We are back once again with the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag.  We take your questions each week and answer them on The Sports Bash with Mike Gill on Tuesday afternoons.  Send your questions anytime to @FrankKlose on Twitter.

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Bailey Falter: long term is it better to turn him back into a starter or transition him to role in pen?

It's a shame that Bailey Falter contracted COVID-19 when he did.  The Phillies were poised to give him the spot in the rotation that once belonged to Vince Velasquez.  Falter got hit pretty hard with COVID and has not thrown more than around 20 pitches.

In the big leagues, you only get so many opportunities.  I think that Falter has missed his.  Given the amount of time left this season, I don't think he can let the Phillies go into the offseason thinking he will be a starter.

Depending on who is in the starting rotation, the Phillies could let Falter arrive in Spring Training and compete for a position.  But if everyone is healthy and there is not a starting pitching addition, I cannot see how he would match up in a real competition with anyone.

If next Spring the opening rotation is projected to be Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson, Ranger Suarez and Zach Eflin, where is the room?

But the roster could certainly change, and there's never enough pitching.  I think the Phillies would consider Falter for a long-man role, which could turn into a starting position if there is an injury.  But with the additions of Hans Crouse and Tyler Phillips, the Phillies are building a Triple-A rotation for next year that might be able to help in the big leagues.

A little off the wall but would the Phillies consider moving Nola in the off-season?
~J. Mays

I do not think that this question is off the wall at all.  In fact, I think it would make a lot of sense for the Phillies to explore an Aaron Nola trade this offseason.  Nola's contract puts him in a position where he can get the Phillies a strong return of talent.

First, I expect Dave Dombrowski to shake up this Phillies roster some.  The Phillies need a newer look, and a new infusion of talent into the system.  It cannot all come from the draft.  Nola can bring the Phillies some talent to the farm system.

Nola comes reasonably priced.  He will earn $15 million in 2022.  From there the team has a $16 million option for 2023, or a $4.5 million buyout.   A contending team in a smaller market with talent to trade (Milwaukee?), or a bold GM unafraid to trade young talent (San Diego) could be a match.

The Phillies have Zack Wheeler, Kyle Gibson, Ranger Suarez and Zach Eflin all under control for next season.  A lot would depend on who else the Phillies could add.  The way Wheeler, Gibson, and Suarez are pitching, one might feel better about trading one starter.

Trading Nola isn't because the Phillies would want to get rid of him, but because he could help put together a rounded roster.  That type of maneuvering will be up to Dombrowski.  It very well could include a trade of Nola.

At what point does Realmuto get called out? He’s been pedestrian all season.

This past offseason, J.T. Realmuto expected to be paid better than any catcher in major league history.  While he did not secure the longest deal for a catcher, the $23.1 million Realmuto received ended up being the largest average annual value given to any catcher in history.  The Phillies paid for someone elite.

That is why I understand that some fans have questioned Realmuto's performance in 2021.

According to ESPN, Realmuto's 3.1 WAR puts him tied for 91st in all of baseball. That's pretty good.  But is it the level of the highest paid catcher in MLB?

Right now there is one catcher ahead of Realmuto: Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Will Smith.  Smith currently has a 3.2 WAR.  Smith, like Realmuto is batting .265 on the season. Smith has an advantage Realmuto with a little bit more in his OPS.

Realmuto put forth a 4.6 WAR in 2019, his last full season, after posting 4.5 the season before that.  So Realmuto will likely finish a little bit less.

At the end of the day, the Phillies match up better that the position than most teams.  But there is one concerning thing: Realmuto seems to be a bit banged up by the end of the season once again, leading him to play some first base.

I think that next season the Phillies should ride Realmuto less.  Realmuto traditionally catches more than the average catcher.  That was one of the reason the Phillies paid him some money.  But with first base and a potential (likely?) designated hitter coming to the National League next year, I would look for the Phillies to try to keep some of that wear off of his body next season.

So Realmuto has still been very good, but you're right that it's less than previous seasons.

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