By: Noah Wright
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
The Phillies were a very surprising team in 2018. No one thought that they’d even be leading The NL East for some time this year, and while they fell out of contention after The ASG break, them finishing right around or above .500 should still come as a shock. Over the off season, The Phils will likely be big spenders, but what exactly should they target to put themselves over the top? Let’s discuss that in this new series: Making The Good, Great
One of the first things The Phillies need to do is get a #2 starter. Jake Arrieta is on the decline, and some of the young guys have shown promise, but you need another reliable arm behind the potential Cy Young winner Aaron Nola. One of the easiest solutions to this is signing Patrick Corbin. Corbin has had an excellent year with The Diamondbacks, and probably the best of is career so far. He’s given The Snakes a 3.23 ERA, 2.47 FIP, and 1.056 WHIP. Plus he’s walked less (2.2 BB/9) and has struck out more batters (11.5) than he ever has in his career. Corbin will likely be sought after by other high spending clubs like The Yankees or Red Sox, and maybe even The D-backs if they really want him back, but The Phillies should be able to compete with them in terms of money. Another free agent solution is Dallas Keuchel. The left handed Astros pitcher has overall been solid, with a 3.75 ERA, 3.69 FIP, and 1.304 WHIP, but not too impressive for the usual all-star pitcher. Keuchel again has showed good control with a 2.5 BB/9 rate, and near career low .8 HR/9 rate. Plus when he’s healthy, he can provide 200+ innings a season.
The trading market side of starting pitching is fairly shallow, but there are still some decent options. The Indians’ Danny Salazar is kind of an odd man out in a rotation of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber. Plus after missing some time with injury in 2017, and all of 2018, The Indians could be dangling him in trade talks. When he’s healthy, he can provide a solid mid-to-upper rotation starter. Another player The Phils could pursue in trade talks is Tigers’ Michael Fulmer. The 2016 Rookie Of The Year was an all-star for the first half of 2017, faltered in the second half, and hasn’t been the same since, but that can be party in due to injury. Before being shut down for the rest of 2018, Fulmer was pitching for a 4.69 ERA, 4.51 FIP, and 1.315 WHIP. His hard hit rate jumped to 39.4% after being around 30% throughout 2016 and ‘17. Fulmer is though controllable through 2022. These two options should be within The Phillies prospect range since they do have the prospects to make
The next thing The Phillies should do is sign Manny Machado. Phillies are already one team that fans have been pointing out as a landing place for Machado, and for good reason. The former Oriole is currently batting .296/.367/.541 with 37 home runs, and 104 RBI’s in 684 plate appearances between The Orioles and Dodgers. His overall offensive output has been worth 141 wRC+, a career high. He’s also been more willing to run with 14 stolen bases, and that base running has been pinned at 1.1 UBR. Plus, The Phillies could use a player at either third base, or shortstop. Rookies Scott Kingery, and J.P. Crawford have not been too impressive in their time in The MLB, and The Phillies could use either third baseman Maikel Franco, or second baseman Cesar Hernandez in trade talks. However if The Phils decide to sign Machado to play short, there could be some worries over his defensive ability. With The Orioles this year, he never played a single inning at third base, but at short, he was a negative defender. He was worth -18 DRS, and -1.2 defensive WAR at shortstop, but turned it around once he got traded to The Dodgers. While he’s seen some time at third base, he’s mainly played short after the trade, but a much better shortstop. So far, he’s given The Dodgers 7 DRS, and a 1.2 defensive WAR between second and third.
Within the organization, they need to find room for Rhys Hoskins at first base. The Carlos Santana signing blocked Hoskins at first, which forced them to move him to left field full time, and he’s struggled greatly. In the grass, he’s hurt the team with -25 DRS, -11.5 UZR, and -3.5 defensive WAR. His defense almost makes him a negative WAR player even though he’s batting .245/.351/.494 with 33 homers, 94 RBI’s, and 127 wRC+. His wOBA has been .361 too. And The Phillies have been trying to get Hoskins first base time by using Carlos Santana at third base more. So if The Phillies decided to sign Machado to play shortstop, and move Santana to third base, they would likely trade Maikel Franco, and then trade Cesar Hernandez and/or even J.P. Crawford.
The Phillies are right there. They could easily overtake another young and talented team in The Braves for The East Division next season. The Phillies front office should be aware that moves need to be made to give them that last push over the top. And with a large payroll to work with, there should be no reason that they should not be able to acquire some high quality ball players to improve their team.