Maikel Franco

Phillies cut ties with Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco

Phillies cut ties with Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco

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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Monday could spell the end for longtime Phillies Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco

Monday could spell the end for longtime Phillies Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco

Monday could mark the end for two longtime members of the Phillies’ infield.

Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco are both candidates to be cut loose before the 8 p.m. deadline to offer 2020 contracts to players who are eligible for salary arbitration.

In all, the Phillies have nine arbitration-eligible players. Hernandez and Franco are probably the only two in jeopardy of not being tendered a contract.  The rest of the group includes pitchers Jose Alvarez, Hector Neris, Adam Morgan, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin and catchers J.T. Realmuto and Andrew Knapp.

The Phillies would like to sign Realmuto to a multi-year contract extension this winter, but the two sides could reach agreement on a one-year deal for 2020 before that happens.

Hernandez, 29, has been in the Phillies organization since he was 16 years old. He signed out of Venezuela in the summer of 2006 and eventually became Chase Utley’s successor at second base during the 2015 season.

Hernandez is projected to make more than $11 million in his final year of arbitration and the Phillies, with both Scott Kingery and Jean Segura capable of playing second, could let him go and use that money to fill needs elsewhere on the roster. It’s still possible that the Phils could trade Hernandez in the final hours before the tender deadline, though that might not be likely as interested teams could gamble that he’d soon become available as a free agent.

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 needs a fresh start in another organization. That could come in a late trade or a non-tender on Monday. Franco is projected to make about $6.5 million in salary arbitration.

It’s not clear what the Phillies will do for a third baseman next season. The club has shown interest in free agent Mike Moustakas. Kingery or Segura could be an option at the position if the Phils were to pursue a shortstop from outside the organization.

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Phillies free-agent target: Josh Donaldson

Phillies free-agent target: Josh Donaldson

Leading up to baseball’s winter meetings, we will take a daily look at some of the game’s top free agents and how they could potentially impact the Phillies.

Today, we check in on slugging third baseman Josh Donaldson.

The vitals

Donaldson has been one of the game’s premier sluggers the last half-dozen seasons. He’s an above-average defender at third base and an outstanding competitor. He has belted at least 33 homers in four of the last five seasons and led the American League with 123 RBIs in 2015, the year he won the AL MVP for Toronto. He battled injury in 2017 and 2018, signed a one-year, $23 million contract with Atlanta a year ago and went on to prove himself healthy by finishing 11th in the National League MVP voting in 2019. He played 155 games for the Braves and hit .259 with 37 homers, 94 RBIs and a .900 OPS.

Why he fits

At a position loaded with sluggers, Donaldson is still one of the best and the Phillies have a big need. Phillies third basemen ranked 24th in OPS (.725) and batting average (.243) and 22nd in homers (23) among big-league clubs in 2019. Donaldson’s fiery style of play would quickly win him fans in Philadelphia.

Why he doesn’t fit

The injury history, coupled with his age — he turns 34 in December — would be a concern on the long-term deal he is seeking, especially when the Phillies have a young third base prospect, Alec Bohm, scheduled to play at Triple A in 2020. Donaldson is one of three big third basemen on the free-agent market with Anthony Rendon and Mike Moustakas. The Phillies have already shown an interest in Moustakas, whose price tag could still allow the team to pump significant resources into pitching.

The price tag

Donaldson jumped quickly at a one-year deal last year. That won’t happen this year. He is said to be looking for at least three years and you have to figure the average annual value will be in the neighborhood of $25 million. If Donaldson keeps producing like he did in 2019, he’d be worth it.

Scout’s take

“He loves to play. And when he’s healthy, he’s a major difference maker. There’s value in that power. The concern for me would be that it’s a long season and he could fit more in the American League because of the DH.”

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