Monday was the end of an era for many Phillies’ fans as their two longest-tenured players, Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco, hit the free agency market. Moreover, seven other players were either tendered contracts or avoided arbitration. Here is a recap of all the moves made by the organization on Monday:
The Phillies saved nearly 12M by non-tendering Hernandez, who had been their longest-tenured player until Monday. Non-tendering Hernandez, who had a down year in 2019, could allow Scott Kingery to play his natural position, or for the team to sign Didi Gregorius and move Jean Segura over to second base. It’s also still a possibility the Phillies can bring Hernandez back, albeit at a lower cost. Hernandez should be looking to get somewhere in the 7-10M a year range.
The Indians are certainly a prime candidate to acquire Hernandez. The team declined their option on long-time second baseman, Jason Kipnis, and Cesar would be a great fit for them. While Hernandez doesn’t bring the power that Kipnis does, he is better at getting on base and stealing bases. The Red Sox are also a team that could be interested in Hernandez since Dustin Pedroia may be headed for retirement, and Michael Chavis will be sliding over to first base. Cincinnati could also be involved, with the team non-tendering Jose Peraza on Monday. Either way, Hernandez is good enough to get a decent contract to be the starting second baseman on a competitive team.
Possible Landing Spots: Indians, Red Sox, Reds, Phillies
The Maikel Franco era finally came to an end Monday as the Phillies chose not to tender him a contract. The Phillies avoided paying him just under 7M, and now have decisions to make at third base for this upcoming season. Could they look to sign a Donaldson or even a Rendon? Are they ready to promote Alec Bohm? We’ll have to see.
As for Franco, he’ll likely be able to sign a deal with a non-contending team in hopes of finding a young player with upside. Detroit seems like the perfect landing spot for him. The Tigers likely won’t be very good this season, and Franco offers power to a team without a decent third baseman. The Giants could also be an option for Franco, as San Francisco may look to trade Evan Longoria.
Possible Landing Spots: Tigers, Giants, Pirates, Royals
Players Tendered Contracts
This move was an obvious decision for the Phillies since Realmuto was the best catcher in the MLB last season. The bigger question now is whether or not he’ll get a massive extension before the start of the season. There have been reports of the two sides working on a deal, but no agreement has been made yet. Realmuto is deserving of a nine-figure contract, and the organization would be foolish to let him hit free agency in 2020. Realmuto is currently projected to make 10.3M this upcoming season.
Zach Eflin/Vince Velasquez
With Jason Vargas, Drew Smyly, and Jerad Eickhoff all hitting free agency, both Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez will compete for a back-end rotation spot next season. The Phillies’ top priority this offseason should be to bolster their rotation behind Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. Both Eflin and Velasquez have shown flashes of excellence. Still, neither has been able to put it together for a full season. I prefer Eflin over Velasquez because he commands his pitches much better.
After a bad start to the 2019 season, Jose Alvarez put together a solid season in the second half of last year. His ERA from the first to the second half of the season dropped from 3.86 to 2.73. With Adam Morgan getting injured in late July, Alvarez stepped up as the Phillies’ best left-handed reliever in an otherwise shaky bullpen. Alvarez is projected to make around 3M next season.
Morgan was the Phillies’ best reliever during the start of last season as he didn’t allow a run in April, pitching 11.2 innings of none across 15 appearances. However, he began tailing off in May and suffered a season-ending left hip flexor strain in late July. Keeping Morgan and Alvarez were no-brainers for the Phillies, as both are reliable left-handed relievers out of the pen. Morgan is projected to make 1.6M next season, a bargain for the Phillies.
Along with J.T. Realmuto, Hector Neris should be looking to earn a contract extension before he hits free agency in 2021. After an abysmal 2018 in which Neris got demoted to Triple-A, he had a great 2019 campaign, recording 28 saves. When on, Neris’ splitter is one of the nastiest pitches in the league, and the Phillies were able to turn to him when other relievers struggled. Neris is now the Phillies’ longest-tenured player with Hernandez and Franco gone, and he is projected to make 4.7M this season if he doesn’t receive an extension.
On paper, Andrew Knapp has been one of the worst catchers in the MLB over the past few seasons. However, 700K isn’t a lot of money to an MLB franchise, and the team avoided arbitration by giving him a deal, so this was worth it. With J.T Realmuto expected to get a massive extension, the Phillies can turn to Knapp as their backup catcher. Deivy Grullon is their only other option, and the organization doesn’t seem too confident about giving him the role. Knapp and Grullon are expected to compete for the backup job in spring training if the Phillies don’t sign another catcher.
Signed: 1 yr 700K
Monday marked the end of an era, but it was time for Franco and Hernandez to go. Now GM Matt Klentak and the Phillies can focus on giving J.T. Realmuto a massive extension.
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