Crash Bag, Vol. 5: The 2016 Phillies
The Crash Bag is back just in time for Hot Stove season! After a disastrous and depressing season of 99 losses, the Phillies enter a strange new world. The next Phillies team will be the first without Jimmy Rollins or Chase Utley since 1999. There’s a lot to look forward to, so let’s get to it.
@adamd243 What top prospects will be called up in 2016?
— Philles News (@NotDomonicBrown) October 30, 2015
If we’re all very good girls and boys, September 2016 will be J.P. Crawford time. I’m not expecting him to be Carlos Correa as a rookie, but considering the options and the implications on his development, I don’t see Crawford batting eighth. If he and Nick Williams come along as expected, I imagine the lineup may look something like this:
J.P. Crawford 6 (L)
Odubel Herrera 8 (L)
Maikel Franco 5 (R)
Aaron Altherr 7 (R)
Nick Williams 9 (L)
Darin Ruf 3 (R)
Cameron Rupp 2 (R)
Cesar Hernandez 4 (S)
That lineup isn’t very good, but it’s exciting and promising. Part of having a huge youth movement is batting rookies and other young players at critical spots in the order, both out of necessity and a need to see who’s going to be on the 2017 playoff contender. The bench is Andres Blanco, Freddy Galvis, Darnell Sweeney, Carlos Ruiz, and Kelly Dugan. Ryan Howard might be on the team, but in this (wildly optimistic) scenario, he’s off the squad, maybe DHing for Baltimore. Cody Asche — he of the .246/.301/.392 triple slash line in 1,069 plate appearances in the big leagues — is either in AAA or with another organization. Andrew Knapp might force his way onto the roster, if he keeps knocking on the door the way he has been lately. Now obviously, rosters will expand in September so there will be room for more than 25 players, but my focus is on the top 25 guys.
I’m bearish on Jorge Alfaro making a contribution in 2016 because catchers are notoriously slow to develop, and because Alfaro suffered a pretty bad ankle injury in July. Considering the issues the Phillies have had with prospect catchers, notably Tommy Joseph and Sebastian Valle, there’s no reason to rush Alfaro. Of course it would be a pleasant surprise to see him force his way up, but I have no expectations until 2017.
The rotation could be Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Jake Thompson, Adam Morgan, and Zach Eflin. That doesn’t include any veteran free agent additions, which I’ll address later. Ben Lively, David Buchanan, Severino Gonzalez, and Alec Asher will likely all make contributions at some point to the MLB and AAA rotations, and probably the MLB bullpen once rosters expand. Jesse Biddle and Jonathan Pettibone are both on a long road to recovery after elbow and shoulder surgery, respectively.
Now, from Crashburn commenter and old friend “BeninDC” (via facebook):
“I’m not on the Twitter, so I’m putting my crashbag question/thought experiment here. The Gnats need a closer. The Phillies have an excellent closer, no need for him until 2017 at the earliest, and other good young arms still in the minors. The Phillies should trade Ken Giles for a big price (Trea Turner? Michael Taylor? Someone else young and good?). What should the Gnats have to give up to get Giles?”
First — no. The Nationals have two closers in Papelbon and Drew Storen. Of all teams to trade with, they’re likely near the bottom of the list. Second, Bill ended his Ken Giles report card by mentioning the possibility of a trade. Here’s what I said in the comments section of that article:
“I’m firmly in the opposition camp on this issue. I don’t accept the premise that there are lots of teams willing to give up big talent for a reliever. What return are we realistically expecting for Giles, and what are the odds that it’ll ever amount to the value that Giles has already provided? Wade Davis was a failed starter and an afterthought in the James Shields–Wil Myers trade, and now he’s the best reliever in baseball. I just don’t see how the Phillies could possibly get enough in return to justify trading a young, cost-controlled, elite reliever. You don’t build teams around RPs, but if you don’t have them, you end up spending $50 million on Jonathan Papelbon.”
The Papelbon contract actually worked out well for the Phillies, as far as Papelbon’s production, but it came at the wrong time in the team’s timeline. Now, as Bill (and many others) have pointed out, relievers are unpredictable, and can flame out. However, newly-minted GM Matt Klentak has indicated that there’s something to be said for winning some games next season, and having a lockdown guy like Giles in the 9th inning is a huge part of building a winning culture with the new Phillies.
So there’s that. Now, for one more.
— Robert Geist (@RobertGeist) October 30, 2015
Who do I want, or who will they sign? I’m torn. On the one hand, I’m happy to let the rebuild go slowly and develop at its own pace, but on the other, this winter’s free agent class is much deeper and has far more stars than next year’s group. Still, if the Phillies aren’t going to be competitive until 2017 at the earliest, it doesn’t make much sense to give a long, expensive contract to a player who’ll probably be playing in his peak years while the Phillies are still developing. David Price and Johnny Cueto will both be 30 years old in the 2016 season, and it’ll take seven years to get Price and probably six to get Cueto. Zack Greinke, who just celebrated his 32nd birthday last month, could sign for five years or more. Price and Greinke will each get contracts worth at least $25 million in annual average value (AAV). Cueto might not get quite that high, but he’ll get something like a $22 million AAV deal for at least five years. In November 2015, none of those guys seems like a particularly realistic target for the Phillies, who do seem to need an experienced starting pitcher or two to round out the rotation.
Bill recently profiled several low-end starters the Phillies could pursue this winter, and it’s not an exciting group, but it’s pretty realistic. To add to Bill’s list, I think the Phillies should pursue Scott Kazmir. On the surface, it seems pointless, but remember when the Astros signed Scott Feldman for $30 million? He started 29 games for the Astros in 2014, and 18 more this past season as the Astros surprised the baseball world with a fantastic run through the AL West. Kazmir will probably only need (at most) three years and $45 million to sign. What’s not to love? To a lesser degree, I’m interested in the team pursuing Doug Fister, who may be not right mechanically, or who may be seeing the dramatic impact of losing just a little too much velocity. There’s a nonzero chance that Fister, still relatively young for a starter, can bounce back in a new environment. If the Phillies are going to do anything more than a one-year deal for a veteran — a la Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, etc. — Kazmir and Fister are legitimate targets.
You know who’s not a legitimate target? Jordan Zimmermann. Ryan Lawrence — a good writer who’s inexplicably been fired — wrote earlier this week that the Phillies should dive into the high-priced starting pitcher pool and go after Zimmermann, but I don’t agree. Zimmermann regressed in 2015 and looks more like a #3 starter than an ace. He’d fit very well on a playoff contender that doesn’t need a #1 pitcher, like St. Louis or the Cubs, but likely won’t help the Phillies as much as Ryan seems to think. From a nostalgia standpoint, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Phillies go after Tim Lincecum. Though he hasn’t finished with an ERA below 3.00 since 2011 and is a shell of his former Cy Young self, he’s only 31 years old and still seems to have a lot of baseball left in him. Big Time Timmy Jim has hardware, lots of playoff experience, and a seemingly good disposition, all of which could be a great benefit to the Phillies’ stable of young starting pitchers. For one year and, say, $7 or $8 million, Lincecum could be a perfectly serviceable #5 starter.
That’s it for now, but there’s always room for more Crash Bag. Feel free to ask me questions anytime on twitter dot com, and remember to use the #crashbag tag.
Update: Thanks to those of you who noted that Dugan and Pettibone aren’t on the 40-man roster any longer. My mistake.