PHILADELPHIA, PA – Every Phillies fan knew the club was tossing the 2016 season. The gaggle of anonymous talent they trotted out on opening day was disenchanting. In the middle of May, despite cellar dweller expectations, the Phillies had surprised even the most cynical fans with mediocre results. By June first, the Phillies were playing .500 baseball and a glimmer of hope set in. However, the haunting reality of a hodgepodge of players glued together by hope and a dream eroded that optimism. Aside from Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, Jeremy Helickson and an exclusive coterie of other pitchers, everyone should be on the chopping block.
Odubal Herrara was an all-star this year for the sole fact that he was the best player on one of the worst teams. No one questions the energy El Torito injects into a lifeless lineup, but with a line of .286/15/49 he is struggling to be average. The corner outfield positions saw a rotating blend of anyone swinging a hot bat, and with several minor league players tabbed as elite, top 10 prospects in all of baseball, and a decent free agent outfield class, there’s no reason to hold on to below average outfielders.
Maikel Franco anchors the infield at third base and Freddy Galvis has been the post-Jimmy Rollins band aid for the past few years. Franco isn’t going anywhere. He has the skills to be an everyday, middle of the order type player and he still has time to develop. Although Glavis is shaping into a fan favorite and had a career year, .241/20/67 campaign, he is still a charity case rather than a lynchpin in the middle of the infield. I could see holding onto him as one of the longest tenured players on the team, but at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds it’s doubtful he’ll have another year like this one.
Ryan Howard bowed out after a hero’s ovation at the end of the season. It’s nice when a player with a cemented legacy in Phillies history steps away knowing he’s got nothing left to give – a classy move indeed. With Howard cleared from the roster and payroll, the front office could upgrade by signing Mitch Moreland. Outside of Moreland, the free agent infield class is limited, but infielders are one commodity the fightens have plenty of. JP Crawford is the number two prospect in all of baseball. He’s still young, but Ceaser Hernandez or Galvis can hold down the position until he’s ready. The place holders in the infield, Tommy Josef and Darrin Ruf can be traded. Ruf, whom has split time in the outfield and first base, won’t command much. Tommy Josef put together a decent season and as a former first-round pick of the Giants, might collect a fair return.
There are options behind the plate with AJ Ellis and Jorge Alfaro. Even though Cameron Rupp carried most of the responsibility this year, there isn’t much to write home about. The common philosophy with catchers is to trade offensive production for leadership skills. Rupp is short on both. AJ Ellis is a sufficient replacement with veteran qualities while Jorge Alfaro is the clear future franchise catcher. The Phillies should be able to re-sign Ellis and possibly grab another catcher on the free agent market since there is a wealth of catching talent available.
In 2016, the pitching staff was mercurial at best. There were times were Vinny Valasquez dazzled fans with an electric fastball and bulldog mentality, but the magic fizzled out and ended with an ERA north of 4 – Aaron Nola suffered similar results. Nola and Valasquez are still young, with Nola possessing the clear upside of the two. Further down in the rotation are Jeremy Helickson and Jerad Eickhoff whom turned in respectable seasons and have the potential to be strong middle of the rotation forces. Beyond those four arms there is a massive amount of calculus to be figured out. Hector Neris showed glimpses of greatness, but needs to be more consistent, while the rest of the staff posted a startlingly high ERA.
There are no more excuses for the Phillies to turn out an embarrassing product. The terms of the media deal they signed with Comcast Sports Net kicks in this year and they should have an arsenal of cash to spend. The farm system is replete with quality talent right at the cusp of breaking through to the big leagues, so there isn’t much to be given up by signing a few top-talent free agents to provide optimism for the fan-base while supplying some energy and veteran leadership in the clubhouse.