Phillies

How many of Phillies' 9 arbitration-eligible players are worth keeping?

How many of Phillies' 9 arbitration-eligible players are worth keeping?

The Phillies, after Monday's flurry of roster moves, have nine players left who are eligible for salary arbitration this winter and while some of the decisions are no-brainers (J.T. Realmuto, Zach Eflin, probably Jose Alvarez), others are iffier and some are pretty clear non-tender candidates.

Realmuto made $5.9 million last season and should see that increase to $10.5-11 million in 2020 if the Phillies don't first lock him up with a long-term extension.

Eflin and Alvarez will see their salaries rise to about $3 million each. That is a fair price for a No. 3/4 starter and a decent lefty specialist.

Adam Morgan, who has one fewer year of big-league service time than Alvarez, is likely looking at a 2020 salary between $1.5 to $2 million. New manager Joe Girardi referenced Morgan and Seranthony Dominguez as key relievers who dealt with injuries in 2019, which made it sound like Morgan will indeed still be in the picture.

Hector Neris' salary will rise to the $5 million range. Worth it, even if he's in more of a setup role next season. 

The maybes

Vince Velasquez at around $4 million? It really depends on what else the Phillies think they can accomplish this winter. It would be illogical to expect Velasquez to turn into a different pitcher in Year 6 than he's been the first five. He has a 4.93 ERA the last three seasons with an untenable home run rate and a fastball that gets hit hard when not well-located.

If he's back with the Phillies in 2020, it will likely be as a reliever. They simply cannot afford to give him 15-20 more starts. Maybe a team with an awesome rotation like the 2019 Nationals or Astros could get away with having a low-efficiency, boom-bust option in the No. 5 spot but not the Phillies.

Andrew Knapp's situation is a bit more complicated. His 2020 salary through arbitration would likely fall a bit under $1 million, but the Phillies need to improve the backup catcher position. They can't run Realmuto in the ground and they need a viable backup who can either provide offense once every few starts or play above-average defense. Knapp knows a lot of these pitchers and is well-liked but there hasn't been enough on-field value and that's what matters, right?

The thing is, Knapp is worth keeping around as depth for $800,000 or so. If the Phillies do end up with a better backup, they could option Knapp. The Phils don't appear too confident Deivy Grullon can be Realmuto's backup in 2020.

Probably not

Cesar Hernandez keeps getting more expensive. He will be due upwards of $10 million through arbitration. He is not an eight-figure player, even if it's for only one year.

The Phillies will likely have to non-tender Hernandez. Is another team trading for him for the right to pay a league-average second baseman $10 million or more? Nope. At half the price, Hernandez would have much more value.

The Phillies were unable for years to trade Hernandez. It's hard to call it a missed opportunity without knowing the best possible offer they received for him. The front office never felt it was being offered fair value for Hernandez.

Maikel Franco, meanwhile, would be due between $5-7 million through arbitration and that's just too much for a flawed player who has lost his job two years in a row. The Phillies need to move on and improve at third base.

If it is decided that Alec Bohm isn't ready out of spring training (a strong possibility), the Phillies could go the stopgap route. Josh Donaldson and Mike Moustakas will be free agents. Anthony Rendon, too, though he'll be in the very highest price tier.

*Matt Swartz' arbitration projections factored into these estimates.

Who’s playing third base behind Aaron Nola? Yep, it’s Bryce Harper

Who’s playing third base behind Aaron Nola? Yep, it’s Bryce Harper

Two members of the Phillies' starting pitching rotation took a step forward Monday.

And Bryce Harper did his best Mike Schmidt imitation.

First, the pitching stuff.

Aaron Nola took the mound for the first time in an intrasquad game as he remained on course to potentially start the season opener a week from Friday.

And Zach Eflin, who had been slowed for several days by back spasms, was able to throw a bullpen session without any problem.

"He threw a beautiful pen," pitching coach Bryan Price said. "There were no limitations. He threw it great, aggressive."

Manager Joe Girardi said Eflin's command was "great."

Eflin is projected to slot fourth in the Phillies' rotation but he could move back a spot if he needs an extra day.

Nola, Zack Wheeler and Jake Arrieta will precede Eflin in the rotation. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are battling for the final spot in the rotation. One of them will end up in a bullpen that could number 11 men out of the gate.

Rosters will be increased from 26 to 30 men for the first two weeks of the season. There is no limit on how many pitchers a team can carry.

Nola faced 14 batters and struck out one over three unstructured innings of work. He faced extra batters in the first two innings to get his pitch count up. He retired eight of the first nine batters he faced and allowed two hits and two walks in his third inning of work.

"Aaron threw well," Girardi said. "He lost his command a little in that third inning, but that's probably normal fatigue at the end in your first time out. I feel good about where Aaron is."

Nola threw 47 pitches. He should get up to about 65 in his next outing and that would put him on target to start opening night. Girardi has not officially named Nola his opening night starter because he wants to see how the next week or so of workouts unfolds. But Girardi did acknowledge that Nola could indeed be the opening night starter if all continues to go well.

Nola might still be a little behind in his work. He missed the first few days of workouts because he had come in contact with someone who had been infected by COVID-19. Though Nola was not infected, protocol called for him to stay away from the team for several days.

Several coaches and staff members were pressed into duty as defenders during the intrasquad game.

Harper got some time — six defensive outs — at third base. 

Girardi acknowledged there was risk putting the $330 million man, usually a right fielder, 90 or so feet away from the hitter. 

"I think it's important the guys have fun," Girardi said. "I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, 'You look good there.'"

Girardi said Harper had been bugging him to play third in an intrasquad game.

Finally, Girardi relented.

"All right. One inning," the manager said. "But no diving. And make sure your arm is loose."

Harper got one ball in the field, a bouncer to his left. He moved his feet nicely, fielded it cleanly and threw a strike across the diamond for the third out.

Then he styled it off the field a la Mike Schmidt.

It really was not surprising that Harper handled himself well at third. He was a catcher in college and had played third before. He moved to the outfield in pro ball.

The Phils play another intrasquad game Tuesday night. Wheeler and Velasquez will each pitch four innings.

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Phillies Talk podcast: Will a few key Phillies be ready for opening day?

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Phillies Talk podcast: Will a few key Phillies be ready for opening day?

At the midpoint of MLB's summer camp, Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman look at the opening day readiness of several key Phillies and assess the changing J.T. Realmuto situation.

• What a normal day of Phillies summer camp has looked like.

• Can a job be won in intrasquad games?

• Will Aaron Nola and Scott Kingery be ready for opening day?

• Why Joe Girardi wants to keep Jean Segura at third base even without Kingery.

• COVID-19 testing issues.

• Challenges Phillies face in bullpen.

• Has our outlook on the J.T. Realmuto contract extension situation changed?

Subscribe and rate the Phillies Talk podcast:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19 / YouTube

More on the Phillies