Other than the obvious Harper and the probably Realmuto of the starting eight who comes back?
This is another instance where I think anything is on the table. I agree that Bryce Harper and probably J.T. Realmuto might be completely untouchable. But beyond that, I think anything else is in play.
I think that Odubel Herrera will have his options declined and become a free agent. Andrew McCutchen will be a free agent; I can see him heading back to Pittsburgh to finish his career. Then it gets tricky.
Jean Segura has been very reliable. I think the Phillies try to win with him and keep him. I see some occasionally ask if the Phillies should "sell high" on Segura. I think his $15 million price tag - when the Cesar Hernandezes of the world get about $7 million - would negate some of the return the Phillies could get.
The rest of the infield? Who knows.
If there is indeed a designated hitter - as many believe there will be - Rhys Hoskins could mostly be there. First base has not been kind to Hoskins. As we saw at the end of his season - his injury didn't keep him from hitting; he had two home runs his last game that knocked him out. He could play first base sometimes.
Realmuto probably gets some games at first base or designated hitter. If there is a designated hitter, a left-handed platoon bat at first base could be helpful if Realmuto and Hoskins might play there some.
Then there's the left side of the infield. The Phillies will have to figure out if Didi Gregorius is injured and could recover, or, if what we saw in 2021 is what Gregorius is. I think Gregorius could return, but also Freddy Galvis to back him up. Bryson Stott could eventually help at the position.
If someone from the shortstop market sees their price come down, maybe they pounce.
Third base there could be an outsider come take up third base. I do not see Alec Bohm there. (I don't see Bohm at first base, either). Bohm might get a crack in left field, or he could be a trade piece.
Maybe the Phillies go big and take Josh Donaldson off of the Twins' hands in order to also get Byron Buxton. Maybe they sign a Kris Bryant. I think there will be bold moves like these, though maybe not these.
But I think, like the front office, there will be changes on the horizon and this will be a busy offseason for Dombrowski.