Updated look at Phillies' 40-man roster after latest moves

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Updated look at Phillies' 40-man roster after latest moves

With Justin Bour placed on waivers last week and expected to latch on elsewhere, the Phillies now have 34 players on their 40-man roster. Gone are the midseason acquisitions like Bour, Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilson Ramos, Jose Bautista, Aaron Loup.

Tuesday is the deadline to protect Rule 5 draft-eligible players by adding them to the 40-man roster. For the Phillies, that will mean adding soon-to-be 22-year-old pitching prospect Adonis Medina, whose name came up in Manny Machado trade talks midway through 2018.

They could also add 22-year-old right-handed reliever Edgar Garcia to the 40. He excelled at Double A this past season with a 3.32 ERA and 10.3 strikeouts per nine, reaching Triple A for five games at the end of the season. 

Here's a look at what is currently on the 40-man roster.

Catchers (2) — Jorge Alfaro, Andrew Knapp

It's hard to imagine the Phillies going into 2019 with this catching duo. Even if they don't bring back Ramos, the Phils need a catcher who can actually block the ball and prevent the wild pitches and passed balls that doomed them all season.

Knapp received 215 and 204 plate appearances the last two seasons. Barring a long-term injury to a catcher, it would be surprising to see him get 100 next season.

Infielders (6) — Carlos Santana, Cesar Hernandez, Scott Kingery, Maikel Franco, J.P. Crawford, Mitch Walding

Three obvious trade candidates in this group: Santana, Hernandez and Franco.

Like the last few offseasons, the Phillies will not give Hernandez away. Trading him now figures to be more complicated than ever, with Hernandez's salary rising and his production slipping last season.

A Franco trade makes sense for the Phillies only if it precedes or follows another third-base move. It would make little sense for the Phils to trade Franco just to play Crawford at third base. Nobody inside or outside the organization can feel totally comfortable with the idea of Santana playing several months worth of games at third.

Walding would obviously be the next to go when the Phils need to create roster space.

Outfielders (6) — Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr, Dylan Cozens

Listing Hoskins here because as of this date, he'd still be penciled into playing left field. The Hoskins-in-LF experiment did not work, though, with him grading out as one of the majors' worst defensive left fielders in a decade.

It wouldn't be a big shock to see Herrera or even Williams traded this offseason if it improves the Phillies elsewhere. Roman Quinn was the Phils' best centerfielder in the second half of 2018 and deserves the inside track to that job as long as he can stay healthy throughout spring training. The defensive component matters a lot, as we saw game-in and game-out last year.

Altherr, despite the bad 2018 season, is worth keeping around because he's cost-controlled, won't fetch much of value on the trade market and could easily be closer to the 2017 version moving forward.

Right-handed pitchers (16) — Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez, Seranthony Dominguez, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Victor Arano, Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos, Luis Garcia, Jerad Eickhoff, Yacksel Rios, Enyel De Los Santos, Drew Anderson

Among last season's five main starting pitchers, Velasquez is the safest bet to be moved. With the Phillies expected to add at least one SP better than him, Velasquez will likely be in the bullpen on opening day if he's still in a Phillies uniform.

In the bullpen, the Phils could look to move one of Neshek or Hunter. It wasn't the most comfortable situation having them around last year. Neshek is clearly a top-notch reliever when he's able to pitch, but there are too many usage restrictions with him in a bullpen Gabe Kapler goes to early and often. Hunter's boisterous personality was met well by some and was taxing on others as the season wore on.

With the Phillies also expected to add bullpen pieces, Garcia's days could be numbered. Among their group of hard-throwing righties, Garcia was the least reliable in 2018. He's projected to make just under $2 million in 2019 through arbitration.

The most variance in this group belongs to Eickhoff, who could win a rotation job in spring training, win a job as the long man, or be sent packing as a piece in a trade.

Left-handed pitchers (4) — Luis Avilan, Austin Davis, Adam Morgan, Ranger Suarez

Obviously an area of need. Avilan's arbitration projection is just north of $3 million and the Phillies can probably find more bang for their buck. 

Davis and Morgan are not lefty specialists.

There are some really good lefty relievers available like Zach Britton and Andrew Miller, but there's also the specialist route with someone like Tony Sipp.

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Didi Gregorius impacts Phillies in more ways than meet the eye

Didi Gregorius impacts Phillies in more ways than meet the eye

The Phillies will host the New York Yankees in a doubleheader today. Zack Wheeler, the Phils' big offseason free-agent acquisition, will start the first game and Aaron Nola will get the ball in the second game.

Dating back to August, the Phillies are winless in Nola's last eight starts. The trend needs to stop today.

Wheeler, so far, has been everything the Phillies could have asked for when they signed him for five years and $118 million. But, of course, he's only made one start — seven innings, one run in the 1-3 Phillies' only win of the season. Many more efforts like that will be needed from Wheeler over the life of his contract.

But this isn't about Nola, who needs to pitch well over these next two months if the Phillies are going to make the 16-team postseason field in this shortened, 60-game season.

And it isn't about Wheeler, the so far, so good right-hander who also needs to continue his good work if the Phils are to have a chance.

This is about the Phils' other free-agent acquisition this winter.

This is about Didi Gregorius.

