Pete Mackanin’s wish last September for the 2017 season? The manager wanted to sign an established hitter to insert into his lineup after the Phillies finished second worst in the majors with a team batting average of .240.
For the 2018 season? Mackanin said Wednesday he wants an established arm to help stabilize the front of his rotation alongside right-hander Aaron Nola.
“We could always use more pitching, more hitting, more everything,” Mackanin said. “Managers always want more. We want to do better than we have the last couple of years. I think it would behoove us to get a bona-fide starting pitcher. We have a lot of guys who showed some good signs — (Ben) Lively, (Jake) Thompson and (Nick) Pivetta. To move forward, we need a stabilizer at the top.”
Mackanin said Pivetta had impressed him with his growth throughout the season after being a “nervous wreck” for his first few starts.
Mackanin gave the example of major-league veteran Matt Kemp. At the trade deadline in 2016, the Padres dealt him to the Atlanta Braves, who finished the season batting .255 as a team. Entering Wednesday's action, they were hitting .263 this season, the sixth-best mark in the majors.
The Phils have acquired veterans with sizable salaries to support their rotations in the past. It’s not difficult to imagine the club doing it again — either by trade or free agency — this offseason because it has only one player, Odubel Herrera, secured to a long-term deal.
“Having a proven starter would help,” Mackanin said. “That was the reason that we got guys like (Aaron) Harang, (Jeremy) Hellickson and even (Clay) Buchholtz, who got hurt, was just to have someone that is proven at the top of the rotation somewhere. I think it is important that we take a step forward next year. Having a guy you can look up to and count on takes a lot of pressure off of the other guys.
“At this point, I would prioritize a pitcher. I am not talking about a slew of pitchers but I am talking about a stabilizer. I’d like to see someone you can count on. For various reasons, mainly injuries, no one has been that guy other than Nola.”
Nola leads the team with 12 wins, a 3.54 ERA and 184 strikeouts, a reliable arm in this Phillies rotation.
While Mackanin is interested in bolstering the top of the rotation, he is unsure of the intentions of general manager Matt Klentak this offseason. He will soon find out.
“We are having a meeting on Saturday with the staff to discuss what the plans are moving forward,” Mackanin said. “After that meeting, I will understand more about what the plans are. I would like to move forward and enhance the team.”