Which arbitration-eligible players should Phillies get rid of?

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Which arbitration-eligible players should Phillies get rid of?

Earlier this week, we took a look at the Phillies' 2019 payroll, factoring in guaranteed contracts, arbitration raises and players making close to the minimum to figure out how much money the Phils would begin the offseason with.

The conclusion was basically that the Phillies would be at $88-90 million if they get rid of Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco, or just over $100 million if they keep both.

Over at MLB Trade Rumors, the great Matt Swartz has forecasted arbitration salaries for eight years in a row. If not spot-on, his predictions are typically very, very close to what the player actually receives.

Let's go through the most notable projections to see who probably will and won't be back:

2B Cesar Hernandez — $8.9 million

If you're getting the Cesar Hernandez who hit .294 with a .372 OBP in 2016-17, maybe this is worth it. If you're getting the Cesar who hit .253 with a .356 OBP, 155 strikeouts and a reluctance to steal bases last season, it's not.

The Phillies have money invested in Scott Kingery, and although they like him at shortstop, it's hard to believe that's his long-term position.

Paying Hernandez nearly $9 million just doesn't make much sense given all the Phillies' other needs. The rising salary will also make a trade trickier.

RHP Aaron Nola — $6.6M


1B Justin Bour — $5.2M

This is an interesting case. Bour has value as a powerful bat off the bench. He succeeded in that role as a Phillie. But $5.2 million is too much to pay for a one-dimensional, part-time player.

The Phils will likely try to trade Bour. If they can't, he's a non-tender candidate.

3B Maikel Franco — $5.1M

Signing Franco and then trading him seems like the best route. Franco is coming off of his best full season in the majors but there are only so many starting jobs in the infield. If Rhys Hoskins moves back to first base, it will likely mean Carlos Santana plays third. Franco will be easier to move and could fetch more in a trade than Santana.

The Phils might be selling high, too.

RHP Vince Velasquez — $2.6M

Whether he's back as a starter or reliever, this feels like an appropriate price for Velasquez. If he becomes an above-average bullpen arm, this would be a solid move. Even if he posts a 4.50 ERA in 30 starts, $2.6 million is about right.

RHP Hector Neris — $2.0M

Likely back after an impressive second half. The only National League pitcher with a higher strikeout rate than Neris in 2018 was Josh Hader.

RHP Luis Garcia — $1.7M

Too much money for a replaceable reliever.

RHP Jerad Eickhoff — $1.7M

With how hard it is to find starting pitching, bringing Eickhoff back at this number would be worthwhile. If he reverts to his 2016 form, the Phillies have a mid-rotation piece at a low cost.

OF Aaron Altherr — $1.6M

As with Eickhoff, it's probably worth bringing Altherr back at this price. Altherr's 2018 was rough but he hit .272 with 19 homers and an .856 OPS in 2017. If he gets even 70 percent back to that type of production, he's a decent fourth outfielder.

Keep in mind, too, that if the Phils non-tender Altherr they'd still need to pay another outfielder something like $600K or $700K, so the difference in keeping Altherr could be less than $1 million. Worth it, given his skill set.

LHP Adam Morgan — $1.1M


INF Pedro Florimon — $800,000

Replaceable for about $250,000 less.

More on the Phillies

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


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