We are back once again with a 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag.  Each week we take your questions and talk about them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill every Tuesday.  Send your questions anytime on Twitter to @FrankKlose or send a text to the text board at 609-403-0973.

What is your current take on the Phillies lineup with Harper or without Harper?

Putting the lineup together either with Harper or without Harper still is with some challenges.  The Phillies finds itself very right-handed.  Of course, some good right-handed batters are better than poor left-handed batters, but trying to balance the lineup is difficult.   My early impression is that the Phillies will continue to field a lineup with Cesar Hernandez at leadoff, which sets the lineup as follows:

Without Harper:

  1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
  2. Jean Segura, SS
  3. Odubel Herrera, LF
  4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
  5. J.T. Realmuto, C
  6. Andrew McCutchen, RF
  7. Maikel Franco, 3B
  8. Roman Quinn, CF

With Harper:

  1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
  2. Jean Segura, SS
  3. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
  4. Bryce Harper, RF
  5. J.T. Realmuto, C
  6. Andrew McCutchen, LF
  7. Odubel Herrera, CF
  8. Maikel Franco, 3B

Obviously, the Phillies are that much stronger with Harper in the lineup.  Even with Harper, I would like to see another long-term left-handed solution in this lineup.  That could come in center field or third base, perhaps through Adam Haseley internally, or through an external acquisition.

With the potential addition of Harper, how would you align the outfield defensively?

The Phillies will be well-stocked in the outfield should Bryce Harper enter the fold.  The Phillies added outfielder Andrew McCutchen to the club on a three-year deal.  Already there are outfielders Roman Quinn, Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, and Aaron Altherr.   There is not room for all.

Should Harper be on the Phillies, I believe he belongs in right field.  The Nationals spent some time with Harper in center field last season, and the results were not good.  In 2018, Harper put up a -26 defensive runs saved stat.   That is down 30 whole runs from 2017, when he was +4.  Back in his position, he should do better than the -3.2 WAR defensively last year.

Next, I would put McCutchen in left field.  McCutchen played mostly right field in 2018 and put forth a -0.1 dWAR.  I would put McCutchen in right field ahead of say, Herrera, but if Harper is there, I would consider Harper the better defender and put McCutchen in left.  He should be no slouch.

Then there is the question of center field.  I find Quinn to be the best defensive center fielder the club has.  However, I would give Herrera another shot to start if both are on the roster.  If the Phillies can work out a trade with a team that still needs an outfielder (such as the Cleveland Indians) I would consider moving Herrera.

Backing up Quinn in center would be Aaron Altherr, and I also think Nick Williams could be used in center in a pinch, though it is not ideal.

How will the starting rotation lineup for 2019?

This one bears much watching this spring.  The Phillies of course have Aaron Nola going absolutely nowhere.  Jake Arrieta will be paid handsomely to slot behind Nola once again.  But beyond that, there are some question marks.  The Phillies have Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin all returning from last year's rotation, along with potentially Jerad Eickhoff, still on the mend.

I believe the Phillies would still like to add a left-handed starter.  Dallas Keuchel is still on the market.  The Phillies might be taking an approach with Keuchel like they did with Arrieta last year.  They'll be waiting in case the price comes down. The soft-tossing lefty might be a good match for the Phillies new defensive alignment that let others down in 2018.

On the trade market, names such as Mike Minor and Robbie Ray could be had, though since camp broke their teams may hang on to them.

Last year it was evident that the Phillies needed help.  The all-righty, young rotation faltered badly down the stretch.  The future of Eickhoff is still in doubt as he had even more recent setbacks, before taking the mound in the last week.  The Phillies need help.

Right now it appears last year's primary rotation is the one they are going with: Nola, Arrieta, Velasquez, Pivetta, and Eflin.  The Phillies could see a strong showing from Cole Irvin in camp, but he probably needs more seasoning.  Ranger Suarez and Enyel De Los Santos are potential options at Triple-A in a pinch, but not players you would like to rely on to compete.

This part of the roster cannot be complete at the moment if the Phillies want to compete.  Stay tuned to see what the club does here.

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