Phillies Mailbag: Howard, Maton, Fixing the Roster
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 at 2:40 p.m. on Tuesday afternoons. Send your question at any time to @FrankKlose.
Think we see Spencer Howard in the next week or two?
I would say the Phillies could see him as soon as today, but since Spencer Howard just pitched at Triple-A on Sunday, I think they might wait until perhaps Saturday, when the Phillies would need that turn in the starting rotation again.
But more than ever, the Phillies need an actual plan that they stick to for Howard.
Coming out of Spring Training, the Phillies had stated that Howard would be used exclusively as a reliever in 2021, so that they might limit his innings. They probably still will look to limit his innings. But it did not take long for the Phillies to announce that he would be stretched out to be a starter at Triple-A.
At Triple-A, Howard has been good. In nine innings pitched, Howard has allowed just one run. So the question is this: Is there any more that Howard needs to do at Triple-A to show he belongs in the majors?
If the answer is "no", then you would want his limited innings to take place in the major leagues and not at Triple-A.
I can see the Phillies using a spot on the roster for a few days (Ronald Torreyes) for an extra bench bat while the club is hurting. Then by Saturday the extra bench spot might be Howard, starting a game.
What do you think is the ceiling for Nick Maton?
In Spring Training, I was really impressed with Nick Maton. I thought he was a versatile defender, and I thought his bat was good enough to be a utility player in the major leagues. Because he was on the 40-man roster, I was surprised the Phillies optioned him with a couple weeks to go in Spring Training.
Right now I am going to stick to my original gut instinct: I think Maton is a valuable utility player in the Major Leagues. I think he has a spot on the roster, and he can be a valuable sub up the middle if the team loses a starter to an IL stint. You will not have to worry about his defense, which is a plus.
Whether he writes himself into the lineup more than being a utility player remains to be seen. I can see him being a left-handed version of Enrique Hernandez, who has played all over the field, but at times when a team needed a starter at second base (like the Boston Red Sox this year) he might land a starting job in free agency.
What kind of moves do you think the Phillies will make to get through this injury stretch?
This is certainly a conundrum. The Phillies are maxed out on 40-man roster spots, and that does not count either Adam Haseley and Ronald Torreyes, both of whom are in need of 40-man roster spots when their rehab stints are completed. But here's what I would do.
1. Designate for assignment the contract of David Hale. Hale is someone who has had the backing of manager Joe Girardi from their previous relationships. But Sunday he showed he struggles to keep inherited runners from scoring and gives up runs of his own. I think the Phillies would do just fine internally, even if Enyel De Los Santos took on that role.
But designating Hale's contract means that the Phillies can open one 40-man roster spot immediately.
2. Place Didi Gregorius on the 10-day injured list. Gregorius is bothered by his swelled elbow still, and since enough days have passed, it would not require too long a stint. He last played six days ago. Having a healthy player would be something the Phillies need.
3. Activate Ronald Torreyes. Torreyes has shown his health at Triple-A. I think the Phillies have held off activating him just because they need a 40-man roster spot. They'll have one if they designate Hale. Torreyes might not stick around for too long, but they need healthy players.
4. Activate Archie Bradley. He has also been rehabbing and should be ready to take the spot of Hale in the bullpen.
5. Place Scott Kingery on the concussion list. If Kingery had not hit the wall the way he had, I would advocate for the Phillies to do as I suggested a couple months ago: Try to send him through waivers to free up a 40-man roster spot. Prospect guru Keith Law does not like that plan, as he believes Kingery would be claimed. But the Phillies would get $18 million back.
If Kingery is not a candidate for the concussion list, I would designate his contract for assignment, try to outright him on waivers to Triple-A, and bring up Luke Williams to be a versatile bench piece.
6. Activate Matt Joyce or Roman Quinn if you can. Stitches tend to come off after 5-10 days so it would depend on how Quinn's finger is healing. Joyce has not gotten the chance to rehab in the minors, but if he's close the Phillies are stuck.
7. If neither Joyce or Quinn can help, consider opening up a 40-man roster spot another way. The Phillies might have to subject Bailey Falter or Cristopher Sanchez to waivers, and they might be claimed. That might be how you add someone like Williams.
But these are all using internal options. Is there a Jay Bruce-like trade the Phillies can make, where they get the end of a productive player's overpriced contract at a steep discount? A Brad Miller-like trade the Phillies can make, finding someone productive on another team's Triple-A roster?
We'll see how shrewd Dave Dombrowski can be.