The baseball off season went from tepid to boiling this week. Prior to Baseball’s Winter Meetings in Orlando, the free agent and trading markets were stagnant.
Shohei Otani’s surprise decision to begain his MLB career with the Anaheim Angels and the New York Yankees’ pilfering of Giancarlo Stanton from their AAA affiliate Miami Marlins (too much? AA?) kick started some hot stove activity during the meetings as the market for free agent relief pitchers heated up as well as some trades involving position players.
For all intents and purposes, the meetings had appeared to end Thursday with the major and minor league’s Rule 5 Draft. At that point, the Phillies had signed two right-handed, free agent relievers – Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, lost OF Carlos Tocci in the Rule 5 Draft, selected and flipped RHP Nick Burdi from the Twins to the Pirates for some international bonus money, and finally announced the final piece of their coaching staff Jose Flores. Not the type of winter meetings that Phillies’ fans had counted on.
Then all hell broke loose on Friday, especially for Phillies fans.
First, the long-awaited trade of one of the Phillies’ incumbent middle infielders was announced when SS Freddy Galvis was shipped to San Diego for RHP Enyel De Los Santos. Before the dust could settle on that announcement, the Phillies were reported to have signed the first non-catcher, position player, free agent 1B Carlos Santana.
Now we get to debate 1.) what this means to the everyday line up and 2.) what can we expect during the next couple of days, weeks, months.
First, let me say that I would have really liked for these two big announcements to have occurred while I was in Orlando. But, at least they happened. And, second, apologies to Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting for the weak paraphrase used in the title.
Okay, and this shouldn’t really matter in how we fans receive the news of all these transactions, but all the comments and analysis that I’ve seen on the Phillies’ moves by industry types has been positive. Some thought that they overpaid slightly for the relievers and later for Santana, but sometimes that is the cost to get a player to come to a losing/rebuilding team. I have to admit that I don’t so much care about the dollars spent, but I am happy with the length of the contracts negotiated.
Now, a look at the transactions and the players involved.
- Pat Neshek – First reported early in the week on December 13th, finalized Friday. $4M signing bonus, $5.75M in 2018 and 2019, with a $7M club option in 2020 or a $750K buyout and a $500K each time he is traded. Neshek pitched well enough for the Phillies in 2016 to warrant a trade to the Rockies for their playoff run. The 37-year old returned SS Jose Gomez, RHP J.D. Hammer, and RHP Alejandro Requena in the deadline deal. In 62.1 IP, Neshek posted a 1.59 ERA, with 6 BB (0.9 BB/9) and 69 K (10.0 K/9).
- Tommy Hunter – Reported after an earlier announcement of trade for Addison Reed was erroneously reported, also on the 13th, and also finalized Friday. $6M signing bonus, $6M in 2018 and $6M in 2019. Hunter posted a 2.61 ERA, 2.1 BB/9, and 9.8 K/9 in 58.2 IP. The 31-year old turns 32 in early July, so the 2018 season will be his age 31 season.
- On Thursday, the final day of the meetings, the Phillies announced that they had hire Jose Flores as their first base coach and baserunning/infield instructor. Flores had previously served as the Chicago Cubs’ minor league infield coordinator for the previous five years. He also served two years as the manager of Puerto Rico’s national team.
- Long-time Phuture Phillies’ discussion topic, Carlos Tocci, was chosen by the Chicago White Sox with the fourth pick in the Rule 5 Draft. The Sox promptly flipped Tocci to the Texas Rangers for cash. Tocci was signed by the Phillies in 2011 for a reported $759K signing bonus.
- The Phillies selected RHP Nick Burdi of the Minnesota Twins with the third pick in the Rule 5 Draft. They traded the 24-year old to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a reported $500K international bonus money.
- Enyel De Los Santos – The Phillies traded SS Freddy Galvis to the San Diego Padres for RHP Enyel De Los Santos. The 28-year old Galvis was entering his final arbitration year and is projected to earn $7.4M. And, he blocked Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford. De Los Santos pitched for AA San Antonio in the Texas League. He was the Padres #13 prospect (MLB) and projects to be the Phillies #9 prospect (MLB). He made 24 starts in 26 appearances, posted a 10-6 record in 150 IP, with a 3.78 ERA, 2.9 BB/9, 8.3 K/9, 1.193 WHIP, and a mid 90s FB touching 97 mph.
- Carlos Santana – This was completely under the radar. The deal is for a reported $60M for three years with a $17.5M club option for a fourth year. 1B Santana is a career .249/.365/.445/.810 coming off a .259/.363/.455/.818 2017 season. He hit 23 HR and 79 RBI in 154 games/667 plate appearances. He posted a 3.4 WAR. Since becoming a full time player in 2011, Santana has played in fewer than 152 games only once, 143 in 2012. He has remarkable plate discipline, walking almost as much as he strikes out – 592 BB to 650 K in 3952 PA the last 6 seasons. He has made over 600 PA in each of the past 7 seasons. Much will be made of the DH expanding Santana’s stats, but he was used as a DH in only 7 games last season. He also played RF 7 times. Santana broke in as a catcher but hasn’t played the position since 2014 due to concussion issues. The deal will cost the Phillies their 2nd round pick (and the bonus money assigned to the pick) and $500K in international bonus money.
After all the above, the 40-man roster stands at 40 players: 38 + Neshek + Hunter – Galvis + Santana.
So, while we wait for the proverbial other shoe to drop (one or more starting pitchers in this case), what does this mean for the 2018 Phillies.
I expect that the Santana signing means that Tommy Joseph’s days are numbered. Barring a trade, I don’t see how he starts the season anywhere other than Lehigh Valley.
Recent talk has hinted that the Phillies might go with an 8-man bullpen. But even if they continue with a 7-man pen, there are only 5 spots on the bench. Let’s assume a line up of either Knapp or Alfaro as the starting catcher, Santana at first base, Hernandez at second, Crawford at shortstop, Franco at third, and an outfield consisting of Hoskins, Herrera, and Williams. That leaves Alfaro/Knapp as the back up catcher, a back up middle infielder (say Florimon or Valentin if either is healthy), Altherr as the fourth outfielder. Since Hoskins and Knapp can both play first base, the first base only Joseph is in jeopardy. One of the two remaining spots will likely go to a player who can play both infield and outfield. The final spot has long been rumored down here to be for a veteran third catcher to help with the young pitching staff. A guy like A.J. Ellis. His name kept popping up, but he has signed with the Marlins.
Note that the contracts of Neshek and Hunter front load bonuses in the 2018 season. This will keep “cap” space free for Machado and Harper when calculating AAV after the 2018 season.
Most of the speculation above will be rendered moot if/when a starting pitcher or two is acquired.
As for speculation on starting pitchers, the Phillies are being associated with every FA pitcher who has two arms as long as the Phillies have deep pockets. A trade would hopefully bring a controllable pitcher or two to the team at the cost of Hernandez and some of our surplus prospects.