The Phillies made a variety of notable offseason splashes, adding significant talent in several areas of the roster. While it might have been hoped that other players would thrive in reduced roles, that simply hasn’t been the case. As Matt Gelb writes for The Athletic (subscription link), the Philadelphia bench has been abysmal this year. In particular, the reserves have lagged the entire rest of the National League in overall batting output. As we explored recently, the bullpen has also been a problem area. It’s easy to look back and blame the front office for failing to add additional roster pieces last winter and/or during the summer trade period, it’s fair also to note that a variety of injuries, failures of young players to make strides, and unforeseen circumstances (in particular, Odubel Herrera’s suspension) have strained the roster.
If the Philadelphia org is to make its way into the postseason, it’ll need to squeeze value out of every corner of the 40-man. Here’s the latest on a few potentially key pieces:
- Outfielder Jay Bruce appears likely to return at some point this season, though it’s not clear whether he’ll be able to take the field. The veteran slugger is launching a minor-league rehab stint but won’t throw, as Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer was among those to cover (Twitter link). Bruce has been sidelined with a flexor strain. Fortunately, the Phils also picked up Corey Dickerson in advance of the deadline. Both of those lefty hitters have performed at approximately league-average rates since landing in Philadelphia. Bruce remains under contract with the Phils for 2020, though the Mariners are responsible for most of the tab.
- The Phillies’ veteran relief arms have not performed to expectations thus far in 2019. Now, Pat Neshek may join David Robertson and Tommy Hunter with a season-ending procedure. As the Inquirer’s Matt Breen tweets, Neshek’s injured hamstring may require surgery or a platelet-rich plasma injection. Both of those invasive approaches would put him on ice for the remainder of the campaign. Soon to turn 39, Neshek can be retained next season with a $7MM club option, but it seems quite likely he’ll instead be paid a $750K buyout.
- Righty Edubray Ramos may be a likelier late-season contributor, but he’ll have to avoid any complications as he works to return from a shoulder problem. The 26-year-old is launching a rehab assignment, per a club announcement, which puts him on track to make it back for at least a few weeks. Ramos was a big contributor in 2018, when he worked to a 2.32 ERA over 42 2/3 innings, but he has not repeated that showing in 2019. Through 14 frames this season, he has coughed up eight earned runs on 18 hits (four homers) with a 9:5 K/BB ratio.
- With those bench troubles in the backdrop, there were some questions about the club’s recent decision to send down Maikel Franco instead of Sean Rodriguez. As Lauber reports, the organization’s goal was to preserve versatility by keeping the multi-positional Rodriguez. (I’d add that the team also would have had to part with Rodriguez, since he can’t be optioned.) Skipper Gabe Kapler also emphasized that the aging utilityman holds an advantage over the younger Franco in his track record of pinch-hitting against left-handed pitchers. In any event, it seems fair to presume that Franco will be back as soon as the minimum ten-day option period is met. But as Lauber notes, it’s increasingly difficult to imagine him as part of the organization’s plans for 2020 and beyond.