Earlier this week news came out that there is mutual interest between the Phillies and Jeff Francoeur on a return for the 2016 season. There is nothing definite here, it is more that the Phillies like Frenchy and Frenchy likes the Phillies. But this got me thinking about the makeup of the team next year. It appears based on Andy MacPhail’s comments this week, the team won’t be looking to spend big this offseason with the goal of pushing in during the 2016 season, so we can safely assume that the top priority is development. So with that in mind let’s write in the locks on the team for next year and go from there.
OF: Herrera, Altherr
Bench: Asche, Blanco
SP: Nola, Morgan, Eickhoff
RP: Giles, Garcia, Araujo
That leaves us with 1 first base spot, 1 starting outfield spot, 2 bench spots, 2 starters, and 4 relievers. Now we only put in the locks so that leaves us some guys currently on the roster who will be in camp next year competing for a spot in Darnell Sweeney, Ryan Howard, Darin Ruf, David Buchanan, Alec Asher, Justin De Fratus, Matt Harrison, Dalier Hinojosa, Mario Hollands, Colton Murray, and Nefi Ogando.
From this list it is fair to say that first base is probably still Howard and that one of the starting pitching spots goes to the winner of Buchanan/Asher/Harrison, also that there is a decent chance that Sweeney is on the team and probably two more relief spots are filled internally. Lets also just for now pencil in one of Asche/Sweeney into the outfield.
So now our available spots are 2 bench players, 1 starter, and 2 relievers. That is really only one starting spot that is really up for competition. This of course is not taking into account what will likely be a mass migration of prospects in the middle of the season. Because of this it is likely that both bench spots will be low on at bats (unless one is a dedicated platoon partner for Howard) so they represent a low chance of providing an increase in value for either a prospect or a veteran.
This brings us back to the man of hour. Frenchy has pretty much zero on the field upside at this point, his near replacement season this year is probably his new peak. Frenchy does do a lot of things off the field that the Phillies do value highly, mainly he is a mentor and leader on a club we just penciled in somewhere between 13-18 pre-arb players on. Some will argue that the Phillies need a better player in that roster position, but the reality is that this isn’t a role that will ever provide much impact. Frenchy got over 300 PAs this year because he was a starter for part of the year, next year that number is probably more in the 150-200 PA range. In the non-Trout/Harper division of baseball an All-star is only going to give you 1.5-2 wins of value there, and when we are talking average regulars you are looking at .5 to .75 wins of value, and we are talking about the next level down of player. What we are looking at is a roster spot that at most has a value variance of 1 to -1 wins, that has no impact on this team. So while there is likely a higher upside player available than Frenchy for this spot, the margin is very slim. What most are talking about is a player who would be replacing Aaron Altherr, Cody Asche, or Darnell Sweeney on this roster. On the coaching side, if Frenchy helps the rookies adjust to the majors he will be well worth his contract and roster spot.
Outside of Frenchy the only real reward points where the Phillies could look for a high variability to player to either play themselves into the Phillies’ future or into a trade piece is the rotation and bullpen. Relievers are always highly volatile so let’s not focus on that. That rotation spot is an opportunity, Meghan Montemurro (The News Journal) mentioned on John Stolnis‘ (The Good Phight) podcast that she would like to see the Phillies go after Jeff Samardzija on a one year contract. You can argue the exact player, but the idea remains the same. The Phillies want innings and stability more than anything. They have pitching on the way (namely Thompson and Eflin), but with so many rookies they will need someone who can take the ball every 5th day and go get them some innings. It is unlikely that the Phillies will go with a long term premium arm in that spot, but if you are looking for a spot for a flippable contract, that is the spot, not the 5th outfielder.