LAS VEGAS - Before the Phillies began to chart their offseason plan, they looked internally to dissect their roster and discover what areas required the most improvement.
Their reflection helped answer a simple question: Where can we move the needle?
The Phillies needed more offense from shortstop and better defense in the corners of their outfield. Their bullpen lacked lefthanded options. They needed hitters who made contact. Those were areas where the needle could move.
Another area seemed to be in the starting rotation after the starters stumbled in the final two months. They began the offseason with the hopes of adding a lefthander but then Patrick Corbin signed with the Nationals and the Phillies backed off Wednesday from J.A. Happ. The Phillies were open to righthanders, but even those options are limited after Charlie Morton and Lynn signed elsewhere on Wednesday.
The market for starting pitchers has become thin and the Phillies are having trouble finding ways to move the needle. There is a chance that they will enter 2019 with the same starting rotation as last season. A trade for a premium pitcher like Cleveland’s Corey Kluber will come with a premium cost. And the Phillies struggle to determine if pitcher like Happ - who will likely earn more than $15 million a season - is a clear upgrade over the starter he would replace.
“Our starting pitching was the strength of our team last year. I know that it faltered at the end. I'm not trying to hide behind that. I know that they struggled late. But for most of the season the starting rotation was the strength of the team,” general manager Matt Klentak said. “For us to make an acquisition, we have to be very confident that it is moving the needle and that it's a sound investment. I'm not certain we'll wind up on that. But we're going to continue to explore it.”
Sal Agostinelli, the Phillies’ international scouting director and a member of the team’s scouting department since 1992, was honored Wednesday night at the winter meetings with the Scout of the Year Award by the Major League Scouting Bureau.
Mike Arbuckle, the former Phillies assistant general manager who hired Agostinelli immediately after the end of the former minor-league catcher’s playing career, was thrilled by the scouting bureau’s decision.
“It’s tremendous,” said former Phillies assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle, who hired Agostinelli at the end of his minor-league playing career. “When we made that move (to put Agostinelli in charge of the international scouting program) people said I must be crazy to take a guy from New York who didn’t really speak Spanish and make him the Latin supervisor. But I knew Sal had the ingredients you look for in a guy in that job.
“First of all, he can pull the trigger. Secondly, he’s a good scout. He understands tools, actions, bodies and athleticism. He can identify the qualities you’re looking for in a young kid that you can project down the road in a good player. Third, his aggressiveness separated him from a whole lot of people. His mindset is I’m going to find players that are going to beat you. Those ingredients have made him a difference maker in Latin America.”