Maikel Franco

Phillies sign 3 to clear up arbitration cases

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Phillies sign 3 to clear up arbitration cases

Updated: 3:15 p.m.

The Phillies wrapped up all of their potential salary arbitration cases when they agreed to 2018 contracts with infielders Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco and relief pitcher Luis Garcia on Friday.

Earlier in the week, the team agreed on a contract with catcher Cameron Rupp.

Those were the club's only arbitration-eligible players.

Hernandez, a second-time arbitration-eligible player, will make $5.1 million in 2018, up from $2.55 million last season. 

Franco and Garcia were both eligible for salary arbitration for the first time.

Franco will make $2.95 million, up from $560,000 last season. The 25-year-old third baseman had a disappointing season in 2017, hitting just .230 with a .281 on-base percentage. He did hit a team-high 24 home runs.

Franco has great potential and club management will be looking for him to put it together in 2018. But even a strong season from Franco probably won't sway the club away from making a run at Manny Machado, who is scheduled to hit the free-agent market next winter.

Garcia, who turns 31 later this month, will make $1.2 million in 2018, up from $550,000 last year.

Back in October, new manager Gabe Kapler mentioned Garcia as a player who had caught his attention. Consistency had long eluded the hard-throwing right-hander but he found it in 2017 and had his best season. He added a splitter to his power fastball-slider mix and posted a 2.65 ERA in 66 games. He gave up just four earned runs in 22⅓ innings over his final 23 games, and three of those runs came in one outing.

Hernandez, the team's 27-year-old second baseman, has been one of the Phils' top players the last two seasons. He hit .294 and posted a .372 on-base percentage over that span.

The Phils are deep at second base and top prospect Scott Kingery is expected to be ready to arrive in the majors during the first half of the 2018 season. With Kingery coming, there is a chance the Phils could cash in on Hernandez's value and trade him for pitching sometime between now and Kingery's expected arrival.

Hernandez will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2020 season.

Hernandez's former double-play mate, Freddy Galvis, was traded to San Diego in December. Rookie J.P. Crawford will move in at shortstop in 2018. Galvis settled his potential arbitration case with the Padres on Friday when he agreed to a one-year deal worth $6.825 million.

Rupp, who was eligible for arbitration for the first time, will make $2.05 million in 2018. He is one of three catchers on the 40-man roster along with Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp. Alfaro is out of minor-league options and will be given the chance to be the team's No. 1 catcher in April.

Late night of partying cost Maikel Franco

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Late night of partying cost Maikel Franco

A late night of partying resulted in a suspension for Maikel Franco from his Dominican winter league team over the weekend.

According to ESPN Deportes, Franco and three other players were out until the wee hours of the morning Saturday, despite their team, Gigantes del Cibao, having a playoff game scheduled for the early afternoon.

It was deemed a violation of the organization's discipline code and Franco and his teammates were suspended for a game. They'll be reinstated Monday.

"I apologize to the team, the fans and our sponsors, it's something that will not happen again," Franco said, per ESPN.

Through six playoff games in the Dominican League playoffs, Franco is 4 for 20 with a double and three RBIs. Now 25 years old, he enters a crucial fifth season with the Phillies, one that will likely determine whether he's here past 2018.

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Phillies' ramped-up rebuild demands starting-pitching upgrade

Let the record show that on a snowy Friday afternoon 10 days before Christmas 2017, the Phillies ramped up their rebuild.

Dramatically.

What other conclusion can be drawn after the club went out and signed Carlos Santana, one of the best offensive players on the free-agent market? With the signing, confirmed by multiple baseball sources, general manager Matt Klentak has attached a new level of importance to the 2018 season.

Just a couple of days ago at the winter meetings in Orlando, Klentak spoke of how 2018 was going to be a time to "find out" more about the team's young core of players. Who would continue to take a step forward? Who would fall by the wayside?

But now that Santana is here, 2018 doesn't feel like it's just a find-out season. It feels like a season in which the Phillies can continue to find out about players — separate the studs from the duds — and also start nibbling around that second National League wild-card spot.

Sure, a lot has to go right for that to happen.

And one of the things that has to go right is Klentak has to land a starting pitcher to slot in around Aaron Nola and the rest of the staff, which has the look of a bunch of No. 4 and No. 5 starters — until someone steps forward.

Santana's deal is for three years and $60 million, according to sources. Three years is a nice get — i.e., it's not cripplingly long — for a 32-year-old (in April) who hits for power, produces runs and does what Klentak likes best: controls the strike zone. (You could say that Klentak added two players who control the strike zone to his lineup Friday as the trade of Freddy Galvis to San Diego for strike-throwing pitching prospect Enyel De Los Santos cleared the way for J.P. Crawford to be the regular shortstop.)

The Phillies need to do everything within reason to make sure that the first of Santana's three seasons with the club isn't about simply inching the rebuild forward. The Nationals are the class of the NL East, but the rest of the division ranges from ordinary to awful. The Phils, with an improved offense and bullpen (Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter), can play with the Braves and Mets and clean up on the Marlins, the jewelry store that became a pawnshop, in agent Scott Boras' words.

It's just up to Klentak to get more starting pitching, and he's on the case. He admitted that at the winter meetings. He is particularly fond of young starters with years of control remaining on their contracts. Gerrit Cole, Chris Archer and Michael Fulmer fit this description. It takes talent to get pitchers like that. The Phillies have enough depth of prospects to get one of these guys and their reserves of expendable talent just grew with the Santana signing.

Santana, a switch-hitter who has averaged 25 homers, 85 RBIs and a .810 OPS in eight seasons, is going to be the team's primary first baseman. Rhys Hoskins is going to be the primary leftfielder. That means the Phillies suddenly have a young outfielder that they could deal. Maybe they try to capitalize on Nick Williams' strong half-season in the majors and package him for an arm. Or maybe it's Odubel Herrera or Aaron Altherr.

However it plays out, you can be sure that Klentak will be creative. You can rule nothing out with this guy. The other day, we poo-pooed the Phillies signing Jake Arrieta, who is looking for a long-term deal approaching $200 million. But if Arrieta lingers out there until February and is looking for a two-year landing spot, hey, maybe.

We wouldn't even put it past Klentak to entertain the idea of using Santana at third base a little bit — he did play 26 games there in 2014 — and trading Maikel Franco. The Giants were sniffing around, gathering intel on Franco at the winter meetings. There has to be a reason for that. Also at the meetings, an official from a rival club said the Phillies weren't as aggressive as he expected in trying to move Cesar Hernandez. Could it be that Hernandez would get some time at third if Franco were to be moved? Hernandez is still a trade chip, but he doesn't need to be cashed in until July and by that time Scott Kingery should be here.

There are a lot of ways this thing can go. And with the signing of Carlos Santana — which won't become official until he passes a physical next week — the Phillies have guaranteed that the remainder of this offseason will be a busy one.

It has to be.

The stakes have changed for 2018. The rebuild is still in place, but it has been ramped up. Matt Klentak has improved the bullpen and the offense. Now he has to attack that starting pitching and he has the trade weapons to do it.