Phillies Mailbag: World Series, Trading Velasquez, Free Agent Bats, Lively
Once again it's time for the weekly Phillies mailbag. We take your questions and answer them here every week. Send a question to Sports Talk Philly on their Facebook page or on Twitter at @FrankKlose.
Who is your World Series pick? In how many games?
This is a really tough question. All along, I picked the Cubs to not only make the World Series, but win it. But the Cleveland Indians were a team I at first ruled out. After losing Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, two of their top three starters, the playoffs seemed very difficult. But, the Indians found a way to battle and knocked out both the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox. Still, I think I must lean Cubs.
The Indians probably will not get so lucky with their pitching again. Their bullpen, led by Andrew Miller, seemed to get all the outs, even as a bleeding Trevor Bauer left the mound bleeding in the first inning. Corey Kluber will give the Indians a big game or two in the World Series, but I would bet against the Indians getting lucky again. The Indians will activate Salazar, who has not pitched since September 9. That means he is a question mark, as is the still-healing Bauer.
The Cubs, meanwhile, will get Kyle Schwarber back from injury just in time to serve as a designated hitter in the World Series. Meanwhile, the Indians have two players that they can only use at first base: Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli. That means the Indians' lineup will be without one of their three or four hitters. The Cubs are adding Schwarber in lieu of the pitcher spot, as the Cubs will have the middle of their batting order intact for all games.
The Cubs have the certain of Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey, and Jake Arrieta. Because they will be matched against Kluber, Bauer, Josh Tomlin, and a game possibly started by Salazar or Ryan Merritt, I have to give the edge to the Cubs in five games. The long winless streak will finally end, the curse broken, and The National Baseball Hall of Fame can start molding a Theo Epstein Hall of Fame plaque.
What would you want back in a Velasquez trade?
This one is easy: a lot.
The Phillies will not look to trade starting pitcher Vince Velasquez. In fact, of all the arms the Phillies have in their possession, one may argue that Velasquez has the best "stuff". With an am so bright, he will be a player that teams are interested in. And, the Phillies will listen because they are still rebuilding.
But, listening does not mean that the club will make a deal. Listening means that if someone offers your team five players for one of yours that includes Major League-ready talent, a deal could be made. Consider what happened with Ken Giles and the Phillies last offseason. Most Phillies fans would have told you that Giles was a key part of the future, and therefore was off-limits. But, the Phillies got Velasquez and four others back. Velasquez alone makes the deal seem worthwhile; even without Brett Oberholtzer the Phillies still have three others that could be big league contributors.
Giles was a rare quantity: a young closer who would not earn much money for years. Velasquez is a young starter who will not earn a lot of money for years. Should a team want an impact arm whose salary is low, they might be willing to pay a high price in prospects to land him. If the high price is offered, the Phillies may take it. Just what the offer would be is hard to say; the Phillies should get the best possible package in any deal, regardless of position.
Since they will not actively shop him, that would have to present itself.
Should the Phillies bring in a veteran bat via free agency this offseason?
The one offensive highlight of last seasons' Phillies team was first base. Both Ryan Howard and Tommy Joseph combined for the most home runs at first base of any big league team. Howard hit 25 total and Joseph 21. Joseph will likely get all of 2016 to show that he deserves to be a starting first baseman on a day-to-day basis. To do that, the Phillies lineup is in need of some balance.
The Phillies have an item of need that they have not had in a long, long time: a left-handed bat.
After many years when the Phillies had trouble figuring out how to balance left-handed Chase Utley and Howard with Raul Ibañez, Domonic Brown and others, the Phillies will have one straight left-handed hitter in their projected lineup in Odubel Herrera. Herrera will likely bat at the top of the order. Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis and Jorge Alfaro are all switch-hitters, but at least right now, none of them project as middle-of-the-order bats. So, a left-handed hitting outfielder seems to be what is in order for the Phillies.
Looking at the free agent options, Josh Reddick of the Los Angeles Dodgers might be a good fit. Having been traded during the season, he will definitely not have a qualifying offer attached. Reddick played poorly down the stretch for the Dodgers, perhaps lessening his free agent value. But, Reddick might not be a short-term solution if the Phillies hope to keep their options open down the line.
Former Phillie Brandon Moss is an unrestricted free agent. Moss batted just .225 last season, but hit 28 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals. At 33 years old, Moss will not get a long-term deal. The benefit of having Moss on the roster is that he could also serve as a left-handed first base option, should the Phillies give Joseph a rest.
Reddick or Moss could bat behind Maikel Franco and ahead of Joseph, giving them a right-left-right punch in the middle of the lineup.
Will Ben Lively get a chance to pitch in the majors next season?
I think so. As we saw in 2016 and pretty much every season prior, not all five starters will make it through the whole season. The Phillies lost Charlie Morton early, and later lost Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin. The Phillies will look to get a veteran arm into the organization if Jeremy Hellickson departs. But chances are someone will get hurt along the way, whoever they settle on.
Lively only hit Triple-A during last season, so I think if the Phillies had their druthers he would start the season there. Velazquez, Jake Thompson, and Eflin are probably three that get a chance beyond whatever veteran comes in and Nola, if he is healthy. That leaves one spot that could go to Adam Morgan, who showed promise down the stretch after a rough start, or Alec Asher, who was impressive upon his promotion after his suspension for a positive banned substance test.
I expect Lively and Nick Pivetta to open the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, both it would be fair game for both to get an opportunity down the line, as starters succumb to injury, or a doubleheader necessitates another starter.