The Phillies have cut ties with two of their longest tenured players, second baseman Cesar Hernandez and third baseman Maikel Franco. Both became free agents when the team chose not to tender them a 2020 contract by Monday night’s 8 p.m., deadline.
Hernandez and Franco were two of nine Phillies eligible for salary arbitration. The team avoided arbitration with backup catcher Andrew Knapp and signed him to a one-year deal worth $710,000. The team’s six remaining arbitration-eligible players were all tendered contracts for 2020 and are now considered signed players. The group includes pitchers Hector Neris, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin, Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez and catcher J.T. Realmuto. These players can agree to terms for a 2020 contract at any time. If the two sides don’t reach agreement by January 10, they will exchange salary figures and an arbitration panel will determine the player’s salary at a hearing in February. Most cases are settled before a hearing.
It had long been speculated that Hernandez and Franco would be non-tendered and eventually hit the free-agent market. That hurt the Phillies’ chances of trading them. There should be a market for both players as free agents.
Hernandez had been projected to make more than $11 million in his final year of arbitration and Franco more than $6.5 million in his second year of arbitration. The Phils will use that savings to fill holes, particularly on the pitching staff.
For both players, this is an end of an era.
Hernandez, 29, has been in the Phillies organization since he was 16. He signed out of Venezuela in the summer of 2006 and eventually became Chase Utley’s successor at second base during the 2015 season.
Franco, 27, originally signed with the Phillies in 2010. He became the team’s regular third baseman in 2015 and had three 20-plus-homer seasons before losing his starting job last season and being demoted to Triple A. Phillies officials pondered releasing Franco in September and it has been clear for a while that he’d benefit from a fresh start in another organization.
It remains to be seen how the Phillies will fill the holes at second and third base that have been created by the departures of Hernandez and Franco.
Scott Kingery has long been considered the Phillies’ second baseman of the future and that future could start on opening day 2020. However, it’s also possible that Kingery could play shortstop, third base or center field, depending on acquisitions the Phillies make in the coming weeks and months. The team could to sign a shortstop such as free-agent Didi Gregorius. It could also look to sign a free-agent third baseman such as Josh Donaldson or Anthony Rendon. The Phillies had interest in Mike Moustakas, but he came off the board on Monday when he signed a four-year, $64 million deal with Cincinnati. Future additions will determine where Jean Segura plays in 2020. He was the team’s shortstop last season but could move to second or even play third.
Some answers could begin to emerge as the offseason shifts into high gear with the arrival of the winter meetings next week.
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