Ruben Amaro and Pat Gillick continue to point to 2017 as the time the Phillies can start to compete again. There has been a lot of chatter that this is unrealistic, so let’s put the theory to the test. What could the 2017 Phillies look like? We are going to start with the homegrown and move through a bunch of scenarios of how a roster could shape out.
The first thing to do is to create a 25 man roster using just the players who realistically would be in the majors to start 2017. I have excluded likely trade candidates, but we will loop back to the later.
C – Cameron Rupp
1B – Brock Stassi
2B – Freddy Galvis
SS – J.P. Crawford
3B – Maikel Franco
LF – Kelly Dugan
CF – Roman Quinn
RF – Aaron Altherr
Bench – Gabriel Lino, Cesar Hernandez, Cody Asche, Cameron Perkins, KC Serna
SP – Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Jesse Biddle, David Buchanan, Ben Lively
RP – Ken Giles, Nefi Ogando, Edubray Ramos, Elvis Araujo, Joely Rodriguez, Tom Windle, Luis Garcia
There really isn’t much here to make you too optimistic about the ability to compete. The lineup is really only optimistic at SS, 3B, and CF and the rotation probably only has 2 starters that really give you nice warm feelings. Fortunately for the Phillies this is not all they have to work with.
The Phillies are going to get prospects back for Cole Hamels, Aaron Harang, and Jonathan Papelbon, and could get something for Ben Revere or Carlos Ruiz. No one but Hamels is likely to get you a player that will give you the “security” of Franco, Quinn, Nola, Eflin, or Crawford. However, there is a good chance that through all those trades you get a different kind of tradeable asset.
The Phillies will also have the ability to cash in some players from the next waves of prospects to fill holes in that lineup above. Additionally this list comprises a group of players that could see a couple of players make the jump to being a part of the 2017 lineup:
Player (Expected Level): 2015 1st Round Pick (?), 2016 1st Round Pick (?), Franklyn Kilome (A+), Deivi Grullon (AA), Carlos Tocci (AA), Victor Arano (AAA), Matt Imhof (AAA), Aaron Brown (AAA), Malquin Canelo (AA), Andrew Knapp (AAA), Luis Encarnacion (A+), Jose Pujols (A+), Arquímedes Gamboa (A-), Ricardo Pinto (AA), Rhys Hoskins (AA), Yoel Mecias (AAA), Jhailyn Ortiz? (SS)
That list may have you scratching your head a little bit, but someone like Franklyn Kilome if he continues his path he will be one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. A player like Carlos Tocci with plus defense is incredibly valuable if he is in AA and not low-A. This list is also excluding other players with big ceilings who could make a jump. Some of these players will obviously step back as well, but there is plenty of room to cash in for a starting piece.
The lineup listed at the top of this piece would cost the Phillies somewhere on the order of $30M with the expenses above minimum salary being Ryan Howard‘s buy out, Ken Giles Arb, Garcia’s Arb, and Cody Asche’s arb. Conservatively the Phillies can handle a payroll of around $160M without getting close to the luxury tax, with a ceiling probably a good $20-$30 million above that threshold. That gives the Phillies somewhere between $130 million and $160 million to spend on free agents or trade acquisitions to fill out this roster.
What Could This Really Look Like:
Let’s start with Hamels. The Phillies are likely to target a player either at catcher, corner outfield, or elite starting pitcher in return for Cole Hamels. Barring that they are likely to pile on a couple of big time prospects to have in the trade war chest. If we say that there are 13 positions the Phillies need filled and we are at 5 of 13 right now, a Hamels trade gets us to 6 of 13 with probably another piece in the trade category. The alternative if they don’t trade Hamels the Phillies will just front the 2017 rotation with him.
The draft is harder to predict, but the Phillies appear to be in on a college player with the 2017 timeline, likely this player would be one of Kevin Newman (SS, but move to 2B), Ian Happ (2B/OF), or Walker Buehler (SP). None of these players would really be a star, but could get to an average regular and maybe get the Phillies to 7/13.
Now we move on to Free Agency. Let’s start at first base where the Phillies are very unlikely to have an internal option. However, in the 2016-2017 offseason the following first baseman will be available in free agency: Pedro Alvarez, James Loney, Logan Morrison, Mark Trumbo. None should command huge contracts, but all could be solid, at minimum platoon options to hold down first base.
As for starting pitching, the big haul of starting pitchers is this year, with only Stephen Strasburg and Andrew Cashner as the big names in the 2016-2017 class, so the Phillies may need to weigh in to the FA marketplace this offseason. The Phillies will have the money to get the pitcher they want in either case.
The next place the eye goes is the outfield, unfortunately the young big names hit the market this offseason in Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, so the Phillies will need to make the move right now to fill that hole. Upton will be 28 and Heyward will be 26 so both could be long term options as well. In the 2016-2017 market the big names are Josh Reddick and Carlos Gomez, both of who will be 30 or over.
A Realistic 2017 Team:
I am going to do this without trading away any prospect, but keep that in mind as a way to fill any place that you feel is still too weak to make the team at least competitive. I am also going to make the following assumptions (which could have wide variance):
- Draft Cincinnati 2B/OF Ian Happ in 2015 Draft
- Hamels to Yankees for Aaron Judge centered deal
- Sign Andrew Cashner
- Sign Pedro Alvarez
Giving this as a 2017 Roster:
C – Cameron Rupp
1B – Pedro Alvarez
2B – Ian Happ
SS – J.P. Crawford
3B – Maikel Franco
LF – Kelly Dugan/Aaron Altherr (platoon)
CF – Roman Quinn
RF – Aaron Judge
Bench – Dugan/Altherr, Gabriel Lino, Freddy Galvis, Cameron Perkins, Cody Asche
SP – Andrew Cashner, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Jesse Biddle, David Buchanan
RP – Ken Giles, Nefi Ogando, Edubray Ramos, Joely Rodriguez, Tom Windle, Ben Lively, Elvis Araujo
It is not a World Series favorite, but that is a team that can hang around for a wild card with the ability to make a trade to fill a hole if needed while still having a good farm system and monetary flexibility to really go for it in 2018. You can play around with this by adjusting your draft and FA choices as well as trading for targets to fill the remaining holes on the team, but the assets mostly move around the open spots rather than changing the overall outcome.
Now there are a lot of assumptions made here. The key takeaways here are:
- There will be some cheap major league pieces on the roster.
- The Phillies will have more money to spend than they really know what to do with.
- Don’t forget trade acquisitions and draft picks in the 2017 calculation.
- The Phillies could have a very good farm system heading into the 2017 season and should be able to use it either the major league level or for trades.
It may not look great right now, but 2017 is a blank canvas on which to project your own hopes for the Phillies.