Phillies Mailbag: Martini, McCutchen, and Improved Play
We are back with another edition of the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Each week we take your questions and talk about them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill every Tuesday during the Phillies season. Send your questions anytime on Twitter to @FrankKlose or send a text to the text board at 609-403-0973.
Does Nick Martini have a shot to make the 26 man roster?
When the Phillies claimed outfielder Nick Martini on waivers, I tended to think it was an effort to justify their next move: designating for assignment the contract of Odubel Herrera. The Phillies did not hang onto Martini for long before he was designated for assignment, too. But Martini passed through waivers, remained in Phillies camp, and he's doing well.
Martini is hitting .400 on the Spring after a hit on Monday. But other factors might be in play that keep Martini from being on the Opening Day roster.
The first is his roster status. Since Martini passed through waivers, he is not on the Phillies 40-man roster. There would have to be an extra move before that would take place. Would Nick Williams, who could profile similarly be simply released by the Phillies? That is a possibility. But even so the Phillies will need room on their 40-man roster to add their infield bench pieces that would come among Josh Harrison, Logan Forsythe, Neil Walker, Ronald Torreyes and Phil Gosselin.
In the outfield, the Phillies already have Jay Bruce and whoever does not start Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn. Bruce and Haseley are left-handed.
While it is true Andrew McCutchen is going to be out for a short period of time, I would think the Phillies take Kyle Garlick before Martini. Garlick is right-handed and is on the 40-man roster already. Garlick has minor league options remaining so he could easily be sent to Triple-A when McCutchen is ready.
However, keeping someone like Martini at Triple-A for later is not a bad plan.
What Phillies player will be most improved in 2020, compared to 2019?
My answer to this one is the player who hit 35 home runs and drove in 114 last season: Bryce Harper. While that season was plenty impressive in itself, I think that 2020 could be even better for Harper. The first reason is that he is more settled. The second is the play around him.
Only about this time last season did Harper play in his first Grapefruit League game. And, as he arrived in Clearwater, the hype dominated every aspect of his arrival. Harper did not get a real chance to settle into his home and in with his new teammates. 2020 is different.
Harper came into camp like everyone else, on time. Harper went through all the traditional workouts with everyone else. And, he will have a standard amount of Grapefruit League at bats.
I think that will lead to an improved 2020.
And let us not forget that the Phillies lineup is improved from last season. The inconsistency of Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, and Cesar Hernandez is no longer an issue. Enter Roman Quinn, Didi Gregorius, and Scott Kingery. I think those three will be an improvement offensively for the Phillies. And, Rhys Hoskins is really starting to get things together with his new batting stance.
When there is improved offense around Harper, there is more for him to hit. And I think he will.
Why not sign Yasiel Puig? This McCutchen situation could linger all year.
There are a few reasons here I can think of. The first is that free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig has a high price tag attached, even though he remains unsigned. The second is that I think Andrew McCutchen is not far away. The third
Puig has reportedly turned down an offer for $10 million and one season. Presuming he would want more money than that, I do not see that to be a wise investment for the Phillies. The club seems to value flexibility to add at the July 31 trade deadline, and spending $10 million-plus now for Puig could make them miss other opportunities later.
Additionally, I think McCutchen is not that far away. I personally watched him take batting practice last week on a backfield with Larry Bowa pitching. His bat looked just fine. I think the issue for McCutchen is getting to the point where they feel comfortable with him really being Andrew McCutchen - someone who will run and play defense.
But meanwhile, the Phillies still have Jay Bruce to play left field for them. Bruce played first base this weekend and is likely to make his return to left field any day now.
The Phillies say McCutchen will be ready at some point in April, and at this point I have no real reason not to take them at their word. With a long season ahead, they may wish to be cautious.