The Phillies began to reshape their infield on Monday night by parting ways with Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco as two of the team’s longest-tenured players became free agents after they were not tendered contracts for next season.
The move, which was mandated by a Monday night deadline, felt due to happen. Franco lost his starting job at third base last summer, moved to the bench, and finally to triple A. Hernandez’s walk rate and on-base percentage -- his two strongest offensive traits -- both dropped last season and the team has other options to play at second base.
The players were seen during the team’s rebuilding years as potential regulars of the next contending Phillies team. Instead, they were cut loose before seeing a winning season. Hernandez reached the majors in 2013, a year before Franco. Franco was estimated to make $6.7 in salary arbitration and Hernandez would earn $11.8 million, according to MLBTradeRumors.com. They are both now free agents for the first time in their careers.
The Phillies chose to tender contracts for 2020 to left-handers Jose Alvarez and Adam Morgan; right-handers Zach Eflin, Hector Neris, and Vince Velasquez, and catcher J.T. Realmuto. If unable to reach a deal, the Phillies and the player will go to arbitration. They avoided arbitration by agreeing to a deal for 2020 with catcher Andrew Knapp, which MLB.com reported is worth $710,000.
The Phillies could replace Franco or Hernandez with Scott Kingery, who went through the minors as a second baseman but was molded into a utility player once arriving in Philadelphia. Kingery’s versatility gives the Phillies an advantage this winter as they can slot him into whatever position is left open by their restructuring. They could also dip into free agency for a new third baseman, but that pool thinned on Monday when Mike Moustaskas signed a four-year deal with the Reds. Anthony Rendon, who is also the best available position player, and Josh Donaldson lead the pack.
Or perhaps they fill both positions by signing a shortstop. The Phillies could be drawn to Didi Gregorius, who played for the Yankees under Joe Girardi. Signing Gregorius could lead to Jean Segura being bumped to second base while Kingery plays third. Gregorius missed almost the first half of last season due to Tommy John Surgery. He returned in June and hit .238 with a .718 OPS in 82 games. The 29-year-old left-handed hitter hit .277 with an .812 OPS in the previous two seasons.
Or the Phillies could sign Gregorius, trade Segura, and play Kingery at second while a placeholder handles third base until prospect Alec Bohm is ready, which should be early in the 2020 season. But moving Segura might not be easy, as his production dropped last season and he’s set to earn $45.5 million over the next three seasons. Finding a trade partner could be a challenge for the player the Phillies acquired just a year ago.