Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco signed with the Phillies as teenagers. Hernandez made his major-league debut at age 23; Franco was 22 when he got called up. It’s hardly an exaggeration to say that they grew up together -- and with the Phillies.
Monday could mark the end of an era.
Teams have until 8 p.m. to offer 2020 contracts to arbitration-eligible players or turn them loose in free agency. For the Phillies, it could mean bidding adieu to Hernandez and Franco, whose annual salaries may have exceeded their usefulness as the organization nears the end of a lengthy rebuilding process.
The Phillies could also trade Hernandez or Franco before Monday’s deadline, although it’s doubtful that they would receive much in return if the alternative is to let either player go for nothing.
Hernandez, 29, batted .279 last season with a .333 on-base percentage and 14 home runs, numbers that were roughly league-average for second basemen. But if the Phillies go to arbitration with him again, his salary could rise to the $11.8 million range, according to projections at MLB Trade Rumors.
Scott Kingery ($1.75 million for luxury tax purposes) and Jean Segura ($14.85 million) are in-house options at second base at a time when the Phillies have myriad needs elsewhere. They could play Kingery at second, Segura at short, and sign free-agent third baseman Mike Moustakas. Or they could add free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius, move Segura to second, and use Kingery at third base or in center field.
Franco, like Hernandez, has been in the Phillies’ opening day lineup in each of the last four seasons. But the 27-year-old former top prospect fumbled the third-base job last season and was even optioned to triple-A. He finished with a .234 average, .409 slugging percentage, .705 OPS and 17 homers, eight of which came in April.
The Phillies considered trading Franco last winter but ultimately kept him when they passed on signing Manny Machado. With his salary likely to reach the $6.7 million range through arbitration, it’s almost certain that they won’t tender him a 2020 contract.
Franco would end his Phillies tenure with 102 homers, second-most of any Phillies player in this decade behind Ryan Howard (160).