Now, obviously the sample size is ridiculously small because, well, you know all about the Miami Marlins and how they forced the Phillies into an unwelcome hiatus after just one weekend of play — but through the first four games, hasn't Gregorius been fun to watch?

He's made all the plays, smoothly, some even with a flare, at shortstop.

He's hit in every game.

He's shown pop with two homers. (And the way he turns on anything middle-in, he'll hit a lot more at Citizens Bank Park.)

And, he's played with a smile under the mask he wears to protect himself and others in this time of COVID-19. Gregorius is committed to wearing the mask because he has an underlying health condition.

Having watched Gregorius up close since the start of spring training back in February, we have been captured by his smile, his energy, his effervescence and love of playing the game. These can be infectious qualities of the most beneficial kind on any team and they have shown on the diamond in Gregorius' next-door neighbor, Jean Segura. 

Over the winter, there were questions about how Segura would deal with coming off of shortstop to accommodate Gregorius. Would he feel slighted, pushed aside? Would he pout? These were legitimate concerns because Segura has always been a little high maintenance.

Well, Segura moved over to third base with nary a protest. He put his head down, started working, and has taken to the new position. Having been a shortstop, Segura has the ability to succeed anywhere in the infield if he puts his mind to it. He's the one who has made the transition. But we believe that Gregorius' encouragement and positivity has played a role in Segura's acceptance of the challenge. Gregorius has bonded with Segura, convinced him of his importance and even gotten him to smile a little bit more. All of this might end up making Segura a better player. It has already helped the team solve the matter of how to get Scott Kingery to his best position, second base.

Over the winter, when the Phillies signed Gregorius, we asked a scout about him. We heard all the expected stuff about Gregorius' play on the field, the pop, the throwing arm that was getting better after surgery. But we also heard something that surprised us.

"He was the leader of that Yankees team," the scout said. "Great makeup."

So far in Philadelphia, we're seeing that. We're seeing that with the connection he has made with teammates, particularly his next-door neighbor, Segura.

But these Phils will need more than leadership and strong teammate behavior from Gregorius if they are going to make the postseason. Intangibles can only take you so far.

So what will the Phils need from Gregorius on the field? That's easy. Sound defense, left-side pop, big hits with men on base, get on base, hit for average. Basically, what every other team needs from its top players if it is going to be successful. Gregorius is just two seasons removed from a career-best .829 OPS with the Yankees. An elbow injury derailed that season. He's healthy now. Maybe a season like that — over a shorter track — is in the cards.

If it is, it won't just help the Phillies, it'll help Gregorius, as well. He signed a one-year, $14 million deal with the Phillies in the offseason and he'll be right back out there on the market this winter.

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Injuries and schedule changes have already created a chaotic NL East picture

Injuries and schedule changes have already created a chaotic NL East picture

A little less than two weeks into the season, injuries and schedule changes have already created a chaotic picture in the NL East.

Two teams have played 11 games. One team has played seven. One has played four and another has played three.

The only NL East teams who haven't missed any early-season games are the Braves (7-4) and Mets (4-7). The Braves are 2½ games ahead of the Phillies and one game ahead in the loss column. 

The Phillies are in a better early-season position than the Mets just because the Mets have already accrued seven losses. The only two teams in the majors with more are the Pirates and Royals.

Though, which team would you rather be: The team that already has seven losses or the team that has five additional games to make up? It's an advantage for the Mets and Braves that they have less hectic remaining schedules than the rest of the division. The Phillies have 56 games left to play in just 54 days. The Mets and Braves have 49 games left in those same 54 days. 

The Phillies' first series with the Braves is this weekend at home after they finish with the Yankees. Early as it is, that series carries major significance. The Phillies will play 40% of their games against the Braves in this one weekend wraparound series from Friday through Monday. Going 1-3 or 0-4 against the Braves would put the Phillies in a deep hole from which their jam-packed schedule might not allow them to dig out. 

As the Phillies and Marlins have sat, the other three teams in the division have dealt with injuries. The Braves on Monday night lost Mike Soroka, their No. 1 starter. Just hours before his 23rd birthday, Soroka tore his right Achilles and is done for 2020. He is one of their most important players. Soroka was an All-Star last season who finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting to Pete Alonso and sixth in NL Cy Young voting. In 37 career starts, he's 15-6 with a 2.86 ERA. With Soroka out, the Braves have Max Fried, Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint, Kyle Wright and a to-be-determined fifth starter. Not exactly a starting staff you look at and expect to ride to a division crown.

The Mets scratched three infielders on Monday — Jeff McNeil with back tightness, Robinson Cano with a groin strain and Amed Rosario with a quad strain. Yoenis Cespedes opted out of the 2020 MLB season over the weekend.

The Nationals are still without Stephen Strasburg, who has yet to make his season debut. Strasburg was scratched from his first start because of a nerve impingement in his right wrist. He's back to throwing off a mound but is still unlikely to pitch for the Nats until at least the weekend. At minimum, Strasburg will end up missing two turns through the rotation, which in a 60-game season represents one-sixth of the starts.

Reliever Will Harris, whom the Nats signed away from the Astros after beating them in the 2019 World Series, is on the IL with a groin strain. Two other Nats, Howie Kendrick and Eric Thames, are dealing with back injuries.

Is it a coincidence to see these sorts of injuries early in the everyday grind of Major League Baseball after so much time off and an unconventional ramp-up period? No, probably not.

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