The Phillies fell to the NL East rival Braves on Saturday, enabling Atlanta to clinch the division and continuing a difficult few months for Philadelphia. While the Phillies have gone just 25-34 since the All-Star break to fall out of playoff contention, the team’s still 78-76 and on pace for its first .500 or better campaign since 2012. And with plenty of spending room and multiple superstars set to reach free agency over the winter, the Phillies are in for a “fascinating” offseason, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports observes (video link).
The Phillies will head into the offseason with just under $70MM in guaranteed money on their books, as Jason Martinez of MLBTR and Roster Resource estimates, but that number could decrease, per Rosenthal. Aside from ace Aaron Nola and slugger Rhys Hoskins, the Phillies will be “open to trading” just about everyone during the winter, Rosenthal reports, though he notes it’s “unlikely” they’ll end up moving first baseman Carlos Santana. While Santana has come up as a speculative trade candidate, and moving him would open up first for Hoskins (who has struggled in the outfield), dealing the former “would be an admission by the Phils that they never should have signed Santana in the first place,” Rosenthal says. Santana was one of the prize pickups of last winter for the Phillies, who inked him to a three-year, $60MM deal and have since seen the longtime Indian, 32, turn in a respectable season.
Assuming both Santana and second baseman Cesar Hernandez return in 2019, the right side of the Phillies’ infield should be set. The left side may be another story, though, as the Phillies have gotten mediocre or worse production from their options at both shortstop and third base this year. That could put them in the market for pending free-agent shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado – a long-speculated target – and signing him or someone else could put the club in position to move third baseman Maikel Franco or another young infielder, Rosenthal observes.
Shifting to the outfield, Rosenthal floats the idea of the Phillies sending center fielder Odubel Herrera elsewhere to land a veteran for their rotation. After a terrific run from 2015-17, Herrera has taken steps backward this year. Nevertheless, as a soon-to-be 27-year-old with an appealing contract (he’s owed between $25.5MM to $46MM through 2023), Herrera would likely draw a fair amount of interest on the trade market. Parting with him would enable the Phillies to flip one of the younger members of their rotation “for something else they might need,” Rosenthal posits.
Whether the Phillies need to do anything of note with their starting staff is up for debate, though, as Nola, offseason signing Jake Arrieta, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin and Nick Pivetta have each amassed at least 23 starts and 2.1 fWAR so far this season. Thanks largely to that quintet, Philly’s rotation ranks sixth in the majors in fWAR (15.3). Further, each member of that group is under control next season, with Arrieta’s $25MM representing the lone lofty salary of the group.
Dating back to the July All-Star break, the Phillies have fallen well out of contention in the NL East – a division they led at the midway point- and the wild-card hunt, but it still seems they’re on the right track. Indeed, general manager Matt Klentak indicated as much a week ago. He and the rest of the Phillies’ brain trust are now set to spend the coming months trying to put the club in position to snap its soon-to-be seven-year playoff drought. With a good amount talent on hand to build around, plenty of money to spend, and Machado, Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw among the offseason’s potential free agents, the Phillies should be one of the majors’ most interesting teams to watch in the coming months.