Phillies

Plenty of available names if Phillies look to trade for help in center field

Plenty of available names if Phillies look to trade for help in center field

The Phillies' depth in center field has taken a huge hit recently. Roman Quinn, Andrew McCutchen and Adam Haseley are all down with injuries. Aaron Altherr was designated for assignment and Odubel Herrera is on administrative leave and facing an uncertain future that could include a possible suspension, and maybe more, stemming from a domestic violence charge last month.

The Phils are currently down to one regular, Scott Kingery, in center field — and he comes with some fine print because he’s a second baseman who is still adapting to the position.

Quinn is playing in Florida and should be back from his groin injury this month. He could end up being very important in center field, especially if the Phils need Kingery’s offense at third base.

Whatever the case, the Phils will probably go looking for center field depth/help. Check that, they already are.

Here are some names they will likely consider:

Adam Jones, Diamondbacks

He nixed a trade to the Phillies last summer because he did not want to uproot in the final year of his contract with the Orioles. Now, he’s on a one-year deal with Arizona and producing offensively, though he has missed the last few games with a hamstring issue. He has been playing right field for Arizona but can still slide over and handle the middle. Arizona is hovering around wild-card contention so that could impact his (and teammates’) availability.

Manuel Margot, Padres

Couldn’t help but notice that he did not play regularly when the Phillies were in San Diego last week. Still young (24) with a lot of talent. Might be worth a call.

Jarrod Dyson, Diamondbacks

Turns 35 in August, but he still moves well and gets on base.

Leury Garcia, White Sox

He’s a scrappy, speed guy with a pretty good bat and he’s got the versatility that the Phillies love.

Leonys Martin, Indians

A very good defender. Offense is a weakness.

Billy Hamilton, Royals

Not much of a stick, but has game-changing speed. Intriguing as defensive replacement and pinch-runner.

Whit Merrifield, Royals

The Royals are making everyone available. Merrifield is a second baseman by trade, but he can play all over the diamond, including center field. The Phillies like that versatility and they poked around on him last summer. He is signed through 2022 on a team-friendly deal. The cost to acquire him will be steep.

Keon Broxton, Orioles

A top defender with big power but holes in his swing.

Matt Szczur, Diamondbacks

The former Chicago Cub and Villanova football and baseball star is tearing up the Pacific Coast League at the plate and he can play all three outfield spots. He has an out in his contract on June 15.

Michael A. Taylor, Nationals

He has hit some huge homers against the Phillies over the years. He has not hit consistently and has been passed by younger players in Washington. Intriguing because he is still talented and just 28. However, Nats might be unwilling to deal him within the division.

Mallex Smith, Mariners

Plays center field, but some scouts see him as more of a corner guy.

Dee Gordon, Mariners

Though an infielder by trade, he’s a tremendous athlete who has played center field in the past. He’s owed over $20 million over the next two seasons and the Mariners are looking to unload money. It’s doubtful the Phils would make this move, however. After watching their team chemistry implode after last year’s trade deadline, the Phillies are putting an emphasis on clubhouse fits and Gordon had a well-publicized fight with Jean Segura when they were teammates last year.

Juan Lagares, Mets

A very good defender as the Phillies have seen over the years.

Carlos Gomez, Mets

Not close to the player he used to be.

Kevin Pillar, Giants

Not as fast as he once was, but still a good defender in center field because of his excellent instincts and reads. Has not hit with the Giants. He plays hard. He could be had.  

Starling Marte, Pirates 

It’s unclear if the Pirates would make him available, but he’d be a good get because he’s a productive bat and has a Gold Glove on his resume. He’s owed about $6 million for the remainder of this season and has options in his deal for the next two years.

JaCoby Jones, Tigers

He has lots of tools and he’s had a solid year with the Tigers. Might be worth a look, though the Tigers are probably not looking to move him.

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Stephen Strasburg got how much? Good thing Phillies signed Zack Wheeler when they did

Stephen Strasburg got how much? Good thing Phillies signed Zack Wheeler when they did

Good thing the Phillies signed Zack Wheeler when they did.

Stephen Strasburg, who entered the offseason as the No. 2 starting pitcher in free agency behind Gerrit Cole and ahead of Wheeler, is returning to the Nationals on a massive seven-year, $245 million contract, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan.

As historically good as Strasburg was in October, that is an insane number for him. He will turn 32 midway through the first of the seven years. He has made 30 starts in just three of nine seasons and reached 200 innings twice. He was more durable than ever in 2019 and, boy, did he cash in because of it. 

Two seasons ago, in 2018, Strasburg made 22 starts with a 3.74 ERA. Had he had that type of season in 2019, he probably wouldn't have even opted out of the remaining three years and $75 million to find this next payday.

Good for him. But also good for the Phillies in agreeing with Wheeler five days before the Nats retained Strasburg. Because if Wheeler was still on the board today, that number is at least $20 million higher and maybe more. Would a team go to $140 million for Wheeler? What about $160 million? Think about how many free agents the White Sox have struck out on in recent years. Wouldn't they have been likely to up their offer one more time if Wheeler was still out there to see what Strasburg signed for?

Strasburg is a great pitcher, don't get it twisted. He proved in 2019 that he can be the most reliable and important arm in the league when the pressure is at its peak. But forget Year 6, by Year 3 or 4 of this deal, the Nationals could be regretting it mightily.

And if this is what it took to sign Strasburg, Gerrit Cole is even more likely to approach $300 million.

There has been much more offseason activity leaguewide than there was at this point a year ago. The five best remaining free agents are Cole, Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu. The next three would be Nick Castellanos, Didi Gregorius, Marcell Ozuna and then you're getting into back-end-rotation types.

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How close are Phillies to luxury tax threshold after Zack Wheeler signing?

How close are Phillies to luxury tax threshold after Zack Wheeler signing?

The Phillies, after signing Zack Wheeler for $118 million over five years, are approximately $20 million below MLB's luxury tax threshold for the 2020 season.

John Middleton was asked at a news conference six weeks ago about his willingness to exceed the $208 million tax, which for a first-time offender like the Phillies would result in a 20 percent penalty for every dollar they are over $208M.

This is what the Phils' managing partner said:

Here’s what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to go over the luxury tax so we have a better chance to be the second wild-card team. That’s not going to happen. I think you go over the luxury tax when you’re fighting for the World Series. If you have to sign Cliff Lee and that puts you over the tax, you do it. If you have to trade for Roy Halladay and sign him to an extension and that puts you over the tax, you do it. But you don’t do it for a little gain.”

The 2020 Phillies are not one piece away from seriously contending for a World Series. Even after the Wheeler splash, they still need at least one more strong regular in the lineup, at least one starting pitcher, a couple semi-reliable relief arms and a more competent bench. The strength of the Nationals and Braves also complicates things.

Suffice it to say, this does not sound like the situation Middleton described above.

That does not mean, however, that the Phillies' front office is treating the tax threshold like a hard cap. If the right opportunity presents itself, they will pounce. If the expected dollar figure for Anthony Rendon somehow doesn't materialize, the Phillies wouldn't pass up a great deal for a great fit just to stay under in 2020.

They're just going to be logical about it. There is reason to leave flexibility for midseason when you have a better idea of how close you are to contending for a division title. Why overpay a middling reliever or starter now when you can potentially acquire a difference-making one in July? 

This is a key season coming up for the Phillies. After 2020, they free up $38 million as the contracts of Jake Arrieta and David Robertson expire. That's money that can be reallocated to a very good starting pitcher and a very good everyday player. Right now, those two contracts are hindrances. Robertson is unlikely to contribute in 2020 and the Phillies desperately need Arrieta to be better than a No. 4.

The Phillies' proximity to that $208 million luxury tax threshold helps explain why they didn't beat the Braves' one-year, $18 million offer to Cole Hamels. As nice as a reunion with Hamels would have been, they could probably replicate his production for half the money or maybe a little more with someone like Wade Miley or Rick Porcello.

The Phillies won't close the door on any free agent, but don't be shocked if their splashiest move came before the Winter Meetings even began.

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