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.

Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

For long stretches in each of the last two seasons, Zack Wheeler was every bit as effective as Aaron Nola.

Wheeler had four terrific months in 2018, posting a 2.52 ERA over his final 20 starts beginning on June 1.

In 2019, he found his groove right around midseason, pitching to a 3.04 ERA over his final 16 starts.

When you hear the phrase "untapped potential" in relation to Wheeler, this is what it means. It means that if he can pitch like this a bit more consistently — four good months instead of two — he can be a legitimate ace.

If he can't? Well then, if you trust his stuff and his results the last two years, you're getting no worse than a low-end No. 2 starter. Wheeler has made 60 starts the last two seasons with a 3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, a strikeout per inning and less than a home run per nine.

Those numbers might not jump off the page, but they are impressive when you consider the surge in home runs in 2019 and especially so when considering his workload.

Wheeler is one of only 12 pitchers to reach 375 combined innings the last two seasons. The others are Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Aaron Nola, Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer, Jose Berrios, Miles Mikolas and Mike Leake.

In 2019, Wheeler made 18 quality starts (at least six innings with three earned runs or fewer). Nola also made 18. Zach Eflin had 14, Jake Arrieta had 10 and no other Phillie was in double-digits.

When Nola did not start a game for the Phillies in 2019, they received a quality start 31 percent of the time — less than once every three games.

Wheeler obviously helps with that. Think back to late last season when the Phillies could generate no momentum and had such a smaller chance to win when anyone was on the mound other than their ace. Wheeler changes that. He offers more of a chance for series wins, sweeps, actual winning streaks.

He also brings velocity, something the Phillies' rotation has sorely lacked for years. Wheeler's four-seam fastball averaged a career-best 96.7 mph last season, fourth-fastest in the majors behind Noah Syndergaard, Cole and deGrom.

The Phillies have never had a starting pitcher throw at least 100 innings in a season and average better than 95 mph with his fastball. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez came the closest. Wheeler has done it comfortably in back-to-back seasons.

Velocity is not the only thing, especially these days when so many have it, but it is obviously still a major part of missing bats and getting outs. Because Wheeler has 3 or 4 mph more on his fastball than Nola, and because he can locate significantly better than Pivetta or Velasquez, he offers the Phillies' rotation a different, much-needed look.

This is not to say Wheeler comes without flaws or concerns. He hasn't yet ripped off a string of strong seasons. Two is a start and the Phillies are banking on it continuing.

He hasn't been a Top 10 Cy Young finisher, though he should have been in '18.

He's never reached 200 innings in a season, though some of that was because of caution the Mets exercised with him.

And Wheeler, despite the velo, has gone through plenty of multi-start stretches where he's been hit hard and doesn't miss many bats, in a way you don't see with the tippy-top guys like Scherzer and deGrom (which Wheeler is not).

He had three starts in a row like that last August and two straight in June.

But Wheeler is as capable of 7 innings, 1 run, 11 strikeouts as any pitcher in either league. When he's on, he can be so, so good. He went at least seven innings 15 times last season and allowed one or no runs in seven of them.

This one addition will not boost the Phillies to 90 wins, but it's the first giant step to another critical offseason.



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At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

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NBCSP

At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman react to the big news of the Phillies agreeing to a five-year deal with Zack Wheeler on the latest At The Yard podcast.

They also discuss the possibility of the Phillies signing Didi Gregorius, Cole Hamels heading to the Braves, and much more.

• Initial impressions of the signing
• What the guys like most about Wheeler
• Was this the right price?
• Bittersweet day with Hamels to Braves
• Phillies still need to add another good SP
• One Wheeler concern
• The market for Anthony Rendon



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies