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Does Maikel Franco have the talent and is under-performing, or does he just not have it?
~ Bill

Looking at the numbers, this season has been very disappointing for Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco.  Franco is batting just .229 and a WAR of -0.6.  It certainly complicates the Phillies rebuild situation when they do not know without a doubt that Franco is going to be a solid part of their future.

My personal take is that Franco still has some tools.  When his bat is active, he has a smooth swing and solid power.  Even a down year has led to 20 home runs this season for Franco.  However, I do not think the Phillies would wait forever.  But 2018 could be another good chance.

The Phillies may try to trade an infielder, depending on what the potential return might be.  But even if they trade one, there may be more options available if Franco falters.   With J.P. Crawford doing a respectable job at third base and Freddy Galvis signed for one more year, the Phillies could mix and match for 2018 should Franco falter.  If he performs, the Phillies have done quite well.

If the Phillies decided to move on from Franco, I think that they would have no trouble finding suitors for him, as I do believe there are some organizations who would love to get a crack at his swing.

The Phillies probably would go after Manny Machado in free agency, if he makes it there.  But, that is no guarantee, and there is no guarantee that the Phillies would win the bidding.  The Phillies probably will not contend in 2018, so they still have a little bit of time to find out the final word on Franco.

Who will the Phillies pursue in free agency this offseason?

This question probably will not yield the answer that you are looking for.  In short: I think the Phillies will be very minimally involved in free agency this offseason.

Looking at the starting nine, they can easily come up with a full lineup with who they have.  If they were to sign a free agent position player, that would almost interfere with the progress that they have made to this point.   That is not to say a couple scenarios will arise that would have them add a lower-level player on a short-term deal.

Consider if the Phillies trade second baseman Cesar Hernandez.  They may not wish to just outright give the job to prospect Scott Kingery.  So, they might sign a veteran infielder who could come to camp to “compete” with Kingery for the job.    Then, if Kingery began the year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, they could give him some more experience, and as the consideration for many, a promotion in May would give the Phillies six seasons of control beyond 2018.  That could be too good to pass up.

So, a veteran second baseman can come in if the Phillies make a trade.

The free agent starting pitchers are not very intriguing, though I might like Alex Cobb as a fit for the Phillies. That said, he may have other options.  For starting pitching, the Phillies might look to the trade market.

Do you think Pete Mackanin and the coaching staff return in 2018?

This is a tough question.  I think that for the most part, Pete Mackanin and the coaches have done a really good job in helping develop talent in light of very difficult circumstances.  The Phillies have hit the best of any team in baseball in recent months, mostly due to the influx of young talent, and I think that looking at the club from the start of the season to now, there is definite progress.

In fact, Phillies fans who were looking forward to a top overall pick in the 2018 draft should now be a little nervous.   The Phillies now have 54 wins, while both the Chicago White Sox and the San Francisco Giants have 57 wins.   The total number is not going to be great; if the Phillies lose 11 more of their last 18, they will end up with 100 losses for the first time in over 50 years.

But the coaching staff will not be judged by wins and losses.  Instead they will be judged by the development of their players.  They should receive a lot of credit for such development.

Granted, not all players have worked out wonderfully.  In particular, Vince Velasquez has been frustrating in his development.  But the likes of Adam Morgan have become major league relievers; Aaron Nola’s stock has grown, and the Phillies have promoted and developed Hoby Milner and Luis Garcia.  The offense appears to have enough respectable players to take the field in 2018.  So there is a lot of credit to go around.

I think the Phillies at some point will want to get Dusty Wathan in Philadelphia on the coaching staff.  I think the first opportunity they get, they will do it.  I am not sure what capacity just yet, but I think that they would like to include him in the mix in the near future, if not 2018.

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