Two weeks since the World Series ended, the Phillies have jumped into the offseason with the force and energy of a yawn.
They have neither hired a general manager nor removed the “interim” tag from Ned Rice’s business cards. They don’t have a pitching coach. Or a bullpen coach. As rival teams interview candidates for various openings — and New York Mets new owner Steve Cohen vowed Tuesday that he’s “not in this to be mediocre” — the Phillies are wondering, in president Andy MacPhail’s words, “Who’s going to want to uproot in the middle of a pandemic?”
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It’s almost as though managing partner John Middleton woke up when the season ended, wiped his eyes to get a clearer view of the team’s lost revenues in 2020, and pressed snooze.
Eventually, though, the Phillies will get down to the business of building a 2021 roster. And although MacPhail suggested they won’t dive into free agency until later in the offseason, they can address a few needs through trades, too. A few targets that they might consider:
Teams that asked about the stud closer at the trade deadline got a familiar answer: Yes, the Brewers are open to moving him; and yes, the return would have to be astronomical.
Not much reason to think anything has changed. Yet.
But Hader, 26, is about to go through arbitration, likely hiking his salary into the $5 million to $7 million range. In time, though probably not in 2021, he will become too pricey for the Brewers, who have NL Rookie of the Year Devin Williams behind him. And with a 2.54 ERA and a 44.1% strikeout rate that leads all relievers with a minimum of 40 innings pitched since 2017, a case could be made that Hader’s value will never be higher.
The Brewers need offense, specifically at the infield corners. If a Hader deal means trading, say, Rhys Hoskins, the Phillies probably pass. But for the best available pitcher to help address their greatest need, the Phillies have to ask.
Remember all the fuss over Matthew Boyd before the 2019 trade deadline? Everyone focused on the wrong Detroit Tigers lefty.
Norris moved to the bullpen this year and, at age 27, emerged as a solid reliever by harnessing his command and keeping the ball in the ballpark. He also no longer had to go through a lineup more than once, a persistent struggle that caused him to never live up to his prospect billing as a starter.
With Norris eligible for free agency next winter and the Tigers unlikely to contend in 2021, they might be inclined to trade him, perhaps even for a B-level prospect. All the usual caveats about a small sample size in a 60-game season apply, but if the Phillies believe in a 2.77 ERA, 26.7% strikeout rate, 4.8% walk rate, and 1.9% home-run rate in 26 relief innings, he’s worth a look.
Given the likelihood of a depressed free-agent market, mid-rotation starters could be available at discounted rates later in the offseason. Then again, Robbie Ray got $8 million last week to re-sign with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Why take a chance, then, that Mike Minor, Jake Odorizzi, or Jose Quintana slip through the cracks when the Pittsburgh Pirates are willing to trade Joe Musgrove now, two years before free agency?
Musgrove, 27, figures to make about $3.5 million to $4.5 million in arbitration, comparable to Vince Velasquez. The right-hander has a 4.23 ERA in 325⅓ innings over the last three years and is coming off a season in which he gave up three runs or less in six of eight starts, success that can be dismissed as a small sample size (39⅔ innings) or explained by a sharp increase in usage of his curveball.
Either way, Musgrove would fit in a rotation with Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin, and Spencer Howard.
It’s rare that a homegrown center fielder and longest-tenured player on the American League’s best team is a trade candidate. But when the Tampa Bay Rays have a less-expensive alternative, they aren’t often swayed by sentimentality.
Kiermaier, 30, has two years and $24 million left on his contract but costs $8.9 million annually against the luxury tax. With younger, arbitration-eligible Manuel Margot on the roster, the Rays could use money allocated to Kiermaier on other needs.
If the Phillies believe in Adam Haseley, Kiermaier doesn’t make sense as a left-handed hitter with a .222 average and .669 OPS over the last three seasons. But manager Joe Girardi wasn’t inclined to use Haseley against left-handed pitching, while Roman Quinn continues to profile as a fourth outfielder. Kiermaier, a three-time Gold Glove winner, would at least catch everything in center field and provide some pop low in the order.
The beauty of Didi Gregorius' contract was its brevity. A one-year, $14 million commitment for a veteran shortstop with playoff experience and leadership qualities? Any team would sign up for that.
Indications are that Gregorius will chase a multiyear contract in free agency. It seems unlikely that the Phillies will re-sign both him and J.T. Realmuto, and Realmuto appears to be a higher priority.
As a left-handed hitter and solid defender, Crawford has similar characteristics to Gregorius. He finished the season strong, with eight homers and a .948 OPS in his last 34 games.